USMNT's World Cup qualification is off to a rocky start, but here's why it's not time to panic

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ESPN 07 September, 2021 - 09:09am 10 views

Is Pulisic playing against Canada?

While Pulisic is in against Canada, winger Gio Reyna is out for the qualifier. The 18-year-old is out for the next two games with a hamstring strain suffered in the 0-0 draw with El Salvador on Thursday, U.S. Soccer announced. The AthleticUSMNT vs. Canada World Cup qualifier: Live updates, expert analysis and highlights from the 1-1 draw

USMNT Roster News Ahead Of World Cup Qualifier Against Honduras

U.S. Soccer 07 September, 2021 - 11:30am

Jackson Yueill has been added to the roster ahead of the World Cup Qualifier against Honduras. Yueill, 24, is one of four players who appeared in the Nations League Final Four and the 2021 Gold Cup. The midfielder has made seven appearances in 2021 and has 15 caps to his credit overall.

Weston McKennie will not travel to Honduras and is returning to Italy later today.

                                                            ussoccer.com

Soccer newsletter: USMNT battling serious scoring woes

Los Angeles Times 07 September, 2021 - 11:30am

Gregg Berhalter’s team opened its campaign last week with a scoreless draw under difficult conditions in El Salvador, an acceptable result in CONCACAF. Sunday’s 1-1 tie with Canada in Nashville was not. And alarm bells already are ringing.

The U.S. didn’t get a win from its first two qualifiers in 2017, which cost coach Jurgen Klinsmann his job. The team never fully recovered and missed the World Cup for the first time in 32 years.

The tournament used to consist of six teams and 10 games then. This year, because of changes wrought by COVID-19, it’s been expanded to eight teams and 14 games, which gives the U.S. ample time to recover. Only Mexico and Panama have wins in the first two rounds, leaving five teams bunched within a point for the third and final qualifying spot heading into Wednesday’s third match day, which will see the U.S. play in Honduras.

“We have a long way to go,” U.S. captain Christian Pulisic said. “[But] we have to turn it around and start winning games.”

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If only it were that easy.

The U.S. entered the tournament ranked 10th in the world, with 17 wins in its past 19 games and summer victories over Mexico in the final of the Gold Cup and Nations League tournaments. But scratch below the surface and those results may be misleading.

In the last three Gold Cup wins, the deciding goal came in the 83rd minute or later. That’s a thin edge to be riding and maybe the very young U.S. team finally has lost its balance; maybe the results in qualifying are more reflective of the team’s strength and quality than the two tournaments this summer. Maybe the U.S. really is just a paper tiger.

Nineteen players hadn’t played in a World Cup qualifier before last week and so far, the stage seems too big for many.

Then there are off-the-field issues, chief among them Weston McKennie’s suspension. Berhalter repeatedly refused to discuss what led to the suspension but McKennie, on social media, said he violated the team’s COVID-19 protocols, something he was caught doing last April when he was sanctioned by his club team, Juventus, after he and two teammates hosted a party.

Compounding that, the U.S. lost Barcelona defender Sergiño Dest to an ankle injury late in the first half and his replacement, DeAndre Yedlin, was the player who got beat on Canada’s game-tying goal.

Whether the McKennie case speaks to a broader problem with the team’s culture isn’t known, but credit Berhalter for acting quickly and decisively. On Monday, McKennie was removed from the roster and sent back to Italy to join Juventus, his club team.

“There are high expectations for those who are a part of the U.S. men’s national team, and in order to be successful it’s important that everyone in the group is accountable,” Berhalter said in a statement

Then there’s the Canada game itself. The U.S. was tentative, uninspired and lacked grit and conviction. The Americans had possession for more than 70% of the game and took twice as many shots as Canada, but they wasted most of that advantage. After taking their only lead of the tournament, they gave it up just seven minutes later.

Statistician Paul Carr of TruMediaSports produced a chart Monday morning showing just 25% of the passes the U.S. made against Canada went forward.

Perhaps the best assessment of the state of the team after Sunday’s game came from midfielder Tyler Adams.

“We need to find ways to be a little bit more threatening, dangerous,” he said.

“We’ve got to have a long look in the mirror and really establish what our goals are here. If we don’t go out there and do the things we’re good at, there we’re just a group of names on a piece of paper.”

Diego Rossi slipped away in the night and jetted to Turkey a week ago to join Fenerbahce on a loan with an option to buy, a purchase LAFC clearly is expecting to go through.

And how did his former team respond? By scoring a season-high four goals in a 4-0 win over Sporting Kansas City last Friday that snapped an eight-game winless streak and gave the club its first victory since mid-July.

It also was LAFC’s most one-sided victory in nearly a year and much of that offense came from 18-year-old defender Mamadou Fall, who scored the first two goals on the first shots he put on target in his MLS career. Fall, a Senegalese who signed with the team in June, was making his fourth start and scored both times on headers.

Rossi’s departure was hardly surprising. If anything, it came a year or two later than expected. When the Uruguayan, LAFC’s second designated player, met with general manager John Thorrington and coach Bob Bradley in the fall of 2017 to discuss his first MLS contract, he told them he would just be passing through on his way to Europe.

Then COVID intervened and depressed the transfer market, even after Rossi won the MLS Golden Boot and was named the league’s best young player last season. If reports from Istanbul are correct, Fenerbahce’s purchase price for Rossi is about $7 million, far below his market value and less than what LAFC expected to get.

However, the deal finally allows the club and player to move on.

“It’s the fulfillment of a plan and a vision that’s been in place since Day 1, which was to identify young talent, develop that young talent and move them on in a way that is beneficial for both the player and the club,” Thorrington said.

The move, just as the summer transfer window was closing and the playoff race was heating up, could hurt LAFC in the short term.

“Losing Diego will require others to step up,” Thorrington acknowledged. “This is not ideal timing. I can certainly recognize that.”

Fall stepped up last Friday, providing some momentum for a roster remake that had begun even before Rossi left. Earlier this summer Thorrington traded midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye and forward Corey Baird for a combined $1.75 million in allocation money and two international roster spots. Midfielder Eduard Atuesta could be the next to go and defender Jordan Harvey, whose contract expires at the end of the season, probably won’t be returning.

Vela, 32, LAFC’s first signing, broke the single-season scoring record in 2019, when he was the league’s MVP. But he has started less than half of LAFC’s games since then because of injury and personal reasons and said in a TV interview last month he misses Europe, where he played most of his career.

Returning from his current injury, a strained quadriceps, isn’t a question “of days but week to week,” Thorrington said.

Bradley, the only manager the club has known, led LAFC to a Supporters’ Shield and the best regular-season record in league history in the team’s second season. But LAFC, 7-9-6 this season, has gone 16-17-11 in regular-season play since 2019 and Bradley’s passion about the style of play he prefers seems to have worn thin in the dressing room.

If the team misses the seven-team Western Conference playoff field — LAFC currently is ninth in the table — a change may become necessary. On the other hand, Bradley has built dominant teams from scratch twice in his MLS career and the remake LAFC is beginning would give him a chance to do that again.

With the influx of allocation money, the loss of Rossi’s $1.05 million contract — the second-highest on the team — and the possible opening of two designated-player spots, Thorrington and Bradley will have a lot of room to operate this winter. That was the plan all along.

“Everything we do is with the intent of improving our team and making our team better in any way we can,” said Thorrington, who added he’s already been exploring several designated-player possibilities.

“This is a deal that our ownership group is comfortable with in the short, medium and long term,” he said. “What is exciting for the club in that regard is the resources that this will generate in order to improve the team.”

Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t played a game for Manchester United since 2009. But the recent $18 million transfer that will return him to the Premier League after the international break has widened an already huge gap between England’s top teams and the rest of the pack.

And former United goalkeeper Tim Howard, now a soccer pundit for NBC, said that’s a good thing.

“It’s the best football news I’ve heard in a long, long time,” said Howard, who joined United in 2003, the same season Ronaldo did, then retired a year before his old teammate returned.

“To have him back, look, there’s always been a tilt of power at the top. There’s going to be certain teams that can’t necessarily compete with that,” Howard said.

By certain teams, he means the vast majority of the 20-team league, teams whose supporters start the season hoping their club can hold the big boys to a draw or two along the way. Or maybe steal a fifth-place finish which would qualify for play in the Europa League.

“When you talk about appeasing a fanbase and having success, Brighton doesn’t have to win the league to have success,” said Howard, who didn’t play on a league champion in 13 seasons with Manchester United and Everton. “If they don’t win the title, they’re still able to be proud of their team and feel like they had a successful campaign.

“Very rarely is a Leicester going to win the title. Very rarely is a Blackburn going to win the title. But there’s always that dream. There’s always a possibility. That’s why we watch and that’s why we love it.”

Just seven clubs have won the EPL since its founding in 1992-93. Take out Blackburn and Leicester City, who were Cinderella champions in 1995 and 2016, respectively, and the winner’s trophy mostly has been passed between United (13 titles), Manchester City and Chelsea (five each) and Arsenal (three, the most recent in 2004). Most everybody else is eliminated in the summer transfer window, which this year saw United land Ronaldo, Raphael Varana and Jadon Sancho for $195 million, Chelsea pay $135 million for Romelu Lukaku and City get Jack Grealish for the $139 million.

According to Spotrac.com, 13 EPL teams are spending less than $80 million on their entire roster, much less for one player.

“This year, more than ever,” Howard said, “we’ve gone back to the powers that be in terms of Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United, Man City. I can’t see anybody outside of that breaking into the top four.

“When Chelsea made that move to get Lukaku, they started becoming this juggernaut,” he added. “United had to do something to change that. This is a chess match.”

But if the mid-table teams can appease their fans by simply avoiding relegation and scoring an upset or two along the way, for the Big Four a league title no longer is enough. Manchester City, for example, has won three of the last four EPL crowns – and finished second the other time. So anything short of a Champions League win this season would be a failure.

(The same could be said for Paris Saint-Germain, which is why it committed more than $82 million to add Lionel Messi to an attack that already had Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.)

“Clearly there’s been a mandate at the club to say ‘OK, we can win league titles. We’ve shown that,’ ” Howard said. “The luster will really wear off from that. [They] need Champions League.”

Last month’s MLS-Liga MX All-Star Game at Banc of California was watched by 1.6 million people in Mexico, more than double the previous highest audience for an MLS All-Star Game in Mexico. That’s slightly more than the total U.S. audience of 1.575 million on Univision, TUDN and FS1 … Former USWNT coach Jill Ellis, a two-time World Cup champion and the winningest coach in U.S. Soccer history, has been chosen by FIFA to lead a technical advisory group on the future of women’s soccer. Ellis currently is president of the NWSL expansion team in San Diego.

“Why did they start the game and stop it after five minutes? We’ve been here at the stadium for an hour, they could have told us.”

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McKennie out of USMNT squad for team policy violation as Reyna is ruled out due to injury

Sporting News 07 September, 2021 - 11:30am

McKennie and Reyna both started the team's 0-0 draw with El Salvador, with Reyna now ruled out for Sunday's match against Canada and Wednesday's visit to Honduras.

With Reyna out for both games, McKennie's status is uncertain heading into the final game of the international break.

Shortly after U.S. Soccer's announcement, McKennie took to Instagram to reveal that he was suspended for a violation of Covid protocols.

"Unfortunately, I am suspended for tonight's match due to a violation of team Covid protocols," McKennie wrote. "I am sorry for my actions, I will be cheering hard for the boys tonight and hope to be back with the team soon."

Christian Pulisic returns to the U.S. lineup after recently battling Covid-19 and is joined in the attack by Jordan Pefok and Brenden Aaronson.

Pefok replaces Josh Sargent up top after the Norwich striker started in El Salvador.

Replacing McKennie in midfield is Kellyn Acosta, who joins Tyler Adams and Sebastian Lletget, while John Brooks partners with Miles Robinson in central defense.

Sergino Dest, meanwhile, moves back to right-back after struggling on the left again El Salvador with Matt Turner remaining in goal after Zack Steffen was ruled out for the rest of the window with Covid-19.

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Wasteful again! USMNT outshone by superstar Davies as Canada steals a road point

Sporting News 07 September, 2021 - 11:30am

The USMNT's only problem? That player was not named Christian Pulisic and competed for Canada, and it only took one moment to unleash him.

Alphonso Davies proved the USMNT's undoing on Sunday as he helped set up Cyle Larin for an equalizing goal just moments after the USMNT's opener. The 1-1 draw gives Canada a crucial road point on its road towards Qatar, while the U.S. has now failed to win either of its first two qualifying matches.

All it took was one burst from the Bayern star to silence the Nashville crowd and put a damper on what was supposed to be a party in the USA. When the final whistle sounded, boos rained down on the USMNT as the mood around the program grows more tense.

Davies, playing as a winger as he usually does on the international level, torched DeAndre Yedlin in the 62nd minute, leaving the USMNT veteran in the dust as he darted down the left side.

With John Brooks ball-watching in the center, Davies picked out Larin in the center of the box, leaving the Besiktas star with a simple tap-in. That tap-in was all Canada needed as the nation escaped Nashville with a point in hand and a bit of momentum after earning a result against one of the region's powers.

Alphonso Davies is electric down the wing ⚡pic.twitter.com/F922vgWs1L

It will be a frustrating result, meanwhile, for the USMNT, which looked like the only winners until falling apart late. The squad dominated possession, generated a few half chances and, ultimately, converted one just moments before Davies' moment of magic.

The USMNT's goal, its first of World Cup qualifying after a scoreless draw in El Salvador, was created and scored by Brenden Aaronson, who shined for a U.S. team that was without Gio Reyna and Weston McKennie. After tracking back to win the ball in the midfield, Aaronson was teed up by Antonee Robinson in the 56th minute to give the U.S. the lead.

The lead lasted just six minutes before Davies and Canada sucked the life out of the Nashville crowd. The goal wasn't Canada's only big moment, as the side almost scored on a similar sequence following a Sergino Dest giveaway in the first half, but it was all the group needed.

And so the U.S. was hit with a draw that really did feel like a loss. Sunday's game truly felt like three points for the taking, both in the build-up to and during the game. The U.S. controlled possession and frustrated Canada until shrinking once it needed to chase another goal. There were brief glimpses of creativity in the latter stages, but those glimpses weren't enough to earn what felt like a much-needed three points.

So what does it all mean? With two points in hand, Canada will be feeling relatively okay, even after dropping points to Honduras in its opener. Next up is a home match against El Salvador, one that is certainly winnable and could give Canada a very respectable five-point haul from three games.

The U.S. will also hope to reach that five-point mark, although its road there will be difficult. After squandering points in their first two games, the Stars and Stripes now face a difficult trip to Honduras. The recent El Salvador draw was a reminder of just how hard trips to Central America can be, and anything less than a win on Wednesday will leave the U.S. in an early hole. 

Gregg Berhalter's men don't need to panic just yet, as the USMNT will play 14 games on its road to qualify for Qatar. But the first two steps of that journey have been less-than-inspiring as the U.S. has a lot of work to do in the coming days, weeks and months.

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These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.

These cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

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

Stars and Stripes FC 07 September, 2021 - 10:36am

Goalscorer Brenden Aaronson was officially your SSFC Man of the Match with the highest community ranking coming in at 7.02, edging out Matt Turner (6.72), who was Thursday’s MOTM. Interestingly, three of the four substitutes received the only ratings below a 5.0. In the case of DeAndre Yedlin, the lowest rated player, this seems to be due to the community placing primary blame for the lone Canadian goal at his feet. For Konrad de la Fuente and Cristian Roldan, the ratings seem a bit harsh as they only had a handful of minutes to impact the game due to the late substitution utilization by Gregg Berhalter.

We’ve made a couple of small tweaks to the ratings this week. First, we calculated the average rankings with the highest and lowest ratings removed and have included those in parentheses behind the original rating. We’re sticking with the original rating as the primary to stay consistent, but thought there might be some interest in seeing how the ratings adjust if you remove the most biased votes. Not surprisingly, the manager’s rating is the most impacted by this adjustment, as Gregg Berhalter gains over a point in benefit. The other changes in rating are not nearly as significant and the most impacted is DeAndre Yedlin, who moves from a 4.4 to a 4.7. Second, we’ve also moved the manager and referee results to the bottom.

Here are all the ratings from the match, as judged by the SSFC community:

Konrad de la Fuente - 4.81 (4.99)

Referee Oshane Nation - 5.43 (5.77)

How does this line up with your thoughts on the performances we saw Sunday? Let us know in the comments section below.

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