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Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan has been on the soccer beat for many years now, covering the United States Men's and Women's teams, from the SnowClasico to Azteca and back again. Along with the US national teams, Peter will provide insight into the MLS and NWSL, with a focus on the NY Red Bulls and NYCFC.

Red Bulls Lose to Toronto — Will They Lose Aaron Long to Premier League Too? Transfer Rumors Swirl

Peter Nolan July 18, 2019

With transfer rumors swirling around the team’s 2018 MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long, the New York Red Bulls were unable to build on Sunday night’s exciting New York Derby win over cross-river rivals NYCFC, as they dropped a 3-1 decision at Toronto on Wednesday night.

Fox Sports’ commentator Brian Dunseth got the rumor mill churning during the broadcast of the Red Bulls 2-1 win over their Bronx based neighbors when he said that he has “been told there have been multiple offers, including a Premier League team offer, for Aaron Long.”

And while a jump to the Prem would be a big step for the 26-year-old center back, Long’s rise from twice cut second-round draft choice to MLS Defender of the Year and USMNT starter/Gold Cup Best 11 selection suggests that it would be unwise to bet against the athletic defender.

Long’s athleticism likely caught the eye of the scouts, as Long combines the speed and range of the midfielder he was until just a few seasons ago, with the power and strength in the air suggested by his 6’1” 190-pound frame.

Aaron Long Premier League Transfer Rumors

Not so very long ago the notion of Aaron Long as Premier League target would have been the longest of longshots. A second-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft by the Portland Timbers, Long never saw the field for the Timbers first team, instead featuring for Portland’s USL side before being released and picked up by the Seattle Sounders.

It was the same story in Seattle; USL, then cut; before the Red Bulls brought Long east on a USL deal, only to see the converted midfielder crowned the second division league’s 2016  Defender of the Year and earn a place with the big club for the 2017 campaign.

Long would add the 2018 MLS Defender of the Year to his trophy case while becoming a trusted regular on the U.S. National Team, having leapfrogged former Red Bull Matt Miazga on coach Gregg Berhalter’s center back depth chart.

Back to the Red Bulls vs TFC game…

Long, Tim Parker, and fullbacks Kemar Lawrence and Michael Murillo formed the league’s best back four, backstopping the Red Bulls to the top defensive performance in MLS last season.

With all but Parker on international duty and Parker missing time through injury in recent weeks, Wednesday night’s matchup with TFC was the quartets first match together in some time. It was a bit of a surprise then that New York conceded three times to Toronto, with two of the goals coming from defensive miscues from Lawrence and Murillo.

TFC opened the scoring with a sixth-minute gem of a backheel from Long’s U.S. teammate Jozy Altidore, a high-quality goal that left the N.Y. defenders blameless. The same could not be said on the next two TFC goals.

First Kemar Lawrence needlessly and obviously took out Toronto defender Richie Laryea with a slide tackle, gifting the home team a penalty kick that Alejandro Puzuelo neatly dispatched. Then, after Red Bulls striker Tom Barlow finished from a fine set up from Derrick Etienne, indecisive play by Murillo and goalkeeper Luis Robles combined to leave the ball at the feet of Toronto substitute Ashtone Morgan, with Morgan keen to punish the Red Bulls largesse.

It was a disappointing follow-up to Wednesday’s Derby success, although the lost points shouldn’t unduly worry the fourth-place Red Bulls – if they can hang on to Long.

Who takes Long’s place if he goes?

A move at this point in the season would be a tough one for the team to absorb, forcing coach Chris Armas to rely on Amro Tarek and rookie Sean Nealis to replace Long at the heart of the New York defense alongside Parker, while eliminating the three back set that the team used earlier in the season as a potential weapon for Armas to deploy.

A move for Long, to the Premier League or elsewhere in Europe, would further validate the Red Bulls as a conduit to the bigger leagues with Long joining Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), and Matt Miazga (Chelsea) as players who have used RBNY as a springboard to Europe.

Long is a different case, in that he did not come through the Red Bulls Academy, a sign that for the Red Bulls there is more than one way to make it to the promised land.

What NWSL Team Your Favorite Women’s World Cup Star Play On

Peter Nolan July 11, 2019

The 2019 Women’s World Cup set television viewing records across the globe. The American women were greeted with a parade up New York City’s Canyon of Heroes. An estimated 1M people showed.

You’re hooked. So now what?

Do you have to wait until the Summer Olympics for your next fix? No, in fact, you don’t. Many of the world’s greatest women play week in and week out in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the nine team domestic league in the United States.

Fresh off its newly signed TV contract with ESPN, the NWSL is ready for its big showcase.

So, if you want to see USWNT superstar Alex Morgan and Brazilian legend Marta play on the same team, check out an Orlando Pride game. Maybe you can also figure how a team with those two can sit in eight place!

But that’s just one example. Below we have compiled a handy list of what World Cup star plays where. And just a reminder: all 23 members of the World Cup winning USWNT play their club soccer in the NWSL!

What team NWSL team Women’s World Cup stars play on

Portland Thorns

  • Caitlin Foord – Australia
  • Hayley Raso – Australia
  • Ellie Carpenter -Australia
  • Andressinha – Brazil
  • Christine Sinclair – Canada
  • Adrianna Franch- USA
  • Emily Sonnett – USA
  • Lindsey Horan – USA
  • Tobin Heath – USA

North Carolina Courage

  • Debinha – Brazil
  • Stephanie Labbé – Canada
  • Abby Erceg – New Zealand
  • Abby Dahlkemper – USA
  • Crystal Dunn – USA
  • Samantha Mewis – USA
  • Jessica McDonald – USA

Washington Spirit

  • Chloe Logarzo – Australia
  • Amy Harrison – Australia
  • Cheyna Matthews – Jamaica
  • Rose Lavelle – USA
  • Mallory Pugh – USA

Seattle Reign

  • Lydia Williams – Australia
  • Steph Catley – Australia
  • Elise Kellond-Knight – Australia
  • Jodie Taylor – England
  • Rumi Utsugi – Japan
  • Celia Jiménez Delgado – Spain
  • Allie Long – USA
  • Megan Rapinoe – USA

Utah Royals

  • Desiree Scott – Canada
  • Katie Bowen – New Zealand
  • Rachel Corsie – Scotland
  • Kelley O’Hara – USA
  • Becky Sauerbrunn – USA
  • Christen Press – USA

Chicago Red Stars

  • Sam Kerr – Australia
  • Alyssa Naeher – USA
  • Tierna Davidson – USA
  • Morgan Brian – USA
  • Julie Ertz – USA

Houston Dash

  • Clare Polkinghorne – Australia
  • Allysha Chapman – Canada
  • Sophie Schmidt – Canada
  • Nichelle Prince – Canada
  • Lindsay Agnew – Canada
  • Rachel Daly –  England

Orlando Pride

  • Emily van Egmond – Australia
  • Alanna Kennedy – Australia
  • Marta – Brazil
  • Camila – Brazil
  • Shelina Zadorsky – Canada
  • Claire Emslie – Scotland
  • Ali Krieger – USA
  • Alex Morgan – USA
  • Ashlyn Harris – USA

Sky Blue FC

  • Estelle Johnson – Cameroon
  • Kailen Sheridan – Canada
  • Carli Lloyd – USA

A “Can You Win With That Guy” Assessment of the USMNT After the Gold Cup

Peter Nolan July 10, 2019

So USMNT fans and followers, did we see enough progress from Gregg Berhalter’s Gold Cup runners up? Or did the team’s 1-0 loss to Mexico confirm your worst fears and leave you wallowing in despair?

Let’s take a look back at the team and evaluate what we saw using my father’s patented “You’re not going to win anything with that guy” system.

Goalkeepers

Zack Steffen had a good tournament. Now he goes on loan from Manchester City to Fortuna Dusseldorfoff on the back of a fine Gold Cup. He earned three clean sheets and allowed just two goals over five games in his first full international tournament. So Steffen gets a YES from me in the “Can you win with that guy” rankings.

Can you win with Steffen? YES.

Sean Johnson shutout Trinidad and Tobago in his one outing, likely earning a measure of trust from the coach while Tyler Miller did not play.

Can you win with Jonhson and Miller? Incomplete

Defense

Let’s take the fullbacks next. I’ll start with some potential controversy.

Tim Ream is not a fullback to me. Despite some praise from other quarters for Ream’s efforts versus Mexico and throughout the Gold Cup, I rate Ream the fullback firmly in the “You are not going to win anything with that guy” side of the bracket.

Why?  After a good first half, the final turned when Mexico coach Tata Martino made a simple switch of wingers, suddenly pitting Ream against Rodolfo Pizarro, a speedy and savvy vet, after Ream had enjoyed a good first half versus young Uriel Antuna, also quick but lacking in experience.

Ream was unable to deal with Pizarro, who turned him like a top to set up the lone goal of the match. Ream’s troubles forced winger Paul Arriola to drop back and help Ream with Pizarro, meaning that Arriola, so good a partner for Christian Pulisic in the first half, was no longer able to provide Pulisic with that attacking outlet, contributing mightily to the failure of the U.S. attack in the second half. So Ream is a NO.

Can you win with Ream? NO.

Reggie Cannon was perhaps the revelation of the tournament for the U.S. and his performance on both sides of the ball vindicated Berhalter’s decision to choose Cannon over Nick Lima versus Mexico. I still rate Newcastle United’s DeAndre Yedlin as the first choice USMNT right fullback but was mightily impressed with Cannon.

Can you win with Cannon? YES.

I gave Lima and Daniel Lovitz grades of NO in the rating system prior to the Gold Cup and I will stand firm on that here, although Lima was solid throughout the tournament and could serve as a useful back up going forward.

At center back Omar Gonzalez is another that earned a pre-tourney NO and he did nothing to reverse that grade over the past three weeks. It is time for Berhalter to turn the page.

Can you win with Gonzalez? NO.

Matt Miazga was not quite as sharp as Gold Cup Best 11 man Aaron Long – a solid YES- but Miaga did enough to stay in my YES column, although he will have a battle on his hands to retain a starting spot if John Brooks ever gets, and stays healthy.

Can you win with Miazga and Long? YES.

Walker Zimmerman did himself no harm in this event. Can you win with Zimmerman? YES.

Midfielders

In the middle of the park, I called Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic automatics in the YES column back in June and that remains the case after both turned in fine Gold Cup performances, even allowing that McKennie did not have a great game in the final.

Can you win with McKennie and Pulisic? EMPHATIC YES.

Michael Bradley earned a spot on the official Gold Cup Best 11, along with teammates Long and Pulisic. I wouldn’t have gone that far, but Bradley showed that he is not done yet, although his lack of speed is a problem.

Can you win with Bradley? YES (for now).

What Bradley’s continued selection shows is that Berhalter has apparently lost faith in Wil Trapp, a player I rated as a NO pre-Cup, a rating I still believe is appropriate.

Can you win with Trapp? NO.

Christian Roldan did not see enough time to change my mind about his international prospects. Coming in I felt Roldan had yet to prove himself at this level, going out I still feel that way, though he may get there yet.

Can you win with Roldan? INCOMPLETE.

This Gold Cup came too soon for both midfielder Djordie Mihalovic and winger Jonathan Lewis, and their places on the roster should have gone to players better able to help the cause in 2019.

Can you win with Mihalovic and Lewis? NO.

Tyler Boyd and Jordan Morris shared the right-wing position, with Boyd starting off hot before finding himself bypassed against Mexico, even while the U.S. was screaming out for some attacking impetus.

Morris had an up, and–but mostly down tournament. Maybe somehow makes his way back into his natural striker position.

Can you win with Morris? NO.

Can you win with Boyd? INCOMPLETE.

Striker

Which brings us to the striker position. Even with his hard to unsee miss in the first half against Mexico, Jozy Altidore should be the go-to guy for the USMNT. His hold up play and his passing ability, and even the way he got open on his missed opportunity, were all badly needed by the U.S.

He’s a massive upgrade over Gyasi Zardes and should get first team action until Josh Sargent ripens.

Can you win with Altidore? YES.

Can you win with Zardes? NO.

Coach

And what about Berhalter? An injury that prevented Tyler Adams from playing in the Cup landed Reggie Cannon a roster spot and we saw the FC Dallas 21-year-old grab his chance with both hands. Berhalter gets points for trusting Cannon against Mexico, for realizing that Bradley is still better than Trapp, and for guiding his team to the final in his first official competition as the national team coach.

But demerits must be handed out for his decision to play Ream at full back, his continued fascination with Omar Gonzalez, why Gonzalez over Miazga when seeing out a skin of their teeth win over Curacao, another demerit there.

And if the final versus Mexico was a game of two halves, then Berhalter, as much as his players, was played off the pitch in the second half after a good opening stanza for both.

Martino’s simple switch of wingers turned the game on its head and Berhalter never reacted. A quick change to Lovitz, or maybe Lima, who plays left back for San Jose, for Ream, might have slowed the Mexico attack, or why not bring Cannon over to continue mark Pizarro, as he had so successfully in the first 45 minutes.

Then there were Berhalter’s substitutions against Mexico. Pulling Altidore for Zardes in the 56th minute seemed like giving up. Roldan, and not Boyd, for Morris, seconded that emotion and Berhalter’s final move, pulling Ream for Lovitz and not an attacker while trailing 1-0 in the 83rd minute, had the feeling of a boxing trainer throwing in the towel to save his beaten fighter.

So, a strong NO then for the coach? No, actually. In his first official games as U.S. coach, Berhalter’s team was better at the end of the Copa Oro than it was going in. He will need to improve his roster selection as well as his substitutions. However, by moving on (presumably) from Trapp, and abandoning the inverted fullback when Tyler Adams went down, the former Columbus Crew boss showed some flexibility.

Can you win with Berhalter? YES (for now).


Portland Ends NYCFC Home Streak with 1-0 Win

Peter Nolan July 8, 2019

All good things must end.

On Sunday evening, NYCFC lost 1-0 for the first time at Yankee Stadium this season to a deserving Portland Timbers side.

Torrent proud of team despite final result

The loss is also New York’s first in league play since a 4-0 pasting by Toronto FC way back in March. New York coach Dome Torrent thought that his team deserved better.

“I think the team deserved more. I am very proud of them. It is not easy to play so many games without rest. We are missing some players but is not an excuse, it is a reality, but I am very proud of them. They deserved more. In the first half, we made one mistake and when you make a mistake in soccer it punishes you.”

That mistake came in the 14th minute and resulted in the game’s only goal. Scored by Sebastian Blanco (0:50 in the below video), the goal enough to stop NYCFC’s unbeaten run at 14 games. New York defender Sebastien Ibeagha was the culprit when he failed to clear Diego Valeri’s free-kick, instead directing the ball into Blanco’s path, inadvertently setting up Portland’s goal.

Torrent handed the start to Ibeagha because his squad is shorthanded at the moment. NYCFC is missing eight first-teamers, including center backs Alex Callens, part of the Peru team that lost the Copa America final to Brazil on Sunday, and James Sands, who had been a regular starter before fracturing his arm.

Timbers’ Savarese may love New York, but keeps focus on Portland’s performance

Portland coach Giovanni Savarese has strong ties to New York and the local soccer scene since leaving his native Venezuela for Long Island University Brooklyn, through the New York amateur and semi-pro leagues, on to the MLS MetroStars, and finally to his coaching career with the New York Cosmos.

But after the match, the coach wanted to keep the focus on his team.

“It was important to get these three points to continue to climb in the table. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. This team is a team that can bring you some difficulty and challenges. They are a good team and that’s why they had only lost one match before today.”

Savarese added, “ We expected a tough match. Very proud of the sacrifice of the players the way they battled united, how we found the goal, how we created some chances, but we also had to deal with a lot. They moved the ball well, New York City, and they were looking for spaces. We made sure we worked as a unit and we were able to get a very important result for us, but it wasn’t easy.”

That sacrifice that Savarese spoke of included the team defense that frustrated a New York side that seemed bereft of ideas once it got in sight of the Portland goal. Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark had something to do with New York’s frustration too.

When NYCFC did find a way through the Portland defense Clark was there to earn the shutout despite New York’s 15 to10 shot advantage, that included five shots on target to just two by Portland on Brad Stuver in the home goal.

With New York pressing desperately to preserve its perfect home mark, Clark had to be alert virtually until the final whistle, tipping an Ibeagha header over the crossbar in the 94th minute to preserve Portland’s victory and the shutout.

Sunday’s win brings ninth place Portland within three points of eighth-place Real Salt Lake and four points back of seventh-place Houston and a playoff spot.

NYCFC remains in fifth place.

Up next for NYCFC

NYCFC Next Games:

Wednesday, July 10th – US Open Cup @ Orlando City

Sunday, July 14th – MLS regular season @ New York Red Bulls

NYRB +104Draw +260NYCFC +240

Gold Cup Final Preview: USMNT vs Mexico

Peter Nolan July 6, 2019

Who: USA vs Mexico
When: Sunday @ 9:00 pm ET
Where: Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Line: Mexico +120 | Draw +205 | USA +225

The following tweet from Xavier Sol la Lande is making the rounds.

If it is to be believed then we shouldn’t expect much of a battle when the USMNT face Mexico Sunday night at Soldier Field in Chicago in the Gold Cup Final.

Is Mexico really that far ahead of the US?

It is an interesting tweet though, because other than Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, not too many American fans are likely to go to the mat to advocate for the U.S players as superior to their Mexican counterparts.

The tweet and its thesis that the Mexican players are universally more talented than the Americans is interesting because the two national teams have had oddly similar Gold Cups. One difference is that Mexico’s coach Tata Martino, late of Atlanta United, has brought what many considered a “B” team, minus the likes of Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Hector Herrera, and others.

But back to the similarities. Both sides eased through group play with perfect 3-0-0 records. They easily advancing to the knockout rounds, as pre-ordained by the Gold Cup schedule makers.

And while Mexico hammered Cuba 7-0 and the U.S slammed Guyana 4-0 and T&T 6-0, there were tenser moments as well.

For the Americans, a 1-0 victory over Panama was mostly excused because Panama has given the Americans trouble in the past and coach Gregg Berhalter ran out an entirely new starting 11 vs. the Canaleros.

Mexico wasn’t overly impressive in a 3-1 win over Canada but this was the year Canada was supposed to fulfill all that promise, wasn’t it? More concerning for El Tri was a narrow 3-2 win over Martinique.

The U.S. had that moment in the quarterfinals, struggling to a 1-0 victory over Curacao, while Mexico battled Costa Rica to a 1-1 draw before prevailing on penalty kicks in a battle of equals.

Berhalter insisted that all was well in his team’s narrow escape versus the tiny constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curacao, but he wisely made several lineup changes for the semifinal match with Jamaica.

Mexico’s semifinal versus Haiti proved to be a surprising nailbiter as they struggled to a 1-0 victory over Haiti, a longtime struggler that appears to be on the rise.

So, two teams that have failed to live up to expectations against some weaker opponents, while providing some moments of excitement and still managing to survive to the meet in the final as expected.

Another interesting tidbit is that the seven times winner, Mexico and the six times winner, the USA, do not meet regularly in the final, this will be the first time since 2011 that the two CONCACAF powers have met in the Championship match of the semi-annual event.

No, but seriously, are Mexican national players that much better than the US?

So, are the Mexican players all > better than their American counterparts and does it matter in a team sport?

Well, not really, and not really.

Pulisic and McKennie are getting stronger as the Gold Cup goes on and seem to be on the verge of taking over this team and claiming it as their own. In some cases, it is too close to call or maybe worry about, like in goal where Ochoa is in good form but so is Zack Steffen (and the younger American has a huge upside).

But, again, soccer, football, futbol, however you refer to it, is a team sport and these two teams seem fairly evenly matched as we head to Sunday night’s showdown.

Mexico plays primarily in a 4-3-3, likes to control possession and will give the U.S. trouble in the midfield. Andres Guardado, always tough on the Americans, Jonatha Dos Santos, and Jesus Gallardo will cause problems. That trio will need to be battled to a standstill or better by Michael Bradley, Weston McKennie, and Christian Pulisic.

And Berhalter’s defense will need to be on its toes to blunt the Mexico frontline. Led by Wolverhampton target man Raul Jiminez, who has five goals in this tournament, speedy L.A. Galaxy winger Uriel Antuna, who has four, and Rodolfo Pizzaro, this is a formidable front three.

Berhalter’s selections are critical

Berhalter has some decisions to make after his team impressed in the semifinal against Jamaica. Does he stay with Reggie Cannon and Matt Miazga over Nick Lima and Walker Zimmerman?

Cannon provides an element of speed that Lima doesn’t, but Lima has been a Berhalter guy from the beginning. Miazga was beaten for Jamaica’s goal but had a strong game otherwise. Zimmerman was a rare bright spot for the U.S. against Curacao.

The defensive calls are close ones. Berhalter will also have to choose between Tyler Boyd and Jordan Morris at right-wing, essentially another jump ball. The coach’s other big decision, however, should be no decision at all.

To lead the attack it has to be Jozy Altidore over Gyasi Zardes. Against Jamaica, Altidore played a strong first 56’ before being replaced by Zardes. Once in, Zardes promptly missed a sitter before turning the ball over, leading to Jamaica’s goal, the only goal the U.S. has surrendered at this Gold Cup.

So, yeah, start Altidore.

The US has little margin for error in this game. Berhalter’s must nail his selections.

Women’s World Cup Heroes Returning to NWSL and a New TV Deal With ESPN

Peter Nolan July 5, 2019

The 2019 Women’s World Cup has proven there’s a massive domestic TV audience for the sport. Many of the World Cup’s top performers (around 55 in all) play professionally in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Broadcast giants ESPN have token note of how strong the ratings are over at FOX and decided to capitalize on it as well.

The NWSL has landed a television contract with ESPN to air 14 league matches for the remainder of the season, including both semifinals and the Championship match.

The league’s previous deal with A&E Networks, which also included a Game of the Week each Saturday on the Lifetime Network, ended abruptly in February when the broadcaster pulled out of the three-year contract one year early.

Has women’s soccer found a lasting TV audience?

The USWNT‘s run to Sunday’s World Cup Final has certainly shone a spotlight on the women’s game. Once again it raises the seemingly eternal question: why can’t the success of the women’s international game translate to the club game?

In some respects, it already has. This is the NWSL’s seventh season, two previous women’s pro leagues in the United States failed to make it past year three. Since the Women’s World Cup is setting viewing records, worldwide optimism that this might be the time is high.

The league may also be better served by throwing in its lot with the “worldwide leader in sports” ESPN, rather than A&E/ Lifetime, which was not an experienced player in the sports programming.

Better put: if anyone can sell the women’s game and support it with digital content, it’s ESPN.

“NWSL is a global leader in women’s professional soccer, with collectively the most talented players in the world.  Together with the reach of ESPN’s vast network, we have the opportunity to bring more games to a broader audience across the country and world,” said NWSL President Amanda Duffy. “Even in the year leading up to the Women’s World Cup, we have continued to experience tremendous growth through the support, engagement, and visibility from our fans.” 

ESPN should be better placed to make connections between the World Cup and NWSL. A total of 55 of the league’s players, including every member of the USWNT, play in the league.

“NWSL is a global leader in women’s professional soccer, with collectively the most talented players in the world.  Together with the reach of ESPN’s vast network, we have the opportunity to bring more games to a broader audience across the country and world.”

– NWSL President Amanda Duffy.

NWSL loaded with World Cup stars

For example, the first match to air under the new deal features the Portland Thorns versus the Orlando Magic on ESPN News on July 14. The United States could be just seven days removed from raising the World Cup. For a league desperate to capitalize on the expected wave of goodwill, the pressure figures to be enormous on the American World Cup players to line out for Orlando and Portland on the 14th.

And it is quite a list. Orlando is led by Alex Morgan, fellow USWNT players Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger, and Brazilian duo of Camila and the legendary Marta.

Portland may be even more loaded with star attractions. Led by USWNT stand-outsTobin Heath and Lindsey Horan, the Thorns also feature teammates Adrianna Franch and Emily Sonnett. Joining them are Australian starter Caitlin Foord and Canada’s superstar Christine Sinclair, who ended her World Cup with 184 international goals, leaving her just shy of American legend Abby Wambach’s total of 182.

Not a bad attraction for the league and the network to kick off their new deal.

NWSL on ESPN channels and schedule

The NWSL deal features a total of 14 games to be televised by ESPN, including eight matches on ESPN News and six games on the more widely available ESPN 2. The two semifinal matches and the NWSL Championship Game on October 26, will air on ESPN 2.

Some of the league’s brightest stars have already returned to action, with Sam Kerr making a huge splash on her return, scoring a hattrick for the Chicago Red Stars in a 3-2 victory over Orlando.

Fresh off of scoring five goals for Australia, who were eliminated in the Round of 16, Kerr vaulted into the NWSL Golden Boot lead by scoring her seventh goal for the Red Stars in her last three games. Remarkable.

Kerr was the subject of rumors that she would be leaving the NWSL for an unspecified league in Europe, although Kerr refuted those rumors, saying that she is very happy in her current situation.

The league certainly hopes so.

NWSL current standings

With the victory in the first game of the second half of the NWSL’s 24 game season, the Kerr’s Red Stars sit in sixth place, with 14 points.

After 10 games, the Portland Thorns top the table with 19 points. They’re followed closely by the Washington Spirit, with 18 points. Washington is led by Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh.

Megan Rapinoe and the Seattle Reign follow with 17 points. The Utah Royals, also with 17, feature Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Press, and Kelley O’Hara.

The defending champion North Carolina Courage will look forward reintegrating their returning stars Crystal Dunn, Sam Mewis, and Abby Dahlkemper. They look to move up the table from their current fifth-place position with 14 points.

Sixth place Chicago will be looking to climb with Kerr back, and with 14 points they sit just five from the top spot.

With 13 points seventh-place, Houston Dash is the lone team without a U.S. national team representative, although players like Keah Ohai, Sofia Huerta, and Jane Campbell were all contenders for places. Fans will remember England’s Rachel Daly, who started against the U.S. in that thrilling World Cup semifinal.

With just five points from 11 games, Orlando would seem to be out of contention, perhaps unable to overcome the World Cup absences of Morgan, Marta, and company.

Ninth and last place is the troubled Sky Blue FC, who remain winless through nine games. At least they have Carli Lloyd’s return to look forward to.

What NWSL teams do the USWNT play on?

Below is a complete list of USWNT players and the NWSL clubs that they represent. If you have enjoyed watching their exploits at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, go out and see them.

Adrianna Franch | Portland Thorns FC

Ashlyn Harris | Orlando Pride

Alyssa Naeher | Chicago Red Stars

Abby Dahlkemper | North Carolina Courage

Tierna Davidson | Chicago Red Stars

Crystal Dunn | North Carolina Courage

Ali Krieger | Orlando Pride

Kelley O’Hara | Utah Royals FC

Becky Sauerbrunn | Utah Royals FC

Emily Sonnett | Portland Thorns FC

Morgan Brian | Chicago Red Stars

Julie Ertz | Chicago Red Stars

Lindsey Horan | Portland Thorns FC

Rose Lavelle | Washington Spirit

Allie Long | Reign FC

Samantha Mewis | North Carolina Courage

Tobin Heath | Portland Thorns FC

Carli Lloyd | Sky Blue FC

Jessica McDonald | North Carolina Courage

Alex Morgan | Orlando Pride

Christen Press | Utah Royals FC

Mallory Pugh | Washington Spirit

Megan Rapinoe | Reign FC

The Bronx is Up and Harrison is Down as New York’s MLS Teams Head into the Holiday

Peter Nolan July 5, 2019

It was a day of contrasts for New York’s MLS sides on Wednesday.

The 3-0 thumping New York City FC put on Seattle in front of a pre-holiday crowd at Yankee Stadium was impressive. However, the New York Red Bulls traveled all the way to Texas only to endure a 4-0 hammering at the hands of the Dynamo.

With these results, the boys in blue climb above the Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings into fifth place. The MLS originals slip to sixth.

Red Bulls missing defenders disappoint in Houston

The Red Bulls had fullback Michael Murillo back in the lineup on his return from representing Panama in the Gold Cup. However, they were without center back Aaron Long, who was in action in the U.S. semifinal win over Jamaica on Wednesday night. They were also without Kemar Lawrence, who lined out against Long for the Reggae Boyz in Nashville.

Additionally, Red Bulls coach Chris Armas was missing his other regular center back with Tim Parker through injury forcing 5’7” (maybe) Connor Lade to play center back alongside Amro Tarek versus Houston.

Armas also sat star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips on the bench, only using his recovering goal scorer for 17 minutes. Instead, Armas turned to youngsters Brian White and Tom Barlow, neither of whom were able to beat Joe Willis in the Dynamo net.

It wasn’t a great night for the revamped Red Bulls backline with of Armas’ center backs getting beaten for a goal apiece and Murillo ending the match in the locker room after earning a late red card for a second yellow card offense.

New York had particular trouble with Houston speedster Alberth Elis, who assisted on Mauro Manotas’ opening goal before striking for a late brace.

The Red Bulls will be looking to get back into the win column when they travel to Atlanta to face the Five Stripes on Sunday, July 7th before hosting rivals NYCFC seven days later.

NYCFC impressive in pre-Fourth blowout

It was a happier pre – Fourth for the blue half of New York, with NYCFC running out 3-0 winners on a steamy night in the Bronx behind a three-goal second half.

In the midst of a three game winning streak, and with one more match, Sunday, July 7th vs Portland, remaining on a four-game homestand, New York remained unbeaten at home on the season, improving to 9w-0L-5D.

Wednesday night’s loss is the third in four games for the slumping Sounders. Seattle will welcome the return of Nicolas Lodeiro for its next match on Saturday in Columbus. The star playmaker was late returning from Copa America action with Uruguay. Panamanian defender Roman Torres was available to coach Bran Setzer but did not get the call. Howver, Xavier Arrenga, Seattle’s new DP, made his debut at center back after wrapping up Copa duty with Ecuador.

With the USMNT having advanced to Sunday’s Gold Cup Final, Schmetzer will have to make do without Jordan Morris and Christian Roldan for another few days.

Neither side troubled the scoreboard operator in a somewhat disjointed opening 45 minutes in the Bronx but the home team finally got untracked, with a little bit of luck, in the second half. Maxi Moralez opened New Yorks account, and that was no surprise, given that Moralez has found the net in three of his last four games while notching either a goal or an assist in seven consecutive matches.

On Wednesday night, Moralez goal had a touch of luck to it, eluding Stefan Frei after taking a deflection off of a Seattle defender. Fortun played a role in NYC’s second goal as a shot from Vincente Castellanos was directed to the net by Jesus Medina for Medina’s first goal of the season but no such claims can be made concerning the final NY tally of the night, laser off the left boot of Ebenezer Ofori that beat Frei from about 242nd Street.

With the victory, New York continues to have just one mark in the L as it concludes its four-game homestand on Sunday versus Portland ahead of A New York Derby showdown with the Red Bulls on Sunday, July 14th at Red Bull Arena.

Seattle will look to Lodeio to change its luck when they travel to Columbus to face the Crew at MAPFRE Stadium.

Pulisic and McKennie Lead USMNT Past Jamaica 3-1 and Into Gold Cup Final Against Mexico

Peter Nolan July 4, 2019

On Wednesday night, July 3rd, the eve of our nation’s birthday celebration, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter declared his independence.

What independence? An independence from his “system,” thus freeing his best players to play and reaping the rewards with outstanding performances from his 20-year-old stars Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie.

The young veterans accounted for all of the U.S. goals, with McKennie recording the opener and Pulisic adding a brace. However, the dynamic duo provided so much more than just goals in the American’s 3-1 victory over Jamaica that sets up a marquee Gold Cup Final match versus Mexico, Sunday at Soldier’s Field in Chicago

With his young dogs unleashed, Berhalter made some badly needed changes to a lineup that had looked stale in a narrow 1-0 win over Curacao and his team responded with an effort that essentially repudiated the coach’s “all is well” narrative following the Curacao match.

USMNT played with purpose

Playing with a verve that hasn’t been seen by a USMNT side under Berhalter, other than in the 6-0 win over a dreadful Trinidad and Tobago side, the Americans came flying out of the traps Wednesday night in Nashville, swarming Andre Blake’s goal before cashing in after just nine minutes through Weston McKennie.

The goal was laid on by Berhalter reclamation project Michael Bradley, who sent a long diagonal to Reggie Cannon, who volleyed a pass to Jozy Altidore, who like Cannon, sprung from the bench for this game- as called for by High Press Soccer in our match preview! Altidore directed the ball to the onrushing McKennie and the Schalke man fired the home team into the early lead.

The U.S. was in unstoppable form, playing its best soccer in recent memory when Mother Nature intervened in the form of a lightning storm that halted play, and the American’s momentum, in the 16th minute.

When the sides returned after a lengthy delay it was the Reggae Boyz that benefitted from the respite as the Yanks struggled to find their pre-storm form. U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen continued his fine play with a big save soon after play resumed and the Americans gradually found their feet before heading to the locker room with that 1-0 lead intact.

Berhalter’s men started the second half as they had the first, fast, and within seven minutes Christian Pulisic followed a Jordan Morris shot with a rebounded effort to double the U.S. lead. In the 56th minute, Berhalter chose to reverse his striker swap, replacing Altidore with Zardes, in a move that we will generously assume was meant to protect Altidore from possible injury.

Zardes soon had the crowd gasping, and not in a positive way, when he missed badly on an open look just after checking in, and then again 10 minutes later when his turnover led to Jamaica’s only goal, on a play that also featured Matt Miazga getting beaten to a header by goal scorer Shamar Nicholson.

But the U.S. was quick to regain control of the match and put the result beyond doubt on a second Pulisic rebound, this one when the Chelsea man pounced on Blake’s save from Paul Arriola’s blast.

Berhalter is to be applauded for recognizing the need to make changes, and he was rewarded with good play from all of the newcomers to the lineup, including Miazga, who though lax on Jamaica’s goal, turned in an otherwise solid effort.

Cannon was excellent at fullback and has given Berhalter a lot to consider when he selects between Cannon and Nick Lima for the final. Altidore was the expected upgrade over Zardes that most expected and will hopefully be ready to go 90 against E Tri.

This Gold Cup was never going to be strictly about results or trophies for the U.S., not with the physical and psychological rebuilding job laid at Berhalter’s feet, but a place in the final against rivals and CONCACAF measuring stick Mexico is a good way to get started.

Gold Cup Semifinal Preview: USMNT vs Jamaica

Peter Nolan July 2, 2019

Who: USMNT vs Panama
When: Wednesday @ 9:30 pm ET
Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville TN
Line: USA -200 | Draw +255 | Curacao +600

The elimination of the Confederation Cup has caused some to question the point of the Gold Cup.

Yes, there is the crowning of a CONCACAF champion. And sure, testing your team against your neighbors can be worthwhile. However, without the carrot of the Confederation Cup and the chance to face off against the top dogs from UEFA, CONEMBOL and the rest, the value of the Gold Cup remains an open question.

But for a USMNT seeking to rebuild its credibility within the region as well with its jaundiced fan-base under new coach Gregg Berhalter, the Gold Cup seemed like a perfect opportunity.

These are official matches, they count. No more attempting to parse meaning from the series of increasingly meaningless friendlies presided over by caretaker coach Dave Sarachan.

Then the games began. Wins of 4-0 versus Guyana and 6-0 over Trinidad and Tobago, as well as a 1-0 win with a brand new 11 against Panama claimed the group stage for the U.S. This set up a showdown with the tiny constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curacao.

The U.S. barely escaped with a 1-0 win over Curacao, with the six-time Gold Cup-winning United States apparently happy to bunker in against the 79th rated FIFA ranked nation.

Berhalter defensive of team’s performance

The US’ showing against Curacao doesn’t necessarily bode well for their chances in Wednesday night’s semifinal match-up against Jamaica. Yes, like all U.S. Gold Cup games, the semifinal will be a home game, this one in Nashville.

Berhalter had something of a thin-skinned reaction to Sunday’s narrow escape, telling the gathered press post-game, “Despite the tone in here, we’re happy with the result of this game and that should be said, I’m proud of the guys for their effort and now we move on to Nashville.”

A win is a win but one hopes Berhalter’s pride in that performance doesn’t translate to acceptance of that level of play because if it does there will be little chance of the Americas advancing to the hoped-for showdown with Mexico in Sunday’s God Cup FInal in Chicago.

Hopefully, Behalter’s pride in his team’s effort does not hamper the coach’s willingness to shake up his lineup, limited though his roster options may be.

Continuity for continuity’s sake?

Berhalter has used the same 11 in three of the team’s four matches. The early, easy wins and the struggle versus Curacao all featured the same starters. Other than Christian Pulisic, goal scorer Weston McKennie, Man of the Match Zack Steffen in goal and defender Walker Zimmerman, none of that 11 distinguished themselves versus Curacao. Of the “second 11” that beat Panama 1-0, I can only recall center back Matt Miazga and fullback Reggie Cannon showing anything.

So, what now? Every coach has a player or two that he values despite howls of protest from the peanut gallery. Bob Bradley’s Jonathan Bornstein obsession comes to mind. For Berhalter, Gyasi Zardes is developing into that player, while Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream have potential.

Jozy Altidore has been recovering from injury but by all official accounts, the TFC man has recovered. “He fits Berhalter’s system,” we hear. Altidore is better. Start him.

Ream is a center back, not a fullback and Nick Lima, who was poor against Curacao, regularly plays left-back for his club team. Play Cannon on the right and Lima on the left.

Further up the pitch, Berhalter’s options are limited. He has to stay with Michael Bradley, even if his diminishing speed is an issue because he is a far better option than Wil Trapp.

Tyler Boyd was a sensation with a brace versus Guyana but has failed to fire since. Jordan Morris provided a spark off the bench against T&T but little after. Play either, the difference appears negligible.

Paul Arriola looked to have added some final product to his otherwise well-rounded game but he was invisible versus Curacao. Berhalter is likely to start him against Jamaica because Jonathan Lewis is better suited as an off the bench option.

Jamaica drew 1-1 with Curacao in Group play and lost to the same team in the Carribean Cup. But Jamaica beat the U.S. in pre-Cup friendly and more importantly the Reggae Boyz also defeated the Americans 2-1 in the semifinal of the 2015 Gold Cup, so Jamaica will show the U.S. no fear. 

This Gold Cup is a measuring stick for the USMNT, both internally and externally. At the moment the internal group, Berhalter essentially, seems to judge this group to be a success, while outside forces, the press, the public, are less enthused.

The final report card for the U.S. at the Gold Cup will be issued when the home team’s participation concludes. At the moment looks like a C+, perhaps, but there remains time for improvement before the term concludes.

Disappointing U.S. Scrape by Curacao 1-0 to Advance to Gold Cup Semifinal

Peter Nolan July 1, 2019

The USMNT eeked out a 1-0 victory over a solid Curacao side in Philadelphia Sunday night, punching its ticket to a Gold Cup semifinal. Next up: a matchup against Jamaica on Wednesday night in Nashville.

Early promise fizzles as game ends in a grind

The game opened with a promising 15 or so minutes from the US squad. Christian Pulisic was an early standout, shooting wide with one chance and robbed by Curacao keeper Eloy Room on another. The U.S. finally broke through when Weston McKinnie headed home a fine Christian Pulisic cross.

Had one of Pulisic’s earlier chances found the net perhaps the Americans could have rolled to a victory more in line with results from earlier in this competition. Those results gave rise to the notion that Berhalter’s rebuild of the moribund U.S. Men’s program was proceeding at a rapid pace. That notion seems fanciful now given Sunday’s struggles against Curacao, a team playing in the Gold Cup Knockout rounds for the first time.

On Sunday night, Curacao out-possessed the United States (52-48%), won more corner kicks (6 to 2), and forced U.S. keeper Zack Steffen to make more saves (5 to 2) than Hood in Curacao’s net.

The most important of Steffen’s saves came in the game’s 84th minute when a draw may have been a more accurate representation of the 90 minutes of play between the sides.

It was a poor effort by the Americans, who never seemed to come to grips with the defensive pressure from their 79th FIFA ranked opponents. The US spent much of the second half bottled up in their own defensive third, completely unable to build an attack from the back through the midfield, instead clinging to a lead, seemingly content to escape Philadelphia and move on to Nashville.

Berhalter certainly sounded that note, saying in his postgame remarks, “The interesting thing about this game and when you look at both in Copa América and Gold Cup and look at these quarterfinal matches, they’re all tight matches.” Indicating the press corps, Berhalter added, “I think you guys wanted us to go out here and beat ‘em 5-0 but we knew it was going to be a difficult game.”

Berhalter’s personnel choices leave some scratching their heads

Berhalter was happy enough with the performance that he made just two subs, the second in stoppage time, when he inserted Omar Gonzalez as the U.S. sought to hang on late. Berhalter’s continued trust in Gonzalez is one that most observers do not share.

Likewise, the coach’s decision to stay with Gyasi Zardes as his striker for the full 90 minutes versus Curacao while a reportedly healthy Jozy Altidore, named by Berhalter as his number one striker, cooled his heels on the bench, struck many as curious.

Gonzalez had no impact on the game in brief cameo, although it seemed odd that Berhalter chose the new Toronto FC man over Matt Miazga when the latter had been far more assured when the two were paired versus Panama.

Staying with the ineffective Zardes just seemed stubborn, especially given Altidore’s superior hold up play on a night when the U.S struggled to maintain possession.

In further remarks to the press, Berhalter said, “Despite the tone in here, we’re happy with the result of this game and that should be said, I’m proud of the guys for their effort and now we move on to Nashville.”

Advancing to Nashville and the Gold Cup semifinal is, of course, the goal, and the coach is certainly entitled to be proud of his team. However, Berhalter will have to coax a better performance out of that team versus Jamaica if he and the USMNT plan to advance to the Gold Cup Final in Chicago on July 7.

USMNT vs Jamaica Preview

The USMNT plays Jamaica in the Gold Cup semifinals on July 3rd at 9pm ET. The US is heavily favored to advance to the finals.

Jamaica +540Draw +285USA -205

U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM MATCH REPORT

Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Curaçao

Date: June 30, 2019

Competition: 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup; Quarterfinals

Venue: Lincoln Financial Field; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Attendance: 26,233

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET

Weather: 82 degrees; clear

Scoring Summary:   1          2          F

USA                            1          0          1

CUW                           0          0          0

USA – Weston McKennie (Christian Pulisic)             25th minute

Lineups:

USA: 1-Zack Steffen; 2-Nick Lima, 5-Walker Zimmerman, 23-Aaron Long, 13-Tim Ream; 4-Michael Bradley; 8-Weston McKennie, 10-Christian Pulisic (capt.); 21-Tyler Boyd (11-Jordan Morris, 63), 9-Gyasi Zardes, 7-Paul Arriola (3-Omar Gonzalez, 90+2)

Substitutes not used: 12-Sean Johnson, 22-Tyler Miller, 6-Wil Trapp, 14-Reggie Cannon, 15-Cristian Roldan, 16-Daniel Lovitz, 17-Jozy Altidore, 18-Jonathan Lewis, 19-Matt Miazga, 20-Djordjie Mihailovic

Head Coach: Gregg Berhalter

CUW: 1-Eloy Room; 13-Jurien Gaari, 2-Cuco Martina (capt.), 4-Darryl Lachman, 21-Ayrton Statie (5-Jurich Carolina, 68); 15-Shermaine Martina (6-Michael Maria, 80), 10-Leandro Bacuna, 18-Elson Hooi; 11-Gevaro Nepomuceno, 19-Jafar Arias, 14-Kenji Gorre (16-Gino Van Kessel, 75)

Substitutes not used: 22-Jarzinho Pieter, 23-Zeus De La Paz, 3-Shermar Martina, 7-Jarchino Antonia, 12-Shanon Carmelia, 17-Zinjo Constansia, 20-Jimbertson Vapor

Head coach: Remko Bicentini

Stats Summary: USA / CUW

Shots: 10 / 15

Shots on Goal: 3 / 5

Saves: 4 / 3

Corner Kicks: 2 / 6

Fouls: 5 / 10

Offside: 2 / 2

Misconduct Summary:

CUW – Shermaine Martina (caution)             30th minute

CUW – Elson Hooi (caution)                          70

Officials:

Referee: Adonai Escobedo (MEX)

Assistant Referee 1: Alberto Morín (MEX)

Assistant Referee 2: Miguel Angel Hernandez (MEX)

4th Official: Said Martinez (HON)

ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Zack Steffen

Gold Cup Preview: Up Next for the USMNT – “Cinderella” Side Curacao

Peter Nolan June 30, 2019

Who: USMNT vs Curacao
When: Sunday @ 8:30 pm ET
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia PA
Line: USA -910 | Draw +600 | Curacao +2000

The Gold Cup draw has been kind to the USMNT. That largess continues Sunday night when the heavily-favored Americans kick off against Curacao at 8 o’clock at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field.

The Yanks came into this year’s CONCACAF Championship tournament unburdened by lofty expectations. This is largely due to disappointing performances in a pair of friendlies just prior to the Gold Cup, losing to Jamaica, 1-0 and Venezuela, 3-0.

The cumulative effect of the two matches was enough to cancel out the, “it’s only a friendly” chatter that normally accompanies such tune-ups. This only added further negativity to a fan base already drowning in the stuff.

Then, once the Gold Cup began, the U.S. took advantage of leading a weak group. They beat up on Guyana by 4-0. They improved on that with a 6-0 stomping of a dire Trinidad and Tobago team that bore no resemblance to the side that eliminated the U.S. from World Cup qualification back in 2017.

Bouyed by that start, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter made 11 changes to his side for the final group stage match versus Panama and still managed to escape with a 1-0 victory to win the Group.

Curacao’s Cinderella run

So, what to expect from the tiny nation of Curacao? First of all, Curacao is a nation. In fact, it is one of four Constituent countries that make up The Kingdom of the Netherlands (the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten).

But can they play soccer? Sure. Ask Honduras, who lost a shocker, 1-0, to send the tiny Caribbean nation on its way to a second place finish in Group C action.

The former Netherlands Antilles also drew with Jamaica 1-1, a solid result that should get the U.S. to sit up and take notice.

A 1-0 loss to El Salvador rounded out Curacao’s first round, so the Americans will need to be on their toes on Sunday night.

What to expect vs surprising Curacao

Given its status as a part of the kingdom of the Netherlands, it is not surprising that several players on this Curacao side play professionally for Dutch clubs. This includes starting goalkeeper Eloy Room, a reserve keeper with PSV. Center-back Cuco Martinais an Everton player, although he has been on loan to Eredivisie side Feyernood.

Attack minded midfielder Leandro Bacuna has experience in the English Premier League and the English Championship with Cardiff City. He is Curacao’s leading international scorer with 11 goals, including the winner versus Honduras in this Gold Cup.

Curacao’s other goal in this tournament came in thrilling fashion when fullback Jurien Gaari scored in the 93rd minute to secure the draw with Jamaica and earn this quarterfinal matchup with the United States.

Curacao has used the same starting 11 in its last two matches. U.S boss Gregg Berhalter, who has referred to Curacao as a “Cinderella” team, will have a good idea of who they are going up against in a match that, let’s be honest, the U.S. will be expected to win, and win handily.

As the host nation, the Americans have enjoyed a relatively free ride to the Gold Cup quarterfinal, up to and including dodging Jamaica in the quarters and facing the least accomplished team to survive to this point in the Cup.

Should the Americans advance as expected, they would face the winner of Jamaica vs Panama. Thanks to the schedule maker for doing its part in saving the expected marquee matchup, the U.S.A. vs Mexico, for the Gold Cup Championship Final.

Having allowed zero goals while racking up a tally of 11 in three group games, Berhalter’s team will be expected to turn Curacao’s coach back into a pumpkin Sunday night in Philly.

NYCFC Top First Place Philadelphia in Yankee Stadium Slugfest

Peter Nolan June 30, 2019

Just a couple of hours after their landlords, the NY Yankees, engaged in a slugfest with the Boston Red Sox 3,000 miles away in London, New York City FC outscored the Philadelphia Union for a 4-2  victory at Yankee Stadium Saturday night.

And for all the complaints about playing soccer in the Big Ballyard in the Bronx, Dome Torrent’s men remain unbeaten at home in 2019. They are also undefeated in their last 11 matches league games.

Catellanos leads makeshift roster to win

In the first MLS action for NYC since a 5-2 home win over Cincinnatti on June 6, Vincent Catellanos was the hero, earning two penalty kicks, both of which were converted by Maxi Morales. Catellanos then scored two goals of his own from open play.

With NYCFC missing seven players, four injured and three on international duty, Casellanos’ contribution was badly needed, especially with leading goal scorer Heber out injured.

With his team shorthanded, coach Torrent certainly appreciated the contribution from Castellanos and some of his other bench players, saying,”“you know, it’s very important that I say that all of them deserve to play and that I don’t have a doubt about Taty because I say many times in the facilities, he never gave up and he did everything he could to convince the coaches.”

Torrent noted his team’s depth, adding, “I say many times, it’s impossible to play more than 14 players. And they have to be ready to play. And his opportunities are the same as Keaton (Parks). Keaton played the game really well again and it’s good news for us. And I don’t have doubts about my players, and I say many times to them, they have to be ready to play when I decide to play with them.”

New York had to overcome an early deficit on Saturday after Philadelphia took an early lead on a seventh minute goal from FaFa Picault, whose trap, turn, and shot in front of the New York goal was beautifully executed.

The home team got back on level terms when Castellanos drew the first of New York’s penalty kicks. Duly converted by Moralez for a 23rd minute equalizer.

In year’s past Philadelphia might have been expected to fold up its tents after coughing up an early lead but there is something a bit different about coach Jim Curtin’s crew this season, and within seven minutes Kacper Przybylko had put the Union back in front, set up by Jamiro Monteiro and Ilsinho.

That sort of bounce back attitude has the surprising Union sitting atop the MLS Eastern Conference. However, with four games in hand and its next two games at home, don’t sleep on NYCFC.

A flashpoint came in the 55th minute when Castellanos drew a second penalty kick after contact with the Union’s Alejandro Bedoya. Philadelphia hotly disputed the call at the time and former USMNT midfielder Bedoya likely earned imself a fine from the Commissioner’s Officewith his postgame comments, delivered, naturally via twitter.

Bedoya’s coach Jim Curtin had his captain’s back, even if his language was somewhat more diplomatic. “Castellanos was good at maybe embellishing a little bit and making it look worse than it was. On that play (Castellanos) doesn’t even see Ale coming. In my mind simple as I can put it: Ale is entitled to that ball just as much as Castellanos is. He puts his body in between the two, wins the ball. It looks like a hard contact but this is a contact game. I think the ref got that one wrong.”

Wrong or right, and for what it is worth, I thought the ref was on the money, Moralez buried his second pk of the match and we were level once again.

From there Castellanos the provider turned finisher, nothing the final two goals of the match to secure the three points for New York City FC.

Red Bulls Return with 3-1 Win and New Strike Pair

Peter Nolan June 29, 2019

After what has seemed like a very long time indeed, Major League Soccer is back.

Friday night MLS was welcomed home the New York Red Bulls who defeated the Chicago Fire 3-1 on a sweltering summer’s night.

Bradley Wright-Phillips returns, Brian White shines

Also back was Red Bulls star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who hadn’t donned the double bulls since way back on April 20. In BWP’s protracted absence the club seems to have found an heir apparent in 23 year-old Flemington, New Jersey native Brian White, who’s 59th minute goal stood up as the match winner on Friday night.

The goal was also White’s team leading fifth of the season, impressive given that White has started just eight times this season, with two further substitute appearances.

With White’s fifth goal coming on a night when Wright-Phillips replaced his younger colleague in a 67th minute substitution, High Press Soccer asked Red Bulls coach Chris Armas what White’s emergence has meant to his squad.

Armas was full of praise for the 2018 first round draft choice out of Duke, calling White, “a version of Brad.” Still, even as proud as the Red Bulls coach is of the team’s vaunted talent pipeline, Armas admitted that until you see it at the MLS level, potential is just that, potential.

“He’s scored goals at all levels,” the coach noted, “and now (we see) he can he score them at this level. We think he can, but you know, now you see that he can.” Proof being in the pudding, an all that.

Armas called BWP “Brian’s biggest fan and mentor,” and said that Wright-Phllips, is “still coaching him along the way,” adding, “it’s really nice to see on the inside the relationship with those two.”

After a win, of course, everything tends to be pretty congenial, but there does appear to be a harmonious vibe between Wright-Phillps and the young man who may one day push him aside, even if Wright-Phillip downplayed his role as a ”mentor,” when HIgh Press Soccer relayed Armas’ evaluation.

“I help out where I can,” a modest Wright-Phillips began, “but if I’m if I’m being, you know totally honest, he’s a mature guy.” “I think,” he veteran striker continued, “you can tell through his game, he doesn’t get too excited, when he’s not scoring he’s not too angry. You know? He’s just a level headed guy.”

“I help out where I can but he’s doing all right. I don’t need to go in there and start confusing him. You know he’s playing well and he’s been one of our best players so you know I’m happy for him.”

As for White, the rising striker acknowledges Wright-Phillip’s role in his development and wisely, seems only too happy to take his advice on board. “Yeah you know, he’s always had a couple words here and there for me, to you know, improve my game.” White explained, “coming out of halftime he told me to be more selfish and get in the box and get on the enemy, so I try to listen, obviously. I got in the box as best I could and got a goal out of it, so you know, I try to take in everything I can that he tries to teach me.”

That seems like a smart policy on White’s behalf. Mentorship aside, Wright-Phillips clearly rates his young teammate.

“I don’t know where to start with Brian,” BWP said. “I’m a big fan of Brian. I think his all-around play is – I’m not sure you’ll notice this – but I think it’s very underrated. I think his finishing is top class, he proves that every day in training.”

Wright-Phillips continued, “even the shift he puts in today, it’s not easy for him, you know he’s not getting a lot of touches and he gets his goal, and I’m delighted for him. And I always say, you know, these young guys – even Tom (Barlow) as well – it’s one thing to play well when you just come off the bench and you’re excited, your first game, you’re playing with adrenaline. But these guys now, you know, fans expecting stuff of them, and they’re still delivering and that’s when you know you see a good player, credit to him.”

As for his own game, Wright-Phillips is clearly thrilled to be back.

Sitting in front of his locker, post-game, the Red Bulls all-time leading goal scorer said,“Yeah, it was amazing to be out there, I was like a kid, man, back at school.”

Wright-Phillips put his name in the scoresheet with an injury time assist on Daniel Royer’s clincher, when he sprung marauding fullback Kyle Duncan with a perfectly weighted break out pass to end the match as a contest.

Chicago will be frustrated with this loss, especially given a 26 to 10 advantage in shots. However, Chicago could only challenge New York keeper Luis Robles with eight shots on target, and could slip just one rebounded effort past the Red Bulls dynamic keeper.

The victory puts further distance between the fourth place Red Bulls and Chicago, who sit in the place, one position below the Eastern Conference playoff line.

USMNT Defeat Panama 1-0, Advance to Quarterfinal vs Minnows Curacao

Peter Nolan June 27, 2019

In our USMNT versus Panama preview for High Press Soccer prior to Wednesday night’s 1-0 American victory, we predicted that coach Gregg Berhalter would make some changes to the lineup that defeated Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago by a combined 10-0 in their first two Group D matches.

We did not, however, foresee that the U.S. supremo would make a clean sweep of the lineup, replacing all 11 starters from that successful opening set.

This win sets up a quarterfinal matchup with surprising Curacao. Meanwhile,Panama gets the tougher draw when it goes up against Jamaica in the quarters. The other two quarterfinals feature Canada vs. feel good story Haiti, while CONCACAF giants Mexico and Costa Rica will go toe to toe in an intriguing contest.

11 new faces, same positive result

In his post-game remarks Berhalter said of all the changes, “the decision to start 11 new players was an easy one. We believe in the group; we wanted to show that.”

So, of the new 11, who impressed, if anyone? The player most wanted to see was Jozy Altidore, whom Berhalter has called the team’s first choice striker, when healthy. With Altidore trying to get to full fitness after missing time through injury, the Toronto attacker has been behind Gyasi Zardes, who played under Berhalter with the Columbus Crew, during this Gold Cup.

Zardes was poor in the U.S. opener versus Guyana, although he did score a fluky goal off of a deflection off of his face. However, he scored a brace vs. T&T, the second of which was a gem.

Altidore scored a gem of his own versus Panama when he elevated to blast home a spectacular bicycle kick for the games only score. Other than that, Altidore showed that he was fit enough to start but looked rusty when it came to linking with his teammates.

Elsewhere, Matt Miazga impressed with a strong defensive effort at center back while also distributing very well from deep. Berhalter’s captain of the day, Omar Gonzalez, did not fare as well and would have been punished for a bad giveaway, only to be let off by a proliferate Panama attack.

It was a similar one up one down for the American fullbacks with right sider Reggie Cannon catching the eye while left full back Daniel Lovitz was all too wasteful with the ball when opportunities arose.

Michael Bradley’s backup Wil Trapp had a solid night, while Christian Roldan was just ok filling in for Weston McKennie. 20-year-old midfielder Djordje Mihailovic was in and out of the action, although the Chicago Fire man did show glimpses of quality on the evening.

Altidore’s wingers Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis each had disappointing nights, although for different reasons.

For Morris, it was a matter of failing to recapture the form he flashed while picking up two assists off the bench against T&T. Lewis promised much while delivering little before he was replaced by Christian Pulisic late in Wednesday’s contest.

Next up, Curacao

Curacao awaits and while Berhalter said all the right things about Sunday’s quarterfinal opponent, calling Sunday evenings opponent “Cinderella,” the United States should handily advance to the Gold Cup semifinals against the winner of Jamaica vs Panama.

On the other side of the draw rising Canada will take on Haiti, the surprise packet of the Gold Cup, having won its group with a perfect 3-0-0 mark. The other semifinal features Mexico and Costa Rica.

Gold Cup Preview: USMNT vs Panama

Peter Nolan June 25, 2019

Who: USMNT vs Panama
When: Tuesday @ 9pm ET
Where: Kansas City
Line: Panama +650 | Draw +330 | US -230

Two wins from two matches have qualified the USMNT for the knockout stages of the 2019 Gold Cup, and the same can be said for Panama, Wednesday night’s opponent.

The U.S. defeated Guyana 4-0, and Trinidad and Tobago 6-0. Winning by a combined 10-0 score is an impressive start as they adjust to new coach Gregg Berhalter and his system.

Meanwhile, Panama defeated Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 and Guyana 4-2.

USMNT vs Panama Preview: Familiar Foes

Panama is a familiar foe for the Americans and with a healthy dose of MLS and former MLS players U.S. fans will be familiar with the Canaleros.

Seattle’s Ramon Torres anchors the Panama defense, after a season that saw him lose his starting position with the Sounders. Torres has been reinstated and he continues to be an inspirational leader for the Canal men.

Red Bulls fullback Michael Murillo is another familiar face and his ability to get forward can trouble the U.S. former Toronto FC midfielder Armando Cooper is playing his soccer in Israel these days, but Berhalter and his players will remember the midfielder from his MLS days.

Panama striker Gabriel Torres never quite caught on with the Colorado Rapids but he has come back to lead the line for Panama.

With both teams already assured of moving on to the next round, the coaches will be free to experiment and rotate. It should be noted that Berhalter went with the same starting 11 in consecutive matches, as he sought to build continuity. Will he again?

Berhalter is unlikely to make it three in a row with the same 11 but he may not make wholesale changes that many might expect.

Goalkeeper Zack Steffen is likely to maintain his place. Reggie Cannon impressed in a brief cameo versus Trinidad and Tobago and may be in line for a start if Nick Lima gets a night off. Center backs Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman are coming off of big games, with Long scoring a brace versus Trinidad and Tobago.

Tim Ream may also get a rest, while Christian Roldan could step in for Weston McKennie and Michael Bradley may sit for Wil Trapp. Will Christian Pulisic get a night off? How about wingers Paul Arriola and Tyler Boyd, so good in the first two U.S. matches, will Berhalter rest them?

Can’t take anything for granted at this Gold Cup

One thing for sure is that neither team can take anything for granted. Especially not after Haiti’s 2-1 win over Costa Rica to win its group. Even Bermuda topped Nicaragua by a 2-0 scoreline.

There have been shock results, blowouts, and in the case of Honduras, last rights for a reeling program that has slid down the CONCACAF rankings to the point of losing 1-0 to Curacao!

This while everyone is taking turns beating Cuba 7-0. First Mexico scored a touchdown against the Cubans, then Martinique could only manage a 3-0 win in game two before Canada hung another seven against the hapless Cubans.

With all of this swirling around Berhalter and his team, Wednesday night’s winner will probably face a weaker team in the next round, most likely El Salvador or Curacao, rather than the stronger Jamaica side in the quarterfinals.

Mexico, who only edged Martinique by a 3-2 score on Sunday, will take on reeling Costa Rica in another of the quarterfinals, with a possible U.S. and Mexico showdown a bit further down the road.

With Berhalter looking to impose his style on the USMNT, perhaps this game is a bit more important to the U.S. than Panama, so look for the Americans to prevail on Wednesday night.

USMNT Look to Build on 6-0 Win Over Trinidad and Tobago

Peter Nolan June 23, 2019

It doesn’t in any way make up for the infamous night in Couva that kept the USMNT out of the 2018 World Cup, but Saturday night’s 6-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago had to feel pretty good.

This is especially the case for the likes of Michael Bradley, Christian Pulisic, and Jozy Altidore, who were on hand for both matches.

Regardless of how the team downplayed the game beforehand, their commanding 6-0 win certainly indicates that deep down, this one mattered.

How is Gregg Berhalter’s team progressing?

The evidence presented last night can only be seen as positive.

Berhalter took the unusual step of naming the same 11 two games in a row, a tactic that did not work out so well for Bruce Arena that autumn night in 2017 in Couva. However, it worked a charm for Berhalter on Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

There was much to like from the U.S. performance versus Trinidad and Tobago. Sure, T&T is not a good team. They haven’t scored a goal since September, a stretch of seven games. And it did take the US 41 minutes to break the visitors resistance.

The U.S. finally broke through in the aftermath of a free kick when Pulisic lofted a cross that defender Aaron Long powered past the Soca Warriors excellent, if beleagured goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.

That 1-0 advantage stood until halftime and the U.S. came out and finished the job in short order in the second stanza, led by an energized Pulisic, who admitted afterward, “I didn’t like to say it, but I definitely had a little chip on my shoulder today, So I hope you guys could see that,”

It was there for all to see as the Chelsea attacker ran at, around, and through an overmatched T&T defense en route to one goal and two assists. Pulisic had plenty of help, with Gyasi Zardes claiming two goals.

Zardes’ first was a tap in laid on by Nick Lima’s diving header off of Michael Bradley’s sublime chipped pass. His second was a lovely finish after a fine Pulisic set up.

The Columbus Crew striker claimed his brace in a three minute stretch between the 66th and 69th minutes propelling the Americans to a 3-0 lead, that Pulisic extended on a Jordan Morris assist in the 73rd minute.

Paul Arriola made it 5-0 in the 78th minute, completing a four goals in 12 minutes blitz that decided the game, and put a smile on the entirety of U.S. Soccer for the first time since, well, you know when.

Long tacked on a 90th minute capper, because, well, why not? leaving us to ask, what does it all mean?

So what does this all mean for the US?

In one sense, Saturday’s laugher means little. The USMNT had already punched it’s ticket to the next round of the Gold Cup, rendering Wednesday night’s group stage finale with Panama, likewise already qualified for the KO rounds, moot.

But the therapudic effects of Saturday’s laugher on a program that has been suffering a collective hangover for almost two years now shouldn’t be dismissed.

Nor should the badly needed, step up and lead performance from Pulisic.

Additionally, Weston McKennie, healthy after an injury scare against Guyana, showed his Bundesliga pedigree, even if his name doesn’t appear on the score sheet. And Berhalter showed that he is not a slave to a particular tactic, abandoning the inverted fullback/midfielder role in the absence of Tyler Adams and DeAndre Yedlin, playing Nick Lima as a more traditional fullback.

31 year-old Michael Bradley displayed a range of passing as he continues to revive an international career that many had frankly thought (or hoped) was at an end.

In fact, Berhalter had to be pleased with performances all over the field. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen was sharp when he had to be. The back four were solid. The midfield was aggressive. The wingers were dynamic. Arriola has scored in consecutive matches. Tyler Boyd has been impressive. Everybody’s favorite punching bag, Zardes, had some good finishes.

On to Panama

Panama would figure to provide a sterner test Wednesday night in Kansas City. However, with both teams already qualified for the next phase of Gold Cup play, the match may be more of an opportunity to rotate and rest key players.

For the U.S that should mean Jordan Morris will get a chance to build on his impressive performance versus T&T. Perhaps we’ll see a full 90 from Altidore, who impressed in his cameo. And maybe there will be some playing time for the likes of Matt Miazga, Christian Roldan, and even Omar Gonzalez.

Match Report: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Trinidad & Tobago

Date: June 22, 2019

Competition: 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup – Group D

Venue: FirstEnergy Stadium; Cleveland, Ohio

Attendance: 23,921

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

Weather: 69 degrees; sunny

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F

USA 1 5 6

TRI 0 0 0

USA – Aaron Long (Christian Pulisic) 41st minute

USA – Gyasi Zardes (Nick Lima) 66

USA – Gyasi Zardes (Christian Pulisic) 69

USA – Christian Pulisic (Jordan Morris) 73

USA – Paul Arriola (Jordan Morris) 78

USA – Aaron Long 90

Lineups:

USA: 1-Zack Steffen (capt.); 2-Nick Lima (14-Reggie Cannon, 84), 5-Walker Zimmerman, 23-Aaron Long, 13-Tim Ream; 4-Michael Bradley; 8-Weston McKennie, 10-Christian Pulisic; 21-Tyler Boyd (11-Jordan Morris, 61), 9-Gyasi Zardes (17-Jozy Altidore, 74), 7-Paul Arriola

Substitutes not used: 12-Sean Johnson, 22-Tyler Miller, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 6-Wil Trapp, 15-Cristian Roldan, 16-Daniel Lovitz, 18-Jonathan Lewis, 19-Matt Miazga, 20-Djordje Mihailovic

Head Coach: Gregg Berhalter

TRI: 1-Marvin Phillip; 16-Alvin Jones, 5-Daneil Cyrus, 2-Aubrey David, 4-Neveal Hackshaw; 8-Khaleem Hyland (capt.) (10-Kevin Molino, 17), 19-Kevan George; 13-Nathan Lewis (3-Joevin Jones, 67), 23-Leston Paul, 7-Cordell Cato; 11-Levi Garcia (18-Lester Peltier, 77)

Substitutes not used: 21-Gregory Ranjitsingh, 22-Adrian Foncette, 6-Duane Muckette, 9-Shahdon Winchester, 12-Carlyle Mitchell, 14-Akeem Humphrey, 15-Curtis Gonzales, 17-Mekeil Williams, 20-Jomal Williams

Head coach: Dennis Lawrence

Stats Summary: USA / TRI

Shots: 27 / 9

Shots on Goal: 12 / 3

Saves: 3 / 6

Corner Kicks: 6 / 2

Fouls: 16 / 15

Offside: 2 / 0

Misconduct Summary:

TRI – Alvin Jones (caution) 39th minute

TRI – Daneil Cyrus (caution) 58

USA – Weston McKennie (caution) 58

TRI – Joevin Jones (caution) 86

Officials:

Referee: Said Martinez (HON)

Assistant Referee 1: Walter Lopez Ramos (HON)

Assistant Referee 2: Helpys Feliz (DOM)

4th Official: Ismael Cornejo (SLV)

ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Christian Pulisic

Gold Cup Preview: USMNT vs Trinidad and Tobago

Peter Nolan June 20, 2019

When: Saturday, 8 pm ET
Who: USMNT vs Trinidad and Tobago
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Odds: US – 600 | Draw +650 | T&T +1100

America looks to move past crushing World Cup failure

Saturday’s nights second round Gold Cup match between the U.S. and Trinidad and Tobago is being sold as a revenge match.

Yes, this is an American team and soccer nation that’s still scarred by the October, 2017 loss to T&T. That loss kept the USMNT out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

It’s not, of course, a revenge match. Simply put, there is no margin of victory for the Americans that could erase the damage done to U.S. soccer, it’s reputation, and its very psyche, by that awful night in Couva. That 2-1 loss left a mark on Yanks that still reverberates today.

Previewing USWMNT vs T&T

Even though the Americans have already qualified for the knockout rounds, they could still use the win. Gregg Berhalter, who eventually replaced Bruce Arena in the post – Couva fallout, would love to see his group build on Tuesday night’s 4-0 victory over Group D minnows Guyana, a nice result that proved little.

Berhalter and his staff have no doubt parsed Trinidad and Tobago’s 2-0 loss to Panama on Tuesday night in search of any edge, even if the Soca Warriors are a familiar opponent.

On the evidence of Tuesday evening, T&T won’t unduly stress the U.S. defense, although if Seattle’s Joevin Jones plays from the start, as he undoubtedly should, the dynamic left-wing/fullback could trouble Nick Lima with his pacy runs.

T&T also feature speed on the right flank through Nathan Lewis, which could be a problem for Tim Ream, but Lewis’ final ball was very poor versus Panama, rendering all that speed pointless.

Solid and well organized, Trinidad did make it difficult for Panama’s attack to flourish. Center back pair Daneil Cyrus and Aubrey David provided a strong platform for T&T to defend from, ably abetted by midfielders Khaleem Hyland and Kevan George.

The U.S. will need to find a way through and if they do they will have to beat in form Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.

Whatever attack the Soca Warriors do generate is liable to come from the wide play of the Jones brothers. Alvin Jones, who scored the telling goal versus the U.S. in Couva, and Joevin Jones, who like his brother, operates as a fullback/wingbacks. The US will also have to look after Minnesota United midfielder Kevin Molino, who put a scare or two into Panama with his incisive passing in T&T’s Group D opener.

For Berhalter and the U.S., this is all part of a rebuilding process albeit one that requires some success along the way, if only to keep the wolves at bay.

This is (again) a game the US should win

Despite that historic loss to Trinidad and Tobago in 2017, the United States should clearly defeat T&T on Saturday. If not, then those wolves will start howling loudly.

The record says as much, given that the Americans have lost just once in Group play at the Gold Cup, dropping a decision to Panama in 2011. In total, their record is 33 wins, one loss and four draws in group play at this tournament.

I don’t expect much rotation from Berhalter, although 31-year-old Michael Bradley may give way for Wil Trapp. Although given little to do in the Americans 4-0 win over Guyana, center back Aaron Long had a shaky moment or two and Berhalter could turn to Matt Miazga or even Omar Gonzalez.

If healthy, Jozy Altidore should replace the ineffective Gyasi Zardes, a move that the U.S. attack clearly needs. Altidore’s superior hold up play could be a boon to Christian Pulisic as he operates through the center of the park while wingers Paul Arriola and two-goal hero Tyler Boyd try to replicate their success versus Guyana against T&T.

Pulisic’s midfield partner Weston McKennie left Tuesday night’s victory holding his hamstring. After the match Berhalter called McKennie’s injury a cramp, rather than a more serious strain or pull. That would be great news for U.S. hopes of going far in the Gold Cup. On the other hand if the Schalke man is unavailable on Saturday, or indeed going forward, he will leave an immense hole in the U.S. lineup, one the current roster seems ill equipped to fill.

USMNT Gold Cup Roster – “You’re Not Going to Win Anything With That Guy.”

Peter Nolan June 7, 2019

Gregg Berhalter’s first real USMNT lineup dropped today, one day after an experimental American side shit the bed against Jamaica, losing 1-0 at Audi Field in Washington, DC.

Berhalter had indicated prior to the friendly versus Jamaica that a couple of spots on the Gold Cup roster, which determines the CONCACAF champion, were still up for grabs.

Few if any of the combatants for places shone, although Duane Holmes, a U.S. born, English raised midfielder who plays for English Championship side Derby, was rewarded with a Gold Cup place after he made the most of his substitute appearance versus Jamaica.

You’re not going to win anything…

Below you will see listed the names of the players selected to represent the U.S.A. in competition against Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, etc.

As you peruse the roster, remind yourself of the debacle in Couva, which saw Trinidad and Tobago deny CONCACAF giants, the USA a place in the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

When I look at the names put forth by Berhalter to lead the USMNT into international competition for the first time under his watch, I am reminded of words that my father has said to me for many years now, “you’re not going to win anything with that guy.”

A quick, indulgent, and as brief as possible word about my father is necessary here, so please bear with me.

My father was a big-time athlete in Ireland in the 1950s and in the U.S playing Gaelic, or Irish football, in the 1960s.

As such, he wasn’t brought up playing the All-American sports of baseball, football, basketball, etc. But as an athlete, he could, and still can, spot the real deal from a mile away. Alternatively, he could also spot the guy that was never going to make it. When he would spot the latter, my father would intone gravely; “they’ll never win anything with that guy.”

It didn’t matter that he had never seen American football played until he landed in New York City in the 1960s, he successfully noted that N.Y. Giants legendary coach Bill Parcells was off his rocker when he benched Phil Simms for Scott Brunner, prior to correcting course for the Giants 1986 Super Bowl run.

“They’ll never win with that guy.” And that is what I think about too many of the players on Gregg Berhalter’s 23 man Gold Cup roster.

USMNT Gold Cup roster

Let’s go through the USMNT Gold Cup roster, line by line, and ask the question, is that guy going to help you win anything?

First, the goalkeepers. Zack Steffen is the number one, and numbers two and three won’t matter, barring an injury. Still, I am not sure why Club Brugge number one Ethan Horvath did not get the nod over one of Berhalter’s preferred MLS backups.

Omar Gonzalez? Tim Ream? I admire both of these men and thank them for their contribution to the USMNT, but it is well past time that both Ream and Gonzalez are given a pat on the back and a gold watch and sent on their way.

And then there is the rest of Berhalter’s back line, which practically screams, “you’re not going to win anything with that guy.”

Nick Lima and Daniel Lovitz are a pair of fullbacks that Berhalter likes, but both fail the, “you’re not going to win anything with that guy,” test. They are decent players, but international quality?

And I won’t even get into wasting Tyler Adams at fullback, here, other than to say, please don’t waste Tyler Adams at fullback.

Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams, yes, alleged fullback, Tyler Adams, should be automatics in the midfield, regardless of formation.

If Berhalter insists on playing Adams in the fullback/hybrid midfield role then Michael Bradley is still better than Trapp, who I don’t personally rate as an international caliber player.

Wil Trapp is not fast enough to cover the space he needs to cover and is not strong enough to win the 50/50 balls needed to do the job in the center of the park.

Similarly, Christan Roldan has yet to make a case for his international bonifides, albeit with fewer chances than Trapp has received. Perhaps Roldan will get there, but to date, he has shown nothing on the international stage to win my belief.

The big talking point up front is that Josh Sargent has been dropped from the full team when he could have been left to play with the U20s.

It seems like a waste of assets and a waste of Sargent’s developmental time. But in fairness to Berhalter, an injury to midfielder Sebastian Lletget made carrying a third striker a luxury he could not afford.

Berhalter rated Sargent behind Jozy Altidore, not currently injured, apparently, and Gyasi Zardes. Given that the 18-year-old played only sporadically for Weder Bremen this season, this is a reasonable stance. Except that Zardes is another that fails my father’s test.

Zardes can score goals in MLS, so too can all-time MLS goalscoring leader Chris Wondoloski. But when it comes to the international game, Zardes, like Wondo would make my father stand up and proclaim, “you’re to going to win anything with that guy.”

Official USMNT roster

DEFENDERS (8): 14-Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 10/1), 3-Omar Gonzalez (Toronto FC/CAN; 50/3), 2-Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 3/0), 23-Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 5/0), 16-Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 4/0), 19-Matt Miazga (Chelsea/ENG; 13/1),
13-Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 29/1), 5-Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 6/2)

GOALKEEPERS (3): 12-Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 7/0), 22-Tyler Miller (LAFC; 0/0), 1-Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 9/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): 4-Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 145/17), 20-Duane Holmes (Derby County/ENG; 1/0), 8-Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 8/1), 10-Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 25/10), 15-Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 10/0), 6-Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 16/0)

FORWARDS (6): 17-Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 110/41), 7-Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 22/3), 21-Tyler Boyd (Vitória Guimãres/POR; 0/0), 18-Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; 4/0), 11-Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 27/5), 9-Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 44/7)

They’re Back!! Surging Red Bulls Crush RSL 4-0

Peter Nolan June 2, 2019

Hey, MLS, don’t look now but something is happening in Harrison, New Jersey where the New York Red Bulls have racked up four wins and one draw from their past five matches.

The Red Bulls latest impressive showing came Saturday night via a 4-0 shellacking of Real Salt Lake.

No BWP, no problem

The 2018 MLS Supporters Shield winners have done all of this without the services of all-time club goal-scoring leader Bradley Wright-Phillips, who remains sidelined with what has been described for weeks as a day to day injury.

Tightening up leaky defense

In his absence, New York has had to find goals from a variety of sources to fill the gap, a problem that vexed the Red Bulls early, but has been solved recently with a goal scorer by committee approach.

Similarly, Red Bulls defense has not been the airtight certainty that it was in 2018. However, Chris Armas’ side has tightened up recently in that area, a testament to the Red Bulls impressive depth.

Welcome back, Petke

On Saturday night the Red Bulls welcomed back former coach Mike Petke, now helming Real Salt Lake. As fondly as Petke is remembered by the Red Bulls faithful, they delighted in Saturday’s second-half goal-scoring explosion.

In a battle of two of the best ever MLS keepers between Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando and the Red Bulls Luis Robles, it took an own goal in the 58th minute to break the deadlock. Rimando, in particular, had been excellent to that point, but the 39-year-old could do nothing when Red Bulls fullback Michael Murrillo’s driven cross ricocheted off of RSL center back Marco Silva for the Red Bulls opening tally.

Silva’s misfortune released the pressure valve on the New York attack and goals soon followed from Daniel Royer, just one minute later, Murillo, in the 64th minute, and then a late capper from rookie Omir Fernandez in the 83rd minute.

The Red Bulls recent improvement was played out in each of the goals with Royer beautifully set up by Kaku. The Paraguayan’s early season unhappiness after missing out on a post-season transfer to Mexico led to petulance and a suspension. However, all of this now seems far behind the playmaker.

Royer’s goal was well struck and a reminder that with Wright-Phillips sidelined, the Austrian needs to find his scoring boots. Red Bulls coach Chris Armas would surely love to see Saturday’s goal spark a run for Royer.

Murillo’s early season struggles saw the Panamanian World Cup veteran benched for Connor Lade. Since then, Murillo’s response has been heartening for the Red Bulls, with the talented fullback bouncing back with a series of strong matches. His recent assist spree has put Murillo atop the team’s leader board in that import statistic.

The final goal of the match came from one of the Red Bulls important depth players, Bronx native Omir Fernandez, via a perfect crossing pass from another of the Red Bulls Killer B’s Andreas Ivan, with that man Murillo picking up the secondary assist.

With the injury to BWP continuing to linger, Armas will need players like Fernandez and Ivan to contribute to the score sheet and with Fernandez scoring off of the bench in consecutive matches, the coach has reason to be encouraged.

The win marked a second clean sheet on the trot for NYRB and Robles, the 67th of the veteran’s career.

Keeping pace atop the table

The victory also allows New York to keep pace with the leaders in the Eastern Conference. They currently sit in fourth place with 24 points, just three behind first-place DC, with the Bulls having played two fewer games than United.

RSL, meanwhile hang onto the final playoff berth in the congested Western Conference and will be looking to right the ship when they return to MLS action on June 22, in Chicago. RSL host LAFC in US Open Cup play on June 11.

Fit To Be Tied: NYCFC Draw at Columbus for 8th Tie of 2019

Peter Nolan June 2, 2019

Sometimes a draw feels like a loss, on other occasions the old phrase, “a tie is like kissing your sister,” is more apt. For New York City Football Club Sunday night’s 2-2 deadlock at Columbus felt more positive than that.

Given how the 90 minutes unfurled–with NYCFC trailing early, equalizing, and trailing again before leveling via a Valentin Castellanos golazo–the New Yorkers had to consider the club’s league-leading eighth draw of the season almost as good as a victory.

And they did. Well, mostly.

“Our intentions are to win the game,” coach Dome Torrent said in remarks released by the club. Noting that his team will play its next four matches in the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium, Torrent, added, “it’s not easy to get points here (Columbus’ Mapfre Stadium) and okay, we are not very, very happy, but it’s not bad.”

Goalscoring hero Castellanos was perhaps understandably less conflicted than his coach in assessing the result, saying, “it was difficult, we knew they played well with the ball, but it’s fine, we came out with a tie that felt like a victory. Playing not so well in the first half and going on to tie the game is important.”

Inspired Crew start strong

New York was facing an emotional Columbus Crew side that was saying goodbye to U.S international goalkeeper and team leader Zack Steffen, who was playing his final game in for the Ohians before departing for Manchester City, interestingly NYCFC’s parent club.

Columbus, playing without talisman Pipa Higuain, who will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, got off to a flying start, putting Sean Johnson under pressure early.

First, the 6’4” NYCFC keeper went full stretch to parry David Guzman’s sixth-minute effort, then Pedro Santos, auditioning to fill Higuain’s position, blasted just high of the NYC crossbar two minutes later.

New York responded well to the home sides early pressure with James Sands putting the disappointment at his U20 World Cup snub aside to lead a solid NYCFC defense.

Sands, however, could do nothing to prevent an error by his more experienced defense partner, Alexander Callens, who gifted Columbus with a penalty for his rough and reckless tackle on the influential Santos in the game’s 25th minute.

It was a tough ending to an exciting week for the New York defender, who days ago was named to his native Peru’s Copa America final roster.

Higuain normally handles PK duty for the Crew but U.S. international Gyasi Zardes stepped up in his stead and confidently blasted an unstoppable shot past Johnson to give Columbus a 1-0 lead that would stand up until halftime.

Torrent’s adjustment pays off

Trailing by a goal, Torrent rolled the dice, removing defender Ben Sweat before the end of the half for attacker Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. Torrent’s move paid dividends in the 56th minute when Tajouri-Shradi made a strong run at the Crew defense before his centering pass found Maxi Moralez, whose accidental one-touch pass found Heber in prime goal scoring position and the Brazilian did not miss.

The NYCFC lead did not last long. Recently acquired David Accam released Pedro Santos behind the NYC defense and Pipa’s would be replacement made no mistake to reclaim the lead for the Crew. But Columbus, in the midst of eight losses in nine matches, could not seal the deal.

New York’s equalizer came in the 75th minute and it was a stunner. NYCFC captain Alex Ring intercepted near midfield and fed second-half substitute, Castellanos. The 20-year-old Venezuelan took a touch and the let rip from at least 30 yards and Steffen never had a chance (go to 3:00 mark in video, it’s a stunner).

The 2-2 score stood up with New York’s record moving to four wins, just one loss, and eight draws. It is an odd record that lands the New Yorkers in sixth place, with 20 points, seven points behind first-place DC United, while the Crew remains below the playoff line in 10th place just three points back of NYCFC.

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