U.S. under-23s: no time for the mourning after, but time for some to release the hand brake

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There is absolutely no time for rebukes and rehash in the under-23 men’s national camp. They are on the field again in 36 hours, and if they can’t get their Olympic-bound cart out of the ditch, we’ll have all summer for autopsy.

Manager Caleb Porter sure gets it. “We’re all disappointed,” he said after last night’s 2-0 loss to Canada. “The reality is we need to move on. We need to get back to work tomorrow. We can’t dwell on this.”

All of his post-game comments are here.

Meanwhile, we’ll look quickly at three important individuals who simply must find the next level. U.S. international sides have a history of being at their best when things get bumpy; historically, they are better as underdogs, greater when pushing through hard times, lesser when leading the pack.

So, here are three who need to lead the “step-up” charge:

Freddy Adu

Adu loves the playmaker role. He’s OK out on the wing; I truly believe this is a far more mature Freddy Adu these days, one who has been through the professional wringer and knows what’s up in the world. He doesn’t complain about manning the flanks, but his true love is at central playmaker. He said so when I spoke to him during the Dallas training camp in February.

Fair enough. So step up. Be the creator in there – if that’s where Caleb Porter wants to put you.

Listen to what Porter said about the halftime adjustment, the centerpiece of which was moving Adu inside from the right wing. “We didn’t use the width we talked about at halftime,” Porter said. “We put Joe Gyau on and talked about creating 2 versus 1 situations wide. We didn’t do that well enough.”

That’s not all on Adu, of course. But much of it is. The thing with being a playmaker and orchestrator – you have to orchestrate. And it’s not always easy, especially when teams stack the midfield in a Christmas tree (4-3-2-1) formation as Canada did. It is what it is, and Adu has to find a way.

Bill Hamid

Monday’s match will go far in defining the young D.C. United goalkeeper’s career. Right now, he’s a talented work in progress, one who made a huge and costly mistake. That’s over. So now what is he going to do about it?

I say all the time, the problem with young goalkeepers isn’t the “mistake,” per se. It’s how they handle it. Can Hamid jog out onto the field for warm-ups Monday knowing, in his heart of hearts, that he can still manage the job? Does he know, beyond all doubt, that he’s the backstopper Porter needs to get the car back on the road? For there is no other way to play. He cannot hesitate, blink or think about things for a nano-second back there. Big-time goalkeepers are ‘keepers of supreme confidence – the rest just fall in line as good league-level men between the sticks.

(All that is assuming Porter sticks with Hamid; it was always close between he and Sean Johnson.)

Teal Bunbury or Terrence Boyd

Everybody is bummed about Juan Agudelo, and who can blame them? But as they say, he’s not coming off that bench now. So one of the remaining American strikers simply must do more. Bunbury got the start but was only dangerous last night when pressuring and harassing. Boyd got the last half hour and needed to plant the big idea in Porter’s noggin: “I have to start this guy next time.” But Boyd didn’t.

The best U.S. moments Saturday came when Brek Shea was unshackled on the wings, putting something worthwhile into the mixer. That’s just half the recipe. He needs someone finding the vulnerable spots in front of goal, and doing the deed from there.

Note

I didn’t pick center back Ike Opara as one of the “step-uppers” because, in all honesty, I suspect he’s all he can be at the moment. He hasn’t been very good over two matches, confirming what many suspected anyway, that he was slightly in over his head. It’s up to Porter now: stick with Opara and provide the necessary cover when possible or change personnel. That’s about it.

Report: Sporting KC on verge of signing French midfielder Croizet

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Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.

According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.

Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.

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Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.

It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out:

Champions League last 16 draw sets up huge clashes

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The Round of 16 draw for the UEFA Champions League did not disappoint.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

We have some monster clashes with Chelsea facing Barcelona, once again, and the reigning champs Real Madrid paired with the favorites Paris Saint-Germain.

With five Premier League teams remaining, Tottenham have been handed a tough draw against Italian champions Juventus who were also runners up in the UCL last season, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool will all be rather happy with their draws.

United have been drawn against Spanish side Sevilla, Liverpool will face FC Porto and Man City clash with Basel.

Below is the draw in full, while UEFA has also released the schedule for the games with Man City, Spurs, Liverpool and Man United all playing their second legs at home.


Report: Whitecaps teen sensation Davies could have Man United trial

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The 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup saw a lot of young faces in competition, and one name that really seemed to stick came from Canada’s national team.

[ MORE: Five players LA FC should consider selecting in MLS Expansion Draft ]

Vancouver Whitecaps attacker Alphonso Davies has been doing it for both club and country since making his Major League Soccer debut in 2016, and now the young Canada international could be making a massive leap.

According to CTV Edmonton, the 17-year-old has been contacted by Premier League side Manchester United for a trial in January.

Davies would need clearance from the Whitecaps to join the Red Devils to train, however, with it being MLS’ offseason it’s hard to imagine the Cascadia club not allowing the former Edmonton Strikers player to seize the opportunity.

In 2017, Davies appeared in 26 matches for the Whitecaps and registered one assist for Carl Robinson’s side.

Davies has already become a regular with the Canada national team, after previously receiving call ups from the Under-15, U-18 and U-20 teams.