Flashes and questions define Josh Gatt’s U.S. debut

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It was long awaited, but on Wednesday, we finally saw Josh Gatt’s U.S. Men’s National Team debut. The 21-year-old winger, much-discussed among USMNT fans since making his mark in Norway, started on the right in Russia, slotting in on the attack’s right in Jurgen Klinsmann’s 4-3-3.

Making his debut – on the road, against tough opposition – you’d expect Gatt to struggle. At times he did, but the bigger picture was an encouraging if mixed bag. Against a team that’s in the middle of an impressive qualifying run, Gatt was able to show a number of qualities that could position him as an alternative to Brek Shea. With the effort and awareness he showed over his 63 minutes, Gatt already looks like a good late-match (defensive) option for CONCACAF’s final round of qualifying.

MORE: What we learned from the U.S.’s trip to Russia

Here’s the good, the bad of Josh Gatt’s senior national team debut:

PLUS COLUMN

Speed, width, movement – Oh my, an actual wide player. Where did this come from?

Since the start of World Cup qualifying – when we began seeing less of Brek Shea on the left – we haven’t seen true wide players for the U.S.  Gatt, however, provided a legitimate wide (if imperfect) presence on the right, showing flashes against a opposing player (Dmitri Kombarov) who, as a converted midfielder, was more than capable of following him up-and-down the flank.

Gatt also added some much-needed speed to a team which lacks attackers who can blow by a defense. Twice Gatt was able to get on balls lofted behind the defense, and while Russia’s back line isn’t known for its light feet, the Molde winger would be one of the U.S.’s better options against similarly vulnerable defenses.

Ability to move across the pitch – Thirty minutes in, Gatt left his right wing and moved to the left, with Klinsmann’s front three of Gatt, Herculez Gomez and Jozy Altidore showing more fluidity than we’re used to seeing from U.S. attackers. Early in the second half, Gatt was even seen dropping back for a ball from a central position, hinting he may be able to challenge the slower players that tend to occupy a team’s central defense.

Defending –  We saw it in the third minute. As the U.S. defense pushed after a corner, a ball was swung in from Russia’s right targeting a man that seemed open wide of the far post. Gatt, however, made up the ground and helped kill an opportunity before it came off, effort that was saw replicated throughout his hour of play.

MORE: USMNT Man of the Match – Michael Bradley

MINUS COLUMN

First touch – Like his teammates, Gatt was having trouble managing the passes played to him. At one point early in the first half, a pass up to him went right off his foot and out of bounds for a Russian throw in. It could have been the ball, the field, or the conditions – who knows? For whatever reason, the U.S. had trouble with their first touch. Gatt was no exception.

No aggression in attack – His runs off the ball? Some where very good. With the ball, Gatt showed no aggression. There were multiple times where he had his many isolated and should have taken him on. It never happened. Once, it seemed Gatt was setting up to attack Kombarov, but got the ball caught in his feet. That happens to everybody, but on Wednesday, it was exemplified Gatt’s attacking contributions.

No crossing – Near half time, Gatt got a ball wide of Kombarov and had a perfect chance to take a touch toward the goal line before putting in a cross. Instead, he cut the ball back to the middle. It was the most egregious but not only time Gatt avoided playing a ball into the box.

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

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John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”