United States v Antigua & Barbuda - World Cup Qualifier

Michael Bradley: Contributions to recent reports ‘shameful,’ ’embarrassing,’ and cross the line

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“I think it is shameful,” was Michael Bradley’s reaction. The U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder was asked for this thoughts on Monday’s Sporting News feature that detailed criticisms of U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Eleven current players as well as another 11 sources close to the team were given anonymity in exchange for their participation. For Bradley, their contributions amounted to a betrayal.

“[Y]ou cross a line when you take those thoughts and you take your disappointments outside of the team and outside of the inner circle,” Bradley told the assembled media in Colorado. “So for me, it doesn’t help anybody, it doesn’t help anything that we are trying to do this week.”

Bradley becomes the third veteran of the national team to offer his thoughts in the wake to the Sporting News’ piece. Carlos Bocanegra posted his thoughts on Facebook Monday night, a defense a Jurgen Klinsmann’s communication with his players. On Tuesday, Tim Howard spoke out against the notion that the U.S.’s is a locker room divided.

“On every team in the world, not every guy is going to be happy,” Bradley explained, “on every team in the world there are going to be guys who go back to their room and talk with their roommate about things that they wish were different, things they wish would be done another way, but that is normal.”

The problems start when those critiques go beyond the team’s inner circles. Or, as Bradley put it, when players don’t have “the balls” to speak in front of the group.

“When you play on a team you have a chance everyday to give everything you have and part of that means having the balls to say things to guys to their face, having the balls to say things in front of the team.

“In those ways it is really disappointing that in a week as important as this, with so much on the line, that you would have something like that happen.”

Bradley called for the U.S. to turn their attentions to the field, saying the team “let ourselves down a little bit” given the revelations in Sporting News’ work.

“It is our job to represent ourselves and represent our country in a way that makes everybody proud.”

With three veterans speaking out and another being named captain, the week’s controversy seems to be unifying the team – in word and action if not in actual camaraderie. The actual bonds between players can only be seen from inside the dressing room, though one thing we can infer from Bradley’s comments is that these issues had not been brought up within the group at large. If there is major dissension in the ranks, it’s not bubbling up for team-wide discussion.

Then again, that seems to be Bradley’s main issue. Reports say there are problems, their existence may go beyond a select few, yet the team leaders aren’t seeing anybody step forward to bring them to the group.

And that leaves the obvious, lingering question: Which players contributed to Sporting News’ report? Are these fringe players unhappy with Klinsmann’s decisions (and their roles in the team)? Are the most damning critiques — the ones creating the most waves — from players? Or are they from the sources most distant from the current core?

Because as of now, three of the team’s most important players have spoken out to clarify the situation. Though it’s possible they contributed in some form, they seem unlikely to be the ones giving the anonymous accounts. So, who did?

Hull City promoted, but Steve Bruce still considering future

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28:  Steve Bruce, manager of Hull City lifts the trophy after victory in the Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Steve Bruce saw Hull City go down to the Championship, and pulled the Tigers right back up the Premier League.

Hull won promotion at the first time of asking after defeating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 on Saturday, but Bruce wants to see stability at the KC Stadium.

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The club remains up for sale after owner Assem Allam saw his request to change the team name to Hull Tigers denied by the English Football Association.

From the BBC:

“I’ll sit down with the owners. It’s not often you walk away from the Premier League – that’s where I want to manage,” Bruce told BBC Radio 5 live.

“But I have to be given certain assurances that we’re all moving in the right direction.

“I keep hearing too many stories that there’s a takeover imminent. We’ll see what develops,” added the 55-year-old.

The longtime Manchester United back has been around the managerial block a few times, and it’d be nice to see him stay at Hull for the long term. He’s led the Tigers into the Premier League on two occasions, and is — seriously — the seventh longest tenured manager in the Football League. He would enter the Premier League as the second-longest serving manager, to Arsene Wenger.

BREAKING: Olympiacos striker Pulido kidnapped in Mexico

DRENTHE, NETHERLANDS - JULY 29:  Alan Pulido of Olympiacos in action during the pre season friendly match between FC Twente and Olympiacos Piraeus held at Sportpark Veenoord on July 29, 2015 in New Amsterdam and Veenoord, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Terrifying news out of Mexico, where 25-year-old Mexican national team striker Alan Pulido has reportedly been kidnapped in his hometown.

Pulido, 25, has four goals in six caps for El Tri and moved to Olympiacos in 2015, where he scored five goals in eight matches.

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Various reports claim that Pulido and his girlfriend were taken after masked gunmen cut off the vehicle in which they were riding, and only released the girlfriend.

From the Associated Press:

The official says the 25-year-old player was kidnapped near his hometown of Ciudad Victoria on Sunday after leaving a party.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case under investigation.

Klinsmann hails Zardes’ character; USMNT forward likes his first touch

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 29:  Gyasi Zardes #9 of the United States Men's National Team controls the ball against Guatemala during the FIFA 2018  World Cup qualifier on March 29, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The United States defeated Guatemala 4-0.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Gyasi Zardes’ remarkable rise from Cal State Bakersfield to fixture on the United States men’s national team is one of the better stories in recent team history.

The USMNT attacker nabbed his fourth and fifth international goals in Saturday night’s blowout of Bolivia, and he’s up to 25 caps since making his debut in Jan. 2015.

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Jurgen Klinsmann deserves some credit for putting the L.A. Galaxy on the field almost religiously as Zardes works on so many facets of his game. He’s improved dramatically in positioning, runs and 1v1 battles and reportedly soaks up information like a sponge. Klinsmann loves the guy, and for good reason.

It’s also important to note that, despite his ever-present status, Zardes remains 24 and a work in progress.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“Sometimes it’s perfect, and maybe the next day it’s not so good, but it’s totally fine – because every player has his strengths and weaknesses. So as long as they keep on working on those weaknesses and getting them better and better, it’s totally fine. He’s very straight in his thought process in front of the goal. He knows exactly what he wants to do.

“You have to follow your first thought. That’s crucial. If you start to have two thoughts, then you’re going to get messed up. He was very calm, putting two goals in there, and the whole game he was involved. It’s coming along.”

Zardes’ club goal production dropped last year from roughly a goal every other game to one every three, but he’s been growing as a playmaer and this season has four goals and four assists through 11 matches.

I really like Zardes — see my post calling for his USMNT call-up in 2014 — but let me say one negative thing about his bristling at first touch questions and saying, “To be honest, me personally, I think I have a good first touch”: I’m glad he feels that way and his woes may be a bit overblown, but calling his Saturday goals first touch goals is accurate but kind of hilarious.

The criticism of his first touch, which his betrayed him on major scoring chances in each of the last two USMNT matches, has nothing to do when his first touch is directed at goal. On his brace last night, the first was a good finish where he had to work it past the keeper and the second was a plant foot shot. Both, in fact, were shots.

Those count as your first touch on the ball, but when we discuss first touch it’s about taking the ball off a pass or dribble and possessing it for a purpose. Of course he was right to shoot, but it’s cool if your eyes rolled pretty hard in reading his comments.

Koeman: Manchester United “don’t deserve a medal” for treatment of Louis van Gaal

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20:  Louis van Gaal, Manager of  Manchester United talks to Ronald Koeman, Manager of Southampton during the  Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Manchester United at St Mary's Stadium on September 20, 2015 in Southampton, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)
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When it comes to the firing of Louis Van Gaal, his countryman has his back.

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman doesn’t like the way Manchester United handled LVG’s fate with the team, firing him within hours of the Red Devils winning the FA Cup.

Like many, Koeman doesn’t buy that the LVG to Jose Mourinho transition happened in a week.

[ MORE: Early and (purposefully) absurd 2016-17 PL predictions ]

Given the gossip mill since Chelsea fired Mourinho in January, that’s not a hard thing to buy, and Koeman is angry that LVG was kept out of the loop. Reports claim that Van Gaal had drawn-up plans for 2016-17 with him on the day he was let go.

From Sky Sports:

“If Louis was not told about getting the sack until after the FA Cup final, then Manchester United as a club don’t deserve a medal for the way they treated him.

“If you know a little bit about the business at the highest level in football, then you know that these kind of deals are not done overnight.”

Koeman hedges his words with conditionals, but there’s little doubt what he means. Managers generally stand together when it comes to dismissals, but it’s nice to see someone stand up for LVG’s treatment (whether he deserved to be canned or not).