Looking at the United States’ roster ahead of their Canada rematch

1 Comment

We took a day to think about it, but even upon reflection, it’s difficult to find the twist, hidden gem, or angle on the 21-woman squad Tom Sermanni named for the U.S. Women’s June 2 trip to Toronto. Set to meet their Canadian rivals for the first time since last summer’s 4-3 semifinal win at the 2012 Summer Olympics, the U.S. will take will the usual cast of gold-collecting characters, save a couple of prominent injuries and one star who’ll be allowed to complete her French sojourn.

Let’s take a few minutes to break it down. Later in the day, we’ll double back with some long-winded analysis:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Nicole Barnhart (FC Kansas City), Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit), Jill Loyden (Sky Blue FC)

No Hope Solo, much to the diehards’ chagrin. She’ll train with the team ahead of the game at BMO but is still a few weeks away from coming back from wrist surgery. She might see some action against South Korea, games scheduled for June 15 and 20.

There’s also no future-Boston Breaker Alyssa Naeher, who’s set to come to the NWSL after two successful seasons starting for Frauen Bundesliga powers Turbine Potsdam. Instead, Tom Sermanni has called in Jill Loyden, whose broken hand has kept her for putting in a minute’s time with Sky Blue.

DEFENDERS (8): Rachel Buehler (Portland Thorns FC), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina), Whitney Engen (Liverpool), Julie Johnston (Santa Clara), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)

“I am Jack’s completely lack of surprise,” though with good reason. With the exception of Amy LePeilbet, recovering from knee injury, everybody’s healthy. This is the octet you’d expect to be called up. If you’re expecting someone new, you’ve got to ask either (a) who gets dropped, or (b) why should they call in nine defenders for one game? Especially when the game day quad will be 18, not 21.

Unfortunately, this 21 lacks a natural left back, even though converted attacker Kelley O’Hara has been very good on the national team-level in 2013. The concern is deeper on the depth chart, where the apparent second choice is attacking midfielder Kristie Mewis. Some of the central defenders are also options, as is Dunn, but it seems strange (and perhaps, inconsequential) that a team with the U.S.’s depth of talent still doesn’t have one natural left back on the roster.

But the bigger story here is at left-center back. Rachel Buehler’s the incumbent, yet Whitney Engen’s coming strong. Sermanni hasn’t settled into a clear starting pair, and two years out from the World Cup, there’ll be no need to do so before June 2.

MIDFIELDERS (6): Amber Brooks (Bayern Munich), Lauren Cheney (FC Kansas City), Tobin Heath (Paris Saint-Germain), Carli Lloyd (Western NY Flash), Kristie Mewis (FC Kansas City), Heather O’Reilly (Boston Breakers)

Amber Brooks – so touted for her play at U-levels; so successful as a midfielder and defender at North Carolina; so valuable to Bayern Munich’s strong Bundesliga finish – gets her first honest-to-goodness callup. She trained with the team in March ahead of games against Germany and the Netherlands. Now, she’s fully in, apparently taking the spot of Göteborg’s Yael Averbuch (or, depending on how you look at it, the injured Shannon Boxx).

Carli Lloyd’s made one appearance for Western New York since recovering from a shoulder injury, but she gets invited to the reunion. Megan Rapinoe, however, does not. She’s being allowed to stay with Lyon as the French powers compete in the finals of both Champions League and the French Cup.

Keep an eye on Lauren Cheney, one of the NWSL’s best players this season. She’s excelled as a number ten in Kansas City, but the U.S.’s current setup doesn’t have a role for that kind of player. She’s likely to start in central midfield, albeit in the box-to-box role where, while competent, she hasn’t made the impact she has with the Blues.

FORWARDS (4): Sydney Leroux (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Tyresö), Abby Wambach (Western NY Flash)

This foursome in written in ink on every piece of scrap paper within Tom Sermanni’s reach. Bored in a bar? It’s on the napkins. Doodling at the counter while waiting for his car? Both little custom post-it notes sitting by the pencil bin have “Morgan-Wambach-Leroux-Press” printed across the top. If those four are healthy, they’re coming in, making life difficult on the Sarah Hagens and Lindsey Horans of the world.

Morgan and Wambach are expected to start, especially with #chasingmia still a #realthing. Wambach sits on 155 career goals, three short of the legendary Mia Hamm’s all-time record. Though she hasn’t started every game since this became a chase, Wambach hasn’t always been in form. Now, after recovering from her early-season concussion with Western New York, she is. She should get the call at BMO on June 2.

U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame ballot revealed, including Beckham

Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHICAGO (AP) David Beckham, the English midfielder who brought increased visibility to American soccer and won a pair of Major League Soccer titles while playing for the LA Galaxy from 2007-12, is among 12 first-time candidates on the 33-player ballot for the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Defender Steve Cherundolo, midfielder Pablo Mastroeni and forward Brian Ching, key parts of the U.S. national team, also are new candidates on the ballot announced Wednesday. Other first-timers include defenders Chris Albright, Danny Califf and Tina Frimpong Ellertson; goalkeepers Joe Cannon and Kevin Hartman, and midfielders Amado Guevara, Eddie Gaven and Leslie Osborne.

Defender Chris Armas and midfielder Jason Kreis, currently Orlando’s coach, are in their final year of eligibility. Former midfielder Ben Olsen, now D.C. United’s coach, is among the holdovers.

Other men on the ballot include goalkeeper Pat Onstad; defenders Gregg Berhalter, Frankie Hejduk and Tony Sanneh; midfielders Chris Klein, Eddie Lewis and Steve Ralston; and forwards Jeff Cunningham, Clint Mathis, Jaime Moreno, Ante Razov, Taylor Twellman and Josh Wolff.

Women on the ballot include goalkeeper Briana Scurry; defenders Kate Sobrero Markgraf and Heather Mitts; midfielder Aly Wagner; and forward Tiffeny Milbrett.

Voting will take place among men’s and women’s national team coaches, Major League Soccer and National Women’s Soccer league management, U.S. Soccer Federation leadership, Hall of Famers and media. Each voter can list up to 10 players, and a player must appear on at least 66.7 percent of ballots to earn election.

Among those on the builder ballot are former USSF President Bob Contiguglia; referee Esse Baharmast; coaches Gene Chyzowych, Eddie Firmani, Gordon Jago and Joe Machnik; and administrators Richard Groff, Tim Leiweke, Francisco Marcos and Kevin Payne.

The 15-player veteran ballot, voted on only by Hall of Famers, has George Best, Chico Borja, Mike Burns, John Doyle, Marco Etcheverry, Linda Hamilton, Mary Harvey, Chris Henderson, Dominic Kinnear, Shep Messing, Cindy Parlow, Tiffany Roberts, Mike Sorber, Tisha Venturini-Hoch and Roy Wegerle.

The hall’s building in Oneonta, New York, closed in 2010. A new facility in Frisco, Texas, is under construction and slated to open in 2018.

Premier League stats of the season — Opta

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the 2016-17 Premier League season officially complete, a look at some of the compelling, shocking and record-breaking stats, from August to May — all stats courtesy of the good folks at Opta:

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

30 — Chelsea (30 wins) have broken the PL record for most wins in a season (previously 29, by Chelsea in 2004-05, and 2005-06)

457 — Only Chelsea (457 minutes) were in a losing position in PL matches for less time than Liverpool (471 mins) this season

114 — Chelsea used all three substitutes in every Premier League game this season (114 in total) – they are only the second team to do this in a 38-game Premier League season (Manchester City, in 2014-15)

230 — Michy Batshuayi’s title-winning goal for Chelsea at West Bromwich Albion was his first PL shot on target since Sept. 24th, 2016 (230 days), and only his third overall in the competition

3,420 — Cesar Azpilicueta became the fourth outfield player in PL history to play every minute of a title-winning season (after Gary Pallister, in 1992-93; John Terry, in 2014-15; and Wes Morgan, in 2015-16)

1 — Because of their opening day victory against Leicester City, Hull City spent one more day on top of the PL than Tottenham Hotspur did in 2016-17 (0)

86 — 11 previous PL champions have won the title with a point tally equal to or less than Tottenham’s 86-point tally in 2016-17

+60 — Tottenham Hotspur’s goal difference of +60 is the highest in PL history for a non-title winning side

3 — Tottenham were the only club in England’s top four tiers to see as many as three players score 20+ goals for them in all competitions this season (Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min)

6 — Harry Kane now has six PL hat-tricks for Spurs, twice as many as any other player for the club (Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe, both with 3)

0 — Liverpool were unbeaten in the PL against the top seven teams this season (12 played: 7 won, 5 drawn, 0 lost) but their record against the other 13 sides was (26 played: 15 won, 5 drawn, 6 lost)

38 — Both Arsenal and Manchester United have finished outside of the top four of the top-flight for the first time since 1978-79 (38 years)

600 — Manchester United became the first team to win 600 PL matches (962 played: 604 won, 209 drawn, 149 lost)

2,000 — Manchester United also became the first team to win 2000 points in the PL, with victory over Watford in February

11 — 11 different English players made 20+ PL appearances for Bournemouth this season. The last PL team to do this was Aston Villa, in 2000-01 (also 11 players)

48.8% — West Bromwich Albion scored a league-high proportion of their goals from set-piece situations this season (48.8%). They also conceded the lowest proportion from set-pieces (21.6%)

70 — Swansea City conceded 70 goals in the PL this season. Only two teams have conceded more in a 38-game PL season and survived relegation (Wigan, in 2009-10 — 79, and West Bromwich Albion in 2010-11 — 71)

13 — Hull City gave away 13 penalties this season, the most of any side in a single PL campaign

Men in Blazers podcast: “The Blazers” awards, plus John Terry’s farewell

Leave a comment

Rog and Davo recap the race for Top Four, John Terry‘s farewell at Chelsea and another Harry Kane hat trick. Plus, they roll out the red carpet for the 2016-17 end-of-season awards, “The Blazers.”

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

Subscribe to the podcast OR to update your iTunes subscriptions ]

Click here for the RSS feed ]

“Three trophies and CL”: Mourinho relieved after “most difficult season”

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Don’t try to tell Jose Mourinho that his first season at Manchester United wasn’t a raging success, because all you’d get in return is a simple shake of the head before he walks away.

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

Following Wednesday’s Europa League final victory over Ajax, one which put Man United into next season’s UEFA Champions League, Mourinho was adamant that the club’s 2016-17 season was a success, despite the fact the Red Devils finished sixth in the Premier League.

“Three trophies in one season and the Champions League,” as Mourinho put it, in his “most difficult season as a manager” — quotes from the BBC:

“We totally deserved the win. I am so happy to see the boys with the crutches with the trophy and now I am on holiday. I don’t want to see any international friendlies, I am selfish. I can’t do it.

“For me, enough is enough. It has been a very hard last few months, we were short of numbers.

“Three trophies in one season and the Champions League. I am very happy in my most difficult season as a manager.”

[ WATCH: Pogba gives United an early lead ]

As for his summer shopping list and Wayne Rooney‘s future at the club, well… Mourinho was much clearer about one than the other — quotes from the BBC:

“Ed Woodward has my list, what I want, what I would like for more than two months. So now it’s up to him and the owners. But I don’t care about football for now.

“Wayne Rooney was ready to play, he was a big option. But I didn’t need to attack at 2-0. I told him yesterday that he could be the key man but he can perfectly be here next season. He is a very important player for us. If he stays next season I’d be very happy.”