United States vs. Germany preview: American revenge opportunity for 2002 World Cup

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For a World Cup that’s being widely touted as the most entertaining ever, the drama will ramp up one notch higher on Thursday (12:00pm ET) when the United States face Germany in Recife and Ghana play Portugal in Brasilia to determine who will advance out of Group G.

The high-quality displays, bravery, spirit and gut-wrenching drama have made the US the darlings of this tournament but whether those characteristics will be enough to see the Americans through to the Round of 16, however, remains to be seen.

After substitute defender John Anthony Brooks disposed of arch-nemesis Ghana with a thumping 86th minute header to win the opener 2-1, the Yanks took their no-nonsense style to a Portugal side ranked 4th in the world, drawing 2-2 after Selecção forward Silvestre Varela scored in the fifth and final minute of injury time.

It’s no time for back-patting, however, because tomorrow Jurgen Klinsmann’s side faces its biggest challenge yet in world #2, Germany. With one of the deepest, most talent-laced squads in the world, Die Mannschaft is many-a-pundit’s favorite to hoist the cup come July. After a Thomas Muller hat-trick helped them comprehensively destroy Portugal 4-0 in the opener the Germans fought to a shock 2-2 draw with Ghana in the second match, proving themselves incapable of handling the athleticism and audaciousness of the Black Stars.

Now, with the US and Germany locked at four points apiece and Portugal and Ghana each on a single point heading into the final match of the group stage, it truly is all to play for. The scenarios to advance vary wildly.

The clearest path to advancing for the US is by beating Germany, making them Group G winners who would take on the runner-up of Group H in the Round of 16, or drawing, putting them runners-up to face the winner of Group H. A loss to Germany, however, could also see the Americans through so long as a) Ghana and Portugal draw, b) Portugal wins but don’t pass the US in goal differential, or c) Ghana win by one goal in which they don’t score two more goals than the US.

Germany, on the other hand, will advance as Group G winners with a win or draw against the US, or as Group G runners-up if they lose and either Ghana-Portugal draw, or if the Ghana-Portugal winner does not pass Germany in goal differential.

Given these scenarios, that the US have five players born to American fathers and German mothers, and Klinsmann being German and having won the 1990 World Cup with West Germany, it’s impossible to ignore the whispers of conspiracy where a draw would take both sides through.

But both sides are adamant that won’t be the case.

“I think both teams go into this game and they want to win the group,” Klinsmann said when posed the question following Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Portugal. Germany defender Mats Hummels echoed the sentiment, saying, ”[i]t would be highly unsportsmanlike and unfair to other teams if anyone on the pitch had such thoughts.”

With rumors of collusion cast aside the focus can remain on the pitch. Germany is expected to play a similar team that started against Ghana with Manuel Neuer behind a back four of Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Per Mertesacker and Benedikt Howedes, a midfield three of Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos and Phillip Lahm and an attacking three of Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze and the in-form Muller. Don’t be surprised, however, if Lahm moves back to his favored full-back slot, Howedes exits, and Bastian Schweinsteiger comes into the midfield.

Likewise, the US is expected to adopt the same 4-2-3-1 formation it set out against Portugal with Tim Howard behind a back four of DaMarcus Beasley, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler and Fabian Johnson, a holding pair of Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones, an attacking three of Graham Zusi, Michael Bradley and Alejandro Bedoya, with Clint Dempsey the lone striker. Jozy Altidore, who injured his hamstring in the opening match against Ghana, remains out.

The two sides memorably met in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinal in South Korea where Germany won 1-0 on a 39th minute header by Michael Ballack. It’s a result that haunts Americans after a fantastic display went unrewarded after Gregg Berhalter’s 50th minute shot was deflected by Oliver Kahn onto the hand of Torsten Frings but no penalty was given.

For Americans it was a match that has lived in infamy and now, twelve years later, the opportunity for revenge has finally arrived. Game on.

 

 

MLS Cup Playoffs: Atlanta hosts Crew, Whitecaps take on Earthquakes

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34 rounds of MLS action are in the books, and now the real fun is set to begin this week.

The MLS Cup Playoffs have arrived, and 12 teams are firmly in the running to hoist a trophy in December.

[ MORE: PST talks to Justin Meram ahead of the Crew’s playoff run ]

While Toronto FC, New York City FC, the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers will each have the opportunity to watch the first round from their homes, the action all starts on Wednesday and Thursday.

Here’s a look at what to expect when the knockout round begins.

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls — Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Fire were one of the most intriguing stories for much of the regular season, but Veljko Paunovic’s side enters the postseason limping. Lucky for them, the Red Bulls have been just as inconsistent throughout the course of 2017 — which already saw Jesse Marsch’s club lose in the U.S. Open Cup final.

Paunovic and Co. have lost eight of their last 15 matches, which doesn’t bode well entering the home stretch of the schedule. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls have won just two of their last 10 matches. The Harrison side should be well-rested though for Wednesday’s encounter after starting a mostly second-tier squad in Sunday’s season finale against D.C. United.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes — Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET

The Whitecaps looked to be a sure-fire club destined for a bye in the first round, but things didn’t fall their way on Decision Day. Now, Carl Robinson’s side faces an Earthquakes side that is simply unpredictable.

The Quakes have the second-worst road record in the Western Conference when it comes to acquiring points — holding eight in points 17 matches. However, Chris Leitch has instilled a new-found belief amongst the squad that gives the California side a puncher’s chance.

Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew — Thursday, 7 p.m. ET

These two sides haven’t met since July 1, so all bets are off about these teams knowing one another. Since that point, Atlanta and Columbus have been two of the hottest sides in MLS and the former moved into a new stadium — which has given opposing sides quite the difficult time.

In their last 10 matches combined, the clubs boast just one loss, which Atlanta suffered at home against Minnesota United. There’s no reason not to expect a great one at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting KC — Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET

Peter Vermes’ Sporting KC side enters the playoffs winless in their last five, while their counterparts are unbeaten in six. The MLS postseason is often about which team is in the best form at the right particular moment, and right now, it doesn’t look like Sporting KC has luck on their side.

It’s also hard to not pay attention to the fact that the Dynamo have lost just once at BBVA Compass Stadium in 2017, which came on September 9 against the Colorado Rapids.

Carabao Cup preview: Man City hosts Wolves, Chelsea meets Everton

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All eyes will remain on the 11 Premier League sides left in this season’s Carabao Cup, but could a potential upset(s) shake the balance of power in the competition?

Norwich City and Leeds United will be among the teams seeking an upset in the tournament as they take on Arsenal and Leicester City, respectively, on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo captures Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Meanwhile, fresh off of Ronald Koeman‘s sacking, Everton must regroup quickly when they head to Stamford Bridge to take on Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea. The Toffees have taken just eight points in their first nine PL matches, leaving the Merseyside club in the relegation zone.

The Blues are aiming for their sixth League Cup title this season, while Manchester United could also achieve the same feat with the crown.

Here’s the slate of matches for the Carabao Cup Round of 16.

Tuesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Swansea City vs. Manchester United
Bournemouth vs. Middlesbrough
Bristol City vs. Crystal Palace
Leicester City vs. Leeds United
Arsenal vs. Norwich City
Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wednesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Chelsea vs. Everton
Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United

Report: RBNY midfielder Felipe, NYCFC’s Harrison could play for USMNT

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The U.S. Men’s National Team has seen a rise in duel-nationals representing the Stars and Stripes in recent years, and that trend could continue with two of MLS’ most promising midfielders interested in enhancing their international careers.

[ MORE: PST names Best XI for the 2017 MLS season ]

According to MSG Network’s Kristian Dyer, New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe Martins is in the midst of a finalizing his American citizenship, while New York City FC attacker Jack Harrison has spoken with U.S. Soccer about potentially representing the U.S..

Martins already has his green card — which opened up an international slot for the Red Bulls this season –but obtaining citizenship in the near future would make him eligible for selection for the USMNT ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle.

The 27-year-old had also previously applied for permanent residency in Canada back in 2013 while Martins was with the Montreal Impact, however, his aspirations to represent the nation never transpired.

Meanwhile, Harrison recently represented the England Under-21s in October, but he too could be on track for U.S. citizenship over the next few years if he remains in MLS.

[ MORE: Justin Meram talks Crew’s good form, facing Atlanta and more ]

In Dyer’s report, he notes the rising interest in Harrison from English clubs, though, and a potential move back to the United Kingdom would hurt the former Manchester United academy member’s chances of joining the USMNT.

Harrison is only in his sophomore season with NYCFC, but the young Englishman has garnered plenty of attention after scoring 14 goals and adding 13 assists thus far for the Bronx side.

Pro Soccer Talk’s 2017 MLS awards: Who earned the hardware?

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Decision Day tipped the scales for several players and clubs as Major League Soccer transitions towards the MLS Cup Playoffs.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Now, it’s time to take a look back at the best players/coaches from the 2017 season, including the league’s Most Valuable Player.

Below, PST hands out its awards for the 2017 MLS regular season and gives some insight into the selections.

MLS MVP

Matt Reed Joe Prince-Wright Nick Mendola Andy Edwards Kyle Bonn Dan Karrell
1st place David Villa  Sebastian Giovinco Sebastian Giovinco Diego Valeri Diego Valeri  Sebastian Giovinco
2nd Diego Valeri  Miguel Almiron Diego Valeri David Villa David Villa Nemanja Nikolic
3rd Nemanja Nikolic  Diego Valeri Nemanja Nikolic Nemanja Nikolic Nemanja Nikolic  David Villa

PST thoughts — Reed: “This may be one of the most difficult MVP races to assess in recent seasons simply because of the way that things shaped up towards the end. Nikolic was brilliant, and deservedly won the Golden Boot, but Valeri and Villa each carried their teams to first-round byes with strong efforts throughout the course of 2017. I think Sunday’s effort against the Crew showed just how important Villa is to NYCFC, though, as he nearly picked up his second hat-trick of the season. Without his goals, NYCFC drops to fifth place.”


Manager of the Year

Reed JPW Mendola Edwards Bonn Karell
1st place Tata Martino  Greg Vanney Tata Martino Tata Martino Caleb Porter  Greg Vanney
2nd Greg Vanney  Carl Robinson Chris Leitch Greg Vanney  Greg Vanney Veljko Paunovic
3rd Chris Leitch  Wilmer Cabrera Greg Vanney Patrick Vieira Patrick Vieira  Caleb Porter

PST thoughts — Edwards: “It’s crazy to not put the coach of the all-time points record holders first here, but what Tata did this year — quickly melding together 20 guys over the course of seven months and turning them into legitimate contenders — is a slightly tougher task. TFC rolled over 10 of 11 players from last year’s MLS Cup side (adding only Victor Vazquez, the unquestioned missing piece), which significantly lowers the degree of difficulty of the task as hand.”


Rookie of the Year

Reed JPW Mendola Edwards Bonn Karell
1st place Julian Gressel  Julian Gressel Julian Gressel Julian Gressel Julian Gressel  Julian Gressel
2nd Abu Danladi  Abu Danladi Jack Elliott Jackson Yueill Abu Danladi  Ian Harkes
3rd Jack Elliott  Ian Harkes Jonathan Lewis Alex Crognale Jack Elliott  Abu Danladi

PST thoughts — JPW: “A rising star for Atlanta, his ability to create goals in a dynamic attack has not been overlooked. Just edges the award ahead of Danladi, Harkes and Jack Elliott.


Newcomer of the Year

Reed JPW Mendola Edwards Bonn Karell
1st place Nemanja Nikolic  Nemanja Nikolic Nemanja Nikolic Josef Martinez Miguel Almiron  Nemanja Nikolic
2nd Miguel Almiron  Josef Martinez Romain Alessandrini Nemanja Nikolic Nemanja Nikolic  Miguel Almiron
3rd Victor Vasquez Bastian Schweinsteiger Miguel Almiron Romain Alessandrini Victor Vasquez  Victor Vasquez

PST thoughts — Mendola: “Was this the best year of imports in MLS history? It’s hard to say otherwise, with Romain Alessandrini, Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez, even half-season talents like Vako Qazaishvili and Paul Arriola. Well, wow. Nikolic’s 24 goals give him the distinction of leading three different leagues in scoring across four seasons.”