SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JULY 01: Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States speaks to Eden Hazard of Belgium after Belgium's 2-1 win in extra time during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Belgium and the United States at Arena Fonte Nova on July 1, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.

Signs of progress small but clear for the United States

23 Comments

Like a political candidate who ran on reform, Jurgen Klinsmann was immediately taken to task after today’s loss. After one question about his substitutions, the second salvo of his post-match press conference jumped right into the debate: Did Brazil 2014 represent progress for the United States?

I’m sorry, is this all coming too soon? Hardly. Even the broadcast disrespected your mourning period, jumping right into the debate moments after going back to the studio. Whomever asked Klinsmann the question in Salvador? He’s got to have his piece up by now. Just like presidential campaigns, the race never truly ends; it only rolls from one race to the next.

This campaign is going to be contentious, though. People are already digging in, trying to make their case why the U.S. is treading water. After all, by purely objective measures, the team appears to have done slightly better in 2010:

  • In South Africa, the team went 1-1-2 (W-L-D) overall, finished first in their group, and was put out in the Round of 16 with a relatively level 2-1, extra time loss.
  • In Brazil, they went 1-2-1 overall, finished second in their group, and were eliminated in the Round of 16 with a 2-1, extra time loss, where they were clearly second best.

For some, bottom lines are the only measuring stick. For them, the U.S. either held steady or receded in 2014. Ultimately, their record was worse in Brazil than it was in South Africa.

But after reading two paragraphs of that, hopefully those points have started to sound hollow. Objectively, sure, the facts hint the U.S. is treading water, but no fact exist without context. Level of competition is important. So is the underlying play. For a program focused on building for tomorrow, these things can be as telling as the results.

And if, in that quest for a better tomorrow, you’re inclined to look for progress, consider …

source: AP
Thomas Mueller scored the winning goal as Germany defeated the United States 1-0 in group play at the World Cup. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

1. Strength of opposition

Let’s do a little exercise, shall we? Take the four teams the U.S. played in 2010, add the nations the States faced in 2014, and make a list. Go from strongest to weakest and rank all the opponents the U.S. saw in the last two World Cups.

What do you get? It should look something like this:

1. 2014 Germany
2. 2014 Belgium
3. 2014 Portugal
4. 2014 Ghana
5. 2010 Ghana
6. 2010 England
7. 2010 Slovenia
8. 2010 Algeria

Maybe, in time, we’ll swap one and two. Perhaps three and four flip, too, but that’s not really the point, is it? By most estimations, the four teams the U.S. faced in South Africa were weaker than every team on the schedule this time around.

Think about that. Whereas the U.S. was drawn into a group of “How the heck is England a seeded team” in 2010, this year they were in one of the three toughest groups – one of the three toughest groups in an insanely unbalanced opening stage. I may not agree with all this Group of Death pandering, but Group G was really, really difficult.

So yeah, the U.S. was slightly worse, record-wise, in 2014. Does that mean they’re a worse team? Of course not. That the 2014 team matched the 2010 squad’s progress is a huge hint: The U.S. is better now than they were four years ago.

2. Injuries mattered

Let’s not act like 2010’s team was healthy going into the finals. Charlie Davies’ loss will forever be under-appreciated after his career changed course in Oct. 2009. Oguchi Onyewu tore his patellar tendon the same month. Bob Bradley had his challenges, too.

This year’s Jozy Altidore injury, however, was big. Say whatever you want about his quality, but the absence forced Clint Dempsey out of position and was a big factor in Michael Bradley’s performances. With one injury, the U.S. not only lost one of their two main goal scorers but also saw their two best players handcuffed. They were set back at two, perhaps three positions.

Then there was Fabian Johnson, who Jurgen Klinsmann lost early in the team’s decisive game. Omar Gonzalez wasn’t healthy coming into camp, sat out the first two games, then played the tournament’s last 210 minutes. And Matt Besler? The U.S. lost him for the second half of the opening match.

Klinsmann spent three years enforcing a resilience that paid off in Brazil, but that doesn’t mean the team wasn’t hamstrung. Bradley may have lost two key players, but unlike the Altidore injury, those absences didn’t affect other parts of the lineup.

Is that progress? No, but it does add context to this year’s results. Not only did the U.S face stiffer competition, but the internal obstacles may have been greater, too.

source: AP
Geoff Cameron (20) and United States’ Jermaine Jones, left, celebrate as Clint Dempsey, center, runs from the goal scoring against Portugal. (AP Photo/Paulo Duarte)

3. The high points of the tournament

Think back to 2010. When did the U.S. truly play well? Not that the team was ever bad, but was there ever a point in South Africa that made you feel as confident about the team as the Portugal game did? There were certainly moments against Slovenia, and the end of the Algeria match is legendary, but this year’s performance against the Seleccao had people discussing whether the U.S. had really turned a corner.

That doesn’t change the bottom line, but it tells us how the U.S. went about their business. It goes to assessing what the team is capable of doing, going forward. It speaks to how, if things to continue to improve, the U.S. can grow, and yes, it speaks to progress. The 2014 team, at its best, showed it was capable for more than the 2010 squad.

4. What others around you are saying

Say you know your soccer. Like really, really know it; know it so much that you don’t usually need to listen to anybody’s opinion on anything. Not only are you perfectly qualified to be a professional sports journalist, but you may also be smart enough to know that, on rare occasions, you’re fallible. And when you are, the whole world’s likely to tell you.

This time, literally the whole world is saying so. Across the globe, this U.S. team has forced soccer fans to take notice. Two weeks after the planet had the same, pessimistic predictions that most U.S. fans begrudgingly made before match one, the world’s woken up. By derailing a talented Ghana and coming back (only to be ultimately drawn) against Portugal, the U.S. gave everybody reason to take notice.

This was more than knocking off Mexico in a 2002. This was beating teams the world thought would cut through a star-less American squad.

But let’s get back to talking about you. I know you’re smart. Hey, you tell us so all the time, but maybe your view that the U.S. was lucky against Ghana is jaded? Maybe, like a lot of other people noticed, the U.S. were just playing like a team with a lead. Perhaps they didn’t “choke” against Portugal (please, stop listening to so much sports talk radio). And although they were outplayed by Germany and Belgium, most of the world would be, too.

Maybe the Americans were actually kinda good. Not Germany good, but still … good, by a more inclusive, fairer standard.

But, of course, I’ll defer to you.

5. Everything else this team has done

The World Cup is ultimately four games. It’s pretty insane to draw huge conclusions based on such a small sample size. You know that Netherlands team that’s now a favorite to reach the tournament’s semifinals? They went 0-3-0 at Euro 2012.  Since then, they haven’t lost a competitive match, going 13-0-1 between qualifying and the World Cup.

So let’s look at the U.S. in the bigger picture. They locked up a World Cup spot in CONCACAF after eight of 10 final round games, ended up finishing first in the region, are confederation champions, and had a 12-game wining streak last year. Yeah, there were some down points, like the team’s performances against Ukraine (this winter) and Belgium (last summer), but nobody expected the U.S. to solve all its problems in one cycle.

If you want to say the U.S. isn’t making progress, that’s fine, but you have to explain why the last two years’ results are so deceivingly positive. You have to explain why the rest of the world is wrong to see the difference, and why the team looked so good at points of this tournament. Once you’re done with that, tell us why the U.S. were able to their overcome injuries, and why a much tougher schedule in Brazil couldn’t send them home after three games.

It’s not an impossible argument to make. I’m just glad you’re the one trying to make it; not me.

Personally, I see progress. It’s not earth-shaking, but it’s there, and it’s clear. The U.S. hasn’t established itself as a soccer power, but they’re better than they were four years ago.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Mustafi to Arsenal, Guzan to Boro, Tello to Saints

LILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 12:  Shkodran Mustafi of Germany runs with the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Germany and Ukraine at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on June 12, 2016 in Lille, France.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal are said to have inquired about Valencia’s German international defender Shkodran Mustafi, 24.

After losing Per Mertesacker until 2017 with a serious knee injury, Arsene Wenger has already spoken about looking for an experienced option at center back.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

However, it appears he may be looking for a more long-term approach with Mustafi set to cost around $26 million according to report in the Independent. That say that Spanish outlet Cadena Cope believe the German defender is up for sale.

With Laurent Koscielny on an extended break after appearing in the EURO 2016 final for France and Gabriel missing Arsenal’s tour of the USA with tonsillitis, Wenger will use young center backs Calum Chambers and Rob Holding against the MLS All-Stars on Thursday in San Jose, Calif. or maybe even Francis Coquelin as an emergency center back with Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal either side of him.

Mustafi started and scored against Ukraine in Germany’s 2-0 win in their EURO 2016 opener but only appeared again at the Euros as a second half sub in their semifinal defeat to France.


U.S. national team goalkeeper Brad Guzan is set to seal a move to Middlesbrough, according to the Guardian.

Per the report Guzan will leave Villa on a free transfer and will sign a two-year contract for Aitor Karanka’s side. Skyy Sports is also reporting that Guzan will have a medical on Teeside in the next 24 hours.

[ MORE: Fabregas sent off in fiery friendly ]

Guzan, 31, played for the U.S. at the Copa America Centenario this summer but given Aston Villa’s relegation to the Championship the Illinois native wants to stay in the Premier League.

If the move to ‘Boro does go through then he will be battling with Victor Valdes and Dimitrios Konstantopoulos for the starting spot.

Guzan has become the first-choice goalkeeper for Jurgen Klinsmann since the 2014 World Cup when Tim Howard decided to take a sabbatical. Last season he endured a nightmare campaign as they were relegated from the Premier League for the first-time in history.

Here’s hoping Guzan gets a chance to shine at the Riverside but with Valdes also signing on, it’s difficult to know who will be the first choice.


Southampton are chasing two Spanish players, according to the Sun.

Barcelona’s Christian Tello, 24, has spent the last two seasons on loan at Fiorentina and FC Porto but is now looking for a permanent home and Southampton will be hoping to add to their attack after losing Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane this summer.

Tello could leave Barca for $13 million and although he’s scored 20 goals in 86 games for his hometown team, he has failed to break through and finally wants to become a regular elsewhere.

Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin are both back fit and among the goals during preseason but with their history of injuries perhaps Claude Puel will be looking to sign one more striker as Saints prepare for both the Premier League and the Europa League.

The report also states that midfield reinforcement is being looked at with Malaga’s Recio, 25, linked with a $7 million move to St Mary’s. Saints seem pretty set in that area of the pitch with Jordy Clasie, Oriol Romeu and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.


Arsenal insist they won’t spend big to compete with Premier League rivals

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal (R) and Ivan Gazidis, CEO of Arsenal (L) in discussion as they sit in the stands prior to the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Arsenal and Olympiacos at the Emirates Stadium on September 28, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal fans, I can already hear you venting.

The 2015-16 Premier League runners up have signed Granit Xhaka, Rob Holding and Tasumo Asano this summer but many fans and pundits believe Arsene Wenger‘s side is still short of a top class center back and a predatory striker.

[ MORE: Fabregas sent off in fiery friendly ]

Well, bad news. It doesn’t seem like major cash will be splashed this summer.

Speaking in California ahead of Arsenal’s game against the MLS All-Stars on Thursday, chief executive Ivan Gazidis revealed that the Gunners’ transfer policy is not going to change.

“We can’t afford to outgun competitors that have far more money. We have to be very careful, very selective,” Gazidis said. “We would not be successful if we simply went out into the transfer market and tried to outgun our competitors.

“We’re run in a self-sustaining way, and a way that we believe in, because we believe it gives us certainty for the future and enables us to plan our future with confidence. That means we can’t afford to make huge mistakes in the transfer market. We can’t afford to outgun competitors that have far more money to splurge on transfer fees than we do. So we have to be very careful, very selective about how we do things.”

Arsenal lost out on the Premier League title to Leicester City last season which infuriated their fans mostly because in a campaign where Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea all struggled they couldn’t seize their best chance in a decade to win the title.

[ MORE: Arsenal hunt for center back ]

Yes, the Gunners have spent big to bring in Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Xhaka in recent years but compared to the spending of United, City, Chelsea and even Liverpool this summer, they are miles behind.

When all is said and done you have to admire the business Arsenal has become with the Emirates Stadium a beacon for their success. However, just as we saw last season during the second half of the campaign, fans will protest as they are desperate to do more than see their team finish in the top four every season and then bow out in the first knockout round of the UEFA Champions League.

Unless Arsenal’s prudent model of spending changes drastically, you really can’t see them challenging for the UCL title and being favorites to win the PL. It’s that simple.

Wenger gets a lot of abuse for apparently not spending the cash at his disposal but after comments like this from Gazidis it is clear that the club isn’t going to hand him vasts amounts of cash.

Report reveals world’s most valuable players under the age of 21

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 10:  Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on April 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Watch out for these guys in the next few years.

The folks over at Soccerex have put together a handy list of the most valuable players under the age of 21.

[ MORE: Guardiola bans pizza

There’s no surprise that plenty of Premier League stars are in the 20 player list, with four of the top nine hailing from the PL.

Schalke 04 have three players inside the top eight as the Bundesliga side continue their impressive record at developing young stars.

[ MORE: Zlatan reveals MLS offer

Anthony Martial is the clear winner as the Manchester United and France forward is valued at over $10 million more than his nearest competitor. Plenty of other names on the list have been linked with moves to Premier League clubs this summer, while Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford and Kelecho Iheancho also feature among the most valuable youngsters in world soccer.

Below is the list in full, with many factors such as media perception, years remaining on contract, history of injuries and their clubs average selling value all calculated when coming to this valuation.


  1. Anthony Martial (Manchester United) – $52.1 million
  2. Leroy Sane (Schalke 04) – $41.1 million
  3. Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich) – $38.2 million
  4. Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur) – $37.8 million
  5. Kinglsey Coman (Bayern Munich) – $33.9 million
  6. Breel Embolo (Schalke 04) – $28.1 million
  7. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) – $24.9 million
  8. Max Meyer (Schalke 04) – $23.9 million
  9. Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City) – $22.1 million
  10. Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund) – $21.98 million
  11. Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras) – $21.97 million
  12. Youri Tielemans (Anderlecht) – $21.4 million
  13. Riechedly Bazoer (Ajax) – $21.2 million
  14. Niklas Sule (Hoffenheim) – $18.4 million
  15. Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Monchengladbach) – $16.6 million
  16. Giovani Lo Celso (Rosario Central) – $15.8 million
  17. Ruben Neves (FC Porto) – $15.6 million
  18. Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund) – $15.5 million
  19. Gabriel Barbosa (Santos) – $15.3 million
  20. Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan) – $15.2 million

Bob Bradley linked with Hull City job in Premier League

PASADENA, CA - JUNE 25:  Bob Bradley coach of  United States during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship against Mexico at the Rose Bowl on June 25, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Former U.S. national team head coach Bob Bradley has been installed as the bookies favorite to take over at Hull City in the Premier League.

ProSoccerTalk understands that there has yet to be any formal contact between Hull and Le Havre about Bradley’s services.

[ VIDEO: Pulisic scores for Dortmund ]

Bradley, 58, has yet to coach in England — if he is appointed he’d be the first-ever American to be in charge of a Premier League team — and in the past his name has been brought up surrounding vacant positions at Aston Villa, West Brom, Sunderland and Fulham.

A report from the Hull Daily Mail claims that Hull are looking across Europe for a new manager to replace Steve Bruce who stepped down last week after four years in charge at the KCOM Stadium. Roberto Martinez, current caretaker manager Mike Phelan and Steve McClaren are also said to be in the hunt.

This link with Bradley comes alongside reports of a potential American takeover at Hull but co-owner and current chairman Ehab Allam recently put talks over the sale of the club on hold until after the summer transfer window ends.

[ LONGFORM: Bradley – “That’s Football” ]

As for Bradley, the New Jersey native is the current manager of Le Havre in Ligue 2 in France but it is well known that Bradley has been waiting for a chance to manage in the top-flight of one of Europe’s elite leagues.

After assembling an impressive coaching resume around the globe since he left the U.S. setup in 2011, Bradley appears a good fit for the Tigers.

He worked wonders in a perilous situation in Egypt as he took the national team to the brink of the 2014 World Cup at a time of extreme turmoil in Egypt. He then went to Norway and on a tight budget took newly-promoted Stabaek to a comfortable ninth-place finish in his first season in charge and they then finished third and challenged powerhouse Rosenborg for the title in his second full season in Norway.

Bradley has since moved on to Le Havre in France’s second-tier and after arriving midway through the 2015-16 campaign they agonizingly missed out on the last promotion spot on the final day of last season with just one goal separating the Normandy club from gaining promotion to Ligue 1.

Fans of the U.S. national team have kept Bradley close to their hearts since U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati replaced him with Jurgen Klinsmann in the summer of 2011 and many would love to see him take charge of a Premier League outfit.

Bradley is unlikely to get many resources from Hull’s owners, the Allam family, as Bruce blamed his exit on a failure to add new players this summer. Owner Assem Allam has fallen seriously ill in recent months and has left his son Ehab in charge but he and Bruce butted heads which led to the English manager departing less than three weeks before the new Premier League campaign.

With the Allam family hailing from Egypt the links to Bradley seem to add up as the job he did when in charge of the Pharaohs from 2011-13 was nothing short of miraculous.

Let’s see what direction this moves in but Hull could certainly do a lot worse than hiring Bradley who has a strong background in getting the best out of teams with small resources and the players currently at Hull would certainly slot in nicely with his soccer philosophy.