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“An underlying current of quality”

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In retrospect, Keegan Rosenberry could’ve seen it as a sign of something good.

Participating in a match to help USMNT reserves stay fit during the Copa America Centenario, Rosenberry wasn’t slotted with his Philadelphia teammates; The right back was plugged in behind winger Christian Pulisic for the U.S. side.

“At first I kinda thought it was a coincidence,” Rosenberry said. “What a chance to hopefully show well. But the more people I talked to, it seemed they wanted to get a proper look at me. As the season progressed, I didn’t think too much of it.”

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Still, that was one of just two experiences with the U.S. set-up. Rosenberry had not represented the Americans at any level when he was called up for a U-23 camp for college players only, listed as a midfielder, in 2015.

In the short period since, Rosenberry has grown into a player pegged as a to get a USMNT look under Bruce Arena, something the coach confirmed in a Facebook Q&A last week.

“I’m obviously very, very excited to even be in the discussion,” he said. “I can’t wait.”

Neither can U.S. fans eager to see how Rosenberry compares to DeAndre Yedlin and other options on the right. That’s pretty remarkable considering the right back showed up at Georgetown in 2011 at a different position.

“He was always playing as a center mid,” said Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese. “But my assistant, Zach Samol, saw him first and said he loved this kid because he’s so technical. He’s very clean, tough, quick. He tackles. He makes good decisions with the ball, and has good spring for not being a 6-foot kid, and his habits are really good.”

Wiese says Rosenberry became a right back by virtue of positional need. The Hoyas wanted him on the pitch, but had MLS prospects up-and-down the center of the park. Their holes going into Rosenberry’s freshman year were striker, center back and right back, and they filled them pretty well: Brandon Allen at striker (now with RBNY),  Cole Seiler at center back (Vancouver), and Rosenberry on the right.

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“At first it was a shock to my confidence because I played all my life in the middle, and I fancied myself there,” Rosenberry said. “To hear that (he’d play right back), it wasn’t the first thing I wanted to see. But then I saw the talent of the players on the team, and I thought if I could get on the field I’d play any position.”

He started every match of his four years at Georgetown and captaining the club the last two seasons. The Hoyas went to the national championship game in Rosenberry’s freshman year, and went to the third round twice and quarterfinals once in his final three seasons.

“That experience in college was so important because I felt like I was still developing physically and mentally,” Rosenberry said. “Being a captain there for a couple of years and trying to manage the personalities and egos and demands of 25 guys really helps you mature whether you like it or not, and it makes you be a leader. It was something that I really valued.”

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12: Cedrick Mabwati #11 of the Columbus Crew SC and Keegan Rosenberry #12 of the Philadelphia Union battle for position as they race to control the ball in the second half on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Philadelphia defeated Columbus 2-1. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Rosenberry battles for position with Columbus’ Cedrick Mabwati (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Rosenberry and Georgetown teammate Joshua Yaro were both selected by Philadelphia in the Top Three of this year’s SuperDraft. To wind up with Philadelphia was a boon for the Harrisburg, Penn., native. Rosenberry wasn’t a member of the Union’s Academy but had trained with now head coach Jim Curtin, and he admired the boss. He was inspired to put on the shirt.

Rosenberry played every minute for Curtin’s unit this season, completing almost 300 more passes than anyone on the team. Only attack-minded players Tranquillo Barnetta and Seb Le Toux completed more key passes than the rookie.

“Going to team like Philadelphia who I was familiar with before the draft, knowing some of the staff and some of the players and where to go for training, it makes you feel like you belong and I think it helped me with the transition period,” Rosenberry said. “I’m really thankful for that.”

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He admits a sour taste from bowing out to Toronto FC in the first round of the playoffs, but Jim Curtin’s Union wasn’t expected to make the postseason this season. Rosenberry was a big part of the surprise, his work earning him a nod as a finalist for the MLS Rookie of the Year award ultimately claimed by Jordan Morris.

Before the Union begin their follow-up run in MLS, Rosenberry will — barring a dramatic turn of events — represent the United States men’s national team at January camp under Bruce Arena.

Wiese sees a comparison between Rosenberry and a current USMNT player that the Georgetown coach helped recruit as an assistant at Notre Dame in 2005: Matt Besler.

There’s a natural comparison of the two players. Besler is taller, and Rosenberry a bit quicker, but both are praised for their inherent leadership and speak about the game in an analytical way.

“There’s just a real quality in both of those guys,” Wiese said. “There’s an underlying current of quality in everything they do, in terms of how they manage themselves, train, take care of their bodies, how serious they are about their approach to their craft and you’re like, yeah, of course they’re going to make it. Those are two guys you never have to ask to do anything twice. You never need to bring them into the office to chastise them for doing something off the field.”

[ MORE: What counts as success for Bruce Arena? ]

While Rosenberry says there was a chance he’d have to fill in at center mid following deep injuries to Philadelphia’s corps, he expect he’s a right back for life right now. And he’s grateful chance put him in that position once he left his youth club, Penn Fusion, for college in Washington, D.C.

“I took it as a challenge to hone myself as a better 1v1 defender and all the traits that come with the position,” he said. “The similarities between center mid and right back might not be too far off in terms of distribution and connecting passes and whatnot. Where it’s different is getting exposed as a defender 1-on-1 and trying to deny service where in the middle you’re maybe trying to slow things down, stop counter attacks, or funnel things one way or another. Interestingly enough, I think it made me more marketable. There are 3-5 midfielders on the field at all times, but there’s only one right back. From my sophomore year on, I viewed myself as a right back.”

And U.S. fans may be viewing him there for a while. Bring on January.

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Hernandez, Araujo score in 1st half, Mexico beats Costa Rica

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Javier Hernandez and Nestor Araujo scored in the first half, and Mexico overcame the absence of half a dozen players to beat Costa Rica 2-0 on Friday night in a World Cup qualifying match.

Hernandez scored on a cross from Carlos Vela to open the score in the seventh and Araujo added a goal on a header in the 45th.

[ USMNT: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

Hernandez scored his 46th goal with the Mexican team and tied Jared Borgetti as the all-time leading scorer.

With the win, Mexico remains undefeated and has seven points after three rounds to take sole command in the six-nation tournament. Costa Rica stays on six points and is second and Panama is third with four.

The top three teams qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Mexico beat Costa Rica for the first time since September 11, 2012, when they prevailed 1-0.

Running Away With It

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Christian Pulisic scored and played a part in three other goals as the United States rained goals down on Honduras in a 6-0 win at Avaya Stadium in San Jose early Saturday morning.

Clint Dempsey scored two goals, and Michael Bradley and Sebastian Lletget also scored as the U.S. moved into fourth place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Their next match is Tuesday in Panama.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Three things ]

The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes got off to a flying start.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal. Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

The Yanks didn’t stop, and Lletget drew a yellow card when he beat Ever Alvarado down the right flank and forced a take down from the Honduran defender.

Alberth Elis slipped John Brooks’ mark, and the Houston Dynamo man turned to fire on goal. Tim Howard was well positioned to scoop it up.

Lletget turned out to be injured by the Alvarado foul, and Bruce Arena turned to Alejandro Bedoya in the 17th minute.

Geoff Cameron was given a yellow card in the 25th minute for a foul on Roger Espinoza. That gave a free kick to Honduras from 30 yards out, and Romell Quioto fired right at Tim Howard.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

Honduras then took a bigger hit: the loss of star attacker Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo) to an apparent shoulder injury.

Brooks bailed out an out-of-position Gonzalez just before halftime to keep the lead 3-0.

The Yanks needed 15 seconds to make it 4-0, with Dempsey winning a 50-50 tussle and finding Altidore for a flick to Pulisic. He netted his fourth USMNT goal. He’s 18.

Pulisic then won a free kick 25 yards out from goal by embellishing a foul, and Dempsey’s free kick tricked Escober. 6-0. For real.

A scary moment late as a dazed and wobbly John Brooks was forced off despite no apparent injury. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks (Ream, 70′), Cameron (Zusi, 58′); Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′, 49′, 54′), Pulisic (46′)

 

Player ratings from USMNT’s pounding of Honduras

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Battered. Throttled. Eviscerated.

Pick your verb of dominance, the United States likely fit it well in a 6-0 destruction of Honduras at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

[ MORE: Recap + video | Three things ]

The win boosts the U.S. in World Cup qualifying after their 0-2 start, but how did the individuals fare? Obviously well.

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 7 — The team just feels in a safer place with the veteran back there. If the U.S. goes to the 2018 World Cup, Howard remains their No. 1 (and there probably never should have been a question. Sorry Brad).

Jorge Villafana — 7 — Tidy passing and a low-risk game from the Santos Laguna man.

John Brooks (Off 70′) — 7 — An early error before recovering to be his usual free-clearing, athletic self. Scary injury took him out late, as he looked dazed. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

Omar Gonzalez — 5  — He wasn’t bad, but Gonzalez is still a positional question mark. Bailed out a couple times by Brooks.

Geoff Cameron (Off 59′) — 6 — Out of position and a bit hobbled, he wasn’t at his best.

Michael Bradley — 7 — One of his better USMNT games in a long time.

Sebastian Lletget (Off 17′) — 8 — Scored, then got hurt on a roasting run down the right.

Darlington Nagbe — 6 — One or two electric moments in the first half, but overall a quiet enough night for the Timbers man.

Christian Pulisic — 9 — Hard to not to hand the kid a 10. He’s quite frankly the most exciting American talent in the history of the program.

Clint Dempsey — 10 — Along with Howard, the sort of player you knew would make sure this game ended with three points. The fact that he nabbed three goals, too, is just a bonus.

Jozy Altidore — 7  — Pretty darn good night holding up the ball, and passed as well as ever, but did he drop a bit too deep too often? The answer is probably, “Who cares? They won 6-0, dude.”

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 18′)  — 6 — Typical high energy, space eating job in the middle of the park from the Union man.

Graham Zusi (On 58′)  — 6 — Good late clearance preserved the shutout.

Tim Ream (On 70′)  — 6 — Interesting to note that Arena went to him over Walker Zimmerman or Matt Besler.

Three things to take away from USMNT 6-0 Honduras

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The United States men’s national team pulled a Leicester City.

[ MORE: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

That’s a joke with truth wrapped around it, because the Yanks have had plenty of time and even a pair of friendlies to respond from the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann.

But in their first serious match without their old coach, the U.S. looked a team renewed and unleashed. Now the Americans may find themselves back in an automatic World Cup qualifying spot with a win on Tuesday in Panama.

Things change.

Vindicated

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and all of the USMNT players waited months and months to get the chance to answer their critics following a pair of embarrassing losses to open the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Sure, having Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron, and Tim Howard back helped a whole lot, and the seasoning Christian Pulisic is getting at Borussia Dortmund is unquestionably good for an 18-year-old.

But there’s little doubt Michael Bradley and Co. were fired up to silence their critics. Whether they admit it or not, this is a bunch that was stung by those who said they failed their old coach.

Most expected the U.S. to get a point or better against Honduras, but to do it the way they did is an unexpected bonus. A win in Panama on Tuesday would boost them into the Top Three.

And don’t worry, the old boss was pleased for his former charges.


The future is now…

I Tweeted the following after a late second half pass from Pulisic, and there was little disagreement.

Pulisic won’t be credited with an assist for his shot which rebounded to Sebastian Lletget for the opener, but he will walk away with his fourth international goal and two proper assists.

One was an absurd scoop to Clint Dempsey’s chest, and the other was a long avenue that shouldn’t have existed. Still, Pulisic found that street and provided an absolutely dynamic force all over the park.

There have been U.S. teens at big European clubs, and U.S. teens who’ve made impacts on the national team, but never both at the same time and never both at this level. Pulisic is for real, and finding his ceiling is an adventure we’re all undertaking with great enjoyment.


…But the legends sure helped

Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will go down as two of the most important players in United States men’s national team history.

Actually, they may be duking it out for Nos. 1 and 2 when it’s all said and done.

Dempsey’s hat trick was his career in a nutshell. The first saw him body off a defender while collecting a Pulisic pass off his chest, then lashing a shot with power despite said defender dragging him down.

The second was a burst of speed to run onto Pulisic’s through ball and classic calm in the face of an onrushing keeper, holding onto the ball before sliding it home from an acute angle.

The third was this free kick. A bit aided by goalkeeper Donis Escober, but such is life.

And don’t sleep on Howard’s early performance as Honduras tried to find some sort of foothold in the match. Always well-positioned, the team just feels safer with the Colorado Rapids man between the sticks.