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Michael Bradley should concede USMNT captaincy after World Cup debacle

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After the United States missed qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, there’s been plenty of talk regarding who to blame, who should resign, and who should take over at key areas in management of the organization.

What there hasn’t been as much of is responsibility given to – or taken by – players who were on the field at the time of the disaster. There has been little from players, aside from their postgame media responsibilities, which admittedly couldn’t have been easy.

And there’s been little in terms of deserved criticism for failing to deliver on so many occasions.

Jozy Altidore posted an apology on social media, saying “I’m so sorry we let you down.” Omar Gonzalez told media it was “one of the worst days of my life.” Tim Howard spoke about how teams sit back and defend against an ever-frustrated Stars & Stripes.

[ MORE: Who should you support at the 2018 World Cup? ]

One player who has received plenty of criticism in the years since the 2014 World Cup is Michael Bradley. The United States captain has persevered through it all, but has been since unable to recapture his form leading up to that tournament, instead becoming a polarizing figure in the USMNT midfield. Ever-present, fans have never been able to agree on his best position, his most useful skill, or the merits of his place in the team. Yet he has continued to wear the captain’s armband as one of the most experienced players in the squad.

The time has come for him to relinquish that duty.

Following the debacle in Trinidad & Tobago, Michael Bradley’s ability to perform the duties befitting of a captain have waned to the point of deprivation. The U.S. performance in Couva was so devoid of inspiration, so lacking in effort, so bankrupt of industry that it can no longer be assumed that anyone in a position of leadership in US Soccer has the ability to motivate in any sense of the concept.

The primary duties of a captain involve being a leader for the rest of the squad. Being a leader includes providing the team with the inspiration to succeed and having a mastery of soccer comprehension to marshall the troops on the field at times when the manager is either unable to or incapable of, such as when time is short and the players need to take it upon themselves to push forward and put the opponent under pressure.

While Bradley has a resume stuffed with successes as national team captain, judging by the performance not only across the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying landcsape, but even just focused solely on the game Tuesday night. The shocking, stunning, and infuriating lack of effort as the clock ticked towards impending doom was so unbelievable, so outrageously mind-boggling that it can only be concluded that Bradley is no longer capable of rallying the troops in times of need. Because if he can’t get himself and his team to play at 110% with the World Cup on the line, what other motivation could one possibly conjure up to provide a spark?

But don’t take my word for it…

Even Peter Vermes, new (slight) favorite to take over as USMNT manager, conceded starkly that the team “didn’t have the intensity, didn’t have the desire, the hunger, the fight” required to earn an admittedly straightforward result.

Sure, some of that – no, much of that – lies at the feet of the national team manager Bruce Arena, who failed to motivate his players enough to even earn a point against an inferior opponent. But Bruce has (rightfully) received plenty of criticism from the media and fans, to the point where it’s generally assumed his short second stint as USMNT boss is all but over.

No, the players are just as culpable for the debacle sustained over the last two years, and Michael Bradley, as the man charged as the clubhouse leader by way of the little velcro wrap over his arm, should take the most symbolic fall. It’s just part of the job.

This is not to say Bradley’s role on the team is over, not by a longshot. He is still an important player to this group, and has a few years more in the tank as an international-caliber player. But only one player showed the desire, the hunger, the fight befitting of a national team captain the other night. Shockingly, that player is just 19 years old.

Christian Pulisic, the boy wonder from Borussia Dortmund, left his heart on the Ato Boldon Stadium field Tuesday night. He tried time and time again to not just do the work himself, but to rally the troops to join him in his one-man charge to the World Cup. Nobody joined him in the cause, but that didn’t stop the attacker from giving the game his all. While Bradley was distributing square passes and barely jogging to retrieve the ball for a corner with seconds left, Pulisic ran circles around the Soca Warriors midfield and charged at the opposing back line, leaving his emotions on his sleeve.

I know it’s wild, I know it’s unprecedented, and I know it’s radical, but there’s only one man who walked the walk of a captain on Tuesday night, and that was Christian Pulisic. And that’s why the 19-year-old should be given the armband with immediate effect. The FIFA Golden Boy candidate isn’t just the best player on the team, he’s the biggest leader by example. It would probably cause a ripple or two in the locker room, at the least, but worldwide respect for his game has already been expressed, and with years until the next World Cup qualifying campaign, Pulisic would have time to not only grow into the role but earn the respect and understanding of his peers. Why not give it straight to him?

The aftermath of the 2018 World Cup failures in the United States will likely claim many scalps, and Michael Bradley should be one of them.

“That’s just reality. That’s on us.” Bradley’s own words from immediately after the United States missed its first World Cup since 1986.

WATCH LIVE: Everton vs. Swansea City

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Everton looks to continue its upswing while reversing the hoodoo of Swansea City when it hosts the Welsh side at Goodison Park on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Swans have not lost to Everton in three seasons, but sit bottom of the Premier League table.

Sam Allardyce started Gylfi Sigurdsson and Ashley Williams against the former side, while Paul Clement will hope to get an upset with Wilfried Bony up top.

LINEUPS

Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Martina, Holgate, Williams, Schneiderlin, Gana Gueye, Lennon, Rooney, Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin. Subs: Robles, Keane, Jagielka, Ramirez, Davies, Vlasic, Lookman.

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson, Roque Mesa, Fer, Carroll, Dyer, Narsingh, Bony. Subs: Nordfeldt, van der Hoorn, Rangel, Clucas, Sanches, Ayew, Abraham.

Timbers make it official: Savarese is the new boss

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The Portland Timbers have made it official, announcing the hiring of New York Cosmos architect Giovanni Savarese as the successor to Caleb Porter.

Savarese, 46, led the Cosmos to three NASL Championship Games in his first run as a manager, following a playing career that included stops at Millwall, NY/NJ MetroStars, and Swansea City. He attended Long Island University, and was capped 30 times with 10 goals for Venezuela.

[ BLANC: I turned down USMNT talks ]

He’s an intriguing hire for Portland, who won an MLS Cup but suffered from inconsistency under the highly-regarded Porter (twice missing the playoffs but twice earning the West’s No. 1 seed). While the Cosmos regularly spent well, Savarese navigated the uncertain waters of a nascent league with regular success.

From Timbers.com:

“I am both excited and proud to become the head coach of the Portland Timbers, and this is an ideal fit and outstanding opportunity for me as I take the next step in my coaching career,” Savarese said. “The passion, ambition and support surrounding this club is truly inspiring, and I am sincerely honored and grateful for this opportunity to lead it on the pitch and to build on the club’s history of success for the community and the incredible supporters of the Portland Timbers.”

The hiring has been rumored for some time. Though Savarese was loyal to the Cosmos, the NASL’s future has been hung in the hands of the legal system for some time due to a bold lawsuit against U.S. Soccer Federation. The NASL contends that the relationships between the USSF, Soccer United Marketing, United Soccer League, and Major League Soccer have conspired to stop the NASL from competing with MLS as a D-1 league.

LVG would only return to club football to get at Man Utd

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Leave it to The Daily Mirror to find that last bit of juice when it comes to Manchester United and former manager Louis Van Gaal.

Well, probably the last bit.

The Dutch manager said he does not expect to return to club football, unless one of the big boys in the Premier League offered him the chance to take a run at United. The Red Devils, of course, fired him shortly after an FA Cup title in order to hire Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: WBA 1-2 Man Utd | Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool ]

From The Mirror, quoting LVG at a Sunday night function in Rotterdam.

“I will probably not manage a club anymore,” Van Gaal said. “I would make one exception: If a big English club comes for me, than I would do it. Because then I can get the chance to get one over on Manchester United.’’

Could you see him getting a run at any of the Top Four contenders, even on a caretaker basis? Could Liverpool come calling if they tired of Jurgen Klopp one season, or might Arsenal or even Everton need a stopgap (should the Toffees spending come good)?

Suspended Villar says Spain in danger of missing World Cup

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The suspended president of the Spanish soccer federation, who is under investigation for corruption, tried Monday to stoke up fears that the country could be kicked out of the World Cup because of government interference.

Angel Maria Villar, who is free on bail, spoke at a news conference in Madrid and again denied any wrongdoing. He also blamed the government for meddling in the federation’s affairs by suspending him.

“This government is putting Spain’s participation in the World Cup at risk,” the 67-year-old Villar said in his first news conference since being arrested in July along with his son, Gorka Villar, and two other officials.

[ BLANC: I turned down USMNT talks ]

“The risk is serious,” Villar said. “The only party responsible for Spain not going to the World Cup will be the Spanish government.”

Villar spoke three days after FIFA said it was concerned about the independence of the Spanish soccer federation and that it would soon send a delegation to analyze the situation. FIFA made no mention of a possible suspension of the federation, which could keep Spain out of next year’s World Cup in Russia or even knock Real Madrid and Barcelona out of the Champions League.

Villar, who has spent time behind bars to impede the possible destruction of evidence, and the other three officials are being investigated for alleged improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Villar resigned his vice presidencies of both FIFA and UEFA following his arrest. But he tried to stay on as the head of Spanish federation, a post he held for three decades.

His refusal to listen to pleas for him to step down led the Spanish government to suspend him from the post for one year pending the outcome of the investigation. Court documents allege that besides misappropriated funds, Villar is suspected of corrupting several regional federations by offering favors in exchange for votes.

Villar fired back at the government, saying his suspension had broken FIFA rules since it represented interference in the federation’s management.

“It’s easy to see that the source of concern was my arbitrary and unjustified removal from the presidency of the federation and for not respecting the presumption of innocence,” Villar said, adding that other teams are ready to take Spain’s place at the World Cup.

“Be careful. There are other powerful countries that didn’t qualify like Italy that are waiting to pounce and take our place,” Villar said.

Spain, which won the World Cup in 2010, is considered to be among the favorites for next year’s tournament.