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What now for USMNT? A look at the road ahead

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A youthful U.S. national team drew 1-1 at Portugal on Tuesday in their final game of 2017.

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Now, it’s time to reflect, just as we’ve all been doing since the shock failure to reach the 2018 World Cup in early October.

Interim U.S. boss Dave Sarachan, a long-time assistant of former USMNT boss Bruce Arena, oversaw the draw at Portugal but, like the rest of Arena’s backroom staff who were also in place for the friendly, he won’t be around for much longer.

This is all about the future. The displays of Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Cameron Carter-Vickers against Portugal proved that.

In terms of the next game for the USA, fans will have to wait over two months for a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina at the StubHub Center in Carson, California on Jan. 28 which will end the USMNT’s annual January camp.

After that, we’re not quite sure what’s going to happen.

The U.S. is unlikely to have a head coach for some time due to the fact that current U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) president Sunil Gulati isn’t expected to run for re-election in the USSF presidential election on Feb. 10, 2018, so there’s a whole lot of uncertainty right now surrounding the men’s national team.

Talk of Sam Allardyce, Michael O’Neill or Laurent Blanc coming in is all academic at this point.

Even having former boss Arena, the man who oversaw the dismal defeat at Trinidad & Tobago last month which ended the USA’s World Cup dreams, on Fox Sports as an analyst for the Portugal game on Tuesday seemed to early. The period of grieving isn’t over yet. Many would say it’s going to get a lot worse for the U.S. national team before it gets better.

Perhaps the best decision is to put Tab Ramos, the current youth technical director of U.S. Soccer, in interim charge for the January camp as plenty of youngsters, who he knows well, will be given the chance to impress just as they did against Portugal.

Around all of this, the future of veterans like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron and Brad Guzan need to be addressed. Will they be leaned on heavily to help turn this program around? Will some, or all of them, retire from international duty?

What we do know is that there will be at two friendly games in March and probably the same in June 2018, purely as opposition for teams heading to the World Cup. Plus, there is talk of a soccer “NIT” ahead of the World Cup in June but that seems like a long shot. By March or April, things should have settled down with a new USSF president and USMNT coach, and a distinct plan, in place. That’s the hope.

Right now all U.S. fans can do is sit back and watch the anticipation build for the 2018 World Cup draw in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 1.

There is a long, long period for contemplation as U.S. Soccer tries to sort itself out amid the backdrop of a presidential campaign which has seen plenty of candidates throw their hats into the ring to try and solve the problems exacerbated by the USMNT’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

The road ahead will be long, arduous and not at all pleasant for the U.S., especially as we all watch on at the 32 nations competing in the World Cup in Russia next summer. Sure, the sport in the U.S. will recover and interest in MLS and USL expansion continues and top European teams will make trips Stateside for preseason friendlies.

Sure, all of that is pretty healthy. But we’re focusing on the USMNT here. Arguably the one vehicle with the greatest pull, and level of influence, in how the American soccer pyramid performs.

With no competitive games until the summer of 2019 when the Gold Cup and Copa America roll around, the U.S. national team’s excessive period of reflection and rehabilitation begun as soon as the final whistle was sounded in Leiria, Portugal on Tuesday.

Now it’s about one thing: the future.

Mourinho on muted celebrations from Lukaku, himself

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There’s a lot of buzz about celebrating, and not celebrating, when it comes to Manchester United.

Star striker Romelu Lukaku‘s post-goal actions were muted for a second-straight week, and manager Jose Mourinho appeared nonchalant on the bench.

[ RECAP: WBA 1-2 Man Utd ]

For Lukaku, that could be down to his status as a former West Brom player (and to be sure he was quite energetic in support of Jesse Lingard‘s insurance goal).

As for Mourinho, this is a man who was quite critical of Man City’s celebrations after winning a derby at Old Trafford. And Jose isn’t one to let a story line die unnecessarily.

Here’s Mourinho when asked about Lukaku’s non-celebration, from the BBC:

“Maybe he looks to the bench and sees his manager doesn’t celebrate. Maybe he loves West Brom. Maybe he remembers the team that helped him early in his career.

“I will celebrate if my team scores a winning goal in the last minute. But you have to have more maturity and keep your feet on the ground. If some guys want to be kids until the last day of their careers or if they want to act to the cameras then they can. But if we score an important goal then I can do anything.”

On one hand, I get it. On the other hand (and a third if I can find one), be okay with having a bit of fun, Jose.

United is back to within 11 points of leaders Man City, and it’s a massive mountain to climb for the Red Devils. Yet Ander Herrera, who was terrific again on Sunday, said the directive is simple: control what you can.

“We won three titles last season, which was very good. It is true that the top of the table is difficult to reach right now but this is Premier League, you never know. Our aim is just to keep winning games.”

The side’s 41 points through 18 matches would’ve been enough to lead the Premier League in two of the previous four seasons. No one’s going to tell United to be content with where they stand, but it’s been a fine season for Mourinho’s men so far.

WATCH: Liverpool battering Bournemouth with highlight reel half

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Philippe Coutinho is capable of elite magic, and he conjured up some fantasy on Sunday at the Vitality Stadium.

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Liverpool and Bournemouth were scoreless when the Brazilian dribbled past Simon Francis and Lewis Cook on a mazy run, taking Andrew Robertson‘s square pass and dancing through daylight.

If only there were a body cam on Adam Smith, who was chasing Coutinho the whole time!

Dejan Lovren — does this require we say “of all people?” — then scored a diving header after Roberto Firmino saved a wayward corner kick.

And Mohamed Salah, what else can you say about the 20-goal scorer (in all competitions)?

Salah would get his goal in stunning fashion, bodying off a defender before dribbling past two more to finish with an off-balance belt past Begovic.

Kaka calls it a career; Won World Cup, Ballon d’Or

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He’s the last Ballon d’Or winner neither named Messi nor Ronaldo, and he’s calling it a career.

Kaka announced his retirement on Sunday after a gleaming career on three continents.

Born Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, Kaka won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil and also boasts two Confederations Cup wins amongst his 92 caps and 29 international goals.

[ MAN CITY-SPURS: 3 things |  Studs and duds ]

Kaka debuted for Sao Paolo in 2001, and left for AC Milan three seasons later. Thrice names in the UEFA Team of the Year and twice the Serie A Footballer of the Year, Kaka won Serie A with Milan and La Liga with Real Madrid.

He spent the final three seasons of his career in Major League Soccer with Orlando City SC, and was magnificent. The 35-year-old scored 25 goals with 19 assists for the Lions.

West Brom 1-2 Manchester United: Red Devils hang on

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  • United back into second
  • Lukaku scores 10th PL goal of season
  • Baggies winless in 16

Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard scored first half goals and Manchester United held on to beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at the Hawthorns on Sunday.

Gareth Barry scored the Baggies’ lone goal, as Alan Pardew‘s men sit 19th and without a win since August.

United pulls three points ahead of Chelsea, and is 11 points back of Man City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

West Brom wasn’t intimidated by the task at hand, and James McClean was particularly lively as the Baggies tried to find an opener.

But United quickly settled into control through possession, albeit without any effective incisiveness.

That changed when Lukaku rose to deposit a trademark header beyond the reach of Ben Foster, converting Marcus Rashford‘s cross with power.

After a moment of danger provided by Allan Nyom and Salomon Rondon, United made it 2-0 when Lingard took a lay-off from Juan Mata and hit a shot that Ahmed Hegazi deflected past Foster.

Jake Livermore forced David De Gea into a low save in the 44th minute.

 

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The Baggies pulled one back as both Evans and Barry could’ve tapped in a loose ball off a corner kick.

Barry did, and United was on its heels. Credit Alan Pardew for his substitutes of Barry, Chris Brunt, and Jay Rodriguez (though they were, after all, on the bench).

Rodriguez powered a header off Brunt’s cross wide of the near post with about five minutes to play.

And a scramble in front nearly put the Baggies level, but De Gea was there. The keeper was kicked by Ahmed Hegazi and came up smarting.