Brad Guzan

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Tim Melia wins MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in a landslide

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What was thought to be a close race for Major League Soccer’s top goalkeeper award turned out to be an overwhelming victory.

Sporting Kansas City’s Tim Melia took more than 50 percent of the combined media, club and player vote as he earned 2017 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors. The 31-year-old, in his best season as a professional to this point, set career highs in wins (12), shutouts (10), saves (91), minutes (2,759) and games started (31).

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While the Philadelphia Union’s Andre Blake and Seattle Sounders’ Stefan Frei each had superb seasons for their clubs, Melia was head and shoulders the best goalkeeper in the league this season, making saves in key times to help lead Sporting Kansas City to the MLS Cup playoffs and a U.S. Open Cup title.

Here’s a look below at how the voting panned out across all the nominees.

Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year Player Vote % Club Vote % Media Vote % Average %
Tim Melia (SKC) 46.12% 48.81% 55.95% 50.29%
Andre Blake (PHI) 15.51% 7.14% 7.74% 10.13%
Stefan Frei (SEA) 4.49% 7.14% 13.10% 8.24%
Alex Bono (TOR) 2.86% 5.95% 4.17% 4.33%
Sean Johnson (NYC) 2.86% 4.76% 5.36% 4.33%
Brad Guzan (ATL) 3.67% 2.38% 1.79% 2.61%

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.

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

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.

USMNT player ratings: Youth drives the bus

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Player ratings from the U.S. national team’s exhibition clash with Portugal, the reigning European champions, and the first game of a very long four years as the USMNT rebuilds from the ground up with two eyes toward the 2022 World Cup…

[ VIDEO: McKennie scores on his USMNT debut… and a Horvath howler ]

GK — Ethan Horvath: 3 — Hit the above link to see Horvath’s calamitous howler. That ain’t a great way to begin your bid to take over the no. 1 shirt from Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Subbed off at halftime, which was the plan before kickoff, hopefully Hovath’s confidence isn’t too badly damaged without the chance to redeem himself immediately.

RB — DeAndre Yedlin: 6 — The best thing that can be said of Yedlin is this: you know what you’re going to get from him every time he steps on the field these days, and that’s something you couldn’t always say of the 24-year-old. He’s a constant presence and performer, and should have the right back spot locked down for much of the next two World Cup cycles.

CB — Matt Miazga: 6.5 — The best part of Miazga’s game is how quickly he reads, and reacts to, dangerous situations. There’s no one in the player pool who defends on the front foot as much as Miazga. As such, he’ll always require a partner who’s a brilliant emergency defender, which is hardly the strength of John Brooks, given his size and lack of recovery speed.

CB — John Brooks: 6.5 — Seeing Brooks on the field after three months out with a thigh injury only served as a reminder that his presence might have made a massive difference last month — not that they shouldn’t have been able to qualify without him, mind you. According to recently departed head coach Bruce Arena, Brooks and Miazga could have very well been the starting duo in Russia; with any luck, the same will be true of Qatar in four years’ time.

LB — Eric Lichaj: 5.5 — While Lichaj is somehow, against all odds, still only 28 years old, he’ll be 32 years old when the next World Cup begins. If he’s called into the next two or three USMNT camps, we’ll take serious the possibility he’s an option in the medium- to short-term. Until then, he’s starting at left back simply because someone has to.

[ RECAP: USMNT draw Portugal in first game of 2022 WC cycle ]

CM — Danny Williams: 7 — With the leash cut all the way off of Weston McKennie and Kellyn Acosta ahead of him, Williams had but one job against Portugal: protect the backline when the youngsters’ press is broken. It happened on a few occasions, and Williams put out the majority of those fires. It’s a trio that lacks a true playmaker — the sexy factor, if you will — but proved highly functional for the 84 minutes they shared the field.

RM — Tyler Adams: 6 — Adams, uh, struggled in the first half (see passing chart, at right — that’s a whole lot of red arrows). He started the second half of his USMNT debut much brighter, though, as he got on the end of Danny Williams’ cross to the back post and forced Beto to make a spectacular, sprawling save. Adams is still a player with a “permanent position,” thus an important period of his development lies directly ahead. In 2017, we saw him play at least one game at all three levels wide on the right, in central midfield, and the based of the midfield.

CM — Weston McKennie: 8 — The 19-year-old Schalke midfielder 1) scored a goal on his debut; 2) smashed the crossbar with a header from close range; and, most importantly, 3) provided a bit of renewed excitement around the USMNT. McKennie and Acosta proved a formidable central midfield pairing, capable of pressing high up the field and pushing the tempo. Where they struggled, however, was in unlocking further advanced attackers into the final third. That will, in theory, come with time and repetition — two things the USMNT has in abundance over the next 18-30 months.

CM — Kellyn Acosta: 6.5 — Acosta and McKennie had very similar games to one another, with the obvious exception of McKennie’s goal and near-goal. Given that Acosta is three years McKennie’s senior, you’d have hoped to see a bit more connectivity from his side of the field. Alas, no such luck in this one.

LM — Juan Agudelo: 5.5 — The good: in his 59 minutes on the field, Agudelo misplaces just three passes. The bad: not a single one of his 15 completed passes was played in the forward direction (in fact, not a single one of his 18 attempted passes was played forward). He’s already a tough fit on the wing further forward; playing the 24-year-old (yes, really) even deeper seems an impossible exercise to assess.

[ MORE: Brooks-Miazga the center-back partnership of the future ]

FW — C.J. Sapong: 5.5 — With the midfield set up to create turnovers and chances on the counter, Sapong’s physical presence and accompanying hold-up play was hardly a perfect fit, but he made the most of his very limited opportunities.

Sub — Bill Hamid: 6 — Only forced to make two saves — both routine — in his 45 minutes on the field, Hamid managed to avoid hurting his stock.

Sub — Cameron Carter-Vickers: 5 — While Miazga’s strength is the speed with which he reads the game, the polar opposite must be said for Carter-Vickers, thus he’s not terribly suited to play alongside Miazga. Hopefully this isn’t the last time we see them play together.

U.S. players with most to gain in Portugal

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Attaching significant weight to the first friendly after a generation-punching defeat is a bit tricky, but the United States men’s national team Tuesday friendly against Portugal is an opportunity to bring some light to a dour fan base.

Not to mention the federation could use a fine “all’s not lost” 90 minutes or so following the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

[ MORE: Fekir to Arsenal? ]

For some players, it’s a last chance to make an improved impression on not Big Sam, not Big Sam, not Big Sam whoever might be thinking of leading this team in the future. For others, it’s an opportunity to state their claims to spot in the future while also getting some rare run in Europe, where scouts will certainly be checking out the brightest young Portuguese prospects as well.

Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town) — The 28-year-old center mid is getting regular run in the Premier League, and was criminally overlooked by Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann. While we can debate the merits of each staff’s wedding to Michael Bradley in the center of the park, there won’t be too much room for veterans in the young and promising center midfield pack moving forward.

And, in case you forgot, he’s not just a nasty tackling man:

The goalkeeper(s) — Bill Hamid (27 later this month) is the oldest of the bunch, but whoever earns the start for Dave Sarachan’s men has a chance and the opponent to demand a place in the team moving forward. While this could be the trio for some time aside from a Tim Howard testimonial or Brad Guzan renaissance, here’s a first chance to lay claim to the top spot.

Kelyn Rowe — Rowe had an outstanding Gold Cup, and Arena rewarded him by keeping him nowhere near the squad for the rest of his second tenure as USMNT bench boss. It’s not apple to apple, Rowe gets a look over Nagbe here, and has proven over time to be better at crossing and is dispossessed less. The diminutive 25-year-old is also one of the good guys off the field, and worthy of the chance.

Juan Agudelo — Rowe’s New England teammate is still just 24, but has wasted so many chances to become a big part of the USMNT. Sixteen of his 26 caps came before he turned 20. Here’s his timeline with the USMNT:

Nov. 2010 – Oct. 2011 — 16 caps, 2 goals, assist
Nov. 2011 – Oct. 2012 — No caps
Nov. 2012 – Jan. 2013 – 2 caps, 53 minutes, assist
Feb. 2013 – March 2015 – 1 cap, five minutes
April 2015 – June 2015 – 2 caps, assist
July 2015 – Oct. 2016 – No caps
Oct. 2016 – Feb. 2017 – 3 caps
March 2017 – June 2017 – No caps
July 2017 – Sept. 2017 – 3 caps
Sept. 2017 – present – No caps

At some point, the caps stop coming.

Three thoughts on USMNT roster vs. Portugal

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The U.S. national team will close out a disappointing 2017 by playing against Portugal next Tuesday, Nov. 14, in Leiria.

[ MORE: Full USMNT squad, here ]

Interim boss Dave Sarachan named plenty of youngsters (12 players under the age of 24, to be exact) in his 21-man squad for the friendly, with four teenagers included and plenty of players given a second chance to impress after being overlooked by Bruce Arena in the past 12 months.

Here are my thoughts on the roster for the final game of the year for the USMNT and what impact it may have as the U.S. is still reeling from failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.


1. Youth movement takes center stage

If you’re going to play the kids, you might as well do it now. Everyone connected with U.S. Soccer needs a boost right now and showing that there’s a bright future with a talented young crop coming through should do the trick.

[ MORE: McKennie speaks to Mendola ]

Portugal do not have their first-choice lineup for this game with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Jose Fonte, Rui Patricio and William Carvalho all left out. This is the perfect time to start Weston McKennie, Ethan Horvath, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Tyler Adams to see if they’re capable of making the step up. I’d start as many youngsters as possible. What have the U.S. got to lose?

Of the four teenagers, McKennie is playing regularly in the Bundesliga at a huge club, Adams has had a fine season for New York Red Bulls and the U.S. youth team, CCV is a regular for a Sheffield United side chasing promotion to the Premier League and Sargent deserves his chance after starring for both the U-17 and U-20 teams and getting a move to Werder Bremen. Is Sargent going to start ahead of Jozy Altidore anytime soon in the big U.S. games? Probably not. But until you try him (dare I say that chucking in another young 17-year-old, Mr Pulisic, worked out pretty well…) you won’t know what he’s capable of.

If you don’t play the kids in this game, especially the European based crew, when the heck are you going to?


2. Suggested lineup vs. Portugal

—– Horvath —–

— Yedlin — Brooks — Carter-Vickers — Villafana —

—- McKennie —- Williams —- Acosta —- Adams —- Gooch —-

 —- Sargent —- 

I’d like to see a return to a solid 4-5-1 which becomes a 4-3-3 going forward. It’s all a bit fake with Sarachan only in charge for one game and the strange scenario of Arena’s old coaching staff all still in place, but a new manager for the U.S. can do a lot worse than getting back to a hard-nosed defensive system which allows the likes of Christian Pulisic to float free in the attacking third (a la Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan in years gone by) when the U.S. has the ball.

Club Brugge goalkeeper Ethan Horvath has impressed me whenever I’ve seem him play, so I’d give him the nod in net, while Bill Hamid may be the long-term challenger to Brad Guzan for the No.1 jersey after his recent move to Europe but Gonzalez is also worth a go. Simply put, as always, the USMNT have plenty of goalkeeping options. DeAndre Yedlin will be the long-time right back for the U.S. so you might as well play him, while Jorge Villafana is probably on one of his last chances with the USMNT after several shaky displays.

Carter-Vickers and Miazga starting together may be a little too much right away but you could even play a 3-5-2 formation with Brooks, Miazga and CCV as the center backs. McKennie and Gooch will put in great shifts out wide and are comfortable on the ball, while Danny Williams, Adams and Kellyn Acosta have a perfect combo of power, trickery and passing ability. Up top, why not start Sargent? We know what Dom Dwyer, CJ Sapong and Juan Agudelo can do, so the youngster deserves a chance to start and has shown his predatory instincts around the box for the youth national teams.


3. Experienced players can reclaim starting spots

Danny Williams, Alejandro Bedoya and Eric Lichaj will all be aiming to prove they deserve to be starters for the USMNT moving forward as they are among a handful of more experienced players in this squad.

[ MORE: Williams sits down with JPW ]

Williams, 28, has perhaps been one of the most missed players in recent months, first under Jurgen Klinsmann and then he was totally blanked by Arena. The German-American midfielder has become a starter for Huddersfield Town in the Premier League this season and played a pivotal role in their recent defeat of Manchester United. His mixture of athleticism, guile and ability to make surging runs forward from midfield would’ve helped the U.S. out massively over the past 6-12 months. He has worked extremely hard to get back into the fold and deserves to stick around.

Bedoya, 30, played 11 minutes across the USA’s two key World Cup qualifiers last month and the Philadelphia Union man will want to prove he still has plenty left in the tank for the USMNT. He could play in a new-look central midfield with Williams and Acosta but will he get in the team ahead of Michael Bradley when he’s available again in 2018 after the conclusion of the MLS Cup playoffs? A strong display against Portugal will be key to securing his long-term future for the USMNT.

Lichaj, 28, has been in and out of squads under Klinsmann and Arena but the Nottingham Forest full back is reliable and versatile. He should be in every U.S. squad due to that fact that he can play both right and left back, and at a stretch he can play in midfield too. Lichaj is also in great form and was named Man of the Match on multiple occasions for Forest last month.

The likes of Bradley, Altidore, Geoff Cameron, Dempsey, Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, Pulisic and Guzan will all likely be available in 2018 but aside from that experience core, over 15 places are now totally up for grabs following the humiliation of failing to qualify for the World Cup in Russia next summer.