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Yedlin: USA’s goal must be to win the World Cup

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NEWCASTLE — Wearing a lively floral tracksuit in the height of winter in England’s chilly North East, DeAndre Yedlin is obviously a man who expresses himself freely.

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Yedlin, 24, had already laughed off banter from his teammates about his Dolce & Gabbana gear from Milan as he sat down to talk exclusively with Pro Soccer Talk at Newcastle United’s snowy training ground ahead of their clash with Manchester United on Sunday (Watch live, 9:15 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com) at St James’ Park.

Thousands of miles away from his hometown of Seattle and the United States of America, the U.S. national team right back admitted he is still smarting from their shocking failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

That said, when asked what the USMNT’s aim should be in the next decade, a period where he is expected to be a leader on the pitch with 49 caps already to his name, Yedlin was bullish about how the U.S. can bounce back from the biggest disappointment of all.

“For me, I want to win the World Cup. If that’s not the goal then I don’t think you should be playing,” Yedlin said. “A lot of people will say that isn’t realistic but for me, I will say ‘why?’ Why isn’t that realistic? Leicester City won the Premier League and nobody thought that could happen but it did. If that’s [winning the World Cup] not the ultimate goal then I think we should reevaluate things.”

Wow. Yedlin believes it when he says that the U.S. should be challenging for glory in Qatar in 2022 and potentially on home soil in 2026.

For a player who in the space of four years has risen from the Seattle Sounders academy to an MLS star (via two years at the University of Akron) and then on to Tottenham Hotspur before a loan spell at Sunderland in the Premier League and eventually spending the last 18 months at Newcastle, he is in a hurry to get the USMNT back on track.

Talking about the pain of the defeat at Trinidad & Tobago back in October 2017 which led to the U.S. failing to make the World Cup for the first time since 1986, Yedlin believes good can come from this and a talented young group can turn it into a positive as they focus on the 2022 World Cup.

“100 percent. I wouldn’t call it a blessing in disguise but I think now, especially the guys that have come through it, now we feel what disappointment is like, not making the World Cup,” Yedlin explained. “Now there is going to be an extra gear that is hit to make sure we make the next one but not only make it but do well in it. Nobody wants to feel this way again. It gives us extra motivation but it shouldn’t come to the point where you need to feel that. But that’s what it is and hopefully it helps us.”

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With question marks about the experienced USMNT core of Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and others carrying on for the next four-year World Cup cycle, Yedlin feels like now is a good natural time for the promising young talents of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams et al. to be given their chance to shine for the Stars and Stripes.

“I think so and I think those guys realize it as well,” Yedlin admitted. “Every international career is going to come to an end you’re going to pass it down to the younger generation. Every career comes to that point. I think they are happy with doing that and they know we have some talented players coming in.”

Given the debates around the current U.S. Soccer Federation presidential election and plenty of questions asked about how U.S. Soccer not only develops, but finds the next crop of talented players in the future, does Yedlin, a player who came through both the MLS academy and college systems, believe there is a problem with talent identification?

“I do think players are slipping through the net,” Yedlin said. “It is a situation where we do need to reach out to some of the communities that maybe historically haven’t been as interested in soccer or some of the poorer communities because I think there are kids slipping though the net. Just like there will be in any sport or in any country. I realize it is hard because the USA is such a big country. In that same sense there are that many more kids who could be the next ones who help us reach a World Cup final. You know? I think as big as a country America is, we should start trying to become a powerhouse in this sport.”

What about his own career as he helps Newcastle battle relegation from the Premier League with 12 games to go, aided by their incredible support?

Under Rafael Benitez he’s flourished as a title winner in England’s second-tier last season and a regular in the Premier League for the Magpies this season, and he believes playing for a coach lauded for his defensive techniques has helped his game massively.

“It is based on what the coach likes and prefers but I think defensively I’ve just gotten a better understanding of when to go, when to stay, how aggressive to be and realizing what is around me,” Yedlin said after he had talked Pro Soccer Talk through, on a tactics board, when to step to engage a winger and when to drop and hold your defensive shape. “It’s the whole understanding of the game which has become better and that comes with maturity and experience.”

Jurgen Klinsmann was the man who gave Yedlin his chance with the USMNT and brought him to the 2014 World Cup amid much fanfare and then helped push him to Europe afterwards. Yedlin praised Klinsmann for “getting him to where he is today” but understood why he was fired after the poor set of results at the start of 2018 World Cup qualifying which weren’t all his fault because “the name of the game” is the coach getting fired even though he “can’t press a button and make all the players play well during a game.”

Yedlin revealed he hasn’t thought too much about who the next permanent USMNT coach would be, and when asked if Caleb Porter, his former coach at Akron, would be a good fit, he was positive about such an appointment.

“It’s not something I’ve thought a lot about but I’ve had Caleb [as a coach] before and I’d definitely be happy with that, but whoever it is I am sure will be a good fit,” Yedlin added.

One of just three Americans playing regularly in the Premier League (Danny Williams of Huddersfield and Geoff Cameron of Stoke City being the others) Yedlin isn’t looking too far ahead and revealed he is a serial short term goal-setter.

“I have to make a list of a bunch of different things. There is not one thing. I make a lot of lists,” Yedlin smiled. “Every three months I reevaluate my goals and see how I did. They are short term targets and build season to season.”

His ultimate goal to win the World Cup during his time with the USA is a lofty one, and at least four years off, but Yedlin, like his tracksuit, is bold and aims to be a leading light in the USMNT’s shot at redemption.

NASL launches new suit against U.S. Soccer board

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The North American Soccer League continues to decry corruption from the United States Soccer Federation, putting more pressure on the federation’s establishment ahead of a massive presidential election next week.

The NASL announced a lawsuit against the USSF board members on Tuesday in a blazing 69-page document, accusing the board of a “breach of the directors’ fiduciary duties to the USSF’s members.” It flies in similar circles as Hope Solo’s brazen weekend complaint.

The lawsuit also demands that U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, MLS commissioner Don Garber, and “any additional Defendants identified during fact discovery” cannot be reimbursed by the USSF for damages or defense costs.

Saying the directors “have abused their positions as governors and stewards” for the development of soccer in the U.S. by protecting the interests of Major League Soccer, the United Soccer League, and Soccer United Marketing.

The league also asserts that the USSF board has consistently interfered with the NASL’s business practices, allowing the USL to operate as a D-II league under a plan to one day reach a D-II standard while refusing the same to NASL.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson’s cheeky Bremen goal ]

It also claims that the vote on divisional sanctioning had a “preordained” result and hurriedly organized by Gulati without proper information for the board members and without all members at the meeting.

The suit tears into the much-maligned MLS-SUM relationship.

“Notably, the Board has allowed SUM to use the USSF’s most valuable assets — rights in the FIFA World Cup and U.S. national teams’ television broadcasts and ticket sales — to enrich and empower MLS to the competitive disadvantage of rival leagues, as well as depriving other USSF member groups of potential funding.”

All but one board member, John Paul Motta, was named in the suit: Gulati, Garber, presidential candidate Carlos Cordeiro, and USMNT legend Carlos Bocanegra are the names most know, while Stephen Malik, John Collins, Donna Shalala, Valerie Ackerman, Daniel Flynn, Lisa Carnoy, Richard Moeller, Jesse Harrell, Timothy Turney, Christopher Ahrens, and Angela Hucles are less familiar.

Exhale.

The league, which had stood as U.S. Soccer’s lone second-tier organization for some time, has been battling the USSF since the federation took away its Division II status.

What’s wild about the entire ordeal is that the public’s interest has certainly paid extra attention to the NASL’s concerns since Bruce Arena and the USMNT bombed out of World Cup qualifying. The federation has little momentum — but plenty of influence and money — to fight back, and relatively small stories like complaints about the bizarre and unorthodox MLS transfer system have become big anchors for those seeking change in the federation (In this vein, we imagine Gulati and the federation might be agreeing with Geoff Cameron’s vibes right about now).

Stoke hopes $20m Ndiaye cures what ails them

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Stoke City completed what could be a season-saving pickup with the addition of Senegalese international Badou Ndiaye on Wednesday.

[ MORE: JPW grades every PL club ]

The $20 million price tag means only Giannelli Imbula has cost Stoke more money in the market.

Ndiaye, 27, comes from Galatasaray and is 14-times capped by Senegal with a goal. In a certain light, his success would make amends for what failed to materialize with the promising Imbula signing.

He led Gala in tackles and fouls per match. Here’s Paul Lambert‘s take on his new midfielder, from the Stoke Sentinel:

“I met him yesterday and had a quick chat and I know these things are pretty prolonged at times and I’m never sure until somebody says. I’m delighted he’s here.

“He’s going to the World Cup with Senegal. He’s a really good player which good energy for the game. Big crowds won’t faze him because he’s played in big grounds in Europe.

January addition Moritz Bauer has already started to stabilize the Potters’ back line with Kurt Zouma and Geoff Cameron, and Ndiaye could step up the middle of the park with Joe Allen.

Geoff Cameron, Bruce Arena with dueling USMNT comments

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While Stoke City was sorting out who’d be coming to town on transfer Deadline Day, one of its players was on the offensive regarding the most infamous night in his national team’s history.

[ MORE: JPW grades every PL club ]

Geoff Cameron spared no blushes in a feature piece by the New York Time’s Marc Stein that was released Wednesday and details his career and the United States men’s national team’s dismissal from World Cup qualifying with the accomplished 32-year-old on the bench.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that, if Jurgen Klinsmann was still our head coach, we would have qualified for the World Cup. … I’m convinced if they would have kept Jurgen and not done such a drastic change, I think we would have qualified. I know we would have qualified. Instead we’ve gone backward.”

(Me, too, Geoff. Me, too, but that’s also because a coach and players would have to almost purposely screw up the Hex to miss out. Bruce Arena sure played his part).

Cameron said Arena told him before the United States’ last two matches of the Hex that he would not be starting the matches because of fitness concerns. Cameron was perplexed; He had just played 90 minutes for Stoke in the Premier League.

“But I would have more respect for a coach to say: ‘You know what, Geoff? I don’t fancy you today. I think this is a better lineup.’ I’d say: ‘O.K., no problem, you told me the truth.’ But if you tell me I’m not fit enough, that’s like an insult to me as a professional.”

Stein, being the fine reporter that he is, got Arena’s response to Cameron’s shots. Arena continued to display that he is not good at the quotes and stuff.

“Could Geoff have been in the starting lineup that day? Yes. But the problem with Geoff throughout 2017, at club and national-team level, was inconsistency and some injuries. … Geoff started five games starting in November 2016 through October 2017. Our record was 1-3-1 — that plays a role. I don’t think 2017 was that impressive of a performance for the player. When the stars and the moon and the sun are aligned properly, Geoff is a very good player. They don’t all align properly all the time.”

That’s a striking bit of ego, even for Arena. The “stars and moon and sun” line is a stunning bit of disrespect for a 55-times capped player with 163 Premier League matches under his belt.

More importantly, it’s wrong. The Yanks won two (Honduras home and T&T), drew two (Honduras and Mexico away), and lost to Costa Rica. That’s one loss in five. And going with the 1-3-1 when Arena’s entire career has been spent in a league that puts losses second seems worse (though we may be reading too far into it).

Premier League stars attend NBA game in London

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Premier League stars of now and years past graced London’s O2 Arena to catch a rare regular season NBA game outside of the U.S. and Canada.

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and former Blues midfielder Michael Ballack were all seen courtside, as well as Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Arsenal pair Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin. Even former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson enjoyed the game.

Stoke City’s American centerback Geoff Cameron also attended the game to see his hometown Boston Celtics face the Philadelphia 76ers, and he had a chat with our sister TV station in Boston.

Here’s a cool photo gallery of some of the Premier League’s best who were in attendance.