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Running diary of Sunil Gulati’s conference call

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Hello! You’re on the precipice of some of the biggest decisions in United States men’s national team history.

Bruce Arena failed in his bid to earn the United States a place in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and stepped down on Friday.

Now, in the midst of a mass of supporters begging for more upheaval, president Sunil Gulati is answering questions from the media in a Friday morning conference call.

[ MORE: Cameron’s USMNT omission explained ]

We’ll be laying out the play-by-play of this intriguing call here. Stay tuned, and refresh.

11:25 a.m. ET — The call is slated by 11:30 a.m., and the calming piano hold music is surely not the tenor of this conversation. We’ll let you know if it changes to “Hell’s Bells.”

11:32 a.m. ET — Before taking questions, Gulati makes opening statement. “The end of the qualifying campaign was disappointment to all of us. It’s a shock to the system.”

They full expected to qualify, and Gulati thanks Bruce Arena for what he’s done in the history of U.S. Soccer from college to pro to international soccer.

“It saddens me at a personal level that it ended the way it did Tuesday.”

There will be at least two games in November, the first in Europe and the second likely in Europe. Will announce coach in the next 7-10 days.

“We’re going to look into everything we do on the men’s side and women’s side,” something they do all the time. Says it will be a “deeper dive” and include pay-to-play, college, and more.

11:35 a.m. ET – Question – “Why has the player pool quality spiraled down?”

Gulati, “I wouldn’t identify reason or say the pipeline has dried up.” Mentions Matt Miazga, Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and says the Olympic failures hurt them.

“Not going to prejudge that. We’re going to look at everything.”

11:36 a.m. ET – Gulati says he doesn’t plan to resign, takes full responsibility for the World Cup qualifying failure, and it’s “not the right day to say” whether he’ll run for a fourth presidential term in February.

11:38 a.m. ET – Question: “Why will you maybe run again?”

Gulati says just as you can’t judge Bruce Arena’s career on this failure, you can’t judge him on this point. He also says voting delegates can help make that decision (Sounds like he’ll run).

11:39 a.m. ET – Doesn’t say the November coach will be strictly interim, but says they will take their time in naming a coach.

11:40 a.m. ET – He’ll announce whether he’ll run in the “coming weeks.”

11:41 a.m. ET – “Who will choose interim coach, and who will be involved in choosing next permanent coach?”

Gulati – In the end it’s my decision, but we have committees that undertake the process. Three or four people will be involve in “much easier” November decision. May be a change in process, but was never a singular decision on men’s or women’s side.

11:42 a.m. ET – “When people point out that second cycle coaches after the World Cup haven’t done as well traditionally as the first time, it’s a very small sample and it’s a biased sample.”

Says this is because people who have been rehired have done well, so hard to improve. Doesn’t know that “there is a definitive pattern.”

“If you look at Bruce’s record, it’s two cycles plus. Every World Cup run we’ve had since 1990, with the exception of 1998, the margin has been especially narrow.”

11:45 a.m. ET – Question: “Any specific issues when it comes to player development you can point to?” and “Will MLS be involved in whatever changes you are looking at?”

Gulati: “We have far more resources now than we’ll ever had… one because US Soccer has more resources and two because MLS has more resources. MLS and our other professional leagues will certainly be involved. … All of the things that we all talk about, the pay-to-play model, inner city soccer, we’re going to look at all of that.”

Says they will try to get outside expertise as well.

11:47 a.m. ET – On whether MLS has improved CONCACAF rivals too much.

Gulati – It’s good for them, and us, because the competition is better.

“I don’t think there’s any rationale in trying to limit that or prohibit that. Having top players in France in the Premier League helps, but the Premier League would never limit that.”

Says MLS, US Soccer goals will never be 100 percent in sync. Has no doubt MLS has helped the USMNT.

11:50 a.m. ET – Gulati offended by question regarding his mandate to run U.S. Soccer. Mentions fan, independent, player involvement better than other governing bodies. Say the U.S. Soccer mechanism is the best out there.

11:51 a.m. ET – Questions: Is there a profile for a coach in mind? and Are November friendlies set up before or after World Cup failure.

Gulati – No profile, just improve performance and technical skills. … Multiple contingencies based on whether they advanced to World Cup, needed a playoff, or failed.

11:53 a.m. ET – Does this loss give needed push vis-a-vis pay-to-play, other community initiatives.

“It doesn’t happen in most countries that players pay nothing. We need to make sure players are prohibited” from playing based on money. “As things become more expensive, where there’s a roadblock, you’d like to do something about it.”

“Need to find right solutions, what will work” in terms of player development in inner cities, facilities, etc.

Will help overcome political hurdles “because people will see urgency.”

11:56 a.m. ET – Should Gulati’s job be a paying gig to encourage interest?

Gulati – We’re looking at it, and have been reviewing it for some time.

11:57 a.m. ET – Any signs Tuesday that things weren’t well.

Gulati – “Any time you’re playing a do-or-die game, you’re nervous about it. It’s the first time since 1989 that we came down to the last game. In the end we didn’t get it done but no premonition about that.”

11:59 a.m. ET – Question: Technical director role status. Coming back? Separate from head coach? And how busy will USMNT be with long break from meaningful games.

Gulati – “Ideally we’d like to have a technical director. Most of that role (post-Klinsmann) has been filled by Tab Ramos. … We do see two distinct roles if we can find the right people. That role is a very unique and specific role, and harder to fill than national team role.”

“In terms of activity in 2018, we’ll have a full program of games and I expect us to play on all FIFA dates, including dates with teams going to the World Cup or not.”

12:01 p.m. ET – On the nomination process for U.S. Soccer president.

Gulati –  “Up until a year ago, or 20 months ago, we changed our nomination rules to have nominations come long before the annual meeting. The primary reason was to be able to have background checks. Nominations are due I think two months before the election (in February).

“We have probably 120 different member associations that can nominate people, and you need three nominations to be eligible. I don’t think that will preclude anyone.”

Admits he has reached out to people about nominating or endorsing him.

12:03 p.m. ET – Can you understand the point of view of people who think he shouldn’t have his job?

Gulati – “Sure. I can understand the frustration. Sure.”

12:08 p.m. ET – Why do you feel you’re the right guy for this job, given what happened?

Gulati – “Because of where the sport is now, and the role I played in it, plus where it can go if I choose to run.”

12:09 p.m. ET – What do you say to fans who are really upset, and calling for change?

Gulati – “All of us involved in the game are also passionate about the team, and are extraordinarily disappointed in every single way. None of us is happy about not going. This reconfirmed the passion and support of the team has grown tremendously.”

12:10 p.m. ET – That’s all she wrote. Many people not called upon for questions (including me, to be honest). Lot of softballs, to be painfully honest.

Ex-FIFA official Jack Warner says USMNT loss “happiest day of my life”

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It’s evident that many people within CONCACAF don’t have a strong relationship with United States and its national team.

Count Jack Warner as one of those people.

[ MORE: Growing sense of entitlement in U.S. soccer culture must stop ]

The former FIFA executive and vice president of CONCACAF, who was arrested in 2015 on corruption and fraud charges by U.S. federal prosecutors, has made his opinion quite clear regarding the USMNT’s exclusion from next summer’s World Cup.

Hint: he’s from Trinidad & Tobago.

“I have not been in better spirits. This is the happiest day of my life”, Warner told the Trinidad Express. “It (the win) couldn’t have given me great joy.”

Warner — who is clearly still bitter about he and others within the ranks of FIFA being brought up on charges — didn’t mince words about his feelings on the U.S.

“They have used their Government to help to dismember FIFA in a way that is unimaginable. And last night on the field of play Trinidad and Tobago reduced them to their knees” he said.

[ MORE: Which managers should replace Arena with USMNT? ]

As far as the former executive is concerned, it “is the beginning of the end for U.S. football.”

“They will continue to undermine (the World Cup in) Qatar for 2022, but they will not succeed. As far as I am concerned this is the beginning of the end for U.S. football”, he said. “Nobody in CONCACAF likes the US.”

US Soccer community reacts to not making 2018 World Cup

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For the first time in 32 years the U.S. national team have not qualified for the World Cup.

Let that sink in. It will take a while.

[ MORE: Where did it all go wrong? ]

Prominent figures in the U.S. Soccer realm reacted to the USA’s shocking 2-1 defeat at CONCACAF minnows Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday which cost them a spot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

With the U.S. needing just a point to make the World Cup they lost to a T&T side who had absolutely nothing to play for as they were already guaranteed to finish bottom of the CONCACAF standings.

[ MORE: 3 things | Player ratings ] 

Coupled with wins for Panama and Honduras against Costa Rica and Mexico respectively, the U.S. crashed out at the final hurdle and didn’t even clinch a playoff spot.


 

VIDEO: Panama ball boy goes viral; national holiday declared

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Panama reached the World Cup for the first time in history on Tuesday night thanks to a late winning goal, and a little help from one ball boy…

[ MORE: Where did it go wrong for USA? ]

With Panama leading Costa Rica 2-1 late on, the fans in Panama City were going wild as they aimed to help push their team over the line. One ball boy went above and beyond his duty.

Check out the video below for plenty of laughter. With the ball dribbling out of play for a Costa Rica throw-in deep in Panama’s own half, a ball boy came from nowhere to punt the ball away and waste some valuable time which allowed the defenders to get back in shape.

If we weren’t all wallowing in the shocking defeat for the U.S. national team last night, then I promise you this would be even funnier than it already is.

Also, the president of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, declared a national holiday on Wednesday after Panama reached the World Cup finals.

Incredible.

 

Where did it go wrong? USMNT’s disastrous qualifying campaign

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This is not a nightmare. It happened.

[ MORE: USA fail to make 2018 World Cup ]

With the postmortem ongoing as the U.S. men’s national team failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 32 years, in order to understand the USMNTs demise it is helpful to reflect on a excruciatingly bad qualifying campaign rather than just the embarrassing defeat at Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday which acted as the final nail in the USA’s coffin.

[ MORE: 3 things | Player ratings ] 

Below is a look at all 10 World Cup qualifiers as the U.S. won just three games from their 10 matches in the Hex and lost to Costa Rica (twice), Mexico and T&T.


Game 1: USA 1-2 Mexico (November 11, 2016)

A late Rafael Marquez goal handed El Tri victory in Columbus, Ohio as the U.S. fought back well after Miguel Layun’s opener. Bobby Wood made it 1-1 and it felt like Jurgen Klinsmann’s side would push on and grab another win against Mexico in Columbus. Slack defending, which would become a theme of the next 12 months, then struck as Marquez nodded home.


Game 2: Costa Rica 4-0 USA (November 15, 2016)

The game which ended Klinsmann’s reign. Several U.S. players simply threw the towel in as Costa Rica ran riot in San Jose. Johan Venegas’ goal right on half time tipped the game in Los Ticos’ favor and goals from Christian Bolanos and a brace from Joel Campbell in a devastating 10-minute spell meant the end for Klinsmann. Now we can think about it more, was Klinsi sacked too early?


Game 3: USA 6-0 Honduras (March 24, 2017)

Bruce Arena’s first World Cup qualifying game in charge was a huge success. Clint Dempsey scored a hat trick, Christian Pulisic scored and starred as the U.S. led 4-0 at half time. Little did we know this was as good as it was going to get for the USMNT.


Game 4: Panama 1-1 USA (March 28, 2017)

After fine work from Pulisic, Dempsey put the U.S. ahead in Panama but four minutes later Gabriel Gomez made it 1-1 and the U.S. held on for a point. On the scale of things, not a bad result away from home in a hostile stadium but just winning one of these close draws would’ve been the difference between the U.S. making the World Cup and not.


Game 5: USA 2-0 Trinidad & Tobago (June 8, 2017)

Pulisic led the team as he scored twice and the U.S. easily dispatched T&T in Colorado. At this point, it seemed like the U.S. would cruise through CONCACAF qualifying and easily finish third, at the very worst.


Game 6: Mexico 1-1 USA (June 11, 2017)

Bruce Arena mad multiple changes to his starting lineup and it worked at the Estadio Azteca. Michael Bradley’s incredible chip put the USMNT ahead early on but Carlos Vela equalized in the first half. Mexico battered the U.S. for large swathes of this game and Bradley spanked another fine effort just wide, while Hector Herrera’s fabulous free kick stuck the bar. A pulsating clash and Arena was lauded a tactical genius.


Game 7: USA 0-2 Costa Rica (September 1, 2017)

This is when things really started to unravel. A poor defensive display allowed Costa Rica’s Marco Urena to score in each half at Red Bull Arena and the U.S. were suddenly in a perilous situation in World Cup qualifying. The pressure was building.


Game 8: Honduras 1-1 USA (September 5, 2017)

Somehow (don’t ask me how) the U.S. escaped San Pedro Sula with a point. Bobby Wood’s late equalizer looked to have given the USMNT a qualifying lifeline after they were dominated and another shaky defensive display saw them fall behind early on thanks to Romell Quioto’s curler. Then Wood popped up to spare the U.S. blushes and help them go into the final two qualifying games with destiny in their own hands.


Game 9: USA 4-0 Panama (October 6, 2017)

Christian Pulisic scored and assisted early on, Jozy Altidore scored twice and Bobby Wood finished things off with the U.S. totally dominating a stunned Panama side. This seemed like the win which had punched the USA’s ticket to the World Cup as they now only needed a draw in their final game at T&T to make the tournament…


Game 10: Trinidad & Tobago 2-1 USA (October 10, 2017)

This was it. The scenario for the U.S. was simple: beat T&T, the whipping boys of the Hex, and you qualify for the World Cup. Heck, even a draw would virtually guarantee qualification in CONCACAF’s final automatic berth. The U.S. were 2-0 down after 37 minutes in the Ato Boldon Stadium with Omar Gonzalez shanking a clearance into his own net and Alvin Jones spanking home a beauty. Christian Pulisic scored early in the second half to give the U.S. hope and combined with