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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.

Portugal 1-1 USMNT: New era begins

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  • USMNT returns after World Cup debacle
  • McKennie, CCV, Adams earn 1st caps
  • McKennie scores from Sapong assist

Weston McKennie’s goal on debut was the highlight of a disjointed but encouraging 1-1 draw for the United states men’s national team in Portugal on Tuesday.

The match was the United States’ first since its historic loss in Trinidad and Tobago last month, and interim boss Dave Sarachan oversaw a young and spirited effort.

Vitorino Antunes leveled for the Portuguese before halftime, a significant error from American backstop Ethan Horvath.

[ WATCH: McKennie goal, Horvath howler ]

CJ Sapong and Kellyn Acosta took early attempts for the U.S., and Portugal was forced into a 10th minute sub when Pepe was injured.

The first 10 minutes were understandably frantic with two clubs with any fine tuning together, and Eric Lichaj bailed out an indecisive Ethan Horvath in the early goings.

DeAndre Yedlin had a few shaky moments at right back thanks to RB Leipzig forward Bruma.

[ MORE: 3 things | Player ratings ]

The Yanks had a promising move flutter when Tyler Adams couldn’t get full muster on a cut back from CJ Sapong. Beto made the save.

That’s when the Americans went ahead following a center circle interception by Acosta. Sapong raced down the left and side-footed a pass for McKennie, who worked a defender before beating Beto to the near post. Slick stuff.

[ RELATED: PST talks with McKennie ]

Horvath had been inactive before a massive error in the 31st minute. A knuckling shot dipped between his legs and trickled past John Brooks’ sliding clearance. 1-1.

The keeper made a nice collection of a Bruno Fernandes blast in the 35th minute, as this attempt didn’t dip enough. And he’d be called on for another save off a bad giveaway in the 39th.

Brooks hammered a header into the goal off a Kellyn Acosta set piece, but a foul on Miazga pulled the marker off the board before it got there.

Subs at the break: Bill Hamid for Horvath, and Cameron Carter-Vickers for Brooks. Portugal inserted Joao Mario for Fernandes.

Williams’ left-footed cross deflected to Adams, whose header saw a terrific save by Beto.

The ensuing corner saw McKennie head off the bar, and the rebound was cleared before Miazga could attempt a follow-up.

It was still 1-1 in the 59th minute, when Lynden Gooch and Jorge Villafana entered the fray for an ineffective Juan Agudelo and solid Eric Lichaj.

Man City’s Bernardo Silva stripped McKennie in a dangerous place to force Hamid into a fingertip save on Gonçalo Paciência, and Portugal couldn’t convert on the ensuing corner kick.

Carter-Vickers almost maneuvered a free kick home in the 72nd minute, but Beto’s karate kick save led to another corner.

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.

Youngsters named in USMNT squad for Portugal friendly

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The U.S. national team squad for their friendly at Portugal on Nov. 14 has been announced.

The USA’s first game since their shocking failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup should be an intriguing watch as stars of the future get a chance to shine.

[ MORE: McKennie speaks to Mendola ]

As expected interim boss Dave Sarachan has named a youth heavy squad with five players named in the 21-man squad who have yet to win a cap for the USMNT.

Goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, midfielders Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie and forward Josh Sargent are all looking to make their first appearance for the Stars and Stripes.

There are also recalls for Wolfsburg’s John Brooks (who was previously out injured), Lynden Gooch from Sunderland, CJ Sapong from the Philadelphia Union, Huddersfield Town’s Danny Williams and Orlando City’s Dom Dwyer.

“The one word that I would use in reference to all of this is opportunity,” Sarachan said. “It’s an opportunity for many players who haven’t been in the picture that we feel have a bright future with the National Team to get to measure themselves in a game against a quality opponent. It’s an opportunity for our National Team to finish out 2017 in a positive way. It’s also just an opportunity to move on. As much as we’re still gutted from how things turned out with qualifying, we have to look ahead and finish out the year the right way.”

Over half of the 21-man squad are under the age of 24, while the vast majority ply their trade in Europe with the likes of Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore still in MLS Cup playoff action for their respective clubs.

McKennie, 19, has become a regular in Schalke’s squad in the Bundesliga and is an exciting midfield prospect, while Adams has been a standout performer for the New York Red Bulls in midfield and defense this season.

Below is the squad in full for the USA’s final game of a disappointing 2017 as they face a second-string Portugal side in Leiria.


USMNT squad vs. Portugal

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas; 0/0), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 3/0), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 1/0)

DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 32/3), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Sheffield United/ENG; 0/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 13/1), Matt Miazga (Vitesse/NED; 3/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 26/1), Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna/MEX; 14/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 48/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 16/1), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 65/2), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland/ENG; 2/0), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 0/0), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution; 3/1), Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town/ENG; 22/2)

FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 26/3), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC; 3/2), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union; 2/0), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher; 0/0)

What could USMNT look like for November friendlies?

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Bruce Arena is out, and the United States men’s national team could look very different the next time a ball is kicked by the men in red, white, and blue.

Tab Ramos is expected to take over on an interim basis, or at least be the prime candidate, before the Yanks play November friendlies in Europe next month (President Sunil Gulati said one is confirmed, and the second should be overseas).

[ VIDEO: Jermaine Jones’ fiery USMNT diatribe ]

Those will be the first of many friendlies, as the U.S. is not scheduled to play serious competitions until the Copa America and Gold Cup in the Summer of 2019. That’s what happens when you miss a World Cup, something that American soccer hasn’t experienced since the mid-1980s.

The U.S. could assemble a summer tournament this summer, but the twin tourneys in 2019 mean it has plenty of time to experiment seriously in search of a huge depth pool needed for a wild couple months.

That Gold Cup will be an important ask of the team’s depth, too, and it will be interesting to see how a new manager prioritizes his roster considering a title is needed to clinch a place in the 2021 Confederations Cup and avoid another CONCACAF Cup playoff.

Considering the wealth of promising domestic and overseas U-20 prospects and the fact that the United States has used more than 75 players in recent history, just about anything is possible for Ramos (or whoever takes over).

November’s call-ups are especially tricky. For one thing, they are in Europe and could be against very good competition as sides angle for form before the World Cup. Expect it to be heavily-based in overseas players and a sprinkling of MLS players who have been eliminated from the postseason.

The second legs of the MLS Conference semifinals will be held Nov. 5, one day before the international break. While we suppose Toronto FC leaders Michael Bradley or Jozy Altidore could set some sort of standard by demanding to be part of the phoenix rising from these disastrous Hex ashes, but it’s almost certain the following USMNT mainstays will have played in those Nov. 5 matches and will not be heading to Europe: Bradley, Altidore, Matt Besler, and Graham Zusi. Based on current seeding, the Americans will also be without Clint Dempsey, Dax McCarty, and Darlington Nagbe.

Bobby Wood (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

It seems likely guys like Christian Pulisic and Geoff Cameron will get a break, though there could also be “farewells” for some of the old guard (this seems more of a January thing given the MLS Playoffs).

We imagine guys like Alejandro Bedoya, Tim Ream, and Bobby Wood are going to be called in to help show guys the ropes

Hopefully, young Schalke star Weston McKennie is back from his thigh injury and fit for 90. Might U-17 and U-20 World Cup star Josh Sargent get a chance to dip his toes into an international break?

We’ll let you build you lineups from this corps, also expecting some surprises, and we’ll probably wind up going down a rabbit hole to build some of our own.

Who are we missing? Hit us up with your names, thoughts, and XIs in the comment section.


MLS-based, will miss playoffs, called up in October: Tim Howard, Alejandro Bedoya, Paul Arriola, Gyasi Zardes.

MLS-based, will miss playoffs, called up in last year: Bill Hamid, Joe Bendik, Brian Rowe, Steve Birnbaum, Jonathan Spector, Taylor Kemp, Keegan Roseberry, Chris Pontius, Kelyn Rowe, Jermaine Jones, Juan Agudelo, Dom Dwyer, CJ Sapong, Alan Gordon.

Europe- or Mexico-based, called up in October: Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Jorge Villafana, Geoff Cameron, Christian Pulisic, Michael Orozco.

Europe- or Mexico-based, called up in last year: Ethan Horvath, William Yarbrough, Eric Lichaj, Matt Miazga, John Brooks (injured), Timothy Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Joe Corona, Kenny Saief (injured), Lynden Gooch, Julian Green, Caleb Stanko, Aron Johannsson.

MLS-based, will miss playoffs, not called up in last year: Christian Ramirez, Miguel Ibarra, Lee Nguyen, Ethan Finlay, Tommy Redding, Patrick Mullins, Russell Canouse, Derrick Jones, Andrew Farrell, Kyle Fisher, Chris Tierney.

Europe- or Mexico-based, not called up in last year: Danny Williams, Terrence Boyd, Mix Diskerud, Emerson Hyndman, Perry Kitchen, Alfredo Morales, Antonee Robinson.

Top U.S. youth prospects: Weston McKennie, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Josh Sargent, Jonathan Gonzalez, Haji Wright.

Top U.S. youth prospects, could have MLS playoffs:  Justen Glad, Erik Palmer-Brown, Tyler Adams, Brooks Lennon, Jonathan Lewis, Jesse Gonzalez.


Some far-fetched potential lineups (Remember – Anything is possible):

Serious Future XI

Horvath

 Carter-Vickers – Cameron – Miazga

Yedlin – Williams – McKennie – Pulisic

Arriola – Wood – Gooch

All-Europe XI

Horvath

Yedlin – Carter-Vickers – Miazga – Villafana

Chandler – Williams – McKennie – Pulisic

Wood – Johannsson

(Mostly) Farewell Tour XI

Howard

 Lichaj – Cameron – Ream – Beasley

Arriola – Williams – Bedoya – Johnson

Wondolowski – Wood

Few to no caps XI

Horvath

Farrell – Miazga – Carter-Vickers – Tierney

Rowe – Gonzalez – Morales – McKennie – Gooch

Ramirez