Premier League Playback: United’s faltering midfield, ‘Crystal Pulis’ to soar, Boruc’s blunder

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MANCHESTER UNITED’S ENGINE ROOM THE ISSUE

On Sunday in South Wales, Manchester United let in a late goal to Cardiff City as they let another two points slip through their fingers. David Moyes turned away in despair and looked to the ground in disgust.

United didn’t play well, and although it looked like they’d got out of jail with a win until Kim Bo-Kyung’s last-gasp header nicked the Bluebirds a point, the main issue with the reigning champions was in central midfield.

Michael Carrick and Phil Jones, two of United’s more robust and reliable options manning the engine room, were both missing in the fiery cauldron of Wales’ capital city due to injury. And boy, did it show. Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley manned the ship in the center of the park and they were overrun by forever plugging leaks sprung open by newly-promoted Cardiff. Unable to contain, tackle or cajole their team into life from the center of the pitch, Fellaini and Cleverly all too often went for the easy ball and played it safe in possession as the heat maps below show. That stunted United’s attacking impetus and allowed the Bluebirds to garner belief they could fight their way back into the game, Cardiff’s last-gasp equalizer had been coming due to midfield battle being lost.

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Click to enlarge: Marouane Fellaini’s passes vs. Cardiff City. Made no forward passes in the attacking third. (Source: Opta)
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Click to enlarge: Tom Cleverley’s passes vs. Cardiff City. Only one of his 42 passes was a successful forward pass in the opposition half. (Source: Opta)

Even Carrick and Jones have had their critics in recent seasons as United have never fully replaced their illustrious midfield generals of the past. Current players Anderson, Shinji Kagawa and going further back to Owen Hargreaves, they’ve all failed to recreate United’s indestructible machine of Keane, Scholes, Butt and the marauding menaces of Paul Ince and Bryan Robson before them.

Moyes needs to add a midfield enforcer to his squad in January, as United are too often relinquishing the middle third to teams who have hungrier, more tenacious and more committed central midfielders willing to run themselves into the ground for the crest on their shirts. I just don’t see that from any of the current crop of United’s central men, including Fellaini and Cleverley after their lackluster displays against Cardiff.

Fellaini and Cleverley aren’t bad players but they’re both afraid of failure and scared of taking people on. Between them they didn’t even attempt a dribble on Sunday and for so long United have had perfect dovetailing central midfielders, when one attacks, the other sits and vice versa. Anybody who watched Keane and Ince in their prime will tell you how beautiful that is to watch. The duo of Fellaini and Cleverley played together in the middle for the first time at Cardiff and you could tell that, they had no cohesion, no link and were all out sea.

Will they ever get the chance to shine in central midfield together again? After that combined performance, probably not. Back to the drawing board for Moyes.

Premier League Schedule – Week 12

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 2-0 Southampton Recap and watch here
Cardiff 2-2 Manchester United Recap and watch here
Everton 3-3 Liverpool Recap and watch here
Fulham 1-2 Swansea Recap and watch here
Hull 0-1 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
Man City 6-0 Tottenham Recap and watch here
Newcastle United 2-1 Norwich Recap and watch here
Stoke 2-0 Sunderland Recap and watch here
West Brom 2-2 Aston Villa Recap and watch here
West Ham 0-3 Chelsea Recap and watch here

RED CARD CONTROVERSY

Let’s break down three controversial moments from the weekend, as two red cards were dished out incorrectly and one should have been given in the Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool.

Some of these decisions were incredibly bad, and given the exasperating precedent set by referees chief Mike Riley last week — when he apologized to West Brom manager Steve Clarke for a last gasp penalty handed to Chelsea that cost the Baggies a win — plenty of PL managers will be hoping to receive an apology via the post.

Mr. Riley, get your quill and parchment ready, you’ll have some serious apologizing to do this weekend after three horrendous mistakes. The floodgates have opened, Riley should’ve never apologized as now he’ll never stop apologetically nodding his head in agreement and offering his hand out in reconciliation.

Too many of the big decisions are being called incorrectly as referees come under more criticism in the PL. Here’s my take on three of the worst calls (because, in truth, there were so many more) this weekend.

  • Wes Brown’s red card vs. Stoke City – NO

The phantom tackle of Brown baffles me every time I see it. It isn’t, wasn’t and will never be a red card. Gus Poyet was incensed at the decision as he tore his puffy coat off in frustration, screamed at the officials and stomped his feet in frustration. Brown slid in and made a perfect, yet slightly lunging tackle. He was in control as he disposed Stoke’s Charlie Adam and may have faintly grazed the Scotsman as he slide through. This cost Sunderland any chance of grabbing a point or more at the Britannia.

  • Yannick Bolasie’s red card vs. Hull City – NO

Yes Bolasie does go over the top and lunges into this one, but he’s on the edge of the box and scrapping for every ball as two newly-promoted teams battle for a crucial three points 12 minutes from time. Out of all three, this decisions is the most sane, but it still isn’t right. Bolasie slips before the tackle is made, Jake Livermore is already going to ground and has also raised his foot and at worst it’s a yellow card.

  • Kevin Mirallas’ potential red card vs. Liverpool – YES

This has to be one of the worst tackles I’ve seen in the modern era. Yet Belgian winger Kevin Mirallas somehow stayed on the pitch as he lunged with a high foot and aimed to decapitate Luis Suarez’ right leg at the knee. The ball was bouncing up as the two players clashed by Suarez got to the ball first, knocked it away and was clattered recklessly into by Mirallas wild and dangerous right foot with his studs showing. An instant red card was the only option here. How it wasn’t… I’ll never know. Seems like Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers agrees.

“I thought Mirallas should have been sent off. He caught him [Suarez] on the back of his knee and that can end your career. It was awful jumping in like that.” Mirallas also agreed… wait, what? Straight up, here’s the evidence.

We can’t finish this section without the highlights to the Merseyside derby, I asked if that was “the best Everton vs. Liverpool battle in history?”  Judge for yourself by watching the highlights below.

CRYSTAL PULIS – WILL THE EAGLES SOAR TO SAFETY?

Everyone expects us to get relegated and it will be nice to prove people wrong. I like climbing hills and this will be a tough job but one I will relish – New Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis

Palace dispatched Hull City 1-0 on Saturday, watch above, as the Eagles lifted themselves off the bottom of the table as their new manager arrives amongst a sea of optimism.

Earlier on Saturday the South London side announced former Stoke City boss Tony Pulis is their new manager. I believe that’s a fantastic decision. Just three points from safety after that huge win, Pulis’ side has given themselves a fighting chance of climbing out of the relegation zone. Expect them to grab it with both hands.

This is a fact: Palace will be a horrendous side to play against for the rest of the season. Think Pulis’ Stoke City on steroids. The Eagles have something to prove, as does Pulis after his seven year spell at the Potters came to an abrupt end last season when he failed to kick them on to the next level. That burning desire to prove everyone wrong will create destruction and distress for every team they come up against in their remaining 26 PL games of the season. The Eagles aren’t ready to land in English soccer’s second-tier, in fact, they’ve yet to even take off in the top flight. You’ve been warned, Pulis’ first game in charge away at Norwich will showcase that.

ROAD WINS SEAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

If Manchester City aim to keep obliterating teams at home, watch above and shield your eyes Spurs fans, but struggle to snatch a point on the road, a second PL title in three years won’t be heading to the Etihad Stadium this season.

On Sunday City smashed Tottenham — I mean, completely knocked them out of the stadium and into the parking lot — 6-0 as they flexed their title credentials impressively. But if they keep losing on the road to basement boys and continue to augment their splendid home displays by hemorrhaging points on their travels, Pellegrini’s dream of delivering a Championship are dumbfounded.

The stats back my slightly snarky statement up as City have started this season with a poor record of W1-D1-L4 on the road. In the last 10 seasons, no PL champion has lost more than five games away from home in their title winning season… City have already lost four matches from six on the road this campaign.

What is the answer I hear you cry?

Plenty of foreign stars feeling intimidated in hostile atmospheres across a plethora of rough and ready English cities could be a reason. Another could simply be that they prefer to score early and settle their nerves in games and away from home the opposition are more likely to have a go at City and score first. The Citizens resilience is then called into question and so far they’ve failed to hit back when they’ve been dealt a blow away from home. If other sides get a foot hold at home against City, they might as well pull their goalkeeper and put the handbrake on because Pellegrini’s men look devoid of ideas when they go behind. When they’re on form Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo’s burgeoning partnership can rip any team apart, we’ve spoken about that before in PL Playback after City demolished United… it seems as though the duo that initially showed promise has now blossomed into a full-blown goal scoring tandem of tricks, flicks and boat loads of goals. Aguero has 10 goals, Negredo has five and City have 34 goals in 12 games.

But this struggling form away from home has to be addressed and contrary to popular belief, it isn’t a Pellegrini-ism. It’s been going on for years. Many have put City’s struggles on the road down to their new Chilean manager being out of his comfort zone in unfamiliar surroundings at the Britannnia Stadium, Villa Park or the Stadium of Light. What a load of old tosh.

In the four seasons before the current campaign, since City became perennial title contenders, their away record reads as follows.

2012-13 – W9-D6-L4 | 2011-12 – 10-4-5 | 2010-11 – 8-4-7 | 2009-10 – 6-9-4

No team has won the Premier League title having lost four of their first 11 games since 1968… the last team to do that and win the league was… Manchester City. If they pick up their away form and continue to blow teams away at the Etihad, they won’t be far off a historic repeat.

City’s manager Pellegrini isn’t worried by those stats and said the following with a cheeky grin on his face: “I don’t believe in statistics in football. I believe football has some relation with mathematics but not always. If you win all the games from now until the end, maybe we will win the Premier League.”

BORUC, LLORIS RED FACED AS ‘KEEPERS PRESSURIZED TO PLAY

During a debate on the BBC following the weekends action, former Newcastle and England goalscoring legend Alan Shearer had this to say about the new task handed to many PL ‘keepers.

“Goalkeepers are more footballers now than at any other time,” Shearer said. “They’re part of the back four.”

I’m not trying to defend Southampton’s goalkeeper Artur Boruc for his embarrassing blunder, watch above, but his problems have come from being a ‘keeper asked to play the ball with his feet and become a part of the defense, when his main job was always to keep the ball out of the net.

In the modern era, ‘keepers have become a fifth defender and are encouraged by many managers to get involved and keep possession of the ball rather than lump it aimlessly up field every time it’s sent back to them.

On Saturday in Saints’ biggest game of the season so far, Boruc tried three ‘Cruyff turns’ in his own box and lost out to Olivier Giroud who easily tapped home and left an embarrassed and livid Boruc cursing on the floor. That goal put his Southampton side on the back foot and cost them any real chance of upsetting the league-leaders at the Emirates and helping the Saints leapfrog them into top spot. But ever-since Argentine manager Mauricio Pochettino arrived at the South Coast club, Boruc has been taking more risks with the ball at his feet and he’s encouraged to do so. If that’s what the manager wants, mistakes like this will happen. Southampton keep the ball better than almost any team in the league and that starts with Boruc’s patient, yet dangerous, build up from the back.

(MORE – FULL PREMIER LEAGUE STANDINGS)

Spurs were also the masters of their own downfall with a goalkeeping error after just 13 seconds against Man City in their humiliating defeat. Hugo Lloris’ mistake was a little different to Boruc’s as he miskicked the ball straight to City’s attackers who then capitalized brilliantly on a skewed clearance. But it was almost as if Lloris held back from giving the ball an almighty punt and was hoping his short kick would find a Spurs teammate and keep the ball in Tottenham’s possession. The Frenchman is the best ‘sweeper-keeper’ in the league and regularly launches off his line to become a defender and play the ball out of danger.

Goalkeepers in the PL should get back to doing that.

Keeping it out of their goal and giving it a bloody good whack upfield to make sure the ball is as far away from danger for as long as possible, that’s their job, right? Yet Boruc and Lloris are encouraged to play from the back by their managers, so mistakes like those they made at the weekend will happen. Ultimately they were bad individual errors but if their sides want possession from the back, ‘keepers shouldn’t be lambasted for giving the ball away or getting caught in possession. Look how often it happens to the outfield players they’re expected to emulate… Think about it.

Still at least Boruc saw the funny side of it… Check out the instagram picture he posted a few hours after the game, the caption says it all. Hilarious. Well, except if you’re a Saints fan…

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Premier League Playback comes out every Monday and takes an alternative look at the weekends action.

USMNT player ratings vs Saudi Arabia

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The best thing we can say about the United States men’s national team’s performances in two final World Cup warmups this month?

Maybe Gregg Berhalter’s just trying not to show his hand to group foes?

[ MORE: What we learned from Japan vs USA | Player ratings ]

A non-descript, sloppy, and unadjusted USMNT again looked poor and left fans with very little hope in a team less than two months from playing Wales, England, and Iran in Qatar.

The Yanks are now winless in seven-straight games on foreign soil, losing to Panama, Canada, Costa Rica, and Japan while drawing Jamaica, Mexico, El Salvador, and Saudi Arabia.


How has USMNT fared in final pre-World Cup matches before last three tournaments?

2014 – beat Azerbaijan 2-0, Turkey 2-1, Nigeria 2-1, and Ghana 2-1.

Lost to Belgium in Round of 16.

2010 – lost to Czechia 4-2, beat Turkey 2-1, beat Australia 3-1

Lost to Ghana in Round of 16

2006 – lost to Morocco 1-0, beat Venezuela 2-0, beat Latvia 1-0

Failed to advance from group stage


USMNT player ratings vs Saudi Arabia

Matt Turner: 6.5– A good if not great shot stopper, his footwork might be what costs him a starting spot to Zach Steffen.

Sergino Dest: 6 — A defensive liability at times, he was a bit better than usual in his own end but Saudi Arabia is not Roberto Carlos-era Brazil.

Aaron Long (Off 59′): 4.5 — Nothing against the player, but if he’s playing in Qatar the coach has different eyes, cameras, screens, and metrics than the rest of us.

Walker Zimmerman: 5.5 — Solving who to put next to the Nashville SC star is Mission No. 1. Left out to dry next to a similar but inferior CB in Long.

DeAndre Yedlin (Off 59′): 6.5 — Physical, bright, and savvy.  Hopefully his injury isn’t too bad.

Tyler Adams: 6.5 — Asked to play out of his strength in a one-man holding role, but also takes too many risks with the ball. Got n

Kellyn Acosta: 5 — Too sloppy with his touch, consistently, to be a World Cup regular, but good for the squad.

Weston McKennie: 4 — A turnover machine for two games, often in the worst parts of the field for a man of his position.

Christian Pulisic( On 76′): 5 — Blanked.

Ricardo Pepi (Off 59′): 5 — Starved of touches.

Giovanni Reyna (Off 30′): 5 — Another incredibly frustrating early end to a first team appearance for one of the nation’s brightest prospects.

Substitutions

Paul Arriola (On 30′): 5.5 — Drew a foul or two.

Joe Scally (On 59′): 7 — Only a half-hour sample size, but looked the man best-equipped for his boss’ plan.

Jesus Ferreira (On 59′): 6 — Got a shot off and was an upgrade on Pepi.

Mark McKenzie (On 59′): 6 — Steady enough.

Malik Tillman (On 76′): N/A —

Brenden Aaronson (On 76′): N/A —

USMNT held by Saudi Arabia as malaise continues

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The USMNT drew 0-0 against Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain, as Gregg Berhalter’s side finished their World Cup preparations with plenty of pressure building on them.

Tyler Adams went closest to scoring for the USMNT but in truth it was a poor game in a near-empty stadium in southern Spain, as an injury-hit Saudi Arabia were dangerous on the break.

This is not the kind of performance, and result, Berhalter would have wanted after their disappointing defeat to Japan last week and it gives him plenty of questions to answer just 54 days out from the World Cup kicking off in Qatar.


What we learned from Saudi Arabia vs USMNT

Confidence is low in the USMNT camp: This was not much better than the defeat to Japan and the U.S. look totally devoid of confidence on the ball. In the final third they always seemed to pick the wrong option and there were still some very bad giveaways in defense as Long, Turner and Adams were all guilty. This is a team which was playing safe and looked like a group of players who didn’t want to pick up an injury in the final game before the World Cup. There was no cutting edge and you have to feel sorry for Ricardo Pepi up top, as there was no cohesion and no rhythm to this display.

Musah, Robinson, Weah are badly missed: Berhalter referenced the starters he was missing before this game and it is clear the USMNT missed players who can keep the ball and provide quality from wide positions. Musah makes the USMNT tick in midfield and Weah and Robinson are so direct out wide that it allows midfielders to run into dangerous positions knowing they will be found. The USMNT had none of that in this game aside from Pulisic and McKennie combining and getting in a few times down the left in the first half. Pulisic in particularly went missing in the second half of this.

Saudi Arabia will be a tough nut to crack: Missing several key starters, this was a spirited display from Saudi Arabia. Herve Renard knows how to organize a team to be disciplined and dangerous on the counter and Saudi Arabia were exactly that. They’re in a very tough group with Argentina, Mexico and Poland, but they can cause a few shocks. The fact they have five more friendlies between now and the World Cup and all of their players are based domestically (with many coming from Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr) means they are very familiar playing together and are a robust unit.


Tactical focus

The USMNT looked to go long early and often and it worked to generate more chances than they did against Japan. McKennie surged in-behind the defenders, Pulisic cut in from the left and Long and Zimmerman both looked long whenever they could. Saudi Arabia were still a threat on the break and the spacing between the midfield trio and the defense remains a big issue for the USMNT as there were far too many gaps on the transition.


How to watch Saudi Arabia vs USMNT live, updates and start time

Date: Tuesday, September 27
Kick off time: 2pm ET
Where: Estadio Nuevo Condomina, Murcia, Spain
How to watch: FS1, UnimasTUDN


Saudi Arabia vs USMNT live analysis! – By Joe Prince-Wright

  • Send in your questions for our live Q&A (click on the video above) straight after Saudi Arabia vs USMNT
  • Gio Reyna leaves game in the 30th minute, replaced by Paul Arriola

18 minutes to go. Still 0-0. Not a lot going on.

SHOT! Much better from the USMNT as sub Scally had a cross cleared, then moments later fellow sub Ferreira smashes on goal but it is saved. The subs having a great impact. That is more like it.

Scally, McKenzie and Ferreira on for the USMNT. Yedlin (who was down for a long time getting treatment following a nasty tackle), Pepi and Long off.

The USMNT have yet to get going in this second half. Saudi Arabia looking more dangerous and whipped in a few crosses.

An update on Gio Reyna: he was taken off as a precaution (per Fox Sports’ Jenny Taft) and U.S. Soccer have since said he was ‘experiencing muscle tightness’ and that was why he was taken out.

Second half is underway and no subs from either side. It has been all Saudi Arabia so far.

HALF TIME: Saudi Arabia 0-0 USMNT – Not a great half from the U.S., again. A few more chances with McKennie and Adams going close and balls over the top causing problems. However, Saudi Arabia have had a few chances and are looking decent on the counter. To sum up the USMNT’s display in a word: sloppy.

The news filtering through about Gio Reyna doesn’t sound positive, as it has been confirmed by U.S. Soccer that the substitution was not planned. All signs point to some kind of injury. Fingers crossed it is nothing serious and the U.S. were just being very, very cautious given his recent injury history.

CLOSE! Saudi Arabia almost take the lead. Walker Zimmerman and Paul Arriola make crucial blocks after substitute Haitham Asiri got in down the right and Hattan Bahebri couldn’t sort out his feet at the key moment. Huge let off.

SUB: A worrying sign for the USMNT whenever Gio Reyna goes off early in a game and heads straight down the tunnel. Given his history record, this is concerning. Paul Arriola is on. 30 minutes gone.

USMNT fans won’t be delighted with what they’ve seen so far. Sure, it’s better than the display against Japan but it couldn’t get any worse, could it?

WIDE! Tyler Adams puts a shot just wide from 25 yards out. A decent effort after some sustained U.S. pressure.

Pulisic, wearing the captain’s armband, is looking real sharp. Some surging runs in from the left and he’s popping up everywhere.

Not too much going on at the moment as the USMNT struggle to get in the final third on a regular basis.

Lovely ball over the top and McKennie controls well but his shot is straight at the goalkeeper. Still, much better from the USMNT.

A few decent runs forward from the USMNT. As Pepi and McKennie both flagged for offside. Quick passing and moving from the U.S. as that is more like it.

KICK OFF: We are underway! Straight away Saudi Arabia have a shot from the edge of the box and Turner pushes it away. Sharp start from Saudi Arabia, who are missing several key players due to injury.

Anthems ring around the stadium in Murcia in front of a very small crowd which looks like being less than 1,000. Can the USMNT respond to that heavy defeat against Japan? We are about to find out.

Tick-tock! Kick off is almost here and this is the final chance for players to impress Gregg Berhalter ahead of the World Cup. Will it be another nervy, error-strewn display form the Stars and Stripes? Or will the likes of Pulisic, Adams and McKennie stand tall and really lead this young team to a much-needed win and, perhaps more importantly, a positive display?

As we approach kick off, the general reaction to team news focuses on Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman once again starting together at center back. This probably shows that Erik Palmer-Brown and Mark McKenzie are way down the pecking order in that position and the injured duo of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Chris Richards are well ahead of them. Also, watching Pulisic and Reyna on the wings could be fun, especially if they’re allowed to drift inside at will.

The team news is in from sunny southern Spain, as the beautiful Estadio Nuevo Condomina is the setting for the USMNT’s final game before the World Cup kicks off.

For the USMNT, Matt Turner starts in goal once again with Zimmerman and Long at center back. DeAndre Yedlin comes in at right back, with Sergino Dest switching over to left back. Ricardo Pepi comes in for Jesus Ferreira up top, Christian Pulisic replaces Brenden Aaronson out wide and Kellyn Acosta is in for Luca de la Torre in midfield.

Gregg Berhalter has gone a lot stronger with this starting lineup than we thought he might. Is that showing the pressure is on him to get a positive result? Perhaps.

Below is the Saudi Arabian starting lineup, as their entire roster is from their domestic league and for any USMNT fans underestimating them, Saudi Arabia finished above Japan in World Cup qualifying.


Saudi Arabia vs USMNT head-to-head record

This will be the seventh meeting between the Yanks and Green Falcons, but the first since 1999 against a national team representing political issues for the United States. Saudi Arabia won two of the first four but the Yanks claimed home soil wins in a 1995 friendly and the 1999 Confederations Cup. All of the on-field mentions above mean absolutely nothing for Tuesday but they are fun to note on a pre-match preview (Upside-down smile face emoji).


The lowdown on Saudi Arabia

This is a very Saudi Arabia experienced side, one that went 13W-4D-1L in World Cup qualifying and have experience in a lot of 1-0 contests including recent Spain-based friendly losses to Colombia and Venezuela. The team will also feel at home in Murcia, where it played those matches and where it had a scoreless tangle with Ecuador four days prior to this tilt. Ecuador outshot the Saudis 11-5 and had 60 percent of the ball but all that will get you an argument that you deserved better than a solitary point that comes from a real match. If you want to see your Yanks break down a sound team, Tuesday’s a good chance.


Key storylines

Let’s be very fair to Berhalter, who has a young team and has overseen some memorable and downright awesome triumphs in CONCACAF: There are injuries right now — Christian Pulisic was rested with a knock on Friday — and the coach does not have access to Timothy Weah, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Chris Richards.

But his judgment is being questioned with Fulham captain Tim Ream, Union Berlin center forward Jordan Pefok, and Benfica back John Brooks healthy and ready to contribute but sitting at home. Berhalter has questioned their fits in the system and also said something nebulous about the team not expressing its “personality” versus Japan and that sounds pretty bad when the system looks awful.


USMNT team news, injuries, lineup

This is easily the most interesting lineup in some time for the USMNT after Berhalter gave starting looks to some of his lynchpins and got a mixed bag of results, none of which were exceptional aside from goalkeeper Matt Turner (and even he was not at his best in possession on an admittedly poor pitch in Dusseldorf) and Brenden Aaronson if we’re being judicious in the name of optimism. But really, all of the front three were ghosts. Much of is down to the eight men behind them, though, and forgiving glances can be cast at Aaronson and Giovanni Reyna. Jesus Ferreira is not included after missing a chance that would and could be called a sitter if he didn’t have to jump to head it (We kid, but it’s dark humor).

Aaron Long was very poor and Walker Zimmerman uncharacteristically poor next to him, while youngster Sam Vines had a rough first half before Berhalter adjusted his usage from left back to left wing back with emphasis on the wing part. Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are often the heartbeat of this team but both looked a mix of cavalier and junior varsity. That won’t happen often, and very rarely will occur at the same time.

Here’s what to watch from Berhalter’s lineup choices, presuming he doesn’t change his formation.

  • If Matt Turner starts — and then stays healthy and relatively blunder-free at Arsenal — forget about anyone else starting the World Cup opener in Qatar. If it’s Ethan Horvath or presumed No. 3 Sean Johnson, well, anything’s possible.
  • We’ll see Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, but will it be Luca de la Torre completing the midfield trio? Will Kellyn Acosta or Johnny Cardoso arrive to move McKennie into a different role? Will Malik Tillman get his chance to start? Or will Giovanni Reyna be played in position (please?)?
  • Ricardo Pepi: The way Josh Sargent was plugged into the front three in the second half, it seems like FC Dallas star Ferreira and alum Pepi were meant to trade starts.
  • Christian Pulisic will start on the wing. How does he look, both in form and body language?
  • Sergino Dest and Sam Vines were the fullbacks versus Japan, with Reggie Cannon coming off the bench. Will it be Joe Scally and DeAndre Yedlin to start? Will Dest swap to left back? Antonee Robinson and Dest are the favorites to start in Qatar, but is the latter’s spot on the right now in question?
  • Much of U.S. Soccer, us included, considered this break to be a bunch of center backs bidding to play next to Walker Zimmerman in Qatar. Will it be Zimmerman plus one on Tuesday or something else?

Giovanni Reyna exits USMNT friendly vs Saudi Arabia with apparent injury

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Giovanni Reyna has subbed off the pitch for the United States men’s national team early in Tuesday’s final pre-World Cup friendly.

The injury-haunted Borussia Dortmund winger made it just 30 minutes against Saudi Arabia, leaving a scoreless game to be replaced by FC Dallas winger Paul Arriola.

U.S. Soccer told sideline reporter Jenny Taft that the exit was “precautionary” after Reyna felt “muscle tightness” and appeared to put the ball out of play himself.

Reyna got a late start to the Bundesliga season after missing the USMNT’s entire summer through Injury.

[ MORE: What we learned from Japan vs USA | Player ratings ]

Still 19 until November, Reyna has 10 goals and 14 assists in 83 senior appearances for BVB. He missed four months near the start of last season’s Bundesliga campaign as well as the final month.

Reyna has four goals and an assist in 11 caps for the USMNT. Gregg Berhalter has mostly deployed the youngster at right wing, though he operated on the left against Japan. He’s split time between a right-sided attacking role and center attacking mid for Dortmund.

He’s a tremendous talent but at this point cannot be counted on to be available for November in Qatar. If healthy, Reyna is a lock for the World Cup roster. Unfortunately we won’t know his ability to contribute until we see him on the plane to the tournament.

World Cup 2022 schedule – groups, calendar, match schedule, brackets, dates

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The World Cup 2022 schedule is locked in and there is so much to look forward to ahead of the tournament in Qatar in November to December.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

From the USMNT facing England the day after Thanksgiving to Mexico and Argentina squaring off in the group stages, Spain facing Germany, and Belgium vs Canada, there are plenty of intriguing games in the opening round.

[ MORE: USMNT react to draw

Then we have the Round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals, and final to look forward to.

Below is the schedule in full, details on how to watch the games and everything else you need..

[ MORE: World Cup odds ]


World Cup 2022 schedule, start time, dates, how to watch live

When: November 20, 2022 to December 18, 2022
Group stage game kick off times: 5am, 8am, 11am, 2pm (all ET)
Location: Qatar
TV channel in English: Fox
TV channel in Spanish: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock


Group A schedule (all kick off times ET)

November, 20: Qatar vs Ecuador – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 12pm
November, 21: Senegal vs Netherlands – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 5am
November, 25: Qatar vs Senegal – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 8am
November, 25: Netherlands vs Ecuador – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 11am
November, 29: Netherlands vs Qatar – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 10am
November, 29: Ecuador vs Senegal –  Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am

Group B schedule

November, 21: England vs Iran – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 8am
November, 21: USA vs Wales- Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
November, 25: England vs USA – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm
November, 25: Wales vs Iran – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 5am
November, 29: Wales vs England – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
November, 29: Iran vs USA – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm

Group C schedule

November, 22: Argentina vs Saudi Arabia – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 5am
November, 22: Mexico vs Poland – Stadium 974, Doha – 11am
November, 26: Argentina vs Mexico – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm
November, 26: Poland vs Saudi Arabia – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 8am
November, 30: Poland vs Argentina – Stadium 974, Doha – 2pm
November, 30: Saudi Arabia vs Mexico – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm

Group D schedule

November, 22: France vs Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 2pm
November, 22: Denmark vs Tunisia – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 8am
November, 26: France vs Denmark – Stadium 974, Doha – 11am
November, 26: Tunisia vs Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 5am
November, 30: Tunisia vs France –  Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am
November, 30: Australia vs Denmark – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 10am

Group E schedule

November, 23: Spain vs Costa Rica- Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 11am
November, 23: Germany vs Japan – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 8am
November, 27: Spain vs Germany – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm
November, 27: Japan vs Costa Rica – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 5am
December, 1: Japan vs Spain – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
December, 1: Costa Rica vs Germany – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm

Group F schedule

November, 23: Belgium vs Canada – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
November, 23: Morocco vs Croatia – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 5am
November, 27: Belgium vs Morocco – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 8am
November, 27: Croatia vs Canada – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 11am
December, 1: Croatia vs Belgium – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am
December, 1: Canada vs Morocco – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 10am

Group G schedule

November, 24: Brazil vs Serbia – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm
November, 24: Switzerland vs Cameroon – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 5am
November, 28: Brazil vs Switzerland – Stadium 974, Doha – 11am
November, 28: Cameroon vs Serbia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 5am
December, 2: Cameroon vs Brazil – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm
December, 2: Serbia vs Switzerland – Stadium 974, Doha – 2pm

Group H schedule

November, 24: Portugal vs Ghana – Stadium 974, Doha – 11am
November, 24: Uruguay vs South Korea – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 8am
November, 28: Portugal vs Uruguay – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm
November, 28: South Korea vs Ghana – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 8am
December, 2: South Korea vs Portugal – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am
December, 2: Ghana vs Uruguay – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 10am


Round of 16 schedule

Match 49 – December, 3: Winner Group A vs Runners up Group B – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am

Match 50 – December, 3:  Winners Group C vs Runners up Group D – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm

Match 52 -December, 4: Winners Group D vs Runners up Group C – Al Thumama Stadium, Doha – 10am

Match 51 – December, 4: Winners Group B vs Runners up Group A – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm

Match 53 -December, 5: Winners Group E vs Runners up Group F – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 10am

Match 54 – December, 5: Winners Group G vs Runners up Group H – Stadium 974, Doha – 2pm

Match 55 – December, 6: Winners Group F vs Runners up Group E – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am

Match 56 – December, 6: Winners Group H vs Runners up Group G – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm


Quarterfinal schedule

Match 58 – December, 9: Winners Match 53 vs Winners Match 54 – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am

Match 57 – December, 9: Winners Match 49 vs Winners Match 50 – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 10am

Match 60 – December, 10: Winners Match 55 vs Winners Match 56 – Al Thumama Stadium, Doha – 10am

Match 59 – December, 10: Winners Match 51 vs Winners Match 52 – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm


Semifinal schedule

Match 61 – December, 13: Winners Match 57 vs Winners Match 58 – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm

Match 62 – December, 14: Winners Match 59 vs Winners Match 60 – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm


Third-place play-off

Match 63 – December, 17: Losers Match 61 vs Losers Match 62 – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm


Final

Match 64 – December, 18: Winners Match 61 vs Winners Match 62 – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 10am