U.S. Soccer fans critical of Michael Bradley’s move to MLS: get over yourselves!

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Let’s say a friend comes to you today; he has a huge career choice ahead. He wants to bounce some thoughts off you. But honestly, you don’t even need to hear the details, do you? The bottom line, you’d say:

“Do what’s best for you and your family, what’s best in the long run for you and the people who love you.”

That’s where it’s going to end, right? If you’re a good friend, it is. That’s the advice that comes from every reasonable mouth, right?

Every man and woman has the right in our great land to make choices that benefits themselves and their family – not necessarily the choice that benefits the kingdom or the corporation or whatever, right?

Except this: when it comes to U.S. Soccer players making that critical choices of where to earn their pay, here or in the glorious “over there,” these soccer heroes of ours have somehow forfeited that right. That’s what plenty of aggrieved U.S. fans seem to believe, that these men have signed some secret deal with the devil, one that says they must do what’s best for the longing U.S. Soccer fandom.

And that’s so wrong.

Somehow, plenty of soccer fans in this country don’t believe that basic human right – again, and say it out loud, the right to simply do what is best in their lives – somehow doesn’t extend to this country’s talented, highly skilled soccer luminaries.  In that case, so many U.S. fans want the Michael Bradleys, the Clint Dempseys the Landon Donovans, etc., to make decisions best for us, not them, what’s best for the U.S. soccer-loving public.

(MORE: On U.S. player destination debates, all these conversations are different)

Too many soccer supporters here are falling over backward in selfish, sour-faced consternation over Bradley’s choice to leave the good, sweet, pristine air of European soccer for the allegedly grimy, polluted air of Major League Soccer.

Oh, the villainy!

But why shouldn’t he? If this is what Bradley wants to do, why hasn’t he earned that right? It’s the same argument I made with Dempsey and Donovan (for a bunch of years in Donovan’s case.)

(MORE: Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe unveiled at Toronto FCU.S. Soccer fans )

In some cases, it might not be the best thing for the player’s development. It may not be the choice that manages to squeeze the very most juice from this orange; the player may only gain 90-95 percent of full potential. Well, so what? Isn’t that the individual’s choice?

Because I’ve got news for you: fully accessing e every last store of soccer talent is a big part of these guys’ lives … but it’s not their entire lives, now is it? Don’t they have a right to think about their kids’ ability to be close to their grandparents, about where they want to live, about overall quality of life?

Soccer considerations are a big part of these decisions, but they aren’t always 100 percent of the equation. Because somewhere around age 31, 32 or 33, they’ll be looking for one last contract … and then they’ll be done earning a paycheck for playing soccer.

Here’s the bottom line on all this:

We must reframe these discussions. (About where the talented U.S. players earn their keep, that is.) And perhaps we need to reshape these conversations radically. Too many U.S. soccer fans continue to look to these guys for validation of where the game stands in our own country.

Too many continue to want talented, influential players like Bradley to validate the game they love in the country they love. And while I understand the complicated background and origins of the sentiment, it’s wrong.

source: Getty ImagesIt’s not Michael Bradley’s responsibility to make you feel better about the quality of soccer in your beloved land.  Period. If you think soccer here, Major League Soccer and the larger game, isn’t where you want it to be, that’s your right. But that’s not Michael Bradley’s problem.

(Honestly, the game here is fine, steadily progressing in so many areas, just as it has been for years and years, no matter what the soccer snobs may say, or what the last vestiges of old-white-guy fear of societal change may tell you about the game’s popularity here. But that’s a different conversation.)

To put it another way, United States soccer fans need to confront their insecurities – and in a lot of cases, they need to get over themselves.

Beyond the man’s right to make the choice that’s best for his life

I do get that a lot of people in the maddened crowd have trouble with Bradley’s choice because they fear the deterioration of his ability and its potentially negative impact on national team this summer in Brazil. They badly want the team (and the player, of course) to be the best they can possibly be. I get it. It’s about passion for sports and for your team.

I’ll address why you shouldn’t worry so much about that part in the next post at ProSoccerTalk, in about an hour …

(MORE: Where Bradley’s signing falls in all-time MLS significance)

(MORE: What Toronto’s starting lineup might look like with Defoe, Bradley)

(MORE: Why Bradley is worth the money for Toronto FC)

USMNT reportedly opens contract talks with Gregg Berhalter; Good or bad idea?

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Gregg Berhalter may be sticking around the United States men’s national team program, giving the USMNT coaching continuity as it moves from 2022 World Cup Round of 16 member to 2026 World Cup co-host.

ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle says that Berhalter is beginning contract discussions with the United States Soccer Federation but also interested in taking a job in Europe with his profile having risen alongside the USMNT at the World Cup.

Berhalter’s current contract ends at the end of the calendar year, and the Yanks have scheduled a domestic camp in January and friendlies against Serbia and Colombia.

[ MORE: USMNT transfer rumors for Musah, Dest ]

Berhalter has done some good things for the program, most notably winning the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup with two different groups. He also straightened out the defending, for the most part, and got out of the World Cup group.

Berhalter successfully recruited Sergino Dest and Yunus Musah, two of the program’s stars at the World Cup. He also convinced Malik Tillman, Gaga Slonina, and Jesus Ferreira that the U.S. was the right place for their national team futures.

He also, subjectively, was slow if not downright stubborn in acquiesing to certain points-of-view that made the team better. From Tyler Adams as a right back at the outset of his tenure to saying Tim Ream didn’t fit how he wanted to play about a month before the World Cup… then playing him every minute of the tournament.

But for the most part when lessons were learned, they stayed learned.

Should Gregg Berhalter continue as USMNT boss?

Let’s start here, because it’s necessary: It’s clear that Berhalter cared about his players and the project, whether you like the way he operated or not. This wasn’t a half-assed operation, but one with passion.

So does he still have that passion? Only he can answer that, and if he’d like to get more matchdays in his life then maybe he does want to go back to the club game.

And frankly, that’s fine either way, because his four years with the program were neither amazing nor pitiful. They can be described as anything from a slight disappointment to a minor success, depending on your perspective and expectations.

If you believe that picking up the pieces from the absolute travesty that was failing to qualify for the World Cup from the richest nation and one of the two most talented nations amongst CONCACAF men’s programs was really hard, then you think Berhalter getting the men to the 2022 World Cup and surviving the group with a young group was a solid step in the right direction and a minor success.

If you believe that the American soccer climate is such that you should always make the World Cup out of one of the world’s lesser confederations and that the Yanks progressed as the second team of a group in which they were the second-ranked team according to FIFA and Elo Ratings, well, you can have a different standard.

The Yanks will never again fail to qualify for the World Cup given the expanded field, but hosts have historically had a drastically-improved chance to reach the semifinals. THe federation would have to be confident that picking the best squad regardless of how it reflects on his previous selections — let alone a Best XI — is going to happen under a given coach.

Berhalter’s 49 and is far from the worst or best boss in USMNT history. Whoever’s in the job four years from now will have a chance to go down as either one. Choose wisely, fed. And Gregg! Who knows how far his star could rise with a solid run in Europe, and history says there will be the chance to reconnect with the USMNT job.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Premier League table, 2022-23 season

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If it’s the 2022-23 Premier League table you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

We’re at the 2022 World Cup break, and the final few rounds of Premier League fixtures caused so many shocks.

Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?

Almost at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest.

The Gunners will have their hands full for the duration of their title challenge, as Erling Haaland continues to take the Premier League by storm with an almost impossible goal-scoring record.

Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United are locked in a battle for the top four, while Liverpool have improved and will be back in the Champions League scrap and Chelsea are struggling.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Who are the early-season candidates for relegation?

Newly promoted Nottingham Forest moved off the bottom of the table with a win before the break, with Wolves and Southampton currently occupying the other two relegation places.

Leicester have picked up a few big wins, while West Ham, Everton and Leeds all find themselves within a few points of the bottom-three after a topsy-turvy start.

Below you will find the latest Premier League table.


Premier League table – Matchweek 16

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England vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Match 59 of the 2022 World Cup features a pair of European heavyweights duking it out for a place in the semifinals when England faces France on Saturday.

Didier Deschamps’ France is bidding to become a back-to-back World Cup winner, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are tournament-hardened and have shown their explosive nature three times this tournament.

STREAM ENGLAND vs FRANCE LIVE

France beat Poland 3-1 in its Round of 16 match while England overcame a dodgy start to pound Senegal 3-0.

Neither team can say its faced a test like this in the tournament, and this could be a fantastic fight in Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for England vs France.


How to watch England vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday, December 1
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

England will look to Harry Kane, though the question remains who will flank the Tottenham center forward. Marcus Rashford’s been very good but Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden got the starting spots against Senegal and it paid off for Southgate.

Kylian Mbappe has been borderline unstoppable and will test Harry Maguire, John Stones, and friends and Antoine Griezmann pulls the strings in behind and Aurelien Tchouameni continues to strengthen his reputation in the center of the pitch.


England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann

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Croatia vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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World Cup-savvy Croatia stands in the way of stylish Brazil’s pursuit of a sixth World Cup crown, and the pair promise a complex match-up on Friday in Al Rayyan.

Match 58 of the 2022 World Cup kicks off the quarterfinals as Neymar leads Tite’s star-studded CONMEBOL powers into a match against the 2018 runners-up.

STREAM CROATIA vs BRAZIL LIVE

Croatia got past Japan in penalties and will now dream of the two wins that could set it back in the final where France could again be waiting for a juicy rematch.

Croatia needed penalties to get past Japan in the Round of 16, while Brazil pasted South Korea 4-1.  Croatia has never beaten Brazil in four meetings, losing at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Croatia vs Brazil.


How to watch Croatia vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic was fantastic in penalties versus Japan to get here, but Luka Modric continues to do the things that get Croatia out of trouble and puts the opponents into heaps of it. Josko Gvardiola has arguably been the defender of the tournament, and the 20-year-old looks to test his mettle again against the Selecao.

Pick a Brazil player who’s failed to impress and you’ve achieved a mighty feat. Neymar’s been fantastic when healthy while RIcharlison is in serious pursuit of the Golden Boot. Alisson Becker flexed his muscles once or twice versus South Korea and figures to be busier as the competition continues to heat up in Qatar.


Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Follow @NicholasMendola