MLS and the U.S.: Why the league is making a bigger impact on the national team

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Major League Soccer will have 21 representatives on Brazil’s fields at the World Cup, the highest number since 1998 – the first finals after the league began play in 1996. Unlike that tournament in France, however, most of MLS’s representatives are not going to be on the United States’ roster. Whereas 16 players from the nascent league made Steve Sampson’s squad in 1998, only nine MLS’ers are among the 23 that Jurgen Klinsmann will take to Brazil.

Considering so many have trumpeted 2014 as a World Cup resurgence for MLS, that figure may be seen as disappointingly small. It’s the second-lowest in league history. When you consider where the league was four years ago, however, you can see why the trumpets are out. Only four Major League Soccer players made Bob Bradley’s squad for South Africa.

In that light, the resurgence is both remarkable and, as if four years ago, unforeseeable, with its main effects apparent on the U.S’s starting lineup. Of the nine players Klinsmann’s taking to Brazil, five are potential starters: Matt Besler, Michael Bradley, Brad Davis, Clint Dempsey, and Graham Zusi. Not only are Major League Soccer’s numbers up; the league’s significance within the team is climbing, too.

The cause of all this isn’t a complex one. The league is just better than it was four years ago, when it was climbing out of its nadir of the early- and mid-oughts. The steep nature of that climb, however, deserves a little more examination. Within the U.S. team, MLS has gone from nearly irrelevant to a necessary part of the squad.

1. Core stability – While so many have focused on Major League Soccer’s lack of television viewers, the butts in seats continue to be solid. Combined with the league’s single-entity structure, that’s provided Major League Soccer with a reliable foundation from which it can grow. As the league becomes more aggressive in seeking out talent, it knows its large, loyal core of fans provides an enviable stability.

2. Increasing the quality of play – You can have all the fans you want, but if nobody’s going to improve by playing in your league, you’re not going to convince World Cup talent to stick around (or, come back). Thanks largely to its efforts in Central and South America, the league has been able to bring in affordable talent that’s significantly raised its quality of play. Real Salt Lake’s Javier Morales is the poster play for this movement, but thanks to others like him, Major League Soccer is now a place where the likes of Davis, Kyle Beckerman, and Chris Wondolowski can improve. They’re all going to Brazil.

3. Money, Part I: Retention funds – Not every player is like Beckerman or Davis, however. If players like Besler and Zusi had come along five years earlier, they’d probably be in Europe by now.

With its new security, however, Major League Soccer has made it a priority to compete for those types of talents. Thanks to retention funds — a mechanism that allows teams to offer increased compensation without taking up a DP slot — players like Besler and Zusi, as well as a number of non-U.S. players, have been kept in the league.

source: Getty Images4. Money, Part II: Transfer fees – And then MLS really stepped it up, going into the transfer market to reclaim one of its own. Starting with the fee the league paid Tottenham Hotspur to bring Clint Dempsey back, the league committed to competing for the U.S.’s best talents.

This winter, the league struck again, paying AS Roma for Michael Bradley. In transfer fees alone, the league committed $19 million to two of the U.S.’s biggest stars, an amount that would have been unfathomable 10 years ago.

5. Increased international profile – Call this the David Beckham effect, but don’t forget the influence players like Thierry Henry have had on international perception, too. Whereas Major League Soccer was recently seen as a player’s last stop, it’s becoming more and more viable to make the switch earlier in your career. That not only means getting players like Tim Cahill and Jermain Defoe a year or two sooner than you would have before, but it also gives the Bradleys and Dempseys of the world reason to come back early.

Major League Soccer still has a long way to go, but some of the early returns will be seen at the World Cup. Only nine leagues across the world will have a greater representation in Brazil, and within the U.S. national team, there will be more than twice as many MLS’ers in the squad.

That may not mean the U.S.’s team is built around league talent, but if this new pattern holds, it won’t be too long before the domestic league is again claiming a majority of the national team’s spot.

Ings secures Saints’ first points in win at Burnley

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Burnley – Southampton saw an early Danny Ings goal lift Saints to their first three points of the 2020-21 Premier League season and a 1-0 victory at Turf Moor on Saturday.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]

Burnley had their chances to get back in the game, but a painfully close offside call and a stellar save in the span of 90 second-half seconds left the Clarets with a familiar empty feeling once again.


3 things we learned: Burnley – Southampton

1. Ings a one-season wonder? Yeah, no: For years, the narrative surrounding Ings was “when healthy, the man scores goals.” Now, it’s just “the man scores goals.” Last season: 22 goals in 38 appearances. This season, through three games: three goals. It’s also no coincidence that Ings has proven more and more productive since Che Adams claimed his regular starting spot alongside the talisman. Their partnership has unlocked the best of one another and should continue to do so for some time to come.

2. However, when Ings doesn’t score…: On the other hand, Saints managed all of zero shots on target after Ings’ fifth-minute goal, which was also their first of the game. The free-flowing attacking move that resulted in Ings’ goal was very much the exception, not the rule, as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side did very little with their nearly 50-50 share of possession. If the wingers in Hassenhuttl’s fairly rigid 4-4-2 aren’t torching defenders one-on-one in space, there’s not much doing in the way of chance creation.

3. Burnley crying out for reinforcements (re-post from Sunday): Sean Dyche had some rather critical thoughts about Burnley’s ongoing inability — or, perhaps, refusal — to move in a more timely manner to sign new players and improve the squad. Until such a change occurs, Dyche’s words are probably worth revisiting regularly.


Saints were quick off the mark and went ahead after just five minutes. Ings got on the end of Adams’ cut-back ball toward the penalty spot with his first touch, and lifted the ball over the last defender. Kyle-Walker Peters’ clever through ball for Adams was worthy of a secondary assist, as the right back played a crucial role in Saints’ incisive build-up.

Burnley had the ball in the back of the net and thought they had drawn level in the 56th minute, but Chris Wood was denied his goal by the assistant referee’s flag. Wood was indeed inches offside as he made his run in behind before lifting the ball over goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and putting it into an empty net.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

McCarthy was called into emergency action moments later as Burnley ramped up their pressure on Saints’ goal. Charlie Taylor unleashed a swerving strike from the edge oft he box and it appeared headed for McCarthy’s lower right-hand corner, but the Saints ‘keeper made a spectacular save at full-stretch and pushed the ball around the post.

Ings had a second goal ruled out for offside — this one much more so than Woods’ earlier transgression — in second-half stoppage time.

The victory sees Saints move off the bottom of the table with their first points now in hand, while Burnley sink into 17th with zero points from two games played.

Follow @AndyEdMLS

Transfer news: Rice in, Jorginho out at Chelsea; Skriniar to Spurs

Declan Rice Chelsea
Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United FC via Getty Images
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Today’s Premier League transfer news includes Chelsea chasing Declan Rice and sending Jorginho to Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur in talks for Milan Skriniar, and Houssem Aouar to Arsenal…

[ MORE: “Not the bad guy”: Koeman hits back on Luis Suarez exit at Barcelona ]

Jorginho to Arsenal, making way for Rice to Chelsea

Chelsea have not yet given up in their pursuit of West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice, but manager Frank Lampard is reportedly hoping the deal can be done ahead of the Oct. 5 transfer deadline. He does, however, recognize he currently presides of a slightly bloated squad and will likely have to move a player on to bring someone else in. The obviously solution to make way for Declan Rice? Jorginho, who features in a similar position and role, remains a high priority for Arsenal.

Spurs to solidify defense with Skriniar

Tottenham undeniably strengthened their attacking corps both in the January transfer (Steven Bergwijn) window as well as this summer (Gareth Bale), but there remains plenty of rebuilding to be done along the backline, even following the arrival of Sergio Reguilon. Above all else, Jose Mourinho’s side desperately requires a no. 1 center back to organize and command the defense. Milan Skriniar is 25 years old, hugely experienced for a club the size of Inter Milan, widely regarded as one of the best defenders available in the transfer market, and he’s reportedly the apple of someone’s eye at Spurs. The issue, as always with chairman Daniel Levy, is money. Inter want $70 million, which Spurs highly unlikely to fork over.

[ MORE: Instant classic: Man United beat unlucky Brighton amid late drama ]

Arsenal want Aourar, but Lyon want (a lot) more money

Aouar to Arsenal feels almost inevitable at this point, with the Gunners seemingly set to benefit from Manchester City and Juventus’ inaction toward signing the 22-year-old French midfielder. Their initial bid was rejected by Lyon, but their does appear to be some room to negotiate between the sides’ initial positions. Lyon began with a $69-million valuation, while Arsenal’s bid was reportedly just shy of $45 million. Aouar has reportedly already agreed contract terms with Arsenal, and the move hinges upon the two clubs agreeing a fee.

Brewster to Sheffield United; Villa, Brighton also interested

Rhian Brewster remains a highly rated future prospect for Liverpool, but the 20-year-old has reached the point in his development where he requires first-team PL action in order to become a first-team PL player. He won’t get such an opportunity at Liverpool — not this season, at least — thus he is prepared to leave the club, with the likes of Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion all reportedly interested. Whether or not he will go out on loan or leave permanently remains up in the air.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund falls to Augsburg, Bremen sinks Schalke

Bundesliga results
Photo by Guido Kirchner/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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It says something about Bayern Munich’s dominance that there are temptations to write off the field when the Bavarians’ four perceived title rivals all drop points in Week 2.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Borussia Dortmund was stunned by Augsburg while Bayer Leverkusen drew RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach only managed a point against Union Berlin on Saturday.

Bayern’s Sunday task at Hoffenheim isn’t easy coming off a UEFA Super Cup win over Sevilla at midweek, but they’ll be motivated by the knowledge that a win gives them the chance to match the world record consecutive win streak of 24… and set up a chance to set their own mark against Dortmund in the German Super Cup.

Schalke 1-3 Werder Bremen

Niclas Fullkrug scored a hat trick in the match’s first hour, the opening tally assisted by USMNT man Josh Sargent, as Bremen heaped misery on under-fire David Wagner at Schalke.

Sargent was back at forward following a week in the midfield and went 87 minutes. He put three shots on target and had three key passes in addition to his assist. He converted both of his dribbles but was also debited with a “big chance missed” via SofaScore.

The hosts had much of the ball but saw their Bundesliga winless run reach 18 matches, adding a late red card for Ozan Kabak and stoppage time goal from Mark Uth.

Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 RB Leipzig

All the scoring was done in the first 20 minutes, as Emil Forsberg’s 14th-minute marker was leveled by the hosts’ Kerem Demirbay.

Bayer had 59 percent possession and took 11 of the match’s 18 shots including four on target.

They’ve now drawn both of their matches to start the season, while Leipzig is one of three teams on four points.

Augsburg 2-0 Borussia Dortmund

An 18-6 edge in shot attempts was not enough for the visitors to increase their record to 2-0 on the season.

Augsburg scored before and after halftime with Daniel Caligiuri setting up Felix Uduokhai for an opener before scoring off a Florian Niederlechner feed to collect the win.

American teen Giovanni Reyna put together a decent stat line in the loss, passing at 85 percent amongst his 90 touches and winning 7-of-12 duels while drawing four fouls (SofaScore).


Elsewhere

Hertha Berlin 1-3 Eintracht Frankfurt
Mainz 1-4 Stuttgart
Arminia Bielefeld 1-0 Koln
Borussia Monchengladbach 1-1 Union Berlin
Hoffenheim v Bayern Munich — 9:30 am ET Sunday
Freiburg v Wolfsburg — Noon ET Sunday


Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Augsburg 2 2 0 0 5 1 4 1-0-0 1-0-0 6
 Eintracht Frankfurt 2 1 1 0 4 2 2 0-1-0 1-0-0 4
 RB Leipzig 2 1 1 0 4 2 2 1-0-0 0-1-0 4
 Arminia Bielefeld 2 1 1 0 2 1 1 1-0-0 0-1-0 4
 Bayern Munich 1 1 0 0 8 0 8 1-0-0 0-0-0 3
 Stuttgart 2 1 0 1 6 4 2 0-0-1 1-0-0 3
 Hertha BSC 2 1 0 1 5 4 1 0-0-1 1-0-0 3
 Freiburg 1 1 0 0 3 2 1 0-0-0 1-0-0 3
 Hoffenheim 1 1 0 0 3 2 1 0-0-0 1-0-0 3
 Borussia Dortmund 2 1 0 1 3 2 1 1-0-0 0-0-1 3
 Werder Bremen 2 1 0 1 4 5 -1 0-0-1 1-0-0 3
 Bayer Leverkusen 2 0 2 0 1 1 0 0-1-0 0-1-0 2
 Wolfsburg 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0-1-0 0-0-0 1
 Union Berlin 2 0 1 1 2 4 -2 0-0-1 0-1-0 1
 Mönchengladbach 2 0 1 1 1 4 -3 0-1-0 0-0-1 1
 1. FC Köln 2 0 0 2 2 4 -2 0-0-1 0-0-1 0
 Mainz 05 2 0 0 2 2 7 -5 0-0-1 0-0-1 0
 Schalke 04 2 0 0 2 1 11 -10 0-0-1 0-0-1 0

Chelsea completes 3-goal comeback, draws West Brom

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West Brom – Chelsea: Chelsea spotted the hosts three goals as West Brom scored thrice in the first 28 minutes but drew the Blues 3-3 after Tammy Abraham cleaned up a stoppage-time rebound to produce a point at the Hawthorns on Saturday.

Callum Robinson bagged a brace and Kyle Bartley also scored as the Baggies built their big lead but only earned its first point of their fifth spell in the Premier League.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi crafted beautiful goals in the second half to lead the comeback bid as Chelsea moved to 1-1-1 on the young season.


3 things we learned: West Brom – Chelsea

1. Bold Baggies: Slaven Bilic’s men took advantage of moments, as their 23 percent possession in the first half yielded a remarkable 3-0 lead thanks to Chelsea errors and a clinical bit of finishing from Robinson. The Bartley goal came off a set piece and West Brom would’ve targeted that from the start and embraced a 1-0 lead. That it was the third goal of the first half-hour had to have Bilic and his Baggies in a fit of amused laughter. Remember: This West Brom team lost 3-0 to Leicester and 5-2 against Everton.

2. Chelsea delivers on chances but laments defense: Chelsea fans have heard this before, again and again, but their 2019-20 Blues created more chances than any Premier League team outside of Manchester City. They scored 33 less goals than City and 16 fewer than Liverpool. Chelsea needed all of its 76 percent possession and 22 total shots to come back from an absurd first half at the Hawthorns. Ugly. A penny for Antonio Rudiger’s thoughts.

3. Impact subs: Lampard pushed two buttons at halftime. Taking off Marcos Alonso on a yellow for Cesar Azpilicueta was nothing risky considering the latter has been so good for such a long time, bu removing influential Mateo Kovacic for Hudson-Odoi deserves a high-five. It could’ve backfired — though what would that have really mattered given the 3-0 deficit? — but Hudson-Odoi combined for a wonderful second goal and Azpilicueta was steady on the left and assisted Mount’s marker. Would Olivier Giroud’s 73rd-minute move for Thiago Silva make a difference, too? No, but Mount’s rip rebounded to Abraham and credit to Lampard for not removing the otherwise wasteful center forward.

Man of the Match:

It’s difficult to look past Robinson and Mount but West Brom center back Bartley had the third goal to go with nine clearances and a perfect 5-of-5 success rate on long balls. He also made a brave stoppage time stop on Werner at the back post.

West Brom - Chelsea
West Bromwich Albion’s Bartley (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

West Brom – Chelsea recap

Willy Caballero’s start between the pipes was under duress, as Robinson got a pass from Matheus Pereira and slashed a shot from the edge of the 18. It went through the legs of Reece James and Caballero couldn’t locate it.

The pink-clad Blues soon found possession and Kai Havertz forced a strong save out of Sam Johnstone with an obscured strike from distance.

James spotted Tammy Abraham in the 12th minute but the striker’s left-foot was inadequate to the back post task. Mason Mount then crossed hard for Werner in traffic, the German’s shot kissing the crossbar for a goal kick.

A poor touch from Thiago Silva gifted Robinson a 1v1 break on goal and the ex-Sheffield United man lashed past Caballero for 2-0.

Bartley made it 3-0 off a corner kick, Darnell Furlong heading the set piece to the back post for a cool finish.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Mount gave Chelsea hope in the 55th, a terrific shot from distance that froze Johnstone and made it 3-1.

Johnstone then reacted well to slap away a deflected effort from Havertz.

Hudson-Odoi took some time to find his place in the match but his work to produce Chelsea’s second was good stuff. The 19-year-old worked with Timo Werner on his right and Kai Havertz on his left to work his way into the 18 and slot past Johnstone.

That was it, though, as Giroud’s introduction for Thiago Silva and five minutes stoppage time could not produce an equalizer.

Werner nearly lashed one in but Bartley dove headfirst into the path to turn a would-be goal into an equalizer.

That’s when the equalizer arrived at the Hawthorns, a handball on Havertz neither called in the buildup nor legislated by VAR.