On Jurgen Klinsmann and Michael Bradley and “playing out of position”

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Michael Bradley is one of the most complete players in the history of the United States men’s national team, an industrious midfielder with tremendous vision who scores a lot more for his country than he has for his clubs.

Jurgen Klinsmann is a free-talking European hero with a personality much different like his captain for this week’s friendlies. His experimentation is much different than his predecessor, Bob Bradley, who is admired in American soccer circles and has gone on to relative success as a manager at both the country (Egypt) and club (Stabaek).

So it feels fitting, at least to me, that the majority of American soccer fans would rebel against Klinsmann and not Michael Bradley as the player struggles in the United States set-up. Perhaps already ensured the future label of USMNT legend — Top 20 in caps, Top 15 in goals, Top 10 in assists as a midfielder at age 27 — to say Bradley is struggling is a bit of an arbitrary term here, as Michael Bradley’s man-marking and tackling remains strong.

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It’s his work with the ball that has cost him. In fact, isn’t it funny that we’re pointing to Bradley missing a sitter and blowing another scoring chance as an indictment against Klinsmann for playing him in an advanced role? As if a very good player’s missed chances are because his coach put him in a different spot? Brek Shea banged home a free kick despite playing back. How come that didn’t mess with his mojo when an opportunity presented itself?

Klinsmann has clearly decided that Bradley is his best option as a playmaker, and it’s a choice he made long before the troubles of this week (or even this year). Choice is a key word here. I have little doubt that, given a legitimate No. 10, Klinsmann would slide Michael Bradley back into the formation. He simply has a glut of decent choice to sit on top of defenders, as Danny Williams proved today in joining Geoff Cameron, Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman as adequate if not strong in a set back role.

source: Getty ImagesIn fact, giving Jones more freedom at the World Cup was another nod to Klinsmann’s lack of faith in his attacking midfielders (though this will certainly rile up those still stung by Landon Donovan’s omission from the Brazil roster). Unfortunately, we can’t know Klinsmann’s plan had Clint Dempsey not been injured. Perhaps Michal Bradley would’ve been set back a bit more, a different link in the chain.

Mix Diskerud is the States’ best hope, though Klinsmann has also looked at Alfredo Morales in his engine room, although Alejandro Bedoya was at his best during the Switzerland match. But look at the mix of players who weren’t called and ask yourself who’s going to be a better fit as a playmaker. Is it Lee Nguyen? That’s the only name I see that begs further investigation.

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I think Klinsmann has decided that transforming an ‘out of his element’ Michael Bradley into an ‘in his element’ Michael Bradley is better than the other options, and that there are plenty of players capable of filling his former role. And to be fair, Klinsmann probably thinks of Bradley as the man with Heerenveen, Borussia Monchengladbach and the States before Klinsmann arrived.

Ironically, it seems Michael Bradley’s drop-off in offensive production has come since Klinsmann arrived. I’ll even subtract his prolific 2007-08 season in the Eredivisie, where he netted 18 times.

2008-2010
Club – 11 goals
Country – 8 goals

2011-present
Club – 6 goals
Country – 5 goals

Additionally, and perhaps this has a lot to do with his maturation as a player versus positioning, but follow me here as we walk down a path accompanied by the troublesome but somewhat useful “assist” statistic. As bizarre as this is to read, Michael Bradley didn’t register a single helper for the States until 2011. In the Klinsmann era, he has 12.

[ MORE: Does Klinsmann’s experimentation hurt or help? ]

Remember how he had covered more ground than any player at the World Cup by the time the States had been eliminated? How many coaches are lauded for making a player source: APuncomfortable in prodding them forward? And it might be worth noting that the United States has been shut out exactly twice since the start of 2014 (Ukraine and Germany).

Look, I’d swear by Michael Bradley as a player and leader a lot more than I’d vouch for Klinsmann as a coach (Heck, look at the names above who weren’t called in for this window: Cameron, Diskerud, Beckerman). I was jazzed when my young son asked for Bradley jersey instead of those “sexy” goal scoring choices (“Yes, son… be the destroyer!”).

I’m certainly not 100 percent sold on the German legend as American leader, but I also think there’s a measure of “He’s not American” in many of anti-Klinsmann sentiments, and that if Ben Olsen led the States to the same finish at the World Cup he’d get a lot more high-fives. But it’s worth discussing whether Michael Bradley’s use as a more advanced attacker is more of an indictment on possible U.S. players in that role rather than this wacky coach forcing a square peg into a round hole.

And, by the way, if this experiment does bear fruit by the time of the Gold Cup, the Copa America Centenario and/or the Confederations Cup, it will certainly have been worth the pain of this Fall and Winter.

Bradley is the Yanks’ best; If learning whether he can adapt higher up the pitch in meaningless matches is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Man United reveal plans for the future; financial results announced

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Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has a plan.

He shared it in a statement on Monday, as the Red Devils have picked up some momentum over the past few weeks with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side back in the hunt for a top four finish in the Premier League.

The leading man at the PL giants confirmed that producing their own young group of players in the first team is now their main aim.

“We have a clear vision in terms of football philosophy and recruitment,” Woodward said. “The significant investments that we have made in recent years in areas such as transfers, recruitment infrastructure, analytics and our Academy are already beginning to bear fruit.

“We are very proud to be shortly approaching a milestone 4,000th game featuring an Academy player, and we are particularly optimistic regarding the considerable young talent currently coming through. Our ultimate goal is to win trophies by playing exciting football with a team that fuses graduates from our Academy with world-class acquisitions.”

Academy products Marcus Rashford, Andreas Pereira and Scott McTominay are key players in United’s first team this season while the likes of Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe and Mason Greenwood have all gained valuable experience.

That said, Woodward will no doubt realize that United have to spend on key additions in the upcoming windows alongside promoting their talented youngsters.

Solskjaer has already mentioned that the January transfer window is something United will look at closely, as they are currently in seventh place in the Premier League table and nine points off the top four. An attacking midfielder is likely to be their key target as they failed to bring in Sporting Lisbon’s Bruno Fernandes this summer.

With regards to the finances, United’s net debt rose by $177.9 million which was in essence due to bringing in Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Daniel James this summer. However, their first quarter revenue for this year was slightly up to $175.5 million year-on-year.

They are expected to bring in $86.8 million less in the next 12 months from TV revenue and prize money as they failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, but players wages did fall 8.8 percent with the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez off the wage bill, as that now stands at $90 million.

As always, a lack of success on the pitch doesn’t really seem to hurt United off it.

Senegal, Nigeria stay perfect in African Cup qualifying

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Famara Diedhiou scored a hat trick in a game interrupted by heavy rain as Senegal beat Eswatini 4-1 on Sunday for two wins out of two in qualifying for the 2021 African Cup of Nations.

Diedhiou missed an early penalty and it was 0-0 at halftime when Senegal coach Aliou Cisse substituted Sadio Mane.

Diedhiou netted all three of his goals in a nine-minute period from the 59th to keep this year’s African Cup runner-up on course in the final stage of qualifying for the 2021 tournament. Badou Ndiaye scored Senegal’s fourth in Manzini against the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland.

Senegal lost to Algeria in the final of this year’s African Cup of Nations in Egypt and is embarking on another attempt to win the continental title for the first time.

Like Senegal, Nigeria has also won its first two of six games in the qualifiers’ decisive group stage after the Super Eagles benefited from an outstanding performance by forward Victor Osimhen in a 4-2 win over Lesotho. Osimhen scored twice and set up the other two as Nigeria again came from behind to win, like it did in its opening qualifier.

South Africa beat Sudan 1-0 with a goal by Lebogang Phiri for its first win of the qualifiers after losing to Ghana first up. Cameroon, which will host the 2021 African Cup, also registered a first win by beating Rwanda 1-0. Midfielder Ngoumo Ngamaleu scored in Cameroon’s first competitive win under new coach Toni Conceicao and first in six games.

Cameroon has already qualified as host but is still taking part in qualifying. The top two teams in each of the 12 groups will qualify with the exception of Cameroon’s group. There, the highest-placed of the other three teams – currently Mozambique – goes through to the 24-team finals which will be played in mid-2021.

Guinea and Mali sit in the qualifying positions in Group A – Mali won 2-0 in Chad and Guinea 2-0 at home to Namibia. There were also wins on Sunday for Uganda, Benin, Republic of Congo and Gabon.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Griezmann: Playing for Barcelona is ‘not the easiest’

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Over the summer, Barcelona shelled a whopping $135 million to land Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid.

It was a match made in heaven; the rest was supposed to be history.

Only that hasn’t been the case for the Frenchman in Barcelona.

Despite scoring a brace in his debut at the Camp Nou, Griezmann’s impact and influence on the field has quickly dwindled. In 11 league appearances with the Catalan giants, the 28-year-old has scored four goals and added three assists, signs that the World Cup winner is, in fact, struggling with his new team.

Speaking to Telefoot, Griezmann revealed that playing for Barcelona is not an easy thing to do, but that with hard work, his fortunes will turn around for the best:

“It is hard, I knew it would be, it is not the easiest place. This is a new team, a new club, new tactics, a new position. I have to work, try to understand my team-mates, after they will understand me too and it will work just like that… Critics will always be there. But I am good, I am proud of where I am. Only work pays off. I have to take confidence and it will all come just like that.”

This season, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has frequently deployed the Frenchman as a left winger, with the hope that he will link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The positives form such an ideology have yet to be reaped, however. Griezmann is scoring a goal every 224 minutes, a career worst.

The 28-year-old, too, has played in a central role on a couple of occasions, specifically during the absences of Messi and Suarez, but it hasn’t worked out for a player that has made a career from roaming that part of the field.

The building clamor at the Camp Nou is borderline justifiable – mainly because it’s now evident that Griezmann is wrestling with adapting to the expectations and systems in place in Barcelona.

But the high-flying attacker has proven he’s worth the price time and time again, and now he’s on the record saying that he’ll do everything in his power to do so with his new club.

Real Monarchs beat Louisville City to win first ever USL Cup

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Real Monarchs scored three unanswered goals as they routed Louisville City 3-1 at Lynn Stadium to win their first ever USL Cup title.

Noah Powder’s goal in the 66th minute sealed the deal for the visitor’s, adding to the goals scored by defenders Erik Holt and Konrad Plewa in the first half.

Surprisingly enough, it was Lou City who got off to a superb start on Sunday night, though.

Only six minutes after the initial whistle, Lou City’s leading goalscorer, Magnus Rasmussen, scored the game’s first goal, breaking a record for the fastest goal in a USL Cup final.

The defeat brings an end to Lou City’s historic run of consecutive USL Cup-winning seasons.

On July 1, former Real Salt Lake defender, Jamison Olave, took over as the Monarchs interim coach following Martin Vasquez’s unexpected resignation.