Omar Gonzalez hails “incredible” week for US Soccer; talks USWNT, Gold Cup glory

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U.S. national team defender Omar Gonzalez has paid tribute to an “incredible” week for all things U.S. Soccer.

The USMNT beat Germany on and Holland away from home last week in friendlies, the USWNT currently sit top of Group D at the Women’s World Cup in Canada, plus the U.S. U-23’s finished third in the Toulon Tournament and the U-20’s reached the World Cup quarterfinals.

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All in all, it’s been a very successful 10 days or so for U.S. national team’s across the board.

Speaking to ProSoccerTalk, Gonzalez also talked about Steven Gerrard’s imminent arrival in MLS (more on that here), plus LA’s slow start to the 2015 but was keen to speak about the Pass The Love campaign he has been getting behind to support the USWNT on their quest for World Cup glory in Canada this summer.

In what many lauded as a standout past week, Gonzalez reflected on all the USMNT, USWNT and U.S. youth teams have achieved in early June.

“It has been incredible for U.S. Soccer from the youth levels up to the senior teams. The U-20’s did great, the U.S. men’s team had unbelievable wins against Germany and Holland at their places was incredible,” Gonzalez said. “Watching those games, there was such a difference from the first half to the second half in both games. I just love the fact that we never quit. We kept it going and figured out how to switch our formations on the fly. I was really proud of the guys for the way they fought and managed to get stuck in and grind out results in unbelievable fashion. I was just a fan here cheering them on. I thought it was amazing.”

[ RELATED: Gonzalez says Gerrard to mirror Donovan, Beckham’s impact ]

Focusing on the USWNT’s early efforts in Canada, Gonzalez has urged the public to get behind the team just like they did during the USMNT’s run to the last 16 in Brazil last summer.

“The women’s team have always been so good and the fact that they have started this World Cup well, I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Gonzalez said. “I wish them all the best and it has been great to see the fans and the media have all rallied behind the women’s team. It is important to rally the fans to give the women’s team the same support they gave us in Brazil 2014. As a player I truly know how much seeing the support improves your play and your confidence.”

As for the men’s national team he is a part of, the 26-year-old believes Jurgen Klinsmann’s side deserves a little more credit for going into the backyard of reigning World Cup champions Germany and No. 6 ranked Holland and grabbing gritty wins.

“They accomplished something that has never been done,” Gonzalez said. “I would say ‘a win is a win not matter how you did it or who is on the field.’ I can tell you for a fact right now that those German and Dutch players they weren’t there just to play. They wanted to get a result and show their coach they belong there. They were trying just as hard as the U.S. were. It was a competitive match and we accomplished something that has never been done. It is tough to hear fans and the media trying to dumb this great accomplishment down. It was truly great to see. The players who were out there on the field worked their assess off for it.”

Gonzalez reserved special praise for 23-year-old LA teammate Zardes who scored his first international goal in the game against Holland and started both contests in Europe.

“I was really proud of my teammate Gyasi [Zardes] going there and playing in both games,” Gonzalez revealed. “I know how hard he works on a personal level because I see him every single day. He is a guy who is very driven and wants to get better every single day. To see him go there and score a goal and make a difference in both games was great to see.”

source:
USA v Australia: Group D – FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015

Heading into the summer, Gonzalez was named on Jurgen Klinsmann’s initial 35-man roster for the Gold Cup being hosted across the United States in July. After winning the tournament in 2013, Gonzalez is eager for the U.S. to become CONCACAF Champions once again and compete in the Confederations Cup in Russia in 2017.

“We are just trying to build off these two wins, continue with the confidence and continue with the great play because this Gold Cup is huge for us,” Gonzalez said. “If we win then we have a ticket to the Confederations Cup and that is a tournament we want to be a part of. We missed the last one so winning this Gold Cup will be huge for us. It is one of our main goals.”

Fulfilling that goal is going to be tough as both Mexico and Costa Rica are ranked above the U.S. in the current FIFA World rankings and all three nations reached the knockout stages of last summer’s World Cup with Costa Rica bowing out bravely at the quarterfinal stage.

“It is going to be extremely difficult,” Gonzalez conceded. “Costa Rica and Mexico, just to name a few teams, are very talented and want to win and go to the Confederations Cup just as bad as we do. We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us but if we can continue with the same mentality and the way we approach the games with that never say die attitude we can accomplish a lot. I know we will have players that can do it and we just have to go out there and perform like I know we can.”

As for the future of U.S. Soccer, Gonzalez believes it is bright after a week of success throughout the ranks.

“It is great to see the young guys always doing so well because you know the future is in good hands,” Gonzalez said. “There are so many young players who are learning the game quicker and are getting the proper coaching. It is great for the future and great for the now. As we saw in the last few games for the U.S. men’s team, a few young guys came on the field and made a big difference. It was great to see.”

Barcelona sign Neto in goalkeeper swap with Valencia

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Brazilian goalkeeper Neto will sign a four-year contract with the Spanish champions.

The transfer completes a swap a day after Barcelona sold Jasper Cillessen to Valencia.

Barcelona says it is paying 26 million euros ($29.5 million) plus possibly another 9 million euros ($10.2 million) in variables for Neto. Valencia paid Barcelona 35 million euros ($40 million) for Cillessen.

Neto will replace Cillessen, who played as a backup for Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Champions League and the Spanish league and only regularly started in the Copa del Rey.

The 29-year-old Neto helped Valencia qualify for the Champions League with a fourth-place finish for the past two seasons in Spain. He also played in Italy at Juventus as a backup to Gianluigi Buffon and at Fiorentina after starting at Brazilian club Paranaense.

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

USMNT v. Panama: Three things we learned

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It wasn’t always pretty, but the U.S. Men’s National Team eked out a 1-0 win over Panama in Kansas City, Kan. on Wednesday night to win its group. Jozy Altidore scored the game’s only goal in stunning fashion, finishing an overhead kick to put Panama away and set up a quarterfinal bout with Curacao on Sunday evening.

Here are three of the biggest takeaways from Wednesday’s win:

[READ: All the latest USMNT news here]


Jozy Altidore is still the best we’ve got

Many U.S. Men’s National Team fans have called for the forced retirements of Altidore and Michael Bradley, among many others, after the debacle that was the last World Cup cycle.

Until tonight, Altidore wasn’t in the USMNT picture, in part due to Dave Sarachan using younger players and Altidore continuing to suffer a series of muscle injuries since October 2017. And yet, if tonight’s game showed anything in Altidore’s 83 minutes on the pitch, it’s that he’s still the best option for the USMNT up top. While Gregg Berhalter clearly prefers Gyasi Zardes right now based on their previous work history together in Columbus, Zardes doesn’t have the strength or skill that Altidore does. It’s hard to imagine Zardes executing an overhead kick and it going in as sweetly as Altidore did.

What does this mean going forward? Regardless of if Zardes starts the rest of the way, Berhalter knows that he has Altidore always around who can give the U.S. a goal, especially on home soil and when fit. But it also lays the marker down for Zardes, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent and the other up and coming strikers that this is the level they need to meet, and beat, if they want to break into the starting lineup under Berhalter.

There’s speed to burn on the wings

It may not have had a huge impact on Wednesday, but in bringing Tyler Boyd and Christian Pulisic off the bench, Berhalter showed exactly why he’s brought so many speedy skill players along the wings.

While Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis couldn’t figure out the final pass or final touch in the box to score a goal, just their presence for 65-70 minutes tired out the backline, and the introductions of Pulisic and Boyd could have really unlocked the Panama defense. While it didn’t totally work on Wednesday, it could in the later stages of the tournament, especially in a potential rematch with either Panama or Jamaica in the semifinals and Mexico in the finals.

With Lewis and Morris likely available off the bench, that adds a new piece opponents have to worry about, both in terms of speed and dribbling ability.

Few impressed in a chance to earn a starting spot

It’s been nearly two years since the debacle in Trinidad and Tobago, and yet aside from maybe Matt Miazga or Nick Lima, there have been very few players who have done much to impress and prove they’re better than the previous cycle’s players. That continued on Wednesday with an MLS-heavy lineup. Wil Trapp, a midfielder with so much promise a few years ago, appears to have stalled. He had multiple turnovers and certainly didn’t look as sharp as Michael Bradley.

While Lewis and Morris have plenty of pace, their final pass was woeful and they didn’t do themselves any favors. Djordje Mihailovic was never going to push Pulisic out of the starting lineup, but Mihailovic didn’t exactly do enough to say that he should be the first man off the bench either, or to push Pulisic into a wing role with Mihailovic in the middle.

Aside from Matt Miazga and Omar Gonzalez in the middle, along with Altidore up top, no one in the lineup really did enough through the first 65 minutes to warrant another start in the tournament. It’s yet another disappointment as young players get chance after chance to prove they belong as starters, only to waste the opportunity, enabling the veterans to keep their role. More players need to keep pushing for those spots, whether through club form or national team performances. Otherwise, we’ll end up in the same situation as before.

 

USMNT remains perfect, tops Panama to win group (video)

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In his first start since the U.S. Men’s National Team’s infamous defeat to Trinidad and Tobago, Jozy Altidore showcased his strength, speed and technical ability to help lead the U.S. to victory.

Altidore’s outstanding bicycle kick goal proved to be the difference in a sometimes dour game as the USMNT topped Panama, 1-0, Wednesday evening at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. The win kept the U.S. perfect through the Gold Cup group stage with no goals allowed, and it has somewhat erased the memory of the USMNT’s horrible run-up to the tournament, with defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela now firmly in the rear-view mirror.

[MUST-SEE GOAL: Jozy Altidore]

With the win, both teams head to Philadelphia for the quarterfinals this Sunday. Panama plays the undercard matchup against Jamaica while the USMNT faces Curacao.

Coming off two wins to open the Gold Cup, Berhalter decided to use a completely changed starting lineup, featuring ten players from MLS teams along with Chelsea loanee Matt Miazga. Although there was some familiarity of the players on the field, it was at times a very poor match, with the USMNT struggling badly in the final third and even turning the ball over at midfield or leading the attack.

Despite winning the possession battle, 62-38, the USMNT didn’t do much with it. Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis, both of whom were subbed out, struggled on their crosses after beating a defender. The pair provided energy and hard running defensively but it didn’t lead to many chances. Altidore had the best of the first half when he was played into the box, but his strike from the right just went wide of the net.

In the 65th minute, Berhalter tried to inject some life in the game with the introduction of Christian Pulisic. It turned out a goal could come just after, but without the intervention of Pulisic.

Djordje Mihailovic drilled the corner kick to the far post where it was met by the head of Matt Miazga who sent it back towards goal. A missed clearance from Panama popped the ball up in the air above the back post, allowing Altidore the time he needed to lift off the ground and bicycle kick it in for the game’s only goal.

Berhalter later brought on both Tyler Boyd and Gyasi Zardes off the bench to try and score an insurance goal, but Panama’s defense held strong and the U.S. failed to threaten the rest of the way. However, the U.S. backline kept a third-consecutive clean sheet and key players such as Michael Bradley got the entire game off to rest before likely returning to the lineup this weekend.

 

 

Must-See Goal: Jozy Altidore puts USMNT in front with Bicycle Kick

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Jozy Altidore put his stamp on the game and gave U.S. Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter more to speak about with one fell swing.

Altidore finished off a corner kick in spectacular fashion, executing a perfect bicycle kick to put the USMNT up 1-0 in the 66th minute. The goal came one minute after the entrance of Christian Pulisic, which perhaps was on the mind of the Panama defense.

It was Altidore’s second-straight game vs. Panama with a goal. His last two were in October 2017, when the U.S. pummeled Panama, 4-0. Of course, a few days later, a tired USMNT failed to win at Trinidad and Tobago.