Premier League Playback: In defense of Jose Mourinho

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MOURINHO MELTDOWN IN FULL FLOW

For the fifth time in 10 Premier League games this season, Chelsea tasted defeat. It seems like we are saying this every week lately, but the Blues’ dismal season hit a new low on Saturday at Upton Park.

Facing their London rivals for the final time at the famous Boleyn Ground, Chelsea — most noticeably their manager Jose Mourinho — hit the self-destruct button in a big way as their star players continue to struggle and their manager was once again left scratching his head for an explanation as he’s tried calling out veterans, dropping superstars and giving youngsters a chance. Nothing seems to be working.

[ MORE: Mayhem as Chelsea lose again ]

In a few minutes at the end of a first half where they trailed 1-0 at West Ham, Cesc Fabregas had a goal disallowed for a tight offside decision, Nemanja Matic was shown a second yellow card as the Blues went down to 10-men and then a member of Mourinho’s coaching staff, Silvino Louro, was sent off for running onto the pitch to remonstrate about the decisions.

Mourinho stood there still, smirking, with his hands tightly tucked into his pockets as he watched on with the reigning PL champs unraveling.

All of the self-control he showed in that situation obviously left him at half time as the Chelsea manager was sent off by referee Jon Moss, after allegedly launching into a tirade against the officiating, and spent the second half watching his team lose from the directors box at Upton Park among smug home fans — thanks to Andy Carroll‘s late winner — and with bodyguards surrounding him. After being sent off, Mourinho did not speak to the press after the game. That was probably for the best but could land him in further trouble. His players did and said they were “devastated” as their title defense seems all but over. To add insult to injury Mourinho was charged with misconduct by the FA on Monday, as the number of charges, fines and investigations against him are now totting up. The PL has its perfect pantomime villain, one that seems to believe everybody and everything is against him and his team.

[ MORE: Standings | schedule | stats ]

Mourinho, 52, continues to be under pressure as he slammed the English media last week for “having no respect” after videos of him being followed around the streets of London by teenage lads were leaked. The world seems to be closing in on Mourinho and his players, as they continue to get themselves in terrible situations and despite the rub of the green not going their way, the Blues are not helping themselves on and off the pitch. When you look at the situation Mourinho has gotten himself into, can you feel sorry for him?

No. Plus, he wouldn’t want you to. Publicly calling out team doctor Eva Carneiro which led to her leaving, then being fined by the FA for saying referees are “afraid” to give his team decisions, having allegations thrown his way regarding harassment in the streets and now being sent off at half time on Saturday has led to many saying Mourinho is purposefully trying to get fired. There is nothing new here. Mourinho has always stood his ground and spoken out, regardless of the situation. Since he returned to Chelsea in 2013, he has racked up $150,000 in fines across six different charges by the FA.

Even if he was able to generate this extraordinary set of circumstances to somehow create an exit strategy from Chelsea, the team he led to a PL title just last season, would this really be in his best interests? Not turning around this situation would be a massive blot on “The Special One’s” copybook and although you can’t defend his actions off the pitch as he appears to be losing the plot, you can defend the fact that he is the right man to get Chelsea out of this mess.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

What is next for Mourinho? Reports say it would cost owner Roman Abramovich $45 million just to fire Mourinho. He is undoubtedly the best manager in the world. He is going through a slump. So are his players. Mourinho deserves the rest of the season, at least, to try and turn this around. Building a dynasty isn’t always about parades, drinking champagne from cups and the glory. There are growing pains along the way. Ask Sir Alex Ferguson how many speed-bumps he had to negotiate amid all the success at Old Trafford. If Chelsea want long-term success, they must stick by Mourinho through the good and the bad. Right now it is bad. Very bad. But the good thing about that is it can only go one way for Chelsea. The only way is up and despite all of these defeats, they sit just nine points off fourth-place with 28 games to go this season in the PL.

“Chelsea cannot have a better manager than me,” Mourinho said after a recent defeat to Southampton where he was also charged for comments against the refs. “There are many managers in the world who belong to my level but not better. Not better. If the club sacks me they sack the best manager this club ever had.”

Love or hate his brash nature, he’s right.

This situation is dire but Mourinho must be given the chance to steer the ship back into successful waters in the PL and in Europe. If he’s not and Abramovich fires him, it’s hard to see who else could rescue this situation and bring more success, long-term, to Stamford Bridge other than Mourinho.

Premier League Schedule – Week 10

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 2-1 Everton Recap, watch here
A Villa 1-2 Swansea Recap, watch here
B’mouth 1-5 Spurs Recap, watch here
Leicester 1-0 C Palace Recap, watch here
Liverpool 1-1 Saints Recap, watch here
Man Utd 0-0 Man City Recap, watch here
Norwich 0-1 WBA Recap, watch here
Stoke 0-2 Watford Recap, watch here
S’land 3-0 N’castle Recap, watch here
West Ham 2-1 Chelsea Recap, watch here

KANE’S BACK

Ah, there you are Harry. We’ve missed you, sir. Having burst onto the scene last season with 31 goals for Tottenham Hotspur in all competitions, winning the PFA Young Player of the Year award and making his England debut, it’s fair to say Kane’s start to this season has been a slow-burner. On Sunday down in the sun in Bournemouth he went nuclear.

Kane, 22, scored three times as Spurs smashed the Cherries 5-1 despite falling behind just 49 seconds into the game. True, Kane had some help from Bournemouth’s Artur Boruc in goal, but that little bit of luck which has evaded the striker so far this season returned.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

With Spurs only losing one game so far this season and having the best defense in the league, their solidity means that if Kane and Christian Eriksen go on a scoring spree, they will seriously challenge the top four. And with Kane back in form, top notch meme’s also made a return.

Editor’s note: For those who also had Kane as their fantasy team captain this weekend, high five. Spurs fans, enjoy the highlights below as your teams offense finally exploded into life.

SHERWOOD SACKED

After losing eight times in their opening 10 PL games of the season, Tim Sherwood was fired by Aston Villa’s American owner, Randy Lerner, on Sunday.

Sherwood, 46, had been in charge of Villa since last February and despite keeping them up and leading them to an FA Cup final appearance last season, a poor start to the current campaign sees the Midlands club bottom of the standings and with plenty of new players on board who are either under-performing or have yet to settle in. Sherwood won 10 of his 28 games in charge of Villa and had a 35.7 percent win record. However, just six of this victories came during his 23 PL games in charge as his direct tactics initially got results but in recent weeks he’s cut a forlorn figure on the sidelines with both Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph sold over the summer and reports of divides growing between him and the players in the dressing room following his last defeat, a 2-1 reverse at the hands of Swansea City.

Speaking via the League Managers Association (LMA) on Monday, here’s what Sherwood had to say about being fired.

“I am very disappointed that I will not be able to carry on in my role as manager of Aston Villa. I knew when I took on the role that it would be a big challenge, but it proved to be one I greatly enjoyed and I know I have learned a lot from this experience. Obviously, the initial priority was to stay in the Premier League, but beating Liverpool in the FA Cup semi at Wembley and then leading the team out for the Final was an achievement and experience that I will treasure for the rest of my career.

“I’d like to thank my coaching staff and the staff throughout the club for their dedication, the Villa fans for their passionate support and the players, who gave everything during my time at the club. I wish the club all the best for the rest of the season and indeed for the future.”

The situation at Villa, a club openly put on the market by Lerner as he looks to sell them, is dire and may only get worse. The likes of Alex McLeish, Paul Lambert and now Sherwood have all failed to revive this sleeping giant of English soccer under Lerner’s reign. Until he sells up and lifts the uncertainty surrounding the clubs future, things could get much worse (i.e. relegation to the second-tier) before it gets better.

For now, we will not see Sherwood’s brash nature in press conferences and the sight of him thrashing around his gilet jubilantly will become a distant memory. A coach who is old school in many ways and willing to give youth a chance has lost his job. Now, will Villa lose their status in the PL? Frenchman Remi Garde is the bookies favorite to take what has become one of the most difficult jobs in English soccer. Once again, keeping Villa up would be a massive achievement. It shouldn’t be like this for a club of this stature.

NFL, PL MESHING

One storyline bubbling around the PL action this weekend was this: there is certainly a growing appreciation for the NFL among players and teams in the Premier League. I remember a chat with Brad Friedel earlier this year when he told me a lot of the young players at Spurs watched American sports avidly, and since then the likes of Harry Kane have revealed their love for baseball and last week Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen were meeting the Buffalo Bills of the NFL at Spurs’ training ground.

I went along to chat with players from the Bills and Spurs about the mutual respect between the two sports and how the NFL is growing in the UK and London. Here’s a snippet from the piece on SportsWorld, titled “A true football mixer”:

“When I played in Amsterdam for Ajax in Holland, they had a team in NFL Europe but after a couple of years they stopped it,” Jan Vertonghen explained. “I would love to have a team here. In London there is lots of potential. It is the biggest city in Europe and if they have to start somewhere I think it will be here. These games that will be played in Wembley and hopefully in Tottenham Hotspur’s new ground in a couple of years, they will help it to grow.”

The International Series continues to draw sell-out crowds at Wembley Stadium, the latest of which saw the Bills lose in agonizing fashion to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

With the NFL agreeing a new five-year deal to have at least two regular games a season at Wembley through 2020, plus Tottenham agreeing a 10-year deal to have at least two NFL games of their own every season at their new White Hart Lane stadium when it is complete in 2018., the interest levels are clearly there. With four NFL games a year soon coming to England’s capital and the soccer capital of the globe, the meshing of the two types of football continues.

CAMERON HURT, HOWARD BLAMED

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Overall, it was a bad weekend for the Americans Abroad in the PL. First up, Geoff Cameron started his 10th straight game at center back for Stoke City but the Massachusetts native only lasted nine minutes as he went down with a thigh injury which is likely to keep him out for a week, missing the Potters’ big League Cup last 16 clash against Chelsea on Tuesday but he could make the league game against Newcastle on Saturday. Cameron’s boss at Stoke, Mark Hughes, was full of praise for the U.S. national team star and pointed to his injury as a main reason for Stoke losing 2-0 at home to Watford.

“We were adversely affected when Geoff had to come off because he gives us that ability and that calmness on the ball,” Hughes said. “He has been one of our star performers this season and we really missed him today.”

Tim Howard had a day to forget by his own high standards, as the Everton and USMNT goalkeeper will feel he could have done better on both of Arsenal’s goals as the Toffees lost 2-1 at the Emirates. On Arsenal’s first goal Howard was caught in no-mans-land as Olivier Giroud flicked a header over him, then on the second he could have attacked the ball better but Santi Cazorla‘s wicked free kick from the left flank picked out Laurent Koscielny perfectly to head home the Gunners’ crucial second.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news ]

A poll on the Liverpool Echo’s website saw 86 percent of participants call for Howard to be dropped, as fans of the Toffees believe his performances over the last 18 months since his World Cup heroics deserve to see him lose the starting spot. He has lost his starting spot for the League Cup last 16 clash on Tuesday against Norwich City, but only beacuse back-up Joel Robles will continue to play the cup games. After the defeat to Arsenal I asked Martinez about the goals his team conceded and if Howard’s positioning was to blame. He refused to mention Howard directly, instead citing Everton’s inexperienced defenders must do better at stopping the cross and tracking runners, but speaking to TV cameras earlier he did say that “a goalkeeper with his experience will be disappointed with that.”

Completing the negative USMNT roundup, Brad Guzan‘s Aston Villa lost again but there was one bright spot… Sunderland loanee DeAndre Yedlin saw his side pick up their first victory of the season and beat bitter North East rivals Newcastle United 3-0, in somewhat controversial fashion, for a sixth-straight derby win. The Seattle native started his second-straight PL game since Sam Allardyce took charge and boy, that victory must have tasted sweet for Allardyce — a man who was fired by Newcastle — in his first home game in charge of the Black Cats as he lifted his new side off the bottom of the standings.

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here. 

Most to gain (or lose) from decisive USMNT matches

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The United States men’s national team will not be changing coaches regardless of the scores against Canada and Cuba this month, giving added incentive to 23 men called into the team to get the job done.

Long- and short-term injuries continue to open the door to players well past Gregg Berhalter’s top 23, even deeper considering the concurrent U-23 camp and the coach’s apparent disinterest in some other players still performing well in Europe.

Christian Pulisic, Zack Steffen, and Michael Bradley picked up injuries that won’t allow them to join the team, while Timothy Weah and Tyler Adams have just restarted training with their clubs after long injury absences. Miles Robinson is still absent after being injured at the last camp and missing Atlanta’s playoff run

Throw in Berhalter’s decision not to call up Matt Miazga, Duane Holmes, and Julian Green to go with Jozy Altidore‘s lack of fitness, and you’ve got another month for some players to surprise (We haven’t even mentioned Antonee Robinson, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Richie Ledezma are at a loaded U-23 camp).

Edit note: Maybe we need to write up a Top 50 USMNT depth chart this evening or soon…

Chase Gasper and Corey Baird were sent home from camp ahead of the European arrivals, so here are the players whose fortunes could hinge on delivering for a coach who needs it. Make no mistake about it: Earnie Stewart’s vote of confidence means the coach is going nowhere, but anyone who helps Berhalter score a berth in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals will take a place near his heart.

Who’s gotta carpe sabbati? Read on…

Sebastian Lletget ,Jackson Yueill, Cristian Roldan (in that order) — We probably wrote something similar to this last month, but future camps without Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, and Weston McKennie are only going to happen if all are (again) injured or there is absolutely nothing on the line against Jamaica’s B Team.

Include Bradley’s absence and you’ll get an even deeper understanding of why who is chosen alongside McKennie and (probably) Alfredo Morales for this big match against Canada is a big deal. Lletget is 27 and Berhalter hasn’t shown a lot of love for him despite bringing a unique skill set and decent performances when he’s been given time on the USMNT pitch. Roldan might be the best non-prospect American player in MLS. Yueill is just 22, but again there are a lot of absent players ahead of him. We’re not included Wil Trapp in this discussion because he’s clearly a Berhalter favorite.

Out-fight Scott Arfield and out-fox Jonathan Osorio, and give Berhalter a reason to keep calling you into the fold.

The goalkeepers — There’s no reason to expect Zack Steffen to lose his first XI spot through injury, especially given his status as a Bundesliga starter on loan from a Champions League outfit — Oh, and he was Berhalter’s club No. 1, too! — but at some point these goalkeeper call-ups and their performances will determine who will be Nos. 2 and 3 for qualifying and for, probably, the 2022 World Cup.

Jonathan Klinsmann, Ethan Horvath, and Brady Scott aren’t here, and boy did Leicester City’s Chituru Odunze open some eyes during the U.S. flame-out at the U-17 World Cup.

So here’s Brad Guzan, the presumptive No. 1 in a post-Tim Howard world who proved presumptions aren’t foolproof.

Only two of Sean Johnson‘s eight caps were not friendlies, and both were Gold Cup clean sheets (six years apart). Might he get a chance in Orlando?

And Matt Turner is new here after an outstanding 2019 season in MLS. You can bet Berhalter rang up a respected Bruce Arena to get plenty of info before calling in the New England Revolution’s No. 1.

Aaron Long — This isn’t about gaining a spot on the squad, as the 27-year-old Long looks like a mainstay for Berhalter, rather a steady place in the XI. Miazga not being here could’ve been heard as a clarion call to the center backs who were called up.

Long has struggled in his past few months wearing the national team shirt, and a healthy John Brooks is an automatic starter. That leaves one spot, a pivotal one given Berhalter’s preferential formation, and Walker Zimmerman is a better passer than Long. This is a big camp for proving whether the Red Bulls man is a starter or security blanket.

Report: Galaxy leading way in Zlatan pursuit

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A report out of Italy hints at a win for the LA Galaxy when it comes to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Football-Italia says the best offer sent the way of the big Swede, 38, is from the Galaxy, at about $15 million over two years.

MLS can pop its collar that the report says Ibrahimovic doesn’t believe Bologna is a big enough club to tempt him into a move away from LA, where he was MLS Best XI in consecutive seasons.

[ MORE: Stewart says Berhalter is safe ]

The report also notes that Napoli interest has cooled, while AC Milan (more on them later) and Manchester United have not made serious offers for the man with 456 career club goals and 173 assists between the Galaxy, Ajax, Man United, Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Barcelona, and Paris Saint-Germain.

Knowing the math, and that Zlatan has scored 53 times in 58 matches for United, you wonder whether he’s not hunting 500 club goals. He’s also a known trophy hunter. Both of those paths are markedly easier with the Galaxy than Bologna, and Ibrahimovic is already comfortable and locked in a fierce rivalry with Carlos Vela and LAFC.

Zlatan also had 116 caps with 62 goals for Sweden and is one of the biggest names to grace Major League Soccer’s pitches. Of course there’s a chance at his age that he could break down, or his form could drop off a cliff, but for now another run as both villain and hero in a major MLS market would be a win for the league (even if he regularly touts himself as bigger than the league).

While we have not seen Ibrahimovic in a top league since he was injured for Man United, there’s little doubt he could still do a job over there. He’s only 2.5 seasons removed from a 28-goal, 10-assist season in all comps for Man United.

Don’t sleep on the idea that AC Milan could make a call to Ibrahimovic’s people, having scored just three goals in their past four games including high-profile 1-goal losses to Roma, Juventus, and Lazio. Milan has just 11 goals in 12 league outings, and was supposed to be a Serie A threat without the schedule congestion of Europe.

Top teams in good shape as EURO 2020 qualifying reaches climax

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With the Netherlands missing out on Euro 2016 and Italy absent from the World Cup in 2018, some of Europe’s traditional soccer powers have surprisingly failed to advance to recent major international tournaments.

Don’t expect any big shocks when qualification for next year’s European Championship wraps up over the coming days.

Six teams – Belgium, Spain, Italy, Poland, Russia and Ukraine – have already booked their places in the tournament and the remaining 14 automatic qualifiers will be determined after the final group games.

World champion France, European champion Portugal, and heavyweights such as Germany, England and the Netherlands are in good shape to finish in the top two in their respective groups, ensuring spots in the Europe-wide finals taking place in June and July.

There are big opportunities for Europe’s so-called lesser soccer nations, too. Finland, for example, needs only to beat Liechtenstein to qualify for its first major tournament.

France, the World Cup winner last year, is tied on points with Turkey in Group H and will secure a top-two finish by beating Moldova on Thursday. In case of an upset in that game in Paris, the French have another shot at qualification at Albania on Sunday.

Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, is guaranteed to advance in the defense of its title with wins over Lithuania at home and Luxembourg away – the bottom two teams in Group B.

England needs one win from its final two games – at home to Montenegro on Thursday and away to Kosovo on Sunday – to top Group A.

Editor’s note: Need tickets for the England game? Click here

And in Group C, Germany and the Netherlands are tied on points and need a maximum of four points from their final two qualifiers. Both have to play Northern Ireland, which is three points behind in third place.

The last four qualifying spots for the 24-team Euros will be decided in the playoffs in March.

RONALDO’S CHALLENGE

Could Cristiano Ronaldo fail to qualify for a major tournament?

UEFA would hate to see the Portugal star miss out, but his team has lacked a spark in qualifying and is eight points off Group B leader Ukraine.

Portugal is favored to beat Lithuania on Thursday and Luxembourg on Sunday to secure second place.

Still, there’s little margin for error. Dropped points could allow Serbia to overtake, forcing Portugal into the playoffs.

ENGLAND LANDMARK

England will be playing its 1,000th men’s international in the match against Montenegro and the occasion will be marked in a number of ways, including recognizing the notable contributions of former players and managers. Players will wear individual “legacy numbers” on their jerseys.

England manager Gareth Southgate is hoping a line can be drawn following scenes last month when his players were racially abused by some Bulgaria fans during England’s 6-0 win in Sofia. The game was stopped on two occasions by the referee. England’s match away to Montenegro in March was also marred by racist chanting toward England’s black players, notably Raheem Sterling.

“The players will want to move on, really,” Southgate said. “I think, for all of them, they dealt with it brilliantly and it would be wrong not to discuss it at all but I know that they want to get on with the football.”

Kosovo, which was accepted as a member of UEFA and FIFA only in 2016, is third in the group and could secure automatic qualification with a win at the Czech Republic on Thursday and a draw against England.

FINALLY FINLAND?

Finland is the only Nordic team never to have qualified for a World Cup or a European Championship. That could all change this week.

The Finns are second in Group J, five points clear of both Armenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and will join Italy in advancing to the finals with a win at home against last-placed Liechtenstein on Friday or if Bosnia fails to beat the Italians. Finland’s second chance, if needed, comes against Greece on Monday.

Finland is coached by a primary school teacher, Markku Kanerva, who led the country to a first ever European Under-21 Championship in 2009 and is impressing with the senior team a decade on.

Teemu Pukki has seven goals in qualifying as the team looks to go further than it ever did with past greats such as Sami Hyypia and Jari Litmanen.

CROATIA AT RISK

Croatia is finding European qualifying harder than last year’s World Cup.

The Croatians lead the evenly matched Group E but if they lose to Slovakia on Saturday the World Cup finalists could end up relying on other results to go their way.

Another team in a fight to qualify is Switzerland, which is third in Group D behind Ireland and Denmark, but is a big favorite against Gibraltar.

PLAYOFF SHOOTOUT

The playoffs offer a last chance for unsuccessful teams, but it’s a complex process.

Sixteen teams who didn’t qualify automatically will be ranked according to their divisions from the 2018 Nations League and put into four single-elimination brackets.

At the bottom end, there’s the League D playoff, which is guaranteed to hand one team its debut at a major championship. Georgia and Belarus have secured a place in that playoff mini-tournament and will likely be joined by Kosovo and North Macedonia.

The highest division almost certainly won’t have enough unqualified teams to make a four-team bracket, so will recruit extras from lower tiers. That could hand League A’s Iceland a fortunate draw with League C teams such as Bulgaria and Israel.

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

AP Sports Writer James Ellingworth in Dusseldorf, Germany, contributed to this story

USMNT boss Berhalter won’t be fired; USA confident of making World Cup

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USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter is under pressure, but he will not be fired if they lose against Canada or Cuba in the coming days.

Or anytime soon, for that matter.

That is the resounding message of support from USMNT General Manager Earnie Stewart, who spoke to reporters via a conference call on Tuesday and had to answer plenty of questions about the U.S. losing 2-0 at 69th ranked Canada last month.

Stewart batted away speculation about Berhalter’s future, as the USMNT need to win their remaining two CONCACAF Nations League Group A games against Canada in Orlando on Friday and then against Cuba, plus overturn a three-goal deficit on Canada, to reach the finals of the inaugural tournament.

“We’re looking at the future. So when I evaluate Gregg and the staff, what I’ve seen today, I’m a pleased man. An individual result is not going to change that,” Stewart said. “I’ve seen that progress, and when you look at these individual results of the Canada away game, no, we weren’t happy. We weren’t happy at all. We have now a moment to rectify that as well. This Friday is about that. We need to perform.”

Stewart then doubled down in his support of Berhalter and this group of players, led by the likes of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and now Sergino Dest, saying he is incredibly confident of reaching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“I have no fear at all that we are not going to qualify for the World Cup. I am very, very confident of that,” Stewart added.

The former USMNT player then revealed he’s felt personally attacked by the USMNT fanbase accusing the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) of nepotism as Jay Berhalter, Gregg’s brother, is high up in USSF and running to becoming the new CEO.

“I am the one making the decisions. All the conspiracy theories out there are very disrespectful to me and to the individuals: to Jay Berhalter, to Gregg Berhalter, myself,” Stewart said. “When people insinuate these things … I’ve worked a little bit too hard to be in the position where I’m in today to actually have people think that.”

Berhalter’s reign has seen mixed results so far, as the USMNT reached the 2019 Gold Cup final but were beaten by Mexico’s B team in the summer.

They were smashed 3-0 by Mexico’s A team in a friendly in September and the lackluster displays have infuriated the USMNT fanbase who have been hurting for over two years since the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Aside from the results, the major issues have been the possession-based style of play not seeming to suit the USMNT player pool, with so many talented youngsters struggling to adapt to what Berhalter wants, plus some player seemingly picked regardless of their performances.

So, Berhalter will stay, for now. But when is the next major flashpoint?

2022 World Cup qualifying starts next summer and if the USMNT get off to a bad start, it will be intriguing to see how Stewart and USSF react.

No matter what Stewart says this is a federation, and coach, under pressure. Let’s see if his team respond.