Three things from the U.S. U-23’s 1-1 draw with Colombia in Olympic playoff 1st leg

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After an hour or so of allowing my heartbeat to return to a normal rhythm given the relentless Colombian attack and its threats to crush my Olympic dreams or at least the chance to watch the U.S. men play soccer in the Olympics, I’m ready to speak.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Here’s three things we learned from the 1-1 draw in Barranquilla on Friday.

CENTER BACK(S?) ON POINT

Three years ago, Tim Parker (above) was playing in the NPSL. Two years ago, he was a St. John’s team that went 4-10-4. Last year, he was breaking into the lineup for the Vancouver Whitecaps, also on loan to their USL side.

Tonight, he was the best player on the United States men’s U-23 national team, keeping the flame burning for a nation’s men’s Olympic hopes.

Parker combined with Matt Miazga (Chelsea) to form a solid backbone for Andi Herzog’s unit, and he was a step above his center back mate. Given the relentless pressure provided by the Colombians, it’s a minor miracle they didn’t find a second goal. But they didn’t… and Parker was the main reason why.

ADJUST MUCH?

Herzog’s plan for the first half-hour, keeping a very narrow midfield in a bit of a 4-3-1-2, frustrated and flustered Colombia. It arguably kept them off-balance enough to allow Mario Rodriguez to set up Luis Gil for the opening goal.

The second half, though, had the U.S. looking disjointed whenever they found possession. Granted Herzog was forced into an early sub when goalkeeper Ethan Horvath was hurt, but his two remaining subs were used to take out Gil and Rodriguez.

United States' coach Andi Herzog instructs players during a U-23 first leg soccer match qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympics against Colombia at the Roberto Melendez Stadium in Barranquilla, Colombia, Friday, March 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
(AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Kellyn Acosta and Jordan Morris were gasping for air, and Acosta was toasted on the right flank time and again. Some are writing that off as Acosta playing out of position — he’s a DCM for FC Dallas — but regardless he needed to be moved. He could’ve slid into center for Gil if the midfielder needed to come off that bad, but it was clear it wasn’t his night against a dangerous wide attack.

We saw this in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, too. Herzog show some terrific game-planning and seems to be a heck of a coach, but his adjustments have been disappointing.

AIR JORDAN

As in gasping for air. Jordan Morris might be the great hope of the United States, but we’ve seen he’s far from a finished product. His outside of the right foot bender off the crossbar was gorgeous to watch, but that’s a left-footed shot he passed up to take it. And we’re not talking about a “He thinks two steps ahead of the goalkeeper” right-footer, but a “He went out of his way to use his right” right-footer. Disappointing.

Then again, Morris was gassed and playing in terrible heat (the pregame index was a “real feel” of 102). He’s also on the heels of his busiest and most unrelenting game sequence of his career (full college season, trial with Werder Bremen, Sounders preseason, starting role for Seattle). He can be forgiven, but we’d love to see him breakthrough for club and country ASAP, thanks.

United States' team pose for a group photo prior to the U-23 first leg soccer match qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympics against Colombia at the Roberto Melendez Stadium in Barranquilla, Colombia, Friday, March 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
(AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Late goalkeeper strike seals knockout spot in UEFA Youth League

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Club Brugge goalkeeper Senne Lammens may just be 17 years old, but he just lived every goalkeeper’s dream: to score a dramatic equalizer in the dying seconds of a game to send the club through to a European competition’s knockout stage.

The young goalkeeper came forward on a corner in the 94th minute of a game against Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League Wednesday morning in Belgium. With the visitors leading 2-1 and added time just about expired, Brugge needed to score an equalizer to secure passage to the knockout stage, lest they be left at the mercy of Galatasaray’s match against PSG.

Lammens delivered. The corner swung in to the top of the six-yard box and the youngster was on hand to head home a pinpoint effort inside the far post.

The header was quite literally the last act of the game, with stoppage time already creeping more than 60 seconds past the minimum three added minutes.

Lammens has shuttled back and forth between the youth squad and the senior squad this season serving occasionally as an emergency third goalkeeper behind Simon Mignolet and Ethan Horvath. Mostly, though, he’s been with the youth squad appearing in five of their six UEFA Youth League games, with three wins and a draw.

Report: Arsenal not interested in Ancelotti “profile”

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According to The Athletic reporter David Ornstein, Arsenal is not interested in a manager of Carlo Ancelotti’s “profile.”

The Italian was recently let go by Napoli after a disappointing first half of the season despite qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage.

Ancelotti has won a Premier League title, three Champions League titles, and a Scudetto during his career but apparently a manager with his resume does not interest the Gunners, who may be looking for a more youthful boss with a longer-term strategy and potentially stronger club or domestic ties.

At 60 years old, Ancelotti has been fired from posts at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and now Napoli over the last four years. Over those four seasons, he has just one league title, the 2016/17 Bundesliga crown he won with Bayern in runaway fashion, and has exceeded expectations in very limited capacities, instead seeing things turn sour at each job relatively quickly. This season at Napoli, the club sits seventh in the Serie A table, mired in a horrible seven-match winless run that has seen them tumble further from the Champions League places.

Ornstein’s report also touched on the timeline of a potential hire, with the club apparently still deciding on whether to see out the season with interim manager Freddie Ljungberg or make a mid-season appointment. He states that the club “want situation settled asap” but also prefer “right man over quick decision.” He does not identify who the number one target is, but suggests that if that person is available at this point in time, they will make the hire mid-season, otherwise there will be a waiting game.

Jorge Sampaoli resigns as Santos boss

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Brazilian club Santos confirmed Tuesday evening that manager Jorge Sampaoli has resigned as boss.

Sampaoli, who won the 2015 Copa America in charge of Chile but could not recreate that success with the Argentinian national team, signed on with Santos a year ago and guided them to a second-place finish in the Brazilian top flight, 16 points behind runaway champions Flamengo. His contract had another year, expiring in the winter of 2020, but with reports of offers from multiple clubs, he has stepped down.

The most widely reported destination is fellow Brazilian club Palmeiras, whom many believe Sampaoli has already entered talks with. He has also been linked with Argentinian club Racing, and his name has cropped up on occasion with the Arsenal vacancy, although that seems like a longshot. It was said in late October that Sampaoli had an offer from an unnamed La Liga club, but those rumors have cooled.

His reason for leaving Santos after just one successful season in charge is unconfirmed, but rumors are circulating that Sampaoli had incredibly ambitious transfer plans for the offseason, and when club president Jose Carlos Peres could not guarantee his support, the relationship became strained.

The 2019 season was mostly successful for Sampaoli at Santos, finishing second in the league table, but the secondary competitions were somewhat disappointing. They received a tough first-round draw in the Copa Sudamericana, falling to River Plate on away goals. They were also ousted from the Copa do Brasil in the Round of 16, falling 2-1 to an Atletico Minero side that finished 13th in the league table.

Tierney out months as Arsenal injuries pile up

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According to multiple reports, including Mark Mann-Bryans of PA Sport and Charles Watts of Goal.com, Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney could be out up to three months after dislocating his shoulder in the 3-1 win over West Ham on Monday.

Tierney was withdrawn in the 29th minute after an awkward fall, using the bottom of his shirt as a makeshift sling. The club is still deciding on whether he will require surgery, according to Mann-Bryans, and that decision will ultimately determine the length of time he will miss. Still, even without surgery, it could leave him sidelined for a month or more.

The 22-year-old has struggled with injuries since joining the Gunners this past summer, missing the first seven games of the year with a hip injury. He has seen action in just five Premier League games thus far, and again could be sidelined for a significant spell. He could also end up missing Scotland’s critical playoff match against Israel in late March depending on his recovery timeline and fitness level.

Tierney’s injury is not the only one Arsenal is currently sweating. Granit Xhaka will miss the Europa League group stage finale against Standard Liege with a concussion, while Hector Bellerin is struggling with a hamstring problem. “Hector had a feeling in his hamstring during the warm-up [before West Ham] and we took the decision,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg after the win over the Hammers. “Not going to force anyone to play if they don’t feel 100%.”

Dani Ceballos is still sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered against Vitoria in October Europa League play and won’t return to training until later this month, while Rob Holding is a question mark this week after missing the West Ham game thanks to a bruised knee.

Arsenal, currently sitting ninth in the Premier League table and is scheduled to host Manchester City this coming Sunday following the trip to Belgium. They have upcoming games against Everton, Bournemouth, Chelsea, and Manchester United through the festive period.