Realism wins: USMNT’s short-term approach still risky

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The reality of the situation is clear: the U.S. national team is on the back foot and scrambling.

With Jurgen Klinsmann fired, the U.S. is now without a head coach and technical director.

It has become a rudderless ship.

[ MORE: Klinsmann’s tenure unraveled

After Klinsmann’s firing U.S. Soccer’s president Sunil Gulati now has a big decision to make and ProSoccerTalk understands Bruce Arena is the only real candidate to take over, with a lack of so-called “top class” coaches currently available in world soccer the veteran coach is the best option.

UPDATE: Arena hired by USMNT 

Not to belittle Arena’s superb achievements in the game, both with the U.S. national team in the past and in Major League Soccer, but his appointment would scream of short-termism.

It is all based around one thing: qualifying safely for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. After that tournament, Arena will likely be replaced by a long-term hire. To me, 18 months seems a very long time to have somewhat of an interim tag around your neck…

[ MORE: Klinsmann fired

Anyway, first things first, after two games of the Hexagonal tournament that target of reaching a World Cup, a very modest one at that, is in real jeopardy. So, hiring a man who knows all about CONCACAF and its quirks seems solid enough. There will be some bumps along the way though.

First and foremost, Arena will likely cull many of Klinsmann’s squad from his first roster and there seem to be plenty of issues behind-the-scenes in uniting the players as one unit. Arena will have his work cut out to do that but the carrot he will dangle in front of all of their faces is clear: “do you want to go to the World Cup?”

That should work. Should being the operative word. Arena will also likely have plenty of familiar names rallying around him with Landon Donovan surely involved somehow, plus Brad Friedel and countless other blasts from the past.

With so much pressure to be placed on Arena for the two World Cup qualifiers next March against Honduras at home and Panama away, a haul of four points is the bare minimum the U.S. needs.

Panama isn’t an easy place to go, as Mexico found out in their 0-0 draw last week and as for Honduras at home, they have never been an easy opponent for the U.S. who have had two narrow wins, a 3-1 win, a draw and a 2-1 defeat in Honduras in their last five meetings.

Arena will have work to do but on paper the U.S. should prevail in both games and get themselves back on track ahead of a very winnable game at home against Trinidad and Tobago in June and then the daunting trip to the Estadio Azteca a few days later to face Mexico. Nine points from those four games would be great. Anything less would leave the USMNT scrapping around for fourth place in the Hex and a playoff spot.

That’s the reality of the situation. Everything is geared towards qualifying for the World Cup in Russia. Failure to do that would have huge financial implications for U.S. Soccer as a study revealed that the Mexican economy would have lost out on $600 million if they had failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Think about that.

The infrastructure Klinsmann put into place with the U.S. youth teams and the coaching staffs will remain largely untouched in the short-term across U.S. Soccer. Everything will continue to tick over in the less important departments.

For the next 12 months one thing matters: winning as many of the remaining eight World Cup qualifiers as possible to seal qualification to an eight-straight World Cup.

All of the long-term goals of U.S. Soccer remain up in the air.

First and foremost they need to get their national team in check and relying on a steady head and someone who has achieved this feat twice in the past and led the U.S. to a quarterfinal appearance in 2002 seems like the smart play.

It’s also a short-term play. Let’s call it what it is.

Everton’s Calvert-Lewin opens scoring with overhead kick (video)

Overhead kick
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Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored a spectacular goal, and Arsenal’s chaotic defending gave him a big assist.

The Everton man had the Toffees up 1-0 inside of the first minute when he hammered an overhead kick past Bernd Leno.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Calvert-Lewin was first to react when David Luiz could only pop a swirling Gylfi Sigurdsson free kick high into the air.

The forward’s foot flew past Luiz’s mane — it withstood VAR review — after the Gunners looked confused by Sead Kolasinac following his mark into the 18.

The goal is Calvert-Lewin’s 12th of the PL season. He’s scored four in his last five league outings, and 10 in his last 12.

He has seven goals in nine matches under Carlo Ancelotti.

Wolves’ red-hot Jota too much for Norwich City

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Diogo Jota scored twice and helped produce the third goal of Wolves 3-0 battering of Norwich City at the Molineux Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Mexican star Raul Jimenez scored the other goal for Wolves.

Wolves rise eighth with 39 points, five points off fourth and two back of fifth-place Manchester United.

Norwich City remains seven points back of 17th place with a league-worst goal differential sinking to minus-27.


Three things we learned

1. Red-hot JotaWolves’ 23-year-old attacker was coming off a hat trick versus Espanyol in Europa League play, and had two goals by the half-hour mark at the Molineux. That gives him five PL goals amongst his 14 in all competitions as Wolves threaten both the Europa League and, somehow, remain alive in the top four race.

2. Abject Norwich defending: Daniel Farke‘s men have been praised for continuing their forward-thinking, attack-minded football in the Premier League, but maybe they simply didn’t have the protectors to bunker down in front of Tim Krul. That’s a bit unfair, because it’s admirable that Farke wishes to entertain, but there’s no debating the mess that is the Canaries defense this year.

3. Jimenez is Mexico’s best: Club Leon’s coach made headlines this week when he called LAFC’s Carlos Vela the best Mexican player, and perhaps he’s No. 2, but there’s no North American in the world doing what Raul is doing in Europe. Jimenez went over 3,300 season minutes on Sunday, adding another goal to give him 22 with 10 assists. Only Rui Patricio, Conor Coady, and Joao Moutinho have played more than the El Tri star.

Man of the Match: Jota


Norwich City had two promising moments in the first seven minutes, as Max Aarons hit a terrific through ball that died with a Teemu Pukki extra touch. Then Pukki forced Rui Patricio into a save.

Kenny McLean cranked a shot to Patricio off a Puuki pass in the 11th minute.

A Norwich giveaway allowed Diogo Jota to dance into the 18, but he instead dribbled himself out of room and was tackled.

Jota made amends in the 19th minute, lashing home after a terrific team goal.

It might’ve been 2-0 had Alex Tettey not darted between Jota’s 23rd-minute pass to Raul Jimenez.

Jota got his second in the 30th off a corner kick, as Romain Saiss slashed a pass across the six that any of three Wolves would’ve put in for a two-goal lead.

Tim Krul made a great save on a Ruben Neves free kick after Jota was injured drawing the set piece atop the 18.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Jota smashed the post moments before Jimenez deposited Wolves’ third goal of the game, a 3-0 lead arriving in the 50th minute.

Fernandes runs the show as Manchester United crushes Watford

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Bruno Fernandes scored a goal and helped set up two as Manchester United beat Watford 3-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Anthony Martial recorded United’s second goal with a magical finish off his own rebound after Fernandes sent him through on goal, while Mason Greenwood added a late goal after a 1-2 with the Portuguese.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

United is now fifth with 41 points, three points back of fourth-place Chelsea.

Watford had a goal chalked off by VAR, and remains in the bottom three with 24 points. That’s one point off 17th and two off 16th.


Three things we learned

1. Bruno as advertised: There was no question Fernandes addressed a need for the Old Trafford set, but few would’ve seen the Portuguese revolutionizing the team’s attack so quickly (and also underlining how badly United has missed Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba). It’s not silly to say Fernandes could’ve had four assists on the day. Magnificent stuff from the 25-year-old. No surprise he has Cristiano Ronaldo’s endorsement.

2. Greenwood shows another glimpse: The Mason Greenwood hype train hasn’t been as pronounced as Marcus Rashford’s of years past, and we’re grateful for that. But his shoulder move and sick cut before dribbling 50 yards to combine with Fernandes on the third goal of the game was gorgeous stuff. More hope for the future.

3. This: It’s easy to forget the heights of which somewhat-mercurial Anthony Martial is capable.

Man of the Match: Fernandes had four key passes and was perfect in his take-ons and ground duels. Incredible show.


Poor communication between Harry Maguire and Nemanja Matic sprung Troy Deeney toward goal, but United left back Luke Shaw saved his teammates further blushes with a block.

Abdoulaye Doucoure then ran onto a dummied Gerard Deulofeu pass but found himself closed down by David De Gea.

United should’ve been up through Wan-Bissaka when Foster parried a cross onto his path, but the English back struck the ball tamely into the outside of the goal.

Bruno Fernandes led a terrific 38th-minute move, and Daniel James eventually teed up Fred for a shot that curled wide of the goal.

The January signing danced past Ben Foster and hit the deck when the Watford goalkeeper went to ground. VAR stayed with the call on the field, and Fernandes finished well with a little hop step.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Deeney looked to have made it 1-1 in the 52nd minute, thumping a. ball into the top of the goal when a corner kick was turned off the post by Craig Dawson‘s arm. It was attached to his body, but that does not matter in the attacking box.

Martial instead made it 2-0 off a Fernandes feed, collecting his own rebound before dribbling Watford dizzy and spinning a chip into the goal.

Fernandes spotted Maguire with a seeing-eye cross in the 69th, but the defender’s header was poor.

Greenwood scored his goal in the 75th, carrying the ball 50 yards before working a 1-2 with Fernandes and finishing with aplomb.

Odion Ighalo came close to getting on the board for his new club against his old one, but Adam Masina deflected his shot off the post.

Watch Live: Arsenal v. Everton

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Everton and Arsenal both look to stay in the top five discussion when they meet at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Carlo Ancelotti has Everton on 36 points, five back of fifth, while ex-Toffees midfielder Mikel Arteta has the Gunners on 34 points.

[ WATCH: Arsenal v. Everton ]

Andre Gomes returns to Everton’s bench after his gruesome injury earlier this Fall, and Ancelotti makes five changes to his Starting XI. Ex-Arsenal man Alex Iwobi will start for the Toffees.

Nicolas Pepe rejoins Arsenal’s Starting XI after a Thursday match in the Europa League.

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