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Potential President Wynalda discusses plans for US Soccer

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Eric Wynalda joined Paul Pabst and Andrew Perloff in the latest edition of The Leisuremen podcast and had plenty of intriguing things to say about his decision to run for U.S. Soccer Fedration (USSF) president.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news, analysis ]

Following the USMNT’s embarrassing failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Wynalda, 48, has thrown his hat into the ring to challenge incumbent USSF boss Sunil Gulati and plans on having the likes of Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Julie Foudy involved if he succeeds in February’s presidential election.

The former USMNT star is a current analyst with Fox Sports and is the coach of the LA Wolves in the United Premier Soccer League, but he has big plans to shake up U.S. Soccer from the top down.

Speaking to the guys, Wynalda revealed that this is something he has been thinking about for quite some time.

“I’ve been feeling this way for about 6-8 years. This wasn’t just about something that happened on a Tuesday night in Trinidad,” Wynalda said. “The problem we are having right now, in our country, is that we are completely all over the place. It is so fragmented and people don’t see that. All they see is that final product of our team trying to qualify for the World Cup. We don’t make it and then everyone is screaming at the reins.

“Everybody wants change and wants to get better but nobody really has a solution and that’s where it gets frustrating from a guy on the outside looking in. Then you come to the realization that this is a leadership problem. This is a problem which starts literally with one man. The reason I threw my hat in the ring is 1) I know I can win this election because it is more of a culture problem than anything and 2) I have a plan. Those are the two things Mr. Gulati has really never understood completely.”

You can listen to the interview in full by clicking play above, but below are some key points Wynalda made about the problems facing U.S. Soccer and how he hopes to fix them.


Wynalda took aim at claims that “incredible growth” has occurred across the U.S. Soccer realm in the past decade

“When you really look and dig down at the professional level and see what’s going on a tiers 1, 2 and 3, it is the most disorganized professional outfit on the planet. Then you try to look at the youth organizations who are trying to develop the next superstars and they are even more fragmented than the pros. While we sit back and celebrate all this growth, it is almost that we have to remind people that cancer grows organically too.

“If you don’t have a vision and don’t have a means of getting everybody understanding exactly what their function is within the system, it is not going to work. We are celebrating it right now but the truth is it needs a lot of change, in a hurry, if soccer is going to make sense in this country because we are almost growing out of control. We have become a weed. We talk about grassroots but we have a lot of weeds. This is not the way it is supposed to be.”

Wynalda believes the talent is there for the U.S. to create plenty more players of Christian Pulisic’s caliber

“Is there talent? Absolutely. Absolutely. I would argue that there are 100 more Christian Pulisic’s out there. That is quite the statement. I’m coming from practice right now with a bunch of amateur guys that we discovered an 18-year-old Mexican-American boy in a Sunday league two weeks ago and he’s probably going to be the best guy on my team this year. These are the kind of things that are misunderstood.

“I went on the podium the other day and said we don’t have time for a president who has one foot in New York and one foot in Switzerland, we need a president that has boots on the ground now and starts solving some of the problems. That talent is out there. We just have to find them and make sure we take care of that.”

On how you can create a better type of player for the U.S. without centralizing youth development

“Germany are the size of Oklahoma, so we have different challenges. What I’ve argued is that if you take Iceland as a model and what they’ve been able to accomplish in a very short space of time, just by getting organized, it is a lot easier to organize yourself if you are the size of Rhode Island. We are a massive country and just as our accents change as we move across the country, so does the personality of our players.

“I’m a huge proponent of allowing Dallas to be Dallas. Miami to be Miami. New York to be New York. And the kids in Southern California or LA, the city kids, they’ve got to have that raw attitude. We have to have all of those personalities but we do a bad job with that because when we centralize it, when we think they all have to be thinking the same, that’s when someone isn’t thinking. That’s why we don’t have a personality or have an identity when we play.”

Wynalda intends to change perception some may have on him from his “hot takes” on TV, include former U.S. stars

“I am usually, when it comes to my family or the real world problems, I am the guy that you are going to give the penalty kick to because when the world is swirling around me I’m able to make really solid decisions in moments of pressure. It is going to take people a while to understand and it’s going to take 6-8 months from now when people say, ‘this guy does know what he’s doing and he’s not the guy I thought he was’ and I need to make that happen.”

“One of the things I’ve offered is the structure of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). Right now there is only about three of four guys running the whole deal. There is some branch out but we don’t have enough people making soccer decisions. On our board we have guys running hedge funds, the Clinton Foundation etc. but we don’t have real soccer people solving real soccer problems. Landon Donovan would be great. Timmy [Howard] would be great. Julie Foudy would be great. These are people who need to be at the table and given roles within our structure that they can be passionate about and bring their expertise to and will allow us to address these issues appropriately. Right now it’s hard.”

Wynalda will soon be on the campaign trail, visiting Utah, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Seattle, northern California and Phoenix, among others, to try and “find out what the problem is” in each city and state

“I am going to need guys like Landon, guys like Brian McBride in my corner and a guy I can bounce different ideas off of and he will come back with maybe a different look. As opposed to a politician who would say ‘how can we manipulate this? How do we control this? How do we benefit from this?’ because that’s what we have got right now.”

Wynalda revealed that Lionel Messi’s best friend plays for his team in Southern California and he would look to ask for Messi’s opinion and other stars to try and help U.S. Soccer progress

“That is my network by the way. These are the people I talk to and the people I want to bring into my outer circle. I need to know what someone like Zinedine Zidane thinks about what is going on over here. We can get to Ronaldo. I can sit with someone like Franz Beckenbauer and he can give me the whole background, the whole picture. I don’t know how expensive that bottle of wine is going to be… but we’re going to solve something. There’s a huge world out there that at times we have stayed away from. We have created our own model and unfortunately a couple of Tuesday’s ago we were reminded that our model doesn’t work and it needs drastic change.”

On what it would mean if Wynalda did become the next president of U.S. Soccer

“If I do, all that means is soccer has won. And that soccer will succeed in this country and progress. I’m hoping for that and I need support and I need people to understand my message. I have a lot of time to get that message across and maybe reintroduce myself to people who maybe think I am somebody else.”

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 11 — Time to settle Groups A & B

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Day 12 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Monday, and with it begins the final round of group games to decide the 16 teams headed to the knockout rounds. For the next four days, we’ll be treated to four games each day.

Also, the end of 8 a.m. ET kickoffs. Hooray for sleeping in.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

First up, the conclusion of Group A, where both the hosts, Russia, and Uruguay have already advanced with wins in their first two games. Now, the two meet in the southwestern city of Samara to determine who’ll go through to the round of 16 as the group winners, and who’ll be the runners-up. Most likely awaiting either of them will be Spain and Portugal, pending the order in which they finish in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Speaking of Group B, Spain will finish group play against fourth-place and points-less Morocco, while Portugal have a tricky meeting with third-place Iran, who sit just a point behind the reigning European champions. The winner of Group B will face the runners-up of Group A, and vice versa.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 25

Group A
Uruguay vs. Russia: Samara, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt: Volgograd, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Spain vs. Morocco: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Portugal: Saransk, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Transfer rumor roundup: Emery raiding Sevilla; Wilshere’s suitor(s)

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Unai Emery has reportedly been in contact with at least one former player, Ever Banega, in an attempt to convince the Argentine midfielder to join him at Arsenal.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

Banega, who’ll turn 30 on Friday, played two seasons under Emery at Sevilla — where they won back-to-back Europa League titles (Banega was only at the club for the second and third of three straight from 2013-2016).

With Banega reportedly on the fence about whether or not to leave Sevilla again — he only just returned last summer after one season at Inter Milan — Emery is said to have made a personal call after Arsenal’s bid of roughly $23 million triggered the release clause in Banega’s contract. Sevilla will join Arsenal in the Europa League next season after finishing seventh in La Liga.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Jack Wilshere announced last week that he will leave Arsenal this summer — thus opening up the handful of games for which he was healthy and fit to play each season, perhaps for Banega — which leads us nicely to the final bit of transfer talk for Sunday: West Ham are interested in the 26-year-old, but are reportedly only willing to offer him a one-year contract.

The Hammers’ hesitancy is, of course, a response to his years-long battle with injuries — he’s made just 66 appearances over the last four PL seasons (three with Arsenal, one on loan to Bournemouth).

Two other clubs to keep an eye on, as they’ve reportedly indicated interest in Wilshere and/or been in contact already: Everton and Juventus.

Durmaz condemns Sweden fans’ racist abuse after World Cup loss

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KRASNODAR, Russia (AP) — Sweden midfielder Jimmy Durmaz says the racist abuse aimed at him over social media following the 2-1 loss to Germany at the World Cup has been “completely unacceptable.”

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

After coming on as a substitute, Durmaz gave away the free kick that led to Toni Kroos curling in an injury-time winner in Saturday’s group game. Durmaz has since been subjected to online abuse, including threats to his family.

Before a training session on Sunday, Durmaz — standing in front of the rest of the Sweden squad and beside coach Janne Andersson — read out a statement to the media from a mobile phone.

“When you threaten me, when you call me ‘Arab devil,’ ‘terrorist,’ ‘Taliban,’ then you have gone far beyond the limit,” Durmaz said in the statement, which was published on the Swedish Football Association’s website.

“And even worse, when you go after my family, my children, threaten them. Who does such a thing? It is completely unacceptable.”

Durmaz was born in Sweden to Assyrian parents who emigrated from Turkey.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I am Swedish and I am proud to play in the Swedish national team. That’s the biggest thing you can do as a football player,” he said in the statement. “I will never let any racists destroy that pride. We must all stand against all forms of racism.”

The Swedish FA has reported the abuse toward Durmaz to police.

“We do not tolerate a player being exposed to threats and violations,” said Hakan Sjostrand, secretary general of the Swedish FA. “It is unpleasant and very upsetting to see the treatment that Jimmy Durmaz has suffered. Completely unacceptable.”

The loss to Germany left Sweden tied on three points with its opponent. Both countries are three points behind Mexico with one game left. Sweden plays Mexico in Yekaterinburg on Wednesday, with Germany taking on South Korea at the same time.