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PST survey: Who’s to blame for USMNT’s World Cup failure?

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The results of PST’s Big American Soccer Survey are in, and our staff will be walking through the results of thousands of votes in a series of posts this week.

We didn’t realize you could acronymize it to BASS, or else we would’ve done it sooner. So we continue BASS with one key question that is at the heart of the American soccer community right now: who is most responsible for the USMNT’s failure to make the 2018 World Cup?

We provided the following five answers in our survey.

  1. Sunil Gulati
  2. Youth development
  3. Bruce Arena
  4. Jurgen Klinsmann
  5. Other

Here’s who got the ultimate blame: Sunil Gulati with 36 percent of the vote.

Yes, it isn’t rare for the head of the organization to bare the brunt of the blame for a nation not qualifying for the World Cup but in this instance Gulati has well and truly had the blame put at his door.

It is worth noting that only 16 percent of voters blamed Bruce Arena and eight percent said it was Jurgen Klinsmann’s fault (let it go, guys).

Yet Gulati only just topped the pool ahead of an area which is the biggest issue for American soccer right now: youth development.

That doozy of a topic accounted for 31 percent of the votes and points towards a much larger debate than just a team playing poorly, or being poorly coached.

Gulati is of course responsible for hiring and firing coaches and his decision to oust Klinsmann after two games of the Hex, or even hiring him in the first place, has been severely questioned.

His decision to then bring in Arena as his replacement was ultimately the wrong one, even if, in Gulati’s words, the U.S. was “two inches wide or two inches in” from being at the World Cup after Clint Dempsey‘s late effort against Trinidad & Tobago hit the post.

“You don’t make wholesale changes based on the ball being two inches wide or two inches in,” Gulati said. “We will look at everything, obviously, with all of our programs from the national team to development. We have a lot of pieces in place that we think are very good and have been coming along. Tonight wasn’t what we hoped for.”

Well, the American soccer community does want wholesale changes.

First, they want Gulati to leave his role (which seems likely), and secondly, a wholesale change to youth development with the “pay-to-play” model continually lambasted as the root of the USA’s problems in not producing enough quality talent.

Simply put, the overwhelming majority of U.S. soccer fans believe the real reason the USMNT isn’t heading to Russia next summer is due to problems with youth development and the decisions that Gulati, the one who oversees the entire U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), made.

Of course, Gulati is likely going to be out as USSF president in February 2018 when the presidential election is held. He has yet to declare his interest in running once again to lead the USSF after 11 years unopposed, but it is deemed highly unlikely he will run for re-election.

Should Gulati get the blame here?

The fact that he, Arena and even interim USMNT coach Dave Sarachan still believe that there isn’t much wrong with the way the U.S. is developing players right now is the biggest issue. Yes, there are some talented groups of youngsters coming through the system right now, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams proved that during the 1-1 draw with Portugal this week, but the main issue is that U.S. Soccer believes it can continue to do the same things and get different results.

That’s why Gulati must go in February and fresh ideas should be implemented to eradicate the “pay-to-play” model and allow the best players to get opportunities despite the social or economic background they’re from in the USA. End of discussion. That’s what needs to happen for the U.S. to move forward and it will be a long, arduous road ahead.

Gulati will not oversee that as he pushes on with his plans for the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Mexico and Canada, and when all is said and done, his role in the 2018 World Cup qualification debacle is clear: he should take the blame.

Time will tell if that’s the case but right now the American soccer community believes Gulati’s poor leadership was the main reason the U.S. won’t be in Russia at the World Cup next summer.

Manchester United draws Club America 1-1 on Mata goal

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Manchester United began Jose Mourinho’s “very bad” preseason with a drab 1-1 draw against Liga MX side Club America.

Juan Mata hit the post in the opening 20 minutes and later scored the equalizer in the 78th minute after Ander Herrera‘s header rebounded off the crossbar and right into the Spaniard’s lap. Mata then put his shot through the goalkeeper’s legs and in for the only goal for the Red Devils.

With many players receiving extra rest after participating in the 2018 World Cup, Manchester United is utilizing a bit-part roster for much of the preseason which includes five matches in the United States. Regulars Mata, Herrera, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, and Antonio Valencia were all included in the starting lineup, but they were joined by a smattering of relative unknowns.

35-year-old journeyman goalkeeper Lee Grant played the first 45 minutes between the sticks, replaced in the second half by 22-year-old Joel Peirera. 22-year-old midfielder Andreas Pereira played the full 90 minutes in midfield, while 21-year-old winger Demetri Mitchell saw his name listed among the starters along with Scott McTominay, who suffered a nasty looking head injury late in the match on an overhead kick attempt.

16-year-old Mason Greenwood got a few minutes towards the end, with Mourinho hoping to get a quick look at the club’s U-18 leading scorer. Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Alex Tuanzebe also both came off the bench to participate, as did 18-year-old former Feyenoord youth product Tahith Chong who was impressive during his second-half appearance.

While Manchester United held a slight majority in possession, Club America out-shot the Premier League giants 15-10, however the Liga MX side could only manage to put four of those on target.

Pep: Hart’s future uncertain, will play in preseason

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Joe Hart has returned to Manchester City after spending last season on loan at West Ham, and his future is very much up in the air as it stands.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was asked about Hart’s situation at the pre-match press conference prior to City’s International Champions Cup match against Borussia Dortmund. He confirmed they are shopping the English veteran. “We’re going to try and make a solution for Joe,” Guardiola told reporters, “but if not then he is with us. He’s one of the best professionals I’ve ever seen but at this moment he is with us.”

Guardiola also confirmed that Hart would play in the preseason game against Dortmund. Starting goalkeeper Ederson is not on the roster for the US preseason tour, having returned from participation in the 2018 World Cup with Brazil, although he didn’t play as he served as Alisson’s backup.

The former #1 England goalkeeper, Hart has struggled mightily in recent seasons. He last played a full Premier League season back in 2015/16, starting 35 games for Manchester City. However, he lost his place the following year and was loaned to Italian top flight club Torino. He had mixed success during his one year in Italy and was loaned out to West Ham last campaign with Ederson and Claudio Bravo entrenched at his parent club. Hart only made it half the season before losing his starting spot for the Hammers, replaced by Adrian. That saw him lose not just starting job with the England national team but his place in the squad, forcing Gareth Southgate to take a trio of inexperienced goalkeepers to the World Cup, leading to the emergence of Jordan Pickford.

West Ham returned Hart to Manchester City at the end of the season, and here he sits in limbo again. Hart has just one more year left on his contract, but according to the Manchester Evening News, wants to leave this season on a permanent deal anyway.

Tomorrow, Hart will get the opportunity – albeit a small one – to showcase himself to potential suitors. If he gets another chance to play in the ICC (Manchester City plays Liverpool and Bayern Munich before heading home to England), he will have another opportunity to plead his case.

Report: Leicester to pluck Danny Ward from Liverpool

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With the announcement of Alisson’s signing on Thursday, Liverpool has spent over $200 million this summer, but it seems they’ve already begun to trim the squad and even out the net spend by a bit.

According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds have agreed to sell 25-year-old goalkeeper Danny Ward to Leicester City, with the clubs agreeing to a $16.2 million fee. The report also states the deal includes a 20% sell-on fee, meaning Liverpool will receive 20% of any transfer fee Leicester City receives for Ward during the life of his next contract.

[ MORE: Alisson signs for Liverpool ]

Ward has spent the last six seasons with Liverpool after signing from small non-league club Wrexham in 2012 as a 19-year-old. However, he has played more games for the Welsh international team (4) than he has for Liverpool (3). Previously stuck behind Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius, the arrival of Alisson meant the club needed to make room.

Leicester City already has Kasper Schmeichel firmly entrenched between the sticks. However, especially after a stellar 2018 World Cup with Denmark where he was considered among the top choices for the Golden Glove award, Schmeichel is a wanted man and 31 years old and a contract with three more years remaining, Schmeichel’s time at King Power Stadium could be limited.

The addition of Ward at the very least would allow Schmeichel some time off. The Dane was stretched thin last season as not just the Premier League starter but also used in a few cup games with only Eldin Jakupovic behind him. Now, it’s realistic that Ward could receive time in Cup competitions, leaving Schmeichel to rest up for league games.

Reports: Conte to sue Chelsea over how firing was handled

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According to reports in Italy, and backed up by those in England, Antonio Conte is planning to sue Chelsea over the way the club handled his exit this summer.

Chelsea is reportedly planning to pay Conte the rest of his salary in full, but the reports state that the Italian is unhappy how long it took the club to confirm his exit, leaving him unable to secure a job commiserate with his experience level for this coming season.

The 48-year-old is set to receive nearly $12 million as compensation for the final year of his now-terminated contract, but is looking for additional damages given the timing of his departure. Despite the writing clearly on the wall, Conte had weeks of silence from the club, before being pulled back to London to begin pre-season training with the squad for just four days before he was then let go.

Upon his release, Conte released a relatively benign statement thanking the club, the fans, the staff, and the players, but notably did not thank the board or owner Roman Abramovich.

Things between Chelsea and Conte have been testy for some time now. It was reported earlier last month – before Conte was officially let go – that Chelsea was planning to withhold payment of Conte’s remaining salary and sue the Italian for costing the club money for former striker Diego Costa. Costa told the media he received a text message from Conte while on international duty last summer that he was no longer wanted at the club. If true, the club could have argued that Conte botched the situation and cost the club a significant amount of money. However, it seems the club has – for now – decided not to pursue the lawsuit, with reports stating that Conte is set to receive his salary in full.