Getty Images

3 Things We Learned from USMNT vs. Bolivia

3 Comments

The United States pummeled Bolivia in Pennsylvania, and while the incredibly poor level of competition should temper any major talking points, we can still learn plenty from this glittering performance by the youngsters.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Match recap ]

They’re all quite raw, and it showed early and often, even drawing the ire of the head coach at halftime, but it was clear they have the skills to grow and help this team in a big way moving forward.

Josh Sargent and Tim Weah have the potential to be a part of this squad for quite some time

The United States has struggled to replace Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan in recent years. While Christian Pulisic appears to be the new Donovan in someone who plays on the wing but is dangerous in front of goal, they’re still searching for a prolific target man in front of goal. Josh Sargent appears to have all the instincts to be that guy. While there’s still a long way to go for the 18-year-old, including making his professional debut at Werder Bremen, he seems to be strong and physical, as well as able to move fluidly and with purpose off the ball.

Weah is an exciting prospect as well, someone with the pace and ball skills to be a great compliment on the opposite of Pulisic. He seemed to be on the same wavelength as Sargent, playing a number of different one-two combinations that nearly resulted in a goal. He also makes excellent runs off the ball, which allowed Rubio Rubin to find him for his best chance on net. These are two guys who appear to be the real deal, albeit against admittedly abysmal competition.

What was missing is very teachable

These kids are young. Really, really young. They seem beyond their age in grasping the attacking flow of Dave Sarachan’s tactics which is a fantastic sign, but the finishing still needs work. Tim Weah, in his first start, had a few early chances that he should have taken, while Josh Sargent was also a little wild in front of net.

[ MORE: Full game recap of 3-0 win over Bolivia ]

The good news is that finishing can be improved, while the soccer IQ that the squad shows is the more difficult part of the game to teach, meaning there is plenty of room for growth with this team.

Dave Sarachan even admitted on the Fox broadcast at halftime coming off the field that the shooting was rushed, and that he might have a chat with a few of the youngsters up there (ie: Weah, Sargent, Rubin, McKennie) about taking their time and developing better shots. While there are plenty of teachable moments from this match despite the dominating performance, what most U.S. fans should take from this game is that anything that appeared to be missing – first and foremost patience and vision in front of goal – is very teachable.

Dave Sarachan may have something with the 4-1-4-1

Interim head coach Dave Sarachan has deployed a 4-1-4-1 in consecutive matches against Paraguay and now Bolivia, with Weston McKennie at the CDM spot, and it’s worked both times. McKennie does a fabulous job protecting the back line, allowing the defenders to stretch and cover wide areas. In a personally signature moment, the 19-year-old bulldozer muscled Leonardo Vaca off the ball, shrugging him to the ground in the 70th minute.

[ MORE: Player ratings from 3-0 win over Bolivia ]

With both McKennie and Kellyn Acosta figuring to be in the selection pool for quite some time, this is a system that could be useful down the road. The United States has not had a consistent system to play for a very, very long time following the experimental years of Jurgen Klinsmann.

4. Christian Pulisic is very tired

Bonus! It was very obvious that Christian Pulisic has had an extremely long season and is quite exhausted. He was somewhat influential in the buildup – especially early on – but was not his typical flashy self, and the faded into the background as the game went on, eventually substituted off in the 89th minute. Pulisic is an extremely talented player and there shouldn’t be any concerns about his future, but if there is one bright side to missing the World Cup, it’s that Pulisic gets the summer off, and the 19-year-old desperately needs it after a long, brutal season with Borussia Dortmund where many times he wasn’t at his best.

Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Manchester United in ‘concrete talks’ with Lille over Pepe

Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester United are reportedly in “concrete talks” to agree a fee with Lille for much-tracked playmaker Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, and Lille has admitted he’ll be leaving the club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

United’s reported salvo was around $87.5 million. He’d give them a star who could play across from Anthony Martial or as an attacking midfielder under Romelu Lukaku.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Teji Savanier garnered better season-long ratings than Pepe in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 campaign, and Pepe’s 22 goals and 11 assists stand out from the pack. Only Mbappe had more goals and only Savanier more assists.

Pepe has four goals in 11 caps for the Ivory Coast, and made three starts in Les Elephants’ five-match run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He’s a fit for the Premier League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s system. And if the Red Devils can keep him from Liverpool, well, all the better we’re sure.

Report: Manchester United, Leicester agree to monster Maguire fee

Adam Davy/PA via AP
1 Comment

Manchester United and Leicester City have agreed a fee for Harry Maguire, clearing the way for the English center back to join the Old Trafford set.

That fee is a whopping $100 million, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones. That’s about $4 million more than the world record for a defender, set when Liverpool purchased Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

[ MORE: USMNT CB to West Ham? ]

Maguire has been a statistical monster for Leicester City, and he passes the eye test, too.

Manchester United has needed to upgrade its stable of center backs for some time, and now the biggest question is who will work best alongside the 6-foot-4 26-year-old.

The former Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City defender is now 20-times capped by England.

The move could have a ripple effect on the Premier League, as the Foxes have been expected to bid for Burnley star James Tarkowski should Maguire leave the King Power Stadium.

Transfer rumor roundup: USMNT’s Long to London, Newcastle linked with pair

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Could USMNT center back Aaron Long be headed to the Premier League?

The 26-year-old could join West Ham United’s stable of center backs, which includes Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, and Angelo Ogbonna.

Sky Sports says that the Red Bulls defender has drawn the interest of Lyon and Fiorentina, but been offered to the Irons should they match his $5 million release clause.

Unable to find a place with Portland and Seattle, Long spent a few seasons in the USL before earning a place with RBNY.

Now 11-times capped by the USMNT with two goals, Long could be bringing his talents to London’s Olympic Stadium.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Newcastle United has the chance to sign oft-injured Danny Welbeck on a free transfer.

The longtime Arsenal striker, weaned at Manchester United, scored five times in 12 matches last season in a return to injury woes following a 43-match season the prior year.

Newcastle is also being linked with a former defender. James Tavernier has gone on to captain Glasgow Rangers, and the 27-year-old would cost around $10 million.

Surely Steven Gerrard would want more for the defender, but prices haven’t met quality for Scottish Premiership players as we’ve seen with Kieran Tierney at Celtic.