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USMNT statement on anniversary of World Cup qualifying failure

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Has it really been a year? Sadly, it has. You may have tried to wipe it from your memory, but the darkest day in U.S. Soccer in several decades (if not ever) is hard to forget.

On October 10, 2017, the U.S. men’s national team lost 2-1 in Couva to Trinidad and Tobago as they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

With the USMNT missing out on qualification for the first time since 1986, huge changes have taken place throughout the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) as a result of that shocking performance at T&T.

From Bruce Arena resigning, to a whole host of experienced USMNT stars not playing for the national team again or retiring altogether, U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati stepping down and replaced by Carlos Cordeiro, plus Earnie Stewart appointed as the new team GM, there has been a huge amount of change around the USMNT.

One year on, they issued the following statement on Wednesday (titled: “the future is US”) which didn’t directly address that it was one year since the debacle, but they said pretty much implied that with everything that was said.

“Today we look forward. With the march towards 2022 underway and the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America as our guidepost, the U.S. Men’s National Team has embarked on a new journey. The hallmarks of the culture remain, with perseverance, grit and dogged determination fueled by the pride to represent the United States and each and every one of you. We take nothing for granted. The path ahead will be paved with successes and informed by setbacks. We will build strength through commitment and character, accepting challenges and rising every time we fall. We will be aggressive and play without fear, for history demonstrates that fortune favors the bold.

“Like any grand project, ours is a work in progress. We cannot do it alone. Pioneering a new path forward takes the will of a generation full of optimism and hope, bound by the belief that there is nothing we cannot achieve if we are united in the cause. This is the American spirit, from which is born the American dream. It is time to take our destiny in our own hands and turn that dream into a reality. And do it together. The future is US.”

A lot of this is waffly PR talk and most of it will either grate or resonate strongly with USMNT fans.

“Like any grand project, ours is a work in progress” is like saying, ‘hey, give us another year or so, because things won’t be great for a while’ or something along those lines.

And the acceptance that “the 2026 World Cup in North America as our guidepost” shows that the route ahead has been planned out and the 2022 World Cup is somewhat of an afterthought already. Of course, the U.S. will want to qualify, but having such a young squad getting the experience it has over the past 12 months is clearly focused on them succeeding on home soil in eight years time. A lot can change in eight years, but at least the USMNT know they will be in that World Cup (it has yet to be announced officially, but the expectation is that Mexico, the U.S. and Canada will all be handed automatic qualification).

The past 12 months have been somewhat of a wasted year for the USMNT. They have drifted along with no clear direction.

Amid the USSF presidential elections they lost plenty of time to plan and put key GMs and coaches in place to get this team back to where it needs to be. Interim head coach Dave Sarachan has done a very decent job steadying the ship and integrating young talent but this feels like the U.S. has just been treading water.

With an 18 month gap between that fateful night in Couva to their next meaningful game, a 2019 Gold Cup group stage opener in June, the U.S. men’s national team have become a bit of an afterthought.

In the next decade or so we will be talking about October 10, 2017 as either the key date where the USMNT turned itself around, or the day when things began to go badly wrong for the program.

With a promising group of youngster coming through, it seems like the former will be true. But as the USMNT acknowledge themselves, the road ahead will be an arduous one. If the future is really going to be “US” then first they need a new head coach and to get the ball rolling as to what the identity and plan is for this team.

There has been too much time standing still. The USMNT needs to get their act together, fast, if they’re going to rebound successfully from what happened one year ago today. This anniversary acts as a painful reminder as to just how much work still needs to be done to restore pride in the U.S. men’s national team.

Men in Blazers podcast: Mourinho’s day at Chelsea, stylish Arsenal, Tata leaving ATL

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Rog and Davo break down Chelsea’s last gasp draw against Manchester United and Jose Mourinho’s contentious return to Stamford Bridge. Plus, wins for City and Liverpool, Arsenal’s poetic football, and Tata is saying goodbye to the ATL.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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AP source: FIFA proposes annual Club World Cup

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A person with knowledge of the talks tells The Associated Press FIFA President Gianni Infantino is doubling down on his Club World Cup plans with a proposal for an annual tournament despite European soccer’s resistance to any competition that challenges the supremacy of the Champions League.

[ MORE: Premier League club power rankings ]

The revised proposal amends an initial plan to play a 24-team Club World Cup every four years. The new format will be discussed at the FIFA Council meeting in Rwanda on Friday, the person said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential.

UEFA has stymied Infantino’s attempts since March to gain approval for the new FIFA competitions, which will have $25 billion of income guaranteed by an international consortium including Japan’s SoftBank.

Is something amiss with Romelu Lukaku?

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Maybe he was sick. Maybe he was tired. Heck, maybe he’s still exhausted from the World Cup.

But something isn’t right with Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku, and it was on full display in Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Juventus in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Match recap | Mourinho reacts ]

Lukaku was fighting his touch, and just plain out-of-sorts, which is unusual for the industrious center forward.

The 25-year-old has just four goals for United in 13 matches across all competitions this season, all coming in the Premier League and none since a Sept. 15 marker at Watford.

Tuesday’s performance could be down to one bad night, but Lukaku has been much better for country than club in the same time span. The Belgian scored a pair against Switzerland on Oct. 12 and two more the previous month versus Iceland.

While Eden Hazard certainly isn’t unlocking defenses for him at Old Trafford, Lukaku has struggled in a few different ways. He’s getting less shots off per game, his key passes are down, and so are his dribbles.

Moreover, his offsides are higher than they’ve been since 2014-15, so perhaps he’s even cognizant of his struggles and trying to cheat a bit more.

If Harry Kane‘s post-World Cup struggles, relatively speaking, can be down to exhaustion, perhaps someone should check on big Rom.

Lukaku is still grinding through performances, for better or worse, and his four goals do lead United on the season. And it’s paramount to note that the side’s uncharacteristic 16 goals allowed per game (5th worst in the PL) is a bigger reason for its record than the 15 goals for (tied-7th).

A visit from former club Everton could snap Lukaku back into form, but perhaps the big man needs more than adrenaline right now. Mourinho hasn’t subbed him once this season in any competition, and he’s being leaned on heavily by Roberto Martinez at Belgium, too. After running him 90 in the 2-goal performance against the Swiss, Lukaku got another 45 in a friendly against the Netherlands.

Maybe this is where the loan for Zlatan Ibrahimovic comes into play, or perhaps Marcus Rashford should get some time running atop the United attack. Either way, it’s a good bet that the big man could use a respite.

Allegri: Juventus tried to ‘attack around Nemanja Matic’

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Max Allegri’s plan to attack without Mario Mandzukic got the job done.

Juventus took a 17th minute lead against Manchester United at Old Trafford and did not look back, deprived of a multi-goal halftime lead by United backstop David De Gea.

[ MORE: PL club power rankings ]

Without Mandzukic, his towering talisman, Allegri turned to less hold-up play and more active runs through the midfield.

And he wasn’t shy about the tactics, with the numbers showing that Nemanja Matic was a very busy man. From Football-Italia:

“Naturally we can play without Mandzukic, someone has to get into the box. It was important against Manchester United to keep the ball to ground and attack around Nemanja Matic.

“We still make too many mistakes on the final ball, as we had so many more chances and half-chances that we didn’t develop properly. A couple of times it was the player with the ball, another couple it was the player who didn’t peel away from his marker to reach the space.”

Allegri has long been said to be a fan of Matic’s, but Dybala shook the center midfielder on this goal.

The win was Juve’s first at Old Trafford since a 1996 visit in the Champions League. All told, Juve is 2W-2D-3L at Manchester United in its illustrious history.