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Who stands to gain or lose the most in USMNT camp?

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The USMNT will convene for Gregg Berhalter’s second camp in charge of the national squad as the international break temporarily brings a halt to most club competitions.

Leading towards international friendlies against Ecuador and Chile five days apart on Thursday and next Tuesday, the camp will provide Berhalter another opportunity to see what the national team talent pool can potentially provide him and get a look at players he will have to make decisions on ahead of more high-leverage matches. There will be experimentation, Berhalter has confirmed, and players will get a chance to make an impression.

With some players involved in aforementioned tinkering while other players sit in precarious club situations, who stands to gain the most this camp, and who could be facing their last chance to make an impression?

Most to gain

1) Tyler Adams

The former New York Red Bull midfielder has enjoyed a positive start to life in the German top flight, and could bring his good form back to the national team camp. That’s not the focus of his national team situation, however.

Gregg Berhalter confirmed that he will experiment with Adams at right-back during this week-long stretch, a curious idea with the possibility of Adams being minimized at his best midfield position in Berhalter’s setup. Many are predicting Berhalter to eventually settle on a 4-3-3 formation, which could force him into a different role. When asked if moving him out wide could minimize his ball-winning strengths, Berhalter didn’t sound terribly convinced of the idea yet, but was hopeful the coaching staff will eventually be rewarded for their creativity.

“This is the beginning phases and we want to test it and we want to see how it looks and we want to see how he adapts and what it gives our team overall,” Berhalter said. “When you’re looking at the profile of a Michael Bradley or a Wil Trapp – a very controlling player – and you have the dynamic guy next to him in Tyler who can come inside and still be influential from that position, we think it’s exciting and we want to take a look at it. It may not work exactly as we have planned and we have to adapt but in theory it’s something worth trying.”

Adams, therefore, could gain a lot this camp. While he’s already a bright young talent with a clear place on the squad no matter the eventual formation used in games that matter, Adams could stamp his place in a team in a position of weakness should the experiment pay off.

2) Sebastian Lletget

With the comeback from his brutal 2017 injury finally complete having appeared in the last four national team matches off the bench, Sebastian Lletget could be primed for his first national team start in over two years, and this is the perfect chance to show off his usefulness to the new boss. Lletget has started the 2019 MLS season well, a completely dominant force in the Galaxy’s 3-2 win over Minnesota United on Saturday, completing 77/83 passes in a creative attacking role and scoring the eventual winning goal.

Lletget is a perfect fit for the 4-3-3 as a controlling winger who can pinch inside and cause havoc on and off the ball, or use his speed to create space and deliver a cross from the flank. If he performs at a high level this camp – and he should see ample time on the wing given the makeup of the roster – it could be a breakout point for the 26-year-old in the prime of his career during this World Cup cycle.

3) Jordan Morris

Morris has not made an appearance for the USMNT since January of 2018 due to injury, but now he’s back in the fold. It couldn’t come at a better time, with Morris in excellent form to start the 2019 MLS season. The 24-year-old has three goals and an assist through the team’s first three league matches amidst a perfect start for Seattle.

With Josh Sargent and Tim Weah both involved in U-23 Olympic qualifying, this seems the perfect opportunity for Morris to re-insert himself into the USMNT forward conversation in front of the new boss.

Most to lose

1) Tim Ream

With Fulham floundering towards relegation in the Premier League amidst a historic defensive calamity, Tim Ream has been at the center of the Whites’ struggles at the back. At 31 years old and the next World Cup still three years away, it’s possible that this is Ream’s last opportunity to state his case at the national team level. He was Fulham’s best player just a year ago in their promotion campaign, rock solid at the back for essentially the entire season, but as he finds life difficult in the English top flight, anything short of a perfect camp could see Ream flushed out of the setup.

2) DeAndre Yedlin

Anything gained by Tyler Adams in this camp would be DeAndre Yedlin’s loss. The incumbent first-choice right-back suddenly has competition from an experimental adversary, and that could mean Yedlin finds himself in no-man’s land. Berhalter said that they would push Yedlin further up the field into a winger role to accommodate Adams, but a player being moved from his natural position to make way for an experiment is never a good sign.

Yedlin has plenty to gain by performing well in his new role, but he has more to lose should it go poorly and Adams succeeds. The Newcastle defender has worked hard on his defensive abilities over the past few years, to some marketable improvement, and so the experiment is understandable but at the same time somewhat puzzling. Should Adams make the switch with ease, Yedlin could find himself without a clear role in Berhalter’s potential 4-3-3 setup.

3) Gyasi Zardes

Still without a national team goal since 2016 and just one assist in that same timeframe, Gyasi Zardes is slowly slipping down the USMNT pecking order as others continue to step up. He has been deployed out wide continuously at the national level despite finding renewed success in a striker role at Columbus, and it’s clear it’s a weakness for him. It feels like the 27-year-old has reached a breaking point with the USMNT, and if he continues to fire blanks up front and be plagued by poor touches and questionable on-ball decision-making, he won’t be part of the 2022 World Cup conversation for much longer.

SQUAD

GK: Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Sean Johnson (NYCFC), Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas).

DEF: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Reading), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)

MIDFIELDERS (7)Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)

FORWARDS (6): Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Christian Ramirez (LAFC), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC).

An about face: MLS to now seek training compensation, but MLS players oppose move

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With teams spending millions of dollars annually on their youth academies, the league has decided it will now fight to recover some of that investment should a youth player sign their first professional contract abroad.

MLS announced in a statement that it will now work to acquire training compensation and solidarity payments from international clubs when players from team academies sign with clubs or transfer to other clubs abroad, while also agreeing to pay those fees when signing players from abroad. In the past, MLS had refused to pay training compensation and solidarity payments – in opposition to FIFA regulations – over fears for an anti-trust lawsuit from the MLS Player’s Association or others as well as possibly violating U.S. child labor laws, per ESPN.

U.S. Soccer even forbade these solidarity payments and training compensation on these grounds, but now have stated that they won’t enforce their decree from 24 years ago.

If a player signs their first professional contract outside of the country they were developed in, training compensation is provided to all clubs that helped develop the player between the player’s age 12 and 21 years. If a player then is transferred at any point from one country/federation into a different one (like Christian Pulisic from the Bundesliga to the Premier League), up to five percent of the transfer fee will be distributed to clubs that helped develop the player between the ages of 12 and 23.

In response to the MLS decision, the MLS Players Association has come out in total opposition of this decision, pointing out the hypocrisy of MLS choosing to apply some FIFA rules but not all of them.

In addition, the players association believes that this doesn’t work to help develop better soccer players in the U.S., only to make it harder for them to move abroad. In theory, a team abroad now will know it may have to pay thousands, or millions to sign a young American, and may hurt that player’s chances from moving to a country with a higher competition level.

“Today’s announcement by MLS regarding training compensation and solidarity payments is a step backward for the development of soccer in the United States and Canada,” the MLS Players Association said in their statement. “It is an effort by the league to inhibit player choice, does nothing to address the development of youth soccer, and makes plain MLS’ selective application of international rules to suit its own agenda.

“Despite claims to the contrary, this move is not about improving youth development. Rather, it is simply about trying to force players to sign with MLS by limiting opportunities abroad. Limiting opportunities to train and play in other environments does not further the development of young professionals. The MLSPA strongly supports efforts to improve youth development, but we do not believe that placing the burden to fund these efforts solely on players is a sensible approach. A levy on professional clubs and/or the Federation that is unrelated to individual player transactions would spread that burden across the industry, which would be a far better approach to funding development.

“The fact that training compensation and solidarity payments are paid elsewhere in the world under applicable FIFA regulations is an indefensible justification for MLS’s change in position on these issues. The league routinely ignores regulations that protect players under contract with MLS – like those requiring guaranteed contracts, prohibiting unilateral options and limiting the length of contracts – yet is now attempting to rely upon these same regulations to limit opportunities for players in youth academies.

“We will review these changes, including the Consent Decree entered into by the US Federation on this subject, and will explore all of our options with other stakeholders.”

It appears that MLS is only interested in fighting for training compensation when it benefits them. The most recent famous case is Weston McKennie, who spent seven years with FC Dallas but left on a free transfer in 2016, with FC Dallas not recouping a dime and McKennie soon establishing himself as a first team player in the Bundesliga.

In a Q&A, MLS stated that it won’t pay training compensation for players it signs through the draft or acquires into its youth academies. In addition, if a player was developed with both an MLS club and an independent youth club, MLS said it would only seek the training compensation for themselves and not for other clubs.

MLS states intention to expand to 30 teams

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In a move that was more a matter of when, then if, MLS announced on Thursday it plans to continue expansion to 30 teams.

The league released a statement stating that the decision to expand to 30 teams was approved by the league’s board of governors at a recent meeting in Los Angeles. In addition, the board of governors approved the MLS commissioners office to move forward into “advanced discussions” with Sacramento and St. Louis over expansion bids, enabling those market’s to make formal presentations to the league. The governors also approved a $200 million expansion fee for the No. 28 and No. 29 expansion teams, with the fee yet to be determined for No. 30.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

While it doesn’t confirm that Sacramento and St. Louis will be the next MLS expansion markets, it certainly puts them in the front seat for spots No. 28 and No. 29, with a plethora of other cities in the mix for the latter two slots and the – for now – final No. 30 spot.

As of the 2019 MLS season, the league has 24 teams. Inter Miami and Nashville SC will make it 26 in 2020, and Austin FC will make it 27 teams in 2021.

Other previous MLS expansion possible markets have included Detroit, San Diego, Phoenix, Tampa, Louisville, and more.

While MLS continues to focus on expanding across the country, it may be losing sight of some of its established teams in major markets. The Chicago Fire, New York Red Bulls and New York City FC have all experienced poor attendance so far this season, and little has been said about how best to correct this problem.

There’s no doubt that soccer is big in both cities, but fans aren’t making the trek out to see their local teams play, which is a big problem in MLS, especially with the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga all expanding marketing operations into the U.S.

U.S. National Soccer Team players association speaks out against U.S. Soccer

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Even though the U.S. Men’s National Team doesn’t have to play multiple matches per year on artificial turf like the U.S. Women’s National Team, the USMNT players are taking a stand against the U.S. Soccer Federation.

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In a statement, the U.S. National Soccer Team players association said that it opposes playing on both turf or grass laid on top of turf due to player safety concerns. Since Nippert Stadium is an artificial turf surface, it’s expected that U.S. Soccer will pay to fly in and lay down grass on top of the field ahead of the USMNT’s friendly match with Venezuela on June 9.

“In the view of the Players Association, this is just one more example of a serious problem that the United States Soccer Federation is not advancing the interests of the sport of soccer or the interests of the players or the fans, but is solely focused on generating ever-increasing revenues and profits for the Federation, its employees, its sponsors, and private businesses associated with the Federation,” the the players said in its statement, after corresponding with U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro via e-mail.

The players association highlighted a section of the U.S. Soccer press release in announcing the friendly match in Cincinnati, noting the strong FC Cincinnati fan support. This backed the players association’s point that U.S. Soccer is more interested in revenues than player safety.

Even with all of our society’s technological advances, it appears that only old-fashioned planting and allowing grass to gain roots deep in the soil is the best way to ensure a strong, stable field, and not one that will come up with a quick change of direction. Issues at Yankee Stadium recently highlighted this problem.

New York City FC captain Alex Ring, who played in that match, said he slipped on some of that temporary sod and suffered an injured ankle, but soldiered on to play through the pain for the final hour of the game.

“It hurts, unfortunately,” Ring told reporters on April 6, via Front Row Sports. “What can I say? I can’t complain about the pitch, but it happens after 30 minutes and you play the whole game with a sore ankle, it’s not the best.”

While coming to Cincinnati and bringing the USMNT to cities it has never been before – this will be the first USMNT trip to Cincinnati – is an important mission for U.S. Soccer, it’s also surprising because the beautiful pitch at Crew Stadium, the heart and soul of U.S. Soccer, is right up the road. Of course, Crew Stadium’s capacity is much smaller than Nippert Stadium, which I’m sure had something to do with this decision.

The USMNT hasn’t had to play on grass laid on top of turf since the 2017 Gold Cup semifinals against Costa Rica, which was played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, which is an indoor facility and thus uses artificial turf.

For U.S. Soccer, that now means all of its senior national team players are against the federation’s current position. The USWNT has made its sentiments known about playing on turf, even before Megan Rapinoe tore her ACL in a match on a turf pitch in bad shape, and they’ve even recently filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging U.S. Soccer is engaging in gender discrimination against the USWNT players.

Regardless of the outcome, it’s a bad look for U.S. Soccer that all of its main players are against the federation in one form or another, and together they could use their media platforms to make an even bigger statement.

Europa League Roundup: Arsenal shutout Napoli; Eintracht, Valencia advance

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What road problems?

For the second consecutive match, Arsenal picked up a 1-0 win on the road, this time against even tougher competition. Arsenal beat Napoli, 1-0, and 3-0 on aggregate to advance to the Europa League semifinals. Alexandre Lacazette scored a terrific free kick from 30-yards out, taking advantage of Alex Meter shifting the wrong way.

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In the second half, with Napoli needing four goals and pushing, Arsenal relied heavily on its centerback trio of Sokratis, Laurent Koscielny, and Nacho Monreal, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Saed Kolasinac helping in defense.

It’s a reversal of Arsenal’s recent fortunes, where before Monday, they hadn’t won on the road since February, including in the Europa League to Rennes. However, the 2-0 scoreline from the first leg really gave Arsenal the push and momentum it needed to get past a struggling Napoli side under Carlo Ancelotti.

Elsewhere, Valencia took care of languishing Villarreal in style with a 2-0 victory, winning 5-1 on aggregate, but the real drama took place in Germany.

With Eintracht Frankfurt trailing before kickoff by a pair of goals, the Eagles – well, both Benfica and Eintracht are the Eagles – managed to secure a 2-0 result to advance in the Europa League. Sebastian Rode’s second-half finish off an Ante Rebec pass has kept Eintracht’s season alive in Europe, where Luka Jovic can continue to market himself to the world’s biggest clubs.