Getty Images

Berhalter trying to transform USMNT into possession-based team

Leave a comment

DAVENPORT, Fla. (AP) Gregg Berhalter prepares for U.S. national team matches like a CEO getting ready for a deal.

The new American coach uses video presentations when he meets with foreign-based players via computer. He has tripled the team’s data analysts to three.

Two white boards are on the grass at training sessions, one with the day’s objectives and schedule, the other with magnets to denote formations.

“I’ve been amazed the first few days just how much information he’s got across and how he wants every guy to be on the same page and have a perfect understanding of how we want to go into the game,” star midfielder Christian Pulisic said ahead of Thursday’s exhibition against Ecuador in Orlando.

Hired in December as the fourth U.S. coach in a little over two years, Berhalter has the full U.S. player pool for the first time this week after beating Panama and Costa Rica with a roster entirely from Major League Soccer.

He’s been to Europe twice since he signed on, visiting players in England, Germany and France. He lives in corporate housing near the U.S. Soccer Federation headquarters in Chicago and commutes on weekends to Columbus, Ohio, where he coached the Crew from 2013 through last year. He’s been searching for a home, and his family will make the move to Chicago after the school year.

Players say he contacts them frequently after many of their club matches.

“Greg has been good about if you’d too tired, if you don’t have time to talk, then it’s no problem,” said midfielder Tyler Adams, in his first season with Germany’s RB Leipzig. “I was never going to tell him I don’t have time to talk. I’m going to be willing to take that call at any time.”

Berhalter is bringing a new philosophy to the U.S. team, still recovering from its failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup, a player pool that has been led by Jurgen Klinsmann, Bruce Arena and interim coach Dave Sarachan in quick succession. The team’s mantra has become “disorganize.” Berhalter and players rarely speak for more than a few minutes without uttering the word, which describes what they want to do to their opponents.

“We want to be a team that’s brave, that is attacking-orientated. I think that’s what we want to DNA to be,” Berhalter said.

American soccer players have frequently dropped deep and been content to counterattack, especially on the road and against world powers. Berhalter is emphasizing possession in what he describes as a 4-3-3 when on the attack and a 4-4-2 when defending.

“We’re clearly playing with wingers now,” he said. “Our fullbacks aren’t as high as they used to be in the past.”

The Americans haven’t played a competitive match since the October 2017 defeat at Trinidad and Tobago that cost them a World Cup berth, and they don’t play another until their CONCACAF Gold Cup opener in June. Berhalter considers this the evaluation phase. He is a stylist, employing inverted defenders and wingers fluidly exchanging places with the central attacking midfielders, Pulisic and Weston McKennie.

Gone apparently is the constant chaos of the Klinsmann era.

“That’s a breath of fresh air, because before it was let’s qualify by any means necessary, chop and changing, switching things up, whatever it took. He’s very focused on playing a certain way and sticking to it,” said 31-year-old defender Tim Ream. “America’s known as a run-and-gun, solid mentality, work very hard. You can do those things and still play a good possession-based style. And I hope a year from now that people look at the squad and look at the team and see us play games and think they move the ball really well and they create chances through possession and through making teams disorganized.”

The U.S. had just three practice sessions ahead of the Ecuador match, and some players reported late because of club matches Sunday. The trio of 20-year-olds – Pulisic, McKennie and Adams – figured to start together for the first time, though with Adams at right back and DeAndre Yedlin shifted to winger.

“There is more gray hair on my beard. That’s the stress of getting it all in in a short period of time,” Berhalter said.

Yedlin anticipates by next year’s start of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, American fans will notice the change. By then, the Americans hope they have forged a new identity in the Gold Cup and the new CONCACAF Nations League this fall.

“People are just going to be wowed by the growth,” Yedlin said.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

On This Day: Bornstein becomes national hero – in Honduras

Getty Images
Leave a comment

You know what today is? It’s Jonathan Bornstein day in Honduras.

Ten years ago today at RFK Stadium in our nations capital, a young, hot-shot kid with plenty of hair named Michael Bradley and Bornstein helped the U.S. Men’s National Team come back to draw Costa Rica, 2-2, in World Cup qualifying. In fact, it’s eerie watching Bornstein’s celebration, running to the corner flag and diving headfirst as he’s mobbed moments after by his teammates. It’s a bit similar to what Lanson Donovan did about nine months later.

[READ: USMNT looks to build in match v. Canada]

To add some context, it was the final day of qualifications matches in the Hex. Three days earlier, the U.S. had already secured a place in the World Cup with a wild 3-2 win at Honduras, meaning Los Catrachos needed to win over El Salvador on the final night and hope that the U.S. would keep Costa Rica from winning in the final match.

Who else, but Carlos Pavon gave Honduras a 1-0 win over El Salvador that night. Then, it was Bornsteins goal later that night that put Los Catrachos into the World Cup for the first time since 1982, and left Costa Rica to battle for the shared spot between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL.

In honor of the big day, hundreds of Honduras fans had been mentioning Bornstein on social media, and the veteran defender – currently of the Chicago Fire – retweeted quite a few of the thankful messages to him. Below, here’s video of the call from Honduras TV, as well as from Ian Darke and the ESPN crew.

Unfortunately for Bornstein, this may be the highlight of his national team career. He did make the 2010 World Cup squad and started twice, including the matches against Algeria and Ghana, but he never truly took the next step in his career to become a star left back.

After a calamitous performance against Mexico in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final, which also Bob Bradley his USMNT job, Bornstein was dropped and hasn’t been seen from again on the national team stage.

However, even though he’s only a club player these days, he’ll never have to buy a drink in Honduras, that’s for sure.

Euro 2020 qualifying: France settles for draw with Turkey

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Euro 2020 qualifying continued on Monday and included a top-of-the-group clash in Group H.

[READ: England rout Bulgaria in game marred by racist chants]

France 1-1 Turkey

France spoiled a chance at home to put one foot in Euro 2020 after conceding late in the match and settling for a draw with Turkey.

Despite playing without a lot of starters – Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, and Hugo Lloris are all out injured – France still was strong in the first half and peppered Turkey with 12 shots. Goalkeeper Mert Gunok made an outstanding double-save in the first half and Leicester City’s Çağlar Söyüncü did his best to keep Antoine Griezmann in front of him.

In the 72nd minute, Olivier Giroud came on the field as a substitute and four minutes later, he put France in front to the delight of the home crowd at the Stade de France. What else, but a header off a corner. However, the lead didn’t last long. Off a free kick in the 82nd minute, Hakan Calhanoglu’s delivery was nodded home by Kaan Ayhan. The 1-1 draw leaves both France and Turkey tied with 19 points from eight qualifying matches. It also means that Turkey hasn’t lost to France over two games in this qualifying cycle.

Here’s a look at the rest of Monday’s scores:

Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifying scores

Group A

Bulgaria 0-6 England

Kosovo 2-0 Montenegro

Group B

Lithuania 1-2 Serbia

Ukraine 2-1 Portugal

Group H

Iceland 2-0 Andorra

Moldova 0-4 Albania

Ronaldo scores 700th goal for club and country

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cristiano Ronaldo achieved yet another personal milestone in his star-studded career on Monday evening with a simple penalty kick goal.

With his 72nd minute strike, Ronaldo tallied his 700th goal for club and country in his career. It’s an incredible achievement, and one indicative of his incredible goal-scoring exploits and his long career.

Ronaldo was already leading all active players globally in terms of goals scored, so his 700th is only adding to the list. His former club nemesis, Lionel Messi, still sits a reported 28 goals behind him, according to Soccerway. After them, LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the closest, and he has “only” 542 goals.

The Portuguese icon becomes the sixth male player to score 700 goals in his career. The others include Pele, Romaro, Josef Bican, Ferenc Puskás, and Gerd Muller.

Ronaldo made his debut for Sporting Lisbon in the 2002-2003 season as a 17-year-old and quickly was snapped up by Man United and Sir Alex Ferguson, where he transitioned from a tricky winger to a clinical striker who couldn’t stop scoring.

The 34-year-old has scored 40-or-more goals on three occasions in his career and he scored 25-or-more goals in all nine years he was at Real Madrid. For Portugal, he’s now scored an incredible 95 goals in all competitions. He had 15 goals in World Cup qualifying alone for the 2018 campaign.

Watch the video of Ronaldo’s breaking goal below. Unfortunately for him, Portugal fell, 2-1 to Ukraine.

Southgate, England players sound off on racist abuse

Getty Images
Leave a comment

England took care of business in Monday’s 6-0 thrashing of Bulgaria, but the Three Lions had to endure some horrendous racist abuse from the crowd during the game.

The match was paused on two occasions I’m the first half by the match officials after racist chanting could be heard from a section of supporters, and a large group of Bulgarian fans were ejected towards the end of the half. However, racist abuse continued during the match from small pockets of fans in the stadium.

[READ: England v. Bulgaria delayed after racist abuse from stands]

“I have to say that the officials were on to everything very quickly,” England manager Gareth Southgate told ITV after the match. “We reported everything immediately when we heard things, we had constant communication with the fourth official and the referee. I was in contact with the players, all the way through the first half in particular, and then again at halftime.

”We know it’s an unacceptable situation, and I think we’ve managed to make two statements. By winning the game, but also we’re raised the awareness of everybody to the situation. The game was stopped twice, I know for some people that won’t be enough, but we as a group were on board with that process.”

Raheem Sterling, who scored a brace in the win, also sounded off on social media, as did former England and Arsenal star Ian Wright.

Ultimately, UEFA and the match officials followed the protocol, but the sad part about this is that England and the officials had a plan for racist abuse, and it was predictable that it would happen.

In a statement after the game, the FA confirmed they would be asking UEFA to investigate what happened. However, any punishment is too little, too late for the players who endured the abuse.