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Three things from USMNT’s loss to Mexico

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Gregg Berhalter’s first tournament, the 2019 Gold Cup, as U.S. men’s national team head coach is in the books.

Sure, Sunday’s final defeat to Mexico stings — as does any defeat to El Tri — but the 2022 World Cup is still more than 36 months away. With that in mind, what did we learn about the USMNT on Sunday and throughout this tournament?

[ MORE: USA beat Netherlands, win back-to-back World Cups (video) ]

Baptism by fire for so many players

The intensity, the speed, the rash challenges, the constant antics. These are the things that have come to best explain the U.S.-Mexico rivalry, and they were all on full display from the opening whistle on Sunday.

The likes of Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, seasoned veterans of the last decade, weren’t at all bothered and have learned to embrace the extracurriculars. Surprisingly, many of the first-timers adapted quickly and found their footing without any major causes for concern, even in the game’s opening minutes.

Right back Reggie Cannon (21 years old with five caps) was arguably the best American player in the first half (non-Christian Pulisic division); Weston McKennie took it upon himself to play the role of enforcer on multiple occasions; Paul Arriola was his usual steady self and shied away from no dirty elbow.

No one backed down, no one played timidly, no one took the bait and harmed the team. As far as intense, high-stakes games go, this was a surprisingly mature performance.

[ MORE: Three things we learned: USA v. Netherlands | Player ratings ]

Berhalter got his subs wrong

Locked in a 0-0 game, Berhalter made the following substitutions early in the second half:

  • Cristian Roldan for Jordan Morris (61′)
  • Gyasi Zardes for Jozy Altidore (64′)

While bringing Zardes on for Altidore doesn’t look great on paper, he’s the only center forward Berhalter could realistically call upon off the bench. Not to mention, Altidore wasn’t having the best game of his career, even if you take out of his inexcusable miss in the 8th minute. The whole thing is… whatever.

The idea behind bringing Roldan on for Morris — with Tyler Boyd taking up space on the bench — is indecipherable. Did he want an extra body in central midfield to create more possession and slow the game down? Was it all about pushing Pulisic out to the wing? Can anyone make any sense of this?

Alternatively, Djordje Mihailovic, an actual no. 10.

Down a goal in a cup final, with fewer than 10 minutes remaining, Berhalter did the following:

I’m sorry, he did what?

The left back came off, which is a totally normal move when you’re down a goal and throwing all caution to the wind… to be replaced by another left back.

I don’t even need to launch into a tirade to explain why this is insane.

Alternatively, bring Boyd on and overload one wing, or give Pulisic a totally free role to drift anywhere and everywhere. Heck, bring Jonathan Lewis into a game that was entirely too stretched for anyone’s liking and let him run at defenders one on one. Simply put, there were a number of different ways Berhalter could have gone with his final sub, and what he did might have actually been the worst possible option.

[ MORE: Rose Lavelle “a straight up superstar” after stellar World Cup run ]

A positive tournament for the USMNT

Let’s end on a happy note, why don’t we?

The USMNT looked completely lost at sea when they began this tournament three weeks ago. By the time the quarterfinals and semifinals rolled around, that was no longer the case — and, against much tougher competition. It’s clear that Berhalter was able to make a lot of progress in a short period of time, and that should be held up as a hugely promising sign going forward.

We can bicker over whether or not “the system” or “the player pool” should dictate how the team plays on a given day, but when he has a full complement of players healthy and available for selection (e.g., Tyler Adams, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin and Josh Sargent), they actually match up quite well.

The issue, as always, is that the player pool is still the player pool. Even when Adams and Sargent come back into the team later this year, the USMNT will still be thin in those positions, but at least they’ll have a quality starter to build upon, right?

Exactly who is Newcastle’s new $50M striker?

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Newcastle United’s club record signing of Joelinton is raising plenty of eyebrows, as fans try to grasp what they have in the $50 million Brazilian.

Suffice it to say that there isn’t an easy comparison.

The soon-to-be 23-year-old scored seven goals with five assists in Bundesliga play for Hoffenheim last season, adding four and two from Champions League and German Cup play.

[ MORE: Man Utd chase Pepe, Fernandes ]

He’s a unit, to be sure, at 6-foot-1 with tremendous leaping ability and a powerful stride. Joelinton certainly has the ability to dominate in the air and hold the ball up like Newcastle’s loan star Salomon Rondon in 2018-19, but he brings better passing than most center forwards.

There’s a temptation to compare him to Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, another Premier League import from Brazil via Hoffenheim, as Joe Prince-Wright wrote in his morning post about the impending deal.

Firmino was on another level in 2014-15, coming off a remarkably complete seasons for a center forward. He also shoots more often than Joelinton.

What Newcastle supporters will like from Joelinton, what makes him unique for his size, is that he’s a tremendous dribbler. He has trickery to go with his pace, not strictly a locomotive.

His season didn’t have the goals, the Toon will hope, because he was supplying wingers Andrej Kramaric (17 goals) and Ishak Belfodil (16). That could be music to the ears of Miguel Almiron and… whoever else Steve Bruce has to deploy (Yoshinori Muto? Jacob Murphy?).

Joelinton also played less than minutes than the following three comparables: West Ham import Sebastien Haller, Watford target Ismalia Sarr, and Wolves star Raul Jimenez.

Will he be worth the spend? The six-year deal promises profit potential — something Mike Ashley and chief scout Graham Carr are clearly targeting — if he explodes and earns the admiration of bigger sides. As for now, he should be able to provide what Rondon did in 2018-19.

Filipe Luis signs for Flamengo after leaving Atletico

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Brazilian veteran left-back Filipe Luis has signed for boyhood club Flamengo after leaving Atletico Madrid on a free transfer.

The Rio de Janeiro club and the player confirmed the move Tuesday on social media.

Flamengo said the 33-year-old Luis has signed a deal until 2021.

Luis has played in Europe for 14 years but left Atletico on Sunday after his contract expired.

The left-back was a starter for Brazil during its recent run to the Copa America title.

With Atletico, Luis won the Copa del Rey in 2013, the Spanish league in 2014, and the Europa League in 2012 and 2018. He also had a brief spell with Chelsea in between, winning the Premier League in 2015.

Flamengo is third in the Brazilian championship after 11 matches, five points behind leader and defending champion Palmeiras.

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

MLS expansion side Austin FC name Wolff as first-ever head coach

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Former USMNT forward  Josh Wolff has become the first-ever head coach of Austin FC, as the MLS expansion franchise crack on with their expected entry into North America’s top-flight in 2021.

Wolff, 42, was the assistant coach for D.C. United before moving to the Columbus Crew were he worked as Gregg Berhalter’s assistant for the past five years. Wolff was then hired as Berhalter’s assistant when he took charge of the USMNT.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

Austin FC say that Wolff will start his new job after the international window in November as he will continue with his current job with U.S. Soccer until then.

“I know that Austin has a true love of soccer, and it is the opportunity of a lifetime to be part of the first ever major league team of any kind in the Capital of Texas,” Wolff said. “Our stated ambition is to establish ourselves quickly within MLS as a vibrant, attacking side and we want to reflect the diverse, competitive, and passionate makeup of our club’s home, both on and off the field.”

This move makes total sense as former Columbus Crew owner, Anthony Precourt, knows Wolff from their time together in Ohio. Precourt excercized his option to move his MLS franchise from Columbus to Austin which was confirmed in January 2019.

The Crew have since been kept in Columbus and Precourt is now the chairman and CEO of Two Oak Ventures, the entity which owns the rights to operate Austin FC and its stadium, while also holding the title of chairman and CEO of Austin FC. Austin FC’s new stadium at McKalla Place (the stadium and the complex around it looks pretty incredible) is privately funded and will hold 20,500 fans when it is completed.

Hiring a former MLS and USMNT star to lead the team makes a lot of sense and Wolff’s name has been mentioned plenty when MLS jobs have become available in recent years. He was on both the 2002 and 2006 USMNT World Cup squads and his experience across MLS and in Europe have given him a unique coaching style.

There is a lot of respect for Wolff among the American soccer community and his playing philosophy is very similar to Berhalter’s. Wolff becoming a head coach is good news for young domestic players.

Live, UCL: PSV v. Basel headlines second qualifying round

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The UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds continue to roll on, and there are some mouthwatering clashes across Europe on Tuesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

That’s right, the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons pretty much rolled into one.

The pick of the second qualifying round first leg ties on Tuesday sees Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven host FC Basel in the Netherlands, with Mexican national team stars Hirving Lozano and Erick Guttierez hopeful of playing in the UCL group stage this season.

Welsh champions The New Saints host Danish champs FC Copenhagen, with TNS the heavy underdogs but their illustrious opponents will not relish their trip to Wales amid sweltering conditions in the UK.

Dinamo Zagreb will fancy their chances of advancing past Georgian minnows Saburtalo, while Olympiacos head to Czech giants Viktoria Plzen in another tasty encounter.

The third qualifying round sees the likes of Ajax, FC Porto and Dynamo Kiev enter the competition, so things will continue to get tougher for any minnows who sneak through this round.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s games, with the second legs played next week. Click on the link to follow all of the action live.

UCL second qualifying round, first leg – Tuesday, July 23

Plzen v. Olympiacos – 1 p.m. ET
Saburtalo v. Dinamo Zagreb – 1:30 p.m. ET
The New Saints v. Copenhagen – 2 p.m. ET
PSV Eindhoven v. FC Basel – 2 p.m. ET
FK Sutjeska v. APOEL Nicosia – 2:15 p.m. ET