Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Strengths and weaknesses of the USMNT

1 Comment

The United States men’s national team tangles with Mexico on Friday in its latest attempt at building toward the 2022 World Cup.

Rivals El Tri are bringing a Golden Generation-based roster to the party, and the weaknesses of Mexico are, well, very very few.

The USMNT is another story. Gregg Berhalter’s Yanks may well be on pace for a Golden Generation itself should Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Josh Sargent continue to progress and mature with top level experience, and there are a bevy of young players like FC Dallas’ Paxton Pomykal and Ajax’s Sergino Dest who, too, inspire hope for the short-term and long-term.

STRENGTH: The midfield

This feels so good to say. After a few years of Michael Bradley dipping in form and coaches hoping Wil Trapp is the answer, the Yanks now have multiple players delivering on a high level for club and country. That allows Bradley to, at worst, be a terrific depth asset.

Christian Pulisic is on pace to become the best attacking player in USMNT history — a mantle we believe currently resides with Clint Dempsey — and Weston McKennie is a complete player and one of Schalke’s most important. Tyler Adams is the “right back” in Berhalter’s formation, but he’s a midfielder in possession and a very good one.

Alfredo Morales is getting his latest chance to impress, Pomykal is a delightful young prospect who may eventually allow Pulisic to play out wide, and Julian Green’s 2.Bundesliga heroics have not even been enough to get a call-up. That’s depth (or questionable call-ups, but we’ll get to that).

WEAKNESS: Left back

Gregg Berhalter has attempted to short-circuit a weakness that goes back to DaMarcus Beasley’s prime, a void unfilled by Timothy Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Jorge Villafana, Edgar Castillo, Justin Morrow, Greg Garza, and a host of out-of-position prayers unanswered. Berhalter’s ideal back four is not traditional, with Tyler Adams or another right back defending in that spot but moving into the midfield in possession. So far, Tim Ream has been okay as a LCB, but the team still badly needs a strong, true, speedy man on the left.

Beasley was a key to many USMNT cycles (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

STRENGTH: The coach, in-game

Just look at what Caleb Porter, a decent-enough MLS coach in his own right, has done with Columbus since taking over for Berhalter, who was clearly making a fine meal out of lesser ingredients. There’s a chance that his desire to be a possession-based monster won’t work out at the USMNT level, but he’s such a good coach that it would be stunning if he didn’t find a fix.

WEAKNESS: The coach, in selection

Look, every coach has his or her favorites. Berhalter coached Gyasi Zardes and Wil Trapp at Columbus, and both continue to get called up to the team. Zardes is a serviceable player who out-performs his advanced stats and finishes goals. He’s the 2019 Chris Wondolowski (even if Chris Wondolowski is still active in 2019). Trapp is, well, one of Berhalter’s favorites.

There is a clear desire or preference from Berhalter to see Major League Soccer players make it work. For now, that’s kinda okay. But see this below chart with the ratings of American players amongst their peers in MLS across three different online rating services. Berhalter is calling up players who sit outside the Top 100 in form in MLS this season.

Hopefully, whoever Earnie Stewart hires to be the new USMNT GM will help. I mean, at least reward the American player having the best season of all Yanks in MLS (It’s FC Dallas’ 28-year-old Ryan Hollingshead, by the way).

STRENGTH: John Brooks

We’d love to say center back is a strength in general, but right now it would be almost exclusively on behalf of the Wolfsburg monster. Brooks is a terrific passer with excellent vision, strong instincts, and tactical understanding. When healthy, he’s been a good Bundesliga center back. His last season and the start of this one have sputtered a bit, but at 26 it’s reasonable to think he’s just now finding his prime.

WEAKNESS: Goalkeeper (for now?)

Zack Steffen is the No. 1 goalkeeper in the USMNT pool. The youngster is back in Europe, on loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf from Manchester City, and getting loads of shots fired at him by Bundesliga opposition. He’s a tremendous shot stopper who is improving in possession despite the mistakes we’ve seen in a U.S. shirt. Fellow young goalkeepers Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge) and Jonathan Klinsmann (FC St. Gallen) are not first choice at their clubs. And for as good as veterans Brad Guzan and Sean Johnson are between the sticks, neither meets the class of prime Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, or Tim Howard, clearly elite backstops who capable of the most wondrous of performances.

Zack Steffen twitter.com/f95

STRENGTH: Youth

Look, some of this has to do with shiny new objects yet to crack in front of our eyes, but things are looking from Pomykal to Miles Robinson in MLS, Sergino Dest to Chris Gloster overseas (And don’t even get us started on the way too young but way too exciting Giovani Reyna, Borussia Dortmund’s son of one of the best American players to ever don the shirt).

The Olympic qualifying failures are hopefully in the past, and the U-20 World Cup sides have been fun to watch for years. Say what you will about the USSF under Klinsmann, Arena, Berhalter, whoever, but the prospects are being developed better both here and abroad than ever before.

WEAKNESS: Center forward (for now)

Prolific big man Jozy Altidore isn’t with the USMNT this camp due to Toronto FC commitments, and has struggled to stay healthy (He’s an absolute CONCACAF killer). Lille’s Tim Weah is also hurt, and may well be the answer here, but all eyes will be on Josh Sargent. The Werder Bremen teen is coming off his first goal of the Bundesliga season, and capable of turning this weakness to strength the minute if his elite prospect meter pushes into full throttle starter (Read the latest on Sargent here). Everyone else already has a clear flaw in their game, even Altidore’s fitness qualifies here. Gyasi Zardes is a good finisher with a very decent engine, but his poor stats in many other categories aren’t lying. Bobby Wood has dropped off the map, Andrija Novakovich is still not a fixture at Reading and on another loan, and Jordan Morris now clearly a winger.

Arsenal uses thrilling comeback to win Europa League group

Leave a comment

Nothing Arsenal-related is allowed to be easy, it seems.

The Gunners used a goal and an assist from Bukayo Saka to come back from a two-goal deficit and draw Standard Liege 2-2 in Belgium on Thursday, winning its Europa League group when Vitoria came back to beat Eintracht Frankfurt on a wild afternoon of soccer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Arsenal trailed on second half goals from Samuel Bastien and Selim Amallah, but rallied behind Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette to score a second-straight win for interim boss Freddie Ljungberg.

Saka sent in a laser cross in the 78th minute and Lacazette did quite well to power it under the bar.

He’s loving this competition, having made a serious entrance earlier in the tournament versus Eintracht Frankfurt. The 18-year-old now has two goals and five assists across all competitions this season.

The Gunners needed just three more minutes to tie the score on a day they outshot the hosts 15-11.

Saka showed his nose for goal to tie the score five minutes later with a dribble to the top of the 18 and a sly finish to the keeper’s left.

This was all happening around the same time Vitoria scored twice in three minutes to take a 3-2 lead on Eintracht Frankfurt.

Standard Liege goes from the knockout rounds to nothing in a blink, while Eintracht goes from winning the group to second.

The field for the Europa League is looking fierce, with Inter Milan, Benfica, Ajax, Club Brugge, Olympiacos, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, and Red Bull Salzburg joining the competition via transfer from the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Matchweek 17 is here in the Premier League as the games continue to come thick and fast during the festive season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-0 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Liverpool 3-1 Watford – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM] 

Crystal Palace 3-1 Brighton – (Monday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Leicester 3-0 Norwich – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Southampton 1-1 West Ham – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Sheffield United 2-1 Aston Villa – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Man United 2-1 Everton – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Arsenal 3-3 Man City – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Wolves 1-2 Tottenham – (Sunday 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-2 Newcastle United – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

Leave a comment

Matchweek 17 of the Premier League season is here, as the busy festive season continues.

Get in there.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today, Sky Sports News, NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Liverpool v. Watford – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Chelsea v. Bournemouth – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley v. Newcastle – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City v. Norwich City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Aston Villa – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Southampton v. West Ham – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
9 a.m. ET: Wolves v. Tottenham – NBCSN [STREAM]
9 a.m. ET: Man United v. Everton  – NBC Sports Gold[STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Arsenal v. Man City – NBCSN [STREAM]

Monday
2:45 p.m. ET: Crystal Palace v. Brighton – NBCSN [STREAM]

Miami ready to arrive as global soccer city

Getty Images
Leave a comment

This weekend the Premier League on NBC Sports crew are heading to Miami Beach to host the second Premier League Mornings Live Fan Fest of the season.

And Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle, Robbie Mustoe and Kyle Martino, along with several high-profile guests, will be arriving in a city which is primed to re-enter the discussion as a truly global soccer city.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

With David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF franchise arriving in Major League Soccer for March 2020, CONCACAF’s HQ in Miami, plus many of the biggest clubs in the world visiting Miami to play in friendly games each summer — and of course the USMNT and USWNT both playing regularly in South Florida — Miami is already well on its way to becoming a key U.S. hub for the global game.

But things are changing. Rapidly.

After the Miami Fusion folded in early 2002 and the heyday of the NASL long gone, there was a soccer void in MIA, but now teams are popping up in both MLS and USL, and if you wander around Miami you will spot jerseys from just about every club on the planet.

Peter Smith (who played for the U.S. Futsal Team in the 1989 world championships) is involved in soccer in the Miami area where he runs his company, Smash Soccer, a consultancy agency.

He has seen a huge upturn in the popularity of the sport in and around Miami in recent years.

“There will be a big turnout and a great atmosphere at the Clevelander because their is such a passion for the sport in Miami and South Florida,” Smith said. “Miami is more of an international city than an American city. You always see Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Juventus, Boca Juniors, River Plate and Flamengo jerseys, as well as plenty of Liverpool, Man United, Man City and Chelsea shirts and there is so much interest in the global game.

“Miami has such a mix of tourists and residents that you will always have PL interest in and around the bars and on the streets and there really is a growing interest in the Premier League. There are plenty of fan bars on gamedays, and in particular areas of Miami where you have specific bars for fans supporting clubs in South America and Europe. It’s a real mix and it is wonderful.”

[ MORE: How to attend the Miami Fan Fest ]

When you start to ask around the Miami area, it is clear soccer is on the minds of many.

Mike Ryan Ruiz is the Executive Producer for The Dan Le Batard Show and Host of Chelsea’s new U.S. focused podcast, “Chelsea Mike’d Up.” 

Aside from his focus on all things Premier League with the Blues, Ruiz believes the arrival of Inter Miami CF will be a key part of the puzzle in soccer getting back on the map in Miami.

“The soccer community is really buzzing down here for Inter Miami, even though it’s in Fort Lauderdale initially. Our supporters groups, I think, are going to be the talk of MLS. There are three main groups but the wildest is Vice City,” Ruiz explained. “I really think Inter is going to be a success story. The town is desperate for a winner and I think they’re well positioned even as an expansion team. We’ve been waiting on this for so long. It felt like the day might never come… but we’re here.”

It is sure to be one heck of a party at the Clevelander Hotel in Miami Beach this weekend as Miami continues to grow as a worldwide soccer destination.

All the details for our Fan Fest can be found right here.