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2 years since Couva, has the USMNT learned from its biggest failure?

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Two years ago yesterday, the United States men were eliminated from World Cup contention with a devastating loss to Trinidad & Tobago, missing out on the big dance for the first time in eight cycles.

It was a disaster of epic proportions, a miss so colossal it promised to bring with it sweeping changes and overhauls in order to prevent it from ever happening again.

And yet, two years on, has anything significant really changed?

The feeling of uncertainty, pessimism, and confusion still reigns strong with the USMNT setup, and despite the cataclysmic event in Couva two years ago, little has actually changed for the program. The talent pool is subject to endless experimentation with little established consistency in the starting lineup, the youth setup is struggling to recruit talented dual nationals, and results are still below the expected level of competition and growth.

Gregg Berhalter, as far as we know, has not fundamentally changed much with his hire. Billed as a new era of the USMNT, the same players are still called in, the same mistakes plague the team on the field, and there is little improvement to give fans hope for the future.

Inspecting the other high-profile teams that missed the 2018 World Cup – the Netherlands and Italy – both have made sweeping changes and ushered in a youth movement that has brought marketable changes to the squad. The Netherlands immediately progressed to the Nations League final behind a youth backbone that took Ajax to the Champions League semifinals, while Italy is perfect through six matches of Euro 2020 qualification under Roberto Mancini after making sweeping changes to the youth setup.

In fact, the USMNT is poised to potentially lose a key dual national to the Netherlands in Sergino Dest, who is still deciding on his future despite having played for the United States youth setup.

Meanwhile, the United States’ youth movement has sputtered. Weston McKennie’s development has stalled amid his inability to reign in his wild and erratic tendencies. Tyler Adams, John Brooks, and Timothy Weah have contracted the injury bug, while Christian Pulisic is stuck on the bench while he integrates into the Chelsea squad. Jonathan Gonzalez was wooed by Mexico and now they could lose Dest too as some accuse U.S. Soccer of failing to remain in constant contact with potential prospects. Just last week Berhalter naively said, “it’s not U.S. Soccer’s job to develop players.”

Despite a promise to turn over a new leaf, the U.S. is still light years behind where it should be expected to be. They were beaten by Mexico in the Gold Cup final by Tata Martino, who wasn’t even contacted about the U.S. vacancy and subsequently hired by their arch rivals. They were thumped 3-0 by the same squad weeks later in a friendly on home soil. An unconvincing draw against a Uruguay B side didn’t do much to alleviate the pessimism days later.

While the U.S. still sorts through its numerous litany of struggles, fans are wondering when the promised changes will come. Questions remain for Berhalter as he continues the rebuild, with an over-reliance on players from his old stomping grounds Major League Soccer often casting doubt onto his ability to select a squad.

CONCACAF Nations League play looms tonight, with a matchup against Cuba before a game against Canada on Tuesday. This is a chance for the U.S. men to slowly rebuild trust within the fan base. It will take a significant finish in the competition to sway those with doubts, but it is possible to start somewhere. Still, the signs point to continued frustration and uncertainty in the future, and there is much work ahead to undo that.

Ultimately, two years from D Day, would one be surprised if another Couva repeat took place again? Is this squad past the devastating loss to a point where it’s avoidable? If fans waffle on answering those questions affirmatively, has the group really moved on? There is still a long way to go, and World Cup qualifying begins in less than a year’s time.

Transfer news: Milik to Arsenal; Telles to Chelsea

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In the latest transfer Alex Telles is the latest left back linked with a move to Chelsea, while Arsenal are reportedly the favorites to sign striker Arkadiusz Milik.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Starting in north London, Arsenal continue to be linked with a host of attacking players ahead of the upcoming transfer window and Arkadiusz Milik is the latest.

The Napoli and Poland star, 26, has long been linked with a move away from the Stadio San Paolo and given the fact that the Naples club look unlikely to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season, the likes of Milik, Kalidou Koulibaly and a few others may have to move on to offset the huge loss of funds.

Per the report Italian outlet Repubblica, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis is keen to offload Milik and would rather sell him to Arsenal than another Serie A rival, as Juventus are reportedly interested too. Napoli could lower their asking price for Milik, who is out of contract next summer, if a Premier League club emerges as a genuine contender to sign him.

The sticking point for the Gunners? Milik would cost $45 million and Mikel Arteta’s side don’t seem to have significant transfer funds as they’ve been linked with plenty of loan and swap deals ahead of the summer window.

That said, if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leaves this summer (he has just one year left on his contract) and Alexandre Lacazette is also sold and sent to Atletico Madrid in a swap deal for Thomas Lemar, Arteta will have some extra cash a huge drop in his wage bill to work with.

Milik, on paper, would seem to suit the Premier League well. He reminds me of Edin Dzeko as he can hold the ball up, is powerful in the air and despite his horrendous luck with injuries he is still extremely mobile and can lead the line. Arteta seems pretty happy with young strikers Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah who he used often in central roles before the suspension in March but Milik has plenty of experience and would be a focal point to their attack.

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Moving to west London, Chelsea are reportedly want to buy Telles from FC Porto but face stiff competition from Paris Saint-Germain for the Brazilian full back.

According to Le 10 Sport in France, Chelsea and PSG will battle it out for the Porto left back and they claim that Chelsea have been tracking Telles for some time and have a jump start on other clubs. He is only contract to Porto until the summer of 2021, so there’s a cut-price deal to be made there.

Telles, 27, made his debut for Brazil last year and after starting his career in his homeland he’s played for Galatasaray, Inter Milan on loan and now Porto for the last four seasons. He is considered as one of the best full backs playing in Portugal and has chipped in with 21 goals in 183 appearances in all competitions for Porto.

As we’ve mentioned before, Chelsea need a more solid left back defensively but Frank Lampard still has an attacking playing style and therefore Telles seems like a very good fit. Emerson Palmeri is a little too defensive, while Marcos Alonso is too attack-minded and left back is an area where the Blues clearly want to strengthen in the upcoming transfer window. They’ve been linked with Nicolas Tagliafico and others and as clubs start to circle across Europe for Telles, Chelsea’s intentions will perhaps become clearer in the weeks ahead.

VIDEO: Top 10 players in the world as soccer resumes

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Who are the top 10 soccer players in the world right now as the season is about to resume in multiple leagues?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

With the Bundesliga in full flow for a few weeks, Spain’s La Liga will return next week and the Premier League and Serie A will follow the week after.

Given that there are so many superstars scattered across those four leagues, here’s a list of the top 10 players set to be in action over the summer months as we will be treated to a sort of bonus World Cup with multiple leagues spreading out games over multiple days as top four, title and relegation battles take center stage.

From Manchester to Milan and Barcelona to Berlin, there will be so many superstars in full flow in the coming months.

Of course, the Ligue 1 season in France is canceled so we can’t watch Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for at least a few months. If we could, the Paris Saint-Germain duo would be high up on the list of top 10 players in the world right now as the soccer world gets ready to resume in empty stadiums.

Top 10 players in the world who will be in action this summer

10. Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

9. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

8. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

7. Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

6. Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)

5. Bruno Fernandes (Man United)

4. Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)

3. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Which clubs have toughest, easiest remaining PL schedule?

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Now we know that the Premier League will return on June 17, which clubs have the toughest and easiest remaining schedule to navigate?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Our partners at Sky Sports in the UK have taken a deep dive into the remaining schedule for all 20 Premier League clubs and it is intriguing to see this list. I love this kind of analysis.

Based on the current Premier League table, our partners have calculated the average position of teams who all 20 clubs have to face in their remaining schedule.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

First, here’s the list and below we will break down which Premier League clubs have the toughest or easiest remaining schedule and why.


Average opponent position

Man United: 12.3

Man City: 12.1

Wolves: 11.8

Southampton: 11.7

Newcastle: 11.4

Leicester: 11.3

West Ham: 11.3

Chelsea: 11

Norwich: 11

Everton: 10.7

Burnley: 10.6

Liverpool: 10.6

Arsenal: 10.5

Tottenham: 10.4

Watford: 10.1

Sheffield United: 9.4

Brighton: 8.6

Aston Villa: 8.4

Crystal Palace: 8.2

Bournemouth: 8.2


Analysis

This is very revealing when it comes to the ‘strength of the remaining schedule’ for all 20 Premier League clubs and explains why some fans are still hesitant to see their teams back in action, while others are licking their chops in anticipation of a late-season surge up the table.

In short: if you are Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Brighton you could struggle in this relegation battle. All three clubs have plenty of the big boys left to play, while fellow relegation rivals West Ham and Norwich have much easier schedules, on paper, to navigate.

As for the top four battle, Man United look to have a clear edge on Chelsea in the race for fourth place but Wolves are also high in this list so Nuno Espirito Santo’s side look well sit to finish off another remarkable season with a flourish. Sheffield United have a very tough remaining schedule so if they can stay in the top six it will be a fabulous achievement for Chris Wilder’s side, while we should keep an eye out for Southampton and Newcastle to potentially make a late surge up the table given the respective strength of their schedules.

However, this is just a study on the average position of teams they are facing. It doesn’t taken into account the players now available after recovering from injuries which impacted plenty of clubs in varying degrees, or the fact that different teams will adapt differently to playing in empty stadiums. If the Bundesliga is anything to go by, away teams have dominated so far and that could mean that the more away games Premier League teams have left in their schedule (six of Villa’s final 10 games are at home, while six of Sheffield United’s final 10 games are away) the more points they could pick up.

We all know funny things happen late in the season every season and with an intense scrap for the top four, Europa League spots and the battle against relegation, previous form can go out the window as desperation sets in. Still, stats like these are fascinating to sift through and give us an inclination as to wide to expect on a general level.

Liverpool, Man United show support for Black Lives Matter

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Liverpool and Man United have joined the growing number of clubs and players across the world offering their support to the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA and honoring George Floyd.

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN last Monday there have been widespread protests across the USA.

A video showed former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than 8 1/2 minutes. Chauvin was arrested last Friday and charged with murder, authorities confirmed.

Over the weekend Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi revealed messages of support on their jerseys, while USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie wore an armband saying ‘Justice for George’ and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Marcus Thuram took a knee after he scored in the Bundesliga.

On Monday Liverpool players posted a photo of their entire squad taking a knee around the center circle at Anfield during a training session with the message Black Lives Matter and Unity is Strength, while Man United star Marcus Rashford released a powerful statement on the widespread protests across the USA.

Paris Saint-Germain and France superstar Kylian Mbappe also posted an image on social media with the caption “police with us, not against us.”

Across the soccer world clubs and players are speaking out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and honoring George Floyd.