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How USMNT can top Canada without Bradley, Pulisic

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There’s definitely neither Michael Bradley, Zack Steffen, nor Christian Pulisic for the United States men’s national team in their last bids to qualify for the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals.

Some have joked, “Who cares?” about the new competition, but this matters for the Gregg Berhalter era considering a second loss to Canada would… well… look, it would be a second loss to Canada.

[ MORE: USMNT trims squad to 23 ]

How bad is that? First of all, considering the ire sent south from Canadian media and fans when we didn’t brand John Herdman’s triumph over the USMNT in Toronto as “the time soccer was reinvented by the Children of Bobby Orr (TM),” let us say that Canada:

A) was very, very good in the October win, led by a tactical demolition.

2) is genuinely much improved over the past half-decade (We’ve covered this much over the years, though it was a slow burn)

D) will be a nation to be reckoned with come World Cup qualifying, led by the remarkable Alphonso Davies.

There. And we mean it.

But losing twice inside of one month to a nation who hadn’t beaten you since Berhalter was in middle school would be a monumental step back for a program already swimming in the shallow end thanks to a string of monumental step backs.

We’re gonna have so many monuments to our setbacks. It’s gonna be beautiful. People will love them.

So make no mistake about it: No Bradley and a less-than-100 percent Pulisic is a real problem. The club is still without Timothy Weah and Tyler Adams, but does have a healthy John Brooks and in-form Josh Sargent to go with recent commitment maker Sergino Dest.

That doesn’t help the Bradley-, Adams- and Pulisic-less midfield, but it’s something. We’d note that Julian Green is playing the sort of game that can help a team down its prime influential playmaker, but 2.Bundesliga or something, we guess.

A back four with DeAndre Yedlin, Dest, Brooks, and Tim Ream is going to do a lot better job with Alphonso Davies than the one with, checks notes, Daniel Lovitz, Ream, Aaron Long, and Yedlin. Dest will be out of position at left back, but he’s been there before and better than the alternative.

So, yes, the back four should be fine in front of, presumably, Brad Guzan, but how will Berhalter deal with Scott Arfield‘s game-busting work in the midfield? Alfredo Morales and Weston McKennie are a great start assuming it’s a 4-3-3 scenario. Berhalter for some reason hasn’t been impressed with Sebastian Lletget‘s work for the USMNT, so it seems likely either Jackson Yueill or Cristian Roldan will get run against Canada.

The forward are going to be fine with Jordan Morris, Sargent, and either Paul Arriola or Tyler Boyd, as long as Berhalter lets them press a Canadian back line which is by far their weakest aspect (and sits ahead of a very good goalkeeper in Milan Borjan).

The absence of Bradley and Pulisic doesn’t make Canada a favorite in Florida, even given last month’s abomination at BMO, but Herdman bamboozled Berhalter last time and doesn’t even have to go for a win this time, as a draw will be enough to end the USMNT’s CNL hopes.

Given the electricity of Davies and Jonathan David, the steel of Arfield, and the game-stealing ability of Borjan, the Yanks can play well and still lose. But a speedy back line with two strong center backs combined with an industrious and energetic midfield, and a press against Canada’s inexperienced backs should be enough.

Now we await Berhalter’s plan.

UPSL playoff match abandoned after coach punches referee

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A United Premier Soccer League playoff game was abandoned after a referee assault in Maryland on Saturday, the latest in a long line of referee abuse stories.

A player from Mass United had been shown a red card, and a member of the club’s coaching staff punched the referee.

The match between Mass United and World Class Premier FC (Maryland) was a Northeast Championship match, and would send a winner to the UPSL’s national finals in Miami.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The match was tied at 1 around halftime when the referee stopped play after a foul led to a skirmish between players.

According to a source, the referee mistakenly removed a red card from his pocket when he meant to show a yellow. Before the referee could correct himself, an assistant coach punched him in the face. The game was abandoned and the win awarded to World Class Premier.

The UPSL is considered to be the fifth-tier of the American Soccer Pyramid and is sanctioned by the United States Adult Soccer Association.

Referees in Berlin protested increased incidents of violence earlier this year, while Franck Ribery and Neymar have both been suspended for making contact with officials. In 2014, an American referee was killed after a player punched him in the face after a red card incident. The player was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Here’s how it looked from the local angle in Maryland, with The Montgomery County Sentinel reporter Carlos Alfaro Rodriguez on scene. He confirmed the incident with ProSoccerTalk.

Bundesliga wrap: Leipzig, BVB, Bayern all win in routs

Sancho Borussia Dortmund
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Bundesliga has a new leader, at least for a day.

[ MORE: Bundesliga schedule  ]

RB Leipzig cruised to a win on the road and will now wait to see how Borussia Monchengladbach responds to bombing out of Europe.

Bayern and Borussia Dortmund also ran up the score lines on a busy day in Germany.

Fortuna Dusseldorf 0-3 RB Leipzig

Nordi Mukiele scored twice as Julian Nagelsmann’s men moved top of the table for at least a day. Patrik Schick also scored for Leipzig.

USMNT backstop Zack Steffen was under fire all day, making four saves, two high claims, and a clearance, but was at fault for one of the goals.

And ICYMI: Leipzig’s American midfielder, Tyler Adams, should return by the end of the month.

Bayern Munich 6-1 Werder Bremen

Milot Rashica supplied a surprise lead for the visitors, but it was all Bayern from the 24th minute onward. Philippe Coutinho scored the first goal of his hat trick in the 45th and Robert Lewandowski started his brace in stoppage time. Thomas Muller added a 75th minute goal as Bayern rose fourth, six points of Leipzig.

Mainz 0-4 Borussia Dortmund

Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho both had a goal and an assist for BVB, who pulls into third on the table. Nico Schultz and Thorgan Hazard also scored in the 0-save clean sheet for Roman Burki.

Hertha Berlin 1-0 Freiburg

Czech midfielder Vladimir Darida scored in the 53rd minute to help Jurgen Klinsmann to his first win as Hertha manager. Hertha is now three points clear of the relegation playoff spot, and the win comes over a Freiburg side flirting with the European places.

Elsewhere
Hoffenheim 2-4 Augsburg — Friday
Paderborn 1-1 Union Berlin — Rare point for the hosts
Koln 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen — Visitors finish with 9 men
Wolfsburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Schalke v. Eintracht Frankfurt — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 RB Leipzig 15 10 3 2 42 16 26 4-2-1 6-1-1 33
 Mönchengladbach 14 10 1 3 30 16 14 6-1-1 4-0-2 31
 Borussia Dortmund 15 8 5 2 37 19 18 5-2-0 3-3-2 29
 Bayern Munich 15 8 3 4 41 21 20 5-1-2 3-2-2 27
 FC Schalke 04 14 7 4 3 25 18 7 3-3-1 4-1-2 25
 SC Freiburg 15 7 4 4 24 18 6 4-2-1 3-2-3 25
 Bayer Leverkusen 15 7 4 4 22 20 2 3-4-1 4-0-3 25
 1899 Hoffenheim 15 6 3 6 21 27 -6 3-1-4 3-2-2 21
 VfL Wolfsburg 14 5 5 4 15 14 1 2-3-2 3-2-2 20
 1. FC Union Berlin 15 6 2 7 19 20 -1 5-0-3 1-2-4 20
 FC Augsburg 15 5 5 5 24 28 -4 3-2-2 2-3-3 20
 Eintracht Frankfurt 14 5 3 6 24 22 2 4-3-1 1-0-5 18
 Hertha BSC Berlin 15 4 3 8 21 29 -8 3-0-4 1-3-4 15
 FSV Mainz 05 15 5 0 10 20 38 -18 3-0-4 2-0-6 15
 Werder Bremen 15 3 5 7 23 35 -12 1-2-4 2-3-3 14
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 15 3 3 9 16 32 -16 2-1-4 1-2-5 12
 1. FC Köln 15 3 2 10 14 30 -16 2-1-4 1-1-6 11
 SC Paderborn 15 2 3 10 18 33 -15 1-1-6 1-2-4 9

West Ham outlasts wasteful Southampton

Haller West Ham
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West Ham United allayed some of the pressure on manager Manuel Pellegrini by holding on for a 1-0 defeat of Southampton at St. Mary’s on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sebastien Haller scored the lone goal and Michail Antonio had one pulled back by VAR, but Saints missed myriad promising chances to draw level.

West Ham moves 15th with 19 points, while Saints remain behind 17th place Aston Villa on goal difference.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]


Three things we learned

1. Haller ends drought: Sebastien Haller’s early season honeymoon at West Ham was the thing of dreams. The big money Eintracht Frankfurt signing scored five times in seven matches. His chemistry with Felipe Anderson and company was wonderful. Then came eight matches without a goal and just one start in three matches. Manuel Pellegrini played him in attack with and not instead of Michail Antonio, and the pair delivered a goal.

2. Saints fail reward their own production: Southampton, quite frankly, should’ve claimed at least one point. Yes, West Ham also misused chances to score when it was 1-0 in its favor, but Saints had extreme problems in finishing what should’ve been great team goals. Ings hit the bar, which, yeah it happens, but Stephens and Hojbjerg’s second half chances have this 2-1 on another day.

There were similarities to their last outing, a 2-1 loss at Newcastle.

3. Antonio and Haller an answer for Pellegrini? Manuel Pellegrini likely bought himself more time with the win, but it wasn’t as convincing as it could’ve been had Antonio not been denied by VAR or Haller’s header not been saved by McCarthy. The big men were a problematic duo for the Southampton defense, and Pellegrini may opt to combine them again in future days.

Man of the Match: Antonio was a handful as usual, winning a half-dozen aerials and completed just as many dribbles.


Declan Rice had a first minute goal ruled offside (and properly so).

Sebastien Haller hit a glorious bass to Michail Antonio in the 17th minute, but the striker’s poor touch caused a handball.

Two West Ham players appeared to be fouled in the box on the same play, but Martin Atkinson saw nothing and VAR stayed with him.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The Irons took the lead on a well-worked team goal, Antonio crossing to the back post for Pablo Fornals. He headed back for Haller, who kissed the ball off the far post.

Fornals looked to have his first Premier League goal in the bag one minute after the break, but was defied by Alex McCarthy.

Antonio had it 2-0 for a moment, but VAR spotted his handling of the ball early in the dribble that led to his would-be marker.

Danny Ings struck a ball off the cross bar and Long butchered the rebound as Saints bid for an equalizer.

McCarthy made an outstanding save on an off-balance Haller header in the 78th, while substitute Andriy Yarmolenko couldn’t keep his 79th minute effort under the bar.

Jack Stephens made the least of a terrific set-up in the 81st minute, though he would’ve had to do well to level the score.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was the next to miss a back post effort, wide of the frame.

Monterrey will meet Liverpool as Vangioni scores absolute marvel

Monterrey Vangioni wonder goal
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Leonel Vangioni’s wonder goal may be a warning sign for Liverpool as Monterrey beat Al-Sadd 3-2 in a Club World Cup quarterfinal.

Vangioni, the former River Plate and AC Milan man, laced an aesthetic marvel to open the scoring, the ball rocketing around the back of the goal.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Another ex-River Plate man, Rogelio Funes Mori, scored before halftime to insure Monterrey’s advantage. Al-Sadd outscored Monterrey in the second half, but couldn’t get a late equalizer.

Monterrey meets Premier League powers Liverpool in a Wednesday semifinal. The Reds are bringing their best side to the tournament despite a League Cup date on Tuesday.

Liga MX has never put a team in the Club World Cup Final.

The other semifinal will see Brazil’s Flamengo meet Saudi side Al-Hilal.