USMNT
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Burning question: How will the USMNT perform as World Cup hosts?

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We know the question is fraught with variables, but let’s consider this question during this dead period in world soccer: What should we expect from the United States men’s national team at the home World Cup.

The USMNT will presumably have a ninth World Cup under its belt when it joins Canada and Mexico in hosting the 2026 World Cup.

Expectations will be sky-high for the Yanks, eight years removed from failure to qualify for the 2018 tournament and 22 years after hosting the World Cup that would jumpstart soccer in this country.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

It’s wild to think about a 27-year-old Christian Pulisic leading the Yanks as presumed captain. Health-willing, the winger will be somewhere in the 80-cap range and potentially have a resume as decorated as any in history at his age.

Let’s begin by talking about who will be on the roster, considering we cannot know the identity of the coach or which players will explode onto the scene. Maybe Keegan Rosenberry or Donovan Pines get chances and grasp them. Maybe both disappear from the picture. Six years is a long time, so we’ll stick with the familiar.

Given the tremendous changes at the top of U.S. Soccer and a spirit amongst fans which has been downright venomous, it may be difficult to imagine Gregg Berhalter will still be at the helm unless his side has a remarkable tournament in Qatar, but it’s possible (For what it’s worth, Berhalter’s USMNT playing career happened alongside new USMNT general manager Brian McBride).

So let’s look at the class of players who are in the picture now and would also still be in their primes, assuming health.

Near certainties

We’re lending some leeway to Dest, Weah, and Reyna given their early and impressive starts to careers at elite European clubs, and a little bit to Steffen, too; Whether the Fortuna Dussseldorf loan man is the No. 1 is a conversation to be had, but his experience gives him a foothold as a member of the corps.

  • Pulisic, 27
  • Weston McKennie, 27
  • Tyler Adams, 27
  • Zack Steffen, 31
  • Giovanni Reyna, 23
  • Tim Weah, 26
  • Sergino Dest, 25

The wily vets: We know there will be late bloomers and those that play deep into their 30s — Gyasi Zardes may become the USMNT’s new Chris Wondolowski if he hasn’t already — but these five names are well-established now and well-liked by the hierarchy.

  • Jordan Morris, 31
  • John Brooks, 33
  • DeAndre Yedlin, 32
  • Walker Zimmerman, 33
  • Cristian Roldan, 31

Young, experienced, but with questions: It’s a touch harsh to have Sargent here, as recency bias is the challenge (He’s struggled of late but has a very strong resume at Werder Bremen and with the USMNT). He also will have to contend with a pool of very deep and young attackers.  Miazga and Horvath also possess the resume and acumen, but there are enough minor questions about playing time — getting it and keeping it — at the very top levels of Europe.

  • Josh Sargent, 26
  • Matt Miazga, 30
  • Ethan Horvath,  30

How will they fare with a step up? There’s nothing to dislike about this crew apart from where they are playing now. Cannon, Miles Robinson, and Yueill are in a strengthened MLS but that is still not a guarantee on the international stage. Antonee Robinson was denied a January move to AC Milan, and the Wigan Athletic man is going to get a big look from someone soon since he plays left back. Cannon and he will get a chance almost as soon as the transfer window opens again.

  • Reggie Cannon, 28
  • Antonee Robinson, 28
  • Miles Robinson, 29
  • Jackson Yueill, 29

Oh, we sure do hope so: Whether playing on second sides of German powers, dipping their toes in the Premier League like Aston Villa’s Indiana Vassilev, or in a sea of MLS or Eredivisie hopefuls, there are a ton of buoyant young players waiting for their turn on the stage.

We include older Cameron Carter-Vickers due to his loan experience in the Championship, and two names on here are the wildest of wild cards. Folarin Balogun is lighting up the PL2 for Arsenal but has repped England youth since playing for the Americans, while Konrad de la Fuente is training with Barcelona’s first team but there’s a looooong road from Barcelona B to first team playing time.

Even this list leaves off Brandon Servania, James Sands, Charlie Kellman, and a host of others with seemingly effervescent futures.

  • Chris Richards, 26
  • Indiana Vassilev, 25
  • Ulysses Llanez, 25
  • Jesus Ferreira, 25
  • Konrad de la Fuente, 24
  • Paxton Pomykal, 26
  • Cameron Carter-Vickers, 28
  • Richie Ledezma, 25
  • Chris Gloster, 25
  • Alex Mendez, 25
  • Mason Toye, 27
  • Sebastian Soto, 25
  • Folarin Balogun*, 24

So what does it mean?

Having already qualified and playing on home soil, the Yanks will be playing in an expanded field. Unless the nation experiences unparalleled drop-offs in form and development, the side will enter the tournament with high expectations at home.

A perceived group of death will no longer be met by “Well, maybe next time.” Questions will be more on defenders than anything else, although the U.S. men have yet to find the latest from the Tim Howard, Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller time line of elite backstops (Honorable mention to Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando).

Admitting that the exercise of, “What’s gonna happen in six years?” is rooting deeply in our current soccer landscape’s dormant state, we project the Yanks to be in the knockout rounds with a chance — however small or large — to get past whoever gets in their way.

PSG’s Mbappe praises Klopp, Liverpool in recent interview

Kylian Mbappe Liverpool
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This is going to delight the Anfield set.

Paris Saint-Germain mega striker Kylian Mbappe has admitted admiration for the way Liverpool plays, as conversations continue regarding his future.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news | Current table ]

Mbappe, 21, may be the most valuable commodity in the world given his position, accomplishments, and skill set. For France, he has a World Cup to go with 34 caps, 13 goals, and 10 assists. For PSG and Monaco combined, he’s scored 117 goals and 65 assists in 180 appearances.

He doesn’t turn 22 until December.

But there’s long been a thought that the World Cup winner will eventually have to leave PSG to cement his legacy given the relatively shallow competition in the league.

“This season, Liverpool have been a machine in the Premier League,” he told The Mirror. “They have made winning look easy but the truth is that it is never easy. Performances like they have been having don’t just happen.

“To be as ruthless as they have been would come from lots of hard work in training and from having a very good manager.”

Liverpool fans will be nodding along, beckoning the center forward with arms extended and hands waving him to them.

Real Madrid has often been the rumored destination, and we’ve argued that there’s no fee too high for this player considering how many years he has ahead of him.

With transfer fees possibly ducking low this summer after a wake-up call from the coronavirus, could Liverpool upgrade its dangerous front three with one of the top center forwards in the game?

The fact that the Reds reportedly negotiated a percentage of jersey sales into their new apparel deal could help, because it’s easy to imagine red Mbappe jerseys all around the world.

Canada’s Davies shines again as Muller brands him Roadrunner (video)

Alphonso Davies
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Alphonso Davies sees your expectations and he moves past them with vigor.

The Canadian phenom again took the international spotlight and ran with it, past it, and over it on Tuesday as Bayern Munich put one hand on its eighth-straight Bundesliga title with a 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news | Current table ]

We’ll get to the stats and the style in a bit, but let’s start with some video that showcases the elite physical package he’s built.

Davies isn’t grinding here and he’s actually a bit slow to recognize the danger as Erling Haaland works over David Alaba.

Haaland isn’t at top speed and balance, too, but it doesn’t matter. Davies is there in a hurry. And it’s also about what he does when he get there. There are plenty of speed merchants in the game, not all of them can tackle Erling Haaland.

[ RELATED: Real Madrid targeting Davies as Marcelo replacement ]

That’s why this viral soundbite from Thomas Muller is gaining a lot of traction (also because it’s funny).

The roadrunner quip is the main attraction, but hidden in it is the implication that Davies has these elite make-up skills but is only going to get better with experience and awareness. He’s cutting out Haaland a minute earlier.

Before you watch that, though, here’s what Davies said on the play.

“Obviously being a young player I get caught out of position a lot and I’m happy to have the speed I have. That’s a factor in my game that I use very well, but I think over the years going forward with this team I will definitely learn more about my position, better positioning so it doesn’t look like I’m out of position just running back as fast as I can to catch up.”

Davies moved from Vancouver Whitecaps to Bayern just last year, but is already the undisputed best player for the Canadian national team with five goals and eight assists in 17 caps.

His 54 tackles are tied for 16th amongst Bundesliga players (Remember: He’s 19).

His 72 dribbles are top in the league (Again: 19).

Only three players have won more duels than his 180 (Not 20 until November).

And his two professional matches of left back experience before October were with Bayern II in 3.Liga this Fall. That’s bonkers.

Meep-meep.

Bundesliga wrap: Bayer, Gladbach wobble; USMNT back is Eintracht hero

Bundesliga wrap
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Second-half goal explosions led to excitement in two of three late Bundesliga kickoffs on Tuesday, with an American making a super sub impact in Frankfurt.

Bayern won 1-0 at Dortmund earlier in the day, opening the door for a challenge on second. Bayer and Gladbach both declined to enter.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news | Current table ]

A loss for the former and draw from the latter all make this an absolutely wonderful day for the seven-time reigning champs in Bavaria.

Bayer Leverkusen 1-4 Wolfsburg

A Maximilian Arnold set piece star show saw the German behind three goals as Wolfsburg firmed up its top six credentials with a big win against red-hot Bayer.

Marin Pongracic headed two of Arnold’s free kicks home with a third taking a turn off the wall to give Arnold a goal of his own. Renato Steffen also scored in the win.

Julian Baumgartlinger scored very late for Bayer, who sinks fifth with 53 points.

Wolfsburg’s win gives them 42 points, four more than seventh-place Freiburg.

Wolfsburg had the two best chances of the first quarter-hour and it could’ve easily been 1-0 or 2-0 if not for a crucial blocked from Bayer defender Edmond Tapsoba and a fine save from Tomas Hradecky minutes later.

Bayer found some footing in the latter stages of the first half, forcing a save out of Koen Casteels before Kai Havertz tempted the frame with a header off a set piece.

The visitors’ breakthrough came before halftime, as ex-Salzburg defender Pongracic rose high to meet a terrific Arnold free kick from the right side to make it 1-0.

Wolfsburg had two quick chances to start the second half, Hradecky making a right arm save and a second chanced missed by the visitors.

Arnold’s 65th-minute free kick then took a hard turn off Kai Havertz inside the Bayer wall en route to defying Hradecky for 2-0.

The third goal arrived in short order, smallish Steffen outleaping Wendell to a Joao Victor cross and heading home.

American defender John Brooks subbed off in the 82nd minute with Wolfsburg holding a 4-0 lead and Havertz in the midst of one of his worst matches in a while.

Brooks posted six clearances, three interceptions, and a tackle and had a rough passing day by his very high standards. Brooks completed 70 percent of his passes, including four-of-eight long balls (Sofascore).

USMNT teen Ulysses Llanez made the bench for Wolfsburg but was an unused sub despite the big score line.

https://twitter.com/FOXSoccer/status/1265372544305168389

Werder Bremen 0-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

The hosts built on a weekend win by going toe-to-toe with a still out-of-sorts Gladbach on Tuesday at the Weserstadion.

Gladbach moves fourth, level on points with Bayer Leverkusen but ahead on goal differential after the latter’s blowout.

Bremen is still 17th after gaining its 22nd point, two points back of 16th and five back of 15th.

Gladbach had the first half edge in possession and shots but could not break down Bremen, who matched them chance-for-chance on the day.

USMNT youngster Josh Sargent earned another start for Bremen, going 74 minutes with 26 touches, a clearance, an interception, and two fouls drawn. He wasn’t at his best in duels but, again, Bremen’s system puts center forwards on an island and you get the feeling Florian Kohfeldt designed for defense against powerful Gladbach.

Eintracht Frankfurt 3-3 Freiburg

USMNT back Timothy Chandler scored with his first touch of the game to complete a thrilling comeback for Eintracht in a 3-3 draw.

Chandler subbed into the game in the 81st minute and deposited Filip Kostic’s handiwork in the 82nd, three minutes after Daichi Kamada had pulled the hosts to within one.

Eintracht showed a lot of heart in the comeback, out-attempting Freiburg 34-10. The point moves Eintracht five points clear of the bottom three and seven ahead of the automatic relegation places.

Freiburg remains seventh, now four points back of Wolfsburg and capable of finishing the midweek as low as ninth.

Vincenzo Grifo scored a goal and later set up another for Freiburg, with Nils Petersen and Lucas Holer also finding the back of the net.

Grifo’s third goal of the season gave the visitors a 28th-minute lead that would last only seven minutes.

Andre Silva answered with his 10 goal in all comps for Eintracht on loan from Milan, and it was 1-1 at the break.

Freiburg scored in the 67th and 69th to take a lead and, seemingly, another step toward the Europa League.

Instead, it was Eintracht who firmed up their footing at the other end of the table.

Here’s Chandler’s equalizer, a nice feat of power and coordination.

Wednesday

12:30 p.m. ET: RB Leipzig v. Hertha Berlin
2:30 p.m. ET: Augsburg v. Paderborn
2:30 p.m. ET: Union Berlin v. Mainz
2:30 p.m. ET: Hoffenheim v. Cologne
2:30 p.m. ET: Fortuna Dusseldorf v. Schalke

Kimmich reacts to thrilling winner for Bayern in Der Klassiker

Joshua Kimmich
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Joshua Kimmich isn’t an out-and-out scorer, but he looked the part after his heroics led Bayern Munich to a huge victory.

Ask him about his stunning chip over Borussia Dortmund in Tuesday’s Klassiker, and the Bayern Munich midfielder doesn’t tone it down.

“The best goal in my career,” the German midfielder said, via Bayern Munich. “It was very important.”

Kimmich has 28 senior goals between club and country, and this one was a beauty. Kimmich took a lay-off from Kingsley Coman and spun a ball over the flailing Roman Burki.

[ 3 THINGS: Dortmund 0-1 Bayern ]

Burki is a fine keeper and Dortmund had only allowed one goal in his last six outings before the derby. It was going to take something special to beat him.

Kimmich says that Hansi Flick’s staff had prepared the Bayern players for the habits of the strong and aggressive goalkeeper.

“We were previously informed that Bürki is always relatively high.”