Three things we learned from USMNT – Panama


USMNT – Panama: Braces from Nicholas Gioacchini and Sebastian Soto made them two of three United States men’s national team players to score their first senior international goals in a 6-2 win over Panama in Austria on Monday.

Weston McKennie ran the show in a fairly dominant first half for Gregg Berhalter’s Yanks that saw Gioacchini score twice after Giovanni Reyna delivered a gorgeous free kick goal.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USMNT – Panama ]

The second half was much kinder to Los Canaleros including a Gioacchini missed penalty, but Sebastian Soto thudded a header home off fellow debutant Richy Ledezma’s cross in the 83rd minute, and he’d do the same at the back post in stoppage time.

Sebastian Lletget finished a Reggie Cannon cross in between Soto’s goals. Soto and Ledezma were making their USMNT debuts.

[ ICYMI: Wales-USMNT recap, Player ratingsThree things ]

Jose Fajardo scored two goals as the Yanks’ experienced center backs struggled on both Panama goals.

The USMNT was coming off a 0-0 draw in Wales, while Panama lost 1-0 to a Takumi Minamino penalty when it faced Japan in Austria last week.

Here’s everything you need to know from USMNT – Panama, as a young team did plenty of young things in an uneven but decisive-enough win.

Three Four things we learned from USMNT – Panama

1. Kids give big response(s) to mistakes: Whether naive and ignorant or angry and reactive, the Yanks did not buckle to conceding a goal on Panama’s first and really only threat of the early stages. An eighth-minute cross into the heart of the box (more on that in a moment) was nodded past Zack Steffen to give Los Canaleros a lead, but the Yanks reacted quickly and strongly with an equalizer within a dozen minutes and two more goals to make it 3-1 after 26 minutes. The second half started poorly and Panama pulled within one before a two different young players combined to restore a two-goal cushion when Ledezma found the heads of Soto late.

2. Center back depth remains a question mark: John Brooks was rested for this second match in a handful of days, as Matt Miazga and Tim Ream provided an experienced center back pairing that promptly showed a lack of positioning as Panama took its early lead. The danger came from a cross from the right thanks to a lack of pressure from the midfield. Perhaps young Yunus Musah was to blame, but the cross sailed above Miazga and Ream was not tight to the runner as Panama’s Fajardo headed past Steffen. Miazga then stepped out of position on a second-half giveaway and Panama found the space he vacated to make it 3-2.

As the USMNT plans not just to advance to the World Cup but challenge for one, they’ll need to find the steadiest partner for Brooks and let’s not forget that the dominant, ball-playing Wolfsburg center back had his fair share of injuries prior to 2019. Will Miazga refine his game under Vincent Kompany at Anderlecht? Can Chris Richards find meaningful minutes at Bayern Munich or develop at Bayern II? And is Walker Zimmerman simply the easy answer next to Brooks as two big, physical center backs? It would’ve been nice to see Richards for more than the final 10 minutes here, but beggars can sometimes be choosers.

3. So… USMNT fans can have all this attacking, and more? With the caveat that this Panama team is not a force, Gregg Berhalter will be happy to imagine his team controlling play against Los Canaleros in a pair of World Cup qualifiers with Christian Pulisic, John Brooks, Josh Sargent, Jordan Morris, Walker Zimmerman, and Weah (a late sub on Monday) all players who can imagine themselves bettering the performances from Monday plus continued growth from the very young players who’ve made their case for roles in the summer and beyond.

4. Center forwards are better at center forward things: Gregg Berhalter wanted experience in his young side when he plugged midfielder Sebastian Lletget as a false nine in the United States attack for a scoreless draw with Wales, and it’s hardly the player’s fault that he looked like a guy who doesn’t play much center forward.

Enter Caen 20-year-old Nicholas Gioacchini, who was lively and stuck his nose in all the right places for his first and second USMNT goals. The French-American poacher put home an Ulysses Llanez rebound before heading a back post ball home to cap a run of three USMNT goals in under eight minutes. He missed a penalty-kick bid for a hat trick but that’s life.

USMNT – Panama recap

Slick interplay between left back Sergino Dest and Nicholas Gioacchini drew a second-minute free kick for Giovanni Reyna, but the Borussia Dortmund teen’s effort was poor.

Panama, now coached by ex-Leeds United boss Thomas Christiansen, was defending plenty in the early stages. Gioacchini just missed the near post off a Reggie Cannon cross from the right in the seventh minute.

Los Canaleros scored with their first foray into the U.S. third, Alejandro Yearwood given time and space to cross into the heart of the box for Fajardo to nod home between Matt Miazga and Tim Ream.

Weston McKennie led a 70-yard rush up that pitch led to a Yunus Musah-won free kick central atop the box. Reyna curled a low shot around the wall and beyond the reach of a diving Orlando Mosquera for his first USMNT goal.

It wasn’t 1-1 for long, as Gioacchini delivered the goods on a rebound from close range.

The center forward plays in Ligue 2 for Caen, where he’s scored three times in eight league matches this season. McKennie’s pressure and (probably) a foul helped Reyna pick up a loose ball and carry the ball toward the 18 before playing wide for Llanez.

Gioacchini deposited the rebound of a Uly Llanez shot to make it 2-1, and his second goal was some top-class poaching as well.

Tyler Adams released Weston McKennie toward the goal line, the Juve man overcoming a tug to chop his cross back across goal. Matt Miazga won a back post header in the other direction and a lunging Gioacchini header home for 3-1 after 25 minutes.

[ MORE: USMNT men wear social statements ]

The second half was tighter, as Panama became even more physical and the Yanks matched them.

The Yanks did not respond well, aside from a Reggie Cannon-won penalty that Gioacchini saw saved by Mosquera. Panama was much better and the U.S. didn’t find much control into the final 20 minutes.

Timothy Weah and Johnny Cardoso replaced Tyler Adams and Llanez in the 62nd, then Richy Ledezma made his USMNT debut for Reyna six minutes later.

Seabstian Soto then made his USMNT debut in the 77th minute, replacing Gioacchini as Sebastian Lletget came on for Musah.

Fajardo then got his second when Miazga stepped out of position and Panama found the space between the Anderlecht loanee and an unable-to-react Ream to make it 3-2.

Fortunately two debutants weren’t fazed, as Ledezma linked up with Soto before Cannon and Lletget supplied a similar play from more experienced players to make it 5-2.

Ledezma then found Soto at the back post for the game’s final goal.

Three key questions for USMNT in March


The United States men’s national team returns to competitive action with an interim coach at the wheel and a spot in the CONCACAF Nations League finals still uncertain.

The Yanks clobbered Grenada at home in their first CNL group match but could only manage a 1-1 draw with El Salvador thanks in no small part to a sloppy pitch and a red card. The USMNT was also down several first-choice players including Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna.

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The U.S. will be favored to advance and will hope to be in the catbird seat following Friday’s match with Grenada at Kirani James Athletic Stadium in St. George’s.

Grenada lost 3-1 to El Salvador away but drew Los Cuscatlecos at home and need to beat the visiting U.S. to qualify for Gold Cup.

But the USMNT’s aforementioned 1-1 draw with El Salvador looms large: Even if the Yanks were to falter in Grenada, they’ll be the Group D winner by beating Los Cuscatlecos on March 27 in Orlando.

Three key questions for USMNT in March

1. Center forwards still needed, but is there anyone ready for the task? The Nos. 1, 2, and 3 non-Reyna-related question for Gregg Berhalter when the World Cup ended was why he chose his center forwards, how he used them, and why they didn’t score goals. Haji Wright was the only CF to score at the World Cup and that was the first center forward goal in six USMNT matches. Jesus Ferreira scored four the previous game, but that was against Grenada and the FC Dallas star has three more goals in his 15 other caps. And Timothy Weah, a danger up top when called upon but often a wide man, is injured and will miss the international break.

So where will interim coach Anthony Hudson turn against Grenada and El Salvador?

World Cup cut Ricardo Pepi is back and so is Daryl Dike.

Meet the candidates and their forms:

  • Pepi, 20, is on loan at Dutch side Groningen from Augsburg. He started off hot with Groningen and has nine goals, though he’s scoreless in his last three matches.
  • Dike, 22, is fit and firing for West Bromwich Albion, where he’s scored four times in his last five Championship appearances, all starts.

This is one of those “prove it” camps, with Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna among those helping to cue up chances for their center forwards. If you’re not gonna get the job done against Grenada and El Salvador, you’re missing the boat.

2. Who steps into the Tyler Adams role? Tyler Adams has unflinchingly been Leeds’ most consistent and steady player in a year of tumult, and he’s proven the same time and again in a USMNT shirt.

But he’s not here!

So there will be no “MMA” midfield of Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, and Adams. The first two pieces are here from Leeds and Valencia, but it’ll be a third piece to complete the trio. Luca de la Torre of Celta Vigo and Alan Sonora of Juarez have been called into camp and Johnny Cardoso is the most defense-minded of the bunch if the team is to go “like-for-like.” Cardoso, 21, is starting for Internacional in Brazil, who trails only Gremio on the Gaucho table.

3. What’s the state of mind? Look, the “youth soccer” and “extremely childish” incident has made for plenty of discussion online, but the U.S. group seemed plenty bonded after Giovanni Reyna’s World Cup camp incidents had happened but were yet to be exposed by Gregg Berhalter at a “private” speech.

So, in theory, Reyna will arrive back into a USMNT camp in need of consistent effort and good attitude but as a member of the fold. The problem may be that the fold thought it left the World Cup with Berhalter either returning as head coach or with a search being conducted for a new coach.

It turns out, it’s only mostly the latter; Berhalter remains a candidate for the U.S. job and has been in Europe to see his “former” players. His assistant, Anthony Hudson, remains in charge of the first team on an interim basis and who can really know how much input Berhalter may currently have on the group.

All of that said, the USMNT is better than both of its opponents, regardless of venues, and should look superior to them even without Adams and Weah. Should is still pretty conditional, so let’s see what statement comes out of these two games in the favorites role, because it’s going to be quite a while before the Yanks are a clear underdog again.

Italy vs England: How to watch live, stream link, team news


England will begin their EURO 2024 quest the same way they finished their heartbreaking EURO 2020 campaign: facing Italy, now two-time champions of Europe, on Thursday.

[ LIVE: EURO 2024 qualifying scores – Italy vs England ]

The two European giants faced off in the 2020 final (in the summer of 2021) at Wembley Stadium in London, and it was the Italians who triumphed in the penalty shootout after playing to a 1-1 draw after regular time and extra time.

Italy and England are joined in Group C by Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta. The sides that finish 1st and 2nd in the group will qualify for next summer’s tournament in Germany.

[ MORE: USMNT upcoming schedule – Nations League, friendlies, Gold Cup ]

Here is everything you need for Italy vs England. 

How to watch Italy vs England live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 3:45pm ET, Thursday (March 23)
Stadium: Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Napoli

Italy squad

Goalkeepers – Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain), Alex Meret (Napoli), Claudio Carnesecchi (Cremonese), Wladimiro Falcone (Lecce)

Defenders – Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Inter Milan), Francesco Acerbi (Inter Milan), Emerson Palmieri (West Ham), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma), Alessio Romagnoli (Lazio), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta), Giorgio Scalvini (Atalanta), Alessandro Buongiorno (Torino)

Midfielders – Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain), Jorginho (Arsenal), Nicolo Barella (Inter Milan), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Matteo Pessina (Monza), Sandro Tonali (AC Milan), Davide Frattesi (Sassuolo)

Forwards – Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Gianluca Scamacca (West Ham), Vincenzo Grifo (Freiburg), Wilfried Gnonto (Leeds), Simone Pafundi (Udinese), Mateo Retegui (Tigre)

England squad

Goalkeepers – Jordan Pickford (Everton), Fraser Forster (Tottenham), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)

Defenders – Kyle Walker (Manchester City), John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Reece James (Chelsea), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace)

Midfielders – Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Declan Rice (West Ham), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea)

Forwards – Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Phil Foden (Manchester City), James Maddison (Leicester), Ivan Toney (Brentford)

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The Anfield Wrap on Liverpool ahead of U.S. tour: ‘They are in a new phase’


Liverpool are still in the hunt for a top four finish but Jurgen Klopp is now in charge of a big rebuilding process as the Reds are in ‘a new phase’ as they transition from the German’s first seven years in charge.

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That is the view of Neil Atkinson from The Anfield Wrap (TAW) and it will be intriguing to see how Klopp reshapes his playing philosophy, adds to his squad and how it all slots together over the next few years.

TAW are bringing their show to North America with their ‘TAW Live’ tour taking place from Wednesday, Mar. 22 to Monday, Mar. 27, with shows in Toronto, Detroit, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

TAW host Neil Atkinson joined Brad Thomas and Drew Dinsick on NBC Sports’ Soccer Pub to discuss what he thinks of topsy-turvy Liverpool this season and what their identity could become in the future.

Klopp has ‘never had to do this’ before

“I think this is the key question for the next phase of Jurgen Klopp,” Atkinson said. “He has never had to do this before. He’s done seven years at Mainz, seven years at Dortmund and he’s now done seven years at Liverpool. Jurgen has signed his new deal and is staying until 2026 and now what he’s got to do is transition this football team in a way he hasn’t had to do in the past.

“I think that is an interesting challenge. Sides get used to the way you play and players themselves can become a little bit stale and there is also you yourself and how you see the game and how you’re going to interact with the game as a manager. I don’t think he’s had to do this in any of his other jobs. He’s done unbelievable jobs everywhere he has been, including Liverpool, but this is a new phase.”

Transition has arrived for the Reds. But what will it look like?

“The key question for Liverpool is Liverpool are clearly in transition, that is clear and apparent. That happens to a lot of sides and some sides manage to change and stay at the top, Liverpool haven’t managed to succeed in that. Last season they were beginning that process and last season you saw a bit of transition from Liverpool but not as much as you’ve seen now and they haven’t managed to stay at the top and the Champions League this campaign.

“What is it moving to? Is it simply different players? Or is he looking to change his approach a little bit? Is he looking to add creativity to the side? What does that come at the expense of? I think that is a key question. On the whole I feel like talk of Liverpool’s overall demise is vastly overstated. I think it is a side that will right itself. There have been injury issues this year, I don’t think a number of the players and coaching staff have had their best season by any stretch of the imagination, but I think they will come back strong.”

Top four finish essential this season

“I’m of the view that as long as they can find a way to a top four finish then I feel they will summer strongly and they will be able to come out of the other side and we will really be able to see what the next phase of Jurgen Klopp’s blueprint is. I am absolutely certain he has a blueprint and has a way he wants this team to play and knows which players he wants to keep and move on. I think we will see that again in the summer and Liverpool come again. But it is important for Liverpool to come top four.”

New deadline looms for Manchester United bids


A new deadline is looming for potential new owners of Manchester United, as our partners in the UK at Sky Sports say the deadline for second offers is Wednesday, March 22.

They add that up to eight bids are expected, while INEOS owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has told The Wall Street Journal he won’t pay a ‘stupid price’ for the Red Devils.

The Glazer family continue to explore either the full or partial sale of the Premier League giants.

It has been widely reported by ESPN and Sky Sports that two bids, one from Ratcliffe and another led by Qatari Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, are the frontrunners as the Glazers look at all of their available options.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

Over the last few months the American family have been seeking potential investors in Manchester United and they have not been short of suitors.

Presentations have been taking place between potential new owners and investors and the Man United hierarchy over the last few weeks.

The latest updates

Two bids have now taken center stage as they arrived before the first, well-documented, deadline.

One is from INEOS owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who failed to buy Chelsea last year but was always said to prefer a bid for his boyhood club Manchester United.

“How do you decide the price of a painting? How do you decide the price of a house? It’s not related to how much it cost to build or how much it cost to paint. What you don’t want to do is pay stupid prices for things because then you regret it subsequently,” Ratcliffe told The Wall Street Journal.

Another bid is led by Qatari Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, who is seeking full control of the club and is the chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank as his father was the former prime minister of Qatar.

The Glazer family bought United in 2005 for $1.4 billion and it is believed they are now asking over $7.3 billion for a full sale of the club.

Statement from INEOS

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS confirmed they have ‘submitted a bid for majority ownership of Manchester United’ and went into more detail on their plans.

“We would see our role as the long-term custodians of Manchester United on behalf of the fans and the wider community. We are ambitious and highly competitive and would want to invest in Manchester United to make them the number one club in the world once again.

“We also recognise that football governance in this country is at a crossroads. We would want to help lead this next chapter, deepening the culture of English football by making the club a beacon for a modern, progressive, fan-centred approach to ownership. We want a Manchester United anchored in its proud history and roots in the northwest of England, putting the Manchester back into Manchester United and clearly focusing on winning the Champions League.”

Statement from Qatari bid

The Qatari bid, led by Sheikh Jassim, promised that their offer is ‘completely debt free’ and they want United to become ‘the greatest football club in the world’ during their stewardship of the club.

“The bid will be completely debt free via Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation, which will look to invest in the football teams, the training center, the stadium and wider infrastructure, the fan experience and the communities the club supports.

“The vision of the bid is for Manchester United Football Club to be renowned for footballing excellence, and regarded as the greatest football club in the world.”