Premier League-bound? The next MLS youngsters with European futures

0 Comments

The amount of young talent — whether from the USMNT, Canada or a handful of South American nations — thriving after making the jump from MLS to the Premier League or the rest of Europe has spiked in recent years, leading many on the other side of the pond wondering, “Who’s next?” ahead of the start of the 2021 season on Friday.

[ THE RUN-IN:  What’s the latest in the top-four battle? | Europa League race ]

As the standard of youth development continues to improve in the United States and Canada, so too will the quality of players entering, and departing, the league.

  • Daryl Dike is 20 years old and reportedly on the cusp of moving to the Premier League for somewhere between 10 and $20 million, thanks to a stellar loan spell at EFL Championship side Barnsley following a stellar rookie season (8 goals, 4 assists in 19 appearances) at Orlando City
  • 19-year-old right back Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas) needed just 27 MLS appearances spread over a season and a half to secure his $8-million move (rising as high as $14 million) to Roma in January
  • Brenden Aaronson was the breakout star of MLS in 2020 and joined Red Bull Salzburg for just under $10 million after two seasons (54 appearances) for the Philadelphia Union
  • Other players, like Chris Richards have spent time in MLS academies (FC Dallas, in his case, and that of Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie) before moving to Europe without making a first-team appearance

The path taking players from MLS to Europe is clearer and friendlier than ever before, and the aforementioned recent success stories are merely the tip of the iceberg.

The below list debuts with just five players at the start of the season, but will undoubtedly expand as lesser-heralded youngsters showcase their talents and surge forward into the shop window.


Sam Vines, Colorado Rapids/USA

Age: 21 (May 31)
Position: Left back
Pro experience: 2 seasons (3,832 minutes)

What was once a barren wasteland of nothingness for the USMNT, the full back positions current runneth over with (almost) too much young, promising talent. Vines was one of a select few to show well during the USMNT under-23s’ Olympic-qualifying failure, and that was simply a continuation of two strong seasons in Colorado, where he has developed into one of the league’s steadiest outside backs. Vines’ range of passing — both on the ground and through the air as he looks to exploit gaps in the channels — is excellent and could eventually see him move to central midfield, where his lack of athleticism can be papered over.


Tajon Buchanan, New England Revolution/Canada

Age: 22 (Feb. 8)
Position: Forward
Pro experience: 2 seasons (1,751 minutes)

Buchanan is the typical late bloomer in MLS: he played two seasons in college (Syracuse) before he was drafted in 2019, making him 20 years old at the time of his debut; he struggled as a rookie (0 goals, 2 assists in 10 appearances) before becoming a regular under Bruce Arena in 2020 (2 goals, 2 assists in 23 appearances). The selling point with Buchanan is that he’s an elite athlete with good technical ability. Buchanan recently scored a brace for Canada’s under-23 team at the Olympic qualifying tournament and a few European clubs reportedly took notice.

MLS
(Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images)


Cole Bassett, Colorado Rapids/USA

Age: 19 (July 28)
Position: Midfielder
Pro experience: 3 seasons (2,442 minutes)

If not for Aaronson’s blistering 2020 season, Bassett would have reached darling status with his 5 goals, 5 assists (in just 15 appearances) as he helped the Rapids to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Bassett is more goal-minded than Aaronson (more of a 9-and-a-half, if you will, compared to Aaronson as a versatile no. 10/no. 8/winger).


Diego Rossi, Los Angeles FC/Uruguay

Age: 23 (March 5)
Position: Forward
Pro experience: 6 seasons (3 in MLS – 7,481 minutes)

Rossi might just be the most talented player in MLS right now — a bold statement about someone who plays on the same team as Carlos Vela, but the numbers make an almighty strong case (43 goals, 22 assists in 88 MLS appearances). There were hushed rumors linking Rossi with a European move last summer, but the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic likely proved a stumbling block for most interested suitors. Rossi would go straight into most Europa League sides, but he won’t come cheap (15 or $20 million, minimum) given the established and further room for growth still on offer.


Caden Clark, New York Red Bulls/USA

Age: 17 (May 27)
Position: Midfielder
Pro experience: 1 season (355 minutes)

Clark just made his MLS debut in October, and he only needed 47 minutes to score his first goal — a fantastic volley from the edge of the box (below video) — and send the USMNT hype train into overdrive. While the teenaged Minnesota native still has a long way to go to develop before reaching his final career destination, Clark is the surest bet to move abroad in the next 12 months. Various reports claim a pre-agreement is already in place with RB Leipzig, where he would join USMNT midfielder Tyler Adams. Of course, an unexpectedly strong start to 2021 could see that timeline moved up by six months if Leipzig like what they see.

Saudi Arabia vs USMNT: How to watch, live stream link, TV, team news

0 Comments

Fair or not, Tuesday’s edition of Saudi Arabia vs USMNT is going to be scrutinized as much as any friendly in recent United States men’s national team history.

[ MORE: Projected starting XI vs Saudi Arabia ]

Gregg Berhalter’s men looked like sloppy at best and rudderless at worst in Friday’s 2-0 loss to Japan in Dusseldorf and that’s incredibly alarming with the Yanks on the precipice of their World Cup return, a time when teams are usually questioning the fine-tuning rather than, well, a whooooooooole lot.

Let’s be very fair to Berhalter, who has a young team and has overseen some memorable and downright awesome triumphs in CONCACAF: There are injuries right now — Christian Pulisic was rested with a knock on Friday — and the coach does not have access to Timothy Weah, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Chris Richards.

[ MORE: What we learned from Japan vs USA | Player ratings ]

But his judgment is being questioned with Fulham captain Tim Ream, Union Berlin center forward Jordan Pefok, and Benfica back John Brooks healthy and ready to contribute but sitting at home. Berhalter has questioned their fits in the system and also said something nebulous about the team not expressing its “personality” versus Japan and that sounds pretty bad when the system looks awful.

That’s why a big performance against a solid and stubborn Saudi Arabia, a team in theory selected for its similarities to World Cup group stage foe Iran, can really provide a ubiquitous lift to spirits in the world of U.S. Soccer. And while Berhalter might claim that lift is only needed amongst the fans, he’d be kidding himself.

Remember: While the entirety of U.S. Soccer wants the side to go deep in Qatar, this is supposed to be setting the stage for a real challenge for the trophy on home soil in 4.5 years. At the moment, that sounds silly. A year-and-a-half ago, late in the night against Mexico, it did not. Fixing that would be a good first step, and Tuesday’s the next chance.


How to watch Saudi Arabia vs USMNT live, updates and start time

Date: Tuesday, September 27
Kick off time: 2pm ET
Where: Estadio Nuevo Condomina, Murcia, Spain
How to watch: FS1, UnimasTUDN


Saudi Arabia vs USMNT head-to-head record

This will be the seventh meeting between the Yanks and Green Falcons, but the first since 1999 against a national team representing political issues for the United States. Saudi Arabia won two of the first four but the Yanks claimed home soil wins in a 1995 friendly and the 1999 Confederations Cup. All of the on-field mentions above mean absolutely nothing for Tuesday but they are fun to note on a pre-match preview (Upside-down smile face emoji).


The lowdown on Saudi Arabia

This is a very Saudi Arabia experienced side, one that went 13W-4D-1L in World Cup qualifying and have experience in a lot of 1-0 contests including recent Spain-based friendly losses to Colombia and Venezuela. The team will also feel at home in Murcia, where it played those matches and where it had a scoreless tangle with Ecuador four days prior to this tilt. Ecuador outshot the Saudis 11-5 and had 60 percent of the ball but all that will get you an argument that you deserved better than a solitary point that comes from a real match. If you want to see your Yanks break down a sound team, Tuesday’s a good chance.


USMNT team news, injuries, lineup

This is easily the most interesting lineup in some time for the USMNT after Berhalter gave starting looks to some of his lynchpins and got a mixed bag of results, none of which were exceptional aside from goalkeeper Matt Turner (and even he was not at his best in possession on an admittedly poor pitch in Dusseldorf) and Brenden Aaronson if we’re being judicious in the name of optimism. But really, all of the front three were ghosts. Much of is down to the eight men behind them, though, and forgiving glances can be cast at Aaronson and Giovanni Reyna. Jesus Ferreira is not included after missing a chance that would and could be called a sitter if he didn’t have to jump to head it (We kid, but it’s dark humor).

Aaron Long was very poor and Walker Zimmerman uncharacteristically poor next to him, while youngster Sam Vines had a rough first half before Berhalter adjusted his usage from left back to left wing back with emphasis on the wing part. Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are often the heartbeat of this team but both looked a mix of cavalier and junior varsity. That won’t happen often, and very rarely will occur at the same time.

Here’s what to watch from Berhalter’s lineup choices, presuming he doesn’t change his formation.

  • If Matt Turner starts — and then stays healthy and relatively blunder-free at Arsenal — forget about anyone else starting the World Cup opener in Qatar. If it’s Ethan Horvath or presumed No. 3 Sean Johnson, well, anything’s possible.
  • We’ll see Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, but will it be Luca de la Torre completing the midfield trio? Will Kellyn Acosta or Johnny Cardoso arrive to move McKennie into a different role? Will Malik Tillman get his chance to start? Or will Giovanni Reyna be played in position (please?)?
  • Ricardo Pepi: The way Josh Sargent was plugged into the front three in the second half, it seems like FC Dallas star Ferreira and alum Pepi were meant to trade starts.
  • Christian Pulisic will start on the wing. How does he look, both in form and body language?
  • Sergino Dest and Sam Vines were the fullbacks versus Japan, with Reggie Cannon coming off the bench. Will it be Joe Scally and DeAndre Yedlin to start? Will Dest swap to left back? Antonee Robinson and Dest are the favorites to start in Qatar, but is the latter’s spot on the right now in question?
  • Much of U.S. Soccer, us included, considered this break to be a bunch of center backs bidding to play next to Walker Zimmerman in Qatar. Will it be Zimmerman plus one on Tuesday or something else?

Ranking the 2022 World Cup kits

0 Comments

With the 2022 World Cup fast approaching, plenty of World Cup kits are starting to be released and there are some intriguing looks.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA  

From Mexico’s snazzy away number to Germany going for a solid new look for their home kit and Puma rolling out a very specific and similar look for their national teams, just like they did for their club teams on their away kits, there is a lot to unpack here.

When November rolls around and the World Cup kicks off, which one of these jerseys will you be wearing with pride? And which one will you be wearing because it looks really cool?

Below is our rankings of the World Cup kits which have been released.


Ranking the 2022 World Cup kits

1. Mexico

This is a lovely away kit and will become a classic. Expect these beauties to fly off the shelves and be a jersey that neutrals love just as much as El Tri fans. The home kit is very decent too.


2. Portugal

Absolutely sensational work. The home kit is unique enough but still sticks to Portugal’s bold colors, while the away kit is a classic too.


3. Poland

Oh, wow. This is absolutely beautiful. The away shirt is majestic and the home shirt is classic but with some intriguing detail on the sleeves. Nicely done.


4. Japan

Well, this is another classic. Japan’s home kit is inspired by anime and the design is bold and recognizable. The away kit is fantastic too, especially the long-sleeved version.


5. France

The home and away kits are both lovely and the colors just work together. Well done.


6. Argentina

The home kit is classic. You can’t really mess up the blue and white stripes. Again, another lovely away kit. The purple is perfect and this just looks slick and silky. Much like Lionel Messi’s footwork.


7. Wales

These are beautiful. The right color red on the home shirt and just enough going on without overdoing it. The away shirt is also bold and the collar is lovely. Well done.


8. Brazil

Home kit looks like a classic and the away shirt is pretty decent too, but some people may not like the funky print on the shoulders.


9. England

The blue panels on the home kit are a bit meh but the away kit is a retro beauty.


10. Croatia

They kind of ruined a classic with the home kit. It’s still cool but only having the checkered design on part of the home shirt is weird. The away kit is majestic.


11. Saudi Arabia

Pretty nice designs here. They could have gone with the plain white for the home and plain green for the away, but the snazzy designs work. Especially for the away kit.


12. Netherlands

The home shirt looks kind of velvety? Not the usual bright orange, which will upset some. The blue away kit is sleek and the real winner here.


13. Senegal

This is the best of the Puma jerseys, as Senegal’s away kit is very distinctive and the green is lovely. This big panel on the middle of the kit is something we will get used to seeing a lot of during the World Cup.


14. Ghana

Again, another Puma away kit but this Ghana shirt has plenty of personality.


15. Germany

This is fine. Expect a bit better from Die Mannschaft and it feels like they should have an all white jersey for their home kit.


16. Qatar

The hosts have a simple, clean look. The away shirt has a nice golden pattern on it. Not bad.


17. USA

The home shirt has not been received well by fans, and some players, for being too boring. But the away shirt is pretty nice.


18. Morocco

A bit plain, but like the collar and sleeve trims and the circular pattern around the middle is very cool.


19. Spain

Eh, this could have been so much better. Spain’s home kit looks bland and the away kit is just too much with that pattern.


20. Australia

Not quite sure what to make of this. The same velvety style as the Netherlands home shirt on Australia’s home shirt. Just doesn’t work. The away kit is also just very bland.


21. Belgium

These home kits are just a little too plain and the flame pattern on the shoulder isn’t great and looks like a shirt I’d wear to my midweek bowling league. A missed opportunity. The same applies for the away kit. Belgium’s golden generation won’t look golden this World Cup.


22. Uruguay

Again, another Puma away kit which looks very similar. Uruguay’s iconic sky blue could have been used a lot better on this away shirt.


23. Serbia

Lovely gold in the design and makes the white away kit pop a little.


24. Switzerland

Just very bland. Not a lot going on and the panel in the middle is just a bit of an eyesore.

World Cup 2022 rankings: Who are the favorites?

0 Comments

With less than two months to go until it all kicks off, it is time to update and release the latest 2022 World Cup rankings.

[ MORE: USMNT react to Japan defeat ]

There are a few clear favorites to win the trophy in Qatar but some of the giants have been handed tougher group stage draws than others which will obviously impact their chances of lifting the famous trophy.

Given that some of the favorites have also been struggling in recent Nations League games and friendlies with plenty of heavy defeats and strange results, there remains no real frontrunner to win the tournament. That is great news for neutrals.

[ MORE: Full schedule for World Cup ]

Keep an eye out on a few underdogs too, as there are some real opportunities which have opened up depending on what side of the bracket you’re on.

We will updates these rankings before and during the tournament in Qatar, which takes place from November 21 to December 18, 2022.

[ MORE: Betting odds for 2022 World Cup ]

Let us know what you think of the rankings below.


Schedule, start time, dates, how to watch live

When: November 20, 2022 to December 18, 2022
Group stage game kick off times: 5am, 8am, 11am, 2pm (all ET)
Location: Qatar
TV channel in EnglishFox
TV channel in Spanish: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock


World Cup Rankings – September 26, 2022

32. Tunisia – Down 1
31. Qatar – Down 4
30. Australia – Up 2
29. Ghana – Even
28. Cameroon – Down 3


27. Saudi Arabia – Up 1
26. Costa Rica – Up 4
25. Wales – Down 5
24. Iran – Even
23. Ecuador – Down 5


22. Morocco – Even
21. Canada – Up 2
20. USA – Down 4
19. Japan – Up 7
18. Poland – Up 3


17. Mexico – Up 2
16. South Korea – Down 1
15. Uruguay – Down 5
14. Serbia – Up 3
13. Senegal – Down 1


12. Switzerland – Up 1
11. Croatia – Up 3
10. Denmark – Up 1
9. England – Down 3
8. Germany – Down 3
7. Spain – Even


6. Netherlands – Up 3
5. Portugal – Up 3
4. France – Even
3. Belgium – Down 1
2. Argentina – Up 1
1. Brazil – Even


Report: Christian Pulisic ‘in talks’ over move to Juventus

0 Comments

A report from Italian outlet Calcio Mercato claims that USMNT star Christian Pulisic is ‘in talks’ over a move to Juventus.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

Pulisic, 24, was linked with a move away from Chelsea all summer long and has recently revealed how he felt disappointed when Thomas Tuchel (now the former Chelsea boss) left him out of the starting lineup for the UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg against Real Madrid in May 2021.

With Tuchel gone, Christian Pulisic could break back into the Chelsea starting lineup under new boss Graham Potter but it is widely expected that the American winger will leave the Premier League giants in the coming months with less than two years remaining on his current contract.


What is the latest?

Per the report, Juventus like Pulisic because he can play in several different positions in the attacking third of the pitch.

The report also claims that Juve have held initial talks with Pulisic’s agent about a contract and were told that Pulisic plans to leave Chelsea at the end of the 2022-23 season when he has just one year left on his contract as he wants a ‘new challenge’ in his career.

There is also a claim that Chelsea want $33.7 million for Pulisic and won’t budge on that transfer fee even if he has just one year left on his contract.

Pulisic looks like he needs a fresh start in his club career as Graham Potter will play a fluid 3-4-2-1 system and relies heavily on his wing backs to provide attacking impetus from out wide. That doesn’t suit Pulisic at all


Is Juventus a good fit?

Probably. His pace and dribbling skills would cause problem in any team and the way Juventus play under Max Allegri (if he’s still there when/if Pulisic arrives) relies heavily on getting the ball wide early and encouraging wingers to attack.

Along with that tactical approach, Pulisic would also get the chance to play alongside his close friend and USMNT teammate Weston McKennie. That could bring out the best in both of them.

It now seems a case of when, not if, Pulisic leaves Chelsea. And when he does, he will have plenty of offers to move to a team playing in the Champions League and considered a giant in their country. Given his ability on the ball, what he’s shown in flashes throughout his career and his presence as a superstar in the United States of America, teams across will line up to sign him.