USMNT player ratings: Defense, midfield dominate; Pulisic struggles

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The USMNT is three massive points closer to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, thanks to a comprehensive 1-0 victory over El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday.

[ MORE: “Jedi” wills Yanks to 1-0 win ]

“What do you mean, comprehensive at 1-0,” you might be thinking to yourself. Aside from putting the ball in the back of the net two or three more times, there was little else the USMNT could have accomplished.

Here’s a look at who stood out (for better or for worse) for Gregg Berhalter’s side, with some special bonus commentary from PST’s Nicholas Mendola (italicized)…


GK – Matt Turner: 6.5 – Turner — much like Zack Steffen, the 1a or 1b to his 1b or 1a — continues to be an extremely consistent, if unspectacular (due to simply not being called into serious action frequently enough), figure in the back for the USMNT. His transfer to Arsenal — yes, really — is reportedly agreed and should be completed in the coming days.

RB – Sergiño Dest: 6.5 – With Timothy Weah now healthy and playing in front of him, Dest isn’t asked to bomb forward and provide every bit of width to the attack. Sure, Weah and the rest of the front line haven’t exactly lit the world on fire, but Dest has been much more positionally sound, and Berhalter has the defensive record (two goals conceded in their last four games) to show for it.

CB – Walker Zimmerman: 7.5He is probably the perfect CONCACAF defender. His routine passing needs some work still but it feels like Zimmerman rolled out of primary school right into a great MLS center back pairing with Matt Hedges at FC Dallas and if anything has only improved as a footballer.

CB – Chris Richards: 7 – Rarely called into action defensively, Richards was silky smooth in possession (91 percent of passes completed) and offered a constant outlet to the midfield whenever El Salvador pressed. He’s a smart player who typically knows where he’s supposed to be. Few center backs in the player pool can say the same.

LB – Antonee Robinson: 8 (8.5) – The goal can be best described as opportunistic, but Robinson’s impact was felt early and often on Thursday. With Christian Pulisic dropping deeper and deeper into midfield (especially in the first half), much of the USMNT’s left-sided attacking impetus came via Robinson. From terrifying weakness to surefire strength, the outlook at left back has changed a great deal since World Cup qualifying began.

I know they call him “Jedi” but are we sure he’s not Sonic the Hedgehog if we’re going fictional characters? He is always available for the ball and not in a ‘Dude, you’re a defender way.” His goal was calmly and coolly taken and he’s absolutely my Man of the Match. He loses a half-point because his crosses themselves weren’t as consistent as you’d like.

DM – Tyler Adams: 7 – Adams’ star doesn’t shine quite as bright against sides in the bottom half of the Octagonal (the USMNT simply doesn’t come under enough defensive pressure), but that hasn’t stopped him rising to the occasion anytime the likes of Mexico or Hunduras come calling.

CM – Weston McKennie: 7.5 – McKennie has improved by leaps and bounds since moving to Juventus, and it was plain for all to see on Thursday, as he ran the show in midfield — on both sides of the ball. McKennie’s comfort and confidence to calmly play the ball out of trouble is yet another hugely welcome development for the USMNT.

CM – Yunus Musah: 7 (8) – Musah continues to progress and grow, having turned 19 years old just a couple months ago, but we’re still anxiously awaiting the unbelievable breakout performance to truly announce himself onto the international stage, because it’s been brewing for the last two international windows.

For this kid to be 19 is just a total blessing for USMNT fans. He’s already at Valencia, a good place to be refining the technical and tactical side of things, and it feels like his ceiling is higher than most. Now how will Gregg Berhalter use a healthy Musah, Giovanni Reyna, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams?

[ MORE: USMNT World Cup qualifying schedule ]

RW – Timothy Weah: 6.5Gets points for his hard work on the goal, of course, but his hunger to be in the right spots in the box often means the USMNT has a dangerous outlet for everything from combination play to whipped-in crosses. Powerful when driving forward with the ball.

LW – Christian Pulisic: 4 (4) – Pulisic’s worst showing in a USMNT shirt, at least in recent memory. It’s clear that CONCACAF opponents are scheming to limit his impact on the USMNT, and Hugo Perez’s plan worked a real treat on Thursday. Time and space were nonexistent for Pulisic, he was thrust into far too many duels against two or three white shirts, and Berhalter’s choice at center forward did him no favors by occupying (and crowding) the same pockets of space. Perhaps his early collision with Robinson played a part in Pulisic being limited, and eventually subbed off after 65 minutes.

This had to be his worst individual match in a USMNT shirt. Perhaps he’s bogged down or maybe this was just a bad night for a player who seems likely to go down as one of the top three players in program history, but he was 0-for-10 in first-half duels according to SofaScore and spent the entire night trying to do a little too much.

CF – Jesus Ferreira: 4 – Aside from the general ineffectiveness referenced alongside Pulisic, Ferreira missed a seemingly un-missable chance from three yards out. The idea to start more of a play-making center forward, expecting El Salvador to defend deeply and compactly, wasn’t the worst, but the 21-year-old isn’t quite ready for a task that tall.

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USMNT reportedly opens contract talks with Gregg Berhalter; Good or bad idea?

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Gregg Berhalter may be sticking around the United States men’s national team program, giving the USMNT coaching continuity as it moves from 2022 World Cup Round of 16 member to 2026 World Cup co-host.

ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle says that Berhalter is beginning contract discussions with the United States Soccer Federation but also interested in taking a job in Europe with his profile having risen alongside the USMNT at the World Cup.

Berhalter’s current contract ends at the end of the calendar year, and the Yanks have scheduled a domestic camp in January and friendlies against Serbia and Colombia.

[ MORE: USMNT transfer rumors for Musah, Dest ]

Berhalter has done some good things for the program, most notably winning the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup with two different groups. He also straightened out the defending, for the most part, and got out of the World Cup group.

Berhalter successfully recruited Sergino Dest and Yunus Musah, two of the program’s stars at the World Cup. He also convinced Malik Tillman, Gaga Slonina, and Jesus Ferreira that the U.S. was the right place for their national team futures.

He also, subjectively, was slow if not downright stubborn in acquiesing to certain points-of-view that made the team better. From Tyler Adams as a right back at the outset of his tenure to saying Tim Ream didn’t fit how he wanted to play about a month before the World Cup… then playing him every minute of the tournament.

But for the most part when lessons were learned, they stayed learned.

Should Gregg Berhalter continue as USMNT boss?

Let’s start here, because it’s necessary: It’s clear that Berhalter cared about his players and the project, whether you like the way he operated or not. This wasn’t a half-assed operation, but one with passion.

So does he still have that passion? Only he can answer that, and if he’d like to get more matchdays in his life then maybe he does want to go back to the club game.

And frankly, that’s fine either way, because his four years with the program were neither amazing nor pitiful. They can be described as anything from a slight disappointment to a minor success, depending on your perspective and expectations.

If you believe that picking up the pieces from the absolute travesty that was failing to qualify for the World Cup from the richest nation and one of the two most talented nations amongst CONCACAF men’s programs was really hard, then you think Berhalter getting the men to the 2022 World Cup and surviving the group with a young group was a solid step in the right direction and a minor success.

If you believe that the American soccer climate is such that you should always make the World Cup out of one of the world’s lesser confederations and that the Yanks progressed as the second team of a group in which they were the second-ranked team according to FIFA and Elo Ratings, well, you can have a different standard.

The Yanks will never again fail to qualify for the World Cup given the expanded field, but hosts have historically had a drastically-improved chance to reach the semifinals. THe federation would have to be confident that picking the best squad regardless of how it reflects on his previous selections — let alone a Best XI — is going to happen under a given coach.

Berhalter’s 49 and is far from the worst or best boss in USMNT history. Whoever’s in the job four years from now will have a chance to go down as either one. Choose wisely, fed. And Gregg! Who knows how far his star could rise with a solid run in Europe, and history says there will be the chance to reconnect with the USMNT job.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Premier League table, 2022-23 season

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If it’s the 2022-23 Premier League table you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

We’re at the 2022 World Cup break, and the final few rounds of Premier League fixtures caused so many shocks.

Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?

Almost at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest.

The Gunners will have their hands full for the duration of their title challenge, as Erling Haaland continues to take the Premier League by storm with an almost impossible goal-scoring record.

Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United are locked in a battle for the top four, while Liverpool have improved and will be back in the Champions League scrap and Chelsea are struggling.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Who are the early-season candidates for relegation?

Newly promoted Nottingham Forest moved off the bottom of the table with a win before the break, with Wolves and Southampton currently occupying the other two relegation places.

Leicester have picked up a few big wins, while West Ham, Everton and Leeds all find themselves within a few points of the bottom-three after a topsy-turvy start.

Below you will find the latest Premier League table.


Premier League table – Matchweek 16

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

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Match 59 of the 2022 World Cup features a pair of European heavyweights duking it out for a place in the semifinals when England faces France on Saturday.

Didier Deschamps’ France is bidding to become a back-to-back World Cup winner, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are tournament-hardened and have shown their explosive nature three times this tournament.

STREAM ENGLAND vs FRANCE LIVE

France beat Poland 3-1 in its Round of 16 match while England overcame a dodgy start to pound Senegal 3-0.

Neither team can say its faced a test like this in the tournament, and this could be a fantastic fight in Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for England vs France.


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

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday, December 1
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

England will look to Harry Kane, though the question remains who will flank the Tottenham center forward. Marcus Rashford’s been very good but Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden got the starting spots against Senegal and it paid off for Southgate.

Kylian Mbappe has been borderline unstoppable and will test Harry Maguire, John Stones, and friends and Antoine Griezmann pulls the strings in behind and Aurelien Tchouameni continues to strengthen his reputation in the center of the pitch.


England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann

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Croatia vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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World Cup-savvy Croatia stands in the way of stylish Brazil’s pursuit of a sixth World Cup crown, and the pair promise a complex match-up on Friday in Al Rayyan.

Match 58 of the 2022 World Cup kicks off the quarterfinals as Neymar leads Tite’s star-studded CONMEBOL powers into a match against the 2018 runners-up.

STREAM CROATIA vs BRAZIL LIVE

Croatia got past Japan in penalties and will now dream of the two wins that could set it back in the final where France could again be waiting for a juicy rematch.

Croatia needed penalties to get past Japan in the Round of 16, while Brazil pasted South Korea 4-1.  Croatia has never beaten Brazil in four meetings, losing at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Croatia vs Brazil.


How to watch Croatia vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic was fantastic in penalties versus Japan to get here, but Luka Modric continues to do the things that get Croatia out of trouble and puts the opponents into heaps of it. Josko Gvardiola has arguably been the defender of the tournament, and the 20-year-old looks to test his mettle again against the Selecao.

Pick a Brazil player who’s failed to impress and you’ve achieved a mighty feat. Neymar’s been fantastic when healthy while RIcharlison is in serious pursuit of the Golden Boot. Alisson Becker flexed his muscles once or twice versus South Korea and figures to be busier as the competition continues to heat up in Qatar.


Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Follow @NicholasMendola