Five questions for the USMNT’s September friendlies

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You don’t have to like facts and don’t kill the messenger.

These are the forewarning statements from this writer ahead of this post, which will evaluate the five things to watch closest during September’s United States men’s national team friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia.

[ MORE: Japan vs USMNT preview ]

With red-hot Jordan Pefok surprisingly left off this roster, already-raised are threatening to leave the forehead, so a reminder:

Gregg Berhalter’s decisions are what we’re considering here, not what any individual writer might do (Jordan Pefok, John Brooks, Tim Ream, and Djordje Mihailovic would really like a certain individual’s takes).

So read on, as we evaluate the evaluations that are the final two World Cup warm-ups as the precious tournament approaches with great vigor.

How does Christian Pulisic look (in form and face)?

Christian Pulisic is, basically, too good for CONCACAF. He’s also too good to be a part-time player right now, which he is with Chelsea.

The intense USMNT striker has a permanent chip on his shoulder and should feel unleashed as one of the side’s focal points.

The fact that the modifier “one of” is even included in a discussion about a player who was — and maybe is — the program’s generational talent shows how growth of young players in the program has been golden; Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, and Brenden Aaronson are among the talents who keep rising but haven’t touched their ceilings.

[ MORE: Ranking the 2022 World Cup kits ]

So who is the 24-year-old (as of Sunday) Pulisic right now and what is his frame of mind? Are his 177 Chelsea minutes played out of 900 this season down to bad management, or has it been merited by form in training?

Pulisic has yet to record a goal or assist for Chelsea this season, but he has no such slum,ps in his USMNT career. He has 21 goals and 12 assists in 51 caps and it’s not all CONCACAF dominance despite the new Nations League calendar dictating that most recent games have been against regional foes; Pulisic had two assists in the 3-0 win over Morocco, scored in the 2-1 away win over Northern Ireland.

The American’s play and body language are going to be read as often as his commercial with Roy Kent has aired on television, which is fitting as this time of a World Cup cycle definitely has it’s fill of pressure-pressure-pressure-pressure.

How sharp are Matt Turner and the goalkeepers?

Some would say that Arsenal backup goalkeeper was already No. 1 on the USMNT’s goalkeeping depth chart, but Zack Steffen’s injury problems have very much made the first shirt up for grabs if it wasn’t already.

Turner, 28, has 18 caps for the U.S. and when healthy was first choice for his last three World Cup qualifiers. He’s started every other game since returning for June’s international friendlies and Nations League outings clean sheets against Morocco and Grenada.

He’s been second-choice to Aaron Ramsdale since moving from Arsenal, but Turner made his Gunners and Europa League debuts with a 2-1 win over Zurich in Switzerland.

So now Turner enters September’s camp as a clear No. 1 amongst the current call-ups, in front of Luton Town’s Ethan Horvath and NYCFC’s Sean Johnson.

It’s also an important camp for Horvath, as it feels inevitable that Johnson has secured steady hand third keeper status. Johnson is five years older than Turner and six years older than Horvath and Steffen, and Berhalter’s had plenty of praise for the veteran. Horvath’s been good for the Hatters in the Football League Championship, but what if Steffen is healthy and there’s only one spot left after Turner and Johnson?

Will away dry spell end in Germany, Spain?

A few will dismiss this query given that the rich status of soccer in the United States sure gets a lot of games on U.S. soil, providing limited chances to perform outside of the U.S.

But the Yanks are winless in six-straight away fixtures, drawing El Salvador, Mexico, and Jamaica while losing to Costa Rica, Canada, and Panama since a 4-1 win over Honduras at San Pedro Sula on Sept. 8, 2021.

Throw in the fact that this window’s friendlies are against strong, hungry Asian sides readying for the World Cup, and you’ve got all the makings of proper tests.

Japan thumped South Korea in July and Ghana in June. Losses to Brazil and Tunisia show they can be bested, but Japan’s got wins over plenty of World Cup contributors in their rear view mirror. Austria and Saudi Arabia combined to take only three points off the Japanese in World Cup qualifying (The Saudis won 1-0 in Jeddah).

Captain Maya Yoshia isn’t the only familiar name on Japan’s roster, as Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu, Monaco’s Takumi MInamino, and Eintracht Frankfurt’s Daichi Kamada, and Real Sociedad’s Takefuso Kubo sit behind dangerous Celtic strikers Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda.

As for Saudi Arabia, it went 13W-4D-1L in qualifying and play 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 will tangle with Ecuador four days prior to the tilt against Berhalter’s men.

Put plainly, these are tough tests for the USMNT.Berhalter’s team is the No. 14 FIFA-ranked team and they sit No. 23 in Elo Ratings.

Here’s where those settle alongside their September opponents and World Cup group stage foes:

  • England 5/12
  • USMNT 14/23
  • Wales 19/22
  • Iran 22/25
  • Japan 24/29
  • Saudi Arabia 53/59

Game(s) on.

Who, if anyone, can crash the roster party?

We’ve got a pretty good read of the definites and extremely likelies when it comes for the roster for Qatar.

First let’s use a couple of superifical metrics. Who was used in U.S. Soccer’s official jersey unveiling video? And who was included in the collectible Panini sticker book for the 2022 World Cup?

Sticker book: Turner, Steffen, Dest, Long, Richards, A. Robinson, Yedlin, Zimmerman, Aaronson, Acosta, Adams, McKennie, Musah, Ferreira, Pepi, Pulisic, Reyna, Weah

Jersey unveiling: Adams, Aaronson, Pulisic, A. Robinson, Long, McKennie, Zimmerman, Dest, Richards, Weah, Acosta, Ferreira, Musah, Arriola, Reyna, Long, De La Torre, Yedlin, Morris, Carter-Vickers, Tillman.

Who can crash the party?

Josh Sargent, Johnny Cardoso, Joe Scally, Erik Palmer-Brown, Mark McKenzie, Reggie Cannon, Ethan Horvath, and Sean Johnson are all on the roster this month and not in the above categories. McKenzie, Palmer-Brown, and Cardoso have only been called due to injuries, so this is a huge chance for them.

Where is the forward focus right now?

Barring injuries, we’re positive that Pulisic, Aaronson, Arriola, Ferreira, Weah, and Reyna are set for Qatar.

Doesn’t leave room for too many others, does it?

While positional pools are often drained of also-rans this close to a tournament, what makes the USMNT’s forward ranks so intriguing is that not only is the starting center forward job still in play, but it could come from someone who isn’t even in it right now.

That’s Jordan Pefok, who will be looming over the discussions anyway but will be downright casting his shadow over it if one of the following players fails to seal his own deal.

Ricardo Pepi’s had a pair of bright outings for Groningen, entering the window along with Josh Sargent as in-form now and ultra-bright prospects at some points during their tenure.

Jordan Morris is a proven commodity but Arriola’s seeming favorite status means Berhalter would be keeping very much like-for-like guys over the field. That said, Aaronson and Morris being in this camp means that the September group plus Weah could very well be the group.

Antonio Conte, Tottenham part ways

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Antonio Conte’s belabored but seemingly inevitable exit from Tottenham Hotspur was just that, as Spurs announced the Italian legend’s exit late Sunday.

Conte went off on everyone at the club following a 3-3 draw with Southampton in Premier League Matchweek 28, and the international break did nothing to calm or rectify the situation.

“I see selfish players, I see players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart [into the game],” Conte said at one point, later criticizing ownership, coaches, and staff. See the full press conference atop this post.

Cristian Stellini will stay on and oversee the season as “Acting Head Coach” with longtime Spurs man Ryan Mason assisting the Italian.

[ MORE: Saka, Kane scored as England cruises past Ukraine ]

Conte, 53, was appointed Spurs boss on Nov. 2, 2021 following the firing of Nuno Espirito Santo, and helped Tottenham to a top-four finish and a return to the UEFA Champions League.

Spurs went unbeaten in their first seven matches to open the 2022-23 season, only losing away to West Ham and Chelsea, but a 3-1 loss at Arsenal in the North London derby started a run of ups and downs not normally associated with Conte teams.

After beating Brighton and Everton, Spurs failed to win consecutive Premier League matches between October 19 and late January, when Spurs beat Fulham and Man City on consecutive match days.

Tottenham was on a 5W-1D-2L Premier League run when Conte launched into his incredible rants following the Southampton draw. That, combined with a lifeless Champions League exit against AC Milan, was far too much to sustain him at the club.

Tottenham Hotspur statement on Antonio Conte

From TottenhamHotspur.com:

“We can announce that Head Coach Antonio Conte has left the Club by mutual agreement. We achieved Champions League qualification in Antonio’s first season at the Club. We thank Antonio for his contribution and wish him well for the future.

“Cristian Stellini will take the team as Acting Head Coach for the remainder of the season, along with Ryan Mason as Assistant Head Coach.

Daniel Levy, Chairman: ‘We have 10 Premier League games remaining and we have a fight on our hands for a Champions League place. We all need to pull together. Everyone has to step up to ensure the highest possible finish for our Club and amazing, loyal supporters.'”

What now?

It’s very strange that Spurs would wait one week into the international break and then announce that Conte was leaving without a new coach in place (Stellini was a long time Tottenham assistant).

Spurs are currently in fourth place on the table with 49 points, one point behind Manchester United, but Newcastle (47 points) and Liverpool 42 points) both have two matches-in-hand on Stellini’s men. Brighton’s also on 42 points and has three matches-in-hand on Spurs.

Stellini actually may have a pretty easy task presuming he didn’t follow up Conte’s comments about the players by yelling, “Yeah, I agree!”

There are points to be had along the way as Spurs return from break to meet Everton, Brighton, and Bournemouth, but the relatively soft landing ends with Newcastle, Manchester United, and Liverpool in the following three PL matches.

Palace, Villa, Brentford, and Leeds wind down the fixture list, so it’s reasonable to think Spurs will return to the Champions League if they can get through Liverpool on April 30 with a look at the top four.

EURO 2024 qualification live! EURO qualifiers schedule, updates, standings

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EURO 2024 qualifying is here, and you’re in the right spot for groups, fixtures, and results.

Italy outlasted England in penalty kicks to win EURO 2020 and is bidding to become the first repeat winner since Spain in 2008 and 2012.

[ MORE: Breaking down Premier League title race ]

England is still seeking its first European Championship and will be favored to emerge from Group C with aforementioned Italy as well as Ukraine, North Macedonia, and Malta.

Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions started off 2024 qualifying well as Harry Kane snapped a tie with Wayne Rooney atop England’s all-time goals list with a 2-1 win in Italy, the nation’s first in the country since 1961, and then Bukayo Saka led the Three Lions to a 2-0 win over Ukraine on Sunday.

Netherlands and France are also in a spicy group that has dark horse Republic of Ireland and former champions Greece, as well as Gibraltar.

[ MORE: Live scores, updates, standings from EURO 2024 qualifying ]

A number of nations have guaranteed themselves no worse than a playoff spot due to their performances in the UEFA Nations League: Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Georgia, Croatia, Turkey, Serbia, Kazakhstan.



EURO 2024 qualifying schedule

Thursday, March 23

Kazakhstan 1-2 Slovenia
Slovakia 0-0 Luxembourg
Italy 1-2 England – Video, player ratings as Kane breaks Rooney record
Denmark 3-1 Finland
Portugal 4-0 Liechtenstein
San Marino 0-2 Northern Ireland
North Macedonia 2-1 Malta
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 Iceland

Friday, March 24

Bulgaria 0-1 Montenegro
Gibraltar 0-3 Greece
Moldova 1-1 Faroe Islands
Serbia 2-0 Lithuania
Austria 4-1 Azerbaijan
Sweden 0-3 Belgium
Czech Republic 3-1 Poland
France 4-0 Netherlands

Saturday, March 25

Scotland 3-0 Cyprus
Israel 1-1 Kosovo
Armenia 1-2 Turkey
Belarus 0-5 Switzerland
Spain 3-0 Norway
Croatia 1-0 Wales
Andorra 0-2 Romania

Sunday, March 26

Kazakhstan 3-2 Denmark
England 2-0 Ukraine — Video, player ratings as Saka leads Three Lions
Liechtenstein 0-7 Iceland
Slovenia 2-0 San Marino
Slovakia 2-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Northern Ireland 0-1 Finland
Luxembourg 0-6 Portugal
Malta 0-2 Italy

Monday, March 27

Montenegro vs Serbia — 2:45pm ET
Netherlands vs Gibraltar — 2:45pm ET
Poland vs Albania — 2:45pm ET
Austria vs Estonia — 2:45pm ET
Sweden vs Azerbaijan — 2:45pm ET
Moldova vs Czech Republic — 2:45pm ET
Hungary vs Bulgaria — 2:45pm ET
Republic of Ireland vs France — 2:45pm ET

Tuesday, March 28

Georgia vs Norway — Noon ET
Wales vs Latvia — 2:45pm ET
Romania vs Belarus — 2:45pm ET
Switzerland vs Israel — 2:45pm ET
Kosovo vs Andorra — 2:45pm ET
Turkey vs Croatia — 2:45pm ET
Scotland vs Spain — 2:45pm ET


EURO 2024 qualifying standings

Group A

Spain — 3 pts, +3 GD
Scotland — 3 pts, +3GD
Georgia
Norway — 0 pts, -3 GD
Cyprus — 0 pts, -3 GD

Group B

France — 3pts, +4 GD
Greece — 3 pts, +3 GD
Republic of Ireland
Gibraltar — 0 pts, -3 GD
Netherlands — 0 pts, -4 GD

Group C

England — 6 pts, +3 GD
Italy — 3 pts, +1 GD
North Macedonia — 3 pts, +1 GD
Ukraine — 0 pts, -2 GD
Malta — 0 pts, -3 GD

Group D

Turkey — 3 pts, +1 GD
Wales — 1 pt, 0 GD
Croatia — 1 pt, 0 GD
Latvia
Armenia — 0 pts, -1 GD

Group E

Czech Republic — 3 pts, +2 GD
Faroe Islands — 1 pt, 0 GD
Moldova — 1 pt, 0 GD
Albania
Poland — 0 pts, -2 GD

Group F

Austria — 3 pts, +3 GD
Belgium — 3 pts, + 3GD
Estonia
Azerbaijan — 0 pts, -3 GD
Sweden — 0 pts, -3 GD

Group G

Serbia — 3 pts, +2 GD
Montenegro — 3 pts, +1 GD
Hungary
Bulgaria — 0 pts, -1 GD
Lithuania — 0 pts, -2 GD

Group H

Slovenia — 6 pts, +3 GD
Northern Ireland — 3 pts, +1 GD
Denmark — 3 pts, +1 GD
Finland — 3 pts, -1 GD
Kazakhstan — 3 pts, 0 GD
San Marino — 0 pts, -4 GD

Group I

Switzerland — 3 pts, +5 GD
Romania — 3 pts, + 2 GD
Israel — 1 pt, 0 GD
Kosovo — 1 pt, 0 GD
Andorra — 0 pts, -2 GD
Belarus — 0 pts, -5 GD

Group J

Portugal — 6 pts, +8 GD
Slovakia — 4 pt, +2 GD
Iceland — 3 pts, +4 GD
Bosnia and Herzegovina — 3 pts, +1 GD
Liechtenstein — 1 pt, -7 GD
Luxembourg — 0 pts, -10 GD

USMNT upcoming schedule – Nations League, friendlies, Gold Cup

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After reaching the last 16 of the 2022 World Cup, the USMNT have a big 2023 coming up as they aim to build off a successful showing on the world’s biggest stage.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

For the next few months CONCACAF Nations League takes center stage, while the program is very much in transition as Anthony Hudson takes temporary charge and both the general manager (Brian McBride) and sporting director (Earnie Stewart) left in recent months.

[ MORE: USMNT roster for Nations League features Gio Reyna, no Tyler Adams ]

As for now, here is the USMNT’s upcoming schedule for 2023, with plenty more games to be added based on their potential qualification for the 2023 Gold Cup on home soil.


How to watch USMNT

TV channels in English: HBO Max, TNT
TV channels en Español:
Universo, Telemundo Deportes
Streaming en Español: Peacock


USMNT upcoming schedule

* Friendly | ** CONCACAF Nations League | *** 2022 World Cup

2023

vs. Serbia* — Jan. 25, 10 pm ET — Loss 2-1 | Recap & highlights
vs. Colombia* — Jan. 28, 7:30 pm ET — Draw 0-0 | Recap & highlights
at Grenada** — March 24, 8 pm ET — Won 7-1 | Recap & highlights + Player ratings
vs El Salvador** — March 27, 7:30pm ET — Orlando, Florida
vs Mexico* — April 19, 10:22pm ET — Glendale, Arizona – More details

2023 Gold Cup from June 16 to July 19 (USMNT yet to qualify)


USMNT games in 2022

vs. Morocco* — June 1 — Win 3-0
vs. Uruguay* — June 5 — Draw 0-0
vs. Grenada** — June 10 — Win 5-0
at El Salvador** — June 14 — Draw 1-1
vs Japan* — Sept. 23 (in Dusseldorf, Germany) — Loss 2-0
vs Saudi Arabia* — Sept. 27 (in Murcia, Spain) — Draw 0-0


USMNT at 2022 World Cup

Group B
vs. Wales*** — Nov. 21, 2 pm ET — Draw 1-1
vs. England*** — Nov. 25, 2 pm ET — Draw 0-0
vs. Iran*** — Nov. 29, 2 pm ET — Win 1-0

Last 16
vs. Netherlands*** — Dec. 3, 10 am ET — Loss 3-1


USMNT 2022 World Cup qualifying scores, recaps, analysis

at El Salvador — Sept. 2Draw 0-0
vs. Canada — Sept. 5 — Draw 1-1
at Honduras — Sept. 8 — Win 4-1

vs. Jamaica — Oct. 7 — Win 1-0
at Panama — Oct. 10 — Loss 0-1
vs. Costa Rica — Oct. 13 — Win 2-1

vs. Mexico — Nov. 12 — Win 2-0
at Jamaica — Nov. 16 — Draw 1-1

vs. El Salvador — Jan. 27 — Win 1-0
at Canada — Jan. 30 — Loss 0-2
vs. Honduras — Feb. 2 — Win 3-0

at Mexico — March 24 — Draw 0-0 
vs. Panama — March 27 — Win 5-1
at Costa Rica — March 30 — Loss 0-2 


Final CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings

Canada — 28 points – (QUALIFIED) GD +16 – automatic qualification
Mexico — 28 points (QUALIFIED) GD +9 – automatic qualification
USMNT — 25 points – (QUALIFIED) GD +11 – automatic qualification


Costa Rica — 25 points (PLAYOFF) GD +5


Panama — 21 points (ELIMINATED)
Jamaica — 14 points (ELIMINATED)
El Salvador — 10 points (ELIMINATED)
Honduras — 4 points (ELIMINATED)

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Bukayo Saka leads England to 2-0 win over Ukraine in EURO qualifying

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Bukayo Saka scored a goal and set up Harry Kane for another as England beat Ukraine 2-0 in a UEFA EURO 2024 qualifier at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday.

That gives England six points from six to start qualifying and Ukraine barely got a sniff of goal after an early chance didn’t go its way. The Three Lions out-attempted Ukraine 18-3 and led the xG battle 2.05-0.12.

England was without Phil Foden, who had his appendix removed, and several others but was minimally troubled over 90 minutes.

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

It was an extremely emotional atmosphere in London as the war rages on across Ukraine following the Russia invasion just over a year ago. The English Football Association gave away close to 1,000 free tickets to Ukrainians who were forced to flee their country and resettle with families in the UK.

The United Kingdom have been one of Ukraine’s key partners in the fight against Russian forces. Over 4,200 Ukraine fans were estimated in the away end at Wembley. This match was Ukraine’s first of 2023, as they narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2022 World Cup after losing to Wales in a playoff last summer.

[ MORE: Full EURO 2024 qualifying schedule, standings ]

England beat Italy 2-1 in Naples on Thursday as Harry Kane became their all-time leading goalscorer with his 54th goal for the Three Lions and they held on after going 2-0 up as Luke Shaw’s red card with 10 minutes to go complicated matters.


England vs Ukraine player ratings: Stars of the Show

Bukayo Saka

Ben Chilwell

Jordan Henderson

Georgiy Sudakov

England vs Ukraine player ratings
fotmob.com

Harry Kane goal video: Saka cues up North London rival

Bukayo Saka goal video: Sensational curl makes it 2-0


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

Kick off: 12pm ET, Sunday (March 26)
Updates: Via NBCSports.com
Stadium: Wembley Stadium, London
Stream: Fubo


Key storylines, in-form players

The last time this nations met England ran out 4-0 winners in the quarterfinals of EURO 2020. They will be the heavy favorites in this game but Ukraine should not be underestimate as the No. 26 ranked team in the world have the likes of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Mykhailo Mudryk, and Vitalii Mykolenko all playing in the Premier League.

England’s forwards ran riot in the first half against Italy with Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka sensational, plus Jude Bellingham’s driving runs from midfield give this Three Lions side an extra dimension. There is more creativity and cutting edge about this England side compared to recent years and it feels like they are ready to win something. There will be a ceremony before this game to honor Harry Kane becoming England’s all-time goalscorer as he passed Wayne Rooney with his goal in Italy on Thursday.


England team news, lineup options

Luke Shaw will be suspended for this game after his red card in Italy, so Ben Chilwell comes in at left back. Jordan Henderson enters for Kalvin Phillips in midfield, while Phil Foden misses out after undergoing appendix surgery. Reece James is also out, but Jude Bellingham perseveres through an injury to start and James Maddison is also in the XI.

Ukraine team news, lineup options

Andriy Yarmolenko (three goals away from equalling Andriy Shevchenko as Ukraine’s all-time leading scorer) has been struggling with a hamstring injury and misses out, while Bournemouth’s Ilya Zabarnyi and Shakhtar’s Oleksandr Zubkov are both out. Roman Yaremchuk offesr real quality in up top while Arsenal’s Oleksandr Zinchenko is the heartbeat of this Ukraine side and Chelsea’s Mykhailo Mudryk will drive the left side in front of Everton’s Vitalii Mykolenko.