Jozy Altidore

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USMNT’s Holmes injured, Mihailovic re-added to Gold Cup squad

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The hits just keep on coming for the United States men’s national team, as Derby County midfielder Duane Holmes has withdrawn from the Gold Cup roster.

Holmes, 24, earned his first two caps this month but “reaggravated a left quadriceps strain” which hampered the end of his season with the Rams.

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Djordje Mihailovic will take his place. The Chicago Fire midfielder was sent back to Illinois following the tune-up friendlies, but will jet back to the fold before Tuesday’s tournament opener versus Guyana.

The U.S. is painfully thin in terms of creative midfielders, with Tyler Adams (right back, we know), Sebastian Lletget, and now Holmes out of the mix.

They do have that Christian Pulisic cat, though, and we imagine he won’t be out wide much.

USMNT 23-man roster for Gold Cup

Goalkeepers: Sean Johnson, Tyler Miller, Zack Steffen

Defenders: Reggie Cannon, Omar Gonzalez, Nick Lima, Aaron Long, Daniel Lovitz, Matt Miazga, Walker Zimmerman, Tim Ream

Midfielders: Michael Bradley, Weston McKennie, Djordje Mihailovic, Christian Pulisic, Wil Trapp, Cristian Roldan

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Paul Arriola, Tyler Boyd, Jonathan Lewis, Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes.

What counts as Gold Cup success for USMNT?

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The United States men’s national team has the good and bad fortune of playing in CONCACAF, which means it will qualify for every nearly World Cup by showing up and playing within a standard deviation of their average.

The same is true for their chances at making deep runs in the Gold Cup. Since 1985, the Yanks have qualified for 11 of 16 Finals, winning six. Only twice has it finished worse than a third place game appearance, not once since 2000.

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So that’s why looking like a pile of lukewarm leftovers against Jamaica and Venezuela shouldn’t change perspective on this month’s tournament. Not only are Gregg Berhalter’s men at home, but the path to the final gives them three games to prepare for a true knockout round test and — should they find their footing — two more before meeting Costa Rica or Mexico.

That said, the U.S. may well finish second in the group and get smoked by Honduras or Jamaica in the Round of 16. Falling behind both Panama and Trinidad and Tobago in the group stage would be inexcusable and could see Earnie Stewart canning a coach far earlier than expected, though the reasons utilized would be injuries to Tyler Adams and John Brooks.

However, if the reason is because Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes are starting over healthy Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore in meaningful matches, well…

Anyway, let’s deal in potential. This is the best possible XI you could cull from the United States’ roster.

Steffen

Lima — Gonzalez — Miazga — Lovitz

McKennie — Bradley

 Pulisic — Holmes — Boyd

Altidore

This is no mere superiority complex: That team, even with Berhalter’s suspected removal of Holmes, Lovitz, and Boyd to play Arriola, Roldan, and Ream, is enough to crush Guyana and handle T&T en route to a group-deciding match with Panama.

The next round isn’t so simple, which is why finishing a tournament history-worst seventh or eighth isn’t out of the question. Honduras or Jamaica will be a challenge at the back, and both have the horses to press a suspect possession team (Hopefully Bradley will help alleviate those concerns).

Prediction after prediction has the United States in the final. And I think the probability points to that. Losing to Jamaica twice on home soil within a month would be really bad, and neither Honduras nor Panama had better World Cup qualifying runs than the Yanks. Honduras, to its credit, was young, but Panama only finished above the U.S. via a goal that did not cross the line. CONCACAF.

As for the other side of the bracket, even second-choice Mexico is too much for this U.S. team (though anything can happen over 90-120 minutes) and Costa Rica. El Tri will be waiting in the final, even having to work out the kinks under Tata Martino.

My main worry is the depth already being tested in this tournament. In my above lineup, Lima and Holmes is only in because Sebastian Lletget, DeAndre Yedlin, and Tyler Adams are unavailable. And Zardes and Jordan Morris as the back-up options to Altidore at center forward present less attraction than Josh Sargent, Bobby Wood, and even Tim Weah.

The over/under for matches at the Gold Cup is four, with a push being a legit probability for the first time in a while. Under or a push would be a monumental, unavoidable, and inexcusable departure from the plan for 2022 World Cup qualification.

Which way would you bet? Oddsmakers still have the USMNT as the second-favorite to win the whole thing, closer to favorites Mexico than third-best Costa Rica. One site even has El Tri and the U.S. as joint favorites.

That’s something. And adding Pulisic and McKennie is huge. Should we be hesitant because Berhalter’s half-strength Yanks looked terrible against Jamaica and Venezuela? Probably not, but let’s wait until we see the lineups against Guyana and T&T.

2019 MLS player salary list released

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The MLS Players Association (MLSPA) has released its latest salary figures for 2019, and there are plenty of increases across the board.

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Yes, that’s right, by now you will probably know that MLS has been releasing its player salaries for the past 13 years mainly to highlight how much room there still is for improvement in terms of how much players are paid in the top-flight of North American soccer.

While the large salaries of Designated Players continue to dominate the headlines, some of the most pleasing increases for the MLSPA will be from roster spots 10-18 as players in those positions across MLS squads have seen their wages rise by 10 percent over the past five years.

Below are a few facts released by the MLSPA on the 690 players under contract in MLS as of June 1, 2019:

  • The Average Base Salary for Senior Roster Non-Designated Players in MLS reached $345,867 in 2019, up 13.3% over the previous year with double-digit growth across the roster.
  • A 150% increase in the Average Base Salary over the last five years for Senior Roster Non-Designated Players, from $138,140 in 2014 to $345,867 in 2019
  • Eighth consecutive year of Average Base Salary increases for Senior Roster Non-Designated Players.

You can download and view the entire list of MLS player salaries right here.

Here’s a look at the top 10 earners in MLS based in 2019 based on their guaranteed salary.

1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy) – $7.2 million
2. Giovani dos Santos (Listed as MLS, former LA Galaxy) – $6.5 million
3. Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) – $6.4 million
4. Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC) – $6.3 million
5. Carlos Vela (LA FC) – $6.3 million
6. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Chicago Fire) – $5 million
7. Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact) – $4.4 million
8. Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC) – $3.8 million
9. Wayne Rooney (DC United) – $3.5 million
10. Josef Martinez (Atlanta United) – $3 million

Three pressing questions for USMNT ahead of Gold Cup

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With the 2019 Gold Cup set to kick off in five days — and the U.S. men’s national team’s first game in nine — there are far more questions than answer for Gregg Berhalter’s team.

[ MORE: Lifeless USMNT hammered by Venezuela in final pre-Gold Cup tune-up ]

The list of pressing queries includes, but is not limited to, the following…

How is the midfield this bad?

Put another way, in statement form: it’s time to just build the midfield around Tyler Adams.

While the defending left plenty to be desired in the Yanks’ 3-0 defeat to Venezuela on Sunday, the likes of Aaron Long and Matt Miazga were done no favors whatsoever by the pressure applied (or lack thereof) by the midfield. Considering Wil Trapp, Weston McKennie and Cristian Roldan comprised the starting midfield trio, the lack of pressure in the field’s middle third is hardly surprising. Come to think of it, Tyler Adams is the only pressing artist in the entire player pool, but head coach Gregg Berhalter has been pretty insistent on playing him at right back.

Central midfield will almost certainly be Adams’ long-term positional home, so why not stop wasting time and delaying the inevitable: turning the keys to the midfield — and, by extension, the team — to Adams? Without a press that opponents at least have to respect, opposing midfielders will continue to pick the USMNT apart with loads of time to pick a pass.


Why not just start Altidore?

Put another way: why isn’t Josh Sargent on this team again?

Sure, Berhalter wanted a bit more positional versatility with his final roster spot, but that came at the expense of arguably the most promising center forward prospect the U.S. has ever had. That seems… short-sighted (more on that in a moment).

If there is even a chance that Sargent becomes the starter at any point during his career, he should be on the roster for the first tournament of the new coach’s tenure. Full stop. Seeing how he isn’t on the roster, we’ll stick to debating the players at Berhalter’s disposal.

Jozy Altidore should be starting, for a number of different reasons:

  1. We have no idea whether or not he can play in Berhalter’s system, thus we need to find out.
  2. Playing without a capable center forward makes it difficult, if not impossible, to analyze the performances of any number of young attackers currently breaking into the team.
  3. His age when the 2022 World Cup kicks off: 33.

If we’re not going to see Sargent alongside the other attackers he’ll likely play with the next decade, let’s at least give them a functional environment in which to operate and develop.


What’s the USMNT’s goal for this Gold Cup?

Put another way: what exactly would you say we’re doing here?

Are we trying to win this particular tournament — in the year 2019 — or are we still focusing on the development of the next generation which will (hopefully) take us to the 2022 World Cup in 41 months? Of course, if you were to ask Berhalter that very question, he would give some variation of the following answer: “I see them as one and the same. We’re a young team, we need to gain tournament experience and learn how to win together.”

That’s all true, and we’ll see how strictly he sticks to that idea as the Gold Cup kicks off and wears on, particularly when he’s allowed to make a handful of changes to the roster between the group stage and the knockout rounds (assuming they advance, of course).

USMNT hammered by Venezuela in final pre-Gold Cup tune-up

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The U.S. men’s national team’s preparations for the 2019 Gold Cup — a tournament which kicks off in six days’ time — are complete with many more questions than answers following a 3-0 defeat to Venezuela at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Sunday.

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Head coach Gregg Berhalter made five changes to the team that was beaten by Jamaica on Wednesday, but the outcome wasn’t just the same — it was actually worse, just in some of the same ways.

Goalkeeper Zack Steffen made another grave error that handed Venezuela the game’s opening goal on a silver platter. Salomon Rondon, who’s still on the books at West Bromwich Albion but scored 11 Premier League goals while on loan to Newcastle United this season, was more than happy to use that opportunity to draw level with Juan Arango as Venezuela’s all-time joint-leading goal scorer.

Jefferson Savarino doubled Venezuela’s lead in the 30th minute, tapping home the rebound after his initial effort struck the post.

Six minutes later, Rondon grabbed his 24th international goal made the record his own with a minor assist from some more passive defending — both in midfield and at the back.

After mustering just five shots (one on target) against the Reggae Boyz, the Yanks were on pace to put up similar numbers until they fell three goals behind in the first half of Sunday’s game. Game states dictating possession and chances as they do, chances were easier to come by in the second half — in part due to Venezuela sitting deeper, and in part due to the introduction of Jozy Altidore as the no. 9.

The Americans’ best chances at a goal came late in the second half. First, in the 68th minute, Nick Lima whipped a curling ball into the six-yard box from the right flank. Duane Holmes couldn’t get an outstretched toe to it at the near post, and Paul Arriola could get on top of it at the back post and sent it high and wide of goal.

Then, in the 80th, another dangerous ball found Altidore inside the six-yard box. This time, solid contact was made and Altidore’s header was on target, only for Wuilker Fariñez to throw his body in front of the ball to preserve the clean sheet.

The USMNT will begin its Gold Cup campaign against Guyana on June 18.