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Columbus Crew hires former Portland boss Caleb Porter

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Caleb Porter has been hired as the 8th head coach in Columbus Crew history, the club announced on Friday, while also unveiling Tim Bezbatchenko as team president.

Porter has been out of a job since he departed the Portland Timbers in late 2017 after a disappointing playoff exit in the semifinals followed a season that saw Portland earn the top spot in the West. The 43-year-old has an MLS Cup victory to his name, coming in 2015 with the Timbers in which he defeated the Crew in the finals.

Porter replaces Gregg Berhalter who left Columbus after five seasons to become head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team.

“I am honored to join Columbus Crew SC, a club with a rich history in Major League Soccer and a city with great appreciation for its beloved club dating back to 1996,” Porter said. The statement is a poignant one that alludes to the club remaining in Columbus after a tumultuous period that featured speculation the team would move to Austin, TX before the Haslam family swooped in to purchase the club and keep it in Ohio. There were reports that Porter had conversations with the LA Galaxy before ultimately deciding to take over at Columbus.

“Caleb has been a proven winner every place he has coached and like Tim won an MLS Cup in 2015,” the Crew SC Investor-Operator group said in the club release. “He has a deep understanding of how to build formidable and successful programs and is well respected for his soccer acumen and development of players. With Tim and Caleb sharing some Ohio roots, we feel they are the perfect fit as we move into a new era of Crew soccer.”

Porter’s Ohio connection stems from his six years in charge of the Akron Zips program, which he led from 2006-2012 before joining the USMNT youth coaching ranks.

New president Tim Bezbatchenko comes over from Toronto FC where he built a squad that challenged for the top spot in the East before winning the MLS Cup in 2017. He signed Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore at Toronto, the players who provided the backbone of the title contending squads.

Pulisic Transfer: What’s the significance?

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With the stroke of a pen, Christian Pulisic made history, becoming the most-expensive American soccer player in history.

Pulisic’s $73 million move from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea absolutely smashed the old transfer fee record for an American. In 2017, Wolfsburg paid Hertha Berlin around $22 million to sign centerback John-Anthony Brooks. Four years prior, Sunderland paid around $13 million to sign Jozy Altidore from AZ Alkmaar.

For Chelsea alone, it’s the club’s third-highest transfer fee paid after goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga ($91 million) and Alvaro Morata ($75 million).

Chelsea host Southampton on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Stamford Bridge and our Premier League analysts will be breaking down Pulisic’s move.

While the transfer market has seemingly gone bananas since Neymar’s $263 million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea clearly see a future star in the making in Pulisic, and surely a player that can lead their marketing campaigns in the U.S. for many years to come. In becoming the most expensive American transfer, Pulisic has placed a target on his back, one that he’ll have to overcome, especially after an up-and-down season at Dortmund.

It will be an incredible challenge for Pulisic in England. The physical league has been known to wear down some players coming in from abroad, and the tabloid newspapers are quick to turn on players after a bad performance or two, with some delighting in cutting a player down. In addition, Maurizio Sarri has stuck with his starting XI for most of the year, and it’s unclear exactly who Pulisic would push out of the first eleven. Only if Eden Hazard makes a long-rumored move to Real Madrid does this move really make sense in the short-term.

However, the move comes at a great time for both Dortmund, Chelsea, and Pulisic. Dortmund receives a very large transfer fee that it can invest in improving the squad further or providing raises and Chelsea beats out other suitors to an exciting attacking prospect. Meanwhile, Pulisic has his future settled for the next five seasons in London, starting in the summer. One has to wonder though whether the fee would be even bigger if the U.S. Men’s National Team had made the 2018 World Cup, and Pulisic had a chance once more to star on the world’s stage.

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Pulisic’s move is likely to also be a boon to young American players who are either already in Europe, playing in MLS, or considering their options. Pulisic went from unknown on the world stage to a multi-million dollar star within the space of a few years, and we could see other Americans following in his footsteps, hoping to strike gold as he’s done. For all of his misgivings, former USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s insistence on getting his young squad to play their club matches in Europe was the right move, as we’ve seen with Pulisic’s growth in Dortmund’s academy.

Perhaps Weston McKennie, Josh Sargent or Timothey Weah could be in line for big money moves in the next year or two, should they continue to improve and perform.

On Wednesday, Pulisic set the marker down of what could be for an American. We’ll see how many follow and reach that mark, if not overtake it.

Berhalter speaks on USMNT roster, Bradley’s chance, Pulisic’s problems

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NEW YORK (AP) U.S. captain Michael Bradley has an immediate chance to show new coach Gregg Berhalter he deserves to be considered for the next World Cup cycle.

The 31-year-old midfielder was the oldest player and among just four veterans selected for a 27-man roster that will attend Berhalter’s first training camp starting Jan. 6.

[ MORE: Berhalter names first USMNT squad ]

“I truly believe that and this is an opportunity for Michael to show his value to the group,” Berhalter said during a conference call Thursday. “So we’re excited to see him and how he works through this training camp and meeting the team and also contributing to what we’re trying to do on the field.”

Bradley has 142 international appearances but like most veterans was dropped after the October 2017 loss at Trinidad and Tobago that ended the Americans’ streak of seven straight World Cup appearances. He returned in October following a one-year absence along with 34-year-old goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Guzan was omitted so he can train under a new club coach with Atlanta, which opens in February with the CONCACAF Champions League. Berhalter left off 29-year-old forward Jozy Altidore and 28-year-old midfielder Darlington Nagbe, both recovering from injuries. Berhalter said Altidore will come to camp for a day or two to “see the environment.”

The first U.S. coach who played for the Americans in the World Cup, Berhalter was hired Dec. 2 from the Columbus Crew to succeed Dave Sarachan, the interim coach for 13 months. Berhalter’s first matches are exhibitions against Panama on Jan. 27 at Glendale, Arizona, and against Costa Rica on Feb. 2 at San Jose, California. The team’s first competitive match in 20 months is June 18 at St. Paul, Minnesota, where the Americans open the defense of their CONCACAF Gold Cup title.

Sarachan gave debuts to 23 players, with the Americans winning three matches, lost five and tied four. Berhalter chose 12 players with no national team experience for the training camp, and seven others with five appearances or fewer. The group averages 24 years, 230 days and just 10 appearances.

Berhalter’s roster was chosen entirely from MLS, and he intends to add a central midfielder or winger. The only other players picked with more than a dozen appearances were forward Gyasi Zardes (40) and midfielders Kellyn Acosta (23) and Paul Arriola (17).

Players who could make debuts include are goalkeeper Tyler Miller; defenders Justin Glad, Nick Lima, Daniel Lovitz, Mark McKenzie, Keegan Rosenberry and Auston Trusty; midfielders Corey Baird, Russell Canouse and Djordje Mihailovic; and forwards Jeremy Ebobisse and Christian Ramirez.

Berhalter has been in Europe meeting with the foreign-based portion of his player pool, a group not available to the national team until a pair of home exhibitions in March. The 45-year-old Berhalter, a member of the 2002 and ’06 World Cup rosters, said he is “trying to get a sense of the past but also the future, what this group is looking for.”

“I think we can use this opportunity in this training camp to just start the process and set the tone for what this group is going to be like,” he said, emphasizing three points: “building a culture within the team, instilling a style of play and then competing – competing in every single thing we do.”

Among the players he met with in Germany was 20-year-old star midfielder Christian Pulisic, who on Tuesday made first Bundesliga start for Borussia Dortmund since Sept. 29. Since returning in October following a three-week injury layoff, Pulisic has lost playing time to 18-year-old English midfielder Jadon Sancho.

“At the moment it hasn’t been going the best for him, and I think that’s when guys really can show their qualities, just how they endure through times like this,” Berhalter said. “And we talked about that.”

After training at Carson, California, each winter since 2004, the U.S. is moving its January camp 120 miles south to Chula Vista, near San Diego.

The roster:

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto), Sean Johnson (New York City), Tyler Miller (LA), Zack Steffen (Columbus)

Defenders: Reggie Cannon (Dallas), Greg Garza (Cincinnati), Justen Glad (Salt Lake), Nick Lima (San Jose), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia), Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia), Walker Zimmerman (LA)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado), Paul Arriola (D.C.), Corey Baird (Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto), Russell Canouse (D.C.), Marky Delgado (Toronto), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago), Cristian Roldan (Seattle), Wil Trapp (Columbus)

Forwards: Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland), Christian Ramirez (LA), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus).

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Steffen wins USMNT award; Speaks on Man City transfer

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Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen has been named U.S. Soccer’s Male Athlete of the Year.

The longtime Columbus Crew backstop, who will be with the club until summer, was the 2018 Major League Soccer Goalkeeper of the Year.

[ MORE: Zlatan a new DP with Galaxy ]

For country, Steffen earned his first six USMNT caps. One of those was a stunning performance in a 1-1 draw against France.

Steffen, 23, says he’s honored to be among the list of award winners in USMNT history.

He also talked about his upcoming move to Man City, via USSoccer.com:

“They’re a top-five team in the world – if not the best right now. I’m well aware of how good Ederson is, and I know I need to grow and get better in a lot of different areas. But my mentality is that when I get over there, I want to play. I’m really highly motivated to get the most out of these next six months in Columbus, and hopefully with the national team. I’m going to really push myself so that when I get to Manchester next summer, I’m that much more confident and prepared.”

Alex Mendez won the Young Male Player of the Award award, and like Steffen he’ll leave the U.S. for a new club in 2019.

The LA Galaxy product, 18, scored a goal with three assists for LA Galaxy II in the USL this season, and will join Freiburg — Steffen’s former club — in January.

Mendez will star for the U.S. U-20s at the World Cup in Poland this summer after appearing in 13 matches for the team this year.

U.S. Soccer provided this list of previous award winners.

Year Male Player of the Year Young Male Player of the Year
2018 Zack Steffen Alex Mendez
2017 Christian Pulisic Josh Sargent
2016 Jozy Altidore (2) Christian Pulisic
2015 Michael Bradley Matt Miazga
2014 Tim Howard (2) DeAndre Yedlin
2013 Jozy Altidore Wil Trapp
2012 Clint Dempsey (3) Rubio Rubin
2011 Clint Dempsey (2) Brek Shea
2010 Landon Donovan (4) Gale Agbossoumonde
2009 Landon Donovan (3) Luis Gil
2008 Tim Howard Sacha Kljestan
2007 Clint Dempsey Michael Bradley
2006 Oguchi Onyewu Jozy Altidore
2005 Kasey Keller (3) Benny Feilhaber
2004 Landon Donovan (2) Eddie Johnson
2003 Landon Donovan Freddy Adu
2002 Brad Friedel Bobby Convey
2001 Earnie Stewart DaMarcus Beasley
2000 Chris Armas Landon Donovan
1999 Kasey Keller (2) Ben Olsen
1998 Cobi Jones Josh Wolff
1997 Kasey Keller
1996 Eric Wynalda
1995 Alexi Lalas
1994 Marcelo Balboa (2)
1993 Thomas Dooley
1992 Marcelo Balboa
1991 Hugo Perez
1990 Tab Ramos
1989 Mike Windischmann
1988 Peter Vermes
1987 Brent Goulet
1986 Paul Caligiuri
1985 Perry Van der Beck
1984 Rick Davis

So which domestic players will be in Berhalter’s first USMNT call-ups?

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The amount of players called up to USMNT camps has varied in the last few seasons.

Jurgen Klinsmann called up 23 in 2016 during World Cup qualifying, Bruce Arena opted for 32 in 2017 as he evaluated who could help him right the ship, and Dave Sarachan rang in 30 players last January.

[ MORE: Berhalter introduced by USSF ]

It’s likely new boss Gregg Berhalter is going to look at 30-32 players for the usually domestic-based January camp which will lead up to a Jan. 27 meeting with Panama in Arizona.

That’s not to say Berhalter couldn’t ask permission for some European-based players who are B-teamers or relatively unused abroad (Keaton Parks, Aron Johannsson, Timmy Chandler, Jonathan Klinsmann), but this will be MLS heavy.

Let’s begin with the relatively obvious… and imagine the MLS names who were called up last month alongside the European stars will be a part of Berhalter’s plans.

That means Brad Guzan, Jorge Villafana, Reggie Cannon, Aaron Long, Marky Delgado, Sebastian Lletget, Wil Trapp, and Kellyn Acosta.

Zack Steffen and Walker Zimmerman are expected to seal January deals to Europe, so we’ll abstain from considering them in our 30.

Next, the top season performers in MLS. Crew forward Gyasi Zardes was the highest-scoring American player in MLS and did it under Berhalter’s tutelage, so it would say something about the player and coach if he wasn’t invited to camp.

Dom Dwyer was the second-leading American scorer in MLS — the only two Yanks in the Top 25 — while Teal Bunbury (26th), Chris Wondolowski (35th), Fafa Picault (36th), Christian Ramirez (44th) are in the Top 50.

You added correctly; Only six Americans were in the Top 50 for goal scoring in MLS.

It gets worse with assists. Cristian Roldan was the leading American playmaker with nine, good for 33rd in the league. Paul Arriola (37th), Sean Davis (40th), Miguel Ibarra (41st), Chris Mueller (48th) round out the Top 50.

There were plenty of very decent goalkeeping performances, as pretty much every top backstop this side of Andre Blake is American. Stefan Frei, Evan Bush, David Bingham, and Steffen were pretty good. Nick Rimando is a vet to the program, and Bill Hamid is sure to hear his name.

Anyone who’s read this site knows I love the advanced stats site WhoScored, and it’s MLS player rankings for Americans regurgitates plenty of the above names but tosses in some others: Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Keegan Rosenberry, Tim Parker, Russell Canouse, Edgar Castillo, Matt Hedges, Steve Birnbaum, and Nick Lima.

Other non-traditional calendar followers include Denmark, where Jonathan Amon plies his trade, and South Korea (remember Mix Diskerud? He was often linked with the Crew, but this still seems a long shot).

Also called up in the past year from MLS and still active? Ben Sweat, Alex Bono, Justin Morrow, Matt Polster, Danilo Acosta, Justen Glad, Darlington Nagbe, Kelyn Rowe, Marlon Hairston, Ian Harkes, Brooks Lennon, Juan Agudelo.

Finally, the young bucks… Unless I’m blanking, no one above is under the age of 23 except for Cannon. Every camp has its kids, and the Yanks just had some serious and proud representation at U-20 World Cup qualification. Philadelphia’s Mark McKenzie (CB), Paxton Pomykal (CM), and Jaylin Lindsey (LB/RB) are interesting for this.

So let’s try… for 30-32. Veteran heavy.

Goalkeepers (4): Guzan, Hamid, Bono, Klinsmann

Defenders (10): Long, Parker, Rosenberry, Birnbaum, Lima, Cannon, Villafana, Glad, McKenzie, Lennon

Midfielders (11): Canouse, Trapp, Michael Bradley, Romain Gall, Davis, Roldan, Arriola, Lletget, Delgado, K. Acosta, Nagbe

Forwards (5): Jozy Altidore, Amon, Zardes, Dwyer, Mueller