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The USMNT year-in-review: Eleven matches, many questions

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The calendar year has not ended for the United States men’s national team, even if its playing slate concluded Tuesday with a 1-0 stoppage time loss to Italy in Belgium.

E(Bring on Berhalter, because it’s reportedly too late for anyone else).

[ MORE: USSF announces Player of Year finalists ]

The USMNT’s schedule this season was daunting, a visit from Bolivia the closest thing to a walkover and away matches to France, England, and Italy.

Interim coach Dave Sarachan finished his run with three wins, five losses, and four draws — all but one coming in 2018 — the most notable results being a draw with France prior to Les Bleus winning the World Cup and a win over Mexico in Tennessee courtesy of Tyler Adams.

Its leading goal scorer was Bobby Wood, and Josh Sargent was the only other player to score more than once. The other goal scorers were Tim Weah, Julian Green, Tyler Adams, and Kellyn Acosta.

Jan. 28 — USMNT 0-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina — Ike Opara was our Man of the Match in a drab affair to start the year.

March 27 — USMNT 1-0 Paraguay — A Wood penalty before half time was earned by Adams and set up by Marky Delgado. Adams had his strongest performance in a U.S. shirt, and the Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga pairing was promising at the heart of the defense. Wil Trapp was also quite good.

May 28 — USMNT 3-0 Bolivia — Zimmerman, Sargent, and Weah were part of an extremely encouraging rollover of an inferior opponent.

June 2 — Republic of Ireland 2-1 USMNT — Wood scored in first half stoppage to give the Yanks a surprising lead, but disappointing errors from Bill Hamid and Miazga allowed the hosts to snare a 90th minute win.

June 9 — France 1-1 USMNT — Green’s 44th minute goal was nice, but this was Zack Steffen’s coming-out party. That said, was it even the Yanks’ best goalkeeper performance of the year. Ask Tuesday.

Sept. 7 — USMNT 0-2 Brazil — Roberto Firmino and Neymar scored first half goals, but this moment was not too big for the  young Yanks (even if it was a case of not being experienced enough to know “their place”).

Sept. 11 — USMNT 1-0 Mexico — Tyler Adams’ 71st minute goal from an Antonee Robinson feed was a nice moment for the Yanks. Miazga’s taunting of Diego Lainez may have not been classy, but it was a moment for the future of the USMNT-El Tri rivalry.

Oct. 11 — USMNT 2-4 Colombia — Acosta and Wood scored after halftime to give the Americans a stunning 2-1 lead, but Los Cafeteros very much restored order. It was one to forget on the whole, but Acosta and Weah showed glimpses of what could be.

Oct. 16 — USMNT 1-1 Peru — Sargent looked set for his first match-winning goal in an American shirt, but DeAndre Yedlin lost track of Edison Flores in the 86th to nullify what should’ve been a fine day for Sarachan through youngsters Weah and Sargent.

Nov. 15 — England 3-0 USMNT — Let’s just pretend this didn’t happen. One of the worst halves of Christian Pulisic’s U.S. tenure led into an improved-for-him-but-pretty-much-no-one-else second.

Nov. 20 — Italy 1-0 USMNT (in Belgium) — The Yanks close off their season by wasting a prime performance from Ethan Horvath, with Sebastian Lletget losing track of Inter Milan youngster Matteo Politano on a stoppage time goal.

So what did we learn, huh?

— Well, there are still major questions as to who is going to line up next to John Brooks, whether in a back three or four, for the next run of World Cup qualifying.

— And what about in goal? Ethan Horvath has made a claim to the job presumably heading to Zack Steffen, and either goalkeeper could literally spend the better part of a decade in the job.

— DeAndre Yedlin was once presumed the right back for the next decade, but his performances in a USMNT shirt have been haphazard at best. Can a new coach get him in line with his performances for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle, or might Reggie Cannon or Shaq Moore be in play.

— The U.S. still doesn’t have an experienced left back, and perhaps this will all be about Antonee Robinson learning on the job (though Moore was perfectly fine playing out-of-position against Italy).

— Is it two center mids or three, and is Michael Bradley coming back into the fold?Because Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are penciled in for a while, and Kellyn Acosta has had fits and starts. Wil Trapp clearly also has a fan club in the USMNT hierarchy, and his club head coach is probably getting the job. So…. 4-1-4-1?

— Here’s something we already knew: This team goes as far as Christian Pulisic takes them.

— If Josh Sargent doesn’t start getting more meaningful playing time and Bobby Wood keeps living on his plateau, then you’re gonna be real mad when Jozy Altidore is striker No. 1 next summer.

Tite praises Klopp, set to experiment playing Liverpool style

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Jurgen Klopp probably never thought his formation and attacking style would influence the famous Brazilian National Team, but it appears he has.

[READ: Calls for new USMNT head coach grow]

Speaking to the media ahead of Brazil’s friendly match with Uruguay in London at the Emirates Stadium on Friday, Brazil manager Tite praised both Klopp and Liverpool striker Roberto Firmino, who seems set to take the No. 9 role permanently from Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus.

“Klopp does an extraordinary job, it’s beautiful to see them play, especially on the counter,” Tite said. “Even losing players like (Philippe) Coutinho, (Klopp) maintains the high level and reorganizes the team.”

After playing a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 at the World Cup with Jesus at the top, Tite is taking these last two friendlies of 2018 to experiment playing a front three in the mold of Klopp, with Firmino dropping back to connect with the midfield, allowing the two wide players to cut inside and make runs forward at the defense. In Brazil’s version of Klopp’s Liverpool, Neymar figures to be in Sadio Mane‘s left wing position while Douglas Costa will start on the right wing.

“If you bring Firmino, he plays inside the area and goes out to make smart combinations,” Tite said in a separate interview. “They call it false 9, but for me it’s true 9.”

One of the drawbacks of this is that while Firmino likes to drop back and combine, so does Neymar, which could leave not enough targets forward, or could be perfect with Marcelo overlapping on the left wing. Between Neymar and Firmino, the pair will have to communicate to decide who is dropping and who is drifting out wide or holding the line up top to create spaces in midfield for one of the two to connect and create.

Liverpool loses late lead at Arsenal

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  • Gunners with 62 percent of the ball
  • Shot attempts 13-12 for Reds
  • Milner opens scoring
  • Lacazette levels late

Alexandre Lacazette turned a charging Alisson Becker inside out, then curled a ball inside the far post to give Arsenal a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

James Milner‘s 62nd minute goal looked set to give the Reds all three points, but Liverpool’s lead atop the table is only a point before Man City plays Sunday.

Arsenal stays fourth with 23 points, but would fall behind Spurs if their North London rivals beat Wolves later Saturday.

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The host came charging out of the gates, attacking the right side of Liverpool’s defense. Alisson Becker made a fine stop as Alexandre Lacazette raced to the near post.

Joe Gomez conceded a corner with a fine block on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alisson rescued a training ground corner kick routine which was mishit by Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The Armenian captain came close to turning a cross inside the post, but his header drifted wide of the far post.

Liverpool’s first real chance went in the back of the net, but Sadio Mane was offside when he potted the rebound of a Roberto Firmino shot.

Bernd Leno then made a nice stop on a marauding Virgil Van Dijk, and Leno stopped an Andy Robertson rip a minute later.

Arsenal had a goal of itself pulled back for offside when Lacazette headed home in the 40th.

Van Dijk headed off the goal post just before the break.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Leno couldn’t collect Sadio Mane’s cross in the 62nd minute, and Milner belted it behind the Arsenal goalkeeper.

Becker tipped Lucas Torreira‘s shot over the goal 80 seconds later as Arsenal bid to level the score, and Liverpool dealt well with the ensuing corner kick.

Lacazette turned and shot a side-panel wonder in the 83rd minute to set-up a grandstand finish.

Mane came within inches and a deflection of giving the Reds another lead within a minute.

Hector Bellerin tried his luck in the 88th, but missed the frame.

Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. Liverpool

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  • Arsenal is without the suspended Matteo Guendouzi, while Mohamed Elneny (thigh), Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) and Dinos Mavropanos (groin) are injured. There are also doubts over Nacho Monreal (hamstring), Hector Bellerin (thigh), Sokratis (ankle) and Sead Kolasinac (hamstring), who all face late fitness tests.  
  • Lverpool midfielders Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita (both hamstring) will miss the trip to London. 
  • The last five PL meetings between these teams have produced 27 goals, an average of 5.4 per match.
  • Arsenal is looking for its first PL victory over Liverpool in seven attempts (D3 L3). This is Arsenal’s longest such run against the Reds since a sequence of 12 between 1994 and 2000

Two of the Premier League’s best attacks face off as Arsenal host Liverpool in the biggest match of the Premier League weekend (Watch live on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Despite dealing with injuries all season, Liverpool’s offense is finding its best form, with eight goals in its last two games in all competitions, including a trio of goals each from Sadio Mane and Mohamad Salah. The pair, along with Roberto Firmino will provide a great test to Unai Emery‘s rickety defense, which allowed two penalty kick goals last week against Crystal Palace.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

It’s a game that should be high on action and goals and low on slow, defensive play. A true treat for all us Premier League fans.

What they’re saying?

Arsenal manager Unai Emery on facing the top 6 sides: “We want to write a new history. The new history is in the present and also, with our players, our quality and our capacity, I believe in my players and this project. We are starting this project with a very positive way with what we are doing. We are in our mentality that we also need to improve thing but each match they are giving us a lot of information for improvement and development and I trust in my players.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the recent goal-scoring run: “We created a lot of chances before that as well, apart from the Napoli game and maybe the City game, where there were not a lot of chances at both ends of the pitch. But we created, we only didn’t score. As long as you create, as a manager you should not be in doubt about finishing because the players don’t change overnight or over a week or month or over a season. They are the same boys; there’s always the chance to improve and develop, of course, but you have to respect that there can be a few drops as well.”

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Prediction

Both teams defenses have improved since the two teams last met, but with so much attacking power on display, we expect there to be plenty of highlight-reel moments. We predict it’s going to be a replay of last year’s matchup at the Emirates, with goals from Salah, Mane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool

Loving the idea of Berhalter for USMNT, but hating the process

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Let’s get the ugly out of the way early: The appearance of nepotism is garbage, and U.S. Soccer will have made the latest of several ego-driven, tone deaf, unforced errors if and when it announces the hiring of Gregg Berhalter without having spoken with a number of top candidates.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day ]

It’s only going to look like they had their guy all along, the brother of the federation’s chief commercial officer Jay Berhalter, and that their new general manager either wasn’t allowed to conduct a full interview process or hire a new USMNT manager without his hand being held.

Again, that’s probably not what happened, but U.S. Soccer not caring how it looks shows that very little’s changed since Sunil Gulati left office channeling Gordon Bombay’s “quarter of an inch” logic.

So, again, U.S. Soccer didn’t interview Tata Martino, who may be off for the Mexican gig, and that knowledge triggered a pretty healthy discussion on Twitter with the knowledge that Sporting KC mastermind Peter Vermes, 2016 MLS Coach of the Year Oscar Pareja, RB Leipzig assistant Jesse Marsch, and former El Tri boss Juan Carlos Osorio also were not interviewed. Doug McIntyre adds ex-USMNT coach Bob Bradley and longtime U-20 boss Tab Ramos to the list.

Assuming the reports are all true, that’s a problem. It also doesn’t mean that Berhalter isn’t a good, if not great, candidate for the job (and maybe Stewart was hired after saying, “I’d take Gregg as my No. 1 guy.”)

The 45-year-old knows the importance of both testing himself overseas and keeping himself sharp in MLS, having player in the Netherlands, England, and Germany before finishing his career with the Galaxy.

In management, he got his start assisting Bruce Arena before taking a head job in Sweden and losing just 11 of 46 matches for Hammarby.

Moving to Columbus in 2013, he’s led the a team which has never spent much to supply a team under his eye. According to Spotrac, the Crew have spent the 22nd (2018), 17th, 17th, 13th, and 17th most dollars on player salaries in the league. Here’s how those teams performed in the league:

That’s outstanding, and when you throw in the fact that he’s done that with the distraction of owner Anthony Precourt at times literally trying to keep fans from making the stands look full for a playoff game so he could engineer a move to Austin? Insane!

Even if Columbus loses on Sunday and is passed by Montreal for a playoff spot, that’s still impressive.

You could reasonably argue that fans should want his hire as much as any other American candidate and many from outside the continent, too. Shoot, as long as an interview doesn’t drop where Berhalter claims an MLS All Star Team would dominate the top tiers of England, Germany, Spain, and Italy, and that Gyasi Zardes is like-for-like with Roberto Firmino

Anyway… what I’m saying is there would be plenty of reasons to be excited with the Berhalter hire, who has show he knows when to drop off and defend and when to lay his foot on the pedal. There are only two things to really dislike about him, and one assumes Martino is off to Mexico.

  1. Berhalter is 0-4 against Martino in MLS play
  2. Unfortunately we hearken back to the top of the post, and the knowledge that the USSF will have put its new boss in a precarious position amongst its supporters and “shareholders.”

It won’t change how Berhalter does his job — the guy looks like he’d rather chew through a 2×4 than deal with speculation — but it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the other aspects of how the federation has dealt with an improbable World Cup qualifying failure in one of the most forgiving confederations on Earth.

Then again, maybe they’ll announce Zinedine Zidane on Nov. 1. What do we know?