Zack Steffen

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Americans Abroad: Weekend Roundup

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It was a slower weekend for Americans abroad, although there were a few who contributed to their club’s at some noteworthy capacity.

One of those was Lynden Gooch, who registered his third goal for Sunderland in League One this season. Elsewhere in England, Christian Pulisic, for a first time this season, didn’t take the field as new-look Chelsea battered Wolverhampton Wanderers 5-2.

Over in Mexico, Rubio Rubin scored for second-division side Dorados, while in Germany Julian Green and Terrence Boyd added to their accounts yet again.

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — Pulisic made Frank Lampard‘s bench, but did not play in Chelsea’s triumphant victory against Wolves. Is it time to worry about the Pennsylvania native’s lack of playing time? Absolutely not.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — The fullback returned to training following a serious groin injury. There’s no timeline on his return yet, however.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic — Robinson is a fixture at Wigan. The left back started and went all 90 minutes for the Latics in their 2-2 draw with Hull City.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old is out with a hamstring injury. There’s no timeline on his return.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The Tigers captain  featured all 90 minutes in Hull’s 2-2 draw with Wigan on Saturday.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender was left on the bench in QPR’s 3-2 win over Luton Town.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 90 minutes in Fulham’s 1-1 draw with West Brom on Saturday.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stoke City (loan Tottenham Hotspur) — The Potters might be in shambles, but Carter-Vickers keeps adding minutes. On Saturday, he started and played 90 minutes in Stoke City’s 2-1 loss to Bristol City.

Duane Holmes, Derby County — On Friday, the 24-year-old midfielder played 81 minutes in Derby’s 1-1 draw with Cardiff City.

Bundesliga

Weston McKennie, Schalke —  McKennie came off the bench and played 28 minutes in Schalke’s 5-1 victory on Sunday, his first minutes since his start against Mexico with the men’s national team.

Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen started and played all 90 minutes in Fortuna Dusseldorf’s 1-1 draw with Wolfsburg on Friday. Morales, on the hand, did not dress.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  Following a goal-scoring performance, Sargent came off the bench and played 22 minutes for Werder Bremen in their 2-1 victory over Union Berlin.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach Johnson didn’t make Borussia Monchengladbach’s 18 in their 1-0 win over Koln on Saturday.

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — The fullback started and played all 90 minutes in Eintracht Frankfurt’s 2-1 loss against Augsburg.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams remains inactive with a groin injury. There’s no timeline on his return.

Eredivisie

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — Another positive shift from Wright. On Saturday, the 21-year-old started and played 70 minutes in VVV-Venlo’s 2-1 win over FC Groningen.

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Fresh off international duty, Dest dressed but didn’t play in Ajax’s 4-1 thumping of Heerenveen.

Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — The U-23 MNT fullback was left out of FC Emmen’s 18 this weekend. 

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah remains sidelined with a muscular injury. There’s no timeline on his return.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — On Saturday, the Washington D.C. native featured for 74 minutes in Rennes’ 0-0 draw with Brest.

Honorable Mentions:

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland – England’s League One isn’t a world-class league by any means, but the Californian continues to leave his mark. On Saturday, the 23-year-old scored his third goal of the season in the Black Cats’ 3-1 win over Accrington Stanley. Not bad, Gooch.

Julian Green, Greuther Furth – On Friday, the 24-year-old midfielder played all 90 minutes and scored in Greuther Furth’s 2-1 win over Wehen Wiesbaden. That’s three goals in six games for Green this season in Germany’s second division.

Terrence Boyd, Hallescher – Germany’s third-tier league is resulting to be too easy for Boyd, apparently. The forward scored two goals against Ingolstad on Sunday, making it his fourth and fifth of a young season.

Rubio Rubin, Dorados de Sinaloa – Rubin was the difference for Dorados on Friday night. After coming off the bench, the scored the goal that earned the Sinaloa-based team a 1-1 draw against Correcaminos.

What is the Best XI for USMNT?

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We haven’t been able to enjoy the USMNT at full strength for some time, regardless of player choice.

Key pieces were injured at the Gold Cup and others haven’t been called up as favors to their clubs, as Gregg Berhalter navigates the international soccer world for the first time.

For instance, one of the reasons not to panic over this poor international break was the absence of Tyler Adams, John Brooks, Matt Miazga, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley amongst others.

[ MORE: USMNT’s first year with Berhalter ]

We’ve asked our staff to gaze into a crystal ball where all players are healthy and available, and deliver their USMNT Best XIs.

An important note: We are playing the role of GM/coach here. Berhalter, like any manager, has shown a propensity to favor certain players that others wouldn’t select. In some of these players’ instances, not one of our writers would select them for duty.

We will, however, stick with his preferred formation because he would not be budging from it if he had his full complement of pieces.

Joe Prince-Wright‘s Best USMNT XI

JPW

Couple of surprises here, as Joe opts for Stoke City center back Cameron Carter-Vickers over Matt Miazga or Aaron Long, and plays Brad Guzan ahead of Zack Steffen. There’s no room for Michael Bradley, with Tyler Adams taking his spot and making room for Sergino Dest at right back.

Nick Mendola’s USMNT Best XI

This was a difficult one for me, especially once I decided that if we’re sticking with Berhalter’s formation, then I need to put Tyler Adams in his coach’s preferred spot. Steffen is just ahead of Ethan Horvath here, and would not be had Club Brugge not bought Simon Mignolet short-circuit the 24-year-old’s playing time.

I’d like to see Tim Ream in a back two with Brooks, but both are left-sided pieces and Miazga is doing really well at Reading when healthy. I’m giving Antonee Robinson the left back spot for now because he’s No. 1 at Wigan and prefers left back (Sergino Dest is an easy plug-in if we’re allowed to play Adams at CM).

The most difficult decision was left wing and center forward. We just haven’t seen Tim Weah in some time, but that’s not enough to take him out of the XI if healthy. The same is true for Jozy Altidore, who remains the side’s best finisher even if he butchered a chance to score versus Mexico in the Gold Cup Final. Jordan Morris’ rebirth would make it easy to dismiss Weah or Altidore, but for now I’m holding off.

I need Lletget at center attacking mid because McKennie isn’t yet the playmaker needed for that spot. Morales over McKennie might be the call in an immediate “must win,” but McKennie is the guy long-term. This is almost an empathy play, because I was so slow to appreciate Lletget. Julian Green should get a look there, too, at some point, but if Berhalter’s hasn’t rung up the Greuther Furth man by now, is he ever going to value him enough for a look?

Kyle Bonn’s USMNT Best XI

Kyle is counting on DeAndre Yedlin to return to his 2017-18 form and allow Adams to move up the pitch. He’s also not been moved by Long’s terrible international break and is keeping him No. 2 in the center back pool. Dest is Kyle’s answer for the left back problem, at least for now.

Daniel Karell’s USMNT Best XI

Dan omits Michael Bradley for Adams, and plugs Dest in at right back. Long maintains his place, while 28-year-old Greg Garza’s problematic calf isn’t a problem in this exercise.

Joel Soria’s Best USMNT XI

Joel also likes Carter-Vickers next to Brooks, and helps the English-American CB with Premier League experience to his right in Yedlin. Like Johnny Cash, Joel is going to Jackson — San Jose’s Jackson Yueill — to link Adams to the attackers.

USMNT heading into end of Berhalter’s first year

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Preface: This is a long preface to a forthcoming Q&A and Best XI roundtable with the PST staff, inspired by a pretty passionate staff meeting on Wednesday.

Gregg Berhalter actually has more time to mess around with the USMNT than any manager in recent history, and that’s not a veiled shot at the federation hierarchy.

Winning Gold Cups and the CONCACAF Nations League would be great, and we’d love to see Jason Kreis’ U-23 men deliver a rare Olympic appearance and success, but the gold standard for the USMNT remains its performance in the World Cup.

Even a still-growing soccer culture like the American one should sleepwalk into a World Cup with adequate management, but we’ve seen failure is not an impossible when Jurgen Klinsmann and later Bruce Arena combined to give other teams a chance at their spot.

[ MORE: USMNT-Uruguay recapPlayer ratings ]

Qualifying is going to be come an after thought in just one more cycle when the field grows ahead of the 2026 tournament, and the 2022 World Cup qualification process is a bit easier for CONCACAF’s powers.

The Hexagonal remains as the final stage of qualifying for a World Cup, but the Hex members will not have to participate in a fourth round in order to advance to the stage. FIFA instead will give new responsibility to its Nations League.

The six teams to qualify for the Hex will be based on FIFA ratings, a heavy shot to any country not named Mexico and the Unites States (and, perhaps, Costa Rica). Not only are the FIFA ratings far from ideal, it’s a rarity that teams other than aforementioned three are in the Top 40.

Average rankings since start of FIFA system

Mexico: 15
USA: 21
Costa Rica: 45
Honduras: 55
Jamaica: 60
Trinidad and Tobago: 67
Canada: 80
Panama: 89
El Salvador: 93

There’s one more step for the fourth place team after the Hex, which sees three teams qualify for the World Cup. The fourth place team previously would meet a playoff team from another confederation for a berth in the World Cup, but now has to face the “champion” of teams ranked 7th and lower in CONCACAF in a pre-playoff playoff.

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

All of this is to say Berhalter’s job, overly-simplified, is:

  1. Qualify for the World Cup
  2. Reach the final of all CONCACAF competitions
  3. Look like an adequate footballing nation in other competitions
  4. Make sure he doesn’t lose any talented dual nationals (also the GM’s job)

This is an awfully long runway to say that Berhalter’s USMNT is still a solid year away from playing a match that truly affects Goal No. 1 (The rankings used are from June 2020, and the Hex games will not begin until September).

No. 2 involves beating Cuba twice and taking at least four of six points from Canada over the next four months. The former should be straight-forward. The latter a challenge (especially if this group is tasked with stopping Alphonso Davies and Co.).

No. 3, so far, is a resounding meh. The Yanks have beaten a bunch of B-teams and then Jamaica and Ecuador. They’ve lost to literally everyone of consequence besides draws versus the B-plus teams of Chile and Uruguay (the latter coming Tuesday).

He has eight wins, four losses and two draws. The wins are over Panama (2x), Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Curacao, and Jamaica. The losses: Mexico (2x), Jamaica, Venezuela.

Home-and-away CNL matches against Cuba and Canada will finish his first year in charge.

As for job objective No. 3, the pressing matter is one Sergino Dest. The Ajax right back made his USMNT debut this international break, switched to the left side — he’s played some there as a youth, but almost exclusively on the right — in order to, we guess, see if he can be the answer to a USMNT question that goes back to DaMarcus Beasley’s defensive prime.

That’s actually okay, provided Berhalter let Dest know the objective. We have to assume that’s the case, because using him at left back in the “system” which utilizes center midfielder Tyler Adams as a right back would be an dramatic waste of pace and creativity.

Ultimately, that’s why the bad performances cause so much consternation amongst USMNT supporters. Berhalter is a good coach, but his management has been baffling from the outside looking into camp.

Berhalter believes he can “Herb Brooks” an amazing team out of components. He needs results to boost anyone’s confidence that’s possible, and is not getting them. Trusting the process is difficult when there hasn’t been a hat-hanging moment from a very protected schedule of fixtures.

We also have to note that the USMNT, not one of the deepest pools in the world by any stretch of the imagination, was without John Brooks, Matt Miazga, Adams, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and DeAndre Yedlin for both matches of this break, and lost Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Alfredo Morales, and Zack Steffen for the second.

Perhaps the overall American soccer community bears some responsibility for this, treating the process like blooding youth and ignoring experience is the way to get the job done.

That’s what cuts so deep about the USMNT problem, which is shared by so few countries in the world: The Yanks obviously aren’t a side like Germany, Brazil or even England, where the next player up is going to be guaranteed adequate during the experimentation process.

The question is whether they are more like Panama or Costa Rica, who are going to call in effective players regardless of whether there’s a 3 at the start of their age or not. Whataboutism is brutal, but shoot, if we’re going to spend two years and use every advanced stat we can find to berate Jurgen Klinsman for not calling up 30-year-old Benny Feilhaber and his 1 assist in 40 caps, then perhaps it’s fitting we discuss Bundesliga and Championship starters not getting called up in positions of weakness (Fabian Johnson, Eric Lichaj).

And, honestly, I want my national team to be one who takes a look at short-term solutions and in-form players. For example — and this is going to make a lot of people yell — if Berhalter is going to call up the 150th best player in MLS on a regular basis, can he put the same league trust in a 28-year-old having the best season of any American in the domestic league? For every 500-word think piece on Andrew Carleton when he’s 17 and how he projects, maybe trust information if it tells you a slightly older guy might be onto something?

Familiarity and “my guys” is a concept a lot of coaches choose, but let’s look at the 2019 seasons of the following wide men. Three were called up by Berhalter, while the fourth is the above-named player (via WhoScored’s comparison tool).

Moving on, consider this very basic exercise as simply an observation. Look at the players by their FIFA ratings (thanks, USMNT Only).

Getting past the hilarious 69 put on Timothy Weah and a pretty lofty 76 handed to DeAndre Yedlin, the names still in gold half-inspire this question: Should the American national team be ignoring players based on age?

For now, and at the Gold Cup, that’s okay. But the question is where are we as a nation? Fabian Johnson is 31 and Darlington Nagbe 29, but is it fair to completely rule them out of the fold due to perceived attitude and age? And should

Let’s leave Pulisic, Bradley, McKennie, Altidore, and any injured players out of the equation and ask the difference, if any, between these two sides in a theoretical match right now (Hint: It’s not about league).

Two notes: This assumes every player is convinced to accept a call-up, as Darlington Nagbe isn’t loving the Berhalter era and several vets would require a conversation.

Also, It was very hard to find a striker for the second squad with Sargent and Zardes in camp while Altidore is excused to be with Toronto FC. Thinnnnnnn….

Tuesday’s Starters vs. Uruguay

Guzan

Cannon — Long — Ream — Dest

Yueill

Lletget — Roldan

Boyd — Sargent — Morris

– versus –

Wood

  Johnson — Green — Pomykal

 Nagbe — Cameron

Robinson — Opara  — Birnbaum  — Lichaj

Horvath

Unused/uncalled XI

All of the above theoretical exercises are merely fueled by the end of a painful international break — both in results and activity, so thanks for coming back club soccer — but the fact that it isn’t a “Yeah, clearly the team that started would’ve won” situation should say something, and it’s also why we still really don’t know where we are with Berhalter Ball one year into the project.

Three things from USMNT 1-1 Uruguay

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The United States men’s national team rallied for a late goal, its first in 262 minutes, to save Gregg Berhalter’s program the blushes that would’ve come with losing to Mexico’s A-minus and Uruguay’s B team in successive weeks.

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

The Yanks struggled for large swaths of the 1-1 draw, but did have some bright showings from some veteran players and a Uruguayan teen who is going to give MLS defenses a lot of problems on LAFC’s run towards an MLS Cup.

Rodriguez shows DP credentials as Long struggles for 2nd-straight match

Brian Rodriguez is new to LAFC, the club who seemingly cannot stop signing excellent young talent, but his first goal on American soil was not in MLS play.

A lightning quick counter sent the 19-year-old 1v1 with Aaron Long, and Rodriguez sent the New York Red Bulls center back out for beer and peanuts.

Long’s mauling style at center back has been his strength, and helped shoot him up the USMNT pecking order and even had him sought by West Ham United.

But Long was also cooked on a transition goal against Mexico in addition to being slow to react to Tecatito’s roasting of Sergino Dest on El Tri’s first goal.

The Red Bulls man’s passing numbers are poor in MLS, and he’s not a possession-first player. He’s there to bail his team out through tackling and win balls. Neither happened too often this international break.

Poor field plus second-choice players leads to devalued product

The U.S. Soccer Federation cannot control whether Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez report for Uruguay duty when they announce that the CONMEBOL side is coming to St. Louis, and it has only a little bit more say whether Christian Pulisic, Zack Steffen, and Weston McKennie stick around for both matches of a break.

What the more than half-empty — at least from the television camera side — tells us about this friendly is that fans weren’t clamoring to head a baseball field despite two St. Louis-born players in the team.

You have to wonder what slipping all over a turf-covered baseball field might say to Sergino Dest, a dual national used to playing on pristine surfaces in Europe with Ajax.

Was this the last time we’ll ever see the well-decorated youth international in a USMNT shirt? Regardless of whether the questionable nature of playing on a goofy pitch plays in the role, it would be an odd subplot of an uneasy international break.

And more basic than Dest’s feelings, the product was crap in those areas of the field. Maybe we just need our own Wembley in Kansas City, as was once discussed.

  • That said, what a great moment for Josh Sargent in his hometown

Before Josh Sargent was getting minutes at center forward as a teenager at Werder Bremen, he was a phenom playing ball in St. Louis.

As John Strong said on the broadcast, this field was where Sargent saw dozens of Cardinals games growing up.

Still a teenager for four months, Sargent was at the heart of what should’ve been a penalty against Jose Maria Gimenez for handball. He dropped well into the hear of the midfield to help in possession, and ran his shorts off (expected of a youngster, but not always observed).

Morris, Ream, Roldan rewarded with roles on late equalizer

There weren’t many stars for the USMNT on Tuesday, but the three brightest Americans all helped produce the goal to tie the score.

It took some luck — a fourth player, Nick Lima, had one cross blocked and got an assist when a ball deflected off him — but Ream’s spotting of Cristian Roldan got the ball to Lima, and Morris built on a solid sub role on Friday with a body goal at the back post.

Roldan had probably his best game in a USMNT shirt, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that the Seattle midfielder’s job was based more on industry and energy than acute passes and playmaking.

In any event, he was good. Ream was very decent at center back when he wasn’t passing sideways (for whatever reason, he was inaccurate with those but not the tougher balls into the thick of Uruguay). And Morris is clearly back to the confidence and form we saw when he was a surprise call-up out of Stanford. A nice moment.

And is Ream the easy third-choice center back behind John Brooks and Matt Miazga? Or is he possibly No. 2?

USMNT player ratings from Uruguay draw

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The United States men’s national team did not shine in a 1-1 draw with Uruguay on Tuesday in St. Louis, but neither the hosts nor the visitors brought anything resembling an A-team to the party.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some decent entertainment along the way, and we’ll let you know who took their chance to stand out of a lesser soiree to get another look when the A-listers arrive at the front door.

Starting XI

Brad Guzan — 5 — The one-time surefire replacement for Tim Howard did nothing to say he should move up the pecking order, even in the wake of Zack Steffen‘s continued poor distribution choices in a U.S. shirt.

Reggie Cannon (Off 75′) — 6 — Just fine. Not a wide pest for the opposition as we’ve seen in the past, but he had to be a little more defensive with Long to his left.

Aaron Long (Off 65′) — 4 — A terrible international break for the Red Bulls star, who was front-and-center for three opposition goals in five days. Will the mauler rebound during the CONCACAF Nations League next month?

Tim Ream — 7 —  Ream was very good, bailing out Brad Guzan for first half spillage. Oddly enough, he made several incisive passes look easy — including one that led up to Morris’ goal — but sent Aaron Long running on easier sideways passes. Sports!

Sergino Dest (Off 70′) — 5 — Made his fair share of 18-year-old mistakes again but the flashes of brilliance, everyone, they are just… so… darn… bright. It will be a big blow for the USMNT if he ultimately chooses the Netherlands.

Jackson Yueill — 6 — Was neither incredible, nor poor, and hit a couple of eye-opening passes to free his wingers. But what he did do was show that we ought to see what he can do in the holding midfield role rather than keep giving 75-90 minute turns to Wil Trapp.

Cristian Roldan — 7 — Allowed to run his shorts off without the focus of acute attacking third responsibilities, the Sounders man probably had his best game in a U.S. shirt.

Sebastian Lletget — 7 — He’s better than most people realize, and delivered a number of creative passes and moments of vision which are becoming staples of his game. Hopefully we get the chance to see him interacting with a midfield including McKennie or Pulisic more often (or even show that he’s good enough centrally to keep Pulisic at his pulsating best position of wing).

Tyler Boyd (Off 65′) — 5 — A couple good crosses and 1v1 dribbles, but ultimately his sophomore call-up qualifies as a small slump.

Josh Sargent (Off 75′)  — 6 — The hometown hero did plenty of good at the ballpark of his favorite baseball team. Could’ve won a penalty if the referee used his eyes efficiently.

Jordan Morris (Off 85′)  — 7 (MOTM) — A really nice night for the Sounders star, who is working really well as a winger. Some terrific crosses and vision could’ve led to a goal before he bodied one home to tie the score late.

Jordan Morris scores past Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera . (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Substitutes

Corey Baird (On 65′) — 6 — Some decent moments on the wing, but still a mile away from being a starting-caliber option.

Miles Robinson (On 65′) — 6 — The Atlanta United youngster was barely troubled during his half-hour (ish) of time.

Daniel Lovitz (On 70′) — 6 — Same as Robinson.

Nick Lima (On 75′) — 7 — There are times when you think Nick Lima should be in a righteous fight with DeAndre Yedlin for starting right back status (when Berhalter isn’t using Tyler Adams in the spot), and Tuesday was one of them. Right place, right time for the late assist.

Gyasi Zardes (On 75′) — 6 — The anti-hero a national program needs. Yes, you’re in a lot of trouble if he’s your regular starting center forward, but he’s a match-up problem athletically and goes to the dirty areas to finish chances. Is there a place for him if Jozy Altidore, Josh Sargent, and Tim Weah are healthy? No, probably not (but he’ll be there).

Paxton Pomykal (On 85′) — n/a — Congrats on the debut, kid. Wish we could’ve seen more of you.