Daniel Karell

Veteran soccer journalist. Indiana University Class of 2012. BA in Journalism. Love my wife and dog.

Solskjaer bemoans poor Man United first half performance

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Manchester United seemed to be holding up strong defensively early as Manchester City attacked with the ball in the first leg of the League Cup semifinal on Tuesday.

Then, Bernardo Silva unleashed a moment of brilliance in the 17th minute, and for the next 28 minutes, Man United crumbled as Man City built up a 3-0 halftime lead.

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“From their goal until half-time, that is the worst that we have played,” Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “From the first goal to half-time we just could not cope with that setback. We were running in between. The pressure didn’t work and we let them play. Our heads dropped. We just made decisions that we should not do.”

Whatever the gameplan was, it appeared that either the players were incapable of executing it, or they lacked the ability to do so. Man City players constantly found time and space to turn and attack the Man United defense, and Man United struggled to string more than a few passes together at a time in the first half.

The team, even with Paul Pogba fit and in the lineup, lacks a strong, vocal leader like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes or Gary Neville to get everyone on the same page while on the field. Instead, as Solskjaer mentioned, players are dropping their heads and not pressuring the ball, leading to more goals.

After likely lighting into his team at halftime, Solskjaer said he did get a response from his team.

“That needed sorting at half-time… Someone needed to take the responsibility and we did that in the second half,” Solskjaer said. “When you come in at half-time with that result then pride is one word that you speak about. Make sure you win the second half and you are in the tie. Of course, it’s a difficult task that we have got in front of us but that second half at least gives us something to hang on to. After that second half, we have got something that we believe in.”

Klinsmann claims he could have taken USMNT to World Cup quarterfinals

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Time has a habit of blurring memories. So it’s perhaps within that context that it’s best to judge former U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s comments about the state of the USMNT, and what he said he could accomplish if he hadn’t been fired in 2016.

Now with Hertha Berlin on an interim basis and in Florida for a mid-season training camp, Klinsmann told ESPN that he believed had he been allowed to stay on as USMNT coach, he could have led the side to the quarterfinals, if not the semifinals in the 2018 World Cup. In reality, the USMNT began World Cup qualifying with two demoralizing defeats, leading to his dismissal after a year in which the cracks began showing. The U.S. mostly took care of business at home but couldn’t beat Costa Rica at home, and eventually the loss at Trinidad and Tobago, combined with other results, meant the U.S. missed out on the World Cup.

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“As I said, I’d take that team in Russia to the final eight, maybe even the final four because there was a building block there and there was a plan for it and the plan got interrupted and it got even more interrupted when the U.S. didn’t qualify for Russia,” Klinsmann told ESPN.

It’s hard to know what kind of plan Klinsmann is talking about. Sure, there was a plan to go to the World Cup, but it’s clear the players weren’t executing that plan. Whether because the game-by-game plans were inadequate or the players weren’t good enough, the “plan” wasn’t working. Remember, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones had to run over to the sidelines in the USMNT’s 2-1 defeat to Mexico because Klinsmann’s tactical plan was so convoluted. Most pundits believe that the first 30 minutes doomed the USMNT to the defeat.

Then, the U.S. went down to Costa Rica and got smashed, 4-0, in which it looked ill-prepared to deal with the heat, crowd, and CONCACAF-style tactics. So maybe Klinsmann would have recovered in 2017 and qualified the U.S. for the World Cup, but it’s certainly possible they could have continued to collapse and be out of the World Cup before the final matchday. That’s how bad it was.

Even if Klinsmann did get the USMNT to the World Cup, would Christian Pulisic have been enough to lead the team to the quarterfinals or further? The squad was in massive need of a refresh, but at the time no one had beaten out the likes of Jozy Altidore, Bradley, Jones, or Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez, among many others. And you can argue the current USMNT players in those positions aren’t playing much better than the ones they replaced.

Perhaps with time, Klinsmann has forgotten some of those harsh moments and remembers the good times. He still talks about how the U.S. emerged from the “Group of Death” at the 2014 World Cup – a good achievement but not one that was impossible – and a couple of good performances at the Gold Cup and Copa America Centenario.

But there’s no doubt that for all of Klinsmann’s positives, he helped put the U.S. on the path to where it is now. The sooner he understands that, the better.

Berhalter optimistic US will train in Qatar before World Cup


BRADENTON, Fla. — Having canceled a training camp in Qatar that was to have started this week, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter is optimistic his team will train in Doha at some point before that nation hosts the 2022 World Cup.

The American men planned to train at the Aspire Academy from Jan. 5-25, but the U.S. Soccer Federation called off the trip Friday, a day after a U.S. military air strike killed a top Iranian military commander. Players, most from Major League Soccer teams, instead reported to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, where the team held a two-hour workout on Tuesday.

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“Some things happen that are out of our control,” Berhalter said after the training session. “With the turmoil in that region right now, we wanted to move venues.”

The United States has previously held the overseas camps, including in advance of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

“It’s a great venue, great training facility over there,” Berhalter said. “There’s probably 10 European clubs there now as we speak. So, I think we’ll have an opportunity to get back there.”

“When you look back at the World Cup’s that we’ve played in, we generally go beforehand and get the guys used to the environment,” Berhalter added. “We think it’s a great tool to get the guys accustomed to the environment because it is different there.”

Berhalter told his team this week that it must overcome the unexpected.

“We talk all the time about dealing with adversity, and so this is just a chance,” defender Walker Zimmerman said. “Our schedule got shuffled around. Now we’re here and we’re excited.”

No players had arrived in Qatar when the decision to cancel the camp was made. Three staff members already were there: managing director of administration Tom King, team administrator Sam Zapatka and equipment manager Kyle Robertson. Zapatka and Robertson were each on the ground for just 16 hours.

The U.S. is preparing for a CONCACAF Nations League semifinal against Honduras in June and begins World Cup qualifying in September.

“Things change pretty quickly,” forward Jordan Morris said. “We have no control over that. so we just deal with the situation and come here and get ready for a really important year. I think everyone is ready to get 2020 going.”

The U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, ending a streak of seven straight appearances in soccer’s showcase. Berhalter was hired in December 2018. He led the team to 11 wins, five losses and two draws in his first year, including a 1-0 defeat to Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.

Berhalter called 2020 an “absolutely massive year for the team – and we’re looking forward to it.”

“I wouldn’t call it pressure, I’d call it a responsibility,” Berhalter said. “The players, the coaching staff, the whole organization feels a responsibility to the nation, to our fans to get back in the World Cup.”

Top PL Storylines: Boxing Day

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The Premier League kicks off its holiday schedule with a jam-packed Boxing Day match schedule. Eighteen of the 20 teams are in action on Thursday, with matches played across four match windows, making for a full day of Premier League soccer on display.

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Here’s what we have on the docket for a busy Boxing Day in England.

Top of the Table Clash

  • Leicester City v. Liverpool, Thursday, 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN

You never know what the league table will truly look like when the schedule is released, but fans get to build up over the course of Boxing Day to a highly-anticipated clash between Leicester City and Liverpool.

It’s Brendan Rodgers second time facing Liverpool since joining Leicester City and it’s a proverbial six-pointer. With the win, Liverpool continue their claim for the Premier League title, and the Reds would begin to look like they’re running away with the league. On the other hand, a Leicester City win gives the Foxes and Manchester City just that little sliver of hope that they can catch Liverpool. The key will be how Liverpool responds to returning from Qatar. It won the Club World Cup trophy, but will the extra work and travel cost the club.

A pair of debuts

Thursday marks the official match debut of two new Premier League managerial appointments, where the clubs went in polar opposite directions. Everton went out and brought in one of the most successful, talented coaches on the market in Carlo Ancelotti, with the hope that he could get this Everton team to play 25 percent better than it had been playing before.

On the other hand, Arsenal, facing a season that is falling and falling fast, went with a man who has never been a full-time head coach (except for one game this season). However, Mikel Arteta spent five years at Arsenal and while he’s close to Everton too, that hadn’t stopped him from helping Man City rout the Toffees.

Both Arsenal and Everton will be looking to get a big result out of the way in the first fixture under new management.

Arsenal’s Leno makes bold claim

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Arsenal fans to Bernd Leno: We’ll have what you’re having.

The Arsenal goalkeeper made a bold claim on Monday at Arsenal’s London Colney training ground, stating that he and his teammates still held the belief that the Gunners could finish the season in the top four, earning a place in next year’s UEFA Champions League group stage. While mathematically possible, Arsenal’s margin of error is razor-thin, with just one win in its last 13 games and the club currently nine-points back of fourth-place Chelsea.

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If newly-appointed manager Mikel Arteta could get Arsenal into next year’s Champions League, he’d instantly be a Coach of the Year favorite and may even have a bronze statue of himself commissioned by the club. That’s how bad it has become at the Emirates, and for this year, a fourth-place finish may truly feel like a trophy.

“Of course, because there are still many games,” Leno told the London Evening Standard. “We play against all the top six. We have a lot of opportunities to win against them. We still believe. It is in our hands. We have to show [the right] mentality, we have to play good football and I think we will have opportunities.”

Speaking of Big Six opponents (and assuming we’re still including Manchester United in this discussion), Arsenal and Arteta get two of them in Chelsea and Man United before New Years Day comes and passes. Arsenal still has an away match at Chelsea, is away to Tottenham, away to Man City and home  against Leicester City, Liverpool and Sheffield United to come. Should Arsenal do it, they’ll have to make an impressive turnaround with a current unbalanced and unsettled squad.