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Americans Abroad: Chandler, Gooch score; Reyna, Vassilev debut

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The bar for the best weekend for Americans abroad in 2020 has been set.

After months with the under-19 side, 18-year-old Giovanni Reyna made his debut with Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. In England, Indiana Vassilev, 18, did exactly the same for Aston Villa, becoming the second youngest American to play in the Premier League.

Established Americans abroad like Timothy Chandler scored Eintracht Frankfurt’s match winner, while Lynden Gooch struck from distance for Sunderland in England’s League One.

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

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — The USMNT star continues to recover from an abductor injury.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — Yedlin is also recovering from an injury, and did not dress for Newcastle on Saturday.

Indiana Vassilev, Aston Villa – The 18-year-old came off the bench and played 23 minutes in his Premier League debut for Aston Villa. Villa drew 1-1 with Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.

EFL Championship

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes played 90 minutes in Derby’s 1-0 win over Hull City on Saturday.

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic — Robinson started and played 90 minutes in Wigan’s 2-1 loss to Swansea City on Saturday.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old dressed but didn’t feature in Reading’s 2-0 loss to Millwall.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The Tigers’ defender started and played for Hull.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender played 90 minutes in QPR’s 1-0 victory ver Leeds United on Saturday.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 90 minutes in Fulham’s 1-0 win over Middlesbrough.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah and Lille were inactive this weekend.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordon-Siebatcheu and Rennes were inactive this weekend. 

Eredivisie

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — Wright came off the bench and played five minutes in Venlo’s 1-1 draw with PSV.

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest dressed but didn’t feature for Ajax over the weekend. It’s been an on-and-off cycle for the fullback in Holland’s top-flight.

Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — The U-23 MNT fullback is injured and didn’t feature for FC Emmen.

Bundesliga

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — The fullback played 90 minutes and scored Frankfurt’s match-winning goal on Saturday against Hoffenheim. 

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams started and played 86 minutes in Leipzig’s 3-1 win over Union Berlin. The midfielder completed 84 percent of his passes.

Weston McKennie, Schalke — McKennie is still having some setbacks from his shoulder injury. The midfielder didn’t dress for Schalke due to fitness issues over the weekend.

Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen is inactive with an injury.

Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf Morales started and played 71 minutes in Fortuna’s 1-0 loss to Werder Bremen.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  The 19-year-old started and played 86 minutes on Saturday. It’s refreshing to see Sargent back on the field, getting regular playing time after the injury.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach Johnson was on Mönchengladbach’s bench but didn’t play.

Honorable Mentions

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland — Gooch has been superlative for Sunderland lately, and on Saturday, he was rewarded with this match-deciding goal:

Ian Harkes, Dundee United — Harkes continues to grind it out in Scotland. On Sunday, he registered an assist in Dundee United’s 2-2 draw with Hibernian. 

The USMNT player pool in Europe is as promising as ever

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It would be a challenge to put together a Best XI from Americans performing in Europe this Saturday.

That’s for two reasons, not one of them because there aren’t 11 players worthy of the honor.

One is goalkeepers: Zack Steffen is hurt and Ethan Horvath backing up Simon Mignolet.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

The other is pretty great: There are many more than 11 players thriving in Europe even with Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Zack Steffen, and Timothy Weah not available for selection.

It’s a weekly thing now. Gregg Berhalter trains a strong and mostly-MLS squad for January friendlies, The Americans Abroad round-ups on our site have shown plenty of progress for those eligible for the USMNT.

There was a time when Haji Wright coming off the bench for VVV-Venlo in the Netherlands had a shot at being the highlight of the weekend.

Now it’s a footnote. The 21-year-old is a regular for the relegation-threatened side after a transfer from Schalke. If anything, the discussion is about two in-a-row off the bench after a run of 10-straight league starts.

Consider this list of players, now that Aston Villa’s Indiana Vassilev and Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna made league debuts in the same weekend.

First team players in top tier leagues

Zack Steffen (Man City, on loan to Dusseldorf)
Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)
DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
Sergino Dest (Ajax)
John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig)
Weston McKennie (Schalke)
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Tyler Boyd (Besiktas)
Indiana Vassilev (Aston Villa)
Haji Wright (VVV Venlo)
Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)
Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)
Tim Weah (Lille)

Dig deeper and there’s more: Matt Miazga (Reading), Tim Ream (Fulham), Geoff Cameron (QPR), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), and Duane Holmes (Derby County) have been regulars in the English Championship. Same for Julian Green (Greuther Furth) in 2.Bundesliga and in-form Lynden Gooch at League One’s Sunderland. Niko Hamalainen (Kilmarnock) is a regular starter in the Scottish Premiership.

Then there are heralded U-20 and U-17 prospects Chris Gloster (Jong PSV), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich II), Richie Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Alex Mendez (Ajax), Sebastian Soto (Hannover 96), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Ulysses Lainez (Wolfsburg II). Some have taken first team bows while others have made the bench or ar eon the verge.

And we’re just talking Europe here, as the U.S. still has a bevy of reliable international players playing domestically like Jordan Morris, Miles Robinson, and Jozy Altidore amongst others. That’s leaving alone the caliber of Homegrown players being produced by Major League Soccer academies, Paxton Pomykal and Djordje Mihailovic among them (Reyna and Richards, too).

In terms of potential, American soccer is at a golden age. This makes Brian McBride’s new role as USMNT general manager even more important, as he teams up with Gregg Berhalter to put the best possible American team together for qualifying.

One thing’s for sure, the player pool is deep and no longer an excuse. Game on.

USMNT announces March match vs. Giggs’ Wales

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Gregg Berhalter is set to match wits with Ryan Giggs when the United States men’s national team visits Wales this Spring.

The Yanks will visit Wales at Cardiff City Stadium on March 30, four days after visiting the Netherlands.

Wales and the USMNT are tied at 22nd in the FIFA rankings, though Wales is 25th in Elo Ratings to the Yanks’ 39th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“One of the important parts of continuing to develop this group is the opportunity to play against high-level opponents away from home,” Berhalter said in a press release. “The Netherlands is a soccer powerhouse featuring some of the world’s best talent. This game will be a good chance to compete as we build toward important competitions in the summer and fall.”

The two sides have only met once before, with Landon Donovan and Eddie Lewis scoring in a 2003 win.

Wales is preparing for EURO 2020, where it’s in Group A with Turkey, Switzerland, and Italy.

The next competition for the USMNT is this summer’s CONCACAF Nations League semifinal against Honduras. Mexico and Costa Rica are in the other semi.

Ranking which U.S. cities should host 2026 World Cup

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The 2026 World Cup is still a long way out but that doesn’t mean cities across the United States of America aren’t battling it out to host games.

Let the battle begin.

A report from Yahoo’s Doug McIntyre pointed out that host venues have been sent letters by U.S. Soccer as site visits will take place this year to the 17 cities vying to host games. The 10 U.S. venues which will host World Cup games will then be announced early in 2021, as three venues will be selected in both Canada (Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal) and Mexico (Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City) with 16 stadiums overall picked by FIFA, who have the final say.

The 2026 World Cup will be the largest in history with 80 games played overall, 60 of which will be in the USA and the entire tournament from the quarterfinal stage onwards will be in the U.S.

As far as the next step for potential host cities, according to the letter U.S. Soccer sent to officials from each host city, they are as follows via Yahoo:

  • Former U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn, who retired from that role last year, has been charged with leading the process and will be the main point of contact for the bidding cities.
  • Each stadium site will be visited twice by the selection committee between March and November 2020. The cities will also participate in “workshops” with Dan Flynn’s team next month, then make final proposals for inclusion before the list is whittled down.
  • Specific details regarding the selection process, including “structure, timeline, delegation, methodology, etc.” will be presented during the workshops, the letter said.

This has got us thinking: How have things moved on for potential host cities since the announcement in 2018 that the U.S., Mexico and Canada would be hosting the expanded 48-team tournament?

With that in mind we rank the 17 venues vying for the 10 host stadium spots in the U.S. below, and share our thoughts on who we think deserves to have 2026 World Cup games.


Ranking potential 2026 World Cup venues

Host cities

1. New York/New Jersey
2. Los Angeles (Rose Bowl Stadium or new Inglewood NFL stadium)
3. Washington, D.C.
4. Miami
5. Seattle
6. Atlanta
7. San Francisco/Bay Area
8. Dallas
9. Boston
10. Denver

Missing out
11. Kansas City
12. Philadelphia
13. Houston
14. Nashville
15. Orlando
16. Baltimore
17. Cincinnati


Analysis

The first six cities on this list pick themselves. New York, LA, Washington D.C., Miami and Seattle are all cities entrenched with rich soccer culture and they are spread in all four corners of the U.S. But then it starts to get tricky, Atlanta has jumped to the top of the list due to the success of Atlanta United in MLS, while logistically it makes sense to have games in the Bay Area, Dallas and Denver to link up the west coast and midwest respectively, while Boston’s rich sporting heritage has to be factored in. The likes of Baltimore, Cincinnati and Nashville seem like outsiders and even Orlando can be put in that category as Miami will likely get the nod in Florida. So that leaves Houston, Philly and Kansas City as the three cities who could be interchangeable with Denver, Dallas and Boston, depending on how their site visits shake out. Remember: the location of venues as well as transport, hotels and other local infrastructure all plays a big part in picking host cities. Tens of thousands of extra fans will flock to the city where the game is being played without tickets just to be there.

It is so tough to whittle down this list to just 10 because we all know the U.S. is able to host the World Cup on its own and the fact that three cities are expected to host games from both Mexico and Canada makes the competition for stadiums in the USA even stronger. With neither Chicago (who pulled out of the bidding due to concerns over taxpayers after FIFA didn’t negotiate) or Vancouver currently in the running as host cities as they missed the initial deadline for host cities to bid, it is worth nothing that FIFA has the final say and they could demand either one of those cities is included in the bid. Either way, the site visits in 2020 will be very interesting as cities across the U.S. roll out the red carpet for U.S. Soccer as they try and get a slice of the action as the biggest party on the planet comes to the USA in 2026.

Christian Pulisic issues injury update

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USMNT and Chelsea star Christian Pulisic is nursing an adductor injury after a hamstring and hip issue, and we haven’t seen him in action since New Year’s Day and may not seem him for another week or two.

[ MORE: Ranking Pulisic’s first 6 months ]

Pulisic, 21, has become a key figure in Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea side this season and with the Blues in the top four with a five point cushion at just over the halfway point, the Pennsylvanian native is eager to return and help the west London club kick on.

In an interview with ESPN, Pulisic revealed that he is still a few weeks away from returning as he’s set to miss Chelsea’s clash with Newcastle this Saturday, their London derby against Arsenal next Tuesday and their FA Cup trip to Hull City the following Saturday.

“It’s been almost a week, and I’m just kind of taking it day by day. I’m just rehabbing every day. I’m doing my best to be back in the next week, the next couple weeks,” Pulisic said. “I don’t think it should be too long, so I’m just working every day, doing everything I can to be back on the pitch.”

Asked about his battle to become a regular after plenty of time on the bench in September, Pulisic is soaking in everything he can at Chelsea and in the Premier League and he thanked experienced teammates like Cesar Azpilicueta and Jorginho for helping him through a tough period when he was out of the team.

“I’ve just been trying to learn every day, man. I mean, I’m still learning,” Pulisic explained. “It’s my first season now, kind of halfway through, so I’m just kind of learning to take it day by day, game by game and just focusing on the next opponent and just getting ready and healthy for the next game because it’s always right around the corner. It’s just a lot of competition, I think, in every game, within your team, and for every game, it’s just been great learning from some of my teammates. And yeah, just being here in London, I’m just kind of taking it all in.”

Pulisic was also asked about his first six months in England overall, and he is pretty happy to have battled back from adversity and is looking forward to finishing the season strong.

“You know, everyone says I’m going to go into the Premier League, it’s a big change, it’s tough. It’s a league where there’s definitely a lot of games, a lot of stuff going on, and it wasn’t easy for me at the beginning, of course,” Pulisic said. “I think I’m really proud of how I pushed through things and then I got my opportunity, and I felt I was playing very well recently, and I’m proud. It’s been great. I’ve been enjoying it so much. You know, the football culture here is amazing, and I’m really happy, and I’m so excited to finish off the season strong.”

Now that Pulisic is used to the physical grind of the Premier League it will be intriguing to see how the USMNT star finishes the campaign as Chelsea push hard in the PL, UEFA Champions League and FA Cup.

He then has the Nations League tournament with the U.S. this summer and his status as a leader in Gregg Berhalter’s squad means all eyes will be on him when he returns to his homeland.

All in all, a very decent first six months from Pulisic who is just ahead of schedule when it comes to these early days at Chelsea.