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Report: Martino to leave Atlanta, national team job looms

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Tata Martino’s future has been debated for some time.

Would he elect to stay with Atlanta United beyond the season? Would national team duty call? And if so, would it be the USMNT? A return to Argentina?

[ UCL: Real rocks Roma, Man City falls ]

Now ESPN is reporting that Martino will leave Atlanta United at the end of this season, opening another high profile MLS job next to the LA Galaxy vacancy.

Presuming he wants to leave Atlanta, which option is most attractive?

  • Mexico and the USMNT are both on the precipice of golden generations, assuming they pick the right shepherd. El Tri is a bit further along in the process than the U.S., and it would be an easy selection.
  • Argentina is Martino’s home, and he’s held the job before. Would the idea of melding Lionel Messi’s final prime throes with Paulo Dybala to try and claim a first Copa America since 1993 be enough?
  • Colombia would also face the test of World Cup qualifying in CONMEBOL, and is a pretty packed side. James Rodriguez (27), Yerry Mina (23), and Davinson Sanchez (22) will be around for the long haul, while Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao are still productive.

Oguchi Onyewu announces retirement

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USMNT legend Oguchi Onyewu appears to have announced his retirement from the game.

The towering central defender posted a message on his Instagram page on Monday morning with the following caption: “All good things must come to an end…Thank you. 

The message also featured a video which had photos of him playing and a song which suggested his career is over.

Onyewu, 36, has battled through injuries over the past few years and most recently played for the Philadelphia Union in MLS in 2017.

Before that Onyewu had spent the past 15 years playing in Europe, with stops in France, Belgium, England, Portugal, Holland, Spain and Italy. His previous clubs include AC Milan, Newcastle, Malaga and Sporting Lisbon, with his most successful spell coming at Standard Liege from 2004-09.

The former Clemson Tiger won 69 caps for the U.S. men’s national team, scoring six times as he featured in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and was voted as U.S. Soccer’s athlete of the year in 2006.

In recent times Onyewu had a string of stops at second-tier teams in England which saw him make just 19 appearances across three seasons, while he seemed to have been planning for retirement since leaving the Union in December 2017 as he opened a gym in Richmond, Virginia earlier this year.

A dominant force when in his prime Onyewu’s best moments for the U.S. include his performance against Spain in the semifinals of the 2009 Confederations Cup and his stare down of Jared Borgetti. While another memorable moment was his training ground spat with Zlatan Ibrahimovic when he was at Milan.

Tim Howard part of group that now owns 5th-tier English club

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Tim Howard has been revealed as one member of a group of investors which now owns London-based Dagenham & Redbridge.

[ MORE: Premier League preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool ]

The longtime Everton and U.S. men’s national team goalkeeper, along with the rest of his Victoria Road Football LLC partners — Peter B. Freund and Craig Unger — recently purchased the majority of shares in the fifth-division English club.

The group announced this summer that Memphis 901 FC — where Howard now lives during the offseason — will debut in USL in 2019. Freund also own the Memphis Redbirds, the AAA (baseball) affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Quotes from Sky Sports:

“When I first visited Victoria Road this summer for a friendly against Cambridge, and having come back for the match against Hartlepool, I was captivated by the incredible passion shown by the Daggers supporters.

“I consider my ability to come in and help this club, which has roots dating back to the 1880’s, as a privilege and will do everything I can to solidify it this season and give us a chance to return to the Football League in the future.”

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines for Week 5 ]

Freund was reportedly interested in purchasing a stake in Championship side Aston Villa in the summer, before an Egyptian company owned by the Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris swooped in ahead of Freund.

Sorting the CONCACAF nations on the road to Qatar 2022

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The United States men’s national team picked up a feel-good win over Mexico on Tuesday in Nashville, and there’s no reason to feel bad about enjoying the win.

Yet as general manager Earnie Stewart sorts through his options regarding the next full-time coach of the USMNT, where do the Yanks sit in the race to qualify for Qatar 2022?

[ MORE USMNT-MEXICO: 3 things | Player ratings ]

Yes, the World Cup is still going to Qatar. Yes, the games will be played in December in the middle of the night local time. Had to be said, again.

First and foremost, assuming the World Cup stays at 32 teams in the 3+1 CONCACAF qualifying format, who are the front-runners to make the Hex?

Let’s say the chalk plays out through qualifying and these 12 teams make the fourth round of qualifying. Since the Hex began for the 1998 cycle, the following nations have participated: USMNT (all), Mexico (all), Costa Rica (all), Honduras (4), Trinidad and Tobago (4), Panama (3), Jamaica (3), El Salvador (2), Guatemala (2006), Canada (1998).

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]

We still don’t know which U-20 sides will qualify for next summer’s U-20 World Cup — qualifying is in November — but the U.S. won the CONCACAF U-20 title in 2017, with Mexico winning the previous three, and Costa Rica before that. Panama were runners-up in 2015, so it’s a pretty good predictor of the pipeline.

Here are the current Elo Ratings and FIFA world rankings for CONCACAF sides:

Mexico — Elo 20, FIFA 16
USMNT — Elo 26, FIFA 22
Costa Rica — Elo 43, FIFA 32
Honduras — Elo 58, FIFA 61
Panama — Elo 63, FIFA 69
Jamaica — Elo 67, FIFA 54
Canada — Elo 73, FIFA 79
Guatemala — Elo 80, FIFA 146
Haiti — Elo 84, FIFA 104
El Salvador — Elo 87, FIFA 72
Trinidad and Tobago — Elo 96, FIFA 91
Curacao — Elo 132, FIFA 81

For now, we will only rank the sides who have qualified to a prior Hex, though Haiti has a chance to impress us and join in the next power rankings some time in the future.

Long shots: El Salvador, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica

Hex candidates: Panama, Canada, Honduras

Yes, Panama qualified for the World Cup, but it happened via a goal that never crossed the line and the poor performances of an American team that rarely showed up to work and a Honduran team which just couldn’t pull it together. Still, it’s best player at the World Cup were young: Ricardo Avila (21), Yoel Barcenas (24), and Jose Luis Rodriquez (20). Need to figure out life post-Felipe Baloy, Blas Perez, and (probably) Jaime Penedo.

Honduras is going to be in the discussion due to home field advantage alone. Even when Los Catrachos aren’t shining at San Pedro Sula, they are a handful. A bit longer in the tooth than you’d like for a tournament run, young forward Alberth Elis has to join Romell Quioto, Bryan Acosta, and Anthony Lozano in taking the next step.

The wild card here is Canada, which remains a green project and has new leadership in former WNT coach John Herdman. He will have a trio of teens at significant clubs when Alphonso Davies leaves Vancouver for Bayern Munich, joining Jonathan David at Gent and Liam Millar at Liverpool (Alessandro Busti is with Juventus B and Zahcary Brault-Guilard, Lyon). TFC’s Jonathan Osorio is in his prime, Cyle Larin isn’t there yet, and goalkeeper Milan Borjan starts on Red Star Belgrade.

Hex participants: Costa Rica, USMNT

Let’s start with the one of the bunch which played in the World Cup; Costa Rica is a difficult team to read. It will qualify for the Hex because it’s never failed to and it won’t be too old… yet. Of the 13 players to play more than 100 minutes for Los Ticos at the World Cup, only Joel Campbell and Francisco Calvo (both 26) were under the age of 28. All five players who manned all 270 minutes of the World Cup were 30 or older.

The reason the United States men’s national team’s failure to qualify for Russia was considered a disaster is that the Yanks should never, ever, ever miss a World Cup given their talent and resources. Even with Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore getting on in years for their respective positions, the new manager could instantly trot out this lineup in CONCACAF and not worry about experience or age (at least not too much, and we’re not yet including Geoff Cameron):

Steffen

Yedlin — Miazga — Brooks — Lichaj

Adams — D. Williams — McKennie

Pulisic — Altidore — Wood

Subs: Guzan, Acosta, Weah, Green, Bradley, Ream, Sargent

The unquestioned No. 1: Mexico

Sure the U.S. was missing big names Pulisic, Brooks, Cameron, Bradley, and Altidore in the 1-0 win over Mexico, but El Tri was without a whole lot more. Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, Diego Reyes, Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Raul Jimenez, Carls Vela, Hirving Lozano, Chicharito (I’m just gonna stop now).

Mexico’s very best players are playing for some of the best clubs in the world, and Liga MX is still plenty ahead of MLS in depth and churning out youngsters.

McKennie’s knee injury not serious, USMNT announces

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USMNT fans can breathe a small sigh of relief.

On Tuesday night, young midfielder Weston McKennie was yanked in the 40th minute of the eventual 1-0 win over Mexico with a knee problem. It felt worrisome when ESPN sideline reporter Sebastian Salazar reported on the television broadcast that McKennie’s problem was a non-contact injury rather than the result of knee-to-knee contact with another player.

While non-contact knee injuries can often be serious, McKennie has escaped relatively unharmed. While U.S. Soccer initially reported that McKennie had suffered a knee sprain – which indicates some form of unspecified structural damage – the federation corrected the initial release to say McKennie’s injury was actually just a knee bruise.

The federation announced on social media that McKennie has returned to his club Schalke to receive treatment, and that no timetable is yet available for his return to action. The 20-year-old is one of the more promising players in the young U.S. player pool, starting both of Schalke’s first two Bundesliga matches this season and earning his first six caps for the USMNT, all coming after the U.S. was eliminated from 2018 World Cup contention.

In Tuesday night’s game, McKennie was replaced by Julian Green upon his removal, and Green played well amid a cagey match, proving dangerous on the wing and earning key fouls down the stretch.