Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls

Lalas uses halftime broadcast to rip on USMNT, “Wonderboy” Pulisic

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Beginning by saying, “It’s time for leaders to step up,” and then branding those leaders as “supposed,” Alexi Lalas lashed into the United States men’s national team during an MLS telecast on Sunday.

Lalas took shots at several individual players — some deserving, some not — as the Yanks prepare for next month’s make-or-break World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago.

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In terms of coming from the hot takery, the diatribe is most notable not because of what Lalas says, but because of the messenger himself. Lalas is a former national team member, a sort of fraternity which doesn’t often show cracks. Lalas would likely argue the tough love is quite deserved, and he’s a sort of “boots on the ground” man who’s been around enough fans to know the feeling of the most ardent U.S. supporters.

Is Lalas’ criticism warranted? Sure. Will it be constructive? It’s hard to imagine the guys on the team needed to be fired up to avoid becoming national punch lines for their sport, and the rant doesn’t take away any pressure.

Most notable was Lalas saying anyone he didn’t mention doesn’t deserve to be mentioned, then going on to mention say, “That includes you, Wonderboy” in regards to phenom Christian Pulisic. That’s a tough one, as the 18-year-old does need to be described without his age soon, but also was not one of those players skating through the loss to Costa Rica and draw at Honduras.

Lalas also called out Tim Howard in saying the Belgium game was three years ago, which seems rough considering the goalkeeper isn’t known for resting on his laurels. Then again, it’s worth noting that Lalas would know the player a bit better than those of us who see him in locker rooms or read his book.

Of course we understand that the message also happens to boost ratings for MLS and leads to Retweets, Favorites, and posts like this, and it would be naive to say anything less.

What do you think? The full rant is below.

Three Questions With Alexi Lalas

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This week, Gianni Infantino granted his first English language interview since taking the reigns as FIFA President in February. The interviewer: none other than former denim-clad USMNT star and FOX Sports analyst Alexi Lalas. Over the course of 20 minutes, Alexi asked Gianni about the Panama Papers, gender equity, Qatar and the 2026 World Cup bidding process. You can watch the five-part interview on FOX Soccer’s YouTube channel. In this edition of Three Questions, we ask Alexi about his prep for the interview what Infantino was like off camera, and whether the experience made him more confident in FIFA moving forward.

MiB: Describe how you prepared for the interview. Walk us through your process.

AL: We didn’t find out about the interview until a few days before it happened. I read anything and everything I possibly could about Infantino leading up to it. My preparation for the more than 10 straight hours I spent on-air covering FIFA’s presidential election in February certainly helped. The fact is, when it comes to FIFA and potential questions, there is plenty of meat on that bone. We had 20 minutes for this interview, and it’s impossible to satisfy everyone with a line of questioning. But I wanted to get to the core questions that appeal to as many people as possible. Topics like transparency and change, what is happening in the women’s game, Qatar. I should add that I had a tremendous amount of help from the research team here at FOX Sports. They made me look good, and I need all the help I can get.

MiB: Infantino, as one would expect, appears relatively convivial throughout the interview. Can you describe what he was like when the cameras were off? Did you get a sense of how he travels? Was he with an entourage?

AL: It was just him and one person. He was on time. He was pleasant, cordial and relaxed. But I did sense that the stakes of this job are starting to dawn on him. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a negative way. He’s traveled around quite a bit since taking over. I got the impression he’s beginning to realize the road ahead is filled with pressure and potential in equal measure.

MiB: You pressed Infantino on several important issues, including equal World Cup prize money for men and women. You asked him three times before he told you, “There’s not a straightforward answer to this.” As an interviewer, when do you come to the realization that he is just not going to answer this question and decide to move on? Were you frustrated by what he did not say?

AL: I’m still new to these types of interviews. But it is my responsibility to ask the questions that people want answered. I had no control over whether he would answer my questions or not. In instances that he did not answer, it was my responsibility to follow up. In the end, if he didn’t answer, it wasn’t because I did not give him the opportunity to.

MiB: Last month, you told your FOX Sports colleague Colin Cowherd that while this year’s presidential election was a seminal moment for FIFA, the organization remained ripe for corruption. Did this interview change that view in any way, shape or form? Did it change your perception of Infantino? What was your one big takeaway from this interview?

AL: In Wednesday’s Champions League post-show, I said that the President of FIFA doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. The burden of proof of change is squarely on FIFA. It is up to them to prove there has been change and actual transparency at the organization. Mr. Infantino is a smart man. But that doesn’t make me feel any more confident that change is inevitable. At this point, we can only take solace when concrete change is made. Until then, I will reserve judgement.

Infantino discusses money in women’s soccer: “It must be right”

Photo by Valeriano Di Domenico/Getty Images
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Fox aired an interview with new FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Wednesday, a sit-down conducted by American broadcaster Alexi Lalas.

In it, Infantino discusses the World Cup bidding process for 2026 and whispers of corruption involving him in the Panama Papers.

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Perhaps most interesting of the excerpts published by Fox, however, is his answer to Lalas’ question regarding money paid to women’s footballers.

From FoxSports.com:

“When it comes to the prize money for the World Cup, it had been increased already from $10 to $50 million, and the prize money 50% from the last World Cup to this one. But still, very low compared to what it could be or should be. I think we need to focus now on redevelopment of women’s football at the top, but also at the grassroots level we need to create the basis. We need to focus and we need to discuss. The Women’s World Cup, women’s football in general, is increasing. I think what will help in this respect as well is if we don’t speak only about women’s football, but also women in football. We need to have women in leadership positions in football. This will help make us men evolve a little bit in the right direction.

“What is more important as well is how can we invest more into the development of the women’s game. It is about giving them what is right and what is deserved. It must be right. For this we have to discuss, we need to sit around a table and find the right solution.”

While this doesn’t specifically speak to the situation regarding the USWNT and its lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, something hinted at by U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday, it does make a very interesting point.

What will drive women’s soccer moving forward will be federations paying more attention to developing the sport at home. The world could use more match-ups that aren’t easy blowouts for powers like the United States and Germany, nations that were on the forefront of development in women’s soccer.

When we talk about the USMNT, we ask when our nation will produce a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo (probably when coaches stop banishing creativity from our players so they can win tactically at the U-13 level). But when will Argentina, Austria or even Mexico develop a Tobin Heath or Carli Lloyd? Providing an impetus will help, and Infantino can help spearhead that.

Lalas stokes USMNT fire with Tweet of Bruce Arena interest

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It’s not exactly classy to talk about a filled position, but the world of soccer managers is a different place.

And Alexi Lalas asking his old friend Bruce Arena whether he’d coach the USMNT again isn’t asking whether the L.A. Galaxy manager would take over right now from Jurgen Klinsmann, just asking interest level.

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Still, in a period of time where there are myriad questions about the short- and long-term future of the U.S. men’s national team under Jurgen Klinsmann, Lalas had to know he was half-volleying a hornet’s nest with this Tweet.

Here’s hoping “the right circumstances” include the job being open, but then again Arena has openly ripped on Klinsmann in the past.

Of course, this had led to some interesting conversations on social media. Would going backwards to Arena be a step forward (Bob Bradley is an oft-mentioned replacement as well)?

And what’s different about Arena now than 2006? Certainly he’s had more experience massaging big egos at L.A., but come on. Not to mention that he may’ve presided over the epic World Cup run of 2002, but also the monumentally disappointing 2006 tournament. Considering, of course, that a portion of the U.S. fan base wasn’t satisfied with the way Jurgen Klinsmann got the side out of its group in Brazil.

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Nothing against Arena, but if the Yanks move onto a new coach, why is there this insistence on a retread or an MLS mind? The world is gigantic, and why should options be limited to Arena, Bradley and the oft-mentioned Peter Vermes? No one’s saying they are bad choices, but can’t we be a bit more creative?

As a side note: I loved Bradley as U.S. coach and wouldn’t be angry if he one day returned to the fold. Just making a larger point here.

Then again, it’s just a Tweet, and the position is filled.

Men In Blazers podcast: Ginormous preview of 2015 MLS season with Alexi Lalas

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Recorded just before the strike was averted, Alexi frames the key issues, new stars, young talents, and teams to watch.

He also weighs in on the important issues of Apple Emoji Anti-Gingie-ism and whether his 1998 album will ever be released on vinyl.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click below:

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Follow them on Twitter @MenInBlazers, and find Rog at @rogbennett and Davo at @embassydavies.