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Three things we learned from USMNT’s defeat in Dublin

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The U.S. men’s national team fell to defeat at the hands of Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, and it was a mostly abysmal performances on all levels of the field. Three thoughts and/or lessons to take away…

[ MORE: USMNT throws away HT lead, loses 2-1 in Dublin ]

Miazga, CCV struggle

Cameron Carter-Vickers has all the physical tools needed — size, strength, quickness, aerial presence — to develop into one of the best defenders the U.S. has ever seen, but his inability to read the game quickly and make the right decisions on instincts which plagued him not only last year when he made his USMNT debut (at 19) and a handful of appearances for Tottenham Hotspur in early-round cup games, but continued to do so on Saturday against Ireland.

Being overly aggressive is something that can be tempered and controlled as a player’s career unfolds — teaching players to be more aggressive when it doesn’t come naturally for them; not so much — but following a pair of half-season loan spells to the Championship, one would have hoped to have seen a bit of progression in that department. Alas, Saturday saw more of the same mistakes: over-committing into midfield without making the challenge or tackle; not recognizing runners in the channels.

Matt Miazga, who by all accounts had a brilliant season on loan to Vitesse — it’s the Dutch league, after all — struggled as well, but in fairness to him, much of his difficulties on the day stemmed from CCV’s shortcomings alongside him. Miazga getting torched by James McClean, however, was all on the former New York Red Bulls and current Chelsea man.

Directionless midfield

With Christian Pulisic, the USMNT’s de facto no. 10 these days, departing camp and heading for (a much-needed) summer vacation after the win over Bolivia, interim head coach Dave Sarachan opted for a three-man midfield of Wil Trapp, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie.

Some thoughts: that’s a whole lot of industry and work rate; that’s a ton of energy; that’s a ton of ball-hawking instincts.

A question: who’s supposed to harness all of that unbridled energy and youth?

Answer: there wasn’t anyone, and the first half looked like a trio of chickens running 60 yards up and down the field with their heads cut off.

Adams and McKennie have blindingly bright futures ahead of them, which they’ll come much closer to realizing during a run of games playing directly behind the focal point that is Pulisic.

Yedlin a continuous bright spot

DeAndre Yedlin is perhaps the best sterling example of what moving to Europe at a young-ish age can do for American players developed in MLS. When he moved from Seattle Sounders to Tottenham at the age of 21, he did exactly two things well: run fast and overlap to stretch the field.

Now, following years of tutelage under a defensive brute like Sam Allardyce, and a tactical mastermind of Rafa Benitez‘s caliber, Yedlin is only just entering the prime of his career (he’ll turn 25 next month) after undergoing a three-year transformation which has seen him come out the other side a genuinely passable right-sided defender on top of the threat he brings going forward.

After nearly a decade where right back was pretty clearly the USMNT’s greatest weakness along the backline, Yedlin now has the spot locked down for another World Cup cycle… if not two.

U.S. players in the 2017-18 Premier League

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This post used to be more fun.

[ RECAP: Villa 0-0 (1-0 agg.) Boro ]

The United States only had three players hit Premier League pitches for more than a single match this season, and only two Americans are alive for promotion from the Championship (though well-traveled goalkeeper Chris Konopka signed a short-term deal late in Cardiff City’s promotion campaign).

Geoff Cameron
Stoke City

The soon-to-be 33-year-old had to be frustrated when his return from a concussion ended up with a stint on the bench under new coach Paul Lambert that cost him a chance to keep the Potters in the Premier League. Cameron played 20 league matches and one FA Cup match, spending time at center back, center mid, right back, and even a little more advanced as a right mid. Stoke was 3W-6D-8L when Cameron did not play, about the same pace as when he was available, but it notably earned points in four of six matches where he featured at center back (2-2-2). It seems likely he’ll move on this summer.

Cameron Carter-Vickers
Tottenham Hotspur

Went on loan to Sheffield United and then Ipswich Town, where he played regularly at center back. Still doesn’t seem on track to get in Mauricio Pochettino‘s mix, and another loan or permanent transfer feels on the horizon.

Emerson Hyndman
Bournemouth

The 22-year-old center mid played just four times in all comps for the Cherries, but Eddie Howe handed him a start in Bournemouth’s season finale. The Cherries won 2-1, though both goals came after he left the match. A candidate for transfer or loan next season.

Antonee Robinson
Everton

Went on loan to Bolton, where he managed four assists in substantial time at left back and left mid as the Trotters survived in the Championship. One of the great hopes to solve the long-held American need at left back.

Danny Williams
Huddersfield Town

There was a third very impactful American in the Premier League this year, and Huddersfield Town will be thankful that David Wagner brought fellow German-American international Williams to Town.

The 29-year-old played 20 league games and three Cup games with the Terriers, and was noticeably strong in his first season of top flight English football. Granted two of the wins came in substitute appearances, one at right back, but the center mid was good.

Terriers w/ Williams:  7W-5D-10L
Terriers w/o Williams: 2W-5D-9L

DeAndre Yedlin
Newcastle United

Soon to be 25, Yedlin had a strong return to the Premier League. The right back picked up two assists in 34 matches as Rafa Benitez really improved the American’s defensive acumen. Benitez would probably like to bring in better competition for Yedlin at right back, but the former Seattle Sounder should have every opportunity to continue to play a sizable role at St. James’ Park.

Elsewhere in England
Mix Diskerud – Man City (on loan at Goteborg)
Luca de la Torre – Fulham
Lynden Gooch – Sunderland
Duane Holmes – Scunthorpe United
Eric Lichaj – Nottingham Forest
Brendan Moore – Rochdale
Tim Ream – Fulham
Gedion Zelalem – Arsenal

Young USMNT squad benefits from chemistry in Paraguay win

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CARY, NC — Plenty has been made about how young the USMNT squad is of late, with the team planning for the long-term after missing out on the 2018 World Cup. What’s not been talked about as much is the group’s prior experience together, and that shone through as the United States topped Paraguay 1-0 in Cary, NC on Tuesday.

The central defensive partnership between Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers looked polished and unfazed even under pressure, while the midfield trio of Wil Trapp, Marky Delgado, and Tyler Adams linked up well. There was a disconnect between the midfield and attack, but against the high-press of Paraguay, that wasn’t as detrimental as it may have been to a more possession-dominant style of play.

[ RECAP: USMNT tops Paraguay 1-0 in Cary, NC ]

“We really at the end of the day had five really hard training sessions,” head coach Dave Sarachan said after the game. “When you only have five days in bringing guys together, you try to make as much headway into making the group become cohesive and work together. Some of them have the advantage of having played before, but it’s like a crash course in communicating, and I thought the guys did an excellent job.”

In particular, the play of Trapp stood out, keeping the team’s shape and locking down the Paraguay attack led by dangerous Atlanta forward Miguel Almiron.

“He made sure that we were organized, he talked,” Sarachan said. “He communicated, he played out of pressure, he was able to pick his spots in terms of playing long and short, and I just thought overall with and without the ball he was really steady today.”

[ MORE: 3 things we learned in USMNT win over Paraguay ]

The players echoed their coach, admitting they believe things are progressing well. “That’s one of the things I try to bring to the team,” Trapp said. “A guy like Marky it’s his start, his first cap, Tyler who is growing in confidence every game it seems like whether it’s with the Red Bulls or the national team. So for me it’s easy to organize those guys and put them in a good position to win the game.”

“It’s always a process and you have to trust it as much as you can, and just continue every time you’re in camp to build chemistry and show it on the field.”

The back line also linked up well and defended with both force and precision. There were no communication breakdowns, and the only big chance Paraguay had off a defensive turnover was when goalkeeper Zack Steffen looked to play out of the back under pressure.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USMNT win over Paraguay ]

“Outstanding,” coach Sarachan said of the defensive partnership. “Carter-Vickers didn’t put a foot wrong, and neither did Matt in my opinion. Obviously they know one another. I thought they played with confidence, played with physicality…just a pairing that looked like they’d been there before for a young two-some.”

It wasn’t exactly pretty, and it never is with the United States, especially against North and South American opposition. But the spark was there, with players who had some prior experience together.

So what does this mean for the long-term health of the team? There’s plenty of hurdles to clear, but for the young guns who may contribute down the road, the bright lights certainly didn’t phase them. Wil Trapp looks like to have the potential to take over for Michael Bradley in midfield, and he may even fit the holding role better than his predecessor. A lockdown defensive partnership is something that the United States has missed, and more importantly one that plays together on a consistent basis. All of these things are just speculative at this point, but seeing the proof in the pudding is about as much as anyone can ask at this point in the process.

Ahead of Paraguay friendly, spring is in the air for US Soccer

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CARY, NC — Spring is the season of starting anew.

It’s fitting that the winter muck is finally giving way to warmer weather in Cary, North Carolina ahead of the upcoming friendly for U.S. Soccer against Paraguay on Tuesday. Just yesterday, there was slushy snow plaguing the skies, but today, the sun was shining over WakeMed Soccer Park to warm the air as the team took to the field to train.

There is a strange aura surrounding the USMNT at the moment. Without the hustle and bustle of an approaching World Cup to occupy the focus, there is the tentative feeling of starting anew, with a long journey ahead but new faces ready to stand to the challenges in front of them.

[ MORE: How will the USMNT line up against Paraguay? ]

“It’s been useful to get to know one another, on the field, off the field, a lot of new faces,” said interim head coach Dave Sarachan at his pre-match press conference. “It’s always exciting to build towards something, and that something is tomorrow night against Paraguay. It’ll be a great test for our young guys, and just another opportunity to get on the field and give the guys a real look against a quality opponent.”

Those new guys are abundant. The U.S. roster is chock full of fresh faces, including eight players without a single cap for the U.S. national team, and another 10 with five or fewer caps. The average age of the roster is just a hair over 23 years old. DeAndre Yedlin and Bobby Wood combine for 85 caps – the rest of the roster combines for a total of 77.

With so many young faces, Sarachan was guarded about singling out individuals who have impressed him over the past few days in training, but was open about how this roster brings a completely new outlook to the group, and without the usual faces like Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, or other veteran players, the feel of the trip has been turned upside down.

“A few things have stood out to me,” Sarachan said. “One is they have a youthful confidence; they come in from their environments where they’re playing. They’re drawing on a little bit of the past that we had against Bosnia and Portugal with this young group, so there’s a little bit of consistency for a few of the guys, but they come in with what I would say a clean slate in their minds, so they’re looking to impress by pushing each day in training.”

“Obviously with youth comes enthusiasm and energy, but I think the soccer has impressed me so far in training. Now, when the curtain goes up and the lights show tomorrow night, we’ll see how it looks when it really counts, but I think the confidence of the young group and playing without a lot of fear has been the two things that have stood out to me.”

With such a young group, Sarachan refused to really go into the play of any particular players – or get into any specifics of his lineup plan for tomorrow’s game – perhaps to keep the heads of the young players on their shoulders, but he did name drop a few youngsters he hadn’t seen before.

“I hate to single out anyone because that means I’m leaving out a lot of players,” Sarachan said as he thought long and hard about who he wanted to talk about, “but there are some new faces here that I didn’t know well…Antonee Robinson, Andrija Novakovich…maybe some of the guys I’ve gotten to know a little bit, certainly Tyler [Adams] and all the rest I’ve known, but a few guys that we brought in that…even [Erik] Palmer-Brown that I have never personally coached, just to get to know them and get to see them…nobody’s here that shouldn’t be here.”

While the head coach watches with intent, the players are eyeing their opportunity with a vigor not reflected by the atmosphere of the venue.

“Even though a lot of us weren’t involved in the qualifying campaign, we still kind of felt the disappointment and the pain of not making the World Cup,” said 20-year-old Cameron Carter-Vickers. “So we definitely feel like we need to work together and work with the coach and work with US Soccer in general to get back on track and get the wheels moving again.”

Without anyone to truly take charge, and with time to develop without the pressure of a meaningful game in the near future, there’s room for the young players to grow into their roles and make an impression, and they are reflecting that.

“We’re all young players, none of us are at the peak of our careers yet, or none of us are playing at the highest level yet,” Carter-Vickers said. “So it’s definitely a stepping stone and just trying to kind of all develop together and grow up as a team and get to a World Cup level.”

So with the U.S. left out this summer and likely another 18 months until qualifying starts for the next cycle, what are the stakes of tomorrow’s match? “Starting over I think, for the whole team” said 18-year-old Tim Weah, “and setting everything straight from the get-go together as a young group.”

“If you look at the rosters at the three friendlies we’ve had,” Sarachan said, “the theme has been giving players the opportunity that we feel are going to be part of the bigger picture. And again, we don’t want to get so far ahead of ourselves. You just can’t predict a year from now, but what you hope is that all these friendlies, and all these matches, and all the programming going through 2018 will pay dividends in terms of the investment we’re making to players that we think when the qualifying begins and the next Gold Cup and all the other competitions, that they will be ready.”

Spring is in the air. The sun is shining. U.S. Soccer is playing a game in North Carolina for the first time in 12 years. There’s a very long way to go, and while the lingering disappointment is still palpable in Cary, a new leaf must be turned, and in the shadows of a college basketball state still focused on the finality of the NCAA Tournament, WakeMed Soccer Field could be the start of a new beginning. Tomorrow will shed more light on just how well the budding talent is growing.

Key newcomers for USMNT friendly

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While the excitement potential is high amongst big club USMNT call-ups like PSG’s Tim Weah and Everton’s Antonee Robinson, there are several other relative newcomers who are facing a more acute focus.

So yes, of course, we’re most excited to see the young guns fire away, but a few others will be under the microscope for different reasons.

[ MORE: Best PL summer buys ]

Paraguay is leaving some big names behind — Dario Lezcano, Jesus Medina, Edgar Benítez — but won’t be using as “B” or “C” of a squad as the USMNT. Key defenders Junior Alonso (Lille) and Gustavo Gomez (AC Milan) will be staring down the U.S. attack, while Atlanta United star Miguel Almiron will try his luck against the Yanks’ backs.

  1. The goalkeepers — With full respect to Bill Hamid and his five caps, the trio of backstops who could play against Paraguay are unknown entities on the senior international level. There are reasons to be excited about Alex Bono (Toronto FC) and Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew) going against Los Guaraníes — and Hamid, too — and standing behind a young and untested group of center backs should give plenty of chances to make a name for whoever is chosen (If Sarachan is more “woke” this go-round, it’ll be multiple keepers).
  2. Andriya Novakovich — The Telstar striker is checking all the boxes: 6-foot-4, productive on the youth level, and now succeeding overseas. The 21-year-old has 17 goals on loan from Reading in the Dutch second tier. While that’s far from a “Woah” figure considering the top-tier in the Netherlands isn’t exactly a defensive hot bed, it’s intriguing for Tuesday in North Carolina.
  3. Rubio Rubin — We’re hopeful Sarachan goes with a 4-4-2, which would allow both Rubin and Novakovich to get runs next to Bobby Wood. Rubin is seeing some time at Liga MX side Club Tijuana after his European adventure stalled following a hot start for Utrecht. He had an assist in CONCACAF Champions League play against Red Bulls this month.
  4. Tyler Adams — Speaking of that match, the Red Bulls got a goal from Adams. It’s fair to say he’s got the chance to be as special a player as Schalke youngster Weston McKennie (and would apparently like to join his USMNT teammate overseas). Adams and McKennie together could legit be an engine room for years. Will that begin on Tuesday?
  5. Cameron Carter-Vickers — The 20-year-old center back has shown resilience in England. His hot start to life at Sheffield United, on loan from Tottenham, cooled enough to have him sent back to North London, but Carter-Vickers has rebounded to become a key part of Ipswich Town’s back line. With 22-year-old Matt Miazga the only clear center back on the roster and older than him, CCV can quiet a lot of doubters.
  6. Kenny Saief — This guy has excited at nearly every turn since bursting onto the scene with Gent via the Israeli national team, and an injury cost him some momentum with the USMNT. Now healthy and on loan with Anderlecht, the same side which refined the fire of Sacha Kljestan, the once-capped Florida-born man is as intriguing as ever.