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On This Day: Bornstein becomes national hero – in Honduras

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You know what today is? It’s Jonathan Bornstein day in Honduras.

Ten years ago today at RFK Stadium in our nations capital, a young, hot-shot kid with plenty of hair named Michael Bradley and Bornstein helped the U.S. Men’s National Team come back to draw Costa Rica, 2-2, in World Cup qualifying. In fact, it’s eerie watching Bornstein’s celebration, running to the corner flag and diving headfirst as he’s mobbed moments after by his teammates. It’s a bit similar to what Lanson Donovan did about nine months later.

[READ: USMNT looks to build in match v. Canada]

To add some context, it was the final day of qualifications matches in the Hex. Three days earlier, the U.S. had already secured a place in the World Cup with a wild 3-2 win at Honduras, meaning Los Catrachos needed to win over El Salvador on the final night and hope that the U.S. would keep Costa Rica from winning in the final match.

Who else, but Carlos Pavon gave Honduras a 1-0 win over El Salvador that night. Then, it was Bornsteins goal later that night that put Los Catrachos into the World Cup for the first time since 1982, and left Costa Rica to battle for the shared spot between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL.

In honor of the big day, hundreds of Honduras fans had been mentioning Bornstein on social media, and the veteran defender – currently of the Chicago Fire – retweeted quite a few of the thankful messages to him. Below, here’s video of the call from Honduras TV, as well as from Ian Darke and the ESPN crew.

Unfortunately for Bornstein, this may be the highlight of his national team career. He did make the 2010 World Cup squad and started twice, including the matches against Algeria and Ghana, but he never truly took the next step in his career to become a star left back.

After a calamitous performance against Mexico in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final, which also Bob Bradley his USMNT job, Bornstein was dropped and hasn’t been seen from again on the national team stage.

However, even though he’s only a club player these days, he’ll never have to buy a drink in Honduras, that’s for sure.

USMNT continues progression into CONCACAF Nations League

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We’re closing in on ten months with Gregg Berhalter in charge of the U.S. Men’s National Team, and despite all of the results in that time span, give credit to Berhalter for one thing. He’s sticking to his plan.

Berhalter and a young USMNT (with an average age of just 25) open up the CONCACAF Nations League on Friday by hosting Cuba in Washington D.C. at 7:00 p.m. Based on the roster he called up, Berhalter plans to continue drilling his tactical and playing style ideas into his players heads until it becomes second nature. 20 players from the now-25-man squad were in his September camp and per U.S. Soccer, 24 of the 25 players have seen time for the USMNT this calendar year.

[READ: Pulisic details his journey so far]

While the Nations League is a competitive match on paper, there isn’t a whole lot that the U.S. can take away from a game against Cuba at home. All fans and the USMNT coaching staff would see individual performances and how the team performed at executing a gameplan.

It’s this gameplan, along with some of the young stars taking part, that will be most interesting to watch.

With Steffan starting again in goal, Cuba should provide more space or at least a better chance for the USMNT to play out of the box and start the buildup play early. From there, we can see players like Matt Miazga grow some confidence with good passes out of the back into the midfield or the long diagonal pass to the wingers in space.

It’s unclear whether Berhalter will start Bradley, his preferred No. 6, or save him for the game against Canada at his home stadium, BMO Field, on Tuesday. If not, it could be another cap for Jackson Yueill to show off his range of passing and keep the ball moving from side to side.

Speaking of wingers from before, it’s been a roller coaster of a last few months for Tyler Boyd. He completed his one-time switch to join the USMNT, started a few games and even scored in the early Gold Cup match against Guyana. But then he lost his national team starting spot to Jordan Morris, who’s had a terrific second half of the MLS season with Seattle, and Boyd has also struggled with his new club, Besiktas. He has just one start in all competitions since the beginning of September. He didn’t even make it off the bench in Besiktas’ 1-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the UEFA Europa League last week.

And yet, Berhalter has committed to Boyd and is willing to call him in, whether he’s in form or not. So the match against Cuba could be another chance for Boyd to show what he’s all about.

Somewhat similarly is Christian Pulisic. Everyone has watched as he started the season well but has found playing time hard to get. Even so, when he’s played he’s had an impact, as was seen last weekend in his 15-minute substitute appearance for Chelsea when he set up a goal. Clearly, even if he’s out of form, he is still the best attacking talent the USMNT has and will always be given a chance by Berhalter.

Lastly, there’s the striker position. It was announced earlier that with Jozy Altidore out injured again – missing his second straight USMNT camp, though last time was not injury related – 19-year-old forward Joshua Sargent would start up top against Cuba. This could be a changing of the guard, with Sargent preferred over Gyasi Zardes as Altidore’s backup with the USMNT. Or, it could have been the plan all along to play Sargent against Cuba and Zardes against Canada. We’ll see.

In any case, with Sargent getting starts for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga, the Cuba match could be his chance to become a household name for many. It’s his first senior international game in a competitive tournament, and his hold up play, the way he reads the game and ability to play off the back shoulder of the centerbacks could lead to a goal or two on the night.

Ultimately, Friday’s test with Cuba will be a study in how this squad continues to absorb and understand Berhalter’s style of play, as he looks to prepare his team ultimately for the start of World Cup qualifying in September 2020.

FIFA imposes life ban on former CONCACAF official Sanz

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has imposed a life ban for bribery on Enrique Sanz, the former general secretary of North American soccer body CONCACAF.

Sanz was easily identified as an unnamed co-conspirator in U.S. Department of Justice documents in 2015 – No. 4 in the original indictment in May that year, and No. 3 in a superseding indictment unsealed that December.

American federal prosecutors alleged that he arranged and took bribes linked to commercial deals for international soccer competitions with other officials linked to FIFA. They included World Cup qualifying games and the 2016 Copa American centenary tournament.

Though Sanz was not publicly charged or sentenced, prosecutors alleged he also took part in bribery schemes working for sports agency Traffic USA before joining CONCACAF in 2012.

The indictment said he obtained an “expensive painting from an art gallery in New York” as a bribe while working for Jeffrey Webb, then CONCACFA’s leader and a FIFA vice president. Webb, a banker from the Cayman Islands, pleaded guilty to various financial crimes and is awaiting sentence.

FIFA said its ethics judges charged Sanz with bribery only during his 2012-15 work with CONCACAF. He was found guilty and fined 100,000 Swiss francs ($100,000).

In 2014, the Colombia-born official took a leave of absence from CONCACAF, which also covers Central America and the Caribbean, while being treated for leukemia.

Sanz was suspended by FIFA’s ethics committee when the sprawling American investigation was unsealed in May 2015, and he was fired by CONCACAF weeks later.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Jurgen Klinsmann on USMNT World Cup failure, current squad

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Jurgen Klinsmann has been talking, and when he does, USMNT fans still listen.

Following his five-year stint in charge of the U.S. men’s national team, Klinsmann was fired with the USMNT struggling in 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Bruce Arena took over and by now we all know they lost 2-1 in Trinidad and Tobago in their final qualifier. That coupled with a series of other freak results meant they weren’t going to Russia.

Speaking to ESPN’s Herculez Gomez, Klinsmann was asked about what went wrong for the USMNT almost two years ago.

“Well what went wrong, I was not in charge anymore, so obviously when you don’t qualify for a World Cup a lot of things went wrong,” Klinsmann said. “You were not prepared for finishing things off. You were qualified 99 percent, so whatever reason it went wrong there with the entire environment, it went wrong and nobody would expect that the other two games go in the same direction.”

Despite plenty of criticism of the USMNT in recent months, Klinsmann was actually pretty positive about their new head coach Gregg Berhalter and says the Stars and Stripes have a very exciting young group of players coming through.

In fact, it sounds like he wishes he could have worked with them.

“You know you look at Tyler Adams, you look at obviously Christian Pulisic,” Klinsmann said. “You have several players, Josh Sargent, to come out of the Tab Ramos U-20 group over the last few years, who has done tremendously well with the U-20s. So when you have a U-20 national team that now three times went to the final eight of a World Cup, that means that you have quality, you have quality young players. So now you have got to feed those young players into the next stage of their careers. So now you have a midfield with Weston McKennie, with Adams, with Pulisic, with Sargent up front. They promise a lot of quality.”

Klinsmann did hammer the CONCACAF region as a whole, saying that the new Nations League format is “a waste of time” and that Mexico and the USA have to be playing friendlies against top nations if they’re going to get to the latter stages of World Cup tournaments.

Instead the opportunity to play friendlies against elite nations from the across the globe have now been limited and more games against CONCACAF opponents are the norm.

Hex Watch: Canada closes ground; USMNT up to 21 in FIFA Rankings

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The USMNT moved up another spot in the FIFA Rankings, climbing to the precipice of the Top 20.

Gregg Berhalter’s Yanks are 21st, the second-highest team in CONCACAF to Mexico’s 12th.

According to the FIFA site, 21st is the average ranking for the U.S. since the ranking system was created.

[ MORE: Cruz Azul wins League Cup ]

Another CONCACAF side, Jamaica, was the biggest riser in the Top 50 (47). Barring a dramatic collapse between now and June, the Reggae Boyz look set to join El Tri, the USMNT, and 43rd ranked Costa Rica in the Hex, as four of the top six sides from CONCACAF.

The final two slots are going to hinge largely on the CONCACAF Nations League, and expect a big charge from Canada when they meet the USMNT over the next two months (Oct. 15 in Toronto and Nov. 15 in a TBD location).

Our neighbors to the north are currently ranked seventh in CONCACAF, which means they’d have to win an entire qualifying tournament just to face the fourth-place finisher in the Hex.

Honduras has a nice cushion on the field, ranked 67th with 1359 points. Guatemala and Grenada were the biggest risers in the Top 200 besides the Cayman Islands, but are still far from the Hex.

CONCACAF men’s world rankings via FIFA

12. Mexico (1603 points)
21. United States (1545)
43. Costa Rica (1442)
47. Jamaica (1435)
67. Honduras (1359)
72. El Salvador (1327)
——Hex cut-off———-
75. Canada (1322)
76. Curacao (1320)
77. Panama (1316)
86. Haiti (1277)
100. Trinidad and Tobago (1226)

As for EloRatings, a site trusted a bit more than FIFA but meaning nothing to the Hex, the U.S. is 38th to Mexico’s 15th and Canada moves into fifth in the confederation.

Outside of CONCACAF….

Belgium remains the world’s No. 1 side, while France passed Brazil and moved into second.

The Netherlands moved up three spots to 13th and Chile dropped three to 17th.

Iceland (41) and Hungary (50) both sank five spots. Only Greece (six places to 60) and Lebanon (seven spot to 94th) sunk further down the chart.