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The USMNT year-in-review: Eleven matches, many questions

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The calendar year has not ended for the United States men’s national team, even if its playing slate concluded Tuesday with a 1-0 stoppage time loss to Italy in Belgium.

(Bring on Berhalter, because it’s reportedly too late for anyone else).

[ MORE: USSF announces Player of Year finalists ]

The USMNT’s schedule this season was daunting, a visit from Bolivia the closest thing to a walkover and away matches to France, England, and Italy.

Interim coach Dave Sarachan finished his run with three wins, five losses, and four draws — all but one coming in 2018 — the most notable results being a draw with France prior to Les Bleus winning the World Cup and a win over Mexico in Tennessee courtesy of Tyler Adams.

Its leading goal scorer was Bobby Wood, and Josh Sargent was the only other player to score more than once. The other goal scorers were Tim Weah, Julian Green, Tyler Adams, and Kellyn Acosta.

Jan. 28 — USMNT 0-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina — Ike Opara was our Man of the Match in a drab affair to start the year.

March 27 — USMNT 1-0 Paraguay — A Wood penalty before half time was earned by Adams and set up by Marky Delgado. Adams had his strongest performance in a U.S. shirt, and the Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga pairing was promising at the heart of the defense. Wil Trapp was also quite good.

May 28 — USMNT 3-0 Bolivia — Zimmerman, Sargent, and Weah were part of an extremely encouraging rollover of an inferior opponent.

June 2 — Republic of Ireland 2-1 USMNT — Wood scored in first half stoppage to give the Yanks a surprising lead, but disappointing errors from Bill Hamid and Miazga allowed the hosts to snare a 90th minute win.

June 9 — France 1-1 USMNT — Green’s 44th minute goal was nice, but this was Zack Steffen’s coming-out party. That said, was it even the Yanks’ best goalkeeper performance of the year. Ask Tuesday.

Sept. 7 — USMNT 0-2 Brazil — Roberto Firmino and Neymar scored first half goals, but this moment was not too big for the  young Yanks (even if it was a case of not being experienced enough to know “their place”).

Sept. 11 — USMNT 1-0 Mexico — Tyler Adams’ 71st minute goal from an Antonee Robinson feed was a nice moment for the Yanks. Miazga’s taunting of Diego Lainez may have not been classy, but it was a moment for the future of the USMNT-El Tri rivalry.

Oct. 11 — USMNT 2-4 Colombia — Acosta and Wood scored after halftime to give the Americans a stunning 2-1 lead, but Los Cafeteros very much restored order. It was one to forget on the whole, but Acosta and Weah showed glimpses of what could be.

Oct. 16 — USMNT 1-1 Peru — Sargent looked set for his first match-winning goal in an American shirt, but DeAndre Yedlin lost track of Edison Flores in the 86th to nullify what should’ve been a fine day for Sarachan through youngsters Weah and Sargent.

Nov. 15 — England 3-0 USMNT — Let’s just pretend this didn’t happen. One of the worst halves of Christian Pulisic’s U.S. tenure led into an improved-for-him-but-pretty-much-no-one-else second.

Nov. 20 — Italy 1-0 USMNT (in Belgium) — The Yanks close off their season by wasting a prime performance from Ethan Horvath, with Sebastian Lletget losing track of Inter Milan youngster Matteo Politano on a stoppage time goal.

So what did we learn, huh?

— Well, there are still major questions as to who is going to line up next to John Brooks, whether in a back three or four, for the next run of World Cup qualifying.

— And what about in goal? Ethan Horvath has made a claim to the job presumably heading to Zack Steffen, and either goalkeeper could literally spend the better part of a decade in the job.

— DeAndre Yedlin was once presumed the right back for the next decade, but his performances in a USMNT shirt have been haphazard at best. Can a new coach get him in line with his performances for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle, or might Reggie Cannon or Shaq Moore be in play.

— The U.S. still doesn’t have an experienced left back, and perhaps this will all be about Antonee Robinson learning on the job (though Moore was perfectly fine playing out-of-position against Italy).

— Is it two center mids or three, and is Michael Bradley coming back into the fold?Because Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are penciled in for a while, and Kellyn Acosta has had fits and starts. Wil Trapp clearly also has a fan club in the USMNT hierarchy, and his club head coach is probably getting the job. So…. 4-1-4-1?

— Here’s something we already knew: This team goes as far as Christian Pulisic takes them.

— If Josh Sargent doesn’t start getting more meaningful playing time and Bobby Wood keeps living on his plateau, then you’re gonna be real mad when Jozy Altidore is striker No. 1 next summer.

Bundesliga wrap: Alcacer, BVB stays hot; Lewandowski feasts again

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Borussia Dortmund moved to a league-best 20 points on Saturday, ensuring that we’ll have a table leader not named Bayern Munich when the calendar turns to November.

[ VIDEO: Mourinho reacts to taunting, skirmish ]


Stuttgart 0-4 Borussia Dortmund

It’s been a very good time to be a supporter or member of Borussia Dortmund, who leads the table after another convincing win.

Red-hot Paco Alcacer now has seven goals in four Bundesliga matches after scoring the third goal on Saturday, while Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus, and Marvin Philipp also scored for the visitors.

USMNT winger Christian Pulisic returned to the fold for BVB, subbing into the match and providing an assist on Philipp’s 85th minute marker.

Schalke 0-2 Werder Bremen

Josh Sargent wasn’t on the bench for the visitors, but American teammate Weston McKennie did start for the hosts. McKennie covered the second-most ground in the contest, winning 14 tackles. He converted 19 of 24 passes and did not register a shot.

Unfortunately, the match wasn’t much to write home about for his side. Bremen got goals from Maximilian Egglestein on each side of halftime to grab another win on the young season.

Wolfsburg 1-3 Bayern Munich

Niko Kovac will be happy to get a decisive win after the international break, with James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski scoring in the win. Lewandowski’s brace included an absolute gift.

For Wolfsburg, USMNT center back John Brooks won tackles and completed 48 of his 53 passes, while Wout Weghorst scored its lone goal.

Elsewhere
Eintracht Frankfurt 7-1 Fortuna Dusseldorf — RECAP
Augsburg 0-0 RB Leipzig
Nurmberg 1-3 Hoffenheim
Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Hannover 96
Hertha Berlin vs. Freiburg — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Mainz — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Borussia Dortmund 8 6 2 0 27 8 19 4-0-0 2-2-0 20
 Werder Bremen 8 5 2 1 15 8 7 2-2-0 3-0-1 17
 Bayern Munich 8 5 1 2 15 9 6 2-1-1 3-0-1 16
 RB Leipzig 8 4 3 1 16 9 7 3-1-0 1-2-1 15
 Mönchengladbach 7 4 2 1 15 9 6 3-0-0 1-2-1 14
 Hertha BSC Berlin 7 4 2 1 12 7 5 3-0-0 1-2-1 14
 Eintracht Frankfurt 8 4 1 3 19 12 7 2-1-1 2-0-2 13
 1899 Hoffenheim 8 3 1 4 14 13 1 1-1-2 2-0-2 10
 FC Augsburg 8 2 3 3 14 13 1 1-2-1 1-1-2 9
 FSV Mainz 05 7 2 3 2 4 4 0 2-2-0 0-1-2 9
 VfL Wolfsburg 8 2 3 3 11 14 -3 1-2-2 1-1-1 9
 SC Freiburg 7 2 2 3 9 13 -4 1-2-1 1-0-2 8
 Bayer Leverkusen 8 2 2 4 9 15 -6 1-1-2 1-1-2 8
 1. FC Nürnberg 8 2 2 4 8 19 -11 2-1-1 0-1-3 8
 Hannover 96 8 1 3 4 10 16 -6 1-1-1 0-2-3 6
 FC Schalke 04 8 2 0 6 5 11 -6 1-0-3 1-0-3 6
 VfB Stuttgart 8 1 2 5 6 17 -11 1-1-2 0-1-3 5
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 8 1 2 5 6 18 -12 1-0-3 0-2-2 5

Player ratings: The good & the bad in USMNT’s loss to Colombia

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The U.S. men’s national team could do very little to slow down a star-studded, powerful Colombia side on Thursday, falling to a 4-2 defeat in Tampa, Fla.

There were a handful of good things to glean from the friendly, as well as plenty of bad things.

[ MORE: USMNT can do little to slow down prolific Colombia ]

GK – Zack Steffen: 5.5/10 — Steffen had no chance to do anything with three of the four goals conceded, given the quality of chances and finishes, but he was quick off his line on multiple occasions early in the game when Colombia could have blown it wide open and put up a crooked number.

RB – DeAndre Yedlin: 5/10 — The entire point of a player with Yedlin’s skill set is that he can bomb forward to overlap on the right wing and open up space for the attacker on that side of the field. Colombia simply had too much firepower, which pinned Yedlin back far too much for him to be effective.

CB – Matt Miazga: 5/10 — Similar to Yedlin, Miazga is at his best when he’s affecting the game further up the field — only in a defensive manner. Again, Colombia turned Miazga into an emergency defender running toward his own goal, which is far from his strong suit.

CB – John Brooks: 4.5/10 — Colombia repeatedly targeted the left side of the USMNT defense — and for good reason — which meant Antonee Robinson got roasted again and again (more on that in a moment). Brooks, the “veteran of the backline” at 25 years old and 34 caps, did very little — if anything — to remedy the situation.

LB – Antonee Robinson: 4/10 — Robinson had been a mostly encouraging piece for the future in his limited exposure with the USMNT. Tasked with defending one of James Rodriguez or Juan Cuadrado at all times — and the overlapping Santiago Arias, the 21-year-old struggled mightily. It’s almost as if he’d never played against anyone who’s been a star at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from USMNT’s loss to Colombia ]

DM – Michael Bradley: 5.5/10 — Back with the USMNT for the first time in a year — and wearing the armband — Bradley was finally deployed in a situation that works for him: as a no. 6, with a no. 8, who’s actually a no. 8, alongside him. However, Bradley’s effort on Colombia’s third goal stuck out as sorely lacking, which won’t have done him any favors in the minds of his many skeptics.

DM – Kellyn Acosta: 6.5/10 — Acosta scored a goal and was extremely active, but outside of his 50th-minute equalizer he could impact very little a game that was played at an uncomfortably high tempo.

RW – Tim Weah: 7.5/10 — With Christian Pulisic not in camp due to injury, all eyes were on Weah, and a standout performance was expected — and desperately needed — from the 18-year-old. His assist to Bobby Wood in the 53rd minute certainly stood out and showcased a part of his game that’s far more important — and yet unknown: vision, seeing the perfect pass and playing the pass.

CM – Julian Green: 6/10 — Green is 23 years old, and somehow it feels like he’s enjoying a career renaissance as a central midfielder. It was Green who forcefully won the ball back in the lead-up to Acosta’s goal, and it was Green — not Bradley or Acosta — who was most effective with his final-third passing.

LW – Kenny Saief: 4/10 — Speaking of players who did little nothing to help Robinson in his struggles, Saief offered nothing defensively. It was such a problem that Dave Sarachan flipped Saief and Weah at halftime.

FW – Bobby Wood: 6/10 — Wood scored a goal, which is a big part of a forward’s job, but did very little else during his 83-minute shift. The goal was a result of his straight-line speed as he outran a pair of defenders — we knew he could do that already, but is there anything else to his game?

Brooks leaves USMNT for Wolfsburg in planned move

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John Brooks is headed back to Wolfsburg after going 90 minutes for the United States in its 2-0 loss to Brazil on Friday.

U.S. Soccer says this was the plan all along for the star center back, 25.

[ USMNT-BRAZIL: Full recap | Player ratings ]

The USMNT roster sits at 23 for Tuesday’s match against Mexico, leaving Tim Parker and Cameron Carter-Vickers as options at center back along with Friday’s starter Matt Miazga.

How much change will we see from Dave Sarachan’s USMNT in the second match of this international break? Will he opt for Alex Bono or Ethan Horvath instead of Zack Steffen?

Tim Weah figures to get a start, and Friday subs Marky Delgado, Cristian Roldan, and Kellyn Acosta could see extended run against El Tri.

Three years apart, USMNT losses to Brazil show hope

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Timely interventions from center backs and a hot goalkeeper helped the United States men’s national team keep damage down to 2-0 in its loss to Brazil on Friday in New Jersey, and the Yanks looked far less overwhelmed than the 4-1 hammering at the hands of Selecao three years ago to this morning.

[ USMNT-BRAZIL: Full recap | Player ratings ]

The player ratings that night were ugly; Brad Guzan was a veteran struggling between the sticks, and the back line was shielded poorly by Ale Bedoya, Jermaine Jones, and Michael Bradley. The lone goal came via Danny Williams, and the silver lining was the then-Reading man and young DeAndre Yedlin.

Of course part of that was down to Jurgen Klinsmann figuring it was a good time to trot out a back four of Tim Ream, Ventura Alvarado, Michael Orozco, and Geoff Cameron (lot of center backs, considering Yedlin was deployed at right mid). And give Dave Sarachan plenty of credit for doing God’s work without much hope of being named full-time boss. This is proper guardianship of a program.

Only two starters from that night in 2015 saw time on Friday: Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes. With all due respect to Zardes, Yedlin’s the one who matters to this discussion. He’s become a key part of a Premier League outfit, though at the time he was a bit player in Europe.

Had the Yanks been looking for results on Friday, they would’ve suited up Bradley and Altidore. They would’ve begged Cameron to come, asked Williams and Bedoya to do a job or two.

It can be difficult to keep the USMNT’s present in focus given the gigantic cluster that was failing to qualify for Russia and then failing to accept responsibility for said failure, but the future is genuinely bright.

There’s no guarantee that players will continue to develop, and the global reach of technology has meant that many countries have sent more prospects to bigger clubs, there is absolutely no denying that the potential of the USMNT right now is as high as its been since the 2001 U-20 World Cup roster of Donovan, Onyewu, and Beasley.

But look at the roster, even beyond Pulisic: Weston McKennie is a regular starter for Schalke at age 19. Teenage mid Tyler Adams is shining for RBNY and looks set to move abroad to the Bundesliga.

Timothy Weah is a factor in the Paris Saint-Germain first team set-up. Matt Miazga‘s early days on loan from Chelsea at Nantes are impressive. The elders at just 25, Yedlin and Brooks are week-in, week-out starters at Newcastle and Wolfsburg.

Also, Josh Sargent didn’t play, but he did play Saturday for Werder Bremen. He scored. Again (And imagine if the powers-that-were didn’t sleep on Jonathan Gonzalez, who the Yanks will see in an El Tri shirt on Tuesday).

This is all without a full-time strategy in the national team program, and at least three principal voices in 18 months. That’s about to be four in 24.

Whether it’s Tata Martino or Gregg Berhalter, Tab Ramos or David Moyes, someone is going to inherit the most promising collection of young American talent, skill, and experience in ages.

If not ever.

Now that’s cool.