Jordan Morris

Associated Press

USMNT ready for final Gold Cup tuneup

Leave a comment

The United States has one final tune-up for the Gold Cup as the 23-man tournament squad gets set to face Venezuela on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. ET in Cincinnati.

A lackluster performance on Wednesday resulted in a 1-0 loss to Jamaica, the first loss under new head coach Gregg Berhalter. A number of fringe players saw time in that game, but with Berhalter’s camp over and his Gold Cup roster set, so it’s likely there will be less experimentation this time around, instead hoping to give the first-team squad a chance to gel.

That likely means the re-introduction of Jozy Altidore plus Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are now available as well. The biggest name of all will not be present, however, as Berhalter has already confirmed he will rest and preserve Christian Pulisic to keep him in top shape for the meaningful matches. Michael Bradley is also not available as Berhalter hopes to protect the 31-year-old from a recent hamstring injury, and while he’s been a full participant in practice, he did not play against Jamaica and will again be held out.

These two teams met in a 2017 Gold Cup tuneup at Rio Tinto Stadium in a match that saw Pulisic score a 61st minute equalizer to secure a 1-1 draw. Yet that game seems a lifetime ago, as just two of the starters from that game and four of the 19 players who saw time are on the current roster, including the 20-year-old Chelsea attacker.

Berhalter will want to see a much more organized and electric attacking display to give fans hope ahead of the Gold Cup, and while Josh Sargent’s omission from the squad is a head-scratching decision that could sap the attack of a late-game option, it’s not likely to affect the overall game plan for Sunday or throughout the tournament.

Predicted lineup

— Steffen —

— Adams — Miazga — Long — Lovitz

— McKennie — Trapp — Holmes —

— Morris — Altidore — Lewis —

The head man will want to get a mix of players on the field while still deploying the same tactical approach he will ask of his players in the Gold Cup and hope as many first-team players as possible can be on the field. Still, with a long summer ahead, it’s unlikely he will take too many squad risks. Omar Gonzalez played the full 90 minutes against Jamaica and could sit in favor of Aaron Long. Tyler Adams has been excelling in midfield since his move to the Bundesliga, but the USMNT has shown no signs of detouring from the plan to play Adams at right-back at the international level.

Berhalter may look to again deploy Tim Ream after playing just 60 minutes against Jamaica, but the 31-year-old is a known quantity and the coach could look to give Daniel Lovitz another chance to prove his worth against a difficult opponent. With Bradley out, Wil Trapp is again the man in the middle, without any fitness worries knowing that Bradley will take over once the Gold Cup arrives. McKennie is back in the fold while Duane Holmes should get another chance after proving one of the few bright spots against Jamaica.

Paul Arriola got 72 lackluster minutes the last time out, and Jonathan Lewis will have an opportunity to show what he can do out wide, with Jordan Morris possibly taking over on the other side. It’s possible that Morris could start the game on the bench with the aim of coming on to spell Jozy Altidore in the second half, in which case Tyler Boyd could see his name in the starting lineup.

Whoever starts at the back for the United States will have the tall task of marking MLS superstar Josef Martinez, a player coming off a record-breaking club season last year and – slow start aside – is back on track this year as well, with six goals in his last five matches for Atlanta United. He will likely be supported on the flanks by Real Salt Lake winger Jefferson Savarino and Jhon Murilla who plays in the Portuguese top flight. In the middle for Venezuela is a familiar face in Yangel Herrera, a midfield destroyer formerly of NYCFC who played the last six months at Spanish side Huesca on loan from Manchester City.

Venezuela is coming off a pair of disappointing performances and has won just once in its last five matches, a surprising 3-1 victory over Argentina in March. They dropped 3-1 to Mexico last time out on Thursday in Atlanta in Gerardo Martino’s return to Atlanta, wasting an early 1-0 lead via Murillo. Before that they drew 1-1 with Ecuador, again coughing up a first-half lead.

A win isn’t necessarily a must for the United States with the important matches to come, but an improvement from the Jamaica defeat is required to give the U.S. any kind of confidence and good vibes heading into the tournament this summer that will define Gregg Berhalter’s early head coaching days and set up the squad to begin vital World Cup qualifying on a high.

Who stands to gain or lose the most in USMNT camp?

Associated Press
Leave a comment

The USMNT will convene for Gregg Berhalter’s second camp in charge of the national squad as the international break temporarily brings a halt to most club competitions.

Leading towards international friendlies against Ecuador and Chile five days apart on Thursday and next Tuesday, the camp will provide Berhalter another opportunity to see what the national team talent pool can potentially provide him and get a look at players he will have to make decisions on ahead of more high-leverage matches. There will be experimentation, Berhalter has confirmed, and players will get a chance to make an impression.

With some players involved in aforementioned tinkering while other players sit in precarious club situations, who stands to gain the most this camp, and who could be facing their last chance to make an impression?

Most to gain

1) Tyler Adams

The former New York Red Bull midfielder has enjoyed a positive start to life in the German top flight, and could bring his good form back to the national team camp. That’s not the focus of his national team situation, however.

Gregg Berhalter confirmed that he will experiment with Adams at right-back during this week-long stretch, a curious idea with the possibility of Adams being minimized at his best midfield position in Berhalter’s setup. Many are predicting Berhalter to eventually settle on a 4-3-3 formation, which could force him into a different role. When asked if moving him out wide could minimize his ball-winning strengths, Berhalter didn’t sound terribly convinced of the idea yet, but was hopeful the coaching staff will eventually be rewarded for their creativity.

“This is the beginning phases and we want to test it and we want to see how it looks and we want to see how he adapts and what it gives our team overall,” Berhalter said. “When you’re looking at the profile of a Michael Bradley or a Wil Trapp – a very controlling player – and you have the dynamic guy next to him in Tyler who can come inside and still be influential from that position, we think it’s exciting and we want to take a look at it. It may not work exactly as we have planned and we have to adapt but in theory it’s something worth trying.”

Adams, therefore, could gain a lot this camp. While he’s already a bright young talent with a clear place on the squad no matter the eventual formation used in games that matter, Adams could stamp his place in a team in a position of weakness should the experiment pay off.

2) Sebastian Lletget

With the comeback from his brutal 2017 injury finally complete having appeared in the last four national team matches off the bench, Sebastian Lletget could be primed for his first national team start in over two years, and this is the perfect chance to show off his usefulness to the new boss. Lletget has started the 2019 MLS season well, a completely dominant force in the Galaxy’s 3-2 win over Minnesota United on Saturday, completing 77/83 passes in a creative attacking role and scoring the eventual winning goal.

Lletget is a perfect fit for the 4-3-3 as a controlling winger who can pinch inside and cause havoc on and off the ball, or use his speed to create space and deliver a cross from the flank. If he performs at a high level this camp – and he should see ample time on the wing given the makeup of the roster – it could be a breakout point for the 26-year-old in the prime of his career during this World Cup cycle.

3) Jordan Morris

Morris has not made an appearance for the USMNT since January of 2018 due to injury, but now he’s back in the fold. It couldn’t come at a better time, with Morris in excellent form to start the 2019 MLS season. The 24-year-old has three goals and an assist through the team’s first three league matches amidst a perfect start for Seattle.

With Josh Sargent and Tim Weah both involved in U-23 Olympic qualifying, this seems the perfect opportunity for Morris to re-insert himself into the USMNT forward conversation in front of the new boss.

Most to lose

1) Tim Ream

With Fulham floundering towards relegation in the Premier League amidst a historic defensive calamity, Tim Ream has been at the center of the Whites’ struggles at the back. At 31 years old and the next World Cup still three years away, it’s possible that this is Ream’s last opportunity to state his case at the national team level. He was Fulham’s best player just a year ago in their promotion campaign, rock solid at the back for essentially the entire season, but as he finds life difficult in the English top flight, anything short of a perfect camp could see Ream flushed out of the setup.

2) DeAndre Yedlin

Anything gained by Tyler Adams in this camp would be DeAndre Yedlin’s loss. The incumbent first-choice right-back suddenly has competition from an experimental adversary, and that could mean Yedlin finds himself in no-man’s land. Berhalter said that they would push Yedlin further up the field into a winger role to accommodate Adams, but a player being moved from his natural position to make way for an experiment is never a good sign.

Yedlin has plenty to gain by performing well in his new role, but he has more to lose should it go poorly and Adams succeeds. The Newcastle defender has worked hard on his defensive abilities over the past few years, to some marketable improvement, and so the experiment is understandable but at the same time somewhat puzzling. Should Adams make the switch with ease, Yedlin could find himself without a clear role in Berhalter’s potential 4-3-3 setup.

3) Gyasi Zardes

Still without a national team goal since 2016 and just one assist in that same timeframe, Gyasi Zardes is slowly slipping down the USMNT pecking order as others continue to step up. He has been deployed out wide continuously at the national level despite finding renewed success in a striker role at Columbus, and it’s clear it’s a weakness for him. It feels like the 27-year-old has reached a breaking point with the USMNT, and if he continues to fire blanks up front and be plagued by poor touches and questionable on-ball decision-making, he won’t be part of the 2022 World Cup conversation for much longer.

SQUAD

GK: Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Sean Johnson (NYCFC), Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas).

DEF: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Reading), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)

MIDFIELDERS (7)Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)

FORWARDS (6): Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Christian Ramirez (LAFC), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC).

Jordan Morris tallies goal, assist as Sounders win big

Seattle Sounders official Twitter
Leave a comment

Jordan Morris missed all of last season due to a torn ACL, and his international career seemed similarly dented by the injury. Today made it clear that he’s back with a vengeance.

The 24-year-old was a force as he scored a goal and assisted another in a 4-2 road victory over Chicago.

It was his pinpoint cross to Victor Rodriguez that opened the scoring, and Nicolas Lodeiro delivered a perfect ball to meet Morris’s run through the channel as Seattle doubled its lead inside the opening 20 minutes. Morris’s goal will give USMNT added hope, as he perfectly timed his run and completed the finish despite heavy contact from the defender making things very awkward.

While Morris faded after the opening 20 minutes and was eventually withdrawn with four minutes remaining, but his outburst to start the game is promising given the USMNT will convene next week for the international break. Morris now has three goals and an assist to start the Major League Soccer season, a fabulous start on his way back from injury. His quick start to the campaign also gives Seattle its best start to a year with three games in a row off the jump, tying 2009 for a club record.

USMNT fans will want to see more from the 24-year-old, but a healthy and in-form Jordan Morris is a massive asset to the national team that is still looking for consistent performances up front.

Need to Know: What went down on MLS opening day

AP Photo/Joe Mahoney
Leave a comment

The 2019 MLS season got underway on Saturday, and did so with a flurry of action — and goals — across the campaign’s first 10 games…

[ MORE: Rapinoe, Heath lead USWNT back to draw England (video) ]

If you missed the day’s action, here are four of the biggest stories, outcomes, debuts or revelations you need to know…

Michael Bradley Revenge Tour – 2019

First things first, 2019 is a contract year for Michael Bradley, Toronto FC’s $6.5-million-per-year midfield engine. While the one-time (and maybe still) U.S. men’s national team captain can hardly ever be accused of prioritizing money over all else in his career, it’s the whole “getting paid” part that makes him a professional. Beyond the cash he stands to make or lose on a potential next contract, Bradley must first prove he’s got enough left in the tank to warrant the Reds extending an offer in the first place.

Fine, have a season-opening brace in a 3-1 victory away to the Philadelphia Union, one of the Eastern Conference’s six playoff teams from a year ago. What happened to TFC in 2019 was no doubt an embarrassment and an affront for a player of Bradley’s standard.

Taking into account the above two factors, no one should be at all surprised when Bradley turns in Herculean performance after Herculean performance in 2019, shutting up his longtime haters and reminding those who might have jumped ship that he’s far from finished.


Meet the future of the Galaxy, Efrain Alvarez

Efrain Alvarez is a 16-year-old Mexican-American superstar in the making, and he already looks like he’ll be MLS’s next great teenage export to Europe. Making his MLS debut on Saturday, the Los Angeles-born Mexican youth international (he switch from the U.S. to Mexico at the U-15 level, in 2016) needed just eight minutes to make his mark and spark the Galaxy’s comeback.

Paging U.S. Soccer: let’s get on this, ASAP…

As for the Galaxy’s 2019 prospects, the only thing I feel comfortable saying with absolute certainty is this: they will be very fun to watch, and equal parts maddening, probably during the course of one every game. The best thing I can say for Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side on his MLS coaching debut is this: after falling behind on a comically atrocious mistake that gift-wrapped Chicago’s opening goal, they knew how to play from behind without handing the Fire a second and/or third goal. Oh, yeah, and he’s already willing to play the Galaxy’s (considerably talented) academy kids.


Keep an eye on Minnesota

Minnesota United appear headed for respectability and a — dare I say it — push for a playoff place in 2019. Finally, after struggling defensively for two seasons, the Loons went out and make a trio of signings that might just prove franchise-altering in very short order: Osvaldo Alonso, Ike Opara and Jan Gregus.

While you’re undoubtedly familiar with the work of Alonso and Opara, Gregus probably has you thinking to yourself, Who? Who, indeed, but the 28-year-old Slovak international proved in Saturday’s 3-2 win away to the Vancouver Whitecaps that he is the midfield anchor Minnesota had been missing. Signed from Copenhagen this winter, Gregus was extremely tidy in possession (he completed 93 percent of the 84 passes he attempted) and provided solid cover for a backline that knew no such thing prior to his arrival.

Darwin Quintero remains one of the league’s biggest game-changers (one goal and two assists), which might not go to waste yet again now that the rest of the roster has a bit more quality and experience.


Orange ball alert

It is with great pleasure that I inform the masses that the Colorado Rapids were forced to break out the orange ball on the opening day of the season, thanks to near white-out conditions at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and the coldest game in MLS history (18 degrees at kickoff).

What did we learn about the Rapids or their opponents, the defending Western Conference champion Portland Timbers, on this day? Other than the fact that 3-3 draws and 94th-minute equalizers in heavy snow are tons of fun to watch, of course? Not a single thing, thanks to said weather conditions turning the game into a glorified Thanksgiving day pickup game in the backyard.

Full MLS scoreboard

Seattle Sounders 4-1 FC Cincinnati
LA Galaxy 2-1 Chicago Fire
Philadelphia Union 1-3 Toronto FC
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-3 Minnesota United
Colorado Rapids 3-3 Portland Timbers
Orlando City SC 2-2 New York City FC
Columbus Crew SC 1-1 New York Red Bulls
Houston Dynamo 1-1 Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes 1-2 Montreal Impact
FC Dallas 1-1 New England Revolution

Report: Jordan Morris signing new deal with Seattle

Nick Tre. Smith/The Kansas City Star via AP
Leave a comment

Jordan Morris is reportedly sticking around home for the prime of his career.

The 24-year-old striker, healing from ACL surgery, has a new five-year deal with the Seattle Sounders that will pay him around $1 million per season, according to The Athletic.

[ REPORT: Steffen passes Man City medical ]

Morris leapt into the public consciousness while still in college at Stanford, when Jurgen Klinsmann called him into USMNT camp in 2014.

The industrious striker has since earned 25 caps, scoring five goals, spurning interest from abroad including a 2016 trial with Werder Bremen to stay with his hometown Sounders.

Morris tore his ACL in CONCACAF Champions League play this Spring, missing the entire MLS season. He has 17 goals and six assists in 70 career appearances for Seattle.