Kenny Saief

Getty Images

Busio scores again, Zelalem starts as Sporting KC ties FC Cincinnati

Leave a comment

Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes rotated his squad for its match at FC Cincinnati, and it paid off in a point on the road.

One of the stars of the show was 16-year-old Gianluca Busio, who looked calm and composed in his central midfield role on the ball and even came away with a goal, even though it was a bit of a gift after a mixup by FC Cincinnati’s defense. In addition, Gedion Zelalem made his MLS debut starting in Sporting KC colors, going 57 minutes alongside Busio as Zelalem builds match fitness. Busio’s goal set a new MLS record for the teenager.

[WATCH: Watford completes stunning comeback v. Wolves]

Busio’s goal cancelled out Darren Mattocks’ first half penalty kick, and the MLS expansion side had multiple chances in the second half on counter attacks to pull out all three points.

Cincinnati took the early lead in the 19th minute after Roland Lamah was taken down in the penalty area. Darren Mattocks stepped up and sent Adrian Zendejas the wrong way to give the hosts the lead. It was Mattocks’ first of the season and seemed to give him an added boost of confidence.

Both teams had chances to score later in the half, with Kelyn Rowe missing a great opportunity in the box and Mattocks blasting a strike off the post.

In the second half, Kekuta Manneh was put through on goal but put his shot wide, and Cincinnati was made to pay. With the ball off on the left wing, Busio made a run through the middle of the park and was nearly picked out by Rowe. However, with Cincinnati goalkeeper Spencer Richey and left back Greg Garza approaching the ball, the two collided and failed to clear the ball, leaving Busio to finish into an empty net.

In a game that finished at 1-1, it will be remembered by both sides for all the missed changes to both. One of the other bright spots, related to the U.S. Men’s National Team, was the play of Kenny Saief. In his first start since joining FC Cincinnati, the American-born, Israeli-raised attacker floated into the middle from the wing and dribbled at defenders, creating plenty of chances for Cincinnati in the attacking third.

Ultimately though, it was Busio who stole the show. Just 16, it’s a bright sign for the future for both Sporting KC and the USMNT as he develops in the professional game.

Saief, Manneh extend FC Cincinnati’s impressive start

twitter.com/fccincinnati
Leave a comment

FC Cincinnati looks like it isn’t the walkover many experts were predicting it’d be, extending its unbeaten run to three matches with a 2-0 win over defense-free New England on Sunday.

Kekuta Manneh and Kenny Saief set each other up for goals as the expansion side moved to 2-1-1 through four matches.

Brad Friedel‘s New England now has one point through four matches.

[ WATCH: Pochettino address crowd at Spurs’ new stadium ]

Teal Bunbury nearly took advantage of slow-to-react-at-the-back Cincinnati but punched a wide-open look way over the frame.

And after Emmanuel Ledesma just missed with a few bids from distance, FCC made his threats proper foreshadowing albeit from in-tight.

USMNT winger Kenny Saief slotted ball into the mixer that Manneh slotted for 1-0 before halftime.

Cincinnati goalkeeper Spencer Richey made a pair of outstanding stops on Carles Gil and Diego Fagundez around the hour mark to keep the advantage in tact.

Saief made it 2-0 in the 65th minute, a disorganized Revolution losing track of the former Anderlecht man.

Three things from the USMNT’s 4-2 loss to Colombia

AP Photo/John Raoux
1 Comment

The United States men’s national team took the pitch in Tampa without Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams.

[ MORE: MLS, Liga MX eye merge deal? ]

They still found ways to entertain.

Weah and Wood for the Win (or at least the lead)

Cheers to Bobby Wood, the sometimes maligned but often productive Hawaii-born forward of Hannover 96.

Wood broke up the play that started the USMNT’s second goal, carrying the ball before being fouled.

The play continued onward until PSG young buck Timothy Weah dribbled up the left of the pitch and played a perfectly-weighted ball into the path of Wood, who hauled his body almost 100 yards over the course of the goal.

The aforementioned James principle also applies to Weah, 18, who stuck around PSG instead of accepting a loan offer. He gets his chance to shine with the USMNT, and the dividends were very much there.

Better from Robinson

Less than inspiring — and that’s being nice — in last month’s friendlies, Antonee Robinson was a different man against Colombia.

There were still plenty of errors in defense, but the Everton youngster, currently on loan to Wigan Athletic, was a lively part of both possession and attack from his left wingback spot for the USMNT on Thursday.

At 21 years old, that’s fairly forgivable.

Composed and electric, the 21-year-old’s cross provided an equalizer for Kellyn Acosta that honestly could’ve come from Bobby Wood. It was good enough service to provide a chance for two players to bury a match-tying goal.

As an aside, goal scorer Kellyn Acosta has been reborn for Colorado, and even the fondest of Jurgen Klinsmann supporters knew that the former manager’s shoe-horning of the midfielder at left back was A) wrong and B) just an acknowledgment that he should have a spot on the field.

International soccer: Where depth club players get their shine

International friendlies have the tendency to uncage beasts. The combination of world class talent and less organized teams, a symptom of the international game sickness, is enough to provide show-stoppers.

Enter James Rodriguez.

The 27-year-old has started less than half of Bayern Munich’s league games this season, but is the undoubted star for Los Cafeteros. His cutback on Kenny Saief — wyd after that, Kenny? — and beautiful curler around the reach of Zack Steffen were the things of dreams.

It probably should’ve been 2-0 thanks to James magic, but Matt Miazga slid to clear the ball off the goal line in the 41st minute.

James helped cue up Colombia’s third goal, too, sending a hopeful outside of the boot clearance 60 yards up field en route to the 3-2 advantage.

And his patient dribble in a phone booth was the direct assist for Miguel Borja’s terrific acrobatic goal. I mean, the composure…

Saief withdraws from USMNT camp with injury, will miss France game

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kenny Saief can’t catch a break.

The U.S. Men’s National Team winger was forced to withdraw from the last leg of its European training camp in France with a “right leg injury,” according to U.S. Soccer, which announced the news overnight. It’s another blow to Saief, who was one of the few players left on the current roster with years of European experience – as well as appearances in the UEFA Champions League.

[READ: More U.S. Open “Cupsets” on Wednesday]

“After picking up the injury towards the end of his season with Belgian club Anderlecht, Saief joined the MNT in Dublin last week but was limited in training and did not dress for Saturday’s match against the Republic of Ireland,” U.S. Soccer wrote in a statement. “Saief continued with the team in France, but after conversations with the club’s training staff, the collective decision was made to release the player as a precaution and allow him to prepare for his upcoming preseason camp.”

The 24-year-old had his one-time switch from Israel, the nation he was raised in – approved in June 2017, in time for the Gold Cup, but a series of recurring injuries have kept him to just two friendly match appearances for the U.S. With the injury so late in the training camp, the U.S. declined to call up a replacement, leaving the squad at 24 players.

The USMNT finishes up its three-game summer set against World Cup favorite France on Saturday in Lyon.

So… how could the USMNT line up at its next tournament?

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
1 Comment

The United States men’s national team has one goal over the next 18 months since they decided to take a break from their regular World Cup participation.

That goal? Qualify for the 2021 Confederations Cup in Qatar*.

[ MORE: Mourinho rips forwards ]

(Insert next full-time coach’s name here)’s Yanks have not one but two paths to that appetizer for the 2022 World Cup. As the 2016 Gold Cup champions, they’ve guaranteed at worst a place in the 2020 CONCACAF Cup against the 2019 Gold Cup winner.

Or, and follow me here, they could win the 2019 Gold Cup and eliminate such a CONCACAF Cup.

Being CONCACAF, any number of things could happen during the tournament, but we learned something when the U.S. was not invited to the 2019 Copa America: Without a second tournament, Mexico, the U.S., Costa Rica, and friends will have access to their A-plus group of players should they desire to treat the competition seriously.

For the United States and (insert next full-time coach’s name here), it would be embarrassing to do anything less in the run-up to the return of World Cup qualifying the following Fall (though an expanded field could make qualifying for that tournament much closer to “just show up for a third of your games.”).

What will the United States’ top lineup look like come next summer? Well, the next 10-12 friendlies will tell us something, but plenty is up in the air. Assuming health, there are very few certainties in the group. Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, DeAndre Yedlin, and John Brooks are going and probably starting; Matt Miazga and Tyler Adams also seem close to locks.

Player pool (Ages come June 2019 in parenthesis)

Goalkeepers: Bill Hamid (28), Zack Steffen (24), Alex Bono (25), Jesse Gonzalez (24), Ethan Horvath (24), Jonathan Klinsmann (22), Matt Turner (24).

Defenders: Brooks (26), Yedlin (25), Miazga (23), Shaq Moore (22), Cameron Carter-Vickers (21), Erik Palmer-Brown (22), Auston Trusty (20), Tim Parker (26), Walker Zimmerman (26), Danilo Acosta (21), Geoff Cameron (33), Steve Birnbaum (28), Timmy Chandler (29), Justen Glad (22), Ben Sweat (28), Nick Lima (24), Reggie Cannon (20), Antonee Robinson (21), Aaron Long (26), Keegan Rosenberry (25).

Midfielders: Adams (20), McKennie (20), Marky Delgado (24), Kenny Saief (25), Michael Bradley (31), Paul Arriola (24), Sean Davis (26), Jacori Hayes (23), Brooks Lennon (21), Cristian Roldan (24), Darlington Nagbe (28), Wil Trapp (26), Lynden Gooch (23), Danny Williams (30), Kellyn Acosta (23), Kelyn Rowe (27), Andrew Carleton (18), Luca de la Torre (21), Ale Bedoya (32), Sebastian Lletget (26).

Forwards: Pulisic (20), Tim Weah (19), Bobby Wood (26), Andrija Novakovich (22), Gyasi Zardes (27), Jordan Morris (24), Josh Sargent (19), Jozy Altidore (29), Clint Dempsey (36), Aron Johannsson (28), Terrence Boyd (28), Juan Agudelo (28).

Pick your 23. Here’s our best guess — GK: Steffen, Horvath, Klinsmann. DEF: Brooks, Miazga, Carter-Vickers, Cameron, Chandler, Yedlin, Moore, Robinson. MID: Adams, McKennie, Delgado, Bradley, Roldan, Williams, K. Acosta, Saief. FWD: Pulisic, Wood, Altidore, Sargent.

And an XI: I think the captain Bradley is going to have to play his way out of his job at CM (unless his TFC transition to CB become full-time), so we won’t always see McKennie and Adams together is the center of the park. Robinson gets the left back gig unless Danilo Acosta makes great strides or the new coach thinks he can play Moore or Nick Lima on the other side of the pitch. We’ll go hybrid 4-3-3/4-5-1, though Pulisic could well get every chance to be a No. 10 (and who knows where he’ll be playing next season in club ball).

Steffen

Yedlin — Brooks — Miazga — Robinson

McKennie — Bradley — Adams

Pulisic — Altidore — Saief

*-They still could move the 2021 Confederations Cup and 2022 World Cup from Qatar. It’s really not too late.