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Berhalter speaks on USMNT roster, Bradley’s chance, Pulisic’s problems

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NEW YORK (AP) U.S. captain Michael Bradley has an immediate chance to show new coach Gregg Berhalter he deserves to be considered for the next World Cup cycle.

The 31-year-old midfielder was the oldest player and among just four veterans selected for a 27-man roster that will attend Berhalter’s first training camp starting Jan. 6.

[ MORE: Berhalter names first USMNT squad ]

“I truly believe that and this is an opportunity for Michael to show his value to the group,” Berhalter said during a conference call Thursday. “So we’re excited to see him and how he works through this training camp and meeting the team and also contributing to what we’re trying to do on the field.”

Bradley has 142 international appearances but like most veterans was dropped after the October 2017 loss at Trinidad and Tobago that ended the Americans’ streak of seven straight World Cup appearances. He returned in October following a one-year absence along with 34-year-old goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Guzan was omitted so he can train under a new club coach with Atlanta, which opens in February with the CONCACAF Champions League. Berhalter left off 29-year-old forward Jozy Altidore and 28-year-old midfielder Darlington Nagbe, both recovering from injuries. Berhalter said Altidore will come to camp for a day or two to “see the environment.”

The first U.S. coach who played for the Americans in the World Cup, Berhalter was hired Dec. 2 from the Columbus Crew to succeed Dave Sarachan, the interim coach for 13 months. Berhalter’s first matches are exhibitions against Panama on Jan. 27 at Glendale, Arizona, and against Costa Rica on Feb. 2 at San Jose, California. The team’s first competitive match in 20 months is June 18 at St. Paul, Minnesota, where the Americans open the defense of their CONCACAF Gold Cup title.

Sarachan gave debuts to 23 players, with the Americans winning three matches, lost five and tied four. Berhalter chose 12 players with no national team experience for the training camp, and seven others with five appearances or fewer. The group averages 24 years, 230 days and just 10 appearances.

Berhalter’s roster was chosen entirely from MLS, and he intends to add a central midfielder or winger. The only other players picked with more than a dozen appearances were forward Gyasi Zardes (40) and midfielders Kellyn Acosta (23) and Paul Arriola (17).

Players who could make debuts include are goalkeeper Tyler Miller; defenders Justin Glad, Nick Lima, Daniel Lovitz, Mark McKenzie, Keegan Rosenberry and Auston Trusty; midfielders Corey Baird, Russell Canouse and Djordje Mihailovic; and forwards Jeremy Ebobisse and Christian Ramirez.

Berhalter has been in Europe meeting with the foreign-based portion of his player pool, a group not available to the national team until a pair of home exhibitions in March. The 45-year-old Berhalter, a member of the 2002 and ’06 World Cup rosters, said he is “trying to get a sense of the past but also the future, what this group is looking for.”

“I think we can use this opportunity in this training camp to just start the process and set the tone for what this group is going to be like,” he said, emphasizing three points: “building a culture within the team, instilling a style of play and then competing – competing in every single thing we do.”

Among the players he met with in Germany was 20-year-old star midfielder Christian Pulisic, who on Tuesday made first Bundesliga start for Borussia Dortmund since Sept. 29. Since returning in October following a three-week injury layoff, Pulisic has lost playing time to 18-year-old English midfielder Jadon Sancho.

“At the moment it hasn’t been going the best for him, and I think that’s when guys really can show their qualities, just how they endure through times like this,” Berhalter said. “And we talked about that.”

After training at Carson, California, each winter since 2004, the U.S. is moving its January camp 120 miles south to Chula Vista, near San Diego.

The roster:

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto), Sean Johnson (New York City), Tyler Miller (LA), Zack Steffen (Columbus)

Defenders: Reggie Cannon (Dallas), Greg Garza (Cincinnati), Justen Glad (Salt Lake), Nick Lima (San Jose), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia), Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia), Walker Zimmerman (LA)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado), Paul Arriola (D.C.), Corey Baird (Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto), Russell Canouse (D.C.), Marky Delgado (Toronto), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago), Cristian Roldan (Seattle), Wil Trapp (Columbus)

Forwards: Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland), Christian Ramirez (LA), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus).

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

USMNT set to focus on result against Peru

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The United States fell to a 4-2 defeat to Colombia on Thursday, and the feeling after that match was overtly positive despite the final score. The team of mostly youngsters was more than competitive against a side that featured several well-known stars – James Rodriguez, Falcao, Juan Cuadrado to name a few – and only a pair of late goals proved the difference.

That will be less acceptable on Tuesday as the USMNT gets set to take on Peru at Rentschler Field in East Hartford at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Against a team with fewer recognizable stars and less international pedigree, a loss with positives will be far more difficult to swallow, especially after Thursday’s result. While Peru is certainly no CONMEBOL pushover – they’re coming off a 3-0 whipping of Chile – the opponent’s public perception goes a long way in determining the acceptability of a defeat in an international friendly.

Given the positive yet mistake-riddled performance against Colombia, a big focus will be on correcting mistakes. On Thursday, we saw some spotty man marking (see: Yedlin on Borja’s goal), poor wing play against speedy midfielders (see: Antonee Robinson vs Cuadrado), and struggles keeping up on the counter (see: Falcao goal). So against a more beatable opponent, how will the team respond? Mistakes are good if the players can learn from them.

Much of the focus last week was on Michael Bradley’s long-awaited return to the national team, and he delivered against Colombia, helping control play in the middle of the field, a vital resource against a superior opponent. So while Dave Sarachan promised “a lot of changes” to the starting lineup this time around, Bradley will almost certainly retain his place. Another pair of players we could see against Peru is Timothy Weah and Josh Sargent, who both came on late against Colombia and were positive influences on the game. Watching Bradley feed those two up front could be an excitable vision towards the future.

Brad Guzan will be in goal after Zack Steffan left the camp with an injury. He will face a Peruvian attack that looked positive last time out, but that lacks a proven goalscorer. The two true forwards in the Peru squad are Yordy Reyna and Raul Ruidiaz, who have a combined six goals in 52 appearances. The leading scorers in the squad are midfielders Christian Cueva and Edison Flores, and they will prove the biggest threat for Guzan at the back should they find the starting lineup.

Ultimately, while performances have been more important than results of late, a failure to earn three points will be a disappointment because in a match like this against a quality opponent, it will take a positive performance to earn the win.

That’s A Dive podcast: Special guest Michael Bradley

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When you can spend some time with MB90, you spend time with MB90.

Kyle Martino has a quick thought on Liverpool-Manchester City (2:00) and Manchester United’s comeback victory against Newcastle (5:15) before chatting with special guest, Michael Bradley, on the United States Men’s National Team (12:00).

[ MORE: Download “That’s A Dive” Apple Podcast ]

Click play to listen to the pod below.

USMNT-Colombia preview: Bradley’s back, but the new stars are not

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The United States men’s national team is back, and will play a match one year and one day removed from its colossal failure in Couva.

The Yanks were eliminated from World Cup qualification on Oct. 10, 2017, failing to ever find their footing in a must-win contest against Trinidad and Tobago’s B Team.

[ MORE: 1 year on from USMNT’s dark day ] 

How fitting, then, that the American squad set to face Colombia on Thursday is still a bit of a B Side by its own standards? Yes, Michael Bradley and Brad Guzan are back in the fold, but Dave Sarachan hasn’t just called up another a young side. He’s been forced to operate without new key pieces Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams (all injured).

Bradley is the most interesting piece in that he’s been one the main targets of scorn and blame for the failure in Trinidad and Tobago. On any other team, he waltzes back into the Starting XI. But how is Sarachan viewing this week, and the USMNT’s longtime captain?

Colombia is bringing plenty of A-listers to the affair, starting with James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, Carlos Bacca, and Radamel Falcao. They’ll provide a stiff test for an American back line which is really beginning to function well together. DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, and Matt Miazga will figure in the set-up, but will Sarachan opt for three, four, or five at the back?

Or will he try some new blood, with MLS standouts Reggie Cannon, Aaron Long, and Ben Sweat angling for their first caps?

The other uncapped player in Nordsjaelland winger Jonathan Amon, a 19-year-old now featuring for the senior team after several years in the academy of the Danish powers.

Colombia beat the USMNT twice at the 2016 Copa America, once in the group stage and then again in the third place match. The Yanks haven’t come out on top against Los Cafeteros since a 2005 friendly.

The goal scorers that day? Pat Noonan, Chad Marshall, and Clint Mathis.

Zlatan rips Bradley after on-field argument (video)

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Toronto FC and the LA Galaxy played a peak TFC-Galaxy match last night, with both sides typifying their season in a 5-3 Reds win which included a blown 3-0 lead by Toronto.

Given the swings in emotion, it’s no surprise that two significant on-field personalities came head-to-head on Saturday.

[ MORE: Wolves beat Burnley ]

Toronto captain Michael Bradley’s heated exchange with referee Nima Saghafi led to LA’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic stepping in front of the official (who seemingly didn’t mind?). Ibrahimovic was already on yellow.

Zlatan — who also scored this perhaps unprecedented style of goal for his 500th career marker — was asked about Bradley.

“He thinks he’s the philosopher of football. I have more goals than he has games. He should follow my rules.”

Ibrahimovic has 500 goals between club and country. Bradley has 514 appearances, so joke’s on the Swede. Kinda.

A classy Bradley left his talking on the field, simply stating that he’s happy with the win and doesn’t care much for Zlatan’s opinion.

TFC is aiming to run the table and enter the playoffs as the six seed no one wants to see on the docket.