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Top 25 players in the USMNT player pool right now

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About one month into the new European season and under three months away from the World Cup, there’s a changed dynamic when it comes to rating the statuses of the Top 25 players in the USMNT player pool.

Injuries now shift how we rate these players because a knee problem that would’ve normally left us saying, “Yeah but he’ll be fine come Qatar” no longer carries as many pages on the calendar.

Transfers have also changed how we view player status and there’s even a big early-season coaching change to consider in the case of Christian Pulisic at Chelsea (Graham Potter does like him a versatile attacker, CP).

[ MORE: Latest USMNT transfer news ]

And there’s another question as MLS reaches the end of its season with players looking better on U.S. soil than they did abroad. Are we fully embracing Matt Miazga’s fine performances back on U.S. soil with FC Cincinnati? Should those showings matter as much, more, or less than Chris Richards’ lesser playing time at Crystal Palace?

Is Cristian Roldan’s fine MLS season enough to cast a wary eye on Luca de la Torre’s small amount of minutes since moving to La Liga?

And what about the keepers? Matt Turner’s not playing for Arsenal but he’s training with one of the deepest attacks in the Premier League while Zack Steffen and Matt Turner are playing week-in, week-out in the Championship.

Are Jesus Ferreira’s 18 goals in MLS that much tastier than Josh Sargent’s hot start in the Championship? Jordan Pefok missed a penalty on Sunday but has otherwise been monstrous for Union Berlin, as has Haji Wright for Antalyaspor. How much should that matter compared to injured Timothy Weah’s inaction for Lille, or Ricardo Pepi getting minutes in attack-favoring Eredivisie?

Below you’ll find the rankings, changes from last time, and the protocol for slotting our 25.

Top 25 players in the USMNT player pool right now

Before we go any further with this list, here’s a reminder of how we sort the talent with some ground rules:

  • The ranking is meant to illustrate who would be most likely to positively affect a USMNT match, regardless of manager or teammates, right now.
  • Health doesn’t matter to our rankings if a current injury isn’t one that could drastically alter the player’s skill set moving forward at the World Cup.
  • Age/potential/experience doesn’t matter either, at least not much; It’s how likely you are to contribute to the team if put on the field right now. Obviously, Paxton Aaronson is a better long-term prospect than Jordan Morris, but the Seattle Sounders forward is currently better prepared for the stage than the Philadelphia Union youngster.
  • Finally, if you’re breaking a tie between players… ask which you’d be more upset to hear was unavailable for a USMNT camp.

Here we go:

  1. Weston McKennie, Juventus (2)
  2. Tyler Adams, Leeds United (3)
  3. Yunus Musah, Valencia (4)
  4. Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (1)
  5. Brenden Aaronson, Leeds United (9)
  6. Jordan Pefok, Union Berlin (18)
  7. Antonee Robinson, Fulham (10)
  8. Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (11)
  9. Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC (7)
  10. Sergino Dest, AC Milan (6)
  11. Chris Richards, Crystal Palace (8)
  12. Josh Sargent, Norwich City (NR)
  13. Jesus Ferreira, FC Dallas (NR)
  14. Timothy Weah, Lille (5)
  15. Erik Palmer-Brown, Troyes (NR)
  16. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Celtic (19)
  17. Tim Ream, Fulham (NR)
  18. Joe Scally, Borussia Monchengladbach (23)
  19. Haji Wright, Antalyaspor (20)
  20. Zack Steffen, Middlesbrough (14)
  21. Matt Turner, Arsenal (15)
  22. Luca de la Torre, Celta Vigo (12)
  23. Djordje Mihailovic, Montreal Impact (NR)
  24. Matt Miazga, FC Cincinnati (NR)
  25. Kellyn Acosta, LAFC (17)

Dropped out since last ranking: John Brooks, Benfica (13); Miles Robinson, Atlanta United (16); Gianluca Busio (21); Paul Arriola, FC Dallas (22); Ethan Horvath, Luton Town (24); Gaga Slonina, Chicago Fire (25).

MLS demands your attention with series of stunning Week 1 goals (video)

New York City FC v DC United
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
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Major League Soccer’s Opening Day had a lot to do to break into the world headlines given a later start to the season that coincides with major European league run-ins, Lionel Messi starring in a Copa del Rey Final, and Chelsea upending Man City in the FA Cup semifinals.

MLS opted for the golazo route.

[ MORE: Sheffield Utd relegated | Norwich promoted ]

A series of outstanding goals drove the weekend in America, with big names, new faces, and under-the-radar kids delivering a wild amount of fun around MLS (and we’ve still got Vanney v Neville, a Cascadia Cup match, and a match-up of the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup winners).

How good were some of these goals? We left out one from Friday which may well win Goal of the Month anyway (though we must say that Randall Leal seems likely to have a hold on that).

Chicago Fire 2-2 New England Revolution

Since we’re about to see a lot of individual brilliance, let’s start with a team goal that would have Pep Guardiola raising a glass.

It isn’t surprising to see Chicago’s Robert Beric involved with a goal and an assist as Raphael Wicky’s Fire took a 2-0 lead on Bruce Arena’s Revs after just 11 minutes, but the lead up to his opening goal has just about everyone touching the ball.

This just fills the heart with joy.

New York Red Bulls 1-2 Sporting KC

Yes, Peter Vermes’ men got the last laugh, but allow us to include RBNY’s lone goal for a few reasons:

  • Caden Clark is 17 years old for another month and a week.
  • He has four goals in nine MLS matches after posting three goals and five assists in 12 USL Championship games.
  • He may be heading to RB Leipzig after the season
  • It’s a really good goal in a tight spot.

Nashville SC 2-2 FC Cincinnati

Let’s start in Tennessee, as Costa Rican star Randall Leal returns from giving the U.S. Olympic qualifying team a bunch of fits to deliver an audacious whirling ball into the upper reaches of the goal.

And with a crowd in Nashville, we also get the return of “Wait this could be…. yeah it’s going to be… dear God, he’s done it” glee from fans.

DC United 2-1 NYCFC

Ronny Deila’s gonna need some time to get his new pieces up to speed at NYCFC, but Hernan Losada’s got things a bit more settled as he begins life with the Black-and-Red.

Brendan Hines-Ike and Russell Canouse scored the goals for DC United after Valentin Castellanos put NYCFC ahead, and both of the hosts’ goals deserved to be part of a winning performance.

Hines-Ike went to Creighton and South Florida in college soccer before playing for Orebro and KV Kortrijk abroad. Whatever he needed to do to produce stuff like this, on loan from the latter, well, it was worth it.

Elsewhere

Houston Dynamo 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes
Seattle Sounders 4-0 Minnesota United
Orlando City 0-0 Atlanta United
LAFC 2-0 Austin FC
FC Dallas 0-0 Colorado Rapids
CF Montreal 4-2 Toronto FC
DC United 2-1 New York City FC
Chicago Fire 2-2 New England Revolution
Inter Miami v LA Galaxy — 3pm ET Sunday
Columbus Crew v Philadelphia Union — 5:30pm ET Sunday
Vancouver Whitecaps v Portland Timbers — 10pm ET Sunday

Expansion side Nashville sends Toronto out of MLS playoffs in extra time

Toronto FC - Nashville SC
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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The fourth time was the charm for Nashville SC, as Daniel Rios scored in the second period of extra time and the expansion side knocked off Toronto FC in the MLS Cup Playoffs on Tuesday in Connecticut.

The game took ages to get its legs but finished with a furious few minutes in the Nashville box that included a penalty shout.

Rios smashed home a Hany Mukhtar shot that Quentin Westberg only partially thwarted as Nashville sealed a spot against Columbus in the Conference Semifinals.

It’s deeply disappointing for Toronto, who played most of their home matches in Connecticut due to COVID-19 restrictions at the Canadian border. TFC and Seattle had played in three of their last four MLS Cup Finals.

[ MORE: Three things learned from Man Utd-Basaksehir ]

For about 70 minutes, it felt like it wouldn’t be a bad thing if Tuesday’s Eastern Conference playoff match between Toronto FC and Nashville SC in Connecticut just disappeared forever.

The only balls to go into the net were ruled out for offside and each team otherwise registered one shot on target each in the first 70 minutes, the match nothing like the wildly-entertaining weekend that started the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Thankfully, the match rose to the occasion with the late intensity so driven by desperation. And true to the early spirit, Nashville had a third goal ruled offside in extra time.

Nashville’s Jhonder Cadiz had the ball in the goal but the assistant referee’s flag was raised to keep the score level following a bright start for the visitors Rentschler Field in Connecticut.

Toronto’s Alejandro Pozuelo and Pablo Piatti worked down the left to set up Nick De Leon centrally but Joe Willis blocked the veteran’s 26th-minute effort to make it 1-0.

Nashville had two solid chances to score before halftime, the second off a corner kick, but were unable to produce the opener.

Jonathan Osorio should’ve been sent off for a kick to Alex Muyl, but VAR did not deem it worthy of a sending off.

Randall Leal had the ball in the goal for Nashville in the 54th and the club was celebrating before the flag came up to keep it scoreless.

Hany Mukhtar flew past the Toronto backs to meet an Alistair Johnson cross but couldn’t get his 72nd header below the bar.

Jozy Altidore pumped a heavy shot into Willis’ chest in the 73rd. Could this open up?

Yeah. Leal lashed a side volley just wide of the upper 90 moments later, and Muyl thudded a Leal cross just wide of the far post from close range.

TFC went the other way, and Akinola’s bid to backheel Pozuelo’s cross was stopped by the palm of Willis.

Not to be outdone, Quentin Westberg made a tremendous save on Walker Zimmerman off a stoppage-time free kick.

It went to extra time and Mukhtar scored off a long run and chip but was, of course, offside again.

Nashville took its lead and TFC will feel aggrieved to not have got a chance to level from the spot when Walker Zimmerman and Ayo Akinola went to battle in the final moments of the match off a cross from Liverpool loanee Tony Gallacher.

Follow @NicholasMendola

MLS Cup Playoffs: What we learned in play-in/round 1 (so far)

MLS playoffs
The Columbus Dispatch / USA Today Sports
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The 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs are officially underway with the two play-in round games and two of eight first-round fixtures already in the books.

[ MORE: Penalty shootout turns into farce, Orlando wins first playoff game ]

After four of 17 MLS playoffs games, here’s what we’ve learned so far…

1. MLS always finds a way to out-do itself: An excerpt from the frantic recap of events during the 21-minute, 35-second penalty shootout that sent Orlando City SC through to the conference semifinals and ended New York City FC’s season…

How’s this for burying the lede: Orlando City SC won its first-ever MLS Cup playoffs game on Saturday, surviving an encounter with New York City FC which saw the Lions finish regular time and extra time with 10 men — but, only nine by the end of a truly absurd penalty shootout — wildly  celebrate victory on three different occasions in said shootout, a failed sixth substitution during the shootout, and a shootout save made by defender Rodrigo Schlegel.

That’s only the bare-bones version of what happened. If your interest has been at all sparked, the full-length version (with extended video highlights) better captures the absurdity.


2. Home-field advantage matters (more than ever?): Through four games of the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs, home teams are a perfect 4-0. Switching to the single-leg playoff format was the best decision MLS has made in a long, long time, due to the fact that not only does every game singlehandedly carry the weight of progression or elimination, but also for the fact it re-established home-field advantage and rewarded the regular season’s top teams.

Also…


3. Veteran teams, coaches also at an advantage: Bruce Arena vs. Thierry Henry is unquestionably a lopsided mismatch if the competition is hitting curlers into the upper-90 from the edge of the box, just as it was on Friday when the competition was facing off in the MLS Cup playoffs. It was Henry’s very first playoff game as a head coach, while it was approximately Arena’s 274th. Arena and the Revolution came out on top in fantastically dramatic fashion.

Caleb Porter is an MLS Cup-winning coach from his time with the Portland Timbers, where he and star midfielder Darlington Nagbe reached the summit together; Nagbe then went on to win another MLS Cup after being traded to Atlanta United; Gyasi Zardes won an MLS Cup during his time with the LA Galaxy. Nagbe and Zardes each scored a goal in Columbus Crew SC’s 3-2 victory over the New York Red Bulls as Gerhard Struber made his MLS managerial debut in a playoff game. No one in the Red Bulls’ 20-man squad has ever appeared in, let alone won, and MLS Cup final.

Even Nashville SC’s 3-0 victory over Inter Miami CF — a battle of two expansion teams — saw the side with MLS Cup playoffs experience in the squad and on the sideline (midfielder Dax McCarty, who was instrumental for Nashville and scored goal no. 3 after going on a 40-yard jaunt through the heart of midfield, and head coach Gary Smith), and available to play, deliver in the end. Of course, Miami being without five players, including three starters, was a factor which cannot be overlooked.

 

MLS Cup playoffs results (so far)

Orlando City SC 1-1 (6-5 PKs) New York City FC
Columbus Crew SC 3-2 New York Red Bulls
Nashville SC 3-0 Inter Miami CF
New England Revolution 2-1 Montreal Impact

Sunday’s MLS Cup playoffs schedule and odds

Sporting KC (-150) v San Jose Earthquakes (+360) | Draw (+325) — 4 pm ET
Minnesota United (+115) v Colorado Rapids (+205) | Draw (+275) — 7:30 pm ET
Portland Timbers (+100) v FC Dallas (+245) | Draw (+270) — 10 pm ET

Tuesday’s MLS Cup playoffs schedule and odds

Toronto FC (+130) v Nashville SC (+200) | Draw (+245) — 6 pm ET
Philadelphia United (-110) v New England Revolution (+275) | Draw (+280) — 8 p ET
Seattle Sounders (+120) v Los Angeles FC (+190) | Draw (+290) — 10:30 pm ET

MLS playoffs begin with Nashville, New England wins behind terrific goals

MLS playoffs
Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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The hosts triumphed in a pair of play-in games to kickstart the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

[ MORE: Golden Boy winner named ]

Nashville SC won a battle of expansion teams against COVID-19 hit Inter Miami while old hat Bruce Arena’s New England Revolution handled its business against a Montreal Impact that’s been away from home for most of the season.


New England Revolution 2-1 Montreal Impact

Gustavo Bou’s wonderful stoppage-time winner drove Arena’s Revs past Thierry Henry’s Impact in the latter’s playoff debut as a manager.

Bou had assisted Carles Gil’s early goal as the Revs led 1-0 at the break, but Romell Quioto had an answer just after the hour mark.

New England now heads into a Tuesday match with Supporters’ Shield winners Philadelphia Union.

Montreal has not played in Canada since mid-September due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions at the American border.

What a nice bit of technique here.

Nashville SC 3-0 Inter Miami CF

Randall Leal’s hammered goal gave Nashville SC an early lead that would not be threatened as the Tennessee set won its first MLS Cup Playoffs appearance.

Hany Mukhtar scored 10 minutes later from the spot. The two-goal 24th-minute cushion lasted until Dax McCarty scored in the 57th minute.

Miami was without Gonzalo Higuain, Federico Higuain, and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, reportedly on account of a trio of failed COVID-19 tests.

Diego Alonso’s team could not break down Gary Smith’s disciplined side led by Walker Zimmerman, named MLS Defender of the Year earlier this week.

Nashville moves on to face Toronto FC on Tuesday.

Leal’s goal was, is, and will remain absurd.