Sean Johnson

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Most to gain (or lose) from decisive USMNT matches

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The United States men’s national team will not be changing coaches regardless of the scores against Canada and Cuba this month, giving added incentive to 23 men called into the team to get the job done.

Long- and short-term injuries continue to open the door to players well past Gregg Berhalter’s top 23, even deeper considering the concurrent U-23 camp and the coach’s apparent disinterest in some other players still performing well in Europe.

Christian Pulisic, Zack Steffen, and Michael Bradley picked up injuries that won’t allow them to join the team, while Timothy Weah and Tyler Adams have just restarted training with their clubs after long injury absences. Miles Robinson is still absent after being injured at the last camp and missing Atlanta’s playoff run

Throw in Berhalter’s decision not to call up Matt Miazga, Duane Holmes, and Julian Green to go with Jozy Altidore‘s lack of fitness, and you’ve got another month for some players to surprise (We haven’t even mentioned Antonee Robinson, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Richie Ledezma are at a loaded U-23 camp).

Edit note: Maybe we need to write up a Top 50 USMNT depth chart this evening or soon…

Chase Gasper and Corey Baird were sent home from camp ahead of the European arrivals, so here are the players whose fortunes could hinge on delivering for a coach who needs it. Make no mistake about it: Earnie Stewart’s vote of confidence means the coach is going nowhere, but anyone who helps Berhalter score a berth in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals will take a place near his heart.

Who’s gotta carpe sabbati? Read on…

Sebastian Lletget ,Jackson Yueill, Cristian Roldan (in that order) — We probably wrote something similar to this last month, but future camps without Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, and Weston McKennie are only going to happen if all are (again) injured or there is absolutely nothing on the line against Jamaica’s B Team.

Include Bradley’s absence and you’ll get an even deeper understanding of why who is chosen alongside McKennie and (probably) Alfredo Morales for this big match against Canada is a big deal. Lletget is 27 and Berhalter hasn’t shown a lot of love for him despite bringing a unique skill set and decent performances when he’s been given time on the USMNT pitch. Roldan might be the best non-prospect American player in MLS. Yueill is just 22, but again there are a lot of absent players ahead of him. We’re not included Wil Trapp in this discussion because he’s clearly a Berhalter favorite.

Out-fight Scott Arfield and out-fox Jonathan Osorio, and give Berhalter a reason to keep calling you into the fold.

The goalkeepers — There’s no reason to expect Zack Steffen to lose his first XI spot through injury, especially given his status as a Bundesliga starter on loan from a Champions League outfit — Oh, and he was Berhalter’s club No. 1, too! — but at some point these goalkeeper call-ups and their performances will determine who will be Nos. 2 and 3 for qualifying and for, probably, the 2022 World Cup.

Jonathan Klinsmann, Ethan Horvath, and Brady Scott aren’t here, and boy did Leicester City’s Chituru Odunze open some eyes during the U.S. flame-out at the U-17 World Cup.

So here’s Brad Guzan, the presumptive No. 1 in a post-Tim Howard world who proved presumptions aren’t foolproof.

Only two of Sean Johnson‘s eight caps were not friendlies, and both were Gold Cup clean sheets (six years apart). Might he get a chance in Orlando?

And Matt Turner is new here after an outstanding 2019 season in MLS. You can bet Berhalter rang up a respected Bruce Arena to get plenty of info before calling in the New England Revolution’s No. 1.

Aaron Long — This isn’t about gaining a spot on the squad, as the 27-year-old Long looks like a mainstay for Berhalter, rather a steady place in the XI. Miazga not being here could’ve been heard as a clarion call to the center backs who were called up.

Long has struggled in his past few months wearing the national team shirt, and a healthy John Brooks is an automatic starter. That leaves one spot, a pivotal one given Berhalter’s preferential formation, and Walker Zimmerman is a better passer than Long. This is a big camp for proving whether the Red Bulls man is a starter or security blanket.

Three things we learned from NYCFC-Toronto FC

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The game in 200 words (or less): The Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed is gone from the MLS Cup Playoffs, and has no one to blame but itself.

The hosts took too long to get going at their temporary home of Citi Field — home of baseball’s New York Mets — and needed a strong first half from goalkeeper Sean Johnson to stay in the game before bowing out via two school child errors. The play overall was as haphazard as the baseball screen obstructed the TV cameras for most of the match, so it felt oddly fitting that Toronto’s appearances on the scoreboard came via elementary errors.

[ MORE: Live scores, box scores, stats ]

At the other end, well-traveled French-American backstop Quentin Westberg took over with an outstanding save on Maxi Moralez and another on Ronald Matarrita (an offside chance, alas). Alexandru Mitrita blew a 1v1 chance around the hour mark, but NYC found its breakthrough via Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. The Libyan forward lashed a back post offering from MLS assist leader Moralez home with just over 20 minutes to play. But Matarrita made an absolutely comical slide tackle on Richie Laryea in the box, and Pozuelo stepped to the line and put TFC in another conference final.


Three things we learned

1. Pozuelo punishes rusty hosts: NYCFC got a little too cute in dealing with a wild and unexpected lash into the box from Auro Jr., the message hailed by a series of popped-up headers not heard by City goalkeeper Sean Johnson (who to that point had been spectacular).

Maxime Chanot tried a header back to his keeper. It wasn’t a good one and Johnson declined to rush out for it. The one player City wouldn’t have wanted to run onto the mistake was former Swansea City man Pozuelo, who scored his 13th goal to go with eight assists in his first campaign with the Reds. He’d add his 14th when NYCFC made another terrible error, Laryea chopped down by Matarrita.

2. Savvy Toronto meets NYCFC plan head-on, but City regroups: Calmer on the ball and quick to reload, TFC was not bothered by the narrow pitch at Citi Field. The Reds were happy to play the ball all the way back to Quentin Westberg, but also more adept and desperate in 50-50 battles at the heart of the action. The second half, however, saw less crispness and tenacity from the Reds as NYCFC launched forward in desperation and NYC might’ve pulled out the win without those two costly errors.

Credit Toronto manager Greg Vanney, who introduced the penalty-winning Laryea late as a massive change from from right back Justin Morrow. Without Jozy Altidore and Omar Gonzalez, however, the Reds got the job done.

3. Johnson the early star, Westberg late: NYCFC veteran goalkeeper Sean Johnson was much busier than his counter part in the first 30 minutes, and only stumbled once when he briefly bobbled Alejandro Pozuelo’s unfairly-won free kick. His finest moment came in the 37th, when Tsubasa Endoh backheeled to set up Jonathan Osorio for a vicious shot that Johnson’s pushed over the bar. Whereas the star of the first half was all about Johnson, TFC backstop Westberg was oh-so-necessary. The former Troyes and Auxerre goalkeepr made a big stop just after City equalized, and commanded the area as TFC took the win to the house.

Man of the Match: Chris Mavinga — Toronto’s Congolese center back was a force in the air and on the ground, putting an end to several big NYCFC chances with positioning and power.


Zlatan suspended two games for violent conduct

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Superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s misdeeds couldn’t avoid retroactive discipline, and the LA Galaxy man is set for a pair of matches on the sidelines.

Ibrahimovic got in a tangle with New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson last weekend, and appeared to put his hands around the backstop’s throat.

[ MORE: Man City to lure Rodri? ]

Johnson hit the deck, holding his head, bringing about a lengthy back-and-forth.

Major League Soccer’s Disciplinary Committee announced a two-match ban for Ibrahimovic late Friday, meaning the big Swede will miss matches against last-place Colorado and 18th place Orlando City.

Ibrahimovic was suspended a game last season for skipping the MLS All-Star Game.

USMNT-Iceland preview: Goalkeepers, stability, youth, Gudjohnsen, sheep eyes

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The United States men’s national team looks to continue to stabilize its footing as a program when its youth-heavy squad takes on Iceland on Sunday in California.

After losing five of six in depressing fashion, the Yanks picked up four of six points in their first two matches of World Cup qualifying.

Now Jurgen Klinsmann will look to keep the ship steady despite a roster featuring a majority of unproven players (at the international level).

[ VIDEO: Zardes, Parker talk USMNT camp ahead of friendlies ]

The USMNT hasn’t played Iceland since 1994, and has a 2-2-2 record in competitions dating back to 1955.

It’s Iceland’s only match-up of the international window, and comes on the heels of a 1-0 defeat of Finland and a 2-1 loss to UAE.

This is far from a full-strength squad for coaches Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson, who travel with 18 players. We won’t see Gylfi Sigurðsson (Spurs), Kolbeinn Sigþórsson (Nantes) or Alfreð Finnbogason (Olympiakos).

Former Bolton, Chelsea and Barcelona man Eidur Gudjohnsen will be in the mix for Iceland. Now with Shijiazhuang Ever Bright of the Chinese Super League, he’ll bring 83 caps and 25 goals to the match. Well-rated 20-year-old PSV Eindhoven center back Hjörtur Hermannsson will also be in the fold.

[ MORE: Klinsmann explains roster: “Make a point” ]

Matt Miazga left camp to get a medical with Chelsea, and he’s signed for the Premier League giants. In his place is Michael Orozco.

PST’s Andy Edwards has a nice post on five players with plenty to gain from this match — and Friday’s match-up with Canada — but we’ll proffer another thing to watch.

With Brad Guzan a backup at Aston Villa and Tim Howard growing older, three MLS keepers can make a statement. RBNY’s Luis Robles hasn’t been capped in ages, while Chicago’s Sean Johnson has yet to make a dent on the USMNT pitch. Could San Jose’s David Bingham get a look?

USMNT’s Icelandic-Alabaman, Aron Johannsson, won’t be playing in this match, but offered a rundown of views on Iceland to USSoccer.comAlso, sheep eyes:

I didn’t travel much around Iceland growing up, but people really like going to the mountains and enjoying the hot springs. You can’t find them many other places. I don’t like traditional Icelandic food, which includes sheep eyes, ears and tongues. Mostly just old people eat it. Instead, I grew up eating the same stuff as everyone like chicken and fish.

Oh, the “old people” of Iceland! So zany with their sheep eyes!

U.S. Roster by Position

GOALKEEPERS (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)

DEFENDERS (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Eric Miller (Montreal Impact), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Jermaine Jones (unattached), Perry Kitchen (unattached), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew SC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)

FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Khiry Shelton (New York City FC), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 4-3 Chicago Fire (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Drogba. Drogba. Drogba. I considered writing the name of Didier Drogba 100 times in this space, but he didn’t score 100 goals in the Montreal Impact’s 4-3 victory over the Chicago Fire, the team that tried to sign Drogba this summer before he eventually landed with the Impact. Sadly, the Chelsea and Ivory Coast legend only scored three on the night to become the first player in Major League Soccer history to bag a hat trick within his first two games. Fitting that a player of his quality and resumé would be the one to do it, isn’t it? To be clear, it wasn’t all rosy for L’Impact, who were an unmitigated defensive disaster without Defender of the Year candidate Laurent Ciman (international duty). The Fire scored thee incredibly soft goals, which is a worrying sign for an Impact side currently playing for their playoff lives. Ciman won’t be back for two more games, either, as he serves a two-game suspension. (The Fire defense was even more dysfunctional, but an amazing performance by Sean Johnson limited the damage to four.)

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of Week 27 ]

Three moments that mattered

27′ — Drogba bags his first MLS goal — Didier Drogba: certified beast. So what if he’s legend is 37 years old? This man could (and maybe will) score goals well into his 40s. For now, let’s just admire the way he shrugs off Eric Gehrig’s full-body challenge, and the silky-smooth touch, turn and finish (WATCH HERE).

61′ — Drogba gets no. 2, equalizes at 3-3 — Again, say it with me, “So what if he’s 37 years old? Drogba is going to score buckets and buckets of goals in MLS.” The league is simply more fun with arguably the best striker of his generation playing in it.

65′ — Drogba gets his hat trick, Stade Saputo nearly explodes — This is the Impact’s fourth season in MLS, and I struggle to recall a time when Stade Saputo lost its collective mind as we saw following the completion of Drogba’s hat trick. This is what the right signing in the right place can do.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Didier Drogba. Didier Drogba. Didier Drogba.

Goalscorers: Drogba (27′, 61′, 65′), Larentowicz (PK – 36′), Lefevre (42′), Gilberto (44′), Igboananike (59′)