U.S. Soccer

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U.S. Soccer announces Player of Year nominees

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The United States men’s national team and women’s national team will each have a star elected Player of the Year, but the similarities end there.

The USWNT won the World Cup and choosing its top performer for 2019 is an improbably difficult task. The USMNT spent much of the calendar driving its supporters crazy.

Women’s nominees
Julie Ertz
Rose Lavelle
Megan Rapinoe
Alex Morgan
Alyssa Naeher
Carli Lloyd

It’s hard to find too much fault with the half-dozen World Cup winners chosen as finalists, though arguments for Kelley O’Hara and Tobin Heath would be well heard by the writer of this post.

It seems likely Rapinoe will claim the award, considering she’s yet to win it and was probably the most visible athlete in the world this summer.

Ertz, Morgan and Lloyd have all won the honor.

Men’s nominees
Christian Pulisic
Jordan Morris
Weston McKennie
Aaron Long
Tim Ream
Gyasi Zardes

As for the men, is there a scenario in which Christian Pulisic doesn’t win the honor? Reasonably? Yes.

Some will argue that Weston McKennie might get a look over Pulisic on the balance of their seasons, but there’s a strong argument to be made for Morris given his incredible comeback from injury and standout seasons for both Seattle and the USMNT.

Pulisic had three goals and three assists at the Gold Cup, and added goals against Chile and Cuba.

Morris bagged five goals and seven assists, including four and four in the CONCACAF Nations League group stage.

Three of the six men’s finalists ply their trade in MLS, while one is in the Premier League, another in the Football League Championship, and a sixth in the Bundesliga.

Pulisic won in 2017, while Zack Steffen nabbed the award in 2018. The other four nominees have not claimed one.

Dest commitment a big win for Berhalter, Stewart’s USMNT

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“Earnie and Gregg’s Excellent Adventure!”

That’s what I Tweeted after seeing the news that Sergino Dest had chosen to represent the USMNT over the Netherlands, a somewhat-stunning reversal after U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart and men’s head coach Gregg Berhalter met with the teenage full back this weekend.

[ MORE: USWNT hires new coach ]

A few friends texted to see if I was being sarcastic. After all, this hasn’t been a good few months for the USMNT and I had gone as far as to suggest that many federations would feel justified to make a switch after the Yanks lost in embarrassing fashion against both of its neighbors this Fall.

But no. Dest has chosen the USMNT, and Monday is a wonderful day for U.S. Soccer even if Dest fails to live up to his potential as a decade-long fullback for the red, white, and blue.

Reports out of Holland that Dest would make his decision this week seemed to favor the brilliant Oranje. Others suggested that he was going to choose the Netherlands for sure.

(Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

These decisions are highly-analyzed and sometimes a recruiting nation doesn’t have much hope in gaining the allegiance of a player. In addition to Dest, this century has seen the U.S. lose out on Neven Subotic and Jonathan Gonzalez, but gain Jermaine Jones and Julian Green (amongst others).

But if we’re going to question whether Dest would be lost because Ronald Koeman is an Ajax and Dutch hero, Berhalter played him at left back instead of right, and/or the USSF is a cluster of issues, then we ought to acknowledge that Berhalter and Stewart earning the player’s faith in spite of those facts is really impressive.

Ajax is unbeaten in Eredivisie player and Dest continues to run up the minutes and doesn’t turn 19 until Nov. 3. He might not have been automatic as the Netherlands national team fullback, but he was going to have to seriously regress to not get his chance.

Again, he’s 18 and started for one of the most storied club in Europe and almost certainly the most celebrated club in the country of his birth.

Dest has three assists this season in 913 minutes, averaging a shot per game and passing at an 87 percent clip. He’s an exceptional dribbler. While still very much a teenager in defense, Dest is averaging close to two tackles and an interception per match.

Losing Dest would’ve felt as bad as any dual national since Subotic, who went on to earn 36 caps for Serbia and currently sits on 360 senior appearances between senior club Union Berlin and former teams Borussia Dortmund, Saint-Etienne, Mainz, and Koln. Giuseppe Rossi’s choosing Italy didn’t feel good, but was also fait accompli.

It’s a moral victory for the United States’ supporters and a mild reprieve for Berhalter, whose team’s progress is really stuck in the mud. Dest can play in any system and gives the coach improved hope of implementing his preferred possession-based style.

Yet after the loss of Gonzalez and with big concerns about Mexico’s recruitment of Richie Ledezma, the 19-year-old dual national who just earned his first senior spot on the bench for PSV Eindhoven and is being recruited by Mexico. This is an exhalation, even against the backdrop of the stinging words coming former U.S. midfielder and scout Hugo Perez in an alarming article from The Nation last week.

You can’t help but think the news will ring out loudly to Ledezma, who is close to a senior call-up and could see one next month. Center back Chris Richards, 19, had been chewing up minutes for Bayern Munich II in 3.Liga before a recent illness. Chris Gloster is in the PSV system, and Giovanni Reyna highly regarded at Borussia Dortmund.

Assuming the USMNT pulls it together for the 2022 World Cup, the team could feature Zack Steffen in goal with a back line of Dest, John Brooks, Matt Miazga, and Antonee Robinson. The midfield could be Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and Ledezma under a trident of Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, and Tim Weah.

The oldest of the bunch would be Brooks and Miazga at 29 and 27.

Excellent, Earnie and Gregg. For Berhalter, this could be his most notable week of work for his country since he made the 2006 World Cup roster.

Andonovski named new USWNT coach

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The ninth head coach in the history of the United States women’s national team is Vlatko Andonovski.

The reigning NWSL Coach of the Year, his second time winning the award, Andonovski leaves his post leading Megan Rapinoe, Allie Long, and the Seattle Reign.

[ MORE: Dest commits to USMNT ]

The move is the first big one under general manager Kate Markgraf, who described why Andonovski was the man for the job.

“Vlatko was the best fit with his experience with elite players, how he sees the game, how he coaches the game and manages players, and his overall personality and ability to take on a job of this magnitude. I know all the players and staff are excited to begin this new chapter in Women’s National Team history with him and start the important work towards qualifying for the Olympics.”

Andonovski will run the USWNT through their paces for Nov. 7 and 10 friendlies against Sweden and Costa Rica, and it will be interesting to see how he navigates the process of choosing a roster of his preference considering the last one won the World Cup.

The USWNT program has become one of massive player power. Andonovski’s alliance with Rapinoe should serve him well, but remember how quickly things deteriorated for Tom Sermanni as he attempted to run the team after Pia Sundhage.

The establishment of Markgraf’s position should give any manager a longer leash, but it’s worth noting that the reins of the best team on Earth carry more responsibility than most.

Spanish FA once again opposes La Liga match in U.S.

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For the second consecutive season, La Liga and Relevant Sports have proposed a league match to take place this winter in the U.S.

And once again, the La Liga proposal doesn’t have the support of its national soccer federation.

[READ: La Liga wants to move Villarreal-Atletico Madrid to Miami]

Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), told reporters on Thursday that it would oppose the match taking place outside of Spain’s borders, keeping a consistent line in the sand on how far globalization can go in soccer.

“It would disrupt the competition,” Rubiales said, via AS. “To play a game in Miami, La Liga needs permission from five bodies that it doesn’t have.”

The five bodies Rubiales referred to are the RFEF, FIFA, CONCACAF, U.S. Soccer and MLS.

Last time around, Relevant Sports and La Liga announced a long-term, lucrative marketing contract to expand the brand’s footprint in the Americas, and soon after, petitioned to move Girona’s home game against Barcelona to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, the home stadium of Relevant Sports owner Stephen Ross and his Miami Dolphins.

Ultimately, La Liga president Javier Tebas and Relevant Sports were unable to get permission from the RFEF or FIFA to hold the event outside Spain and it went off as expected in Girona. At the time, Spain’s player’s union and fans groups opposed the move. Tebas has filed a lawsuit in Spain to try to force the RFEF to approve their request, but it seems unlikely to be awarded and it surely doesn’t provide any good will between the two parties.

There’s been plenty of talk about bringing league games abroad before, but it has just been talk so far. The Premier League considered adding an extra game to the season to be played all over the world, but never went through with creating plans for matches.

Associations – not leagues, to be clear – have brought things like Super Cups abroad. For example, the RFEF moved the 2018 Spanish Super Cup to Tangiers, Morocco, while the France Football Federation has brought its national Super Cup match to both the U.S. and Montreal, Canada in recent years. However, the argument in favor of bringing those games abroad is they’re basically meaningless. Meanwhile, one result in a league season could – in theory – determine whether a team is relegated or not, especially if the margin is three points or less.

We could see another legal fight on our hands, so watch this space, there’s plenty more to come.

Report: Netherlands FA to meet with Dest

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After missing a chance to meet last month, the KNVB (Netherlands FA) is looking to meet Ajax right back – and current U.S. Men’s National Team member – Sergino Dest, to see if they can sway him to play for the Netherlands in the future.

This is according to a report from Dutch soccer magazine Voetbal International, which states the national federation will meet with Dest in the coming days. Time is of the essence; Dest could be cap-tied by the U.S. as soon as October 11, when the USMNT hosts Cuba in a CONCACAF Nations League match.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

It’s been a whirlwind of a last six to 12 months for Dest. After being ignored by the Netherlands youth national teams growing up, Dest quickly committed to the U.S. youth national team programs. Dest was born and raised in the Netherlands but qualifies for the USMNT due to his Surinamese-American father. He joined the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team in 2016 and ended up starting at right back for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2017.

This past spring, despite being just 18-years old, Dest started up a level for the U.S. U-20s at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup and impressed. After a strong summer in Ajax preseason training, Dest was promoted to the Ajax first team and has suddenly become the team’s starting right back.

Dest’s meteoric rise over the past year has put him on the KNVB’s radar, and his club coach, Erik ten Hag, has said his preference is to see Dest play for former Ajax player and coach Ronald Koeman and the Netherlands National Team.

It ultimately means that Dest has a big decision to make, though he could delay it a month if he needs more time. He could tie his future to the U.S., a federation that has valued him from a young age and is giving him senior national team opportunities even at his age. Dest made his USMNT debut in September against Mexico and Uruguay. Even though he was overmatched in both games, it was surely a great learning experience for him and all part of the USMNT’s recruitment to keep him from the Netherlands.

On the other hand, Dest can play for the country of his birth, and potentially have a real chance to win the Euros next year or even a World Cup in the future, with this bright and strong Netherlands generation coming through.

Dest has just another week or two before callups are made, but he could in theory decide to reject any call-up this month, and make his decision in November. If he wants, he could even delay it until the spring, though that could damage his chances with the national teams in question.