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American winger Haji Wright signs with Eredivisie’s Venlo

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Haji Wright, a 21-year-old American winger, signed a one-year contract with VVV Venlo on Friday that gives the Dutch club an additional one-year option.

Wright had been with Germany’s Schalke since April 2016 and made his first-team debut last Nov. 24 as an 88th-minute substitute against Nuremberg. He scored on Dec. 19 in a 2-1 loss to Bayer Levekusen, his only goal in seven appearances.

Wright is from Los Angeles and played for the U.S. at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup alongside Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams. He spent 2015 with the New York Cosmos in the second-tier North American Soccer League and signed with Schalke in March 2016. He was loaned to second-division Sandhausen for 2017-18, scoring once in 15 games.

Three things from USMNT’s loss to Mexico

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Gregg Berhalter’s first tournament, the 2019 Gold Cup, as U.S. men’s national team head coach is in the books.

Sure, Sunday’s final defeat to Mexico stings — as does any defeat to El Tri — but the 2022 World Cup is still more than 36 months away. With that in mind, what did we learn about the USMNT on Sunday and throughout this tournament?

[ MORE: USA beat Netherlands, win back-to-back World Cups (video) ]

Baptism by fire for so many players

The intensity, the speed, the rash challenges, the constant antics. These are the things that have come to best explain the U.S.-Mexico rivalry, and they were all on full display from the opening whistle on Sunday.

The likes of Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, seasoned veterans of the last decade, weren’t at all bothered and have learned to embrace the extracurriculars. Surprisingly, many of the first-timers adapted quickly and found their footing without any major causes for concern, even in the game’s opening minutes.

Right back Reggie Cannon (21 years old with five caps) was arguably the best American player in the first half (non-Christian Pulisic division); Weston McKennie took it upon himself to play the role of enforcer on multiple occasions; Paul Arriola was his usual steady self and shied away from no dirty elbow.

No one backed down, no one played timidly, no one took the bait and harmed the team. As far as intense, high-stakes games go, this was a surprisingly mature performance.

[ MORE: Three things we learned: USA v. Netherlands | Player ratings ]

Berhalter got his subs wrong

Locked in a 0-0 game, Berhalter made the following substitutions early in the second half:

  • Cristian Roldan for Jordan Morris (61′)
  • Gyasi Zardes for Jozy Altidore (64′)

While bringing Zardes on for Altidore doesn’t look great on paper, he’s the only center forward Berhalter could realistically call upon off the bench. Not to mention, Altidore wasn’t having the best game of his career, even if you take out of his inexcusable miss in the 8th minute. The whole thing is… whatever.

The idea behind bringing Roldan on for Morris — with Tyler Boyd taking up space on the bench — is indecipherable. Did he want an extra body in central midfield to create more possession and slow the game down? Was it all about pushing Pulisic out to the wing? Can anyone make any sense of this?

Alternatively, Djordje Mihailovic, an actual no. 10.

Down a goal in a cup final, with fewer than 10 minutes remaining, Berhalter did the following:

I’m sorry, he did what?

The left back came off, which is a totally normal move when you’re down a goal and throwing all caution to the wind… to be replaced by another left back.

I don’t even need to launch into a tirade to explain why this is insane.

Alternatively, bring Boyd on and overload one wing, or give Pulisic a totally free role to drift anywhere and everywhere. Heck, bring Jonathan Lewis into a game that was entirely too stretched for anyone’s liking and let him run at defenders one on one. Simply put, there were a number of different ways Berhalter could have gone with his final sub, and what he did might have actually been the worst possible option.

[ MORE: Rose Lavelle “a straight up superstar” after stellar World Cup run ]

A positive tournament for the USMNT

Let’s end on a happy note, why don’t we?

The USMNT looked completely lost at sea when they began this tournament three weeks ago. By the time the quarterfinals and semifinals rolled around, that was no longer the case — and, against much tougher competition. It’s clear that Berhalter was able to make a lot of progress in a short period of time, and that should be held up as a hugely promising sign going forward.

We can bicker over whether or not “the system” or “the player pool” should dictate how the team plays on a given day, but when he has a full complement of players healthy and available for selection (e.g., Tyler Adams, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin and Josh Sargent), they actually match up quite well.

The issue, as always, is that the player pool is still the player pool. Even when Adams and Sargent come back into the team later this year, the USMNT will still be thin in those positions, but at least they’ll have a quality starter to build upon, right?

USMNT wastes early chances, falls to Mexico in Gold Cup final (video)

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The U.S. men’s national team had its chances, but made nothing of them, before the defense finally gave way and succumbed to the relentless pressure of Mexico in the 2019 Gold Cup final on Sunday.

[ MORE: USA beat Netherlands, win back-to-back World Cups (video) ]

This is the story of a game full of missed chances very early on — missed chances that everyone in the world knew would come back to bite the USMNT in the end.

The Americans had two golden scoring chances inside the game’s first eight minutes. Jozy Altidore‘s hold-up play send Christian Pulisic into the box with one defender and the goalkeeper to beat. He was able to slide past the former, but the latter, Guillermo Ochoa, stood tall and saved Pulisic’s shot. Altidore followed up with a hopeful bicycle attempt, to no avail.

Three minutes later, Altidore had the 10-out-of-10 chance that are so few and far between in finals. After twisting away from Hector Moreno at the top of Mexico’s penalty area, Altidore had Ochoa in headlights with either side of the goal fully exposed. His left-footed shot bounced helplessly wide.

The speed with which the game turned into a classic U.S.-Mexico battle, particularly for a cup final, was jarring. Weston McKennie and Andres Guardado engaged one another in some pushing and shoving early in the first half; Luis Rodriguez booted the ball off a prone Pulisic, which prompted Altidore to sprint 40 yards across the field to confront him before being forcibly removed from the situation; McKennie squared up to Moreno after he drove a knee into Altidore’s back already face-down on the ground.

[ MORE: Three things we learned: USA v. Netherlands | Player ratings ]

Guardado cleared off the line what looked set to become the game’s opening goal in the 50th minute. Jordan Morris rose above everyone and sent a powerful header back across the face and goal and had beaten Ochoa, but Guardado was lurking at the near post and headed the ball clear just as it began to cross the goal line.

The breakthrough was long overdue for a game as open as this one, but it was unquestionably worth the wait. Raul Jimenez set up Jonathan dos Santos with a clever backheel on the edge of the penalty area, and dos Santos’ left-footed finish was never going to be saved as he laced it toward the far post out of Zack Steffen’s reach.

[ MORE: Rose Lavelle “a straight up superstar” after stellar World Cup run ]

Sunday’s triumph gives Mexico 11 all-time CONCACAF titles (eight during the Gold Cup era), once again four ahead of the Americans.

FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT v. Mexico, Gold Cup final

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United States v. Mexico. Gold Cup final. It’s here, tonight (9 p.m. ET).

[ LIVE: USA v. Mexico, Gold Cup final ]

Gregg Berhalter has made zero changes to the starting lineup that faced Jamaica in the semifinals on Wednesday, which means Jozy Altidore starts up top in place of Gyasi Zardes, Jordan Morris takes Tyler Boyd’s place, Reggie Cannon remains ahead of Nick Lima at right back, and Matt Miazga starts over Walker Zimmerman at center back.

Hit the link above to follow along for the next few hours and check back on PST for full coverage of the USMNT’s clash with Mexico.

Lavelle ‘straight up superstar’ after stellar World Cup run

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Who’s got next for the U.S. women’s national team? Rose Lavelle has next, gladly.

[ VIDEO: Watch the USWNT lift the World Cup trophy ]

The USWNT needed Lavelle to step up and become one of the faces and emerging leaders for the next generation of the program, and she delivered all throughout the 2019 Women’s World Cup. She delivered again. And again. And again.

With a whole host of legendary figures potentially set to end their international careers following one last major triumph in Sunday’s final, the two-time reigning world champions will soon face the difficult task of turning the keys over to the next wave of superstars.

[ MORE: Player ratings: USWNT v. Netherlands ]

Megan Rapinoe has been one of those superstars for the better part of the last decade, so it speaks volumes when Rapinoe singles out Lavelle as “a straight up superstar” immediately after the duo accounted for both goals in the Americans’ 2-0 victory over the Netherlands to become the first team to ever win back-to-back Women’s World Cups.

“She has just been missing that little bit all tournament and for her to get that reward tonight on the biggest stage, I’m so proud of her. She’s a straight up superstar.”

Lavelle has taken her rapid rise to superstardom in stride all summer, scoring three goals en route to celebrating her first world title and taking home the Bronze Ball. More importantly, though, she never lost sight of the fact that it’s importantly to enjoy each and every moment along the way. Not long after she scored the USWNT’s second goal to put another World Cup final to bed, Lavelle was equal parts old head and wide-eyed 24-year-old.

“It’s wild how far I’ve come and it’s so surreal. I just won a World Cup with people I grew up idolizing.”

“I feel so much pride right now. I have learned so much from Megan Rapinoe. I feel so honored to step on the pitch at the same time as her. She is unreal.”

It won’t be long before a bunch of 20-something newcomers show up to USWNT camp, thinking, “That’s Rose Lavelle, I’ve looked up to her since I was a kid. I can’t believe I’m on the same team as her.”