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And the youth will carry us. US Men’s National Team draws with Peru 1-1

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Tuesday, October 16: 1-1 Draw

I have to admit that many of my past experiences watching and cheering for the United States Men’s National Team have left me feeling unfulfilled.  Let down. Even sad. For me, the big draw to checking out this week’s friendly between the United States and Peru was the unique opportunity to see two New York City Football Club defenders face off.  It was Ben Sweat for the US and Alexander Callens representing Peru in similar roles for their respective teams.

After watching the match multiple times, my biggest takeaway is that I am actually optimistic about the future of our men’s team.  The game ended in a 1-1 draw and Peru had more possession, however, there were many moments of beautiful soccer involving some of our youngest players on the team.

The US did a great job of forcing turnovers in the middle third and immediately starting speedy counterattacks involving some combination of teenagers Timothy Weah, Josh Sargent, and Jonathan Amon working tightly with Kellyn Acosta. Weah, Sargent, and Amon all have day jobs with European clubs alongside injured US teammate Christian Pulisic.

I may be overenthusiastic about this, perhaps because my expectations were pretty low,  but there were true flashes of beauty from these players.  Obviously, the more experience they get playing as a unit, the better the national team will become.  Another player who stood out was Marky Delgado, who is still relatively young at 23.

Both Peru and the US seemed to do the majority of their attacking down the right flank, which meant that Ben Sweat and Alexander Callens were involved with most of the game.  Sweat did a fine a job in left back while most likely battling some nerves.  Notable to me was his speed in getting back to destroy plays but he seemed to choose the back pass a bit too often for my liking and made a few poor tackles which did little to decelerate some of Peru’s attacks.

Ben Sweat should get another look in that role to see if he can be more decisive in his tackles and capitalize more on his offensive capabilities as well.  He did have one respectable shot on goal in this match.   Callens played in a center-left back role and as expected, used his physical strength to outmuscle US attacks down the right side.  It’s interesting to watch his play “from the other side” as it looks a bit less smooth with his national team and he can be a bit late with his tackles which lead to at least one foul.

One other takeaway for me that I am proud of:  Peru was constantly playing to draw fouls, falling over with the slightest contact, banging the ground and writhing in pain.  For most of the game, the US team players would immediately jump up if they hit the ground to keep an attack going or would fight to stay vertical in a duel.  To me, it was a sharp contrast of styles and it’s the style that keeps the game moving and makes it more fun to watch.

I was not expecting to walk away from this game excited for the future of the US Men’s National Team and yet with all these talented young yet experienced players, I have hope.

Featured image: @ussoccer_mnt

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USWNT Recap – 2 games vs Chile and Press 100

Abigail Gerken - USWNT/mlsfemale
Official USWNT Reporter

By Abigail Gerken @abigailgerken22

On August 31st the US Women’s National Team defeated Chile 3-0 at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles, California. The highlight of the night was the celebration for Christen Press reaching 100 caps for the national team. Over her 6-year international career, Press has scored 45 goals in 104 caps, including a goal to seal the 3-0 lead on her celebratory night. She also has won an Olympic Gold Medal and a World Cup Championship.

In this first game against Chile on the March to World Cup Qualifying, the USWNT cruised past Chile 3-0. In addition to an own goal (off a Julie Ertz header) and Christen Press’s tap-in at the far post,  19-year-old Tierna Davidson scored her first USWNT goal from a header off of a goal kick.

There was controversy surrounding a PK that Christen Press took and scored- as it was disallowed because a Chile player and Crystal Dunn both encroached on the penalty kick – since both of them encroached fans and players argued that it should have been retaken.

On September 4th the USWNT played Chile again in San Jose, California for their final game before World Cup Qualifying begins.

Earlier in the day, the WCQ groups for CONCACAF were decided. The USWNT will play Mexico on October 4th, Panama on October 7th, and Trinidad and Tobago on October 10th all in Cary, North Carolina.

Alex Morgan captained the game, earlier it was reported that Carli Lloyd will retire following the 2019 WWC in France next summer, many supporters anticipate that Alex Morgan will be passed the torch. When Carli Lloyd came into the game, she was given the captain’s armband.

An early injury for McCall Zebroni after an unfortunate landing led to a 5th-minute sub, Morgan Brian subbed in for McCall Zebroni. Later it was reported that she has a fractured elbow. North Carolina Courage may lose their strong No. 6 for the 2018 NWSL playoffs starting in the coming weeks.

In the 33rd minute Mallory Pugh went down in the box, Alex Morgan stepped up and after missing the left-footed attempt, Tobin Heath rebounded and dished in a cross and Mallory Pugh scored her 12th international goal.

It didn’t take long for the USA to double their lead. In the 38th minute the USWNT earned a free kick in a dangerous position, Tierna Davidson gets the flick on header and Tobin Heath slots it away.

Just after halftime, in the 47th minute, Carli Lloyd scores a header off of a Tobin Heath free kick in her first touch of the game.

Shortly after, Alex Morgan would get her goal off of a Tobin Heath cross, however, it was ruled offside.

In the 90+3rd minute, Carli Lloyd sprinted up the wing, dribbled around Chilean defenders and slotted it away.

This 4-0 victory expanded the USWNT’s unbeaten streak to 21 games (18-0-3), they’re in good form heading into World Cup Qualifying.

The next US Soccer game is tomorrow. The USMNT take on Brazil with a young squad looking to secure their places within the depth chart.

Featured image: Sports Illustrated

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A Matter of Pride and Its History

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

It’s Pride Month.  Many teams in MLS and NWSL are officially celebrating with Pride Nights. Many supporters are engaging in #PrideRaiser campaigns to benefit local LGBTQ-friendly organizations (The Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters both have campaigns to benefit Portland’s own OutsideIn). Individual players have also gotten involved in #PlayingForPride.

The Timbers’ own Zarek Valentin, for example, was already committed to a pledge of his own before a rash bet he made forced him to follow through on a promise to wear a Hayley Raso bow in his hair for a match, which turned into an upcoming second Pride fundraiser:

At the national team level, both the USMNT and USWNT are honoring Pride month, with rainbow numbers on their jerseys, just as they did in 2017. This past week, we learned that Jaelene Hinkle declined the opportunity to play for the national team last year because, as she put it, “I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey.”

At the time, the press release announcing her withdrawal cited “personal reasons;” this week, she chose to share the reason for her withdrawal on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s 700 Club.  This announcement, just a few days before the start of Pride month celebrations, was met with a less than friendly reception in Portland, where she was met with boos from the Portland stands and at least one snarky two stick:

And, of course, there are those who react to displays honoring Pride Month that folks just “stick to sports.”

Here’s the thing about “sticking to sports”– it should never come at the expense of standing up for human rights.

I completely understand devotion to religious ideals. I was reared American Baptist, went to church three times a week for eighteen years, had family Bible study every morning. But it is not lost on me that the American Baptists were initially the Northern Baptists, who split with the Southern Baptists in 1845 over the issue of using religious interpretations to justify slavery and racism.

Want an extreme example of using religion to treat your fellow human unjustly? Look no further than, for example, Southern Baptist pastor Thorton Stringfellow’s 1860 Cotton Is King, And Pro-Slavery Arguments:

Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command…the principle relied on for this purpose, is a fundamental principle of the Mosaic law, under which slavery was instituted by Jehovah himself…It is only sober truth to say, that the institution of slavery has saved from the sword more lives, including their increase, than all the souls who now inhabit this globe. Under the gospel, it has brought within the range of gospel influence, millions of Ham’s descendant’s among ourselves, who but for this institution, would have sunk down to eternal ruin.

My point is not to run down Southern Baptists, or people of any particular religious belief. Throughout history, one can find similar examples, from many faiths. My point instead is to note the danger of using religion to justify inhumane treatment of others, of treating fellow humans as “less than.” I picked slavery as just one obvious example.

Unequal treatment under the law has happened and continues to happen throughout the world based on race, gender, and sexual identity, among other personal characteristics. In our own country, there have been statutes on the books for persons perceived to be wearing clothing not belonging to one’s gender, or for simply gathering in the same establishment together.

Fighting for the rights of LGBTQ to exist and to expect equal treatment under the law arguably came to a head in this country during the Stonewall Uprising in June of 1969, which is the reason Pride Month is historically celebrated in June in the US.

Do you think discrimination against LGBTQ folks isn’t still a problem?  Try engaging in a Pride parade in Turkey or Uganda. Think it isn’t a problem in the US any more? Note that, as of this 2012 Williams Institute study of agencies who serve the homeless in the US, 40% of the homeless youth they serve are LGBTQ youth.

The top two reasons cited for homelessness among this population: family rejection of sexual orientation or gender identity; or being forced out of the home by parents who reject the youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity. And then, of course, there are the victims of violence simply for being LGBTQ.

Let us also remember that much of the soccer world’s recent celebration of Pride Month has been in response to inhumanity. Less than a week after the Pulse nightclub massacre, US Men’s National Team captain Michael Bradley donned a rainbow armband to show his support for the LGBTQ community. And in 2017, Orlando Soccer Stadium unveiled rainbow-hued seats honoring the 49 victims of the tragedy.

It is in this context that the mens’ and womens’ national teams have worn Pride jersey numbers. It is critical to remember that Pride jerseys, parades, and events are not simply to “celebrate” one’s sexuality. More importantly, they are to recognize that all people are worthy of respect, dignity, and basic human rights.

Sometimes some of us in the Timbers Army joke that soccer is our religion, complete with Providence Park as our “church,” games as “worship services,” and songs and chants as our “hymns.” And when it comes to freedom of expression, we’re very good at that in the stands as well, booing both silly and not-so-silly things that take place on the pitch. But I take religious freedom and human rights very seriously.

Sometimes one’s religious tenets forbid eating certain foods, or eating at certain times, or marrying outside the faith, or uncovering one’s hair, or shaving one’s beard, or any of a thousand individual choices. Thankfully, the Constitution protects our freedom of religion. Nobody should be forced to follow a particular state religion, or be denied the opportunity to worship as they choose.

At the same time, nobody’s religious beliefs can be used as an excuse for unequal treatment under the law, let alone to foster an atmosphere where hatred and violence against a class of individuals is somehow regarded as acceptable. Just as it is abhorrent to conceive of using religion as an excuse to allow slavery and racial discrimination to exist, so, too, it is abhorrent to use religion as justification for unequal treatment of LGBTQ persons.

Jaelene Hinkle has the absolute right to worship as she chooses, to profess her faith, and to refuse a national team callup for any reason. I hope that eventually she also learns the difference between religious observance and creating space in the larger world for hate and inequality to thrive.

I will boo the heck out of hate and inequality whenever I see it; and I will also boo when I see people creating the space that allows it to continue to exist.

Peace/shalom/salaam alaikum/namaste.

Featured image: Timbers Army Flicker

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

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USA vs Paraguay

Abigail Gerken - USWNT/mlsfemale
Official USMNT Reporter

By Abigail Gerken // @abigailgerken22

Tuesday, March 27: 1-0 Win

Cary, NC

12-Zack Steffen; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Matt Miazga, 5-Cameron Carter-Vickers, 19-Jorge Villafaña; 20-Wil Trapp (capt.); 6-Darlington Nagbe, 8-Marky Delgado, 4-Tyler Adams, 10-Kenny Saief; 7-Bobby Wood

You know you have a young team when your most senior player in the starting 11 is 24 years old (DeAndre Yedlin, 50 caps). On the roster leading into the game that interim head coach Dave Sarachan put together, there are 17 players under the age of 24. These young players are facing off against Paraguay who has a mix of experience and hopeful youth, including Atlanta United powerhouse Miguel Almiron.

Some players to make note of are Marky Delgado, the 22-year-old just won the treble with his club team Toronto FC, he will be making his first cap tonight. Besides this being Wil Trapps 4th cap, this will be his second consecutive time captaining the USMNT. Finally, Tyler Adams. The 19-year-old is the youngest player in this lineup. After having a very experienced youth career it will be exciting to see what Adams can do on the senior team.

In the 44th minute, Marky Delgado sent a gorgeous ball into Tyler Adams’ run. Tyler took a couple of touches to close down his space going 1v1 with the Paraguayan keeper. As he took a touch to his left to try and beat the keeper, keeper took him out without an attempt at getting the ball. This resulted in a PK and a yellow card. Bobby Wood stepped up to take it and slotted home his 11th career international goal.

That was the only goal of the game as the young ones take the 1-0 win over Paraguay

Also, a side note, did we see those jerseys! I am absolutely loving the new kits that Nike put out for 2018.

The next USMNT game is on May 28th against Bolivia. The USWNT take on their heated rivals Mexico on April 5th at 7:00 pm EST, you can watch it on FS1.

Featured image courtesy: CBSsports.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @abigailgerken22

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The first steps of the USMNT in 2018

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
USMNT Key Contributor

By Michelle Huitink // @AdorableEars

International Friendly: 0-0 Draw

I was there at StubHub Center Sunday evening, January 28, 2018. I say this proudly. I paid extra to be on the sidelines during warm-ups. I watched this game live from what turned out to be a Bosnia and Herzegovina fan section and it was frustrating. I ended up moving to another section at the half.  Stay with me.

Having been there, it felt almost pointless to rewatch and analyze from my DVR at home, to critique a set of players that we may not see play together again. But, as a USMNT fan, I feel I owe it to my team (because I love and believe in them and want to see them qualify for the 2022 World Cup) to do them justice and properly share my perspective.

I’ll share my findings now. There are plenty of critics and blind followers out there, I am not one of them. You with me? Here we go.

For starters, I must say, I think it’s important this game ended in a draw. If we would have won, I think we would be too comfortable.  This is still a reflection of the upset of our not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup; we have a lot to work on still and we have the time to do it now. In addition, we have an interim coach (Sarachan), meaning we don’t have a set coach, so the problems we are seeing are because we don’t have a system.

Michelle Huitink - USMNT/mlsfemale

As to be expected in a first game of the year and the first game out of January camp, there were a lot of changes. We played differently in each half due to adjustments that had to be made with the changes. This was a first time team, too, for the most part.

I’ll admit, it was sloppy at times. But, this is what change and growth look like. These factors are not excuses, but they are reasons for why we need to keep a level head and keep realistic expectations for the future of USMNT soccer.  Let’s keep moving forward as we take a look back at this game.

Here’s a recap of the Starting XI in the 4-1-4-1 formation:

1-GK Bill Hamid

2-D Justin Morrow

3-D Ike Opara

21-D Walker Zimmerman

15-D Matt Polster

6-M Wil Trapp (Captain)

9- M Gyasi Zardes

4- M Tyler Adams

8- M Cristian Roldan

13-M Jordan Morris

17- F CJ Sapong

The defense was good in the first half, but the team did not seem connected at times. The exception to this was Roldan and Morris in certain moments where they found clear opportunities and took chances to score. Perhaps this is because they’re best friends, but they’ve definitely been playing together on the Seattle Sounders for two seasons, and I think their chemistry–the fact they know how the other plays– is key to how the USMNT as a whole can sync up.

In the first half, we were attacking more, both teams were equal in fouls, but we didn’t make good decisions in the end.

Overall, we played passively.  When we had the ball, we tried to put some pressure, but our strategy was not developed or fast enough. We couldn’t build a rhythm or momentum. Sometimes, the USMNT seemed unsure of what to do once they had the ball whether due to inexperience on the part of the young players or the players didn’t know each other well enough, which is normal considering they only played together for three weeks.  As a result, the game was slow. Sometimes it would be fifteen minutes before another chance to score showed itself.

One of the few highlights of the evening involved Jordan Morris.  In the 22nd minute, Morris took on a BIH defender, that was the kind of tactic we needed from other players. Morris faced players head on, which is what other players except Roldan and Trapp were missing.

He was a mid, a winger and a striker at times.  It should also be noted, this was the first full 90 minutes he’d played since his hamstring injury back on September 10, 2017 (I was at that game too).

The first three changes in players at the half were good: Zack Steffen replaced Bill Hamid, Kelyn Rowe took Sapong’s place and Gyasi Zardes was not as effective this time, so it was better they put in Paul Arriola.

At the second half, the formation was changed to the common 4-4-2.  Morris and Roldan were the forwards.  Trapp made a good pass, creating a chance for Morris in the 50th minute. Morris had good control of the ball, reflected his experience, but he just couldn’t make it in the net. This opportunity coupled with Trapp’s good communication to try to bring the team together on the pitch, made him an excellent choice for captain.

The other highlight of the evening was Cristian Roldan.  He made so much effort to try to make goals happen.  He was an 8, but he played as a 9 and in the 22nd minute when Morris faced a BIH defender, he jumped in and tried to score, playing like a 10 when Sapong didn’t make the move. Roldan was not afraid to take risks and get in as needed to make plays happen. He took more responsibility as a mid forward.

After Roldan and Trapp were subbed (68th and 83rd minute respectively), the pressure had deflated.  BIH started to have the ball and had more chances.  We needed more control of the ball. There was too much of a gap between Morris and the midfield and he looked like a 9 position in the last minutes after Roldan left. The team started to disconnect with the changes.

Final takeaways:

We had seven corners throughout the game and didn’t take advantage of them.

We are still looking for a keeper. While Hamid was able to make a save in the 42nd minute after his bad pass to redeem himself, Steffan did his job, but that’s all.

In Opara, I feel we gained a defense, which is where we build from.

In the end, we earned the criticism we’ll continue to get.  But, there’s still that pride and enthusiasm to represent our country.  Now, we’ll have to see who will be part of the group moving forward.

Image courtesy: Michelle Huitink

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @AdorableEars

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The Promise of USMNT Soccer

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
USMNT Key Contributor

By Michelle Huitink // @AdorableEars

You say you want a revolution?

Well, we are getting one.

We’ve got four internationally experienced players on the team, but the roster as a whole is new.

Take a look:

U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals)

GOALKEEPERS (4): Alex Bono (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 4/0), Cody Cropper (New England Revolution; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC/CAN; 3/0), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN; 0/0), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire; 1/0), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles Football Club; 1/0)

MIDFIELDERS (11): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 15/2), Russell Canouse (D.C. United; 0/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0), Marlon Hairston (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Ian Harkes (D.C. United; 0/0), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 1/0), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution; 3/1), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 2/0), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 37/6)

FORWARDS (6): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 27/3), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC; 4/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 24/5), Christian Ramirez (Minnesota United FC; 0/0), Rubio Rubin (Unattached; 4/0), CJ Sapong (Philadelphia Union; 3/0).

Michelle Huitink - USMNT/mlsfemale

The USMNT didn’t qualify for the 2018 Cup.

I hear ya.

I feel the pain (understatement, I know).

It’s not a reality we want to accept, but let’s press forward.

This is how real change is made. It’s slow, messy, and arduous to say the least. I trust in the process.

I’ve been calling for the team to have younger players for some time. I love Howard, Dempsey, Beasley and all the guys, but they’ve had their time and they’ve set a bar.

During USMNT warmups on Monday, January 22, in Carson, CA, I spoke with press officer Michael Kammarman who has a background in soccer research. The roster consists of all MLS players and according to Kammarman, it’s not unusual considering it’s the MLS offseason. As the start of a new cycle, he said they have a “refreshing staff” with players “eager to make a good impression”. They want to be national players and are getting an extended look in front of the national team staff. They see it as an opportunity and are hopeful.

I also decided to ask him what he thought of the relationship between the fans and the USMNT. He said fans need to be “realistic” in their expectations and that the USMNT isn’t the only country to have a setback and not qualify for the World Cup.

Standing beside us was longtime soccer columnist for the Southern California Newspaper Group Nick Green, who contributed to the conversation as we went over World Cup trivia. It is a national mourning when your country doesn’t qualify, he said, recalling when England didn’t qualify in the past.

That’s what’s important to remember, only eight countries have ever won the international competition. The USMNT just want to show that we are capable of competing in the World Cup.

Still, I think this is a real chance for the USMNT. It’s a fresh start.

Michelle Huitink - USMNT/mlsfemale

I was given the opportunity to speak with Jordan Morris after morning practice and he graciously answered my questions about their performance and the fanbase ahead of the January 28th match vs Bosnia and Herzegovina.

MH: How do you feel is the chemistry with this new team?

JM: It’s great, I think. It’s a lot of guys coming in that are hungry and their first camp and trying to come in and show themselves. And I think everyone’s done a really good job, coming together well, so hopefully, we can get a [winning] result.

MH: Some consider the fanbase kind of fractured with the US team. Maybe it’s a little bit harsh, maybe it’s just we have really high expectations, but what message do you have for the fans or how do you think we can make it better between the USMNT and the fans?

JM: Our message would just be we really appreciate all their support always and we know how disappointing it is, but we are gonna push forward and move forward and keep rebuilding and looking to the future. There’s a lot of exciting things to come so our message would be just thank you for all the continued support.

I couldn’t agree with him more. I’m writing this because I want the US fans to continue to believe in the USMNT.  My concern is regaining optimism and support in the fanbase and growing soccer in this country.  Of course, only time will tell and we’ll have to see what the future holds, but that’s the beauty in all of this and this game. Let’s not throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. I’ve supported this team for over a decade and I’m not stopping now.

The USMNT of 2018 is carrying the weight of the loss, but it’s still an honor to be called to camp and be able to play representing this country.  The team is very much alive and they’re here to prove we can compete internationally. We are looking forward to seeing how they can do this with the experience of Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes, Juan Agudelo, and Paul Arriola leading the new team with new energy.  We are living history, and witnessing the new faces of the USMNT.

Watch and support the USMNT vs Bosnia and Herzegovina on Jan. 28 at StubHub Center (6:30 p.m. PT; FS1, UniMas & UDN). Tickets and upgrades are available now!

Images courtesy: Michelle Huitink

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @AdorableEars

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Moving Forward for the USMNT

A collaboration from the ladies of MLSFemale. Organized by Abigail Gerken.

The USMNT not making the 2018 World Cup made room for a lot of discussion about this program and how we can advance as a soccering nation. Here is what the MLSFemale writers think about this situation the USMNT is in.

What went wrong in this qualifying cycle?

KAITLYN: US Soccer has several problems, and it’s not just Bruce Arena, Jurgen Klinsmann or Sunil Gulati. US Soccer needs to grow their players. They need to develop the players in MLS Academies, and those players (if American) need to be getting attention from US Soccer. Like Kerissa said; Klinsmann didn’t help develop the youth system. US Soccer really needs to focus on youth development and get players who they can into the US Soccer and MLS Academies; ones that will develop and support the players.

In the end, the US didn’t play to win. They played to tie. They assumed that Mexico and Costa Rica would win; which wasn’t a safe assumption. And of course, people will blame the coach, they’ll blame the field, they’ll blame Mexico and Roman Torres. But the players didn’t perform. It just wasn’t there.

KERISSA: Looking at just this qualifying cycle, it wasn’t just one thing that went wrong. One place where I think issues began was having Jurgen Klinsmann be both head coach and technical director. Technical directors also need to handle youth development and Klinsmann never showed interest in developing the US system. He recruited from Europe and leaned on players who trained in the German system. Yes, it’s a great system, but US Soccer isn’t always going to pull from that pool. Ignoring players developed and developing means less incentive to stay or play for the US.

As for the TNT match, the biggest error was Bruce Arena not taking Trinidad and Tobago seriously enough to make a game plan. Not only did he send out the same formation as the Panama match, he had no backup when it became apparent in the first ten minutes that the formation wasn’t going to work.

While his was an arrogant decision, too many of the players showed entitlement in their approach to the match.

JESS: What went wrong. Speaking specifically to the Trinidad and Tobago game, the players did not show up. Like Kaitlyn said, and like I have been saying, they stepped on the field to play for a tie because they knew that all they needed was a tie and thought they could skate by. In any game you play, you should be playing for the win. When the question of qualification comes up, your aim should be to destroy the other team. To leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that you deserve that last guaranteed spot or that one more chance in the playoff.

There was no heart. Blame the conditions of the field, the weather, whatever you want to blame – but that’s all an excuse for the more painful truth that as bad as the team may have wanted this win, they didn’t show it on the field. Just because you haven’t missed qualifying since 1986 doesn’t mean that you deserve to be there. I got a little miffed with the people asking the “but can you imagine a World Cup without _______?!” questions, because the answer is yes. No one is guaranteed in so a World Cup without _____ is entirely possible and probable as we painfully found out this week. Time to reboot.

KIRSTEN: The team (and country) put all their hopes on a 19 year old kid who is barely out of high school. Christian Pulisic is an amazing player, but he can’t be the guy right away. He needs support, and the team couldn’t give that to him. We also had no midfield presence. Our mids were all pushing forward leaving Bradley to be kind of defensive all by himself.

Our transition game was GOD AWFUL! We weren’t too terrible at defensive for a chunk of the games, but the rest there was not much good anywhere. *side note: I feel terrible for Matt Besler (he’s obvi my fave), but I’ve always seen him as a hard-worker who never takes things for granted. He was benched a bit last season for subpar play, and was passed over for Gold Cup in 2016. He knows the stakes, and I am just sad I’ll never see him play in another World Cup. I might be crying a bit right now, but that’s okay.

What should we change moving forward (new players, formation, coaches, etc.)?:

ABIGAIL: I think that we need to start focusing on 2022. We need to start having a consistent lineup (especially the back 4 which has been made up of many different combinations of players). We have so many talented young players in the system (Pulisic, Brooks, Yedlin, Acosta, Arrola, Wood) who have proved they can play at a very high level and push this USMNT team forward. Take out older players who aren’t going to be there for ‘22 and let the young players figure things out and build chemistry. We have 5 years to do this.

KAITLYN: In my opinion, it’s time for Sunil Gulati to move on. US Soccer needs to be re-evaluated and their system would benefit from a new president to re-vamp the program. As for new players, this should be the wake up call. The National Team needs new defenders; and as much as we all love Tim Howard, they need a younger goalie.

SYLVANA: I fully believe there are people in the system who can bring about the necessary changes. Gulati isn’t going anywhere; he’s still aiming to get WC2026 to North America and the only way is to be rid of him is to put someone else in place through election. Tab Ramos, who has been part of the system, could be a step in the right direction.

JESS: What needs to change is that US Soccer continuously relies on our past to resolve our future. We relied on a coach that got us to the quarter-finals in 2002. What did he do after that? Arena is that ex that never should’ve gotten a second chance. We blame Klinsmann for a thrashing against a solid Costa Rica team. Was he the one on the field?

Firing him didn’t solve anything. We rely on older players who, while still capable of playing, are not truly capable at keeping up with the international field. Why? Perhaps they might be of greater value off the field than on. We have a USSF president who is far more concerned about bolstering his pocketbook than aiding his organization. Again, why? No one runs against him. Our home system is a slower, less creative game than what we see come out of the rest of the world.

I love the MLS and will always support it, but why don’t we play with the speed and creativity of Germany and Spain? Why do we have to be the retirement league of the world? We stand here, wring our hands, and say “what happened” when the freight train of issues that’s been heading our direction, and we’ve seen coming, finally hits us. Maybe we should get off the tracks.

Let’s vote out a USSF president that doesn’t want to take responsibility for putting us on those tracks and bring in someone with a new, better plan. Let’s scrap and rebuild our pay-to-play system, and make more opportunities for those kids from lower income households with the passion and natural ability that we need.

Let’s encourage our players to step out of their comfort zone and take opportunities available to them in different countries. Let’s take a hard look at American individualism, how it impacts being a team player, and remember that soccer is a team sport and not a “me” sport. Let’s take bigger risks, leave the past where it is, and invest in our future.

KAITLYN: For me, I have the biggest issue with US Soccer’s development systems.

There has been a lot of discussion about Pay-to-Play in the youth soccer systems, how does that affect the USMNT?

KIRSTEN: In the United States soccer is seen as a “rich kid” sport. To get into the best club systems your family needs to have money. To many, basketball and football are seen as the “street sports” where kids from all backgrounds can play and get noticed. In other countries soccer is the sport that everyone plays regardless of background. If we can grow soccer like we have fostered basketball and football we have a chance of getting talented athletes from all walks of life, and not just the privileged.

SYLVANA: As a soccer parent, I want to comment on pay-to-play. I get it– this stuff costs money. I see our expenses for my sons’ club: insurance, pass fees, uniforms, equipment. And our club costs a fraction of the cost of other clubs in my area. I’ve had other parents tell me they’d gladly pay more if it resulted in better results on the field.

But to me, cost doesn’t equal value. My kid could be ready for an academy, but he won’t be seen by a scout unless I pay hundreds of dollars in camp fees where the scouts go. So if I can’t afford it, my son’s development is over. And that’s not fair to him. How many times has that happened in America in the past 20 years?

I’m also hearing a lot about the NCAA and blowing up the college system. I’d like to share with you something Mark Pulisic told me (I hope he doesn’t mind). He said in America, there are so many levels of play that anyone who wants to reach their highest level can do so– that level isn’t always international. I don’t think anyone who plays college for 4 years should have any sort of leg-up in getting into MLS. (Jordan Morris was a homegrown academy product- his college career is irrelevant.) Soccer as a vehicle to an education is distinctly American.

SHEBA: Pay to play is a completely upside down model for developing the growth of the sport in the US. I work in a community with strong immigrant ties, and soccer is THE sport kids play here–at recess, on weekends, with families, you name it. It is the only sport in which our high school is competitive with other schools its size.

We have immigrant communities small and large across the U.S. with plenty of people who have brought to this country a passion for, and knowledge of, the beautiful game. Unfortunately their passion and knowledge don’t translate into any sort of development of the sport, or pipeline for talented youth players, because they remain disconnected from the traditional pathways to professional soccer in the US, whether Olympic Development Programs, collegiate soccer, or professional teams’ youth academies.

Outside of the inaccessibly expensive pay to play youth leagues, there are “pirate leagues” and “tournament teams” that form and re-form for individual, specific events. These teams have outstanding players at all levels, but such pieced-together-by-the-tournament players are not at all connected to the expensive club system because they cannot afford to be.

These same talented athletes also often come from families who don’t have a history of attending college, and/or who lack the necessary knowledge and financial resources to get their children the tools they need to access higher education. And scouting resources at the collegiate and professional level are woefully understaffed. As a result most of these extremely capable youth players who might otherwise be the next generation of US all stars go unheralded and fail to develop to their potential, unconnected to Olympic soccer, collegiate soccer, or professional teams’ academy systems (many of which are still in their infancy).

Other comments? 

JESS: Maybe there’s a silver lining to not making it into Russia that I’m not seeing. Maybe that silver lining is that it’s spurring conversations like this and has sowed the seeds of change. I know that I am disappointed by the results. I know that I am a little more cynical and on edge this week because of that disappointment. Let’s build for 2022 and come back with a vengeance.

KIRSTEN: Both of my countries are out! The Netherlands are only supposed to be terrible for the Euros, and we know what happened to the USMNT. Who the hell am I supposed to root for now?

Featured image courtesy: @ussoccer

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Happiness to Heartbreak for USMNT

Abigail Gerken - USWNT/mlsfemale
USMNT Official Reporter

By Abigail Gerken // @abigailgerken22

2 games, 5 days apart, 2 very different results, and 1 country on a roller coaster of emotion,

FRIDAY: On Friday the boys played Panama in Orlando, Florida. It was a very chippy game but it resulted in a 4-0 win for the USA. Wonderboy did it again, Christian Pulisic had a goal and an assist. Jozy Altidore also had an amazing game,  2 goals and an assist to his name. After this 4-0 win, the USMNT had a 93% chance of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

It all came down to the final match day of this World Cup Qualifying cycle. Tuesday was the WCQ equivalent of MLS’s Decision Day for North and South America. All games started at 4:30, and by the end of the night, we will know who is booking a ticket to Russia and who was spending summer 2018 at home.

TUESDAY: It all came down to this. The only way the US could not qualify for the World Cup is if: they lose to Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras beats Mexico, and Panama beats Costa Rica. By the 37th minute, the USMNT was down 2-0 to T&T. In the 47th minute Christian Pulisic scored to make it 2-1. However, the goals would stop there and the USMNT would lose 2-1. Meanwhile, both Honduras and Panama won their respective games.

USA’s worst nightmare just happened. We are officially not going to be in the 2018 World Cup. This is the first time since 1986 that the USMNT has not qualified for a World Cup.

Tweet us @MLSFemale and let us know what you think went wrong! We would love to hear your opinions on this heartbreaking loss.

Featured image of Jozy Altidore courtesy: Rebecca Blackwell/AP

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#WONTHEGROUP

Abigail Gerken - USWNT/mlsfemale
US National Team Key Contributor

By Abigail Gerken // @abigailgerken22

3 games, 3 cities, 7 points, 8 days.

Those are some of the numbers that recap the wild group stage of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The boys kicked it off in Nashville where they debuted their new red and navy blue kit against a very determined Panama squad. Sorry, but can we just talk about these kits for a second. THEY ARE AMAZING! We’ve been asking for more patriotism being displayed in our uniforms (@ USWNT world cup kit) and Nike+ finally delivered. Okay, back to the game. Dom Dwyer scored the only USA goal of the match in the 50th minute off of a Kelyn Rowe assist.

On July 12th, the USMNT played Martinique in Tampa. Jordan Morris was the star of this show. The 22 year old scored 2 goals in this match, and Omar Gonzalez added on the third. Martinique scored 2. The game ended 3-2, with the US picking up 3 points.

On July 15th, the USMNT played Nicaragua in Cleveland. There was 3 different goal scorers in this dominant performance. Joe Corona, Kelyn Rowe, and Matt Miazga (!) all picked up a goal. Going into this game we knew that they needed to win by 3 goals to win group B and avoid playing Costa Rica in the Quarterfinals. Although they won 3-0 it could’ve been 5-0. There was 2 penalty kick calls in the USA’s favor. Dom Dwyer took the first and Joe Corona took the second, both kicks were saved.

A couple notes:

Kelyn Rowe: My hometown hero had a breakthrough performance. He scored his first international goal, started 2 of the games, and played extremely well (I mean did you guys see him completely mix 2 Panamanian defenders to assist Dom Dwyer’s goal?!). He definitely made everyone back in Seattle and New England proud!

Matt Miazga is back?: If you told me at the end of 2015 that Matt Miazga would only have 3 caps and his first goal would be in the 2017 Gold Cup, I would’ve told you that you were crazy! Anyways that’s the case, but he is definitely making a comeback, with a shutout and a goal he should be in the conversation for center back pairings going forward.

The BFFs do national team: My personal favorite MLS player, Cristian Roldan joins his Seattle Sounders FC teammate and self proclaimed best friend Jordan Morris for the Gold Cup. After being ½ of arguably the best MLS center defensive midfield pairing with Osvaldo Alonso and getting a call up to January camp, many fans suspected that it was time he gets his first cap with the USMNT, and on July 12th he did!

Out with the new in with the old? : After group stage, teams are allowed to substitute 6 players on their roster. Head coach Bruce Arena took full advantage of this opportunity and swapped several newbies for seasoned vets + an upcoming star.

OUT: Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson, Alejandro Bedoya, Cristian Roldan, Kelyn Rowe, and Dom Dwyer.

IN: Tim Howard, Jesse Gonzalez, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Darlington Nagbe, and Jozy Altidore.

Want to see more? The USMNT plays El Salvador in Philadelphia on July 19th in the quarterfinals.

Featured image courtesy: @USSoccer

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In Bruce we Trust

Abigail Gerken - USWNT/mlsfemale
US National Team Key Contributor

By Abigail Gerken // @abigailgerken22

Sunday, June 11: 1-1 Draw

Lineup:
Brad Guzan
Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, Tim Ream
Deandre Yedlin, Kellyn Acosta, Michael Bradley, DaMarcus Beasley
Paul Arriola (Darlington Nagbe, 63) , Bobby Wood (Jozy Altidore 79), Christian Pulisic (Graham Zusi, 90+2)

The USMNT faced off against Mexico at high altitude for a crucial World Cup Qualifying match. An hour before the match when the lineup was released on twitter, fans got a little nervous. There was a lot of questions surrounding this particular eleven with only 6 of the 11 who played against Mexico on November 11th, 2016. Some questions USA fans had were: Where is Clint Dempsey? Where is John Brooks? Where is Tim Howard? These ‘key’ players were replaced with the likes of Kellyn Acosta, Omar Gonzalez, and Brad Guzan.

Here are some quick theories on why I think Bruce Arena chose this lineup. The game takes place in Mexico City, Mexico which is 7,382 feet above sea level! It’s not an easy transition for someone who plays at for example, 581 feet above sea level (Clint Dempsey in Seattle, Washington). In this group of 23 guys, we have players who play in Mexico and who are already adapted to the altitude. So when you have two players who play the same position like Omar Gonzalez and John Brooks, and Omar Gonzalez plays at 8,000 feet altitude compared to John Brooks 300 feet, you’re going to go with Omar Gonzalez.

Also, there are several players who are on the verge of yellow card suspension. Those players are Jozy Altidore, Alejandro Bedoya, Matt Besler, Bradley, John Brooks and Cameron. So when you have players that have dependable replacements i.e John Brooks, you can save them from what we all know is a chippy rivalry match.

The doubt would quickly be set aside when Michael Bradley (Yes, Michael Bradley!) unleashed his inner Carli Lloyd and chipped the Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa from about 40 yards out in the 5th minute. I guess it is a captain America thing 😉

The lead didn’t last very long. In the 23rd minute after a missed chance for the US in the box, Mexico countered and Carlos Vela slotted a low ball into the right post.

Overall, the game was pretty chippy, but what else do you expect? It’s against Mexico and at Estadio Azteca in front of 71,537. However, there were only 2 yellow cards issued in this match, and both to the United States. DeAndre Yedlin got one in the 42nd minute for persistent infringement and Paul Arriola also got cautioned in the 56th.

After the results of this match, the United States are currently in 3rd place in the Hex with 8 points. There are 4 more games in the Hex, with the qualifiers concluding in October. The next USMNT World Cup Qualifying game is on September 1st against Costa Rica.

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Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017