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The US U-20s advance, have big challenges ahead

The US U-20 team beat Colombia 1-0 early Wednesday morning behind a great goal from Rubio Rubin, some stellar goalkeeping from Zack Steffen, and an impressive performance from the back four. The young USMNT now faces Serbia in the quarterfinals in a challenging match up early Sunday Morning EST/late Saturday night PST. Part of the reason this game appears to be so daunting is the fact that  Tab Ramos has made some puzzling lineup decisions throughout the tournament, especially when compared to what worked in qualification for the U-20 World Cup. His decision to play Kellyn Acosta as a left back throughout the tournament has left Marky Delgado to man the holding midfield role due to the absence of Russell Canouse, who got injured in training just days before the tournament. Delgado has struggled to make an impact throughout the tournament, and it is surprising that Ramos had not tried Acosta in the holding role and put John Requejo at left back, where he played throughout qualification in impressive fashion. Unfortunately he no longer has that option to slot Acosta into the midfield against Serbia as Acosta picked up two yellows against Colombia, the second conceding a penalty in the 83rd minute that Zack Steffen was able to make a big save on to preserve the 1-0 margin.

Fortunately for the US, Rubio Rubin is quite the fox in the box, seizing his one real opportunity against Colombia and burying it. His chance came about when Paul Arriola took a shot that looked to have hit a Colombian defender’s hand inside the box. The ball then fell kindly for Rubin, who gave the keeper no chance as he ripped a shot into the top of the net. It was a great finish. The question for the game against Serbia is who will start with Rubin up top, as Bradford Jamieson IV picked up an injury only five minutes into the match against Colombia. He and Maki Tall would have both been in position to start, but with the injuries to both of them it will be interesting to see if Ramos goes with Jordan Allen and leaves Rubin up top by himself in more of a 4-5-1 like he did after Bradford Jamieson’s injury or if he goes with someone like Tommy Thompson who can play as more of a second forward. The US struggled to maintain possession at times after Allen entered the game, and Rubin was stranded up top and left to chase balls against four defenders for periods versus Colombia. Whatever the change is, it will be important that it is someone who can help link up with Gedion Zelalem and Emerson Hyndman, who have both looked good in the midfield but have lacked support at times.

The US back line was very steady vs Colombia, with Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga pairing nicely at center back to block numerous shots and limit Colombia’s chances. When Colombia did get through, Zack Steffen came up huge with multiple big saves, including the save of a pretty well taken penalty kick. Carter-Vickers stock has to have skyrocketed as a result of the World Cup as he has been quite good throughout the group stages and now in the knockout rounds. Desevio Payne has been a revelation at right back, he is very composed on the ball and is a strong all around defender, so much that he replaced Shaq Moore in the starting lineup. The only weakness was Acosta, who made two surprising bad decisions that a player of his experience doesn’t normally make. It’s very likely that John Requejo will be joining these three in the back for the next game. Requejo was one of the players that impressed me the most during qualification, so I think his addition could be an improvement for the team overall.

Serbia is similar to Colombia in terms of physicality and skill from what I have seen of them and it will be a tough match for the US. The injury woes for the US are problematic, but fortunately this squad is extremely deep, which makes this less of a concern then it would have been in the past. The biggest question will be how does Tab Ramos adjust his lineup for this game, as his decisions really are the key going forward. Here’s to hoping the US can find themselves with a date in the semifinals so US fans can continue keeping the maddening hours it takes to follow the team as they try to continue their deep run in the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

USA – Mexico: The U-23 Edition

The US U-23 side took on Mexico’s U-23 side last night at the Home Depot Center in preparation for Olympic Qualifying in a match full of adrenaline and energy. At halftime the match was 0-0, but in the second half it was all about 1,2,3 for the young USMNT.

Uno A Cero…

Dos A Cero…

Y Tres A Cero!

Whatever coach Andi Herzog said at halftime worked. His side came out aggressively and played significantly better than they did in the first half. Perhaps bringing on Christian Dean at center back for Walker Zimmerman was the key, as the defense looked much more steady with Dean and Shane O’Neil playing together. Mario Rodriguez caused tons of problems for Mexico up top, making a great run to put away Luis Gil’s inch perfect ball to open the scoring, and barely missing a second when he beat multiple defenders and the keeper but was unable to finish a tricky opportunity. He and Jordan Morris were both very dangerous up top, and look to be a formidable pair when Olympic Qualifying starts. It’s possible that Morris has become Mexico’s boogeyman, scoring against them both at the senior level and U-23’s in a span of only 8 days.

Cody Cropper was huge in goal, coming up with multiple big stops, starting in the first minute. He alone helped keep Mexico scoreless on at least three occasions. Luis Gil caused problems for Mexico out of the midfield, playing a few marvelous balls. He looks to be a solid leader for this side going forward as they continue to prepare for qualification for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

The US finished the match with four yellow cards, while Mexico somehow ended up with zero. Some dubious refereeing at times in the match, and I was expecting one of the teams to finish with ten men, either the US to get a second yellow or a straight red for a Mexican player based on the intensity of the game and the overall level of chipiness. Fortunately the US worked through the inconsistency and kept their composure to pull out a nice win. Full match highlights in Spanish are below.

Dos A Cero Continued

Late to the party, but a couple brief thoughts:

Ventura Alvarado got his first USMNT start in basically the most pressure packed non-World Cup game possible for a US player and looked great. Hoping to see him and John Brooks paired together at some point before the Gold Cup this summer.

Swagudelo is back. Juan Agudelo looked like a man on a mission against Mexico, and if he can keep it up the next couple months, he could be a great option up top along with Jozy and ArJo. His touch was just so smooth. Depth is good, especially at striker. Nice work from Jordan Morris too, you can see what Jurgen sees in him.

Jürgen Klinsmann’s lineup choices and tactics are specifically designed to drive US fans on the internet crazy. Sometimes you think he has no idea what he is doing, and other times you are amazed by his genius. Could he be doing the greatest job ever of trolling a fan base as the manager of the USMNT?

DeAndre Yedlin may be learning how to defend properly at Spurs. That is a scary thought.

It’s insulting that US Soccer would be willing to play a match on that pitch. The fans and players deserve better. Stop looking for the most $$$ and start actually looking at the quality of the pitch. It’s 2015, not 2007. You are relevant and important now US Soccer, and your fans know better. Knock that shit off.

USA U-17 team one win away from the World Cup

The USA U-17 team is one win away from qualifying for the U-17 World Cup as they currently lead Group A for the automatic berth to Chile later this year. The U-17 USMNT has beaten Guatemala, Cuba, and Trinidad & Tobago, and drew with Honduras to set up a final group stage match with Jamaica, who is currently third in the group. The US has also clinched a spot in the 2nd place Group A vs 3rd place Group B for a spot in the World Cup in case they do not win the group, and it looks like they would face either Panama or Costa Rica in that game if the US does not win the group. Beating Jamaica and qualifying automatically is the goal without a doubt though. The team was unfortunate to give up a late equalizer against Honduras otherwise they would have already clinched a spot.

Overall, the Young Yanks have been quite impressive, outscoring opponents 13-3 so far. Their attack is fluid and creates tons of chances, with great performances from Christian Pulisic, Luca De La Torre, Josh Perez, and Joe Gallardo in particular. All of these players have been dangerous and have both created and finished chances, with Josh Perez really being the danger man over the last few matches.

I have been most impressed overall with both of the outside backs and the Young Yanks’ keeper. Both John Nelson and Matthew Olosunde have looked really good at left and right back respectively, in terms of their one-on-one defending, their organization, their positioning, and their confidence on the ball going forward. Nelson in particular has been willing to take guys on, beat them, and then make the right pass regularly. William Pulisic has been huge in net, coming up with multiple big saves against both Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago. The defense as a whole has been quite solid, with only a couple mistakes. Kickoff today between the US and Jamaica is at 4 PM PST, on Fox Sports 2. Here what coach Richie Williams and both Pulisics have to say about the final group game below.

U-17 World Cup qualification is within reach for this team, and look for them to attack early and often against Jamaica in their quest to lock up a World Cup spot in Chile in fall 2015.

Help Charity Ball change lives and win signed Michael Bradley USMNT gear

charityballpic

A ball can change everything

 

Ever notice when you are playing soccer or just messing around with a soccer ball that everything else fades away? It’s just you and the ball, and anything is possible. Winning the Champions League with a perfectly taken free kick? Done. Combining with Messi for another highlight reel goal? Easy. Escaping your problems for even a fleeting few minutes? No doubt. Charity Ball is trying to give kids all over the world the ability to do the same thing by providing new, quality soccer balls to kids in poverty-stricken communities worldwide. Over 5,000 kids in 25 countries have received a ball, with 2,000 of them delivered in 2014 and they are trying to go even bigger this year. Their goal is 10,000 balls delivered to kids this year, and they need help. First, a bit of back story. Charity Ball was founded by Ethan King in 2010, who was 10 at the time. His visit to Mozambique opened his eyes to poverty around the world and motivated him to try and change the world, one ball at a time.

Here’s the background on what inspired Ethan to start Charity Ball and how Charity Ball got to where they are today.

 

Check out Charity Ball’s goals for 2015, and below that see how you can help and win signed game-worn Michael Bradley USMNT gear.

 

Donating is the best way to help. For only $25, you can provide a kid the chance to dream with the ball at his/her feet. The chance to be the next Messi, Ronaldo, or Bedoya. Even better, donating gives you a shot at some incredible signed US gear from Michael Bradley. Jesse Bignami, the USMNT kit man worked with Michael and Ethan to give you a shot at some amazing gear. Here’s what you need to do: First, head to Charity Ball’s website to make a donation by clicking on this link. For every $25 you donate, you will get one entry into the raffle for the signed gear, and for each entry, one lucky kid in need will receive a new soccer ball. Everybody wins here! Please take a minute and donate to this awesome charity and help spread the word. We cannot raise enough awareness for this! Once you have donated, please send a screen shot of your donation confirmation to the following email address, jessebignami@gmail.com and you will be entered into the raffle. Michael and Jesse will choose a winner on March 8th. Pretty simple. Get donating, even though it hurts my chances of winning. Giving kids a brand new ball and hope is more important then my raffle odds, that is for damn sure.

mb90signedgear

Give Charity Ball a follow on Twitter to see more of the awesome results from your donation, and check out Jesse Bignami while you are at it too. Remember, this contest closes this week, so donate today.

Your US U-17 World Cup Qualifying Primer

CONCACAF qualifying for the U-17 World Cup in Chile later this year kicks off in Honduras today, and the US is in Group A with the host Honduras, as well as Jamaica, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, and Cuba, with six teams in group B as well. The US will play each team in its group once between February 27th and March 15th, with the winner of each group clinching an automatic spot. Thanks to CONCACAF’s relatively unclear write-up, it appears 2nd of each group plays 3rd of the other group to determine who will represent CONCACAF in the final two spots at the U-17 World Cup in October and November. Pretty confident that four teams go, and the best way to do that is for the US to win their group.

u17side

If you haven’t been following the U-17s, here are a few guys to know:

Christian Pulisic, who recently signed with Borussia Dortmund. He’s the creative force for this very talented U-17 side. He netted 17 times for the U-17 side in 2014, and there is a reason Dortmund is very high on him. So is Will Parchman. He is the most promising number 10 in the youth program currently.

Haji Wright, who is currently unattached. Unlike Pulisic, Wright doesn’t have a European passport to get him in with a club before he turns 18, but rumor has it that Schalke is very, very interested. He scored loads of goals in 2013 and 2014, is quick and technically dangerous, and can beat his man off the dribble as well as set others up.

Lucas de la Torre, who is in the Fulham youth academy. He’s got a dangerous shot from long distance, moves the ball well, and has a lot of composure on the ball. He’s been at Fulham since mid-2014 and has been playing with the U-18 side there.

Enough talking though, here are the highlights from the last 3 matches the U-17 side played at the Nike Friendlies at the end of  November / early December 2014.

Coach Richie Williams on the roster he is taking to Honduras: “We’re very happy with the 20-man roster that we named, and we think it’s a strong and deep roster,” Williams said. “Obviously there were difficult decisions that needed to be made because we have a very good group, and we have a lot of players that have been here for a year and a half to two years that have really worked hard and developed. That made it difficult in terms of choosing that 20-man roster. It’s not easy when you have to tell players that they haven’t made it. But again, we feel this is a strong roster and it’s a group that’s ready to go and compete and win a championship.”

Here’s the full roster. Anything less than winning the group would be a disappointment for the US, and not qualifying would be a shocker. This team is loaded with talent and they score goals in handfuls. Here’s to hoping that the fields in Honduras are far superior to the ones that the U-20 USMNT team had to deal with in Jamaica. Outside of that I can’t see a lot holding them back. Look for them to play a 4-3-3 and attack like madmen.

GK: William Pulisic (Richmond United/USA); Kevin Silva (Players Development Academy/USA)

DF: Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls/USA); Hugo Arellano (LA Galaxy/USA); Daniel Barbir (West Bromwich Albion FC/ENG); Tanner Dieterich (Real Salt Lake Arizona/USA); John Nelson (Internationals Soccer Club/USA); Matthew Olosunde (New York Red Bulls/USA); Alexis Velela (San Diego Surf/USA)

MD: Eric Calvillo (Real SoCal/USA); Lucas de la Torre (Fulham FC/ENG); Thomas McCabe (Players Development Academy/USA); Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER); Alejandro Zendejas Saavedra (FC Dallas/USA)

FW: Pierre da Silva (Orlando City SC/USA); Orrin Gaines II (Lonestar SC/USA); Joe Gallardo Jr (Monterrey/MEX); Joshua Perez (unattached); Brandon Vazquez (Club Tijuana/MEX); Haji Wright (unattached)

The USA’s continued inconsistency… with away kits.

Complain all you want about the 3-5-2, everyone’s lack of fitness, or lack of lack of fitness, yeah think about that for more than 10 seconds and tell me your head doesn’t hurt, or the fact that no one is sure who is going to start where and why. In truth, the USMNT has much bigger problems. For whatever reason, US Soccer and Nike have absolutely no consistency with USMNT away kits. It’s borderline absurd. Here’s the new 2015 USMNT away jersey (we will save judgement for the end):

2015 away

Click me to see who is looking fly in the new kit!

Here’s the 2014 away kit, the bomb pop, a legend in itself. This bad boy sold out everywhere leading up to the World Cup, and it was a joy to see on the streets as we all celebrated the USA’s success in Brazil.

Can't ever forget that HAIM sass, a true classic (sup Eric and Faux?)

Can’t ever forget that HAIM sass, a true classic (sup Eric and Faux?)

Now how about 2013. Not bad, it’s not going to take your breath away, but it’s hard to hate this one. Unless of course you hate everything.

Look at shiny Clint go!

Look at shiny Clint go!

2012’s jersey was glorious*. It was unique, everyone either loved it or hated it, and we beat Mexico in Mexico in it. Could be the greatest kit ever just based on that fact. Look at Jermaine doing airplane liftoff arms back there, how can you not love that. Waldo crushing souls in Mexico baby.

Can you say 3 points at Azteca?!

Can you say 3 points at Azteca?! T-Boyd can.

We go way back in time where we weren’t getting a kit every year to 2010, where the sash began. If this jersey doesn’t make you smile and also curse Koman Coulibaly loudly in public, you crazy. There is nothing wrong with still being bitter. NOTHING.

Mike and Herc, modeling the jersey in its finest moment.

Mike and Herc, modeling the jersey in its finest moment.

Finally, 2008. Not a lot to say about this jersey. Not anyone’s finest work, that is for sure.

2008 away

Well, this is boring.

See a pattern? Of course not! It doesn’t exist! How can we develop as a soccer nation if we don’t have a glorious away kit that is classic, sexy, and actually resembles the one of previous years? Answer: we can’t. WE ARE DOOMED. THE USMNT IS DOOMED.

In all seriousness, it might be time to pick one. It would be nice to at least have a base that the jersey will likely look like, even if you don’t have the freshest kit. Or Nike just wants to take my money each time they come up with a new idea for an away jersey. The Bomb Pop (2014) and Waldo (2012) are my two favorites, and I would be okay with the US sticking with a variation of either for the away kit, they both are unique and stand out, which I really like. I’m open to better ideas though.

*Okay so the Waldo kit may not have been an away jersey, but they wore it away at Mexico and won, and no other US jersey has done that, so yeah. It’s basically the best away non-away jersey ever.

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