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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.

USA – Panama: three things we learned

After much deep thought, here are three potentially life changing things we learned after the Camp Cupcake commencing friendly between the USMNT and Panama.

messwithjozy

Don’t mess with Jozy, he’s probably the worst guy on the US to square off with, and he has no time for your shit.

Edit: Clint delivering freedom via push video is gone. Sad times.

Neither does Clint.

Wondo can make people say “Ayyyyy” rapidly. Jurgen enjoys people saying Ayyyyy!

All forward feistiness aside, the US got a win in a friendly, which has about as much impact as their loss against Chile in the friendly two weeks ago. The next really important game for them is in April, against Mexico. Three actual thoughts below:

Gyasi Zardes looked good, and not just as Geordi La Forge. He was calm and composed on the ball, wasn’t afraid to run at people, and made smart decisions, leading to his assist to Clint Dempsey and another that could have been to Michael Bradley. Sure Panama isn’t exactly the toughest opponent out there, but there was a world of difference in the composure of Zardes and that of Miguel Ibarra on Sunday, or Wil Trapp against Chile where it was clear that nerves were playing a real role. At this point Zardes has to be on the radar of some teams in Europe, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he is the next American player to leave MLS and make moves in Europe.

This is a phenomenal tifo, well done AO.

This is a phenomenal tifo, well done AO.

Brek Shea and DeAndre Yedlin aren’t the answer at fullback, at least not in the 4-2-3-1. Or in any formation with 4 backs. I know Jurgen is experimenting, and I’m a huge fan of that, but Brek especially just does not have the positioning to play left back. He played better overall against Panama, but both he and Yedlin don’t defend enough to play outside back regularly in a 4-2-3-1. Both were exposed regularly over the two games, and I think it’s time to let Yedlin get settled with Spurs, and Brek to try and get in form before we see either of them again for a while. It’s safe to say left back belongs to Greg Garza for the time being, while right back is a bit of a mystery, especially if Fab Johnson inserts himself into the midfield.

Mix Diskerud hasn’t locked down the middle. He was too anonymous against Panama, which is really someone who he should impose his will against. Those flowing locks should been doin whatever they wanted down the middle. But they weren’t. If he wants to start next to Bradley, he needs to have big performances in games like this. Less poetry Mix, more bossing the midfield against mediocre competition. Likely that he really isn’t at full fitness, but he should still do better.

USA – Chile preview, the abbreviated version

The US Men’s National Team faces Chile at 3pm PT today, kicking off their 2015 calendar. We give you the extremely abbreviated preview, brought to you by 140 character limits.

You are welcome for this real non-real preview. Actual game previews to return in February. If you are lucky.

USA U-20s Qualify for the 2015 U-20 World Cup in New Zealand

A gritty win in tough conditions in Jamaica saw the USMNT U-20 team clinch a spot in the U-20 World Cup this summer in New Zealand as goals from Ben Spencer and Paul Arriola combined with a huge PK save from Zack Steffen helped lock up a spot for the Young Yanks. The team now waits to see how their group shapes up at the official World Cup draw February 10th.

It was a game that the US dominated throughout, but they struggled to deal with poor field conditions that helped keep El Salvador in the game. Ben Spencer broke the deadlock after multiple dangerous chances for the US when he headed Emerson Hyndman’s free kick off of the crossbar, then coolly headed his rebound into the empty net in the 37th minute. Steffen then made the play of the tournament for the US, saving the El Salvador penalty kick after a handball in the box in the 52nd minute. Steffen’s full extension dive to his right helped the US maintain their shutout and keep the momentum in a critical spot. Arriola put the game away in the 68th when his shot took a fortuitous bounce off an El Salvador defender and trickled in. This sealed the spot in New Zealand, albeit a much more difficult route than expected for the US.

u20 qualify

Some brief thoughts on the tournament as a whole:

Impressive rally from the US. They struggled in their first two games and missing the U-20 World Cup seemed like a possibility, however they got it together and won four games in a row, not giving up a goal in that span. The fields in Jamaica were poor at best, and it was evident that this was wreaking havoc on the style the US likes to play. In their final match, Hyndman threaded Romain Gall a flawless throughball, and as Gall moved in by himself on goal, the ball skipped up on him, leading to a mistouch that went directly to the El Salvador keeper. This happened often during the tournament, which was tough on this collection of players who like to move the ball on the ground and use their skills to create opportunities. Instead they had to gut out some goals and were able to overcome the shitty fields. The refereeing was not much better than the fields were, however the US managed to avoid any big mistakes that put them down a player, and even when they gave up a PK, Steffen clutched up and made a massive save.

This defense is quite skilled, and has a very promising future. They gave up 2 goals over 6 games, one of which was a thunderous volley in the 92nd minute of a match where the defense had no chance. Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga jelled quite well together as a centerback pairing, and both were critical to the impressive performance of the defense. Shaquell Moore and John Requejo Jr. played well outside, and likely would have contributed more to the attack if the conditions were better. Russell Canouse was steady in front of them, filling in for an injured Kellyn Acosta both in the defensive midfield role and as team captain. Steffen was not called on to make a lot of saves throughout the tournament, and was partially at fault for the goal that Panama scored, but he came up incredibly big with his penalty kick save to keep the US ahead and avoid another shocking result against El Salvador like the match that knocked the US out of Olympic Qualifying in 2012. The attack has been what has carried this U-20 team in the last year, but it was the defense that really excelled in qualification and made sure they locked up a spot in the U-20 World Cup.

The 4-4-2 with Bradford Jamieson IV and Ben Spencer up top didn’t look or feel like the right formation with Gall and Tommy Thompson behind them in the outside midfield. Jamieson and Spencer are players that seem to do best when they have service from wide positions, however both Gall and Thompson are not really midfielders who get down the wing and play in crosses. Both are creative players who like to take guys on and dribble, and it seemed that Jamieson and Spencer were in the way of many of these runs instead of able to work off of them/open space for Gall and Thompson. Certainly the field conditions didn’t help, but Jamieson seemed much more comfortable when Junior Flores and Paul Arriola were in the game as subs creating more chances on the counter and cutting balls back across into the box that Jamieson attempted to finish. It will be interesting to see how the lineup shifts come early June as Rubio Rubin, Gedion Zelalem, and Erik Palmer-Brown could all be part of the squad that takes the field in New Zealand.

Romain Gall receives the shared Golden Boot award.

Romain Gall receives the shared Golden Boot award.

Emerson Hyndman was the US player of the tournament for me. His work in the midfield was phenomenal, and he was dangerous getting forward while breaking up attacks defensively in the middle. He took most of the free kicks and corner kicks, and had multiple assists via these set pieces. His vision in the midfield was tremendous, and it’s clear his development has ramped up at Fulham where he has been making regular first team appearances this season. He looked to be the most complete player on the pitch for the USMNT, and his performance at the U-20 World Cup will be very important to how the team fares.

The biggest question that faces Tab Ramos is how does he best utilize the impressive talent that he has to work with this summer. Guys like Carter-Vickers and Moore established themselves in the back, but how will the front six look as multiple talented players like Rubin and Acosta join the squad or recover from injury? Will we see a shift back to the 4-3-3, a move to the 4-2-3-1, or will the 4-4-2 stick? Will any young MLS players make a name for themselves in the next five months and force their way on to the team? It should be a very exciting U-20 World Cup for the US as they will bring possibly the most talented and deep squad they have ever had for a U-20 World Cup to New Zealand.

Defense carries U-20 USMNT into playoff for U-20 World Cup spot

The US U-20 Men’s National Team has had an eventful trip to Jamaica in their quest to qualify for the U-20 World Cup this summer in New Zealand. After getting only one point from their first two matches, it looked like they needed to win all of their remaining three matches just to even make it into a playoff for a spot in New Zealand. After beating both Jamaica and Aruba, they came into today’s match against Trinidad & Tobago needing at least a draw to clinch a spot in the playoff, and a win to give them the top seed overall in the playoff. After 78 minutes Bradford Jamieson IV finally broke the deadlock and put the US up 1-0, finishing a great counterattack from Junior Flores and Paul Arriola to ensure that the US would be in the playoff match this Saturday, January 24th. Prepare for some epic music with the highlights that might be better suited for a slow motion battle scene.

 

The US dominated much of the match, creating more dangerous chances than T&T. Romain Gall was the danger man early on, but he was unable to finish his opportunities in the 6th and 30th minute. T&T’s one chance in the first half was in the 10th minute which they put wide. Emerson Hyndman almost gave the US a lead in the 40th as he ripped a shot after beating three players in the box, but the keeper was able to parry. Jamieson had two good looks early in the second half, including a shot that was cleared off the line in the 49th minute. Both Paul Arriola and Junior Flores came on as subs after the 60th minute, and both looked quite lively. Flores hit Arriola with a nice pass that created a four on three break for the US, and Jamieson slotted home the winner far post from Arriola’s cutback pass into the box, allowing both the US and all of the team’s followers to breathe a sigh of relief. Flores was unlucky not to score in the 85th minute when the T&T keeper made another nice save. The match finished 1-0, which allowed the US to surpass Guatemala on goal differential and give them the top seed in the playoff, as long as Honduras doesn’t score nine goals against Canada (you can do it, hat). Apparently the playoff matches are not 2nd of each group vs 3rd of the other group like previously published, but this is CONCACAF so really that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The critical part is that the US has clinched a playoff match, likely against El Salvador, unless Cuba beats them tomorrow.

bradford

Go celebrate with your people B! (aka Mom and Dad)

 

Surprisingly enough, the US defense has really carried them so far in this tournament. Coming in to qualification it was the midfield that was receiving all of the plaudits with so much dangerous attacking talent, but the back-line of Shaquell Moore, Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and John Requejo alongside keeper Zack Steffen have been impressive, giving up only two goals, one of which was a wonderstrike in the 93rd minute. Conditions on the pitch in Jamaica have been less than optimal to say the least, and on more than one occasion a referee has made a befuddling call, yet the back-line has kept it together and defended admirably, allowing few chances and limiting mistakes on pitches that have been particularly conducive to them. Each of these guys looks to have a promising career ahead of him, and Carter-Vickers and Moore have both especially been impressive on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. It looks likely that the Philadelphia Union will be disappointed by Steffen’s decision to make a move to Freiburg instead of play for them (especially considering how much they love keepers) as he has been very solid, making some big saves. Hopefully the back line has one more clean sheet in them for Saturday to help send the Young Yanks on a summer vacation to New Zealand.

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