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.

U-20 USMNT in Trouble in Jamaica

The US U-20 team has gotten itself into some trouble in their quest to qualify for the U-20 World Cup this Summer in New Zealand. First up was El Salvador 0n 1/9.

A little too reminiscent of the senior team isn’t it. Creating good chances, not converting, getting a single goal, giving up a late goal that leads to a draw. Not good.

Next was Panama 1/11.

Ouch. A serious lack of cohesion and no great chances led to this result. The shoddy refereeing certainly didn’t help them either. Now the US faces three games in a row that they likely must win just to get into the second or third place spot which would get them a spot in the one game playoff with a team from the other group. 2 vs 3 play each other from the opposing groups, here’s how things stand currently.

u20s standings

 

Not good. This team is likely the most talented US team that has tried to qualify for the U-20 World Cup, they have players spread around the globe playing for big professional teams and guys who are already getting playtime in the MLS. They look short of ideas and composure in the final third though, which has seriously cost them so far. They desperately need either Bradford Jamieson IV, Romain Gall, or Lynden Gooch to step up and start delivering some goals up top. They have matches with Aruba, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica left, and need at least 7 points to get into the playoff. Here’s to hoping Tab Ramos and his coaching staff can figure it out ASAP and get these guys back to the form they showed during 2014.

US Roster Finalized for 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship

It’s 2015 and that means important international soccer tournaments! First up is the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, which runs Jan. 9-24 in Jamaica for a spot in the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand later this summer. Four teams from this tournament will qualify for the U-20 World Cup, and to get an automatic spot the US needs to finish first in their group of six. Their group matches are as following: against Guatemala on Jan. 9, followed by Panama (Jan. 11), Aruba (Jan. 14), Jamaica (Jan. 18) and Trinidad & Tobago (Jan. 21). The second- and third-place teams in each group (four teams) will be reseeded based on group-stage results to form a playoff group. In this playoff stage, the top seed will play the No. 4 seed and the second seed will face the No. 3 seed. The two winners from these respective games will also qualify for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

U20 MNT starting ix

This is a deep and talented squad, with six MLS players who will likely play a big role in these matches, and four teammates at Club Tijuana also making up part of the squad. The full roster is below.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Ethan Horvath (Molde FK), Zack Steffen (SC Freiburg)
DEFENDERS (6): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Conor Donovan (N.C. State), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Shaquell Moore (Unattached), John Requejo (Club Tijuana), Tyler Turner (Orlando City)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Fernando Arce (Club Tijuana), Russell Canouse (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), Junior Flores (Borussia Dortmund), Romain Gall (Columbus Crew), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham)
FORWARDS (5): Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Bradford Jamieson IV (LA Galaxy), Amando Moreno (Club Tijuana), Ben Spencer (Molde FK), Tommy Thompson (San Jose Earthquakes)

The midfield in particular is stacked, with Romain Gall, Lynden Gooch, Junior Flores, Emerson Hyndman, and Kellyn Acosta all highly touted and bringing a lot of attacking firepower to the table. Head coach Tab Ramos said “This is a deep group, particularly in the midfield, so we will have some tough decisions to make” about the final roster and the depth that is at his disposal. The crazy part is that if this team does qualify for the U-20 World Cup, it could get even stronger with the additions of both Gedion Zelalem and Rubio Rubin joining the squad for the World Cup. In case you want an idea of who is who and how this team plays (spoiler alert: they look gooooood), check out highlights of the USMNT U-20’s two tune up matches against Honduras in Honduras at the end of 2014, where they won both games 2-1.

All the USA matches will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2, so you can get your international soccer fix early in 2015 and hopefully it will lead to a U-20 World Cup spot that would put some of the brightest US talent up against that of the world this summer.

Where to Watch the MLS Cup in San Francisco

mlscup

 

It’s MLS Cup time. The upstart New England Revolution takes on the favored Los Angeles Galaxy in LA at the Home Depot Center this Sunday, 12/7. If you happen to not be attending the match, but live in the Bay Area and want to enjoy the game with a bunch of great people and support a tremendous cause, then you should head to McTeague’s Saloon in San Francisco Sunday for the game. Local soccer organizations FootySF, San Francisco City Football Club, American Outlaws San Francisco Chapter, The San Francisco Football Supporters Association and I Play For SF will all be there for the game, and there will be drink specials and a raffle, with all proceeds support Street Soccer Bay Area teaching life and job skills to underserved youth and young adults through soccer.

There is nothing better than enjoying some tasty adult beverages while watching the MLS Cup and supporting a great cause while doing it. Get to McTeague’s early Sunday so you can get your raffle tickets before the noon kickoff and win some of the sweet prizes. Last time a game worn, signed Chris Wondolowski USMNT jersey was one of the prizes. I’m sure the prizes this time around will be just as awesome. Be there to support a great cause and enjoy the MLS Cup. RSVP for the event and get more details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/308811515988867/

mlscupsf

USA vs. England at the 2014 Nike International Friendlies

The US U-17 men’s national team has been impressive this year. They are quite fun to watch, and have some potential future stars in the likes of Christian Pulisic, Haji Wright, and Luca de la Torre. They are at the 2014 Nike International Friendlies this week, as they played their first match today, and take on Australia on Sunday at 3pm EST. The matches are being streamed on YouTube, which is really handy, especially since you can see the full match after the game if you missed it. So if you missed today’s match where they took on England, clear your schedule for the next two hours and enjoy.

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