U.S Back on Track with Win over Haiti in U20 WCQ
U.S Back on Track with Win over Haiti in U20 WCQ avatar

With a their backs to wall Tuesday evening in San Jose, Costa Rica the U.S. MNT U20 squad earned a desperately needed 4-1 win over Haiti without looking particularly good, despite the scoreline.

The young side knew only a win would do.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The young side knew only a win would do. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Coming into this match on the heels of a desultory 1-0 loss to Panama in the opening match of the CONCACAF Championship/World Cup Qualifying Tournament Tab Ramos’ Young Yanks needed to collect three points from this match if they hoped to avoid an ignominious early exit.

The early signs were far from positive as the Americans repeated the pattern of the first match when they failed to apply any threat to the Haiti goal despite dominating possession.

Then at the 15 minute mark inattentive defending coupled with slow reactions from goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann put the U.S. in a hole that could have proved fatal to the team’s World Cup dreams.

A routine cross sailed into the box by Jonel Desire found its way to Kenley Dede who gratefully finished his chance to put the U.S. on notice. Dede slipped his mark, Marlon Fossey, after the ball eluded Tommy Redding, who made an unorthodox and unsuccessful effort at a clearance.

Klinsmann (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Klinsmann was in goal for the U.S.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Klinsmann was unable to get to Dede’s slo-mo floater and the U.S. was in trouble.

In trouble because basics as simple as trapping and passing seemed beyond Ramos’ charges in the opening 105 minutes of this event but a couple of new starters would get the U.S. back in this game.

In the 28th minute Eryk Williams, a non-factor in a little over 20 minutes versus Panama, picked out Jonathan Lewis with a fine pass over the Haitian defense that the NYCFC draftee controlled in stride only to be chopped down for a U.S. pk. Brooks Lennon made no mistake and the Americans were back in not only the game but the World Cup hunt.

The second half was a whole new ballgame as the U.S. took advantage of a couple blunders by the opposition to finish the match with a three-goal flurry between the 52nd minute and the 58th minutes.

Luca De la Torre  in action for Fulham. (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

Luca De la Torre in action for Fulham. (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

Luca De La Torre got it rolling when Haiti goalkeeper Isaac Rouaud roamed from his net on a corner kick only to gently slap the ball to De La Torre’s feet. The Fulham prospect did the rest and the beginning of the end had arrived for Les Grenadiers.

Moments later a poor clearance was intercepted by Lewis, who fed Jeremy Ebobisse, who shuttled the ball to Lennon and suddenly it was 3-1 U.S.A. Lennon completed his hat-trick in the 58th minute and the Americans were home and dry and looking ahead to Friday evening’s tussle with St. Kitts and Nevis.

Given that St. Kitts and Nevis’s tournament thus far has consisted of a 5-1 loss to Haiti and a 5-0 defeat to Panama, a U.S. win and advancement to the final round of the tournament is a reasonable expectation.

That next round figures to be somewhat tougher for Ramos’ crew, although a trip to South Korea in May ( the U20 WC runs from 5/20-6/11) should still be in the cards.

We have already noted the negatives, inability to make possession count, unacceptably bad basic ball control and passing issues, so what about the positives?

The U.S. received a promising performance out of Jonathan Lewis, who provides some threat on the wing, even if his touch can let him down. Jeremy Ebobisse showed that he can be a real handful when he finally received some service and Ramos will be pleased to see Lennon and De La Torre get on the board. The duo is key to this team’s success and nothing boosts a players confidence like scoring a goal, never mind three.

Next up: U.S. vs St. Kitts and Nevis

Friday@5:30 Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; Tibas, Costa Rica UDN, Facebook Live

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 3 4
HAI 1 0 1

HAI – Kenley Dede (Jonel Desire) 15th minute
USA – Brooks Lennon (penalty kick) 28
USA – Luca De La Torre 52
USA – Brooks Lennon (Jeremy Ebobisse) 53
USA – Brooks Lennon 58

Lineups:
USA: 1-Jonathan Klinsmann; 2-Marlon Fossey, 4-Tommy Redding, 6-Justen Glad, 3-Danny Acosta; 10-Luca De La Torre, 5-Erik Palmer-Brown (Capt.) (16-Jeremiah Gutjahr, 68), 7-Eryk Williamson; 17-Brooks Lennon (19-Coy Craft, 81), 9-Jeremy Ebobisse, 20-Jonathan Lewis (11-Sebastian Saucedo, 71)
Subs not used: 12-JT Marcinkowski, 13-Auston Trusty, 14-Aaron Herrera, 15-Jonathan Gonzalez, 18-Emmanuel Sabbi
Head coach: Tab Ramos

HAI: 1-Isaac Rouaud; 19-Stevenson Guillaume, 5-Emerson Georges, 3-Odilon Jerome (Capt.), 13-Francy Pierre; 8-Jonel Desire, 14-Ivenet Noel (10-Roberto Badgio Louima, 61), 15-Alessandro Campoy, 6-Brian Chevreuil (4-Fardyson Pierre, 85), 11-Kenley Dede; 20-Richelor Sprangers (9-Ronaldo Damus, 61)
Subs not used: 12-Josue Duverger, 7-Jimmy Shammar Sanon, 16-Abraham Duverger, 18-Dutherson Clerveaux
Head coach: Wilfrid Montillas

Stats Summary: USA / HAI
Shots: 16 / 12
Shots on Goal: 6 / 3
Saves: 2 / 2
Corner Kicks: 4 / 4
Fouls: 21 / 23
Offside: 6 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
HAI – Emerson Georges (caution) 39th minute
HAI – Emerson Georges (caution) 82
HAI – Emerson Georges (ejection) 82
HAI – Fardyson Pierre (caution) 90+1

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Jesse Marsch Ducks McCarty and Curtis Controversies
Jesse Marsch Ducks McCarty and Curtis Controversies avatar

Harrison, N.J. – “I’m not going to answer any questions about Ali or Dax,” Jesse Marsch said not making for a very promising start to New York Red Bulls Media Day on Monday.

Jesse Marsch (ISI Photos/Howard C Smith)

Jesse Marsch (ISI Photos/Howard C Smith)

The Red Bulls coach also dismissed the rumor that he would trade in life at the New York branch of Red Bulls soccer/football for the home office in Salzburg that kicked off the club’s controversial offseason when it became a major talking point at the MLS SuperDraft in January.

Marsch had previously admitted that he was a bit unhappy with how the trade of team captain Dax McCarty was handled but while Media Day might have been a good opportunity for Marsch to share his first public thoughts on Curtis’ exit, Marsh maintained his silence on the the departure of the man who put his own neck on the line with his first move in charge of the Red Bulls when he fired a popular coach in Mike Petke in order to hire Marsch.

On other topics, however, Marsch was more his usual forthright self.

On Wednesday night’s CONCACAF Champions League home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps:

“It’s a little bit of a strange moment that we are in right now because we have such a big match coming up and in many ways, we don’t feel totally prepared.” Still, the coach expects his team to “go out on Wednesday night and give everything they have.”

On the team’s playing style:

Bradley Wright-Phillips will surely benefit with the players that   (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Bradley Wright-Phillips will surely benefit with the players that has been brought in.(ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

For the second year running Marsch plans to juke the team’s playing style by giving Bradley Wright-Phillips some help at the top of the team’s attack, whether that help comes from new captain Sacha Kljestan or from Gonzalo Veron.

Veron was limited by a hamstring injury for much of 2016 but Marsch likes what he has seen of the Argentine in pre-season and said, “yes, we are moving a little bit to a two-forward system.”

On freshening the squad:

“Us watching our USL team, we were really impressed with that group and we’re really excited about a lot of those players.” Speaking of the USL Champion Red Bulls II Marsh sounded ready to play the kids. “I think that youthful fearlessness that team displayed and that those young players have, we need to incorporate that more into the team that we are now.”

On replacing Dax McCarty on the field:

Sean Davis (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Sean Davis looks likely to replace McCarty alongside Felipe.  (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

“Sean Davis will emerge as a natural fit for playing in there with Felipe. He’s had a fantastic pre-season and he’s ready for some big challenges.” “And then the other guy is Tyler,” Marsch added. Tyler Adams was injured in the dismal U.S U20’s loss to Panama on Saturday but Marsch hopes the 18-year-old will be back shortly. “I think that both of those two are poised for huge seasons.”

And as a leader:

“It almost wasn’t a choice at all,” Marsch said on naming Sacha Kljestan as McCarty’s successor as captain.” “It was,” Marsch said, “a natural fit.” The coach cited veterans Luis Robles and Bradley Wright-Phillips as Kljestan’s natural lieutenants adding, “I think there is more room for young guys to blossom into leadership roles too.”

On getting over the playoff “hump”:

Marsch mentioned the team’s young players and tactics but emphasized the little things. “I want to focus on the minutiae of the details of what make us good.”

On how good this team is:

“We feel by the end of all of this the potential to have our best roster, our most well-rounded team, and the most weapons within our arsenal could be at the highest that it’s been since I’ve been here and that’s saying something.”

Saying something, indeed. Just not about Ali or Dax.

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U.S. Begin World Cup Qualifiers with a Bad Loss to Panama
U.S. Begin World Cup Qualifiers with a Bad Loss to Panama avatar

Despite playing with a man advantage from the 18th minute the U.S. U20’s dropped a 1-0 decision to Panama in a shocking display in the opening match of the CONCACAF Championships.

Tab Ramos (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Ramos’s squad should be able to win their next two matches.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

With the regional tournament doubling as qualifiers for the U20 World Cup Tab Ramos’s squad has put themselves in a hole with this loss, although the remaining group games versus Haiti and St Kitts and Nevis should be winnable, shouldn’t they?

After his team’s effort against Panama overconfidence should not be a problem for Ramos and company.

The Americans dominated the early exchanges Saturday afternoon but the U.S. was having trouble putting its possession advantage to any discernible use, a problem the U.S. would not solve on the day.

That figured to change in the 18th minute when New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams was scythed down by Los Canaleros midfielder Justin Simons. Adams, who had been singled out by Ramos as key to U.S. plans, stayed in the match until the 31st minute but it had to be discouraging for the Americans to see the young New York Red Bull hobble from the dressing room after the half on crutches and wearing a cast.

Simons earned a straight red card for his recklessness gifting the Americans with a man advantage for the remaining 72 minutes of the match but somehow the Young Yanks were unable to make that edge count.

Instead, the Americans fell behind on a 37th-minute goal from Leonardo Avila on a shot that deflected off of the unfortunate Marlon Fossey. Unfortunate because the fullback was one of the better American players on the pitch, motoring up and down the right flank, combining well at times with winger Brooks Lennon, and using his plentiful speed to track back on defense.

It looks like it is back to the drawing board for this young side. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

It looks like it is back to the drawing board for this young side. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

But the U.S. had trouble all game connecting simple passes, involving the forwards in the attack, in particular, target man Jeremy Ebobisse, in short providing any real threat, despite the extra man.

The loss of Adams may have been a factor but the U.S. midfield had a very bad day at the office, with neither Luca De La Torre or converted center back and captain Erik Palmer-Brown providing the necessary link with the American attackers.

The only real impetus shown by the Americans came late when central defender Justen Glad ventured upfield looking for all the world like a young man determined to take the game by the scruff of the neck.

Glad had a breakout season with Real Salt Lake last season, becoming a regular starter and that experience showed despite the loss. With time running down versus Panama Glad repeatedly ran at the defense and very nearly produced a U.S. goal.

It would have been the least that the RSL man deserved, although it is hard to make a similar case for his teammates.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
PAN 1 0 1

PAN – Leandro Ávila (Ronaldo Córdoba) 37th minute

Lineups:
USA: 1-Jonathan Klinsmann; 2-Marlon Fossey, 4-Tommy Redding (7-Eryk Williamson, 69), 6-Justen Glad, 3-Danny Acosta; 17-Brooks Lennon, 5-Erik Palmer-Brown (Capt.), 10-Luca De La Torre (19-Coy Craft, 69), 11-Sebastian Saucedo; 9-Jeremy Ebobisse, 8-Tyler Adams (18-Emmanuel Sabbi, 31)
Subs not used: 12-JT Marcinkowski, 13-Auston Trusty, 14-Aaron Herrera, 15-Jonathan Gonzalez, 16-Jeremiah Gutjahr, 20-Jonathan Lewis
Head coach: Tab Ramos

PAN: 12-Charles Taylor; 20-Josue Vergara (13-Jorge Gutiérrez, 90+3), 6-Javier Rivera (Capt.), 2-Jiovany Ramos, 3-Andrés Andrade; 11-Justin Simons, 5-Ricardo Ávila, 14-José Tejada, 17-Leandro Ávila (18-Isidoro Hinestroza, 79); 8-Cristian Martínez (16-Yair Jaen, 72), 9-Ronaldo Córdoba
Subs not used: 1-Aldo Ciel, 7-Chamell Asprilla, 10-Andrés Peñalba, 19-Oliver Beckles
Head coach: Nelson Gallego

Stats Summary: USA / PAN
Shots: 9 / 10
Shots on Goal: 2 / 2
Saves: 1 / 2
Corner Kicks: 6 / 5
Fouls: 22 / 16
Offside: 2 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
PAN – Justin Simons (sent off) 18th minute
USA – Luca de la Torre (caution) 41
PAN – Cristian Martínez (caution) 45+1
USA – Sebastian Saucedo (caution) 74

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Young Yanks Start on Road to U20 World Cup
Young Yanks Start on Road to U20 World Cup avatar

With a place in the 2017 U20 World Cup the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow the U.S. begins the CONCACAF Championship/World Cup Qualifiers Saturday afternoon in Saprissa, Costa Rica against Panama.

Ramos (R) (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Ramos (R) will be expecting his young team to advance by the group stage.(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Coach Tab Ramos’ 20 man group will be expected to advance from Group B play and to go on to claim one of four World Cup spots on offer to qualify for the age group World Cup this May and June in the Korea Republic.

Ramos took the U.S. to the quarterfinals of the 2015 U20 Cup where the team fell to eventual champions Serbia on penalty kicks. That team was one of the few youth soccer “successes” under Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as U.S. MNT coach and Technical Director. Klinsmann successor Bruce Arena does not have responsibility for the youth teams leaving the spotlight to Ramos as the former U.S. MNT star attempts to burnish his credentials to succeed Arena.

Panama figures to the toughest test of the opening round for the U.S although Haiti can be tricky. Much of the U.S. roster comes from MLS with Sporting Kansas City man Erik Palmer-Brown leading the squad as team captain.

Palmer-Brown is back with SKC this year after a productive loan spell in Portugal spent with Porto FC’s B team. The 19 year old is known as a center back but Ramos has options there in Justen Glad and Tommy Redding, so Palmer-Brown may step up into the midfield.

Glad started 27 of his 28 games for Real Salt Lake last season and Redding also saw plenty of action with 16 of of 18 appearances for Orlando SC coming from the opening whistle, so Ramos has reason to expect solid play from his central defenders.

Although he is the second youngest player on the U.S roster, only Jonathan Gonzalez is younger, New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams is looked at as a rising star and will be expected to join Palmer-Brown in the midfield, assuming Ramos does use EPB in an advanced role. Fulham product Luca De la Torre also figures to see plenty of time in the American midfield while his fellow junior Cottager, fullback Marlon Fossey, is one of the more intriguing prospects in this group.

Brooks Lennon (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Brooks Lennon during the training camp.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The forwards show plenty of speed and promise and it will be up to Ramos to settle on his selections. Liverpool’s Brooks Lennon has just signed a one year loan deal with Real Salt Lake. Jonathan Lewis (NYCFC) and Jeremy Ebobisse (Minnesota UFC) were selected third and fourth in January’s MLS Superdraft, Coy Craft has a handful of appearances with FC Dallas since turning pro in 2014 and will be looking to impress as will Emmanuel Sabbi, a rare U.S. international on the books of La Liga with his club UD Las Palmas.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Jonathan Klinsmann (University of California; Newport Beach, Calif.), JT Marcinkowski (Georgetown; Alamo, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (7): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; Salt Lake City, Utah), Marlon Fossey (Fulham F.C.; Surbiton, England), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (New Mexico; Casa Grande, Ariz.), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City; Lee’s Summit, Mo.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC; Oviedo, Fla.), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union; Media, Pa.)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; Wappingers Falls, N.Y), Luca de la Torre (Fulham F.C.; San Diego, Calif.), Jonathan Gonzalez (CF Monterrey; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Jeremiah Gutjahr (Indiana University; Bloomington, Ind.), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake; Park City, Utah), Eryk Williamson (University of Maryland; Alexandria, Va.)

FORWARDS (5): Coy Craft (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC; Plantation, Fla.), Emmanuel Sabbi (UD Las Palmas; Libertyville, Ill.)

U.S Group schedule.
U.S. vs. Panama at 4 p.m. ET on Feb. 18
U.S. vs. Haiti at 5:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 21
U.S. vs. Saint Kitts and Nevis at 5:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 24.
All three of the USA’s matches will be broadcast in the United States on Univision networks.

The 2017 CONCACAF Men’s U20 Championship runs from February 17 – March 5, with the new competition format divided into two stages. From the first stage, 12 nations are divided into three round-robin groups, with two nations from each group to advance.

Group A – Mexico, Antigua & Barbuda, Honduras, Canada
Group B – USA, Panama, St. Kitts & Nevis, Haiti
Group C – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago

Following the opening round the six nations will be divided into two groups, as determined by the draw and the corresponding placements in the opening round. From these final groups, The top two nations advance from these final groups to qualify for the FIFA U20 World Cup in Korea Republic 2017. The two group winners will also play in the Championship match on Sunday 5 March at Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Group D – Group B 2nd Place; Group A 1st Place; Group C 1st Place
Group E – Group B 1st Place; Group A 2nd Place; Group C 2nd Place

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New York Red Bulls Soap Opera Ends With Curtis Departure
New York Red Bulls Soap Opera Ends With Curtis Departure avatar

The Ali Curtis, New York Red Bulls Soap Opera finally reached its expected conclusion today with Curtis leaving the organization in a “mutually agreed” upon decision.

Ali Curtis (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Ali Curtis  has departed company with there Red Bulls.(ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

“We would like to thank Ali for his contributions to the club over the last two seasons. We wish him the best in all of his future endeavors.”

That is the club’s statement and it does nothing at all to clarify the fog of mystery that has hung over Curtis and the team’s front office since the Sporting Director abruptly left the MLS SuperDraft in Los Angeles last month.

If the club’s Sporting Director skipping out on the SuperDraft wasn’t odd enough the team’s coach Jesse Marsch only arrived in Los Angeles after Curtis’ surprise departure, missing out on the MLS player combine. The coach touched down at LAX amid rumors that he would be leaving New York to take the reins at Red Bull Salzburg setting off rumors of a power struggle between Marsch and the man who hired him.

Red Bulls assistant coach Denis Hamlett has reportedly been filling Curtis’ Sporting Director role for the past month while the club continued to maintain that there had been no change to the team’s front office.

With Curtis’ whereabouts unknow these past four weeks it was Marsch’s name that appeared in team releases regarding player transactions. Today’s Red Bulls statement said that “over the past four weeks, Curtis and the Club tried to work through differing views. Ultimately, both sides agreed to part ways.”

Dax McCarty trade to Chicago (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Curtis had not been in favor of Dax McCarty’s trade to Chicago. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The recent trade of club captain Dax McCarty to the Chicago Fire has been
cited in press reports as a possible tipping point with Curtis said to favor retaining the captain while Marsch favored the move. For his part McCarty told reporters that he was unhappy with how the organization handled the trade and made it clear who he saw as the Red Bulls decision maker. “At the end of the day,” the former Red Bulls captain said, “you could tell it was a decision that was his (Marsch’s) decision. I don’t think Ali Curtis had anything to do with the decision. I think that’s fairly obvious with the way the club is treating Ali right now. It’s clear for everyone to see that he’s no longer a part of the decision making process going on at the Red Bulls, which is a little surprising to me considering he put together two years of one of the best teams in MLS that won the Supporters’ Shield and won an Eastern Conference, so that’s a little surprising to me how things are going down with Ali.”

And while this conclusion was clearly in the cards since Curtis left Los Angeles in January, in the bigger picture the dissolution of the Curtis/ Marsch partnership does come as something of a shocker.

One of the Director’s first moves after his hiring in December 2014 was to fire highly popular Red Bulls coach Mike Petke paving the way for the Marsch hiring. The hugely unpopular move put the duo in the fans crosshairs and seemingly bound the them together.

No replacement for Curtis has been announced but it seems clear that whoever assumes the Sporting Director title, the Red Bulls are Jesse Marsch’s team now.

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Carli Lloyd Joins European Exodus
Carli Lloyd Joins European Exodus avatar

The exodous continues today with the announcement that Carli Lloyd has inked a deal with Manchester City Women’s Football Club joining fellow U.S. WNT stars Crystal Dunn (Chelsea) and Alex Morgan (Olympique Lyonnais) in Europe.

Carli Lloyd scored a brace for Houston. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Carlo Lloyd’s departure is still worrying for the future of the NWSL. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

The good news for NWSL fans and in this case Houston Dash fans is that, like Morgan’s stint in France, Lloyd’s move is short term and she will be back in the NWSL this season.

Still the loss of the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year for the beginning of the 2017 season can’t help but be a blow to the Dash both on the field and at the box office.

In a club statement the U.S. WNT co-captain highlighted the chance to play in the Champions League, a challenge not on offer in the NWSL.

Man City has an array of England internationals and are dieuintitley the team to beat in the League. (ISI Photos/Matt West)

Man City has an array of England internationals and are defiintitley the team to beat in the League. (ISI Photos/Matt West)

“Having played in the US throughout my career, the chance to fulfil a long held ambition to test myself in a new footballing environment, as well as playing in the Champions League, is something I am relishing”.

Lloyd will lead the U.S. WNT against Germany, France, England, in the SheBelieves Cup in March before joining Dunn in the FA Women’s Super League. The league is switching from a summer to winter schedule and this season will operate a one time spring season from February through May.

Manchester City coach Nick Cushing knows what the U.S. star can bring to his team. “Carli has had an incredible career and is recognised as one of the best in the world. There is much we can learn from her that will help us to improve as a team. We are all looking forward to working with her over the coming months”.

Lloyd won’t be joining some rebuild, this City club won the domestic double last season claiming both the league and FA Cup and is looking to Lloyd to lead the team to UEFA Champions League glory this year.

Not surprisingly Lloyd sounds up for it, saying in that same statement, “With the challenge of the Spring Series and the FA Women’s Cup ahead of us too, I really can’t wait to pull on my City shirt in front of our fans and make them proud”.

Once the SheBelieves Cup is out of the way Lloyd will join her new club in time for City’s Champions League quarter final tie against Danish side Fortuna Hjorring.

Lloyd will be impressed with the facilities and the access to the Men's team. (ISI Photos/Paul Greenwood)

Lloyd will be impressed with the facilities and the access to the Men’s team. (ISI Photos/Paul Greenwood)

The allure of the Champions League is growing for top American women’s soccer players and the rising profile of the women’s game in Europe is reflected this year with the final being played in Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, Wales on June 1 2017, two days before the final of the men’s tournament will be played at the Millennium Stadium in the same city.

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Rapinoe Left off U.S. Roster for SheBelieves Cup
Rapinoe Left off U.S. Roster for SheBelieves Cup avatar

With the second edition of the SheBelieves Cup rapidly approaching U.S. WNT coach Jill Ellis has invited 25 players to training camp starting February 20th in Orlando ahead of the tournament that will pit the Americans against three of the top teams in the world in Germany, France, and England.

Rapinoe's . (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Rapinoe’s . (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Most of the expected names are included with the exception of Megan Rapinoe. Ellis gambled on including the difference making winger on last year’s Olympic squad but the gamble failed to pay off with Pinoe looking far from recovered from a knee injury as the Americans flamed out with their earliest ever exit from the Mundial.

Rapinoe participated in U.S. WNT’s January camp in Carson, California but apparently did not do enough to earn a spot on this roster. Reports out the camp indicated that Rapinoe was healthy, although it may be that she still has not come all the way back from last year’s ACL surgery.

Ellis continues to introduce new players into the mix, with four uncapped players headed to Orlando. Goalkeeper Jane Campbell, midfielders Sarah Killion, Rose Lavelle and Brianna Pinto are the debutantes. Lavelle was selected by the Boston Breakers with the first pick in January’s NWSL Draft while Campbell went to the Houston Dash with 15th overall pick. Although new to the senior side Killion will be among friends, having been part of the 2012 U20 Women’s World Cup winning team alongside Morgan Brian, Julie
Johnston, Samantha Mewis and Crystal Dunn.

Brianna Pinto at the January training camp. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Brianna Pinto at the January training camp. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The most intriguing name on this roster is 16-year-old Pinto, who becomes one of the youngest players to be brought into camp with the U.S. Women’s National Team. A central midfielder, Pinto will not celebrate her 17th birthday until May 24 and was a mainstay with the US at last year’s U17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan.

Ellis will have to trim just two players from this group to get down to the required 23 player roster for the SheBelieves Cup. Each of the four teams will play each other one time with the nation that gains the most points claiming the championship.

The Americans won the inaugural SheBelieves in 2016 with nine points. Germany finished in second with six points with England and France bring up the rear with one point each.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
DEFENDERS (7): Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Sarah Killion (Sky Blue FC), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Brianna Pinto(CASL)
FORWARDS (6): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea Ladies FC), Alex Morgan (Olympique Lyonnais), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (UCLA), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Lynn Williams (NC Courage)

March 1, 2017 7 PM ET WNT vs Germany Talen Energy Stadium;
Chester, Pa.
Game Preview | Match Guide Ticket Info | Buy Tickets
FS1

March 4, 2017 5 PM ET WNT vs England Red Bull Arena; Harrison,
N.J.
Game Preview | Match Guide Ticket Info | Buy Tickets
FOX

March 7, 2017 7 PM ET WNT vs France RFK Stadium; Washington,
D.C

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Ramos Calls 20 for U20 World Qualifiers
Ramos Calls 20 for U20 World Qualifiers avatar

Camp has ended and Tab Ramos has selected what he considers his best 20 available players to compete for one of four U20 World Cup spots up for grabs at CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers beginning next Friday, February 17th in Costa Rica.

Christian Politic was impressive. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Christian Politic will not star in this tournament for the U20′s. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The regional tournament is not on the FIFA calendar which is why you won’t find Christian Pulisic on this list. Also absent from this group are European based players Josh Perez, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Gedion Zelalem, Haji Wright, Weston McKinnie, Matthew Olosunde, and others.

Some on that list may land on the team’s World Cup roster, should the Americans navigate the CONCACAF tournament successfully, as expected.

Ramos has selected a diverse group of players with 11 coming from MLS, four from professional clubs around the world, including two from Fulham, along with three from the college ranks.

Luca De la Torre  in action for Fulham. (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

Luca De la Torre in action for Fulham. (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

The Fulham duo is a diverse pair themselves. Midfielder Luca De la Torre is the more familiar name to American soccer fans, having been a mainstay for the U.S. at various youth levels while fullback Marlon Fossey is a more recent addition to the U.S. youth picture.

Los Angeles born but raised on the U.K. island of Jersey, Fossey debuted for the U.S. at the Slovakia Cup with the U19’s last April. The CONCACAF tournament will be the first chance for a lot of American fans to take a look at the Fulham prospect.

Both U.S. goalkeepers come from the college game with Ramos selecting Georgetown keeper JT Marcinkowski, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s son
Jonathan, out of the University of California.

Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown has been handed the captain’s armband and will be expected to lead the U.S. defense having just returned to SKC after a year spent playing with B team of Portuguese giants Porto.

De la Torre and New York Red Bulls prospect Tyler Adams are each expected to have a big role in the U.S. midfield while Brooks Lennon, recently loaned by Liverpool to Real Salt Lake, is one to watch up front.

The U.S. will compete in Group B with the top two teams advancing to a second group. The top two sides from that group will advance to the U20 World Cup which begins play in South Korea on May 20.

February 18, 2017 4 PM ET U-20 MNT vs Panama Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; Tibas, Costa Rica

February 21, 2017 5:30 PM ET U-20 MNT vs Haiti Estadio Nacional; San Jose, Costa Rica

February 24, 2017 5:30 PM ET U-20 MNT vs St. Kitts and Nevis Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; Tibas, Costa Rica

All three group games will be televised on Univision Deportes.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Jonathan Klinsmann (University of California), JT Marcinkowski (Georgetown)

DEFENDERS (6): Marlon Fossey (Fulham F.C.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake), Aaron Herrera (New Mexico), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC.), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Coy Craft (FC Dallas), Luca De la Torre (Fulham F.C.), Jonathan Gonzalez (CF Monterrey), Jeremiah Gutjahr (Indiana University), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake), Eryk Williamson (University of Maryland)

FORWARDS (3): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake), Emmanuel Sabbi (UD Las Palmas)

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Ramos Calls 20 for U20 World Qualifiers
Ramos Calls 20 for U20 World Qualifiers avatar

Camp has ended and Tab Ramos has selected what he considers his best 20 available players to compete for one of four U20 World Cup spots up for grabs at CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers beginning next Friday, February 17th in Costa Rica.

Christian Politic was impressive. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Christian Politic will not star in this tournament for the U20′s. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The regional tournament is not on the FIFA calendar which is why you won’t find Christian Pulisic on this list. Also absent from this group are European based players Josh Perez, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Gedion Zelalem, Haji Wright, Weston McKinnie, Matthew Olosunde, and others.

Some on that list may land on the team’s World Cup roster, should the Americans navigate the CONCACAF tournament successfully, as expected.

Ramos has selected a diverse group of players with 11 coming from MLS, four from professional clubs around the world, including two from Fulham, along with three from the college ranks.

Luca De la Torre  in action for Fulham. (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

Luca De la Torre in action for Fulham. (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

The Fulham duo is diverse pair themselves. Midfielder Luca De la Torre is the more familiar name to American soccer fans, having been a mainstay for the U.S. at various youth levels while fullback Marlon Fossey is a more recent addition to the U.S. youth picture.

Los Angeles born but raised on the U.K. island of Jersey, Fossey debuted for the U.S. at the Slovakia Cup with the U19’s last April. The CONCACAF tournament will be the first chance for a lot of American fans to take a look at the Fulham prospect.

Both U.S. goalkeepers come from the college game with Ramos selecting Georgetown keeper JT Marcinkowski, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s son
Jonathan, out of the University of California.

Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown has been handed the captain’s armband and will be expected to lead the U.S. defense having just returned to SKC after a year spent playing with B team of Portuguese giants Porto.

De la Torre and New York Red Bulls prospect Tyler Adams are each expected to have a big role in the U.S. midfield while Brooks Lennon, recently loaned by Liverpool to Real Salt Lake is one to watch up front.

The U.S. will compete in Group B with the top two teams advancing to a second group. The top two sides from that group will advance to the U20 World Cup which begins play in South Korea on May 20.

February 18, 2017 4 PM ET U-20 MNT vs Panama Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; Tibas, Costa Rica

February 21, 2017 5:30 PM ET U-20 MNT vs Haiti Estadio Nacional; San Jose, Costa Rica

February 24, 2017 5:30 PM ET U-20 MNT vs St. Kitts and Nevis Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; Tibas, Costa Rica

All three group games will be televised on Univision Deportes.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Jonathan Klinsmann (University of California), JT Marcinkowski (Georgetown)

DEFENDERS (6): Marlon Fossey (Fulham F.C.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake), Aaron Herrera (New Mexico), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC.), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Coy Craft (FC Dallas), Luca De la Torre (Fulham F.C.), Jonathan Gonzalez (CF Monterrey), Jeremiah Gutjahr (Indiana University), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake), Eryk Williamson (University of Maryland)

FORWARDS (3): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake), Emmanuel Sabbi (UD Las Palmas)

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Can Yedlin and Chandler Solve Arena’s Fullback Dilemma?
Can Yedlin and Chandler Solve Arena’s Fullback Dilemma? avatar

With a pair of crucial World Cup Qualifiers rapidly approaching against Honduras and Panama next month Bruce Arena has decisions to make, notably at fullback, a position the U.S. MNT coach has labeled a position of need.

The Graham Zusi fullback experiment that played out over the recent U.S. MNT camp and in a pair of friendlies versus Serbia and Jamaica, along with veteran DaMarcus Beasley’s international recall underline Arena’s concerns.

Fabian Johnson is a versatile player. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Fabian Johnson is a versatile player. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Most of the coach’s worries have been focused on the left side of the defense, with Greg Garza and Jorge Villafana recent additions to the pool in addition to Beasley. Of course, Arena always has the option of turning to Fabian Johnson, although the Borussia Monchengladbach handyman prefers to operate further up the field.

But if the left side of the defense is causing Arena some sleepless nights the reinstated national team boss can rest easy in the knowledge that he has two viable candidates to man the right flank in DeAndre Yedlin and Timothy Chandler (suspended for the Honduras match).

In fact, the pair may hold the solution to Arena’s dilemma on both wings. Let’s take a look.

German-American Chandler is having the best season of his Bundesliga career and having replaced Yedlin as a starter in the waning days of the Jurgen Klinsmann era the Bundesliga man might be considered to be in the pole position. The since deposed national team supremo went so far as to cast aspersions on Yedlin’s decision to move down from the Premier League to Newcastle in the second flight of English soccer, perplexing given the competitive nature of the English Championship.

The knock on Chandler has always been that his performances for the U.S. MNT have never matched his Bundesliga output, leading some to question Chandler’s desire to play for his father’s nation.

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard recently caused a firestorm when told ESPN that “he (Arena) will bring an atmosphere where wearing the U.S. shirt will matter again. It will mean everything. And that’s always been our foundation. No matter how good you think we’ve gotten at football, our foundation has always been our hard work, our willingness to go down to places and put in a shift. I think we got away from that a little bit.”

And Howard wasn’t done, telling USA Today, “having American roots doesn’t mean you are passionate about playing for that country.” The U.S. MNT hero of Brazil added this capper, “I know there were players that came in that it didn’t matter as much too.”

Howard later walked back his remarks, praising the passion that Jermaine Jones brings while attempting to make the case that he was not singling out the foreign born players.

Chandler in action against Costa Rica. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Chandler in action against Costa Rica. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

U.S. MNT tea leaf readers took Chandler to be one of Howard’s targets but at 26 years old Chandler is at the height of his prime and his form with Bundesliga surprise packet Eintracht Frankfurt can hardly have escaped Arena’s notice.

Then there is Yedlin. Having made his international debut just that February, Yedlin’s inclusion on Klinsmann’s 2014 World Cup roster was something of a bolt from the blue but when the games began the then Seattle Sounder wowed, first as a winger and then when forced to step in at fullback to replace the injured Fabian Johnson.

Yedlin earned a move to Tottenham but couldn’t make the breakthrough, going to Sunderland on loan. Questions surrounding Yedlin’s ideal position should have been laid to rest with his solid defensive work in helping Sam Allardyce and the Black Cats stave off relegation but a full back logjam at Spurs led Yedlin to choose to take one step back with relegated Newcastle in order to move his career forward.

Yedlin  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Yedlin’s playing time at Newcastle will benefit the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The move has worked a charm for the 23-year-old speedster who has worked his way into coach Rafa Benitez’ starting 11 while garnering praise from at least one pundit as the best fullback in the Championship.

So, presuming good health and continued solid play from the duo, who should Bruce Arena send out to face Honduras from the start on March 24?

Why not play them both?

Yes, Chandler is primarily a right-sided player but the Frankfurt man has experience on the left and given his current level of play in what is arguably the best league in the world it is difficult to make a case that any of the other left fullback candidates available to Arena is better suited for the cauldron of CONCACAF Qualifiers than Chandler.

And while Yedlin is operating in the second division of the English game his play on both sides of the ball with Championship table toppers Newcastle has gotten better by the game. A perfect illustration comes from Yedlin’s play in the Magpies two most recent matches. Yedlin provided both assists in a 2-2 draw versus QPR on February 1st, three days before securing a 1-0 win over Derby with an injury time header to save off the line with his goalkeeper beaten.

As with all positional battles, Arena is hampered by his lack of time with his potential selections. Players at January camp in Carson, California will be more familiar to new/old coach but familiar or not, it should be clear to Arena that his three best fullback options are Johnson, Chandler, and Yedlin.

Chandler and Yedlin (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Chandler and Yedlin both  could potentially be in the starting line-up. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Playing Yedlin and Chandler together gives Arena the luxury of using Johnson in the midfield or even further up the pitch as a winger in a 4-3-3.

After examining the options available, I think that this is a luxury that Arena should choose to indulge.

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Rampone and Williams- NWSL and U.S. WNT Stars Talk to GotSoccer
Rampone and Williams- NWSL and U.S. WNT Stars Talk to GotSoccer avatar

Cupcakes and champagne were the order of the day at A+E’s midtown Manhattan offices this past Thursday morning when the National Women’s Soccer League announced a partnership that included the network taking an equity stake in the league while also agreeing to broadcast the NWSL Game of the Week every Saturday during the season.

A handful of the league’s brightest stars turned up at A+E’s funky office space and were happy to talk to reporters about the new partnership, the state of the league, or just about anything.

Christie Rampone (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Christie Rampone was happy to get back on the field. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

GotSoccer spoke to two players at opposite ends of their career arc with both club and country, Sky Blue FC veteran Christie Rampone and 23-year-old North Carolina Courage striker Lynn Williams and both sounded excited to get back on the field.

Not surprisingly long time U.S captain Rampone, a two-time World Cup winner, and three-time Olympic Gold Medalist was at ease with all the fuss while Williams was bubbling with excitement.

And why not? The rising star has been on quite a run since winning the NWSL Championship with the Western New York Flash in October. Since then Williams, winner of the NWSL Golden Boot as the league’s top scorer, has been crowned league MVP, made her full U.S. WNT debut, and scored her first international goal.

Oh, and her team, the Flash pulled up stakes in Western New York and moved to North Carolina and are now known as the North Carolina Courage.

So, if Rampone, a mother of two has seen it all, for Williams this is all new. Williams laughed when asked if all her recent success gets her recognized, before telling GotSoccer about her first celebrity moment.

“My boyfriend plays basketball in Nebraska and I went to one of his games and a little girl came up to me and I was like, what?” Williams relayed, her surprise still audible. “And I think that’s the first time time somebody’s ever recognized me; when I was just in a little town in Nebraska.”

While Rampone may have never had the high wattage fame of some of her better-known teammates from Mia Hamm to Abby Wambach to Alex Morgan the 41-year-old U.S. WNT legend remains one of the U.S. WNT’s most accomplished players with 311 national team caps.

Rampone stepped away from international play last season and on Thursday revealed that the national team will honor her brilliant career in March in her home state of New Jersey.

In a news making mood last Thursday at the A+E headquarters, Rampone revealed that “I think this will be the last summer” for her playing career. Rampone then let slip to a trio of reporters that the national team will be “celebrating it (her career) next month at Red Bull (Arena) at the SheBelieves game.”

Rampone seems happy to take the match in from the stands. “I don’t need to play,” the longtime U.S. WNT captain said, “I just want to go out and just celebrate the team in a great game against France.” (The U.S opponent at Red Bull Arena is England).

“I kind of went in quiet and I want to leave quiet. That’s just my personality and who I am,” Rapinoe said. One of the players Rapinoe will be likely be watching from the comfort of the stands is Williams, a player who did not begin her national team career quietly.

Lynn Williams (ISI Photos/Bob Drebin)

Lynn Williams  in action against Romania in November, 2017. (ISI Photos/Bob Drebin)

Although Williams was not a regular in the national team youth ranks her breakout season in NWSL was rewarded with a call-up by U.S. WNT coach Jill Ellis and if Williams ever felt overlooked, she quickly put an end to that.

How quickly? Williams needed just 49 seconds to score her first U.S. goal after coming into a friendly at halftime versus Switzerland last October. Not that she is taking anything for granted.

“It’s different,” Williams told GotSoccer when asked about her rapid rise. “I think my life has gotten a little more hectic than I’ve ever had before but the national team is awesome.”

“I love playing there (with the national team) I’m just hoping to keep growing as a player, and hopefully solidify a spot on that team but,” Williams said, “we’ll see.”

So, while Williams strives to prove herself Rampone heads into her final season prepared to do whatever coach Christy Holly needs her to do. “I’m very open minded to the fact that I don’t have to play every minute of every game,” Rampone said.

“It’s the coach’s choice how many minutes I will play if I play at all,” the veteran conceded. “For me,” Rampone said, “it’s being able to help the youth, help the girls continue to grow and have this league grow because we want to stay on top of the world. We want to be the best team in the world and I think this is a great platform for all these players to come in and experience it and if I can help in any aspect I’m going to try and do that.”

Of course, Williams is one of those young players and perhaps as good an example as any of what NWSL can do for a player. The notion of being a “poster child” for the league brought a laugh from the player although Williams recovered to say, “I think it’s awesome.”

“I think the national team players bring so much to the league,” but Williams said echoing a theme on the day, “I also think there are so many great players in the league that just aren’t on the national team.”

“This league,” the Golden Boot winner stated, “has amazing players.” “I think in the past without this league if you weren’t through the national team pool you just kind of fell through the cracks.”

With NWSL entering it’s fifth year – unprecedented for a professional women’s soccer league in the U.S. – perhaps some of those cracks are being filled.

SheBelieves Cup

March 1, 2017
16:00
England v France
Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania
March 1, 2017
19:00
United States v Germany
Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania
March 4, 2017
14:15
France v Germany
Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
March 4, 2017
17:00
United States v England
Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
March 7, 2017
16:00
Germany v England
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.
March 7, 2017
19:00
United States v France
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.

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Morris and Feilhaber Lead U.S. MNT to a Win Over Jamaica
Morris and Feilhaber Lead U.S. MNT to a Win Over Jamaica avatar

Bruce Arena claimed the first win of his second term at the helm of the U.S. MNT when his charges defeated Jamaica 1-0 Friday night in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Morris scored the game winner for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Morris scored the game winner for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Arena changed most of his players along with his strategy from last Sunday’s 0-0 draw against Serbia. The home team dominated possession in Chattanooga against an inexperienced Jamaica side but in a familiar refrain, the Americans struggled to find the net until Jordan Morris broke the deadlock at the 58th minute.

Midfielder Benny Feilhaber, exiled for so long by Jurgen Klinsmann, was instrumental in the goal, showing the deft touch that had so many calling for his inclusion on the U.S. MNT in recent years. Feilhaber took a pass from Dax McCarty before completing a sweet one-two with Morris to who finished his chance nicely.

Feilhaber was able to break down the Jamaican defense and set up the game winner. (ISI Photos/Hunter Dorton)

Feilhaber was able to break down the Jamaican defense and set up the game winner. (ISI Photos/Hunter Dorton)

Feilhaber has made the most of his opportunity but he is not the only one. Morris outperformed his forward partner Juan Agudelo who, despite a few clever touches, faded as the match progressed.

Late camp invite Jorge Villafana gave a composed effort at the left fullback spot, combining with midfielder Sebastian Lletget to fine effect. Lletget impressed over these two friendlies and will be pressing for a place on Arena’s roster come March.

Center backs Walker Zimmerman and Steve Birnbaum were never under much pressure but the duo was very solid and Arena will have taken note. The Graham Zusi at fullback experiment continued and while the SKC man was good going forward he was badly exposed for speed on a rare Jamaica counter, a problem for a fullback.

Chris Pontius had some positive moments but overall had a quiet night and Dax McCarty, while effective at times, made some bad turnovers that could have been costly against better opposition.

The U.S failed to impress on Friday or last Sunday against Serbia although Arena did receive some encouraging performances ahead of the big World Cup Qualifier versus Honduras on March 24th. The new again U.S. MNT coach will have just a few days to integrate his MLS campers and the European contingent ahead of the Honduras game, not an easy task.

Then again, if it was easy the job would never have been available.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
JAM 0 0 0

USA – Jordan Morris (Benny Feilhaber) 58th minute

Lineups:
USA: 12-Luis Robles (22-David Bingham, 46); 19-Graham Zusi (capt.) (3-Brad Evans, 68), 15-Steve Birnbaum, 21-Walker Zimmerman, 14-Jorge Villafaña (7-DaMarcus Beasley, 86); 20-Dax McCarty (6-Darlington Nagbe, 63); 23-Chris Pontius (11-Alejandro Bedoya, 74), 10-Benny Feilhaber (4-Michael Bradley, 62), 18-Sebastian Lletget; 8-Jordan Morris, 9-Juan Agudelo
Subs not used: 1-Nick Rimando, 2-Greg Garza, 5-Chad Marshall, 17-Jozy Altidore
Head coach: Bruce Arena

JAM: 1-Andre Blake (23-Ryan Thompson, 46); 3-Damion Lowe, 5-Alvas Powell, 6-Sergio Campbell (4-Ladale Richie, 61), 8-Oniel Fisher, 9-Ewan Grandison, (2-Rosario Harriott, 78), 10-Romario Williams (16-Jourdain Fletcher, 83), 11-Cory Burke (14-Shamar Nicholson, 83), 12-Michael Binns, 15-Je-Vaughn Watson, 18-Owayne Gordon (7-Omar Holness, 56)
Subs not used: 17-Kevon Lambert, 19-Dwayne Ambusley
Head coach: Theodore Whitmore

Stats Summary: USA / JAM
Shots: 10 / 4
Shots on Goal: 3 / 0
Saves: 0 / 2
Corner Kicks: 7 / 3
Fouls: 17 / 14
Offside: 2 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
JAM – Ewan Grandison (caution) 10th minute

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U.S. MNT Face Jamaica in Final Friendly Before Huge March WCQ
U.S. MNT Face Jamaica in Final Friendly Before Huge March WCQ avatar

Game two of Bruce 2.0 kicks off tonight in Chattanooga, Tennessee against regional rival Jamaica and Arena has let slip a couple of key changes.

In fitting with the new sense of openness around the national team Arena has confirmed that New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles will don the starters gloves and that the team will be ditching the one forward system that striker Jozy Altidore has expressed his displeasure with.

David Bingham (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

David Bingham minding the net during a training session. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The choice of the veteran Robles over San Jose netminder David Bingham is in keeping with Arena’s mandate to win now, well in March and in the rest of the coming World Cup Qualifiers.

Arena also let it be known that he will hand starts to Mexican-based fullback Jorge Villafana and FC Dallas center back Walker Zimmerman. Villafana is currently a member of Liga MX club Santos Laguna but has not seen the field for some time, leading to speculation that the defender might be on his way back to MLS.

Zimmerman has drawn praise from Arena throughout January camp, so it is no surprise that the 23-year-old is getting this opportunity. With Matt Hedges back with his FC Dallas club, there are just three center backs in camp, Steve Birnbaum, and Chad Marshall, along with Zimmerman, although Seattle veteran Brad Evans could fill in.

Altidore has been given the captain's armband. . (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Altidore is set to start the match. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

With Arena committed to trying a two forward set tonight the presumption is the Altidore will be paired with Jordan Morris, with Juan Agudelo expected to feature off of the bench.

Altidore is in the pole position to start up front in the March Qualifiers so it makes sense that the Toronto FC hitman would start in the two forward set tonight. Morris replaced Altidore in Arena’s first match versus Serbia with Agudelo a late sub.

Both strikers missed solid goal chances but otherwise showed well in the time they were given and Arena has been generous in his praise of the strike duo, so the sense is that a big night could propel either one up the depth chart.

Jermaine Jones is ineligible for the March 24 Qualifier in San Jose against Honduras, so he has been released to join his new L.A. Galaxy teammates. Sacha Kljestan has also left camp, to attend the birth of his son, opening up two spots in the midfield.

Galaxy man Sebastian Lletget performed well in 45 minutes versus Serbia and could be in for a start but the formation will have a lot to say about who joins presumed automatic starter Michael Bradey in the center of the park.

Arena may opt for an old favorite of his, the 4-4-2 but that setup can leave a team short in the midfield. The new boss won’t be experimenting with the three back system that so famously blew up in Jurgen Klinsmann’s face against Mexico in November but what about a 4-1-3-2?

The formation would allow Bradley to play the deep defensive/orchestrator role that Arena seems to favor for the U.S. captain, would have the numbers in midfield and would still allow Altidore to play off another forward.

An interesting side note in tonight’s match is that the surface at Finley Stadium is not natural grass. The American men have not played on an artificial surface since 1994. Playing on substandard, artificial surfaces has been a big issue with the U.S. Women’s team and with negotiations between the U.S. WNT and U.S. Soccer ongoing the choice of Finley Stadium and the decision not to lay sod over that artificial turf is noteworthy.

Jamacia feature five MLS players and two players that ply their trade in American second division USL sides. Reggae Boyz keeper Andre Blake is coming off of a breakthrough year with the Philadelphia Union, so the struggling American attack is unlikely to get any freebies tonight in Chattanooga.

Jamaica was a particular thorn in the side of Arena’s predecessor beating Klinsmann’s side in a World Cup Qualifier in Jamaica in September 2012 and losing to the Jamaicans at home for the first time ever at the disastrous 2015 Gold Cup.

(ISI Photos/Josh Todd)

Jamaica has cost the U.S. trouble in recent matches. (ISI Photos/Josh Todd)

But with four crucial qualifiers coming up in March and June the U.S. doesn’t have time to worry exacting revenge on the Reggae Boyz. No, Arena needs to use this last (scheduled) friendly until March to determine who he can trust to dig the Americans out of a 0-2 Hex start, a start that cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job and put the U.S. in jeopardy of missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1990.

Here is the upcoming World Cup Qualifier schedule for the U.S. MNT

March 24, 2017 7:30 PM PT MNT vs Honduras Avaya Stadium; San Jose, Calif. FS1, Univision Networks

March 28, 2017 TBD MNT vs Panama Estadio Rommel Fernandez; Panama City, Panama beIN SPORTS

June 8, 2017 TBD MNT vs Trinidad & Tobago Home

June 11, 2017 TBD MNT vs Mexico Away

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NWSL and A+E Announce Partnership and Game of the Week on Lifetime
NWSL and A+E Announce Partnership and Game of the Week on Lifetime avatar

On what NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush called ‘ “a transformative day for our league,” the National Women’s Soccer League and A+E Networks announced a partnership that will see the television company take on an equity stake in the league in addition to broadcasting a Game of the Week every Saturday during the season on Lifetime.

Jeff Plush (ISI Photos)

Jeff Plush stated that it was a transformative day for the NWSL. (ISI Photos)

The partnership goes well beyond the traditional sports league/broadcaster relationship with A+E signing on as an investor in the NWSL while A+E network Lifetime becomes an official sponsor and the broadcast partner of the league.

Lifetime’s commitment to broadcast a Game of the Week is a huge boon for a league that had just three regular season matches (and the playoffs) televised on Fox last season, although fans were able to watch on YouTube.

The broadcast deal is for three-years and the arrangement includes the founding of a new collaborative venture, NWSL Media, which according to the new partners will act as the league’s media arm dealing with international sponsorship rights while managing all digital assets for the league. Included will be a revamped NWSLsoccer.com plus new apps on ios and android.

Still, Commissioner Plush was reluctant to use the term untraditional to describe the arrangement, saying instead, “it’s an authentic relationship.” President and CEO of the A+E Networks Nancy Dubuc sees a good fit with Lifetime and the NWSL. “We don’t see Lifetime as just a television brand,” Dubuc told a gathering of press and interested parties at A+E Network headquarters in Manhattan Thursday morning. “We see it as a female media brand.”

That female media brand was not put off by the ongoing contract talks between U.S. Soccer and the U.S WNT, although the A+E boss was quick to hand off a question on the matter to U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, whose organization remains the league’s primary backer.

GotSoccer asked Dubuc if this deal indicated a level of confidence from A+E that the parties would reach an agreement in time for U.S. WNT members to join their NWSL clubs for the season.

Duboc passed the baton to Gulati who drew laughs from the crowd when he jokingly tried to hand it back. Once the guffaws subsided Gulati expressed confidence, “that we will have a CBA with the Women’s National Team.”

Gulati enumerated three reasons for that confidence. “I’d make three comments about that,” Gulati began. “There are a number of meetings scheduled over the next few weeks, they’ve have had a change of leadership and there is a very different tone to the discussions, that’s point one. Two is, we’ve still got some time between now and the start of the season and three, maybe most importantly, the national team players are a very important part of the league, a very important part of the league and I don’t want to underestimate that.”

(ISI Photos)

(ISI Photos)

“The league,” Gulati continued, “and A+E’s commitment is far beyond just the national team players. We have a broadcaster for national team games, this is about the league about long term development of the league and as Nancy and Jeff both said it’s more than just broadcasting 20 plus games, it’s a complete partnership with an equity stake with a commitment to make stars of these players.”

Gulati reiterated his confidence that the CBA will be wrapped up “in plenty of time for the season,” noting that it is really a much broader deal.” “We’ve got a couple of hundred players in this league,” the U.S. Soccer President said, “not 25.”

No financial arrangements were released.

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