MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

It’s MLS Rivalry Week and with that in mind let’s have a look at our latest MLS Big – 5.

NYCFC Present and Future Collide.

David Villa reached and surpassed the half-century mark when he bagged both goals in New York’s 2-1 win over Seattle in a Yankee Stadium downpour last Saturday.

Villa continues to shine in the MLS. (ISI Photos/Michael Lawrence)

The 2016 MLS MVP has scored 51 goals in just 79 games sparking talk that El Guaje may be the best MLS player ever.

At the other end of the career spectrum from the 35-year-old Spaniard is 16-year-old James Sands who became the first Homegrown player in NYCFC’s brief history when he put pen to paper on a professional contract on Wednesday.

The young talent impressed NYC brass when he joined the club in preseason, looking not at all out of place alongside veteran Andrea Pirlo in the NYCFC midfield versus Ecuador club Emelec in front of 40,000.

Sands also showed well on international duty with the U.S. U17 side that lost the CONCACAF Final to Mexico on pks. (Sands made his).

The Rye, N.Y. native lined out at center back for the Young Yanks and is likely to do so again at the U17 World Cup in India in October.

2) DC Sign Brown

They say defense wins championships but that old chestnut assumes a certain amount of goals or points, depending on the sport, as DC United are finding out.

With a league-worst 10 goals from 15 games Ben Olsen’s side needs some goals and have acquired Deshorn Brown in hopes that the former Colorado Rapids speedster can provide them.

Deshorn Brown will be hoping to be an offensive threat. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Brown’s record suggests that he is a good bet to do just that. Brown nabbed 10 goals in both 2013 and 2014 for the Raps before moving onto Valerenga (Norway) where he notched 13 goals in 37 games and then Shenzen (China) where he rang the bell seven times in just 14 appearances.

DC acquired Brown from USL side Tampa Bay after trading with the Houston Dynamo for the number one spot in the Allocation Order.

The swap cost United $100,000 GAM, 75,000 TAM plus a 2018 international player slot. It is a lot to give up but DC is desperate for goals and if Brown finds the target with any regularity United followers will call this a bargain.

3) Mid-Week Results

It was a wild Wednesday night across Major League Soccer with simultaneous and overlapping matches taking place across the country.

As seen in item two DC United needed goals and the two they scored Wednesday against Atlanta was enough to edge Atlanta.

Newcomer Deshorn Brown saw 27 minutes off of the bench in his United debut and didn’t figure in the scoring. In the end, this DC victory came down to goalkeeping.

Mann made an error that cost his team all 3 points.(ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

Atlanta United keeper Alec Kann made an awful mistake to gift DC an equalizer through Luciano Acosta after Julian Gressel had given Atlanta the lead.

DC then went ahead on a Patrick Nyarko goal and that lead was preserved by Bill Hamid when the DC netminder saved spectacularly on the final kick of the game from Atlanta’s Josef Martinez.

Minnesota broke out of a three-match goalless streak to beat the Timbers 3-2. It was an eventful night for Abu Danladi, the first pick in the 2017 MS SuperDraft. The Minnesota attacker scored his second MLS goal in the 64th minute, just six minutes before the rookie was handed a straight red card along with Portland’s Sebastian Blanco.

Colorado was the lone home side to lose on Wednesday, falling 3-1 to rude guests Los Angeles. Jack McBean was the story of the night for the Galaxy, scoring his first goals since 2013. Dillon Serna nabbed the Rapids goal, a good sign for the talented but injury riddled player.

With a Cascadia rivalry match coming up on Sunday Seattle does not have much time to lick its wounds but Wednesday’s tie with Orlando will take some time to shake as Orlando scored on the last action of the match to swipe two unlikely points.

A needless Roman Torres foul gave the Lions the late, late chance and Orlando capitalized when Scott Sutter nodded home a driven free kick from Kaka to stun the hosts.

Will Bruin scored his fifth of the season to give Seattle the lead in the 19th minute but we now know how that turned out. In an exciting game, special note should be made of the goalkeepers, Stefan Frei (Seattle) and Joe Bendik (Orlando) each of whom were outstanding.

4) Canada Controversy

The first leg of the Canadian Championship two-hander between the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC took place Wednesday night in Montreal with both coaches fielding strong teams despite the crowded fixture list.

Daniel Lovitz injury did not get a call from the referee. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

The controversy in this 1-1 draw came in the 30th minute when TFC scored the equalizer while Impact defender Daniel Lovitz lay on the ground in the 18-yard box looking for help from the officials.

Lovitz had collided with Toronto’s Steven Beitashour but it was not a head injury, so the game continued. Montreal coach Mario Biello wasn’t happy. “Obviously I was disappointed and I let the fourth official know, and it’s incredible,” Biello said.

Biello would have liked TFC to play the ball out of bounds and offered this to chew on for the second leg.

“That’s the choice they made, and if it happens our way, we’re going to know how to react too.”

5) Galaxy 2

Much has been written about the new look Galaxy as the team appeared to be moving on from the big names of the past to, well we weren’t sure.

Ashley Cole is one of the senior players for The Galaxy. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Younger international veterans like Giovani Dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini both 28 and Joao Pedro, 24 are one part of the model and there are still vets like Ashley Cole and Jermaine Jones around but Wednesday’s night’s 3-1 win at Colorado reminded us not to overlook the Galaxy development system.

We have heard for years about the rich vein of Southern California talent that the Galaxy was set to mine only for the Galaxy to sideline that talent behind the likes of a faded Steven Gerrard.

And while one game is not enough to proclaim a philosophical turnaround it is worth noting that six Americans were in the L.A. starting lineup against the Rapids and Bradford Jamieson IV came off the bench to earn a penalty kick to set up the third Galaxy goal. This after Jack McBean scored twice for L.A.

A further look finds 18 California-born players on the Galaxy’s 27 men first team roster.

None of this is to suggest that the Galaxy’s days of chasing big names is over, especially with flashy new neighbors LAFC coming on board next season.

Still, from a U.S. soccer development point of view, this is encouraging news and we will be watching to see if former Galaxy II coach Curt Onalfo continues this mini trend.

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U.S. Soccer Giant Tony DiCicco Passes Away
U.S. Soccer Giant Tony DiCicco Passes Away avatar

Tony DiCicco, the only coach to lead the U.S. WNT to both an Olympic Gold Medal and a World Cup title has died at 68 sparking an outpouring of affection from former players as well as an array of people across all areas of the U.S. soccer landscape.

DiCicco guided the U.S. Women to the 1999 World Cup. (ISI Photos/J Brett Whitesell)

DiCicco was there at the beginning as the U.S. WNT became the standard bearer for the women’s game. The Wethersfield, Connecticut native served as goalkeeper coach under Anson Dorrance when the Americans claimed the first ever Women’s World Cup in 1991 when it was known as the Women’s World Championship. Five years later DiCicco was at the helm when the Americans won the inaugural Women’s Soccer Gold Medal at the Atlanta Games.

DiCicco, who had taken over from Dorrance in 1994, led the Americans to a third place finish at the 95 Women’s World Cup before cementing his legacy and the place of U.S. at the top of the women’s game by winning Olympic Gold in Atlanta and the 1999 World Cup in front of 90,125 fans at the Rose Bowl.

After that triumph, DiCicco stepped down to spend more time with his family, although the coach stayed involved with the game, most recently as a prominent broadcaster.

DiCicco during his tenure at Boston. (ISI Photos/Howard C Smith)

DiCicco’s team, known as the 99ers, brought a new level of respect to the women’s game but a couple of quotes from those who knew him well suggest that there was a lot more to DiCicco than X’s and O’s.

Sunil Gulati. U.S. Soccer President:“Today we mourn the loss of one of the most influential coaches in U.S. Soccer history.” Tony’s passion for the game as a coach, administrator and broadcaster was always evident and his relationships with everyone in the soccer community distinguished him as a compassionate and much-loved man. U.S. Soccer will forever be thankful to Tony for his vast contributions to the game and we extend thoughts and condolences to his family and to the many people who were positively impacted by him during what was a remarkable life.”

Dan Flynn (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

U.S. Soccer Secretary General/CEO Dan Flynn. “Tony is one of the true legends of women’s soccer in the United States and the game would not be where it is today without his dedication and visionary work. We’ve lost a great man, but we all know that the impact he had at the beginning of our Women’s National Team program will be felt for generations to come.”

A member of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame and the winningest coach in U.S. Soccer history with a Globetrotter-like mark of 108-8-8, DiCicco is survived by his wife Diane and four sons. No cause of death was released, although a statement, released by the DiCicco family, indicates he had been struggling with ill health.

“While the health challenges Tony faced were confronted head on and with eyes open, we never could have foreseen the beautiful journey that truly defined the magnificence of this man’s life.”

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NWSL Roundup
NWSL Roundup avatar

It was a big week in NWSL play with some star turns around the league, so let’s start with a showdown in Houston where five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta faced off against two time, and current POY Carli Lloyd.

Home teams listed first.

Houston Dash (2-6) 2-4 vs Orlando Pride (2-3-3)

In her first game back with the Dash after a stint with Manchester City, Lloyd started and went 72 minutes, although the U.S. WNT legend was eclipsed by her Brazilian counterpart Marta, who finished her day with two goals and two assists.

Marta (R) was just unstoppable. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Marta’s first helper set up fellow Brazilian Camila for a wonder goal struck from about 40 yards and placed in the top corner of the Houston net.

It was an unstoppable shot and unstoppable was the word for visiting Orlando as the Pride ran out to a 4-0 lead before Houston clawed back a couple of late goals to give the final scoreline a more respectable look.

It was quite a day for Brazilian players, with Houston’s first goal coming from Poliana, assisted by Andressa in the 89th minute while Canadian Nichelle Prince added a second Dash score in the 96th minute on a setup from Andressa.

North Carolina Courage (7-3) 3-1 vs Boston Breakers (2-5-2)

The Breakers, and for that matter the NWSL, received a bit of bad news when rising U.S. WNT star Rose Lavelle limped off in the final minutes of the national team’s 1-0 win over Norway last week, ruling Lavelle out for four to six weeks with a hamstring injury.

North Carolina were too strong for the Breakers. (ISI Photos/Andy Mead)

First place North Carolina had injury woes of their own with deadly strike duo Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald sidelined but the defending champions showed admirable resolve and impressive depth receiving a brace from Kristen Hamilton and a second goal in two games from Ashley Hatch.

Boston, meanwhile clearly missed its young star Lavelle, falling behind the Courage 3-0 with just a 73rd-minute goal from Adriana Leon standing between the Breakers and a shutout.

Chicago Red Stars (5-2-2) 1-1 vs Washington Spirit (2-5-2)

Two teams with mirror image records got together in Chicago and in the end, the 2-5-2 Washington Spirit had to be happier with the result than the 5-2-2 Chicago Red Stars.

With the Spirit missing dynamic 19-year-old Mallory Pugh due to what has been termed a minor ankle injury, picked up on U.S. WNT duty, the visitors took a 1-0 lead just before the intermission.

Cheyna Williams, and Francisca Ordega celebrate the opening goal. (ISI Photos/Daniel Bartel)

Francisca Ordega finished from Cheyna Williams to give the Spirit that lead in the 42nd minute but it was always going to be a challenge for Washington to hold off the star-studded, ehm Stars, for the final 45 plus.

That proved to be the case when Christen Press, coming off of a very impressive outing for the U.S. WNT versus Norway, earned and converted a penalty kick in the 82nd minute.

Press’ goal was a bitter blow to the Spirit but Washington can’t be too unhappy with taking a point on the road from Chicago, undefeated at home and riding a six-match streak without a loss.

FC Kansas City (3-3-3) 2-2 vs Seattle Reign (3-2-4)

The Seattle Reign has never defeated FC Kansas City on the road, so when Nahomi Kawasumi broke a 1-1 deadlock in the 82nd minute Reign fans must have thought that Saturday might be the day.

Rapinoe goes past Averbuch. (ISI Photos/Amy Kontras)

Alas, it was not to be. That 2-1 Seattle lead would last but three minutes when Maegan Kelly got her head to a Yael Averbuch blast to level the match.

The home side had taken an early lead on Alexa Newfield’s 23rd-minute goal. Megan Rapinoe leveled just eight minutes later and that would be it for the scoring until that late flurry.

Portland Thorns (4-2-3) 1-3 vs Sky Blue FC (5-4-1)

Led by a brace plus an assist from Samantha Kerr and a record-setting goal from Rachel Rodriguez after just 25 seconds had ticked off the referee’s whistle.

Menges vies with Kerr for the ball. (ISI Photos/Sam Ortega)

In front of 16,736 fans at Providence Park, the visitors ran out to a 3-0 lead with Kerr completing her brace with tallies in the 70th and 88th minute rendering Christine Sinclair’s stoppage time goal mere window dressing.

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Red Bulls Tyler Adams in the Shop Window After U20 World Cup
Red Bulls Tyler Adams in the Shop Window After U20 World Cup avatar

It was just two years ago that 19-year-old New York Red Bulls center back Matt Miazga set tongues wagging with a performance at the U20 World Cup that would play a part in ushering the towering teen out of Harrison, New Jersey and onto the books of English Premier giants Chelsea.

Tyler Adams (L) in action for the Red Bulls. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Then 16 years old and already in the Red Bulls fold, midfielder Tyler Adams was well positioned to watch the Miazga chase unfold. Now 18, Adams has just returned from a breakout performance of his own at the tournament often referred to as the biggest shop window in the sport.

After playing a leading role in the Red Bulls 1-0 U.S. Open Cup win over cross-river rivals NYCFC at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night, I mentioned Miazga’s experience to Adams.

“Yeah, Matt Miazga’s a great example,” Adams agreed. “”But,” the tireless midfielder added, “I’m just focused on what I’m doing here right now and to continue to get better every day.”

Those words could well have come from Miazga’s mouth, in fact they did, just two years ago when the young center back told GotSoccer in a March 24, 2015, interview, “I’ve just got to prove myself every day at training and try to impress and play well and get better every day.”

Like Miazga then, Adams is surrounded by veteran leaders who can show him the way and also like his predecessor, Adams has won the trust of his more experienced colleagues.

Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan wryly compared his young teammate to Miazga’s Chelsea teammate N’Golo Kante, even if Miazga is expected to go on loan from the Blues again this season.

“He looked like a little Kante tonight,” is how Kljestan put it in front of his locker following Wednesday night’s victory. The World Cup experience had been a positive one for Adams, Kljestan felt, surmising, “I think he’s probably just feeling good about himself, confidence-wise.”

Adams (L) had a pretty good U20 tournament. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

“He had a pretty good Under 20 tournament,” Adams’ midfield partner continued. “He showed himself on a world stage for his age group, so that should be good for him moving forward.”

With head coach Jesse Marsch sidelined on Wednesday due to a suspension, assistant Chris Armas took charge of the team and in that capacity the former U.S. international waxed enthusiastic when GotSoccer asked about Adams in his postgame press conference.

“I played that position on the field,” Armas said. “I think I know what goes into it, how demanding it is. I think he’s way better than I was.” Armas, who only missed out on making the 2002 United States World Cup team through injury, couldn’t contain himself and he went on.

“Watching him play, the way he can cover ground, at such a young age, he’s fearless.” Pointing to a second half recovery run in which the 18-year-old seemingly came from nowhere to break up a New York City attack, Armas said, “it’s remarkable to watch.” Then came the warning. “I think we all have to take note and enjoy that (for) as much as we’re going to have him here.” “I think with his mentality, his aspirations, I’m sure that he can play in a different league someday.”

Not that Armas is pushing the teen out the door, far from it. “Tyler’s ours,” the assistant coach began, “I hope we keep him for a long time but when it comes time for him to go we would be wishing him well.” “We want,” Armas concluded, “to see him do great things.”

Inevitable rumors of German interest surfaced in South Korea during the U20 World Cup, so how does Adams feel about all this? I asked him if his agent had relayed any offers?

“Nah, Nah” Adams calmly noted. “Just focused on what I’m doing here.” Even Kljestan’s invocation of Kante, who is after all the gold standard at his position, barely ruffled the youngster.

“One of my favorite players,” the Red Bulls defensive midfielder said when I passed along his captain’s remark. “It’s good to be compared to him and if anything I can continue to try to model my game after him.”

“I think he’s a great player and you know no matter your size, he’s fearless.” Fearless. Adams was unaware that Armas had used that same word to describe his own game and even if the 5’8” Adams is taller than the generously listed 5’7” inch Chelsea star, Kante is still a worthy role model.

In 2015 it was Miazga who came back from the U20 World Cup as one of the shiniest items in the shop window, now Adams takes a turn.

Miazga spent last season playing in the Eredivisie, unable to crack the loaded Chelsea squad. That will be another lesson for Adams to absorb, and who knows it may keep the Wappingers Fall, New York native in the Red Bulls midfield for a little while longer.

But for just a little while. So, Red Bulls fans and MLS fans, take it from Armas and enjoy watching Tyler Adams while you can because “Little Kante” is in the shop window and the bidding is sure to begin shortly.

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U.S. WNT Edge Past Norway
U.S. WNT Edge Past Norway avatar

The U.S. WNT wrapped up a quick European tour with a second consecutive 1-0 draw on Sunday, this one against Norway after defeating Sweden by the same scoreline on Thursday.

Press scored the one goal of the match. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Christen Press provided the game winner in the 60th minute, scoring on a long ball from Becky Sauerbrunn with the America’s first shot on goal of the game.

With both U.S. opponents on this trip preparing for the Euros the Americans lack of a similar competition was highlighted and on Sunday the home team was the sharper of the two sides.

Coach Jill Ellis had to make a late change when Mallory Pugh injured her ankle while going through her pregame warmups forcing the U.S. coach to insert the Meghan Klingenberg in a midfield role rather than Klingenberg’s usual fullback position.

U.S. Soccer is attempting to bridge the competition gap with the four-team Tournament of Nations in late July and early August.

The U.S. got a late scare when Boston Breakers star Rose Lavelle pulled up with a hamstring injury, hopefully, the young star will be back soon.

July 27, 2017-7 PM PT WNT vs Australia – 2017 Tournament of Nations CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash. ESPN

July 30, 2017-5 PM PT WNT vs Brazil – 2017 Tournament of Nations Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif. ESPN2

August 3, 2017-7 PM PT WNT vs Japan – 2017 Tournament of Nations StubHub Center; Carson, California.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
NOR 0 0 0

USA – Christen Press (Becky Sauerbrunn) 60th minute

USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 5-Kelley O’Hara (8-Julie Ertz, 83), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (capt.), 14-Casey Short, 6-Abby Dahlkemper; 16-Rose Lavelle (10-Carli Lloyd, 86), 20-Allie Long, 3-Samantha Mewis, 7-Meghan Klingenberg (9-Lindsey Horan, 46); 19-Crystal Dunn, 23-Christen Press
Subs not used: 2-Sydney Leroux, 15-Megan Rapinoe, 18-Abby Smith
Not available: 22-Mallory Pugh
Head Coach: Jill Ellis

NOR: 1-Ingrid Hjelmseth; 6-Maren Mjelde (capt.), 11-Nora Holstad Berge, 2-Ingrid Wold, 8-Andrine Hegerberg (3-Maria Thorisdottir, 75), 19-Ingvild Isaksen (13-Guro Reiten, 82), 20-Emilie Haavi (17-Kristine Minde, 59), 28-Ingrid Marie Spord (21-Lisa-Marie Karlseng, 75), 9-Elise Thorsnes, 10-Caroline Hansen, 14-Ada Hegerberg
Subs not used: 7-Kristine Bjørdal Leine, 12-Cecilie Fiskerstrand, 16-Tuva Hansen, 22-Anja Sønstevold, 25-Synne Jensen
Head Coach: Martin Sjögren

Stats Summary: USA / NOR
Shots: 11 / 4
Shots on Goal: 1 / 1

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U.S. Picks Up Huge Point in Draw in Mexico
U.S. Picks Up Huge Point in Draw in Mexico avatar

An adventurous lineup, a competitive spirit and a sixth-minute wonder goal by Michael Bradley sparked a confident performance by the U.S. MNT in a 1-1 draw Sunday night in Mexico City at the once mighty fortress Azteca.

The U.S. had handled Trinidad and Tobago just three nights earlier, claiming all three points in a 2-0 win in Colorado. The quick turnaround meant changes were likely in the U.S. lineup, the surprise was how many, the new formation, and a goalkeeping change.

Guzan was a surprise selection. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

With goalkeeper Brad Guzan the most surprising of seven new faces in the starting lineup, the Americans faced a Mexico side down several players as well. El Tri veteran Rafa Marquez was one of the players unavailable to Juan Carlos Osorio but fullback Carlos Salcedo seemed all too happy to fill Marquez’ villain role, twice elbowing DaMarcus Beasley in the head in the opening minutes while somehow escaping punishment.

Then Bradley intercepted a pass around the midfield stripe and seeing Guillermo Ochoa stray from his line the American captain chipped a wonderful shot over the scrambling keeper from 40 yards to beat Ochoa and spark hopes of a first ever World Cup Qualifier win in Mexico in the U.S. camp.

Arena’s changes began with Guzan in place of Tim Howard and included every line in the team’s new 3-5-2 lineup. Only DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, Christian Pulisic, and Bradley returned from the starting side that topped T&T on Thursday.

Then Bobby Wood, another of Arena’s changes, missed a chance to put the Americans ahead dos a cero only for Mexico to equalize on a brilliant counter attack goal from Carlos Vela in the 23rd minute.

Ultimately, Vela victimized Beasley before beating Guzan with a perfectly placed shot in the 22nd minute. In truth, enough Americans had gotten back to prevent the Mexico leveler but none supported the U.S. vet.

Bradley (L) celebrating his wonder goal. (ISI Photos/David Leah)

Mexico had the better chances in the opening stanza with Beasley and his fellow fullback DeAndre Yedlin under heavy pressure from Mexico’s wide men, with Hirving Lozano giving Yedlin a particularly torrid time.

In a second half Mexico amped up the pressure but with Yedlin’s play dramatically improved and Beasley calling on all of his decades of experience the Yanks were able to withstand the home team onslaught.

Arena’s back three of Cameron, Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream was solid from the start with Cameron making a number of huge interventions in a Man of the Match-worthy performance.

Each team had chances to claim all three points with Mexico’s Hector Herrera’s tremendous 71st-minute free kick rattling Guzan’s crossbar minutes before Bradley missed out on a second golazo when his long-range effort clipped the upright.

Pulisic could have got the winner but could not get his shot on target.(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The Americans had one last chance to claim the spoils in the 89th minute when Pulisic shook free only to fire a tired looking shot well wide of the mark. Pulisic would soon be replaced by Graham Zusi on what was a frustrating night for the 18-year-old.

But El Tri are not the Soca Warriors and it would have been foolish to expect Pulisic to have his way with Mexico on this stage but then the Hershey, Pennsylvania product has made fools of more than a few in his meteoric rise and if tonight was less than perfect it was still an important step in Pulisic’s development.

In the biggest game of his burgeoning international career, Kellyn Acosta made a strong case for a regular role in this team with an impressive two-way performance in the U.S. midfield.

It was just the third point the U.S. has picked up in World Cup Qualifying play in Mexico, although the Americans have now tied two in a row at Azteca.

The result gives the U.S. eight points, well behind Mexico who top the Hex with 14 points. Costa Rica is also on 8 and with six points Panama can pass the U.S. with a win over Honduras.

With four games left Arena has the American World Cup bid back on track with the U.S. next hosting Costa Rica on September 1 before traveling to Honduras on September 5.

In the last set of Qualifiers, the Americans welcome Panama and then face Trinidad and Tobago away. It is a manageable schedule for Arena’s squad and one that should find the U.S. heading to Russia just about a year from now.

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

USA – Michael Bradley 6th minute
MEX – Carlos Vela (Javier Hernandez) 23

USA: 12-Brad Guzan; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 20-Geoff Cameron, 14-Tim Ream, 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 11-Paul Arriola (15-Darlington Nagbe, 63), 16-Kellyn Acosta, 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 10-Christian Pulisic (19-Graham Zusi, 90+2); 9-BobbyWood (17-Jozy Altidore, 79)
Subs not used: 1-Tim Howard, 22-Nick Rimando, 5-Matt Besler, 6-John Brooks, 8-Clint Dempsey, 13-Dax McCarty, 18-Jordan Morris, 21-Matt Hedges, 23-Fabian Johnson
Head coach: Bruce Arena

MEX: 13-Guillermo Ochoa; 3-Carlos Salcedo, 5-Diego Reyes, 15-Héctor Moreno (capt.), 4-Oswaldo Alanís (23-Jesùs Gallardo, 31); 6-Jonathan Dos Santos (18-Orbelín Pineda, 77), 16-Héctor Herrera, 8-Marco Fabián (7-Javier Aquino, 53); 11-Carlos Vela, 14-Javier Hernández, 22-Hirving Lozano
Subs not used: 1-Rodolfo Cota, 12-Alfredo Talavera, 2-Luis Reyes, 9-Raúl Jiménez, 10-Giovani dos Santos, 17-Jürgen Damm, 19-Oribe Peralta, 20-Jesús Dueñas, 21-Jesús Molina
Head coach: Juan Carlos Osorio
Stats Summary: USA / MEX
Shots: 7 / 10
Shots on Goal: 2 / 1
Saves: 0 / 0
Corner Kicks: 7 / 9
Fouls: 21 / 13
Offside: 2 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
USA – DeAndre Yedlin (caution) 44th minute
USA – Paul Arriola (caution) 56

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U.S. WNT Top Sweden on Lavelle Goal
U.S. WNT Top Sweden on Lavelle Goal avatar

With all eyes on Christian Pulisic and the U.S. MNT, the American women flew a bit under the radar with their 1-0 road victory over Sweden earlier on Thursday.

Lavelle once again shone for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Rose Lavelle continued her rise up the depth chart scoring the game’s only goal, the second in just five caps for the 22-year-old.

With the new Tournament of Nation’s coming soon, late July and early August, Jill Ellis’ team is seeking to shake off the lingering stench of March’s SheBelieves flop when the Americans finished last in the U.S. based tournament.

In this friendly Pia Sunhage’s Sweden side did not repeat the defensive tactics that frustrated and defeated the U.S. in the Olympics, prompting the infamous “coward” outburst that seems to have spelled the end of goalkeeper Hope Solo’s U.S career.

With less at stake, this time around Sweden opted for a more open style of play making for a more entertaining match, with each side having moments of ascendancy.

Dunn was able to put in a perfect pass to set up Lavelle (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Ultimately the game came down to one excellent moment between Crystal Dunn and Lavelle. With the Chelsea star in possession, Dunn picked up her head and found Lavelle with a perfect pass. The Boston Breakers star kept her composure before finishing her chance from a tight angle in the 56th minute.

Now the Americans move on from Gothenburg to Sandefjord, Norway where the U.S. WNT will again serve as the opening act to the men, who face arch rivals Mexico Sunday night at the Azteca in Mexico City.

June 11, 2017, 1 PM ET WNT vs Norway: Komplett Arena; Sandefjord, Norway.
– U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report –

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

USA – Rose Lavelle (Crystal Dunn) 56th minute

USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 5-Kelley O’Hara (8-Julie Ertz, 84), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 14-Casey Short, 7-Meghan Klingenberg (6-Abby Dahlkemper, 46); 16-Rose Lavelle (15-Megan Rapinoe, 90+2), 20-Allie Long, 3-Sam Mewis, 22-Mallory Pugh; 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.) 9-Lindsey Horan, 46), 19-Crystal Dunn (23-Christen Press, 75)
Subs not used: 2-Sydney Leroux, 18-Abby Smith
Head Coach: Jill Ellis

SWE: 12-Hilda Carlén; 15-Jessica Samuelsson, 3-Linda Sembrant, 5-Nilla Fischer (6-Magdalena Eriksson, 75), 2-Joanna Andersson; 9-Kosovare Asllani, 7-Lisa Dahlkvist (11-Stina Blackstenius, 87), 17-Carolina Seger, 22-Olivia Schough 10-Julia Spetsmark, 63); 18-Fridolina Rolfö (20-Mimi Larsson, 46), 8-Lotta Schlein (capt.)
Subs not used: 1-Hedvig Lindahl, 4-Emma Berglund, 14-Hanna Folkesson, 16-Hanna Glas, 19-Pauline Hammarlund, 21-Emelie Lundberg, 24-Josefin Johansson, 25-Petra Andersson
Head Coach: Pia Sundhage

Stats Summary: USA / SWE
Shots: 7 / 13
Shots on Goal: 4 / 3
Saves: 3 / 3
Corner Kicks: 2 / 10
Fouls: 4 / 14
Offside: 4 / 2

Misconduct Summary:

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What Will Bruce do Against El Tri?
What Will Bruce do Against El Tri? avatar

What will Bruce do? That has been the burning question for followers of the U.S. MNT since it became clear that Trinidad and Tobago did not have a late comeback in them Thursday night and the U.S would be heading to Mexico on the back of a 2-0 victory.

Arena may switch his squad for Sunday’s match.(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Arena hinted that he may be considering some squad rotation for Sunday’s match when he brought up the effects of altitude on the players, saying “the altitude is an issue,” at his post-game press conference.

With a two-goal lead on Thursday Arena pulled Clint Dempsey from the match in favor of FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta, prompting an angry reaction from his veteran striker and inciting speculation that the U.S. may line out in the more defensive 4-2-3-1 formation against El Tri after kicking off versus T&T in a 4-4-2 diamond.

Acosta would be favored to partner Michael Bradley as one of the two deeper midfielders in that system, especially with Geoff Cameron needed at center back against the dangerous Mexico attack.

Some have speculated that Omar Gonzalez, based in Mexico with Pachuca, would get a start. Gonzalez could fill in for Cameron if Arena does opt to move the versatile Stoke man up the pitch or Gonzalez could replace John Brooks, who had a few rough moments on Thursday.

Alejandro Bedoya is a dependable and tireless midfielder that the U.S. coach might choose to start in an effort to blunt the Mexico attack, although the Union man does not provide much going forward and Arena may be inclined to keep the trio of Christian Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe, and Fabian Johnson intact behind a lone striker.

That is if the coach elects to play in that 4-2-3-1 setup.

Dempsey could be on the bench.(ISI Photos/John Todd)

It could leave Arena with the difficult task of telling Dempsey that he is not in the starting 11, and if Deuce was unhappy with being removed on Thursday, he is unlikely to be pleased with sitting from the start against Mexico.

Dempsey’s feelings are hardly Arena’s main concern and the boss said that he and Dempsey spoke and that all was well. Altidore has never liked playing up top on his own while Wood seems a bit better suited to the sometimes thankless task.

If Arena does make this move, and I believe that he should, I look for Altidore to start. The powerful TFC striker is a good passer, the team’s best holdup forward and if Pulisic and Nagbe can provide periodic help in the attack, then I believe that Altidore could thrive in the role.

Mexico has four wins and one tie in five matches to top the Hex and the U.S. has never defeated Mexico in a World Cup Qualifier in Mexico. The Americans did, however, earn a draw there in 2013, perhaps lessening somewhat the Azteca intimidation factor.

The Americans figure to be on the defensive for most of this match and will likely need a counter attack goal if they are to get on the board. A shutout and a goal on the break is no easy task against a talented team like Mexico, but it may be the best chance the US. MNT has for victory, or even a draw on Sunday.

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Pulisic’s Brace Lifts MNT to Victory over Trinidad & Tobago
Pulisic’s Brace Lifts MNT to Victory over Trinidad & Tobago avatar

A pair of second half Christian Pulisic goals roused the U.S. MNT from its lethargy and sparked the Americans to a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago Thursday night in Commerce City, Colorado.

Playing in front of an enthusiastic sellout crowd of 19,188 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park just outside of Denver the Americans came out sluggish in a first half performance reminiscent of Saturday’s opening stanza against Venezuela.

Pulisic continues to shine for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

U.S. coach Bruce Arena called out his side for its ponderous ball movement at halftime on Saturday, so it must have been discouraging for the boss to have to repeat that same charge against his players at Thursday’s intermission.

The Americans came back to salvage a 1-1 draw in that friendly versus Venezuela but the stakes were much higher against the Soca Warriors in Thursday’s World Cup Qualifier.

T&T entered the match at the bottom of the Hex (CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers) while the Americans were just one point better in fourth. Never having lost to Trinidad and Tobago in a home WCQ (7-0-1) the U.S. figured to come out flying but that was not to be the case.

With T&T content to sit back and let the favored Americans apply the pressure the Americans tested Soca Warriors keeper Jan-Michael Williams early. Clint Dempsey fired high in the 15th minute before John Brooks and Jozy Altidore were denied by the in-form keeper on back to back efforts in the 33rd minute.

Pulisic celebrates scoring against Trinidad. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

The U.S. were in charge but the home team caught a break in the form of the woodwork when a Kenwyne Jones header crashed off of the crossbar with Tim Howard beaten and central defender Brooks stranded.

It was a bad moment for the Americans and not the only one on the night for the U.S backsmen.

The U.S finally got the badly needed breakthrough when Pulisic finished a good U.S. move started when Darlington Nagbe made a bold run at the T&T defense before laying off to Dempsey. Dempsey found DeAndre Yedlin and fullback delivered a tantalizing ball into the box for Pulisic to slide into the net.

It was a just the tonic for the Americans and 10 minutes later Pulisic both the future of American soccer and the present of the American game struck again. This time Altidore delivered the final ball, springing Pulisic in behind the defense with just Michael Williams to beat. Pulisic did just that, going short side on the T&T goalkeeper to complete his brace, the second of his 15 game U.S. career, giving the Borussia Dortmund man a total of seven international goals in those 15 matches.

That would be all of the scoring and if the night was something less than an artistic success, then a look at the Hexagonal Standings will surely be a beautiful sight to U.S. fans as the Americans rise from the fourth place playoff position into an automatic qualification spot at the halfway point of the CONCACAF WCQ.

Up next for the U.S. is Mexico on Sunday at the fabled Azteca where the U.S. has never won in World Cup qualifying play. The U.S. did pick up a point in Mexico City during the last cycle, a result that would surely satisfy Arena come Sunday.

It may not, however, be enough for Thursday’s hero. Speaking to FOX TV after the match Pulisic said, “it’s going to be a tough one down there, in Mexico especially, but we really want some revenge on them for when they got us earlier this year.”

Pulisic wasn’t done yet, adding, “So we’re really confident going in that game and we’re going to come out with a win there, too.”

USA 2-0 vs. Trinidad and Tobago
Costa Rica 0-0 vs. Panama
Mexico 3-0 vs. Honduras

1. Mexico       4   1  0   7    13
2. Costa Rica 2  2  1    4    8
3. USA            2   1   2   3    7
4. Panama      1   3  1    1    6
5. Honduras   1   1  3  -8   4
6. T and T       1   0 4  -6    3

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

USA – Christian Pulisic (DeAndre Yedlin) 52nd minute
USA – Christian Pulisic (Jozy Altidore) 62

USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 20-Geoff Cameron, 6-John Brooks, 21-Jorge Villafaña; 4-Michael Bradley (capt.); 23-Fabian Johnson (11-Alejandro Bedoya, 74), 10-Christian Pulisic, 15-Darlington Nagbe, 8-Clint Dempsey (16-Kellyn Acosta, 61), 17-Jozy Altidore (9-Bobby Wood, 83)
Subs not used: 12-Brad Guzan, 22-Nick Rimando, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 5-Tim Ream, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 13-Dax McCarty, 14-Paul Arriola, 18-Jordan Morris, 19-Graham Zusi
Head coach: Bruce Arena

TRI: 21-Jan-Michael Williams;; 11-Akhenaton Edwards, 4-Sheldon Bateau, 17-Mekeil Williams, 5-Daneil Cyrus; 10-Kevin Molino, 19-Kevan George, 8-Khaleem Hyland (23-Leston Paul, 76), 3-Joevin Jones (12-Shahdon Winchester, 68); 7-Nathan Lewis, 9-Kenwyne Jones (capt.) (20-Jamille Boatswain, 82)
Subs not used: 1-Marvin Phillip, 2-Aubrey David, 6-Radanfah Abu Bakr, 13-Hughtun Hector, 14-Andre Boucaud, 15-Curtis Gonzales, 16-Alvin Jones, 18-Hashim Arcia, 22-Adrian Foncette
Head coach: Dennis Lawrence

Stats Summary: USA / TRI
Shots: 15 / 11
Shots on Goal: 9 / 2
Saves: 2 / 7
Corner Kicks: 4 / 5
Fouls: 3 / 4
Offside: 0 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
TRI – Leston Paul (caution) 76th minute
USA – Alejandro Bedoya (caution) 85

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U.S. MNT Face Trinidad and Tobago in World Cup Qualifier
U.S. MNT Face Trinidad and Tobago in World Cup Qualifier avatar

When the United States steps on the field Thursday night in Commerce City, Colorado to face Trinidad and Tobago the time for practice and preliminaries will be over as the serious business of World Cup Qualification once again takes center stage.

The U.S. looked far from the finished product in Saturday’s 1-1 friendly draw versus Venezuela conceding a goal after failing to clear a corner kick while not moving the ball decisively enough when in sight of the opposition net.

Arena was not too pleased with his team’s performance agains Venezuela. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

After the game Arena analyzed the goal his side conceded this way, “you mark a guy and you beat him to the ball,” the coach said. “When the ball is cleared and played back in you’ve got to stay with your man, and beat him to the ball.

“It’s simply individual breakdowns. Players have to do better.”

The U.S. performance picked up after Arena made a switch to a 3-5-2 formation after beginning the match in a 4-4-2 diamond. Arena had about a week to work on the new setup with the team but is still expected to trot out the more familiar diamond Thursday night in Commerce City.

Center back John Brooks picked up a leg injury versus Venezuela and while the newly signed Wolfsburg defender hasn’t been officially ruled out by U.S. Soccer, Brooks may well miss out.

With 11 defenders on his expanded roster Arena is not lacking in options with Omar Gonzalez expected to partner Geoff Cameron in front of Tim Howard.

Arena appears to have settled on DeAndre Yedlin and Jorge Villafana as his fullbacks, especially with Fabian Johnson settling in at midfield after shuffling back and forth between fullback and his preferred role further up the pitch.

Arena has also fixed on Michael Bradley as his deepest lying midfielder, part of the new manager’s effort to stop shifting players around from position to position.

Arena believes that there was too much roster uncertainty under his predecessor telling, “one of the things that was confusing as I came in and evaluated the rosters was there was just too many players called in for whatever reason from everywhere and no consistency.”

It may be a bit unseemly to criticize the man you replace but Arena wanted to make a point, so he continued, “so I’m trying to get a rhyme and reason here. I’m trying to have a little bit of consistency, and sometimes you’ve just got to make a decision. All things being equal you decide to stick with one guy and you stay with him until he proves otherwise.”

On that note, the rest of Arena’s lineup looks pretty well set with Johnson, Darlington Nagbe, and Christian Pulisic expected to complete the midfield although Arena has a decision to make with his forwards.

Altidore should see playing time against Trinidad. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

With Jozy Altidore a late arrival at camp and therefore unavailable versus Venezuela Bobby Wood and Clint Dempsey started up top for the U.S. Wood ended the Bundesliga campaign battling injury and poor form and that lack of sharpness was apparent versus Venezuela.

I expect Altidore and Dempsey to get the nod from Arena on Thursday night as the U.S., sitting fourth on the Hex, look to secure three valuable points and Dempsey seeks to tie and possibly surpass Landon Donovan for the top spot on the U.S. Men’s international goal scoring list.

U.S. MNT Roster By Position (Club; WCQ Caps/Goals):
GOALKEEPERS (4): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 13/0), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 0/0), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids; 35/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (11): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo; 33/6),Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 11/1), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER; 3/0), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG; 20/2), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER; 3/0), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX; 14/0), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas; 0/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 4/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 2/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 6/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City; 17/3)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 2/0),Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana/MEX; 2/1),Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 8/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 33/6), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 15/1), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers; 5/0), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 38/18)

FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 36/16), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 38/18), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 3/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 8/4)

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Surprises Dot Arena’s 40 Man Provisional Gold Cup Roster
Surprises Dot Arena’s 40 Man Provisional Gold Cup Roster avatar

That the U.S. MNT has a busy and important summer ahead was a known, just how busy was highlighted with Saturday’s announcement of the 40 man provisional roster for July’s Gold Cup, revealed at halftime of the U.S. vs. Venezuela friendly.

That friendly ended in a 1-1 draw as the Americans prepare for a pair of crucial World Cup qualifiers against Trinidad and Tobago, Thursday at 7:50 ET in Colorado, and Mexico, in Mexico City, Sunday at 8:30 ET.

Understandably the WCQ take priority and with that in mind, several first team players have been left off the Gold Cup roster. That said, there are still plenty of surprises in this group, on both the inclusion and exclusion list.

Arena has until the June 27th to select his fine roster.(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Bruce Arena will have until June 27 to submit his final 23 man roster and all 23 must come from this provisional list.

Any roster will incite debate, with everyone having their own favorites and least favorites. So, let’s go by position.

With six goalkeepers selected, we might expect that the selection drama would come on the 27th but there are still a couple keepers that may feel aggrieved.

Arena selected his top two keepers in Howard and Guzan and the rest have solid claims but a couple of recent call-ups that did not receive an invite are David Bingham and Luis Robles, while Sporting KC’s Tim Melia, he of the league best 78.6 save %, may also be feeling somewhat snubbed.

In the defense, another KC man tops my list of the snubbed, Ike Opara. Physically gifted, yet seemingly perpetually injured, Opara has been healthy this year and he is playing like it. The Gold Cup seemed like an ideal time for Arena to give Opara a look but the boss looked elsewhere. Maybe in January?

Nguyen has been left out even thought has an impressive 6 goals and 7 assist in the MLS this season. (ISI Photos/Tim Bouwer)

Midfield has a raft of worthy candidates but with only so many places to fill there was always going to be a few good players left out. The creative trio of Benny Feilhaber, Sasha Kljestan, and Lee Nguyen top my list. When Arena replaced Jurgen Klinsmann Kljestan and Feilhaber looked set to battle for the midfield maestro job, now neither can even get on the Gold Cup roster, never mind the WCQ team. New England Revolution star Nguyen is cut from a similar cloth to Kljestan and Feilhaber and is having a better season than either, racking up an impressive six goals and seven assists so far in 2017.

The other much-discussed omission is Danny Williams. Like his more attack-minded counterparts Williams has never been able to lock down a steady invite to the national team. The Reading man has always been on the fringes and even after an impressive season with promotion chasing Reading Williams remains on the outside looking in.

The forward group has the least surprises with Minnesota striker Christian Ramirez the one glaring omission. Ramirez has graduated from the NASL seamlessly to lead Minnesota with eight goals, tied with Philadelphia’s C.J. Sapong, who did get a warranted nod for the most by an American player in MLS.

Ramirez has racked up those eight goals without the benefit of scoring any from the spot, making his Gold Cup slight all the more a surprise.

And what about the surprise inclusions? There were a few and not necessarily because of quality.

Goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez is perhaps the biggest longshot on this roster and for U.S. supporters, the FC Dallas keeper’s inclusion is a happy one. The 22-year-old North Carolina-born, FC Dallas Homegrown netminder has vacillated between playing for the U.S. and playing for Mexico, who he has represented at the U20 and U23 level.

Gonzalez reportedly accepted and then rejected a call to U.S. MNT camp in January 2016. Gonzalez has reportedly said that if he makes the Gold Cup roster, he will go. Stuart Holden has reported that Mexico has let it be known that if Gonzalez does not play at the Gold Cup for the U.S. that El Tri would call him in soon.

On to the defense which has several notable inclusions. Matt Miazga spent a successful loan stint in the Netherlands with Vitesse Arnhem and even if he doesn’t know where he will be playing in the 2017/18 season, the former N.Y. Red Bulls center back knows that he has a good chance to spend July playing in the Gold Cup.

FC Dallas center back Matt Hedges has been among the best defenders in MLS over the past few season’s, winning Defender of the Year honors last season. Still, Hedges has little national team experience, racking up just his second U.S. cap on Saturday when he turned in a composed performance versus Venezuela.

Eric Lichaj has long been passed over, picking up the odd cap here and there, while impressing year after year for English Championship club Nottingham Forest.

Kenny Saief is the name that jumps out from the midfield group. The Israeli-American plays currently for Gent in Belgium and has represented Israel at various youth levels and has even lined out for the full Israel side in a couple of friendlies.

Arena has rewarded some MLS talents with calls, including Kelyn Rowe, Tommy McNamara, Christian Roldan, and veteran Chris Pontius while also giving Mexico-based Joe Corona a recall.

Up top, Juan Agudelo, with seven goals in just 10 games and eight goal man C.J. Sapong earned Arena’s call, and even if more than a few U.S. fans are fed up with him, Chris Wondolowski is still producing, so his inclusion was expected.

Dom Dwyer has been rewarded for his consistency.  (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

The interesting one here is newly minted U.S. citizen Dom Dwyer. The SKC man has been a consistent goal scorer in MLS, so he deserves a look.

Of this 40 just 23 will make the final group. Some first teamers are included, like Howard and Bradley, there are a few young up and comers in the group, including Jesse Gonzalez, Miazga, Christian Roldan ( who also has other national team options), and there are some that may have thought a call would never come.

June 27 will reveal the final 23, then it is on to Nashville for camp on June 25, East Hartford for a friendly versus Ghana, and then finally the Gold Cup.

The U.S. open Group B play in Nashville on July 8 vs. Panama, move on to Tampa to face Martinique on July 12 and finish group play three days later in Cleveland where Nicaragua will provide the opposition.

GOALKEEPERS (6): Joe Bendik (Orlando City SC), Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas), Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Sean Johnson (New York City FC)

DEFENDERS (12): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Greg Garza (Atlanta United FC), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG), Matt Miazga (Chelsea/ENG), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC/CAN), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Jonathan Spector (Orlando City SC), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

MIDFIELDERS (15): Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana/MEX), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana/MEX), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Tommy McNamara (New York City FC), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Kenny Saief (Gent/BEL), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

FORWARDS (7): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

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U.S. Bounced Out of U20 World Cup in Extra Time
U.S. Bounced Out of U20 World Cup in Extra Time avatar

Deserve is a funny word, even in sports where the scoreboard should eliminate all doubt. Take Sunday morning’s U20 World Cup Quarter Final showdown between Venezuela and the United States. Venezuela won 2-1 in extra time and by any reasonable measure that was the least they deserved.

The U20’s could not get the equalizer after conceding in extra time. (Alamy Images)

La Vinotinto had played four matches to reach this juncture. Germany, Mexico, and Japan had all been vanquished, and Vanuatu had been set down by a 7-0 score.

Four games, 11 goals scored, zero goals allowed. It was much of the same against the U.S. as Venezuela dominated from the bleat of the opening whistle.

U.S. keeper Jonathan Klinsmann was forced to make a brilliant save inside of the game’s first minute. The son of the former U.S.A. coach made that save and it was merely the first of many.

Venezuela swarmed the Americans, forced panicked clearances which became sloppy turnovers, which turned into more Klinsmann saves. The U.S. had gotten to this stage of the tournament without having demanded much of their keeper. Even as he earned the Golden Glove at the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers Klinsmann had operated just a little below the radar.

The U.S. hadn’t exactly won matches in spite of their goaltender but neither had the Young Yanks climbed to these heights because of the man between the pipes.

Today Klinsmann made his value to this team abundantly clear; it could be said he deserved better.

Then again, Venezuela had a ball in the back of the net in the first half only to see VAR, Video Assistant Referee, spoil their celebrations with an offside call. Did La Vinotinto deserve that reversal of fortune? If pressed I would say no, the goal should have stood.

Then as Venezuela were thwarted by the woodwork and Klinsmann’s efforts a strange thing happened as the clock came ever closer to striking 90: the Americans began to play.

In the 51st minute, U.S. coach Tab Ramos sent forward Jeremy Ebobisse in for midfielder Tyler Adams, conceding that the previously indefatigable Adams had not been a factor against the South Americans and that the 18-year-old was not likely turn it around on this day.

Ramos sent Ebobisse up front alongside Josh Sargent, another youngster struggling against the fleet, powerful, and skillful Venezuelans, switching to a 4-4-2 system. In the 83rd minute, Ramos would call for Sargent too, turning to Lagos Kunga and it nearly worked.

With Eryk Williamson driving the attack forward and covering any gaps at the back the Americans made a late bid to steal this game. Luca de la Torre, Brooks Lennon, overlapping fullback Justen Glad all came to life and with fresh legs up front, the Venezuelans were suddenly back on their heels.

Then, in what would be the final act of the opening 90 minutes, with the score still somehow tied at 0-0 the Americans had their chance. On a set piece Erik Palmer-Brown worked his way free and from six yards his header missed an empty net.

Would the U.S have deserved to see that ball ripple the Venezuela twines?

On to extra time and Venezuela finally got the goal from Adalberto Penaranda, the goal that they surely deserved. Nine minutes later Nahuel Ferraresi added a second and Venezuela were through to the semifinals, right? It would be nothing less than they deserved.

But then in the 117th minute, Ebobisse clawed one back for the U.S. It was the first goal that Venezuela had conceded in the 2017 U20 World Cup and given the effort the American players had expended, it was nothing less than what the Young Yanks deserved.

But that would be it. The U.S. battled to the final blast of the referee’s whistle, falling at the quarterfinal round of the U20 Mundial for the second time running. If Palmer-Brown’s shot had hit the target the Americans would have moved on.

Did the U.S. deserve better? Does it matter? In the Oscar-winning film Unforgiven Clint Eastwood’s character put it this way, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”

Scoring Summary: 1 2 1ET 2ET F
USA 0 0 0 1 1
VEN 0 0 1 1 2

VEN – Adalberto Peñaranda (Samuel Sosa) 96th minute
VEN – Nahuel Ferraresi (Ronaldo Lucena) 115
USA – Jeremy Ebobisse (Brooks Lennon) 117

USA: 1-Jonathan Klinsmann; 3-Danny Acosta (2-Auston Trusty, 120), 5-Erik Palmer-Brown (capt.), 16-Cameron Carter-Vickers, 6-Justen Glad; 18-Derrick Jones, 7-Eryk Williamson (9-Emmanuel Sabbi, 113), 8-Tyler Adams (15-Jeremy Ebobisse, 51); 20-Luca de la Torre, 17-Brooks Lennon, 19-Josh Sargent (13-Lagos Kunga, 83)
Subs not used: 4-Tommy Redding, 11-Sebastian Saucedo, 12-James Marcinkowski, 14-Aaron Herrera, 21-Brady Scott
Not available: 10-Gedion Zelalem
Head coach: Tab Ramos

VEN: 1-Wuilker Farinez; 5-Jose Hernandez, 2- Williams Velasquez, 4-Nahuel Ferraresi, 20-Ronald Hernandez; 7-Adalberto Peñaranda (18-Luis Ruiz, 113), 16-Ronaldo Lucena (6-Christian Makoun,120+2), 8-Yangel Herrera (capt.), 19-Sergio Cordova (17-Josua Mejias, 119); 9-Ronaldo Peña (15-Samuel Sosa, 76), 11-Ronaldo Chacon
Subs not used: 3-Eduin Quero, 10-Yeferson Soteldo, 12-Joel Graterol, 13-Jan Hurtado, 14-Heber Garcia, 21-Rafael Sanchez
Head coach: Rafael Dudamel

Stats Summary: USA / VEN
Shots: 7 / 26
Shots on Goal: 2 / 8
Saves: 6 / 1
Corner Kicks: 1 / 9
Fouls: 22 / 26
Offside: 1 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
VEN – Jose Hernandez (caution) 35th minute
VEN – Williams Velasquez (caution) 57
USA – Derrick Jones (caution) 74
USA – Jeremy Ebobisse (caution) 81
VEN – Samuel Sosa (caution) 86
VEN – Yangel Herrera (caution) 90+3

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U.S. Draw With Venezuela in World Cup Qualifier Warmup
U.S. Draw With Venezuela in World Cup Qualifier Warmup avatar

Ahead of two hugely important World Cup qualifiers against Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico Bruce Arena brought his U.S. MNT to Salt Lake City and came away with a 1-1 draw versus Venezuela.

Here are three takeaways from what was a mixed U.S. performance in Utah.

1) Howard and Pulisic Shine

The two best players for the U.S versus Venezuela were its 38-year-old goalkeeper Tim Howard and Christian Pulisic, the team’s 18-year-old talisman.

Pulisic continues to shine for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Pulisic started slowly, struggling to make an imprint on the match while Howard was doing his best to keep the Americans from being overrun by their young, dangerous opponents.

Howard was unable to prevent the U.S. from falling behind in the 29th minute when Jose Velazquez scored after the U.S. was unable to clear a Venezuela corner. But Howard was otherwise unbeatable keeping his side in the game with a pair of tremendous first half saves.

Trailing 1-0 at the half a clearly unsatisfied Bruce Arena told Fox that he wanted to see his team move the ball more quickly in the final 45 minutes. It took a while but eventually, the pace began to quicken and Pulisic nabbed the equalizer just past the hour mark after some solid work from Fabian Johnson.

Tim Howard looked sharp in goal for the U.S.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

It wasn’t a great night from the U.S. but with his oldest player providing a solid defensive foundation and his youngest lending a creative spark perhaps Arena’s mood will have improved from his halftime funk.

2) Flexibility

The U.S. started the night in a diamond 4-4-2 with a midfield that featured Michael Bradley deep, Pulisic at its point and Darlington Nagbe and Fabian Johnson on the left and right.

The U.S. looked comfortable playing multiple formations.  (ISI Photos/John Todd)

With late-arriving Jozy Altidore unavailable Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood started up front, DeAndre Yedlin and Jorge Villafana were the fullbacks and John Brooks with Geoff Cameron in the center of the defense.

Brooks limped off in the second half, perhaps as a precaution, and Arena switched up to a 3-5-2. The team’s performance seemed to pick up after the switch with better ball movement an obvious byproduct.

Will Arena try this formation versus Trinidad and Tobago or Mexico? Hard to say but it is no harm to give it a look in a friendly right before the real deal.

3) Sueño Come True

U.S. fullback Jorge Villafana, who began his professional career when he won a television contest on a show called Sueño, or Dream, never got a national team chance under Arena predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann but the 27-year-old Santos Laguna defender has quickly earned Arena’s trust and looks set to start versus T&T Thursday night in Colorado.

Jorge Villafaña congratulating Pulisic on his goal. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The MLS Cup winner (Portland 2015) did his cause no harm with his solid performance versus Venezuela. DaMarcus Beasley is on the roster but for now, it looks like Villafana will continue to live his dream.

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

VEN – José Manuel Velázquez (Júnior Moreno) 29th minute
USA – Christian Pulisic (Fabian Johnson) 61

USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-DeAndre Yedlin (19-Graham Zusi, 90), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 6-John Brooks (21-Matt Hedges, 56), 8-Clint Dempsey (16-Kellyn Acosta, 63), 9-Bobby Wood, 10-Christian Pulisic, 15-Darlington Nagbe (18-Jordan Morris, 70), 17-Jorge Villafaña, 20-Geoff Cameron (3-Omar Gonzalez, 45), 23-Fabian Johnson (14-Tim Ream, 63)
Subs: 22-Nick Rimando, 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 13-Dax McCarty
Head coach: Bruce Arena

VEN: 1-José Contreras; 3-Mikel Villanueva, 4-Rubert Quijada, 6-José Manuel Velázquez (18-Yordan Osorio, 56), 17-Pablo Camacho; 5-Francisco Flores, 11-Darwin Machís (16-Aristóteles Romero, 67), 14-Júnior Moreno (13-Francisco La Mantía, 83), 15-Jhon Murillo (2-Jefre Vargas, 89), 9-Salomón Rondón (capt.) (23-Andrés Ponce, 90+3), 19-Christian Santos (10-Jefferson Savarino, 72)
Subs: 12-Alain Baroja, 7-Edder Farías, 20-José Luis Marrufo
Head coach: Marcos Mathias

Stats Summary: USA / VEN
Shots: 12 / 10
Shots on Goal: 2 / 4
Saves: 1 / 3
Corner Kicks: 5 / 2
Fouls: 9 / 12
Offside: 2 / 2

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U.S. Crush Kiwis to Advance to U20 World Cup Quarters
U.S. Crush Kiwis to Advance to U20 World Cup Quarters avatar

A pair of goals less than a minute apart by Jeremy Ebobisse and Brooks Lennon broke open what had been a tight game for the United States and sent the Americans on the way to a 6-0 victory over New Zealand and onto a quarterfinal matchup against Venezuela.

The Americans were clearly the better team from the start at Incheon Stadium controlling possession and creating chances while the Junior All Whites seemed content to defend and hope to head home from a cross or set piece.

The young Americans started slow but ended with at bang. (Alamy Photos)

The Young Yanks eventually did make the breakthrough on a 32nd-minute goal that was first credited to emergency fullback Justen Glad before being added to the already robust account of 17-year-old sensation Josh Sargent.

The goal was the fourth of the tournament for Sargent, as the St Louis Gallagher’s product joins Eddie Johnson, Taylor Twellman, and Jozy Altidore at the top of the list of American goal scorers at a single U20 World Cup.

With three starters sidelined with yellow card suspensions and Gedion Zelalem out for the tournament with an injury picked up in the opening game Ramos was forced to switch from his favored 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 formation.

Ramos reinstated Tommy Redding at center back beside captain Erik Palmer-Brown and turned to Justen Glad at right fullback. The absence of Derrick Jones, who established himself as a regular in the side after taking over for Zelalem forced Ramos to rely on Tyler Adams and Eryk Williamson in the center of the park and tireless duo successfully took on the work of three men.

Jeremy Ebobisse got the nod up top along with Sargent and while the 2017 Portland Timbers draftee was slow to get into the match he arrived in style with a blasted goal in the 64th minute when he took a pass from Sargent and turned and fired the U.S. into a 2-0 lead. Less than a minute later Lennon ran onto an exquisite chip from Williamson before beating the New Zealand keeper to make it 3-0, beginning the rout in earnest.

The U.S. added goals from Glad, this time it stood, and substitutes Auston Trusty and Lagos Kunga to secure the largest margin of victory for the American men at a U20 World Cup since a different group of Americans defeated Turkey by the same score at the 1993 tournament in Australia.

Next up for the U.S. is a quarterfinal match against a well rested Venezuela side who have had their feet up since topping Japan two days ago, albeit in extra time.

Venezuela has yet to concede a goal in this tournament having beaten Germany 2-0, Mexico 1-0 and Vanuatu 7-0 in group play before eliminating Japan. And before you dismiss that touchdown over Vanuatu consider that the South Pacific Island nation lost to both Mexico and Germany in close 3-2 encounters.

In other Round of 16 results Portugal knocked off the home team, South Korea, 3-1, Uruguay edged Saudi Arabia 1-0, Zambia sent Germany packing 4-3 after extra time, Mexico needed an 89th-minute goal to nip Senegal, England got a brace from Everton youngster Ademola Lookman to defeat Costa Rica 2-1, and Italy knocked off tournament favorites France 2-1.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 5 6
NZL 0 0 0

USA – Josh Sargent (Justen Glad) 32th minute
USA – Jeremy Ebobisse (Josh Sargent) 64
USA – Brooks Lennon (Eryk Williamson) 65
USA – Justen Glad (Brooks Lennon) 76
USA – Auston Trusty (Sebastian Saucedo) 84
USA – Lagos Kunga (Luca de la Torre) 90+3

USA: 1-Jonathan Klinsmann; 3-Danny Acosta (2-Auston Trusty, 76), 5-Erik Palmer-Brown (capt.), 4-Tommy Redding, 6-Justen Glad; 20-Luca de la Torre, 8-Tyler Adams, 7-Eryk Williamson, 15-Jeremy Ebobisse (11-Sebastian Saucedo, 79); 19-Josh Sargent, 17-Brooks Lennon (13-Lagos Kunga, 79)
Subs not used: 9-Emmanuel Sabbi, 12-James Marcinkowski, 21-Brady Scott
Not available: 10-Gedion Zelalem, 14-Aaron Herrera, 16-Cameron Carter-Vickers, 18-Derrick Jones,
Head coach: Tab Ramos

NZL: 1-Michael Woud; 3-Sean Liddicoat, 5-Hunter Ashworth (18-Sapreet Singh, 65), 6-Joe Bell (16-Callum McCowatt, 82), 8-Moses Dyer (capt.), 9-Noah Billingsley (11-Henry Cameron, 53), 13-James McGarry, 14-Jack-Henry Sinclair, 15-Reese Cox, 17-Logan Rogerson, 19-Myer Bevan,
Subs not used: 2-Dane Ingham, 4-Luke Johnson, 7-Connor Probert, 12-Cameron Brown, 20-Lucas Imrie, 21-Conor Tracey
Not available: 10-Clayton Lewis
Head coach: Darren Bazeley

Stats Summary: USA / NZL
Shots: 19 / 6
Shots on Goal: 10 / 0
Saves: 0 / 4
Corner Kicks: 10 / 2
Fouls: 9 / 10
Offside: 0 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
NZL –Henry Cameron (caution) 80th minute

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