Jordan Morris Talks to GotSoccer at U.S. Camp
Jordan Morris Talks to GotSoccer at U.S. Camp avatar

Carson, Ca. – After several uncharacteristic days of rain, the sun finally won out last Saturday presenting us with a stereotypically perfect Southern California day at the StubHub Center.

The StubHub Center, home to the Los Angeles Galaxy and now the San Diego, sorry L.A. Chargers, stood behind us at the end of a palm tree-lined drive surrounded on either side by playing fields.

The setting at the Glenn “Mooch” Myernick field was idyllic as 32 players more or less, waged a friendly/serious all out war to catch the eye of the new/old boss, Bruce Arena.

Arena (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Arena during the training session. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati has dubbed this Arena, Bruce 2.0 and open practices like this one seem to indicate a new era of clarity following five years spent squinting through the opaque haze under Arena’s predecessor.

Standing pitchside after Ubering out from downtown L.A. I stood amongst a small group of media taking in U.S. MNT training while a decent smattering of fans was welcomed to watch from just beyond the chain link fence.

No state secrets were revealed as a result of this new transparency, what was learned, however, was just how badly this group of MLSers wanted to be out on that field, fighting for a place on the national team.

Arena divided the players into four groups and let them have at it. I spoke one on one with Jordan Morris afterward and the 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year told me there is “a good energy surrounding the group, obviously, with a new coaching staff guys are excited to get in and try to prove that they belong here.”

After receiving his first call-ups under Jurgen Klinsmann while still attending Stanford University, Morris was left off of the U.S. MNT that took on the best that South America and CONCACAF had to offer last summer. Given the rapid rise Morris had enjoyed with the national team I asked the 22-year-old if he had been surprised by Klinsmann’s snub.

“It’s always your goal to get called into tournaments like Copa America,” Morris said, “but I understood. There were a lot of good forwards and that’s ok, it just added a little bit of fuel to my fire to try and get back.”

Morris slide tackle Bradley during training. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Morris slide tackle Bradley during training. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The way Morris was flying around Myernick Field only underscored what he told me when he said, “now that I’m back hopefully I prove that I belong here and try to get a few more minutes on the field.”

Morris was just one of several players who impressed on the morning that I attended training. Some highlights included a Jermaine Jones goal off of a bicycle kick that was set up by a lovely chip from transitioning fullback Graham Zusi.

Greg Garza and youngster Keegan Rosenberry also impressed from the fullback position while Juan Agudelo scored a couple of goals that not too many other U.S. players are capable of. Jozy Altidore banged home a couple of goals as well and was also involved in an interesting exchange of challenges with Columbus Crew midfielder Wil Trapp.

In the first action the TFC forward cleanly dispossessed Trapp with the ease of an overzealous parent at a father-son game. But Trapp showed his mettle moments later when he went back at the big striker, clipping Altidore’s heels with a tackle of questionable legality while sending a message of his own.

All the while Arena and assistant coach/son Kenny, shouted instructions and encouragement at the players from either end of the pitch, the younger Arena looking like a time-lapse image of his father while also sounding virtually the same.

After, Bruce roamed among the recovering players offering aid and comfort. Leaning down to give a pat on the shoulder to Agudelo, then asking Chad Marshall, “how are you doing,” before answering for him. “I know you’d rather be lying on a beach somewhere.”

(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Morris had a hectic 2016.(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

For Morris, after his hectic 2016, national team camp was exactly where he wanted to be. Having turned pro after three years at Stanford, Morris began his rookie season as the third, maybe fourth option in a Seattle attack that featured Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, and Nelson Valdez.

By the time the Sounders raised the MLS Cup, Morris along with mid-season arrival Nicolas Lodeiro was the focal point of the attack that had lost Martin to China, Dempsey to a heart scare and was just then beginning to get something from Valdez.

Standing patiently in his stocking feet on a muddy Myernick Field, Morris told me he “liked being the guy to try and score the goals,” adding, “it helped me grow as a player.” “Coming in,” Morris recalled, “I could kind of pass it off to him (Dempsey), let him do his thing but I kind of did take over a little bit more of that responsibility with him out, so I think it helped me grow and become more confident.”

Morris hopes that new found confidence has been showing through in camp, noting “that the goal in every training camp is to try and prove yourself.”

Minus the European and Mexican-based squad members, Morris and his fellow campers have the chance to make a positive first impression on the new boss and from what I witnessed on that sunny Saturday morning the players on hand are doing just that.

As Morris put, “the guys have been buzzing.” “Everyone,” Morris said, “is very friendly, there is a healthy competition there, people are fighting for spots and I think it’s a good thing.”

The first chance to see how Arena has evaluated this group’s efforts will come in a pair of friendlies at the conclusion of camp. Up first is Serbia on January 29, at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, followed by a showdown against Jamaica in Chattanooga, Tennessee on February 3.

Then it is down to business when the Americans begin the process of trying to dig out of a two-game hole in World Cup Qualifying. On March 24, the U.S. will host Honduras. ESPN is reporting the venue as San Jose’s Avaya Stadium, although U.S. Soccer has yet to confirm.

The Yanks then take to the road to face Panama on February 3. We’ll know a lot more about the fate of the U.S. World Cup bid after this two-game set, and depending on the results, we may see just how committed the U.S. MNT and Bruce Arena are to this whole new openness policy.

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U.S. WNT Great Heather O’Reilly Joins the Arsenal Ladies
U.S. WNT Great Heather O’Reilly Joins the Arsenal Ladies avatar

Former U.S. WNT great Heather O’Reilly has joined the exodus of top-flight North American women’s players to Europe with her move to the Arsenal Ladies Football Club.

Heather O'Reilly (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Heather O’Reilly has had an outstanding international career and will surely be a fans favorite at Arsenal.  (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The 32-year-old O’Reilly ended her national team career last November after racking up an impressive total of 231 caps while winning three Olympic Gold Medals for her country.

Known as the prototypical “chalk on her boots” winger, O’Reilly retired from the U.S. WNT with 47 international goals, including one in her final match against Thailand, but is better known for the crosses that saw her end her U.S. career in fifth place on the all-time national team assist list.

Perhaps the most famous of all of those helpers came when O’Reilly burst past her marker in typical O’Reilly fashion before serving up a perfect cross for Alex Morgan to head home in the 123rd minute of the 4-3 semifinal victory over Canada at the 2012 Olympics.

It was the latest goal ever scored in an Olympic match and it typified O’Reilly’s career. Relentless and selfless, O’Reilly is one of the best-liked players in the women’s game, even as her propensity to do the setup work while leaving the glamor of finishing to more celebrated likes Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan has kept HAO – HAY-O on the edge of the spotlight all these years.

And while the New Jersey native stepped away from the international game she has not lost her enthusiasm for the sport and is expected to return to FC Kansas City and the NWSL when the English season finishes up.

O’Reilly has been with FC Kansas City since 2015 after previous stints with Sky Blue FC and the Boston Breakers of both the WPS and NWSL.

Arsenal Ladies coach Pedro Martinez Losa knows just what he is getting saying of O’Reilly in a club statement, “she is a world-class player and one of the most respected players in the U.S.” “Her determination and character will make a big difference for this club. She will bring here a legacy of values, hard work and professionalism which will also help our young players to develop. It is a privilege for us to be able to bring her to Arsenal Ladies.”

For her part, O’Reilly released this via twitter.

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 21.32.05

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Hall of Famer Rick Davis Talks to GotSoccer
Hall of Famer Rick Davis Talks to GotSoccer avatar

Los Angeles, Ca. – The halls and meeting rooms of the Los Angeles Convention Center were jam-packed last week with a veritable who’s who of American soccer at the annual National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Convention.

That the event was home to the NWSL Draft and the MLS SuperDraft only amplified the phenomenon, with coaches and officials from all of the teams in each league mingling with stars of the game past and present.

photo1Look, there is Eric Wynalda. Was that Tab Ramos who just walked by? Spanish legend Raul? Yep. U.S. WNT 99’er Shannon MacMillan? Check. Jozy Altidore stopped by and both Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann gave talks, as did Rick Davis.

Wait, who is that last one? Rick Davis? He used to go by Rickie. Does that help? No? The face of American soccer and the best American player in the game in the late 1970’s and throughout the 1980’s? Still nothing? Ok, I’ll fill you in.

Davis began his professional soccer career in 1977 with the New York Cosmos. Not the Cosmos 2.0 from the NASL reboot of 2011, and certainly not Cosmos who have just been saved from extinction by a new owner, also saving the NASL, by the way.

No, Davis at 19 years old, was lacing them up alongside Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and the rest of the Cosmos international superstars, and going toe to toe with the likes Johan Cruyff and George Best on a weekly basis in front of crowds of over 70,000 fans at Giants Stadium.

Rick Davis (ISI Photos/Howard Smith)

Rick Davis (ISI Photos/Howard Smith)

Davis was at the NSCAA Convention promoting a soccer based product and was asked to speak on his career. As Davis began his talk about a dozen people occupied the seats in a room meant for a couple of hundred. But Davis was upbeat, friendly, as he invited the group the come closer. Most of the audience, primarily men of a certain age, this reporter included, were well aware of Davis’ career. Some had seen him play live, others on the sporadically broadcast games of that era.

But Davis seemed very much at peace with his place in the U.S. Soccer story. Modesty and self-deprecation marked his presentation and afterward when Davis sat down with GotSoccer there was no hesitation when we asked if Davis felt that he had come along 10 years too soon.

“I don’t,” Davis responded. “There’s a lot of reasons for that,” the former all action midfielder began. “The first is that I want to be realistic about what my abilities were.”

Davis then spoke about the group that followed him. Tab Ramos, John, Harkes, Marcelo Balboa, etc, mainstays of the 1990 team that ended a 40 year U.S. absence from the World Cup, a team that injury and Father Time prevented Davis from being a part of.

“One of the realities that hit me pretty hard when I was playing,” Davis told GotSoccer, “was how good they were, or more specifically, how much better they were coming into that level of the sport at that time than my generation was.”

This new generation told Davis that, “Rick, the end is near,” the former U.S. captain relayed with a chuckle. All these years later Davis said he was ok with that realization.

“I never wanted to be one of those athletes that hung around until the crowd booed him out of the stadium.” Davis shared the moment he knew for certain that it was time to move on.

Tab Ramos (ISI Photos/Brett Whitesell)

Tab Ramos probably was aware of his impact at the time.  (ISI Photos/Brett Whitesell)

“Specifically, there was a single event at a training camp for the national team when Tab was there, that Tab and I had an encounter.” “Again,” Davis explained, “very nondescript, it was just during a scrimmage and Tab ended up taking the ball from me, where all of a sudden it was like, wow!”

Davis called the encounter, “a time ending moment,” before pivoting back to the original question: did Davis regret the timing of his career? “Well,” Davis said, “I don’t know if Rick Davis fits in today’s game.”

Despite the third person reference, Davis revealed a solid sense of perspective saying, “there were a lot of things that I would never want to give up.” Davis referenced his family life with his wife and seven children.

And of his time with the Cosmos, Davis told GotSoccer, “it was a special time for the game, and the Cosmos,” and Davis opined, “I don’t think they’ll ever be duplicated, as a soccer team.”

“So,” Davis summed up, “how do you say you want to give up playing with Pele, Beckenbauer, I mean these were childhood idols of mine.”

Davis, who retired at 32 in 1990 without ever having played in a World Cup seems genuinely content with his legacy and more importantly, happy with his life.

He spoke to his small audience of his love for the game. A game he is still involved in at the youth level. Davis is the former Executive Director of AYSO, whose motto of Everybody Plays is a different approach to the hyper-competitive models of other associations and one that seems to fit Davis’ low-key style.

Davis, the onetime “face of American soccer,” jokes that “I was on the national team when we were lousy.” That the team wasn’t great is true enough. But despite the collapse of the NASL in 1984, leaving most of the American players to compete in a World Cup Qualifying campaign while earning a living playing indoor soccer, the U.S. MNT did come whisker close to qualifying for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

For Davis the team’s 1-0 loss to Costa Rica in May 1985 that eliminated the U.S. from Mexico 1986 counts as one of the two biggest disappointments of his career.

32 years later Davis concedes that accepting that loss, “was very challenging.” “Here’s the story that was supposed to be,” Davis said. “You know, Rick was supposed to enjoy it all these years, you know retired as one of, you know, the best known or whatever American soccer players; after the United States qualifies and he participates in a World Cup.”

The modesty and the self-deprecation are strange bedfellows with the third person references but Davis’ easy smile and relaxed manner render the self-referential moments as more a tick than a personality trait.

Davis’ discussion of his omission from the squad that would go on to represent the U.S at the 1990 World Cup illustrates just that.

Bob Gansler (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Bob Gansler chose to leave Davis out of the 1990 squad.  (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

“Then 1990 came. It was very much the end of my career,” Davis notes, “and Bob Gansler, who is a good friend of mine (and the 1990 U.S. coach) made a decision to not include me on the team.”

“Well,” Davis told GotSoccer at a 32-year remove, “it was the right decision.” “I was coming off of; I had hurt my knee and we had this whole new generation of players that were coming in that were just better.”

“That,” said Davis, “was disappointing. That was one of the disappointments that sometimes you just have to live with,” and Davis concluded with a shrug, “that was one of mine.”

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2017 GotSoccer Connection Schedule
2017 GotSoccer Connection Schedule avatar

Wednesday – February 8th

Donovan will be the be the keynote speaker.

Donovan will be the be the keynote speaker.

6:00 – 7:00 PM – Landon Donovan – “Reflections On My Career (Up Till Now”

7:00 – 9:00 PM – Cocktails and Hors d’oeuvres

Thursday – February 9th

7:45 – 8:45 AM – Breakfast (Provided by GotSoccer)

9:00 – 10:00 AM – Ian Barker – “How To Evaluate Your Coach Education Program”

10:15 – 11:15 AM – Andrew Donnery – “Balancing Board, Paid Staff and Volunteers”

11:30 – 12:30 PM – Jim Cassell – “Yes, The United States Can Win The Men’s World Cup”

12:30 – 1:45 PM – Lunch (Provided by GotSoccer)

2:00 – 3:00 PM – Charlie Slagle – “How To Form A Partnership With A Professional Club”

3:15 – 4:15 PM – Bill Cameron – “Historical Trends In Pricing and Registration”

4:30 – 5:30 PM – James Murray “The Arsenal Brand”

Friday – February 10th


Danielle Slaton will be the final speaker of the event.

7:45 – 8:45 AM – Breakfast (Provided by GotSoccer)

9:00 – 10:00 AM – Hank Steinbrecher – “Where We Have Been, Where We Are Going”

10:15– 11:15 AM – Charlie Shin – “The Importance Of Strategic Planning”

11:30 – 1:00 PM – Danielle Slaton – “Leadership Practices That Work”

1:00 – 2:30 PM – Cocktail Hour Reception

Click here for more information or to book a spot.

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Marsch Not Leaving N.Y. Red Bulls for Austria- But What About Ali Curtis?
Marsch Not Leaving N.Y. Red Bulls for Austria- But What About Ali Curtis? avatar

Los Angeles, Ca. – Perhaps the oddest moment of this year’s MLS SuperDraft occurred before the clock had even begun ticking down on Minnesota United when New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch addressed a handful of very interested reporters in the SuperDraft interview room.

Jesse Marsch (ISI Photos/Howard C Smith)

Jesse Marsch made it clear that he is still the Red Bulls coach.  (ISI Photos/Howard C Smith)

“Since the New Year Year I haven’t been in Salzburg,” Marsch began. “I have been in Portugal with Leipzig, so there’s been no contact with Salzburg.” Marsch’s itinerary was of interest because it had been reported that the New York Red Bulls coach would be leaving the MLS club to assume the same post at Red Bull Salzburg.

Marsch stated plainly, “I’m the New York Red Bulls coach” an assertion he repeated when asked if he had received an offer from the Red Bulls home office.

“No,” Marsch said, “I’m the New York Red Bulls coach. I’ve never, you know this whole thing that came out, I can’t figure out how to place it but nothing’s ever changed, other than now facilitating our relationship with our clubs over there.” But Marsch said firmly, “I’m the New York Red Bulls coach.”

Speculation over Marsch’s status may have begun when he didn’t show up as expected for the MLS Combine which was held in Los Angeles in the days leading up to the SuperDraft. The combine is an annual stop for MLS coaches and executives as they take a final, up close and personal look at players available for selection at the draft.

Marsch explained his absence, as “a tactical decision,” praising his staff as the “best in Major League Soccer.” Marsch continued, saying that he trusted his staff to handle the combine and that “we felt that as a network it was most important for me to spend some time in Leipzig and continue to work with them and make sure that we integrate all of our clubs together in the right way.”

None of this does anything to clear up the deepening mystery surrounding the absence of Ali Curtis, the man who fired a popular and successful coach in Mike Petke, in order to hire Marsch just two seasons ago.

Ali Curtis (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Ali Curtis  cancelled an event at the recent NSCAA Convention.(ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Curtis, whose job security has been called into question in recent days, suddenly departed Los Angeles on Thursday, canceling an event at the NSCAA Convention that houses the SuperDraft without explanation.

To the surprise of absolutely no one Marsch chose not to answer a question on Curtis’ status but given the success that the Red Bulls have enjoyed under Curtis and Marsch, it is difficult to imagine a benign explanation for the seeming banishment of the club’s Sporting Director from the draft.

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MLS SuperDraft Wraps Up in Los Angeles
MLS SuperDraft Wraps Up in Los Angeles avatar

Los Angeles, Ca. – Rumors had swirled around the first two picks in the Friday’s MLS SuperDraft in the days and minutes before expansion clubs Minnesota United and Atlanta United stepped up to the podium at the Los Angeles Convention Center but the newboys defied predictions and held onto their picks.

(ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Rumors were swirling around about who would be there first pick. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

First Minnesota nabbed U.C.L.A. forward Abu Danladi a quick forward who was limited to just 11 games this season at UCLA. The Loons opened the second round by selecting the first goalkeeper of the SuperDraft when they claimed Wake Forest netminder Alec Ferrell.

Minnesota did eventually make its first ever draft day trade when it sent the 25th pick to Philadelphia for the Union’s number 42 selection plus $50,000 in General Allocation Money.

Today marked the first time that MLS released the amount of Allocation money, something of a breakthrough for a league which has struggled with transparency at times. New York City FC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna was asked if this new openness would change how teams operate.

“It depends for each team,” the longtime “Captain America,” began. “I think every team approaches the draft a little bit different – some clubs may not want to do some deals because they’re so low as well and they feel it could be an insult to somebody.” Reyna, whose Manchester City-owned club splashed out $250,000 to acquire the third pick in the draft from Chicago, added that some might say: “why would you trade for 50K instead of taking the player?”

It was something of a replay of 2016 when Chicago selected Jack Harrison with the first pick only to trade him to New York City FC. The same two clubs made this trade today and if Kwame Awuah works out as well as Harrison for NYC then Reyna’s day will have been a success.

Atlanta United picked twice in the first round opting for Syracuse center back Miles Robinson at number two before grabbing German-born midfielder Julian Gressel with the eighth selection of the first round.

Atlanta Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra seemed happy with the haul telling reporters, “we think they are ready to challenge for minutes now.”

With Jeremy Ebobisse somewhat surprisingly still available at the four spot Houston decided to cash in, sending the 19-year-old to Portland for the number 10 pick (Joe Holland) and $100,000 in General Allocation Money and a 2017 international roster spot.

Breaking the podium norm of politely thanking Mom and Dad and club, etc. was the New York Red Bulls first round selection Zeiko Lewis, who made it clear that he was unhappy to have lasted until the 17th pick, an impression he underlined to the press afterward.

Heiko Lewis (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Heiko Lewis made it clear that he was not happy with been left to 17th. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

The Bermudan midfielder, listed at 5’6” noted that “I’ve been overlooked my whole life. I’m not the tallest of people, as everybody can see, so everyone just looks over my head.” Lewis seems intent on proving people wrong, a trait that may well endear him to Red Bulls fans. He certainly did that when he called out his new club’s chief rivals, NYCFC, even if he considers Jack Harrison, “a brother.”

Brother or not, Lewis stoked the Hudson River Rivalry with the team’s battle cry, “New York is red.”

One interesting feature of this draft was the back and forth between the host cities two teams, one which does not take the field until 2018, LAFC. That fact didn’t keep supporters of the new kids on the block from engaging in some verbal jousting with the fans of the Galaxy, even if the Galaxy made zero picks in Friday’s two rounds.

The Galaxy did make some news on Friday, however, trading veteran defender A.J. De la Garza to Houston in exchange for $125,000 in General Allocation Money and $50,000 in Targeted Allocation Money.

De la Garza won three MLS Cups with L.A. but becomes a victim of the Galaxy rebuild that has seen Landon Donovan, Steven Gerrard, and Bruce Arena move on since the end of last season.

The remaining two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft will be held on January 17, via conference call.

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From Ghana to Number 1 in MLS SuperDraft – Abu Danladi Earned the “Right to Dream”
From Ghana to Number 1 in MLS SuperDraft – Abu Danladi Earned the “Right to Dream” avatar

Los Angeles, Ca. – With two new clubs in tow, Major League Soccer brought the SuperDraft west to Los Angeles and in this city that attracts dreamers intent on stardom from all corners of the globe, one of those new teams, Minnesota United FC, made a member of the literal Dream Academy the first pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

UCLA's Abu Danladi was the first pick of the MLS draft. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

UCLA’s Abu Danladi was the first pick of the MLS draft. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Abu Danladi left his home country of Ghana at the age of 16 for Santa Barbara, California after going through the Right to Dream program, a program started in 1999 to provide talented children from West Africa with the opportunity to fulfill their potential, through football, education, and character.

Today, shortly after having his name called by MLS Commissioner Don Garber and looking very much like a young man who has seen at least one of his dreams come true, Danladi met with the assembled soccer press.

“It was a big transition from Ghana,” the former UCLA forward began. “Everything is different culture wise from Ghana to the U.S.” Danladi explained, “but it was nice.” “I adjusted really quick to living in the Santa Barbara area, everybody was really nice, really helpful. They were willing to help me when I needed help and it was good.”

From the podium, Danladi had made sure to thank his host family, backstage he was asked to talk about his countrymen in California. “Yes, there’s a lot of Ghanaians who went through Santa Barbara, UCSB and the Right to Dream program and they have been big role models to me, they’ve been here before me. It was easier to adjust” Danladi noted, “because there was so many of them, many of the Right to Dream guys and they’ve been great, they’ve been successful.”

Danladi quickly found success of his own on the soccer fields of Santa Barbara where the recent arrival starred for the Santa Barbara Strikers, as well as at Dunn High School, where he was acknowledged as the 2013-14 Gatorade Boys Player of the Year.

Three years at UCLA followed and now this; the young man from Takoradi, Ghana, is the number one pick in the MLS SuperDraft. The Right to Dream? Indeed.

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Boston Selects Lavelle With 1st Pick in NWSL Draft
Boston Selects Lavelle With 1st Pick in NWSL Draft avatar

As Commissioner Jeff Plush kicked off the fifth annual National Women’s Soccer League player draft just past noon on Thursday afternoon in the expansive ballroom of the JW Marriott in Los Angeles it was impossible not to reflect back on the first NWSL draft held in Indianapolis in 2013.

There is no comparisons to where the draft is now and to where it began. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

There is no comparisons to where the draft is now and to where it began. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

For that inaugural event, the league tweeted the selections from one small room crowded with club and league officials while the press sat huddled nearby in a similarly cramped space awaiting word of each of the clubs selections.

The rooms have gradually grown bigger and this year in L.A. NWSL presented itself as a league confident in its place in the American sporting firmament.

The question is, of course, is the league’s confidence warranted?

Sermanni was upbeat about the new stadium but also concerned about Morgan's absence for part of the season. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Sermanni was upbeat about the new stadium but also concerned about Morgan’s absence for part of the season. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

I spoke to Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni immediately prior to the draft and the former U.S. WNT manager was, as always, forthright in his responses.

As Orlando enters its second year it will move into the stadium that it will share with MLS side Orlando SC. After finishing second in the league in attendance The Pride will likely see an increase as fans flock to the new venue, but all is not well.

Why? Because Orlando’s marquee player, U.S. WNT star Alex Morgan will miss the early part of the Pride season as she plays out a six-month loan with French powerhouse Lyon.

Dunn who was the NWSL's 1st pick in 2014 and MVP of 2015 move to Chelsea is a huge loss to the league.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Dunn who was the NWSL’s 1st pick in 2014 and MVP of 2015 move to Chelsea is a huge loss to the league.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Sermanni admits “it was difficult” to lose Morgan, even temporarily. Morgan’s move signaled a mini-exodus when her fellow U.S. WNT striker Crystal Dunn signed on with Chelsea’s women’s team. And Sermanni said it is “a big blow that Buchanan (Kadeisha) and Ashley Lawrence have gone overseas.” Sermanni was lamenting the loss to NWSL of the two 21-year-old Canadian National Team players Kadeisha Buchanan, to PSG, and her West Virginia Universty teammate Lawrence, to Lyon, two players who would have gone very high on Thursday.

Sermanni doesn’t believe that the defections reflect badly on NWSL, rather that these moves “highlight the competition we have in the women’s game worldwide.”

Asked about the young Canadian duo Commissioner Plush noted that “players earn the right to make decisions and do what’s best for themselves.” Plush admitted that the league “would be thrilled to have Ashley and Kadeisha in this league” but the commish was quick to add, “I also know that there are a lot of great players that joined this league today” and Plush continued with a hint of defiance, “I have a lot of confidence that we are still the best league in the world.”

North Carolina Courage's Head Coach Paul Riley and Aaran lLines during the draft. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

North Carolina Courage’s Head Coach Paul Riley and Aaran lLines during the draft. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Plush was addressing a relative swarm of reporters when he was asked, inevitably to speak about North Carolina, the new home of the 2016 NWSL Champion Western New York Flash.

The Flash are, of course, now the Carolina Cougars, having been purchased by North American Soccer League team North Carolina FC.

NWSL has positioned itself as a progressive league and it has troubled some supporters to see the Flash relocate to the state that is home to HB2, commonly referred to as the “bathroom bill” considered by civil rights groups and LGBTQ advocates to be the most anti-LGBT bill in the country.

Plush was asked what concrete steps the league would take in regard to the bill and the while the commissioner called himself open to ideas, he summarized the league’s position in this way. “We are a league of inclusiveness, and diversity, and opportunity, and equality, and that means operating when it isn’t easy to operate.” “We are not naive about this” Plush underlined “but I have 100% confidence in the North Carolina ownership group, 100% confidence in the governor, with the community in North Carolina, and we’ll get after it.”

Rose Lavelle's selection was no major surprise. (ISI Photos)

Rose Lavelle’s selection was no major surprise. (ISI Photos)

So, what about the draft? Unlike last year’s trade-filled first round this year’s opening round proceeded in an orderly fashion, although it was dominated by the Boston Breakers, who owned four of the 10 first round picks.

Rose Lavelle is a skilled midfielder out of Wisconsin who was part of the squad for the U.S. WNT Victory Tour after the 2015 World Cup, so her selection at the number one spot was hardly a shocker. Coming off of an epically bad last place season Boston had needs all over the field. In 20 games The Breakers finished last in goals scored with 14, last in goals conceded with an unsightly 47, which made for a staggering -33 goal difference.

Boston looks like they have a much more competitive squad for 2017 with such strong draft picks. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Boston looks like they have a much more competitive squad for 2017 with such strong draft picks. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

It was no small task but Breakers President of Soccer Operations Lee Billiard and Coach Matt Beard dove straight in. Lavelle will be joined in the midfield by Morgan Andrews, the third overall selection and a pair of forwards taken at eight and nine. First Boston took UC Berkeley attacker Ifeoma Onumonu, one of six first-round picks to attend California colleges, with three coming from USC, before taking local product Margaret Purce, out of Harvard, making her the highest selection in NWSL history from an Ivy league school.

- Round 1 –

No. 1 – Rose Lavelle – Wisconsin (Boston Breakers)
No. 2 – Ashley Hatch – BYU (North Carolina Courage)
No. 3 – Morgan Andrews – USC (Boston Breakers)
No. 4 – Kayla Mills – USC (Sky Blue FC)
No. 5 – Christina Gibbons – Duke (FC Kansas City)
No. 6 – Maddie Bauer – Stanford (Seattle Reign FC)
No. 7 – Darian Jenkins – UCLA (North Carolina Courage)
No. 8 – Ifeoma Onumonu – CAL (Boston Breakers)
No. 9 – Margaret Purce – Harvard (Boston Breakers)
No. 10 – Miranda Freeman – USC (Sky Blue FC)

– Round 2 –

No. 11 – Michele Vasconcelos – BYU (Chicago Red Stars)*
No. 12 – Morgan Proffitt – Marquette (Chicago Red Stars)
No. 13 – Toni Payne – Duke (FC Kansas City)
No. 14 – Rachel Hill – UCONN (Portland Thorns FC)
No. 15 – Jane Campbell – Stanford (Houston Dash)
No. 16 – Katie Johnson – USC (Seattle Reign FC)#
No. 17 – Stephanie Ribeiro – UCONN (FC Kansas City)
No. 18 – Savannah Jordan – Florida (Portland Thorns FC)&
No. 19 – Lindsay Agnew – Ohio State (Washington Spirit)
No. 20 – Claire Wagner – Clemson (North Carolina Courage)&

– Round 3 –

No. 21 – Tyler Lussi – Princeton (Portland Thorns FC)@
No. 22 – Danica Evans – Colorado (Orlando Pride)
No. 23 – Kailen Sheridan – Clemson (Sky Blue FC)
No. 24 – Madison Tiernan – Rutgers (Sky Blue FC)
No. 25 – Alexis Shaffer – Virginia (FC Kansas City)
No. 26 – Arielle Ship – CAL (Seattle Reign FC)
No. 27 – Jaycie Johnson – Nebraska (North Carolina Courage)&
No. 28 – Nichelle Prince – Ohio State (Houston Dash)**
No. 29 – Meggie Dougherty-Howard – Florida (Washington Spirit)
No. 30 – Catrina Atanda – Clemson (Sky Blue FC)

– Round 4 –

No. 31 – Sammy Jo Prudhomme – USC (Boston Breakers)
No. 32 – Nickolette Driesse – Penn State (Orlando Pride)
No. 33 – Erin Smith – Rutgers (Houston Dash)
No. 34 – McKenzie Meehan – Boston College (Sky Blue FC)
No. 35 – Rashida Beal – Minnesota (FC Kansas City)
No. 36 – Cameron Castleberry – North Carolina (Washington Spirit)
No. 37 – Kristen McNabb – Virginia (Seattle Reign FC)
No. 38 – Hayley Dowd – Boston College (Boston Breakers)
No. 39 – Lauren Kaskie – UCLA (Chicago Red Stars)
No. 40 – Caroline Flynn – Nebraska (Portland Thorns FC)

Draft Day trades:
* = Chicago Red Stars acquired the No. 11 overall selection from the Boston Breakers in exchange for the Red Stars’ Rd. 2 pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft and a 2018 international roster spot.
# = Seattle Reign FC acquired the No. 16 overall selection from Chicago Red Stars in exchange for Seattle’s Rd. 1 pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft.
& = Portland Thorns FC traded up to acquire the No. 18 overall selection from the North Carolina Courage, who picked up the No. 20 and No. 27 picks in exchange.
@ = Portland Thorns FC acquired the No. 21 overall selection from the Chicago Red Stars, sending their Rd. 2 and Rd. 3 picks in the 2018 NWSL Draft to the Red Stars.
** = Houston Dash acquired the No. 28 overall selection from the Chicago Red Stars in exchange for a Rd. 2 pick in the 2018 Draft.

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It’s Official – 48 Team World Cup is On the Way
It’s Official – 48 Team World Cup is On the Way avatar

Cynicism tends to be the default reaction where FIFA is involved, to see dollar signs where the organization offers platitudes about “spreading the game” and cynically is largely how FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s expanded 48 nation World Cup has been received, as just another money grab by the perennially scandal-plagued body.

Gianni Infantino (ISI Photos/Kieran McManus)

Gianni Infantino (center) has been seen as a way to give big money countries such as China a chance of qualifying.  (ISI Photos/Kieran McManus)

Complete details are still emerging but it is known that the change from 32 teams will take place for the 2026 World Cup, which the U.S. is favored to host, possibly in combination with Mexico, Canada, or even both. The 48 teams will make up 16 three-team groups, with two teams from each group advancing to the knockout rounds.

In the President’s defense, it is worth noting that the tournament has been limited to 32 countries since it was last expanded from 24 teams to 32 for the 1998 World Cup in France, so perhaps it is time to open it up.

But 48? Looking at this from a U.S. perspective a couple of things jump out. Firstly, with CONCACAF expected to add as many as three World Cup berths for a total of 6.5, qualification should be easier than ever before. (And yes, despite an 0-2 record in the HEX the current system is pretty cushy for the Americans).

Mexico should also qualify into perpetuity in a 48 team Cup, but it has to be asked, does the quality of play in CONCACAF really warrant adding three more teams to FIFA’s marquee event?

Klinsmann may have been spared  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Klinsmann may have been spared if more qualifying spots were available.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

And does such an expansion disincentivize the Americans to improve? Think about it this way. Fear of missing out on World Cup Qualification prompted a reluctant Sunil Gulati to fire Jurgen Klinsmann. If there were two or three more spots on hand in Russia in two years time, would Gulati have pulled the plug?

And of course, it was just this past summer that complaints of bad matches and mismatches surrounded the expanded Euro’s, even as some of the small fries added a breath of fresh air to the tournament both on and off the pitch.

Additional knocks on the new plan? How tough can it be to advance when two-thirds of the teams will do just that? According to SI’s Grant Wahl, out of concern for a surfeit of draws FIFA may elect to go straight to pk’s after 90 minutes, and does anyone really want more games decided in that manner?

Then again cynicism is always an easy out, and perhaps Infantino wasn’t tallying votes while dollar bills, pound notes, and Euros of all stripes danced through his mind as he conjured this plan to admit additional nations to the World’s quadrennial celebration of the beautiful game.


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Hyndman Loaned to Rangers – Will Zelalem Join Pulisic at Dortmund?
Hyndman Loaned to Rangers – Will Zelalem Join Pulisic at Dortmund? avatar

Two young U.S. midfielders are in the news today with 20-year-old Emerson Hyndman joining Rangers from Bournemouth on loan while 19-year-old Gedion Zelalem is reported by ESPN to be close to leaving Arsenal and joining rising American star Christian Pulisic at Borussia Dortmund.

Emerson Hyndman in action (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Emerson Hyndman in action for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Hyndman is following a well-worn path to Glasgow for American players first trod by Claudio Reyna, known as “Captain America” by Rangers fans, all the way to Zelalem, who played on loan for the rebounding Scottish giants last year and including DaMarcus Beasley, Maurice Edu, and Alejandro Bedoya.

This pair of moves, assuming the Zelalem move happens, highlight just how difficult it can be for young players, and not just young Americans to break through in top divisions around the world.

In a frank interview with GotSoccer in Miami last May prior to making his decision to sign with the Cherries, Hyndman discussed his what goes into making such an important decision.

Big clubs like Manchester United, Rangers rivals Celtic, Borussia Dortmund, and AC Milan were mentioned at the time as potential landing spots for the smooth passing midfielder and GotSoccer and wondered if the young man’s head would be turned by the attention from the bigger clubs.

Here is what Hyndman told us at the time. “Yeah, that’s another big thing.” “There’s different sorts of clubs, different places, different leagues, there are different paths you can take. You take a bigger club and possibly not play as much, maybe go on loan or you can settle for a good solid club, maybe not fighting for the same things but you’ll get more chances along the way.”

Hyndman admitted then that the process is difficult. “I feel like I need to make the best decision for me, personally and that’s going to take a little bit of time. I’ll take this time, discuss it with my family, people around me that really help me make these decisions and we’ll see.”

Hyndman elected to sign with Bournemouth but a pre-season injury didn’t help his cause and the challenge of breaking into Eddie Howe’s midfield may have been a bit tougher than the Texas native suspected.

Now Hyndman moves onto Rangers for the remainder of the season in search of steady playing time. Zelalem made a similar journey north from London last season, playing 21 times for the Glaswegians. The loan was generally regarded as a success but the lanky midfielder has been unable to convert that experience into first team chances with Arsenal.

Gedion Zelalem . (ISI Photos/Ben Queenborough)

Median Zelalem in action for Arsenal. . (ISI Photos/Ben Queenborough)

As at Arsenal Zelalem would face stiff competition for playing time on talented and deep Dortmund roster, although as a central midfielder he doesn’t figure to go head to head with Pulisic, whom BVB has used almost exclusively as a wide player, for playing time.

As we have seen in too many cases to recount here, a player can go from super prospect to has been in with alarming speed in Europe’s top league’s and only time will tell if these moves are the right ones for the young Americans.

Hyndman seemed well aware of that ticking clock when he spoke to GotSoccer in Miami last May and his words then resonate today for both he and Zelalem.

“I’m 20 years old now, I’m not 18 anymore,” Hyndman told GotSoccer poolside in Miami eight months ago, before adding with a quiet laugh, “I’m moving on into big boy years.”

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Neptune Beach, Fl – Gavin Owen-Thomas, Founder and President of GotSoccer announced that Joe Cummings and Hank Steinbrecher will be consulting with GotSoccer on a number of projects throughout the next year. Cummings of Cummings Management Group and Steinbrecher of Touchline Consulting, will be concentrating on strategic planning, business development and international market opportunities.

Joe Cummings (L) and Hank Steinbrecher (R)

GotSoccer welcomes Joe Cummings (L) and Hank Steinbrecher (R)

Cummings and Steinbrecher have both served in executive positions throughout their careers, Cummings as CEO of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and Steinbrecher as CEO/Secretary General of U.S. Soccer.

Owen-Thomas stated, “with Joe and Hank we have two of the most respected executives in our sport and their experience will serve GotSoccer well throughout the coming years.”

Cummings added, “Hank and I have frequently discussed working together on a project to develop a global strategy and GotSoccer provides us an incredible opportunity to do just that.”

Steinbrecher expressed that “GotSoccer is a leader in our industry and to work with a company with such vision is a project with real interest for me.”

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NWSL Champions Reportedly Moving from Western New York to North Carolina
NWSL Champions Reportedly Moving from Western New York to North Carolina avatar

Less than three months removed from winning the NWSL Championship it appears that the Western New York Flash are set to abandon New York for North Carolina.

The Flash celebrating their win. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The Flash celebrating their win. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Excelle Sports and 442 are reporting that North Carolina FC has acquired the Flash, who played in Rochester while training in Buffalo, with the intention of moving the title holders to North Carolina and reports that the former Carolina RailHawks have scheduled a major press conference on Monday, January 9, would seem to lend credence to the story.

North Carolina FC rebranded just last month, changing its name from the RailHawks and stating its ambition to become an MLS franchise. NCFC currently plays in the third division USL and had also let it be known that it was in the market for an NWSL team.

That it has come so quickly and through relocation rather than expansion is surely a surprise. Also a bit unexpected is that the league is setting up shop in North Carolina, a state mired in controversy over House Bill 2 (HB2), often referred to as the bathroom bill” and considered by civil rights groups and LGBTQ advocates to be the most anti-LGBT bill in the country

The bill has caused the NBA to pull its All-Star Game from the state and the NCAA followed suit with its decision to move all seven previously awarded championship events from North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year. The NCAA announced that its Board of Governors had taken this decision “because of the cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections.”

HB2 requires transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate, rather than their self-identified gender.

Jeff Plush (ISI Photos/Jose Argueta)

Jeff Plush will surely have to answer the concerns regarding the choice of relocation. (ISI Photos/Jose Argueta) 

North Carolina FC owner Steven Malik and NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush will surely be asked about HB2 on Monday.

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Arena Calls 32 to January Camp
Arena Calls 32 to January Camp avatar

Bruce Arena named the first roster of his rebooted U.S. MNT tenure on Thursday, inviting 32 MLS players to Carson, California for what is shaping up to be the most important January camp in recent memory.

With crucial World Cup Qualifiers rapidly approaching versus Honduras and Panama in March the players called in will be intent on impressing the new boss and earning a spot absent European and Mexican based players who are unavailable due to club commitments.

Dempsey was not selected but Arena explained why. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Dempsey was not selected but Arena explained why. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Notably absent from the group is Clint Dempsey, who Arena had previously indicated would be invited. Speaking via a U.S. Soccer stream Arena said that Dempsey isn’t ready just yet but is making “great progress” and may be available for selection in March.

Arena also said that Dempsey’s 21-year-old Seattle teammate, midfielder Cristian Roldan is one to watch for later in the year and called New England creator Lee Nguyen “a very good player” who was edged out of the midfield by the competition.

Arena named Sacha Kljestan, Darlington Nagbe, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s favorite whipping boy Benny Feilhaber as players competing to fill the offensive midfield position that Nguyen also plays.

Fullback is another position that Arena has called a position of need and this roster reflects as much.

As promised DaMarcus Beasley has been given a chance to revive his international career, although Run DMB is just one of three left-sided defenders called to Carson. Recent Atlanta loan signing Greg Garza is another looking to re-energize his national team prospects while DC United’s Taylor Kemp rounds out the hopefuls and is perhaps the biggest surprise on this roster.

Longtime U.S. servant Greg Zusi has been called in for an audition as a right-sided defender despite spending his entire career in the Sporting Kansas City midfield and he will battle veteran Seattle veteran Brad Evans and impressive Philadelphia defender and 2016 Rookie of the Year candidate Keegan Rosenberry for time on the right flank during camp.

Kekuta Manneh has been selected for the U.S.(ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Kekuta Manneh has been selected for the U.S.(ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Some interesting names on the roster include Sounders keeper Stefan Frei and Vancouver attacker Kekuta Manneh, neither of whom is eligible just yet to play for the U.S.

Arena will get a chance to see these players in action in a pair of friendlies after camp wraps. First up is Serbia on January 29 at 1 pm PT at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif.

Arena will get one last look at this group in a (semi) competitive environment when the Reggae Boyz come to Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee on February 3.

Then Arena 2 begins in earnest with the March World Cup Qualifiers.

March 24, 2017: U.S MNT vs Honduras at Home at a site TBD.
March 28, 2017: U.S. MNT vs Panama Away site also TBD.

GOALKEEPERS (5): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Stefan Frei (Seattle Sounders FC), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)

DEFENDERS (10): DaMarcus Beasley (Unattached), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Greg Garza (Atlanta United FC), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Taylor Kemp (D.C. United), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders FC), Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

MIDFIELDERS (12): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Jermaine Jones (Unattached), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Kekuta Manneh (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)

FORWARDS (5): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

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Bruce Arena is Getting the Band Back Together – Names Staff
Bruce Arena is Getting the Band Back Together – Names Staff avatar

Bruce Arena is getting the band back together. With less than a week remaining before he begins his second stint in charge of the U.S. MNT Arena has named his national team coaching staff, and it is full of familiar faces.

Bruce Arena (R) during the World Cup 2006 match Italy v USA. (Getty Images)

Bruce Arena (R) during the World Cup 2006 match Italy v USA. (Getty Images)

With the U.S. team Arena is taking over in a hole after dropping the first two games of the Hex, the coach’s mandate is straightforward. Qualify for the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

It is no surprise then that Arena, who previously managed the U.S. Men from 1998-2006, would turn to the familiar.

Dave Sarachan leads the newly named staff, all of whom worked under Arena until recently with the L.A. Galaxy. Sarachan is by far the most experienced member of the group, having served as the head coach of the Chicago Fire from 2002 through 2007.

Arena looks like to be sticking with the staff he knows well. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Arena looks like to be sticking with the staff he knows well. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Sarachan is joined on the Arena 2.0 staff by Arena’s son Kenny Arena, Pat Noonan, and goalkeeper coach Matt Reis. Another old U.S. Soccer hand will also be rejoining the fold with today’s announcement that former U20 coach Thomas Rongen has come aboard as the National Team’s Chief Scout.

Arena has yet to release the January camp roster, although with players reporting to Carson, California on January 10, it is fair to say that the players have been notified by now.

Since taking over for Jurgen Klinsmann Arena hasn’t been especially secretive regarding potential camp invitees naming Clint Dempsey, Chris Pontius, Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman, Gyasi Zardes, Dax McCarty, Benny Feilhaber, Darlington Nagbe, Keegan Rosenberry, Jordan Morris, and Juan Agudelo at a Facebook event in late December.

Arena has said that he wants to bring Dempsey in for a look after the second all-time leading U.S. NMT goalscorer missed the end of Seattle’s MLS Cup winning season with an irregular heartbeat.

Beasley (ISI Photos/Matt West)

Beasley  looks like he could make a comeback.(ISI Photos/Matt West)

Arena also raised a few eyebrows when he revealed that veteran DaMarcus Beasley is back in the fullback picture and that he intends to bring Kekuta Manneh to Carson if the Vancouver Whitecap speedster’s U.S. paperwork can be concluded in time.

Sticking with January camp tradition the U.S. MNT will wrap up with a friendly match. This year the Americans will face Serbia, January 29, at Qualcomm Stadium in San Jose followed by a CONCACAF showdown with Jamaica on February 3, in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the first two games of Arena’s second go-round with the U.S. MNT.

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