We start the soccer news with the end of the November international window and the return to the club schedule. For the USMNT, the losses to England and Italy is the latest prelude to an announcement of the new coach. For the players, it's once again assuming that club performance will predict national team opportunity.
In Europe, that puts the pressure on players who aren't getting time with their clubs. That's something The Athletic's Paul Tenorio highlighted in his coverage of the USMNT's loss to Italy in Belgium. It's an interesting situation since those same players would be starting in MLS, with the next coach needing to balance those expectations with the realities of Concacaf. It's Concacaf that's the focus in 2019, with the Gold Cup and the Nations League. For both, the USMNT will once again need to prove that they're the class of Concacaf.
Getting there requires understanding the difference between winning in the region and impressing outside of it. That's the big picture issue for any USMNT transition, including this delayed one. For the players, it means showing that they can fit in a tactical system and hold their place at club level. That's substantially more difficult outside of MLS than in it.
Outside of Concacaf is also an issue, with the UEFA Nations League showing it can produce good games and test teams. That's the purpose, after all, but it was an open question whether or not Europe's national teams would buy in. That's still somewhat open. Germany and France aren't necessarily in crisis after watching the Netherlands win their group. It's the same for Italy and Spain. The stakes might be high in theory, but not necessarily the same as botching EURO qualifying much less the World Cup.
The story in world soccer right now is maximizing those games that count. It creates a different landscape, separation between confederations, and ultimately stresses the need for different approaches at regional and world level. The job of coaching these teams is changing rapidly while the expectation remains the same. For the USMNT, that means winning in Concacaf in 2019 while building to once again compete with the rest of the world in games that count.
American Soccer Now's Brian Sciaretta looks at the USMNT's stoppage time loss to Italy. Goal's Ives Galarcep on the Italy game. Yahoo Sports' Leander Schaerlaeckens looks at Christian Pulisic's emergence in the squad. SI.com's Grant Wahl reported on former Real Madrid and Spain coach Julen Lopetegui not getting an interview for the USMNT job. ESPN has Lopetegui's agent denying an approach to US Soccer about the job. Wahl defended his reporting on social media.
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