US Soccer Players https://ussoccerplayers.com The official site of the USMNT Soccer Players with soccer news, schedule, statistics, players, interviews, and exclusive stories. 2019-09-13T18:06:09Z hourly 1 2000-01-01T12:00+00:00 The magic of playoff implications https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/09/the-magic-of-playoff-implications.html 2019-09-13T18:00:32Z minnesota united player darwin quintero

By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Sep 13, 2019) US Soccer Players - "Playoff implications" is like magic. The phrase immediately increases the intensity of regular-season games that would otherwise lack for intrigue. It's fair to say that it takes too long for Major League Soccer's regular season to get to the point where the "playoff implications" magic cascades down over proceedings. When it finally shows up, games become meaningful, fraught, and often, surprising.

Week 28 of the MLS arrives with playoff implications aplenty. Nearly every game will have some bearing on the chase for either playoff berths, seeding, or both. Fresh off a round of four games in midweek, both the Eastern and Western Conferences have key games that will matter just a little bit more.

The marquee game of the weekend has Philadelphia in contention in the East hosting LAFC on their way to the Supporters' Shield. NYCFC passed the Union for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with Atlanta United looming. LAFC has already sewn up the number one seed out west and does not have any competition for the points title. If the Union have any hope of catching New York City, they'll need a win against the best team in the league.

Despite the lack of importance for LAFC beyond the quest for a record points total, Bob Bradley's team has reason to want to send a message and return to form ahead of the final few games of the regular season. LAFC scraped a point from a visit to Orlando last Saturday night with a skeleton crew lineup heavily impacted by the international window.

The league's best player in 2019 and the odds-on favorite to win MLS could make his return to the field after a few weeks sidelined by a hamstring injury. There's no denying that LAFC missed Carlos Vela on the field in a surprising 2-0 loss to Minnesota United at Banc of California Stadium on September 2 or in the 2-2 draw against the Lions.

The Union have points to play for in the quest for a top seed in the East. They'll also want to build on the confidence they earned beating Atlanta United in Chester last weekend. That victory felt momentous, like a coming-of-age for a club marked more by a cohesive mentality and contributions all over the field than by star power.

The inter-conference theme holds in another of the weekend's big matches. DC United crosses the country to face the Portland Timbers at Providence Park.

United arrives off a two-week break over the international period. That should mean they'll be plenty fresh but could carry some rust into the game. Wayne Rooney hasn't played in a meaningful match in three weeks. An illness and a two-game suspension for a red card against the New York Red Bulls on August 21 kept him off the field.

DC's swoon began before Rooney's absence and ended before his return. United beat Montreal ahead of the international break that hit the brakes on a run that had them clinging desperately to their playoff hopes. Now in 5th-place, DC needs points to reclaim a top-four position and earn a home playoff game.

It's the same scenario for the Timbers on Sunday. The defending Western Conference champions are smack in the midst of a run of home games that will determine their shot at the postseason. With the schedule so backloaded with home dates, Portland is a near-lock to make the playoffs.

Predictions don't come true without some real-world quality and a little bit of luck. Portland's 2-1 win over Sporting on September displayed both. After going down midway through the second-half, the Timbers scored two goals in the game's final 10 minutes to grab three precious points. Failing to add three more points against DC isn't acceptable.

It will be interesting to see who plays the aggressor at Providence Park. Neither club is particularly interested in taking the bulk of possession at the moment. Portland, because the Timbers are most devastating on the counterattack. DC both for that reason and because a muscular defend-first mentality is the simplest approach to take on the road playing on Portland's artificial turf.

There's another game on the schedule worth the attention. 2nd-place in the West is on the line with the playoff teams behind LAFC separated by four points. That means every week promises a reshuffling of the places fighting to get into the postseason party and earn a chance to host a soiree if and when they get there.

Minnesota United faces Real Salt Lake with a chance to reclaim the number two spot in the West. That would help solidify their credentials for dark horse MLS Cup contender in what promises to be a chaotic single-elimination tournament. The Loons have built something special at Allianz Field this year. They're desperate to reward their fans with a playoff game in that building.

United welcomes RSL to town following a disappointing 2-0 loss in Houston. The Dynamo won't make the playoffs and are largely playing for jobs in 2020, making the loss for Minnesota tough to swallow. Both teams will have back in the fold a bevy of internationals. That should help Minnesota cover for Darwin Quintero if he doesn't return from an injury that kept him out of the lineup against Houston.

Real Salt Lake will quickly reintegrate three important attackers in Sam Johnson, Albert Rusnak, and Corey Baird. RSL shutout San Jose without those players on Wednesday. They're a better team with them in the lineup, especially on the road against a solid Loons defense.

Both teams have underdog narratives to point to if they need any motivation to go for the win. Minnesota's slow buildup to playoff contender means questions remain. RSL is working to prove that the shock firing of Mike Petke won't upend their season.

These games count the same, but they mean more. That's the magic of playoff implications in a league where regular season is a qualifying tournament. All involved knew that going in, and now is when they can make their seasons count. That's what elevates the final two months of the MLS regular season. It makes everything more tense, more important, and more interesting. Like magic.


Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: matchfitusa@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/davisjsn.

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Back from break in the Premier League https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/09/back-from-break-in-the-premier-league.html 2019-09-13T14:30:45Z premier-league-logo-new

The soccer news starts with week 5 in the Premier League and a simple question. Do we really know much about the 2019-20 season? The September international break does a quality job in disrupting any momentum one way or the other for the start of the Premier League season. Teams already in trouble may be able to regroup. Teams already stockpiling points may wonder why the games need to stop.

Liverpool is top of the table after four games on the maximum 12 points with Manchester City in second due to their 2-2 home draw with Spurs. Neither of them face tremendous difficulties with the restart of the season. Liverpool hosts Newcastle and Manchester City is at Norwich City. Making sure their returning internationals are healthy and ready to resume the club campaign is the extent of their problems entering the fifth matchday.

It's Leicester City in 3rd-place and Crystal Palace in 4th currently raising the banner for Premier League disruption. Both would've probably preferred to keep that momentum going.

Leicester City started the season with draws at home to Wolves and at Chelsea. They beat Sheffield United away and Bournemouth at home. They've had the international break to think about playing at Manchester United this Saturday and hosting Spurs next week. Leicester's schedule isn't easy. They're at Anfield on October 5, a run of four league games where only Newcastle at home seems manageable. It's an open question if momentum lasts through the break.

It's the same question for Crystal Palace, at Spurs on Saturday and ahead of Arsenal in the table on goal difference. Palace opened the season with a draw at Everton, losing at Sheffield United. They followed that up with a win at Old Trafford and beating Aston Villa 1-0 at home. Taking all three points at Manchester United needed Paul Pogba failing to convert a penalty and the Villa result included the referee denying what looked like a late equalizer. If there's momentum in the Premier League, Palace certainly had it. They come back from the break with most of the news centered on Wilfried Zaha's dissatisfaction that he didn't move clubs in the transfer window.

The Premier League isn't a league of momentum. Instead, it's a league of a handful of clubs trying to maximize points to get just enough separation at the top of the table. Liverpool's title challenge last season ended up not meaning much since Manchester City won every game after January. That's not so much momentum as a super club doing its job domestically. The expectation is winning against the bulk of the schedule. Eventually, that pushes back against any momentum generated by outsider clubs. The international breaks normally aren't going to help a smaller club running hot on a string of results. Neither is the Premier League schedule and the stark reality that this is a league for the elites.

Pro Soccer Talk discusses the state of the USMNT. Pro Soccer USA's Phil West interviews MLS president Mark Abbott.

The Mirror's John Cross updates the search for a new Premier League CEO. BBC Sport's Dan Roan explains Middlesbrough's issue with clubs selling their stadiums to their owners. Bundesliga Fanatic's Mathew Burt previews an important weekend in Germany. DW's Matt Ford looks at the resumption of the Cologne vs Gladbach rivalry.

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

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Three themes from the USMNT’s September window https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/09/three-themes-from-the-usmnts-september-window.html 2019-09-12T21:47:13Z gregg berhalter and josh sargent

By Charles Boehm – WASHINGTON, DC (Sep 12, 2019) US Soccer Players - The USMNT got beaten by their main rival, then matched up stride-for-stride with global royalty. That's what the results of the past week's international friendlies vs. Mexico and Uruguay say on the scoreboard. They're also signposts amid a broader process of construction and education that is slated to continue into the foreseeable future, and pay off well down the road. Drilling down from there, plenty of other ideas and developments are worth discussing. Here's a few themes.

Reality checks… and balances

It's never good to lose to Mexico, regardless of circumstances. El Tri was the better team at MetLife Stadium. The USMNT's actions on the field and Gregg Berhalter's subsequent words provided tempering context on Friday's 3-0 loss, however. There was a marked insistence on continuing to play short from goal kicks and methodically build against the successful El Tri press.

You can certainly argue that Berhalter was headstrong or downright foolish to insist on this in such a meaningful game. Or that even slight adjustments in the run of play could've paid dividends in multiple ways. It's clear that his players tried faithfully to stick to the plan.

"We could've played to our forward a little bit more, play a little bit more direct, change it up a little bit," said goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who Mexico repeatedly put under pressure on the ball, afterward. "Obviously the scoreline is what it is, but we played the way we wanted to play."

Things went much better in many ways, tactical and otherwise, against Uruguay in St Louis. Even short of star names Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, La Celeste were strong adversaries. Their style also happened to give more breathing room for the buildups that the USMNT sought. They also counterattacked with great speed and efficiency, most fruitfully on Brian Rodriguez's goal. That was a reminder that turnovers against skilled opponents can be costly in any area of the pitch.

"To be honest I wasn't happy with our defensive transition today," said Berhalter. "Part of it is personnel… but they're smart players and it's just about being a little bit smarter in plays. [Before Uruguay's goal] we have a chance to foul that we don't do it, and then the recovery wasn't great and then we get isolated in the penalty box and the individual defending could've been better. But again this is something that against quality teams, you can get punished… in international soccer how there is a huge emphasis on defensive transition and for us it's about getting better in that phase of the game."

Was Berhalter being a methodical teacher to use the latest installment of the border rivalry as a de facto classroom, or an inflexible idealist? We've seen the angry short-term reactions, and they're not without merit.

New faces turn heads

Longtime Uruguay boss Oscar Tabarez is a living legend. He's steered his small nation to levels of success and competitiveness far beyond their size. On Tuesday, he showcased a few of the young talents rising through their ranks. Postgame, he offered up some thought-provoking perspective that US ears would do well to consider.

"I'm not saying this is the correct formula, but we've had success by linking our youth team processes with our senior national team," Tabarez said in remarks translated by The Athletic's Felipe Cardenas. "It becomes one national team. Unfortunately for many players, youth development ends at the U-20 level. Maybe the US doesn't have the history of Brazil, Argentina, or even Uruguay, a world power at the beginning of the 20th century. But a country with just 3.5 million people cannot be a world power. We have too many challenges. But in order to stay relevant, we defined a specific player profile — technically and personally and based on core values. We began to develop those players at the youth level."

After these games, Berhalter can point to some tangible developments along that line. Josh Sargent continues to impress with his #9 skillset. Sergino Dest started at left back in both games. While Dest was left exposed defensively here and there, his contributions to the attack, especially in pinched and inverted positions, were intriguing.

"Sergino is a guy who is a clever player. You talk about a player giving you solutions," said Berhalter. "He's a guy with a ton of confidence. It's nice to see a young player with that type of confidence and that type of ability to get up for games and perform for games."

The coach also clearly prioritizes deep-lying midfielders with broad passing range and vision. Particularly the big change-of-play switches that Wil Trapp and Michael Bradley are known for. Jackson Yueill also played to good effect in the first half vs Uruguay.

"We wanted to use our two center backs to find our holding midfielder now to draw that midfield line out, they had five in their midfield line, and trying to create movement in their defense. And Jackson did a good job, I think, looking for those diagonals," said Berhalter.

Tabarez adjusted his team's shape to compensate, sending bodies to close down Yueill's space. That too had an effect, as US center backs like Tim Ream and new arrival Miles Robinson stepped up to play incisive passes into the advanced midfielders, like the one to Cristian Roldan that eventually led to Jordan Morris' equalizer.

"The other thing we focused on was now trying to find the attacking midfielders in the pockets, and I think that's something we need to continue to work on – as he [Yueill] gets it from one side, can he quickly find that attacking midfielder between the lines?" continued Berhalter. "The space was condensed, and I think he did a good job of deciding if it's condensed to go behind their lines as well."

Yueill is just three caps into his senior international career but has thus far shown a skillset that could make him useful in Berhalter's system. A bigger question is whether Berhalter's setup provides enough defensive cover for the backline in that role along with the distribution qualities he likes.

Systems vs. moments

Frustrated fans who advocate for wholesale changes in national team lineups are often disappointed. Most coaches, Berhalter included, prefer to mix in newcomers with familiar faces and contributors. That helps control variables for easier evaluations. It can also offer more stable platforms for individuals to show themselves. A similar mindset can be useful when evaluating Berhalter's ideas vs. his process and implementation.

Against Mexico Berhalter and his staff appeared content to concede in certain areas, namely the final score, in order to gather information in others. In St Louis, testing certain combinations and patterns of play exposed the USMNT on counterattacks. In both games, we saw that collective work is important, and also that individual moments of quality and assertiveness can trump it.

Uruguay's tactics and system set the stage for Rodriguez to show his speed and skill. Morris's goal looked fluky, yet was the end result of a well-conceived group sequence. The coaches' job is to build a platform that maximizes their players' qualities. It's up to the players to not only learn and execute their particular jobs, but also to recognize when to seize moments and make plays. That's an eternal push-pull within the sport. Berhalter is still in the process of proving that he's capable of overseeing both, at a high level, when it counts most.

"[Tuesday] was about the tenacity of our guys, the relentlessness of our guys to hang in there and keep battling," he said. "Uruguay is a team that fights for every single inch on the field. And we did a good job particularly in the first half of with keeping our structure, playing within the structure and breaking them down from within that structure."

CONCACAF Nations League matches in October and November are fully competitive fixtures. The trip to Toronto to face Canada promises to be a legitimate test. That's another audition, not only for USMNT players but the ideas and implementation of their coach.


Charles Boehm is a Washington, DC-based writer and the editor of The Soccer Wire. Contact him at:cboehm@thesoccerwire.com. Follow him on Twitter at:http://twitter.com/cboehm.

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Wins for Houston, Colorado, and RSL https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/09/wins-for-houston-colorado-and-rsl.html 2019-09-12T14:30:33Z houston dynamo

It was a midweek start for week 28 of the 2019 MLS season with NYCFC and Toronto drawing 1-1 at Yankee Stadium. Alexandru Mitrita scored for NYCFC in the 6th minute with Alejandro Pozuelo equalizing from the penalty spot in the 40th. Toronto had the lead on shots on goal 5 to 1.

Houston shutout Minnesota 2-0 at home. Mauro Manotas opened the scoring in the 37th and assisted on Christian Ramirez's goal in the 44th minute. Joe Willis made four saves to keep the clean sheet.

Colorado beat the LA Galaxy 2-1 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Cole Bassett scored for the Rapids in the 79th minute with Giancarlo Gonzalez equalizing in the 82nd. Nicolas Mezquida converted an 85th minute penalty for the Colorado win.

"Disappointing start for us," Minnesota midfielder Ethan Finlay said. "Disappointing first 45 minutes and uncharacteristic. It’s all I can say. Very disappointed group in there, individually. I can only speak for myself. It just wasn't good enough. Came off personally flat and I think there was a handful of guys that you know had the same thing. Maybe some heavy legs but we are not going to sit here and use excuses."

The Wednesday schedule concluded at Rio Tinto Stadium with Real Salt Lake shutting out the Earthquakes 1-0. Damir Kreilach scored the game's only goal in the 75th minute. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando made three saves to keep the clean sheet.

"The game was a mixed bag," San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski said. "I thought there was some really good combination play, especially on the flanks and getting it in. But I think we kind of missed that final pass. Also, there were a couple of times to pull the trigger and take a shot or get it on frame, and we didn't quite do that or do it in a timely manner. I thought that we played a little bit too slow at times, and the pace kind of hurt us sometimes."

"I think it was a big opportunity to gain some points, but we obviously lost," LA forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic said. "I see us in the same situation as last season where we needed to win the last five or six games. We need to win these next games to get into the playoffs, but I think it will be very difficult because when teams play us they have to give 200%. But, we need to be better than what we are."

MLSsoccer's Matthew Doyle with his points from the USMNT's September friendlies. SBI Soccer's Ives Galarcep looks at the USMNT after the draw with Uruguay. ESPN's Noah Davis on USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter's tactics and overall strategy.

FourFourTwo's Sam Blitz profiles Inter Milan chairman Steven Zhang. The NY Times' Tariq Panja on former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's new role with FIFA.

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

Logo courtesy of the Houston Dynamo

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Mexico needs the Nations League https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/09/mexico-needs-the-nations-league.html 2019-09-11T20:00:08Z mexico coach tata martino

By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (Sep 11, 2019) US Soccer Players - Everything was going just fine for Mexico and coach Tata Martino. Entering Tuesday’s matchup against Argentina, Mexico had gone 10-0-1 in Martino’s first 11 games in charge. Even that draw was a win on penalties during the Gold Cup. All of that came to a sudden and jarring halt.

In a span of 16 minutes during the first-half, Argentina put four goals past Mexico and unearthed questions about El Tri. Argentina walked away with a 4-0 victory that threatens to send the team into a tailspin. This is the first time Mexico has faced real adversity under Martino. A few games prior had moments of it, certainly, but a loss of that magnitude was particularly brutal.

Ultimately though this match showed the downside of Mexico’s huge advantages. Mexico has grown too comfortable in its own environment. Playing soft opponents before large supportive crowds in mammoth NFL stadiums has not allowed for this team to play in adverse conditions. So when a quality rival the caliber of Argentina throws some real challenges Mexico’s way, the team has no idea how to react.

The conditions are far too favorable for Mexico when it takes the field for most of its matches. Unless the team faces more adversity in international friendlies - namely, playing quality European opponents on European soil - these types of defeats will only continue.

Everything Mexico has done to this point under Martino has been too comfortable. Mexico has yet to play with Martino in charge in a match outside of the United States. Mexico played all six friendly matches and the entirety of the Gold Cup on American soil. Mexico rarely plays friendly matches outside of the US, and many of its road games in CONCACAF are against weak opponents. Take, for instance, the first road rival on its calendar. Mexico will travel to Bermuda on October 11 to take on the locals in a CONCACAF Nations League match.

Mexico, of course, cannot control geography and force some strong nation into CONCACAF. What they can control is who they play in friendly matches. While the caliber of opponent has been decent in friendly matches this year playing Chile, Paraguay, the United States, and Argentina among others, the setting has been the same as it ever was. Tens of thousands of energetic and passionate Mexico fans in the stands, drowning out the small amount of rival supporters and pushing Mexico to perform on the field is what usually happens when Mexico plays games in the US.

While that is great for the players to experience, what would be even better would be for Mexico to be on the opposing side of that. If Mexico had its full roster at its disposal and Martino sent out a strong lineup to face a first-class rival on their turf in front of tens of thousands of their fans, Mexico would face the type of pressure that it cannot replicate at home or in practice. In unfamiliar and uncomfortable conditions against a strong team, Mexican players would have to react and perform or else the match would turn sideways very quickly.

That does not happen very often, however. Since 2014, Mexico has chosen to play in Europe just five times. They've only played four times in South America over that same span.

Before the 2018 World Cup, Mexico had three games on European soil. Two in November 2017 immediately after Mexico qualified for the tournament and another in June 2018, at Denmark on the way to Russia. The only other friendly games Mexico played in the Old World during that span was a pair of games in November 2014 when the team was transitioning out of one World Cup cycle and into another.

While Mexico plays South American opponents in friendly matches quite often, rarely do those games take place in South America. Since the end of the 2014 World Cup, Mexico has played just four friendly games in South America. Two in five days in 2015 and two games against Argentina four days apart in November 2018.

Mexico also does not play many friendly matches at home. El Tri played friendly games on home soil just seven times in the last six years. Two apiece in 2014 and 2015 and three in 2018.

Rather than play in Europe or South America or even at home, Mexico chooses to chase the dollar and play on American soil. Mexico has played 35 friendly games in the United States since 2014. That is a large number of games, matches in which Mexico enjoyed an overwhelming amount of support.

Perhaps the goal of friendly matches needs considering. If the purpose for friendly matches is to test the team and its players against the best rivals available, then Mexico should head to Europe and find teams to play against. A game in Europe against a mid-level rival is still a much better test than a game on American soil against a mid-level South American opponent. If the goal is to maximize funds and generate revenue, then playing in NFL stadiums makes the most sense.

Still, FIFA seems to be going away from international friendlies. The CONCACAF Nations League got underway during this most recent calendar. Mexico’s group, Group B, saw Bermuda and Panama play in what essentially was a home-and-home series. Panama won at Bermuda but shockingly lost at home, by 2-0 on September 8. Mexico will play at Bermuda on October 11 and host Panama on October 15 before visiting Panama on November 15 and hosting Bermuda on November 19.

The window to play European teams on their turf in friendly matches then may have closed. European teams are involved in their own Nations League as well as Euro 2020 qualifiers of late.

With the Nations League, at least Mexico will have to play outside of the United States. Four friendly games on American soil would have only served to earn money for the federation. Playing in the Nations League will at least force the team to play meaningful matches in adverse conditions. At least then Mexico will gain something it can use from its matches.


Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.

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Another step forward for Austin FC https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/09/another-step-forward-for-austin-fc.html 2019-09-11T15:30:43Z austin-fc-logo

By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Sep 11, 2019) US Soccer Players - On Monday in Austin, Texas, a group of luminaries from local government, soccer, and even Hollywood gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony of Austin FC's future home. The event marks the beginning of the construction process on a venue that seemed impossible as recently as 18 months ago. Back then, Austin FC didn't exist beyond a clause in an agreement between the league and the investor/operator of the Columbus Crew.

Now, the club has shovels in the ground, a head coach working to build a team for entry into MLS in 2021, and a burgeoning fan base excited to support a first division team in their city. Two months ago, Austin FC announced the club received what they called a record-setting 30,000 deposits for season tickets for its first campaign

Despite the progress on all of the various elements that make for a successful MLS expansion launch, Austin FC remains something of an enigma. Investor/operator Anthony Precourt's original plan was to move the Columbus Crew. That didn't go over well across the league.

Precourt made his power play in Columbus and willed himself into a franchise in Austin. The league's reputation for choosing successful expansion markets will turn on how successful Precourt is in Texas. An absentee owner in Columbus, Precourt looks like a man intent on proving to the world that he was right all along. It wasn't moving the Crew that ultimately mattered, after all. Instead, it was pushing MLS into giving him a fresh start in Austin without the startup costs associated with recent MLS expansion.

Austin doesn't yet have a single player on its roster, but it does have a head coach. Josh Wolff gets his shot at MLS management after his apprenticeship as an assistant with Columbus, DC United, and the USMNT.

Wolff's resume suggests he's ready for his turn as the main man, but tapping him to lead the club in MLS does represent a risk for Austin. The long lead-up to the club's first game is an interesting wrinkle for an unproven coach. Wolff will work with a clean slate. He carries no baggage from a previous job or with questions of which players to move up from a lower division of Austin FC. He also has no head coaching experience to draw from.

"Identity" is a slippery concept. It can mean a host of things, a mix of elements stemming from on- and off-the-field choices. Quite often significant parts of a club's identity are out of the club's hands. Fans can create something wholly independent of direction from owners and executives. The best case is collaborative, but it doesn't always work out that way.

Austin's vibe is unique to MLS. The situation with the proposed move of the Crew still lingers. At the same time, this is a growing region of the country known for its unique energy. That's embodied by its most famous minority owner, Matthew McConaughey.

"We've got a chance and responsibility here to keep our village values that is Austin, Texas," McConaughey said at the groundbreaking. "Keep our village values here with the experience in this stadium, in and out and all around it, quintessentially Austin. That's a challenge to all of us."

Keeping that in mind, Austin FC could be a fascinating experiment for a city known for bucking against convention in Texas. Austin was hardly in the MLS expansion picture before Precourt made his move, a departure from the usual close vetting the league does on new markets.

Sacramento is rumored to be on the verge of getting an expansion team. That city waited years for its turn before watching Austin jump the line because Precourt invoked a secret clause.

The third Texan team to enter MLS will also be devoid of anything truly organic. Two different versions of the Austin Aztex have come and gone over the years. The city has a first-year USL Championship entry playing at a makeshift stadium 25 minutes from downtown.

Wolff's ideas on playing style and philosophy will lay some groundwork for identity. It won't be clear what those thoughts mean until executed on the field. Austin must make choices in regards to player acquisition that will quickly place it in the evolving MLS spending hierarchy

Precourt has been an MLS investor/operator since 2013, but we don't know what kind of owner he wants to be. Fans in Columbus certainly have strong opinions, but everything is new again in Austin.

The city of Austin's willingness to welcome Precourt speaks to the power of a new relationship and the desire for a major professional sports team. Austin is one of several parts of the country with changing demographics and increasing population, but it's still thought of as a fun college town. That's more or less what it was when the big leagues were in expansion mode back in the late 80s and into the 90s.

Eighteen months ago, it wasn't certain there would be an MLS team in Austin. Just over a year ago ownership unveiled the name of the new club and slogan "Grow the Legend". Monday, the club broke ground on a stadium they expect to open in April of 2021.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the stadium is a nice metaphor for the groundbreaking nature of Austin FC's entry into MLS. There's a lot on the line MLS and Precourt. So far, it looks like everything is perfectly alright in Texas's capital.


Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: matchfitusa@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/davisjsn.

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The big clubs will get what they want in Europe https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/09/the-big-clubs-will-get-what-they-want-in-europe.html 2019-09-11T14:33:12Z European Club Association logo.

The soccer news starts with a foregone conclusion. The big clubs in Europe will eventually get what they want one way or another. It might not be as straightforward as they'd like, but they're the ones holding the power.

AP's Graham Dunbar has the follow-up to reports that the rest of the European clubs aren't necessarily interested in a revamped Champions League. No surprise there. The de facto super league wouldn't do much for them except all but lock them out of Europe's premier club soccer competition. Instead, they'd prefer something a bit more fair. Soccer as meritocracy still exists in European soccer even if it's tough to recognize these days. Win enough games, and eventually the Champions League awaits. That's the carrot that allows clubs and their fans to dream of better days.

Meanwhile, the already elite would prefer to stay that way. Creating a Champions League in their image is one possibility. So is breaking away entirely and forming their own competition. That remains the central threat to European club soccer as we know it, and it's highly unlikely that the desires of the rest of the club changes that. What those clubs can do, apparently, is postpone a decision.

Whatever plan eventually "arrives at the finish line" to borrow European Club Association and Juventus president Andrea Agnelli's phrase will either appease the super clubs or at best serve as a placeholder. Eventually, the elite teams will act in their mutual best interest in a way that continues to push towards a super league. That much should be clear to anybody paying attention. We already know how much UEFA is likely to bend in reorganizing the Champions League to suit the biggest clubs.

How much outrage this produces from the rest of the European clubs is the question. There's a scenario that has local clubs better off not competing with the global brands. Like the super league itself, that's a theory. So is revamping all of European soccer through salary caps, changing the distribution of money, and setting an equitable playing field. It's a safe assumption that the super clubs are more interested in pushing forward with more of what they already have. It might be later than sooner, but it's an equally safe assumption that they'll get what they want.

The Manchester Evening News' Stuart Brennan argues that Manchester City has an advantage coming out of the September international break. FourFourTwo's Andy Mitten looks at Manchester United's search for a sporting director. iNews' Will Magee talks to Schalke coach David Wagner.

Yahoo Sport's Harry Bushnell on the USMNT's draw with Uruguay. SI.com's Brian Straus with what the USMNT did during the September window.

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

Logo courtesy of the ECA

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USMNT 1 – Uruguay 1 https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/09/usmnt-1-uruguay-1.html 2019-09-11T01:51:33Z jordan morris usmnt uruguay friendly

The USMNT closed out the 2019 September international window with a 1-1 draw with Uruguay at Busch Stadium in St Louis. Brian Rodriguez scored for Uruguay in the 50th minute. Jordan Morris equalized in the 79th. The USMNT returns to action in October with games against Cuba on the 11th and at Canada on the 15th.

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter allowed several players to return to their club teams following Friday's loss to Mexico, requiring changes to his lineup. That included Morris getting the start alongside Josh Sargent. It was Sargent arguing for a handball in the box late in the first-half, but without instant replay the no call stood. Paxton Pomykal made his debut for the USMNT, subbing on in the 85th minute.

"For me it was a long year last year, coming off the knee injury," Morris told FS1's Rob Stone. "So to get back on the score sheet feels amazing, but it's just an honor to be on this team. To be on the field, fighting with my brothers, it's a great team."

-- GAME REPORT --

Match: U.S. Men's National Team vs. Uruguay
Date: September 10, 2019
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Busch Stadium; St. Louis, Mo.
Attendance: 20,625
Kickoff: 7pm CT
Weather: 83 degrees; clear skies

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

URU - Brian Rodríguez (Federico Valverde) 50th minute
USA - Jordan Morris (Nick Lima) 79

Lineups:
USA: 1-Brad Guzan, 3-Aaron Long (22-Miles Robinson, 65), 7-Cristian Roldan, 11-Jordan Morris (24-Paxton Pomykal, 85) 13-Tim Ream (capt.), 14-Jackson Yueill, 17-Sebastian Lletget, 18-Sergiño Dest (16-Daniel Lovitz, 70) 19-Josh Sargent (9-Gyasi Zardes, 75), 20-Reggie Cannon (2-Nick Lima, 75), 21-Tyler Boyd (27-Corey Baird, 65)
Substitutes not used: 12-Jesse Gonzalez, 4-Walker Zimmerman, 6-Wil Trapp
Head coach: Gregg Berhalter

URU: 1-Fernando Muslera (capt.), 2-José Giménez, 3-Matías Viña, 5-Matías Vecino, 6-Rodrigo Bentancur (8-Nahitan Nández, 83), 10-Giorgian De Arrascaeta, 15-Federico Valverde, 16-Brian Rodríguez (7-Brian Lozano, 62), 19-Sebastián Coates, 20-Jonathan Rodríguez (18-Maxi Gómez, 87), 22-Martín Cáceres
Substitutes not used: 12-Martín Campaña, 4-Giovanni González, 9-Darwin Núñez, 13-Gastón Silva, 14-Lucas Torreira, 17-Diego Laxalt, 21-Marcelo Saracchi
Head coach: Óscar Tabárez

Stats Summary: USA / URU
Shots: 11 / 15
Shots on Goal: 4 / 3
Saves: 2 / 3
Corner Kicks: 3 / 4
Fouls: 3 / 8
Offside: 4 / 3


Misconduct Summary:
None

Officials:
Referee: Ricardo Montero (CRC)
Assistant Referee 1: William Arrieta (CRC)
Assistant Referee 2: Octavio Jara (CRC)
4th Official: Benjamin Pineda (CRC)

Photo by John Todd - ISIPhotos.com

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Preview: USMNT vs Uruguay https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/09/preview-usmnt-vs-uruguay.html 2019-09-10T14:30:20Z usmnt coach gregg berhalter

The soccer news starts with the USMNT closing out the September 2019 international window with a game against Uruguay in St Louis (8pm ET - FS1). For the USMNT, this is another opportunity to show progress with coach Gregg Berhalter's commitment to tactics. It comes after what many pundits took as a dispiriting loss to Mexico on Friday. Berhalter and the USMNT technical staff didn't feel that way, pointing to what they believe the team is getting right while recognizing the need for entertainment value.

"Listen, let’s be fair to fans," Berhalter said during Monday's press conference. "We have an obligation to the fans, and that obligation is to win games and entertain them. We’re trying our best."

Whether or not that's really a national team's obligation is an open question. Most fans balk at the idea of entertainment and would probably sub in showing progress. This is a program still in transition. That's not likely to change over the course of one friendly window. With Concacaf opting to move the Nations League final from March to June 2020, there's significant time between now and facing meaningful opposition in games that count. With the October and November windows dedicated to home and away dates with Canada and Cuba in the Nations League, the USMNT won't have the level of opponent necessary to know if their plans are working.

Berhalter made it clear that he remains committed to tactics that will eventually give his team an advantage. Against Mexico, that was playing out of the back. Against Uruguay, that could change. "Mexico is a team that traditionally high presses and we don’t expect that to be the case for Uruguay," Berhalter said.

What Uruguay represents is an opportunity to show that the USMNT can regroup and take something from the second game in an international window. That's important for all involved, since it's a tough argument that much was gained in in the 3-0 loss to Mexico. Uruguay raises the level of difficulty since they're a team well equipped to run at the USMNT and take advantage of any defensive weakness. The USMNT knows what it's like to have a stronger opponent target the weak link in the defense. Without their first choice defensive midfielder and with a back line that remains a work in progress, this could require a team defensive effort to slow down the Uruguayan attack.

For the USMNT offense, this was a window without Jozy Altidore as the target forward and now without Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie in the attack. Berhalter's lineup choices need to protect a young group of players from a dispiriting 90 minutes against an elite squad. The USMNT technical staff is pushing back against the opinion that we already saw that happen against Mexico. It's a stronger argument if there's a clear result for the USMNT against Uruguay.

The Austin Statesman's Chris Bils reports on Austin FC's groundbreaking. MLSsoccer's Greg Seltzer lists his underrated MLS players. The Guardian's Graham Ruthven asks a basic question about Major League Soccer's quality of play. SI.com's Michael McCann looks at the lawsuit Relevant filed against the US Soccer Federation in federal court.

AP's Rob Harris on the rank and file European clubs coming out against proposed changes to the Champions League. The Independent's Tony Evans explains how the Premier League might be inadvertently creating a super league scenario.

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

Photo by Bill Barrett - ISIPhotos.com

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The pressure on Christian Pulisic and Chelsea https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/09/the-pressure-on-christian-pulisic-and-chelsea.html 2019-09-09T18:00:23Z christian pulisic usmnt player

By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Sep 9, 2019) US Soccer Players – Chelsea is off to a rough start this season. After four games, the team is in 11th-place with just five points. For a club with ambitions of a top-four finish, that's already a problem. New manager Frank Lampard still has the time to get things right. American fans are keeping a particular eye on Chelsea since Christian Pulisic joined the team.

Chelsea's four Premier League matches are a small snapshot of what its season can be. Nonetheless, they give us a glimpse into what's currently happening with the club and what they need to fix. Pulisic is on a new team in a new league, and early returns only reveal so much.

The stakes are high for all involved. Last week, Pulisic told reporters: "It's amazing. It's everything I hoped it would be and more. It's incredible. They've helped me so much over there just getting accustomed to everything. It's been great learning under Frank and playing with top players in the Premier League."

All true. Pulisic, however, does have tough shoes to fill. He's replacing Eden Hazard, a very talented player and arguably among the top 10 players on the planet. Pulisic played in all four Premier League games, recording an assist. He's still looking for his first league goal, which could happen this coming Saturday away at Wolves. He left USMNT camp after the Mexico friendly to return early to club duty, meaning he won't be available for Tuesday's friendly against Uruguay.

The weight of expectation placed on Pulisic to succeed for both club and country has been without comparison. Writing for ESPN.com last month, Sam Borden noted: “Christian Pulisic is the most talented player in American soccer history. And, should he pull it off, what he is about to do – that is, play for Chelsea in the English Premier League – will be one of the most impressive feats in American sports history. Yes, Tim Howard played for Manchester United, but he was a goalkeeper; and yes, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan made the move to the EPL as well, but they debuted at smaller clubs in Fulham and Everton."

How will Pulisic be able to succeed at such a high level? One way to explore that question is to look at Chelsea's tactics. Lampard likes to employ the 4-3-3. It is under this tactical system that Pulisic is expected to thrive. As a winger, Pulisic's exceptional first touch, speed, and dribbling skills are essential. His ability to quickly change direction and go 1v1 against defenders means Pulisic is expected to be very dangerous on the flanks as part of the front three.

Pulisic has been playing on the right, Hazard's old position. Against Sheffield Wednesday in Chelsea's last league match, Pulisic started alongside Mason Mount on the left and Tammy Abraham in the middle. The game ended 2-2 as Chelsea continued to struggle. The Blues' starting lineup looked too young and inexperienced, at times, for the challenge. Still, Abraham, for example, does lead the team with four goals so far this season.

Like at every big European club, depth remains key. Pulisic will need to show that he can succeed alongside Abraham, Mount, or whoever Lampard decides to start up front. This is the elite level, where roles are always at risk. Lampard looked to have built his offense around Oliver Giroud, the experienced French star, but Lampard has appeared to have dropped him in favor of Abraham.

Whether Abraham can bring out the best in Pulisic and vice-versa is the question. The sample size of games this season is too small. Bigger games, including next week's Champions League opener at Stamford Bridge against Valencia, will test Lampard's theory as to whether younger is better. At the same time, the 32-year-old Giroud has said he has no qualms about a possible future move to MLS.

The pressure on Lampard to succeed is huge. Chelsea is known for managers coming and going. Lampard replaced Maurizio Sarri, who helped the team win the Europa League last season. When Sarri was lured back to Italy to coach Juventus, Chelsea signed Lampard, one of the faces of Chelsea's success in recent decades.

Lampard won't get the time to make too many mistakes. There's no such thing as a rebuilding year for the Blues. Lampard's 4-3-3 and the players he chooses to play have to quickly rise to the occasion.

This is both the tactics and environment Pulisic finds himself in. It won't be easy. Pulisic has proven again and again that he can beat the odds, score those important goals, and belong in the conversation as one of the best players in American soccer history. By joining Chelsea, Pulisic made the choice for pressure.


Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2018. Find him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/ClementeLisi.

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Photo by Bill Barrett - ISIPhotos.com

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