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The 25th anniversary of one of the greatest soccer goals in U.S. men’s national team history — a 28-yard free kick by Lights FC coach Eric Wynalda that gave the Americans a 1-1 draw against Switzerland in their first World Cup game in 34 years — was Tuesday.

Some background about the 1994 goal from the man who scored it:

Loudest I’ve ever heard a stadium – man I’m old https://t.co/uP6RxQIFkG

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— Eric Wynalda (@EricWynalda) June 18, 2019

■ Wynalda was feeling fatigued when he lined up the memorable boot at a steamy Pontiac Silverdome in front of 73,425 anxious spectators. Blame it on O.J. and his pal Al Cowlings. “The whole O.J. Simpson thing (slow speed car chase) was the night before, so none us got a whole lot of sleep.”

■ Did the shot tick the crossbar? A $1,000 bet in Germany was riding on the sketchy evidence: “Two of my German friends — one was a teammate, one was a guy I played against — made a $1,000 bet that I would hit the crossbar, because the last three free kicks I took in Germany, I hit the bar. If you watch the video, it’s really hard to tell. But it did hit the crossbar.”

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■ Wynalda wasn’t supposed to take the shot: “Two days before the game, (free kick specialist) Claudio Reyna popped his hamstring in practice, (and then) they went from Gatorade to Powerade (sports drink) and they didn’t tell us. I cannot drink Powerade because of synthetic dye or whatever, and I drank two bottles of it. I had hives over my entire body, and then it was intensified by the heat in the Silverdome.”

But he played anyway. And then Eric Wynalda scored one of the most dramatic goals in domestic soccer history. On its 25th anniversary, he received dozens of congratulatory messages. One was from the famous Argentine broadcaster Andres Cantor:

Playing Cuba is always an odd proposition for the US, given the nature of the diplomatic issues between the two countries for the last 50 years. The US did play what amounted to a goodwill friendly in Havana back in 2016 (in a stadium that had no running water). Frequently, when Cuba plays against the US in the US, a number of players tend to defect and seek asylum in this country. While in the commentary booth for FOX during a game against Cuba at the 2013 Gold Cup, Eric Wynalda told a story about how when he played several Cuban players came up to him to ask how they could go about becoming US citizens. On the purely soccer side of things, Cuba is playing rather poorly. They looked halfway decent in the second part of 2018 as they posted four straight wins to close the year, three of which were in Nations League Qualifying. However, in 2019 they are winless and have lost six straight games.

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They didn’t score a single goal at the Gold Cup as they lost all three games: 7-0 against Mexico, 3-0 against Martinique, and 7-0 against Canada. So far in this current round of Nations League games they’ve been swept by Canada. They lost 6-0 in Toronto and then fell 1-0 in the return leg (that was played in George Town in the Cayman Islands). When it comes to roster makeup, Cuba is typically a homogenous team with all players based in Cuba and the manger being Cuban as well. Not the case in 2019. They are managed by an Italian named Lorenzo Membrini and have several players playing abroad: Aricheel Hernandez of Independiente in Panama, Yosel Piedra of USAC in Guatemala, and Luis Paradela of Reno 1868 right here in the US.

“People have told me when they ripped down the Silverdome, they went back and tried to get the seat they sat in,” the Lights coach said. “It was pretty cool. Everybody who was a part of that remembers it in their own way.”
Lost in the fire

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Wynalda’s goal was nearly as memorable as the jerseys he and the U.S. wore that day — lurid denim blue and festooned with stars in no discernible pattern. They were to soccer kits what multicolored Houston Astros stripes were to baseball uniforms during the Nolan Ryan era.

Still, that No. 11 shirt was one of Wynalda’s most treasured keepsakes — until it went up in flames along with the rest of his home during last summer’s deadly California wildfires.

The Lights on July 4 will don jerseys inspired by the ones Wynalda and his teammates wore against Switzerland in 1994. Fans will be able to purchase the souvenir jersey, along with a midfield ticket at Cashman Field for the game against LA Galaxy II, for $94.

On July 4th we’re wearing these jerseys to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the legendary U.S.A. “denim” kit worn by our own @EricWynalda.

For $94 you get a jersey + a midfield lower ticket to our 4th of July game

Visit https://t.co/hdeX8pKOo3 or text USA to 702-728-4625 pic.twitter.com/glwaLBAsCs

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— Las Vegas Lights FC (@lvlightsfc) June 19, 2019

Fielder’s choice

Cool statistic that didn’t make the cut in last week’s Father’s Day edition notes: Prince Fielder and his dad, Cecil, each finished their major league careers with 319 home runs.

Cecil Fielder once envisioned a college career at UNLV. He spent a fall semester at the school, but clashed with Rebels coach Fred Dallimore over his weight and other matters.

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Wayne Rooney sent a corner into the box. Midfielder Lucas Rodriguez sent the set piece in to the roof of the net to equalize against Toronto FC in the first round of the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs.

United roared to life.

But the energy didn’t last. Toronto quickly ravaged United’s defense, scoring four goals in less than 15 minutes of extra time to advance 5-1 Saturday night at BMO Field.

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“It’s an unfair scoreline when you look at the game itself in regular time, but they also scored five goals and we scored one,” DC coach Ben Olsen said. “It’s hard to process that.”

In the first half, the battle to advance took place mostly in the middle of the park, with a few chances both ways in the final third. While United started in a high press, it was Toronto which got four shots on goal.

The Reds got a good look on goal in 23rd minute thanks to a ball into the box from Justin Morrow. Alejandro Pozuelo, with his back to goal, quickly redirected the ball to Nicolas Benezet, whose shot hit off his teammate and out of danger.

As Berhalter pointed out, sheer desire is a huge part of it. You know it when you see it, and if you watched that game on Tuesday you certainly saw it from Sam Piette, Liam Fraser, Jonathan Osorio and Scott Arfield. But there are two other things we need to explain that go beyond “try harder.”

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The Player Pool
Tyler Adams is literally a world-class ball-winner. Paxton Pomykal looks like he will be there soon. If you just slot them into the US midfield things naturally improve by about 90% because winning the ball in those situations is a fundamental piece of who they are as players. It has never been so for Michael Bradley (he prefers to contain rather than challenge) and does not appear to be so for Cristian Roldan or Weston McKennie.

Is it so for Jackson Yueill? He’s made huge strides this year, but he didn’t win games for the Quakes with his defense the way that Pomykal did for FC Dallas, or that Adams has for the Red Bulls both here and in Europe. Alfredo Morales? He’s done dirty work in the Bundesliga, but we may have seen the limit of his abilities vs. Mexico. Russell Canouse was my big hope heading into this MLS season, but Russell Canouse is now a right back.

Hopefully Brandon Servania gets there – he did the job well for the U-20s this spring in the U-20 World Cup – but he played as more of a No. 8 for Dallas down the stretch for a reason. His and Pomykal’s teammate Edwin Cerrillo has promise, and North Texas SC coach Eric Quill is specifically working with him on the “be more nasty and inflict some pain” part of his game, but we’re talking about a 19-year-old USL player here.

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Hassani Dotson was excellent for Minnesota United this season and was, according to a few folks who were there, one of the outstanding players at this most recent U-23 camp for the US playing as a pure, ball-winning No. 6. But Hassani Dotson is not an MLS starter, and as of right now the U-23 are the right spot for him.

With Adams, Pomykal and Morales all hurt… I mean, in retrospect the answer was “play Yueill to see if he can do it against a better team than Cuba or a stuck-in-third-gear version of Uruguay.” At least then, even if the US lost in this exact same way, Berhalter could’ve learned something new about a young, promising player on his roster.

Here is something I wrote last week in a preview of this international date:

For this camp the question is “Can Bradley, Yueill or Trapp show they’re a defensive answer – or at the very least, not a liability – against a team with as much attacking firepower as Canada?”

That’s as crucial a question as Berhalter’s of Adams. And if the answer is no, then it’s probably time for the coach to start re-thinking what he needs from that spot on the field.

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As it stands, this loss as a come-to-Jesus moment on the central midfield is the only possible silver lining I can see for the US here.

It is absolutely essential that the US get ball-winners into midfield even if it means sacrificing some distribution from the No. 6 spot. If Adams gets healthy, write his name in pen. If Dotson can translate what he’s done at the club level and with the U-23s up to the full national team in January (yes, he should be there in January, if not sooner), then glory hallelujah we suddenly have a smidge of depth. If Pomykal gets healthy and keeps progressing, we have ball-winners in two spots. If Yueill shows that he can dive into a scrum without the ball and come away with it, then we have depth and flexibility.

The tension broke in the 32nd minute when Pozuelo evaded defender Russell Canouse. Toronto’s shot leader rocketed a ball toward Hamid, who had kept a clean sheet for more than 480 minutes prior the Saturday’s game. Hamid blocked the first shot, but in an uncharacteristic mistake, parried into the sprinting feet of midfielder Marky Delgado.

Delgado easily put the rebound past Hamid, who was still getting off the ground.

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The first half goal left United in a tough position. D.C. finished the regular season with a record of 1-9-5 after conceding first.

United also lost midfielder Felipe Martins to injury in the 44th minute. Not only did it take away a veteran who has been the glue of United’s spine, but it also forced a switch in formation. Canouse shifted from right back to defensive mid, while Paul Arriola moved from the wing into Canouse’s vacant spot. Forward Ola Kamara came on for Felipe and played high with Rooney moving behind him.

“It’s tough. I think we put a lot of attackers out there to try to score that goal,” Kamara said. “A lot of people were out of position.”

Toronto started the game shorthanded. While forward Jozy Altidore was an expected absence due to a hamstring injury suffered in the final regular season game, the Reds were also without Omar Gonzalez. The defender was a late scratch after suffering a hamstring injury and failing a fitness test, according to TSN reporter Kristian Jack.

While the Reds have found goals without Altidore, the loss of Gonzalez presented a challenge for the Toronto defense. The 31-year-old defender joined Toronto in June from Pachuca in Mexico’s Liga MX. His veteran presence helped Toronto finish the regular season with a 10-match unbeaten streak.

The absence of Gonzalez opened opportunities in the final third for D.C. United. In what was ultimately his final appearance in Major League Soccer, Rooney desperately searched for the back of the net to keep his team’s season alive. He had two close calls around the 64th minute, both coming from distance. And both were saved in acrobatic fashion by goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.

“You’ve got Wayne’s three (chances) and Ola’s 1-v-1,” Olsen said. “We didn’t, over the course of the day, make enough plays to win it in regular time and then we threw so much at it in the end.”

In stoppage time, Westberg made a gutsy play and came well off his line to head a ball away. Arriola took advantage of the open net and attempted a chip in goal, but Chris Mavinga headed the chance away.

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Pessimism permeates the United States men’s national team fanbase at the moment. The team has suffered two losses to Mexico in the past four months, Christian Pulisic can barely get off the bench for Chelsea, and stars Tyler Adams and Tim Weah are injured. But if you’re looking for something to get excited about heading into the next two games against Cuba and Canada, and for the rest of the season, it’s Weston McKennie.

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McKennie’s club career is going great at the moment thanks to FC Schalke 04’s hiring of German-American coach David Wagner, who previously managed Huddersfield in England. Previous Schalke boss, Domenico Tedesco, had his team play a low defensive block and long ball-oriented attack that made the Royal Blues downright painful to watch. Wagner brought his high pressure style to Germany, and his team has lost just once in its first seven games, falling only to Bayern Munich.

“It’s been nice to watch the evolution of Schalke this season under David Wagner, I think he’s done an excellent job,” USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said at a Thursday press conference. “They’re a very dynamic team. A lot of emphasis on counter-attacking, and organized, but they still have some very creative players. It’s good to see Weston performing in that team.”

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McKennie, who had little to do but sit deep and clear long under Tedesco last season, is playing a more dynamic role under Wagner. He still has room to improve as a passer, but he’s been excellent in defensive transition, regularly helping to force turnovers that lead to scoring chances. He’s one of the Bundesliga’s elite pressing players, and he’s improved the rest of his game dramatically as well.

Here, from StatsBomb, are some of McKennie’s key stats from this season compared to last season. He’s far from elite at anything but pressing, but he’s starting to become a useful passer.

Weston McKennie scored hat-trick in the USMNT’s 7-0 win over Cuba on Friday night. The midfielder poses a unique conundrum: he is a box-to-box midfielder who is best in advanced areas.
Weston McKennie is one of the primary talents in the U.S. Men’s National Team set-up. For some time, the central midfielder has been one of the most touted names of the Gregg Berhalter era. And given his natural ability, ever since he broke through at FC Dallas and moved to Germany as a teenager, there was good reason for it.

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What McKennie represents is a very modern midfielder. He has all of the tools that you would want in a present-time central midfielder. Extremely athletic and mobile, highly capable in tight spaces and a calm, composed, accurate and consistent passer.

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While goalscoring central midfielders were the talk of the town just a decade ago, nowadays, with the influx of 4-3-3 shapes and inverted wingers where the goals are more completely scored by the front three, it has become more customary for central midfielders to offer control and command, not goals and game-changing moments.

McKennie has the quality to play that role. He is a capable enough player to conduct such control in central zones. But it seems a little foolish to ask him to play in this manner when it might undermine the number of goals that he can score.

After his historic hat-trick in Friday night’s 7-0 victory over Cuba, McKennie spoke about the offensive freedom that he is enjoying under new manager David Wagner at Schalke:

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“He’s more on the attacking side and wants us to play our style. He always says that he gives us ideas, it’s not something we just have to stick to, he understands that we have our own individual qualities that we can apply to the game and he wants us to do that. In a way he has a leash on us, but he lets us free sometimes, too.”
It is this attacking license that allows McKennie to be so dangerous with his late runs into the box. USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter echoed the same sentiment:

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“[Wagner] has ideas that they want to get Weston involved, he wants him arriving late in the penalty box, being an attacking midfielder, so there are a lot of similarities.”
It is a nice problem to have. The unique goalscoring abilities of McKennie are what make him so special. You do not want to take it away from him. But against better teams, his natural offensive make-up could be exploited, his late runs into box turned against them on the counter-attack. In a 4-3-3, the positional balance of the attacking most central midfielder is vital to a well-structured team, and McKennie must prove that he can play with the required nous and guile to proficiently fulfil the responsibilities of a goalscoring, box-to-box role.

For now, it seems as though Berhalter is at peace to let McKennie go. And against opponents Cuba, that is all well and good. But what happens when you play better teams, with more tactically astute midfielders who can contain spaces and release counters? That is when the McKennie conundrum surfaces.

NEXT: USMNT Vs Cuba: 3 things we learned
It remains to be seen how Berhalter uses McKennie moving forward. But for now, he is a premier USMNT talent, even if some uncertainties come with his usage.

McKennie is enjoying playing for Wagner, and playing a more ambitious style of soccer.

“This year he’s really big on playing our style, and our style is with high pressure and counter-attacks, as well as keeping the ball well and combining,” McKennie says. “That’s been a fun way for us to play, and I think a lot of the players are having a lot more fun, realizing we can play instead of just sitting back and playing the ball long.”

McKennie adds, “We feel like [Wagner] believes in us. He’s more on the attacking side and wants us to play our style. He always says that he gives us ideas, it’s not something we just have to stick to, he understands that we have our own individual qualities that we can apply to the game and he wants us to do that. In a way he has a leash on us, but he lets us free sometimes too.”

Having McKennie on a team that plays attacking soccer, and asks him to contribute going forward, is important for the future of the national team. While Schalke could move McKennie into a more defensive role and buy pure playmakers, the USMNT does not have the same luxury. Young attacking talents are coming up through the USMNT pipeline, but for the foreseeable future, Berhalter needs McKennie to make creative contributions.

“[Wagner] has ideas that they want to get Weston involved, he wants him arriving late in the penalty box, being an attacking midfielder, so there are a lot of similarities,” Berhalter says about McKennie’s roles for club and country.

“They have the same idea of what type of role I play,” McKennie says about his two managers. “They both know that I’m good at applying pressure to the defense, breaking up play and winning tackles. They also know that I can bring some flair to the game in offensive plays.”

A decade ago, having any American player competing in Champions League and the Bundesliga was a dream. McKennie did it as a teenager. He has yet to round into a complete midfielder, but McKennie is undoubtedly one of the biggest talents to ever grace the USMNT. With a club manager like Wagner, McKennie now has the opportunity to make the most of those talents and become a cornerstone player for his country.

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (Oct. 4, 2019) – The Chicago Fire Soccer Club today announced that midfielder Djordje Mihailović has been named to the U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team roster for its upcoming training camp in Miami, Fla.

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Led by Head Coach Jason Kreis, the team’s training camp will be held at Florida International University from Oct. 6 to Oct. 16. On Tuesday, Oct. 15, the U.S. U-23 MNT will face El Salvador’s U-23 side at Florida International University.

MIAMI (Oct. 15, 2019)—The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team defeated El Salvador 6-1 in an international friendly at Florida International University. Wingers Brooks Lennon and Jonathan Lewis opened the scoring for the USA in the first half, while Richard Ledezma, Sebastian Soto, Mason Toye and Manny Perez added goals after the break to seal the victory over fellow 2020 Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Championship participant La Selecta.

El Salvador came out aggressively, but the U.S. matched the intensity, finding chances via the press. After a few early chances, the USA opened the scoring in the 10th minute. Captain Djordje Mihailovic won the ball high up the field and played to Alex Mendez on the left wing. The 2018 U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year served a cross to the far post, where Lennon tapped it past El Salvador goalkeeper Mario Gonzaelz for the 1-0 U.S. lead.

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Playing in front of family and friends from his nearby hometown of Plantation, Fla., Lewis knocked on the door a number of times in the game’s early-going; the forward ultimately finding the back of the net in the 29th minute. Mihailovic picked up another ball in the midfield, and slid it up the wing to Lewis, who used a nifty finish from a tight angle to double the U.S. advantage.

As the half wore on, El Salvador brought a distinct Concacaf flavor to the match as things progressed, playing the U.S. physically and fighting for every ball. A few questionable fouls saw El Salvador win a series of restarts in U.S. territory, but the USA did well to thwart the attacks and keep their composure against a wily Central American opponent.

U-23 MNT head coach Jason Kreis made seven changes at the half, and the reinforcements opened the floodgates by quickly extending the U.S. lead.

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In the 48th minute, Miahilovic played a ball across the box to streaking winger Omir Fernandez, who dished to Ledezma and the midfielder’s first touch put the ball in the back of the net. Just a minute later, the U.S. press led to a 4-0 advantage. Winning the ball deep in Salvadoran territory, Mihailovic evaded a few defenders to pass to Lewis, who wheeled through the box before laying it off for Soto to knock it home from close range.

El Salvador scored its lone goal of the night in the 54th minute, earning a penalty after getting tangled up with a U.S. defender in the box. Andres Hernandez converted from the spot for La Selecta.

Center forward Mason Toye entered the match in the 57th minute for the U.S. and wasted no time finding the back of the net. Defender Auston Trusty played up the wing to Lewis, who centered it to Ledezma. The PSV Eindhoven midfielder slid a lovely pass through the defense to put Toye in on goal, and the Minnesota United man finished to give the USA a 5-1 lead.

The USA continued to threaten down the stretch and found a sixth tally in stoppage time. Ledezma sent a cross into the box that bounced before defender Manny Perez bounded into the box to send it into the back of the net.

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U.S. UNDER-23 MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM MATCH REPORT

Match: U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team vs. El Salvador

Date: Oct. 15, 2019

Competition: International Friendly

Venue: FIU Soccer Stadium; Miami, Fla.

Kick-off: 7 p.m. ET

Weather: 82 degrees, partly cloudy

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F

USA 2 4 6

SLV 0 1 1

USA – Brooks Lennon (Alex Mendez) 10th minute

USA – Jonathan Lewis (Djordje Mihailovic) 29

USA – Richard Ledezma (Omir Fernandez) 48

USA – Sebastian Soto (Jonathan Lewis) 49

SLV – Andres Hernandez (penalty) 54

USA – Mason Toye (Richard Ledezma) 62

USA – Manny Perez (Richard Ledezma) 90

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LINEUPS:
USA: 22-Matt Freese (1-JT Marcinkowski, 46); 2-Aaron Herrera (23-Manny Perez, 46), 6-Mark McKenzie (15-Auston Trusty, 46), 5-Justen Glad (14-Chris Richards, 46), 3-Chris Gloster (20-Sam Vines, 66); 13-Hassani Dotson (16-Chris Durkin, 46), 8-Djordje Mihailovic (capt.) (24-Christian Cappis, 66), 10-Alex Mendez (17-Richard Ledezma, 46); 11-Brooks Lennon (21-Omir Fernandez, 46), 9-Sebastian Soto (18-Mason Toye, 57), 7-Jonathan Lewis (25-Johnny Cardoso, 79)

Mihailović, 20, is one of only two players to appear in all three games for the U-23s in 2019. After notching starts for the U-23s against Egypt (March 22) and the Netherlands (March 24), Mihailović recently started and captained the U-23s in a 2-0 friendly win over Japan on Sept. 9 at the Chula Vista Elite Athletic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. At the senior team level, the midfielder has also earned five caps under Head Coach Gregg Berhalter in 2019, including two appearances in the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.

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This is true of most relationships in life, they take time to build up and time to break down. In sports, at least as seasons finish, the end comes quickly and without pretense. Fans almost always wish they had more time, one more game, one more tailgate, one more win.

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But even in victory, there are always more questions than answers.

Here’s a list of the most prominent of the former and a guess at some of the latter, starting with the players.

The 2020 Philadelphia Union
At the end of the 2018 season, the Union moved on from players like Josh Yaro, Richie Marquez, Marcus Epps, and Jay Simpson by not renewing their contracts. None were large contributors and only Epps is playing American professional soccer today, albeit sparingly for New York Red Bulls.

Simpson’s Wikipedia page has him listed on the roster of Cypriot side Nea Salamis Famagusta FC. This is perhaps a fitting stop for the journeyman because the team “has been a refugee club since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, when Turkey occupied the northern part of the island. The club is temporarily based in Larnaca.”

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As roster decisions loom this autumn, it’s likely the team will move on from much more talented players than they did the year before; players like Jamiro Monteiro (whose loan from Metz will expire and price will be too high to keep), Aurellien Collin (who filled in on a one-year deal and might just retire back to France where he was when the Union came calling last year), Warren Creavalle (who is starting caliber for many MLS teams but hasn’t found his place in the Union midfield), and of course Marco Fabian (who was among the team’s most productive players but found himself a useful cog in the Union machine less often than he did the odd man out).

Ok, Turner’s probably not next in line for real, but I’d be happy to see him as the third ‘keeper in this camp or the next. But my guess is we’ll wait until January.

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For those of you wondering where Ethan Horvath is: mostly on the bench. The 24-year-old has lost his starting job for Club Brugge, though he is playing in Belgian Cup games. Given that and his struggles with the ball at his feet, he’s going to have to do a lot of work to get back into the picture here.

RIGHT BACKS (2): Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)

Cannon has not been at his best since the Gold Cup, which is not unusual for a young player coming off his first major tournament. We’ve seen that kind of dip in performance repeatedly over the decades, and it’s not limited to the US. It’s kind of a natural thing when transitioning from club to country and back again.

But he’s been good enough and is promising enough to not lose his spot on the roster.

Yedlin, meanwhile, returned to action this week for Newcastle after a lengthy injury absence. He’s played only 16 minutes in the past six months so it’d be perfectly understandable if Berhalter left him with his club to reintegrate. But I’m going to assume DeAndre gets a call for these games and a brief cameo at the end of one or both, since he has to reintegrate with the US as well.

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Next in line: Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado Rapids)

I don’t actually think Rosenberry has any chance of getting a call, largely because the two left-backs on this roster are both natural right-backs. But he’s been better than both Cannon and Nick Lima this year, and his passing matches what Berhalter looks for from this spot:

Matthew Doyle

@MattDoyle76
This is really nice stuff from the Rapids, and a good example of Rosenberry’s versatility when pushing up (that’s him w/ the one-touch through the lines to Serna).

Kei’s gotta head that back across.

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There are certainly others on the Union depth chart today that might not be there come March.

For the first time since he was drafted, the Union will have a real chance to move on from goalkeeper Andre Blake should they want to. They have this chance because Jamaica’s national team is finally ranked high enough that a move to England is in play, and two years ago Brighton and Crystal Palace were kicking Blake’s tires.
Ray Gaddis already has his place penciled into the Union’s Ring of Honor, as well as Jim Curtin’s undying love. Though he’s fended off challenges to his starting Right Back spot since he was drafted (goodbye, Sheanon Williams, au revior, Keegan Rosenberry), perhaps this is the year he’ll be usurped.
Jack Elliott was as good as gold to suit up for the Union this year, starting every single match. He also has a European passport of course, and if there’s one thing English soccer coaches love it’s a tall center back with good feet.
Coming to the end of his contract, Fafa Picault might be the odd man out of a crowded attack. Or he might just adapt like he did in 2019, in which he finished 6th on the team in goals and tied for 4th in assists. Maybe he’s the answer at the #10 position, a spot he played in the friendly against PUMAS, did this,…

Philadelphia Union

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…and all but broke the Mexican side’s midfield who were issued two red cards while chasing the Gazelle.

As some players shuffle out, there will be a new group who shuffle in. To that end, as much as fans value the contributions of players like Jamiro Monteiro today, even the most plugged-in of them had likely never heard of the maestro before he signed with the side this spring.

Ernst Tanner, Chris Alright, and the team’s scouting network have proven themselves adept thus far at finding diamonds in the rough (see also: Wagner, Kai and Pryzbylko, Kacper) and there shouldn’t be much doubt as to whether the new stock will be talented enough to make do.

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FLUSHING, N.Y. — New York City FC finished the regular season on top, but is going home after just one playoff game.

A last-minute penalty sent top-seeded NYCFC packing Wednesday with a 2-1 loss to No. 4 Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

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Alejandro Pozuelo scored both of Toronto’s goals in the second half. Toronto will now advance to the conference final to face the winner of a Thursday semifinal between Atlanta United and the Philadelphia Union.

“The mentality is really strong with this team, the work rate is really strong, the quality is there, they believe in themselves,” Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney said. “Anything is possible when all those things are put together.”

The decisive goal came after Ronald Matarrita tripped Toronto’s Richie Laryea inside the penalty area. Pozuelo put his penalty kick past Sean Johnson in the 90th minute in front of an announced crowd of 19,829 at Citi Field.

NYCFC coach Dome Torrent is under contract for next season, but said after the game he does not know whether he will return. He has to go back to English sister cub Manchester City to meet with ownership and discuss his future.

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“I don’t know what will happen,” Torrent said. “Right now we have time, it’s October, we have time to talk about the next year. But don’t worry because if Dome’s not here … the most important thing is the club. They have a good, good team, amazing players and no doubt about if Dome is the head coach or another coach, he can play really well with these kind of players.”

Torrent said he told the players many times leading up to Wednesday’s match, “It’s about the mistakes” in knockout games.

That proved true.

Just three minutes into the second half, Toronto FC capitalized on a gaffe by NYCFC’s defense to score the game’s first goal. Maxime Chanot attempted to head back to Johnson, but only popped the ball slightly behind him. Pozuelo picked the ball off and finished with his left foot from 12 yards out.

“It’s just one of those moments where things don’t work out the way you really planned them,” Johnson said. “That’s the game of football. He’s a terrific defender so it doesn’t define him by any means. I’m sure we’d all have that back that moment back and do it differently next time.”

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Sean Johnson: “Best point total and all that goes out the window if you can’t make anything of it.” (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

QUEENS, N.Y. — New York City FC’s elimination from the MLS Cup Playoffs was one bitter pill to swallow for goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

He just came off one of his best, if not the best games of the Major League Soccer season. In the first half alone, the 30-year-old keeper made four spectacular saves to keep City in the game at Citi Field.

As well as he played, Johnson wasn’t a miracle worker and gave up two goals in what turned into a distressing 2-1 defeat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

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“It’s tough to find words right now,” he said. “The emotions are still pretty fresh in a game where it’s everything to play for. We simply weren’t good enough today. I think you look at the course of the game. We start off with 45 minutes and we’re lucky we escape with 0-0 at halftime. We didn’t show up with the right energy, the right focus.”

Johnson refused to blame any of his teammates for both Toronto FC’s goals, even though they were dreadful mistakes.

“Mistakes happen, but I think it’s a collective,” he said. “In big games and in big moments we’ve got to show up. That’s the name of the game in the playoffs and fighting for each other. I think for 90 minutes Toronto did what they had to do to get the lead twice. It’s disappointing because you put so much into a long year.”

Indeed.

NYCFC won its first conference title with an impressive 18-6-10 record and 58 points. Many members of the media, pundits, observers and fans were pointing toward a possible MLS Cup match-up with Supporters Shield winner Los Angeles Football Club Nov. 10.

“Thirty-four game season, postseason, international breaks, Open Cup, all that jazz, first place in the East, best point total and all that goes out the window if you can’t make anything of it,” Johnson said. “Off-season’s here and it’s a harsh reality for a lot of guys who haven’t experienced that yet. And for those who were here last year, it’s a repeat. I said it last year, it wasn’t good enough. We did all we did to come back this year to make things better, but we fell short again. So, no lack of support all year from the fans. They were incredible and spurred us on until the very last minute of the game. So, for that I’m thankful.”

Still, NYCFC can’t get over the hump in the playoffs. After missing the postseason in its first year in 2015, City has booked a spot there four consecutive times. And every time the club has exited in the first round in which has competed.

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In fact, NYCFC is 1-6 in seven playoff matches as it has been outscored, 17-5. It also been eliminated by Toronto FC twice, including by a 7-0 aggregate in 2016.

Since it received a first-round bye, City had a 17-day break from matches. Toronto FC, on the other hand, was coming off a 120-minute affair, a 5-1 extratime win over D.C. United Saturday.

“To be honest I don’t think we can make any excuse whether it was the amount we had,” he said. “Not playing any meaningful games in that time period, you can write the narrative any way you want, but at the end of the day, you have to take responsibility as players. We worked hard enough to put ourselves in that position and with that position comes responsibility to take care of business when the moment comes up. I think you can go around the room and ask any player and I don’t think they’ll put it down to anything that happened in the last week and a half, two weeks. For us, the moment was now, and it wasn’t good enough for a team to go out the way we did and now we’re looking at another offseason.”

Taty Castellanos came close to the equalizer in the 57th minute when he turned from 20 yards out and fired just wide of the far post. Two minutes later, Maxi Moralez put a shot on frame, but goalkeeper Quentin Westberg made the save.

The leveler came in the 69th minute, when Moralez crossed to the back post and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi beat Westberg off the bounce.

NYCFC had a first-round playoff bye, and looked every bit a team that hadn’t played in 17 days during the opening 45 minutes. The home team would have trailed at the break if not for the play of Johnson.

Toronto FC 2, NYCFC 1 – 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs

Oct 23, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley (4) warms up before a game against New York City FC at CitiField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

“Simply we just weren’t good enough today,” Johnson said. “I think you look at the course of the game and we start off for 45 minutes and think get lucky to escape 0-0 at halftime. We didn’t show up with the right energy, the right focus and mistakes happen, but i think is a collective. In big games, in big moments, we have to show up.”

Johnson made four saves in the first half, each a critical intervention. He parried away an attempt by Tsubasa Endoh in the 5th minute and dived to his right to push aside a point-blank shot by Pozuelo 10 minutes later.

In the 37th minute, a clever combination for Toronto FC saw Pozuelo play a penetrating pass to Endoh in the box. The Japanese midfielder set up Jonathan Osorio with a backheel, but Johnson pushed the Canadian international’s shot over the crossbar for one of TFC’s three first-half corner kicks.

The best chance for NYCFC in the first half came on a quick restart by Alex Ring after Moralez was fouled. He played to a streaking Castellanos, but Westberg got a piece of the attempt for an NYCFC corner. NYCFC had one final shot to level in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time, but Westberg pushed aside Castellanos’ close-range header.

“I think the second half we played much better than the first half and we deserved more,” Torrent said. “But sometimes the soccer is unfair with the players and that happened tonight.”

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CHICAGO (Oct. 14, 2019) – Following a comprehensive 7-0 win against Cuba on Friday night, the U.S. Men’s National Team heads north to take on Canada on Tuesday, Oct. 15 where a win would see the side pull level with les Rouges in the Concacaf Nations League A, Group A table. Pre-game coverage of Canada-USA begins at 7:10 p.m. ET on ESPN2, UniMás and TUDN, with kickoff to follow at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Fans can also follow along via U.S. Soccer’s official Facebook, Twitter (@USMNT) and Instagram (@USMNT) accounts.

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USA DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS):
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 62/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 8/0), Zack Steffen (Fortuna Düsseldorf/GER; 16/0)

DEFENDERS (7): Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 9/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 8/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 13/2), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 11/0), Matt Miazga (Reading/ENG; 18/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 37/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 59/0)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 150/17), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 12/2), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 16/6), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 33/14), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 17/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 20/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 4/0)

FORWARDS (6): Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 29/5), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 4/0), Tyler Boyd (Beşiktaş/TUR; 8/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 36/7), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 10/3), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 53/10)

USMNT ROUTS CUBA 7-0 FRIDAY IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
The U.S. Men’s National Team opened Concacaf Nations League play in impressive fashion, routing Cuba 7-0 on Friday night at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. The side used a hat trick from Weston McKennie and a Jordan Morris strike inside the first 13 minutes to put the game away early. Morris then forced an own goal not long after the hour mark, before Josh Sargent gave the side a 6-0 halftime lead. Captaining the team for the third time, Christian Pulisic recorded his 14th goal and first from the penalty spot in the 62nd minute, capping the scoring and sending the USMNT north to Canada with its largest margin of victory of the Gregg Berhalter era.

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RECORDS TIED AND SET VS. CUBA
With three goals inside 13 minutes, USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie recorded the fastest hat trick from the start of a game in team history. It was also the second-fastest in minutes spanned, coming in just one minute behind Brian McBride, who tallied three goals in 12 minutes in a 4-0 Gold Cup quarterfinal victory against El Salvador on Jan. 27, 2002.

With a trio of assists, Jordan Morris became just the third player in USMNT history to achieve the record of three in a match, tying Cobi Jones (Nov. 14, 1993 vs. Cayman Islands) and Landon Donovan (April 1, 2009 vs. Trinidad & Tobago and July 21, 2013 vs. El Salvador).

Finally, the USMNT’s six first-half goals in the match set a new record for goals in a half among matches which goal times are recorded (going back to at least 1968). Interestingly, the previous record of five goals all came in the second half of matches.

BERHALTER APPROACHING 10-WIN MILESTONE
Friday’s 7-0 victory against Cuba also marked Gregg Berhalter’s ninth as USMNT head coach.

Set to manage his 16th match on Tuesday against Canada, a win would see Berhalter become the second-fastest USMNT manager to achieve double-digit victories after only Bob Bradley, who achieved his 10th win in his 11th match as head coach in 2007.

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USMNT HEAD COACHES – FASTEST TO 10 WINS OVERALL

Coach

Games Coached

10th Win Date

Result

Competition

Bob Bradley

11

June 24, 2007

2-1 W vs. Mexico

2007 Gold Cup

Bruce Arena

18

February 16, 2000

1-0 W vs. Peru

2000 Gold Cup

Jurgen Klinsmann

18

September 11, 2012

1-0 W vs. Jamaica

2014 WCQ

Steve Sampson

19

June 9, 1996

2-1 W vs. Ireland

Friendly

Bob Gansler

21

April 8, 1990

4-1 W vs. Iceland

Friendly

Bora Milutinovic

24

May 30, 1992

3-1 W vs. Ireland

Friendly

* Gregg Berhalter has 9 wins in 15 games coached with the USMNT

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MILES ROBINSON DEPARTS CAMP WITH HAMSTRING INJURY
The USMNT roster was reduced to 24 players on Saturday with defender Miles Robinson returning to Atlanta United FC after suffering a left hamstring strain in training following Friday night’s win against Cuba. Robinson was summoned to camp earlier in the week as an injury replacement for Walker Zimmerman who suffered a concussion in LAFC’s regular season finale.

TORONTO (AP) — The U.S. men’s soccer team lost to Canada for the first time in 34 years, allowing second-half goals to Alphonso Davis and Lucas Cavallini in a 2-0 defeat Tuesday night in the CONCACAF Nations League.

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A little over two years after the Americans failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup by losing at Trinidad and Tobago, they saw their 17-match unbeaten streak against their northern neighbor come to an end.

The U.S. men’s national team—and let’s be clear, the U.S. Soccer Federation as a whole—are in crisis again. And the whole thing makes you wonder if anyone learned any lessons at all from the monumental failure to qualify for World Cup 2018.

On Tuesday, Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT lost 2-0 to Canada in Toronto in the Concacaf Nations League, a loss that was deserved, a loss that was historic (the first time Canada has beaten the U.S. in 34 years) and a loss that probably should have been by an even bigger margin. It was the latest example that the U.S., whose best teams were always hard to play against, has lost that identity in the last five years of freefall.

It was one thing to lose 1-0 to Mexico in the 2019 Gold Cup final. But to lose 3-0 to the Mexicans after that (while failing to execute on the basics) and 2-0 to the Canadians in a competitive game are other things entirely.

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Under Berhalter—as was the case under Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena—the U.S. is worse than the sum of its parts. The talent that is there is being asked by Berhalter to adopt a play-out-of-the-back tactical approach that isn’t suited to the players at hand, who would be better off using a more direct style that (combined with pressing) would help keep the ball in the opponent’s half of the field. If Berhalter doesn’t adapt now, he should be out of a job soon.

Davies turned in a cross from Scott Arfield. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen put a palm up to block Davies’ shot but the ball still dropped over the line as Canada’s players rushed to join Davies for a raucous celebration.

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Concacaf Nations League

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63′ Goal by Alphonso Davies! @CanadaSoccerEN’s has the lead! 1-0 over @ussoccer_mnt in Toronto | #FollowTheDream #CNL

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Cavallini added a 90th-minute for 75th-ranked Canada, taking long pass and beating Steffen to the near post with a low shot.

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@CNationsLeague
Goal @CanadaSoccerEN ! Lucas Cavalini scores Canada’s second goal of the night! This is the first win against @ussoccer_mnt since 1985! #CNL #FollowTheDream

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Christian Pulisic had a point-blank shot saved by goalkeeper Milan Borjan in the 51st minute.

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The 21st-ranked U.S., coming off last week’s opening 7-0 home rout of Cuba, had nine wins and eight draws against Canada since a 2-0 exhibition defeat at Vancouver, British Columbia, in April 1985.

Canada is trying to climb into the top six in the region in FIFA rankings, which will be used next summer to determine the nations in the hexagonal will produce the three direct qualifiers from the North and Central American and Caribbean region for the 2022 World Cup.

The U.S. and Canada meet again Nov. 15 at Orlando, Florida, and the U.S. faces Cuba four days later George Town, Cayman Islands.

American coach Gregg Berhalter made four changes, inserting Steffen, right back DeAndre Yedlin, central defender Aaron Long and midfielder Michael Bradley. Yedlin made his first international appearance since March 26 after recovering from groin surgery.

With the departure, the USMNT roster stands at 24 players heading into Tuesday’s match against Canada. Teams are allowed to dress 23 players for Concacaf Nations League games (20 field players and three goalkeepers).

CNL PROVIDES COMPETITION, PREP FOR WORLD CUP QUALIFYING
Normally at this point of the cycle, the USMNT would still be playing friendlies in preparation for the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying. With the advent of the Concacaf Nations League, the team is now getting competitive matches in a home-and-away format that can replicate what the team will experience come the final round of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup which begins next September.

“This is competitive soccer,” USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said about the new competition. “For us, it’s playing away games and playing home games that leads to a result in a tournament format which is important. World Cup qualifying is an absolutely crucial event, and these games will help prepare us. Any time there is a trophy on the line and in the inaugural Nations League tournament [there is], we want to put ourselves in a position to win.”

LEAGUE A, GROUP A
Drawn into Nations League A, Group A, the USMNT closes out the year with home and away matches against Canada and Cuba. Those countries faced off during the September window, with Canada earning a 7-0 win on Sept. 7 in Toronto before a 1-0 victory in Cuba’s “home” match on Sept. 10 in Georgetown, Grand Cayman. With those results, the USMNT will have the goal of equaling Canada’s six points by the end of the October window.