The US will host CONCACAF qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. It will take place October 1-13, although the host cities are unknown at this time. The top two teams qualify for the Olympics while the third place team will face Colombia in March of 2016 for a spot. The FIFA international window in October is between 5-13, so getting releases for some of the “better” players could happen for the second half of the tournament.
Brad Guzan wrote some words for The Players’ Tribune about life as a Premier League goalkeeper.
LA Galaxy midfielder Juninho would be interested in playing for the US, but he would have to wait a few more years to apply for citizenship since he just got his green card in July of 2013. So basically it would be a while.
The Irish Times has a story up about Ireland likely missing out on Shane O’Neill.
And finally, if you are a US Soccer twitter hipster, you are probably aware of @RobUsry. He makes a lot of fun videos of US players and his latest is on new Borussia Dortmund youngster Christian Pulisic.
2015 is a big year for the US youth national teams. Of course we have the U20 and U17 World Cups on the horizon but we’re also approaching the Olympic U23 qualifying in the fall. We should start seeing more U23 camps and games like we saw against the Bahamas and Brazil in 2014. Because it’s the best position, here’s a quick run through of the state of the goalkeepers on each three USYNT teams.
Inside tracks: Cody Cropper, Jon Kempin, Alex Bono
Darkhorses: Paul Blanchette (Loyola Marymount), Devin Cook (Austin Aztex), Andrew Wolverton (LA Galaxy), Tyler Miller (SVN Zweibrücken)
Of course Bono is the hot item right now going from expecting to stay for his senior year to landing a Generation Adidas contract and getting a USMNT call-up all within a few weeks. But the Olympic squads only carry two goalkeepers into the final tournament. Qualifying will now take place this fall, the same time as Cropper’s club starts up, so while Bono may make the qualifying roster, he may not be able to jump Cropper or Kempin to make the final two. Kempin, who was named over Bono as one of the three final goalkeepers for the upcoming Chile game.
Cook passed on his senior year to play at Austin Aztex. Wolverton and Miller had rightful buzz this past MLS draft and Paul Blanchette, highlights here of the true dark horse of the bunch, has a playing style very similar to Bono. The four have this next year to really make a case as to why they should be considered for the U23s.
Inside tracks: Zack Steffen, Ethan Horvath
Darkhorses: Evan Louro (Michigan), Jeff Caldwell (Virginia), Paul Christensen (Portland), Josh Weiss (Sienna)
Completely out of the running: Santiago Castaño
Before the Red Bulls keeper switched to Colombia, Castaño was a shoo-in to backup Steffen through the winter qualification. So when he jumped to Colombia, not only did he give up a spot to Horvath, but he didn’t even make the final roster for Colombia. But even with the departure, the US is stacked at the position. The four dark horses all finished their freshman year at their respective schools and would be fine replacements if Steffen or Horvath couldn’t attend.
As for Steffen and Horvath, Steffen finished on a very high note as he saved a penalty in a, at the time, 1-0 game against El Salvador. Steffen not only covered a great deal of the goalmouth to make the save, doing his best Steve Clark impression, but it did it in such a nonchalant manner. It was a lot of fun to see him casually make the game-winning save. Even though he has some mechanics he could work on, he’s a worthy choice for New Zealand 2015.
Inside tracks: Kevin Silva, Will Pulisic
Darkhorses: Cameron Keys (La Salle), Charlie Furrer (Stanford), Austin Aviza (Syracuse), Tucker Schneider (SIUE)
The typically stalwart netminders had an uncharacteristically rough finish in the 2014 Nike Friendlies with a 4-1 loss to Brazil. Still, expect these two to be with the team at the end of February, the start of qualifying. The Silva/Pulisic combo has been a deathly duo for opposing offenses in the past and I expect them to roll zeros through qualification.
Keys, Furrer, Aviza, and Schneider are all looking to start their freshman year around the same time the U17 World Cup kicks off. Of the four, Keys and Aviza have a decent shot at starting for their schools but I don’t think any of them would mind missing their collegiate season to play at the U17 World Cup. Pulisic is actually the youngest of the six listed. In a tournament where age is incredibly important, let that speak as strong testimony for Pulisic’s ability, surpassing his peers that are 16 months older than him.
Speaking of the US U-20 team, in case you missed it, here are highlights of their 2-0 win over El Salvador to qualify for New Zealand. Romain Gall shared the Golden Boot with Mexico’s Hirving Lozano with each scoring five goals throughout the tournament.
Some reading material as you countdown until the weekend.
Coming off a 1-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday (highlights), the US U-20 team found out that it will be playing El Salvador on Saturday in the win-or-go-home playoff match to determine who will go to this summer’s U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. The game will be on Fox Sports 2 at 5:00 PM Eastern. The US will have a chance to get some revenge on El Salvador as they knocked out the 2012 U-23 team from qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. (UPDATE – Looks like the game is now on Fox Soccer Plus).
Speaking of the U-23 team, Ives Galarcep decided to guess at a possible Olympic qualifying team of MLS players since some of the European-based played might not get released for qualification.
Joe Corona returned from his broken foot to score in Tijuana’s Copa MX match on Wednesday (highlights). Jon Arnold (who has been everywhere this week) was at Estadio Caliente on Wednesday and got some post-game quotes from Corona. Tijuana’s website also got some words from Corona following the game.
For those of you with a Darlington Nagbe-to-USMNT countdown clock, you can probably move the time up a bit. Most people thought he would become a US citizen at the end of 2015 but it now looks like it could be September according to Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson.
A bunch of media have been in Los Angeles this week between the USMNT camp and MLS media day. Here are a bunch of tidbits to come from that.
Jozy Altidore finally sat down with various members of the press since arriving at camp after moving to Toronto (somehow Jon Arnold was allowed at the big boy table?!). From that talk, Jon Arnold and Jeff Carlisle each have stories with quotes from Mr. Altidore.
Jermaine Jones “leaked” to the media that the USMNT has been trying out a 3-5-2 (or at least a three-man back line) with Jones being the middle of the back three.
Jones also said that he would be open to a move back to Europe after his contract expires in December. I hope he finds a way to stay in the US and someone finally gives him (and his family) a reality show.
Jurgen Klinsmann told Rob Stone that CONCACAF Olympic qualifying has been moved up six months to this fall. Probably a reason why this camp is already using some U-23 players. And just another tournament on US Soccer’s landscape for an already busy 2015.
One player at this month’s camp that you probably don’t know that much about is Julio Morales. Brian Sciaretta gets you caught up to date on Mr. Morales. It looks like Morales might not be able to play in the friendlies just yet (although he can still participate in the camp) as he has to file a one-time switch with FIFA since he played with Mexico at the 2013 U-20 World Cup.
Much like Brad Friedel with the U-20 team, another former player, Carlos Bocanegra, is helping out as a coach this month.
Kyle McCarthy takes a look at the mixture of vets and youth as camp begins.
In other USMNT news, CONCACAF has moved up the start of the final round of World Cup qualifying (a.k.a. The Hex) by three months to November of 2016 due to FIFA eliminating some international fixture dates in 2017. The draw for the first round will take place on Thursday, but the US won’t enter qualification until the fourth round, beginning in November of 2015. Yes, the whole cycle is about to start up again.
And we might know about two more friendlies for this year as Fox Sports ran this graphic during Friday’s U-20 game, which shows games against Australia and Ghana for later this year.
Speaking of Mr. Zelalem, the guys over at The Short Fuse have a little write- up on the savoir of American soccer Arsenal prospect.
Moving onto some club news.
All signs are pointingtowards Mix Diskerud signing with NYCFC later today (or this week).
There was some more Jozy Altidore-to-MLS chatter over the weekend and Toronto FC appears to have the edge at the moment. If this were to go down, I am just going to pretend that this was some mastermind of Klinsi to get Michael Bradley and Jozy practicing together everyday.
Heath Pearce didn’t come to terms with Orlando City after being taken in the expansion draft, so he might be looking to take his talents to Europe. Pearce began his professional career in Denmark with FC Nordsjælland and also played with Hansa Rostock in Germany so he does have experience abroad.
I can’t find much more on this, but Frank Simek’s wikipedia page has been updated that he is now with Sông Lam Nghệ An in Vietnam. As one would expect, it is not easy to find solid information on this team or league.
Camp begins January 12 and we should see a roster in the next few days. Jurgen Klinsmann/US Soccer released a video earlier this week to various members of the press where he explained that 2015 will focus a lot of attention on the youth teams, especially the U-23 Olympic team.
“The main task for 2015 is definitely the Olympic team, the U-23 team, to get that off the ground. To identify players, get camps on the agenda, get games on the agenda for that team, and help them to kind of build a core group towards the qualifiers. We want to make sure that what happened with London 2012 is not happening again. We put this on a higher priority level and I think that’s exciting.”
He also confirmed that Brek Shea will be in January’s camp.
Tab Ramos selected his 20-man roster for the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship on Monday. While Ben Spencer is on the roster, apparently CONCACAF’s website had Joel Sonora’s name on the roster at first. It looks like Sonora originally made the team, but was pulled off due to an injury.
With 2014 ending, we have closed off our 2014 goal tracker. Jann George led the way with 20 goals across all competitions in the calendar year. I have already setup the 2015 page as Jon-Paul Pittman scored a goal on January 1 while we were too busy watching the Big Ten beat up on the SEC West.
And finally, we can blame Alex Olshansky for bringing this to my attention, but here is the weird BBC intro for the US/Portugal match from last summer’s World Cup. You can tell even Gary Lineker thought it was odd at the end of the video.
Unfortunately, the next coaching staff to come in midway through the 2013 season was very different. The coaching staff was unable to communicate in English and were not good about translating for those of us who didn’t speak Spanish. I was punished by this coaching staff towards the end of the season for not understanding something that was said to me in Spanish, because it was not translated for me, therefore I did not respond to it. I was called into the coach’s office and helplessly tried to plead my ignorance of my apparent disrespect. There was no interpreter present and my message was not received. As punishment, I was demoted from second on the depth chart to third.
Yay Chivas USA?
We have had a few goals over the last couple days. Terrence Boyd scored his first goal since May in RB Leipzig’s 3-1 win over Erzgebirge Aue in the DFB Pokal on Wednesday (highlights). And of course he broke out the cyclops. Sacha Kljestan made his first start of the season and scored his first goal of the season in Anderlecht’s 3-2 win over Kortrijk (highlights). Bryan Gerzicich scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday in Maccabi Petah Tikva’s 1-0 win over Hapoel Haifa (highlights).
Aron Johannsson returned to AZ Alkmaar’s first team yesterday, playing in the 5-0 win over GVVV in the KNVB Beker.
The US is now unbeaten in its last 19 home games after Tuesday’s draw to Honduras. Here are the highlights and here are some photos. And I found this stat to be interesting from Matthew Doyle about Michael Bradley playing behind two true forwards.
While Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando seem to have the #1/#2 spots locked up over the next year, Will took a look at the depth behind them and gave some other options aside from Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson. He also went USMNT hipster on us and gave us some other options at the U-23 level.
While Joe Gyau is out until January with his meniscus injury, Schwatzgelb.com takes a look closer at Gyau’s career.
Julian Green and Fabian Johnson are both back at their respective German clubs and training again despite their recent injuries.
As the new cycle begins, we’re all expecting young talent to make some national team appearances. Bill Hamid almost made the last World Cup roster this last go-around and both Sean Johnson and Cody Cropper have received call-ups within the last year. It brings up the question, how much does potential play into receiving a call-up? Where is the floor for players’ current ability? On top of that, why is Rimando still in the picture? He’s 35 now and will be 39 by the next World Cup. Surely, he is on the downside of his career.
Players always mention the honor in playing for the US National Team. But the honor in a call-up must be based off of current merit, not promise. You don’t reward someone for what they’re going to do. The focus right now should be on the Gold Cup in nine months, not the 2018 World Cup. Rimando is still in the picture because he’s one of three best goalkeeping options for the US and will help the team next summer. With that in mind, struggling goalkeepers do not need to be called into camp. Sean Johnson is still experiencing growing pains with Chicago and Cody Cropper had a rough outing against Brazil on Monday (his first touch led to a goal). If Klinsmann wants to get a closer look at a goalie, he can visit a practice or attend a game but it’s a waste of a call-up to call-in a struggling goalkeeper when there are veterans who are at the peak of their games. The senior national team is not a developing program. Clubs develop players, not national teams. Reward those that are ready now and encourage the ones who will be there one day.
That said, here are three viable options Klinsmann needs to take a look at that can assist the US in their next run in the 2015 Gold Cup, if not beyond.
1. Steve Clark – Clark has a familiar late bloomer story for American soccer fans. Undrafted coming out of Oakland University, he bounced around in the US’s lower leagues before going abroad. Finally landing withHønefoss, he was a big reason why they earned promotion into the Tippeligaen, Norway’s premier league. After a disappointing finish in 2013 (Hønefoss finished with 34 goals scored in 30 games) Clark came back to play in MLS. He displayed a superb spring and quickness but also a DIY-technique he had learned and was the definition of “raw”. Columbus goalkeeper coach, and two time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Pat Onstad has honed Clark to a great final product. He’s playing angles well, his hands are in smart positions, and he still maintained his lateral reach.
Recently, Clark was runner-up in MLS’s save of the week… to himself. He’s the best goalkeeper in MLS at the moment and getting better. Look for Columbus to win the five seed in the East and for Clark to give their playoff opponent fits at the end of October.
2. Luis Robles – The only goalkeeper on this list that has a cap although Robles hasn’t been with the US team since his appearance in the summer of 2009. Out of the all the keepers on the list, Robles is the most consistent. He plays smart and knows exactly of what he’s capable of. He’s been crucial in helping New York clinch the playoffs despite being on one of the worst defenses in the league, sitting third in allowing shots against.
The main downside to Robles is that he doesn’t necessarily stand out in any one category. He’s not as explosive Hamid or Clark, he’s not that iconic outside the New York crowd, and he’s hasn’t been in the spotlight like heralded prodigies that go overseas, despite actually going overseas. For whatever reason, Robles has remained largely unnoticed in the depth pool. However he has the presence that would translate well to the international game.
3. Joe Bendik – Bendik and Clark share several similarities. He wasn’t drafted coming out of college and ended up in Norway. Bendik signed with Sogndal and also gained promotion, although Bendik wasn’t as involved with his club as Clark was. He returned to MLS and eventually found his way to Toronto. At the end of this season he’ll have one and a half seasons as a starter under his belt. (He spent time as a backup to loanee Julio Cesar.)
Bendik’s season has been about what one would expect from a twenty-five year old. Mostly solid play with the occasion conceded goal centered around lack of experience, not a lack of skill. An odd situation where the ball takes a weird bounce, a forgotten backside runner, a delayed thought to recognize the through ball… Bendik has all the tools to be an elite starter within MLS but he still has some growing to do. As for now, he’s still good enough to start and the kind of player you want to build your team around.
Since we’re on the subject, the USYNTs are notorious for staying with their two goalkeepers and not bringing in new competition. (Although to be fare Charlie Horton was called into the last U23 game, a name that was far from the radar for most fans.) This next Olympic cycle will likely feature Cody Cropper as the number one and Santiago Castaño as the number two. Here are three more goalkeepers that deserve a look or, at the very least, allow you to say you knew about them first.
1. Jon Kempin – Kempin made a splash in Kansas City this year with his penalty heroics. Look for Kansas City to make some room for Kempin next year as he’s currently sitting number three.
2. Alex Bono – The starter for Syracuse University, who are 11-1 and sitting number four in the nation. Bono and Syracuse take on North Carolina State on ESPN 3, October 25th.
3. Paul Blanchette – At 6’3″, 200 pounds, Blanchette has more the frame of a college tight end than your typical goalkeeper. The starter for Loyola Marymount University is a little harder to catch on TV but his highlight reel doesn’t disappoint.
For more information about the depth pool on American goalkeepers and some analysis on Bill Hamid’s strengths and weaknesses, feel free to skim the latest edition of Top 100 American Goalkeepers.