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Tag: Soccer

Paragon of the Pitch—Christian Pulisic’s Budding Career

Called a “fast-rising talent” by Sports Illustrated, Christian Pulisic is making waves as a new addition to the U.S. men’s national soccer team (USMNT). The 18-year-old, born in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is of slight frame but possesses strong dribbling skills, a talent which gained him attention as part of Borussia Dortmund, scoring four goals in his career with the organization.

Among USMNST fans, Pulisic quickly earned a reputation for modesty in the face of circumstances that would certainly inflate other egos. In the face of a recent loss to Mexico, Pulisic insists that he didn’t do enough to push for a U.S. victory.

Really, that simple admission sums up who Pulisic is as both a player and an individual: a hard worker with the determination to consistently improve his showing. Any individual forming the backbone of the USMNT offense in their first appearance has to have both the physicality and the mentality to contend with career players. Pulisic’s tactical approach to his game, exploiting holes in opposing defenses, displays a patience and expertise formed by a lifetime of soccer.

His game against Mexico may have been a disappointing loss for the USMNT, but his showing, marred only slightly by a bad touch, demonstrates that he has the mettle to play with the game’s titans. Coach Jürgen Klinsmann praised Pulisic’s performance during the game, but is keeping the teen under wraps for now, refusing to overhype his prowess.

However, this hasn’t stopped the rest of the soccer community from doing exactly that. And it’s not hard to see why. His list of accomplishments includes the honors of being the youngest American to play, score, and later start, in a World Cup Qualifier.

Pulisic may well have been inspired by his parents, both of whom played collegiate soccer at George Mason University. His father, Mark, went on to play professionally for the Harrisburg Heat.

After playing for various youth teams, Pulisic joined the U-17 Borussia Dortmund squad, distinguishing himself and earning the respect of his teammates not only for his skill, but for his personality and down-to-earth nature. With ten goals and eight assists over the course of 15 games, the team’s management knew that they had something special on their hands.

He was quickly promoted to Dortmund’s U-19 team, netting experience in the FIFA World Cup as part of the U.S U-17’s before being recruited for the USMNT.

There’s a lot riding on Pulisic’s shoulders at this point. Criticisms of Jürgen Klinsmann’s coaching have been met with calls for Pulisic to rescue the franchise from the jaws of what many view as mediocre management. Is it a lot to ask from a single 18-year-old? Maybe, but Really, it’s too early to tell whether he’ll be able to deliver on whatever high hopes his team and country have ascribed to him, but his position as a young rising star ensures that his career is far from over.

Bradley’s Going to Swansee

American soccer is exponentially increasing in popularity across the country. As a result, immense stadiums are sprouting up in cities from Minneapolis to Miami and with these crowds comes a remarkably higher level of competition. MLS athletes are performing at a level not previously seen in the league’s short-lived history, and now—they are beginning to be recognized for such.

Bob Bradley, 58, started his career in the United States with the Chicago Fire, then moved through the ranks from the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, to Chivas USA, and finally to the US Men’s National Team. In 2010, Bradley managed the USMNT to a spot in the 16th round at 2010 World Cup, overcoming England for the top spot in the group. He is best remembered, however, for his signature win over Spain at the 2009 Confederations Cup, a 2-0 victory enshrined in the annals of soccer history.

He soon went on to coach the top caliber Stabek squad in 2015, and even managed to lead them to qualify for the Europa League. His accomplishments did not go unnoticed and now he’s been selected to oversee Swansea City in none other than the Premier League. Considering his record is less extensive than many in the Premier League (and it’s speculated Swansea City’s American owners exhibited bias), his prospective performance is already subject to severe scrutiny.

The pressure, in particular, will be exponentially higher than any Bradley has thus far endured, at least in regards to publicity. When Bradley presided over a national team in Egypt back in 2011, he was forced to overcome the Egyptian revolution in addition to the Port Said stadium catastrophe, an event that saw the suspension of the Egyptian Premier League. So Bradley is no stranger to pressure. Whether or not he is able to deftly manage global scrutiny, however, remains to be seen.

Regardless, Swansea City can expect to see a few things as Bradley assumes his role. They will likely be incredibly organized. Plus, Bradley has a particular inclination for maximizing the ability of the players beneath him in addition to identifying outside talent that can be put to good use. He demonstrated such recruiting skills during his time with both the United States and Egyptian leagues. So, it stands to reason these universal skills will benefit him with Swansea City as well.

Bob Bradley’s ascension to the Premier League is an outstanding achievement not just for him, but for American soccer as a whole. It signifies our increasing role on the world soccer stage.

3 Questions for the USMNT Roster

The USMNT roster is facing some serious questions in the wake of some very significant losses to their lineup. Clint Dempsey is out after being benched to undergo medical evaluations for an irregular heartbeat. This leaves the team to suck it up in the meantime—hopefull Dempsey will be back in action in no time; and at least for the next two weeks, the absence should be negligible. We are, after all, playing Trinidad & Tobago and St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Nonetheless, what is to become of USMNT and the rest of its players?

Can Jozy and Bobby be effective together?

Altidore, for one, is in the prime of his career. He’s an all-around threat embodying athleticism, field awareness, and deft skill who strikes fear into the heart of his opponents. Wood is already raising the bar (check out his goal here). Over the last year, Bobby and Dempsey worked together very well, playing off of each other to make the most of situations.

The same goes for Jozy and Wood. Yet, Wood and Jozy may not produce the same results. Considering both are center forwards and have no secondary position, their play may be hindered significantly. Each of them plays in center channels, engages in hold-up play, and when they drop back to pick the ball up, it’s with their back to the goal so they can turn to let other players pass.

As can be implied, if they’re playing the way they have in the past, they’re bound to step on each other’s toes, maybe even literally. Dempsey, though, was not confined to a single manner of play and that’s partly why he was so successful. He has been a box-to-box midfielder, an inverted winger, a second forward, and even a lone center forward. That’s not to say he was a superstar in every position, but he definitely always got the job done; and he wasn’t doing that, he was surpassing expectations. What Dempsey was particularly wonderful at (that Jozy and Wood may not be so fantastic at) was dropping into midfield to take off some of the pressure and initiate long passing sequences.

Is this the official roster?

It seems Bill Jamid, David Bingham, and Vincent Yarbrough have been intentionally left off of the goalkeeper depth chart. There is no real rush to replace Brad Guzan and Tim Howard, anyway. Kellyn Acosta has been selected to play left back which should prove interesting.

Paul Arriola and Caleb Stanko have been selected for mid-field. Arriola is a wing player from Tijuana and has only played just over a hundred minutes over five games (he hasn’t scored just yet). Caleb is on loan from SC Feiburg of the Bundesliga to FC Vaduz of the Swiss Super League at the moment. As for forwards, Rubio Rubin will be worth keeping an eye out for. He has so far played three games with FC Utrecht in the Eredivisie and hasn’t scored yet either.

Whether or not this roster will do us well remains to be seen. There are obvious questions, like why is Stanko ahead of Perry Kitchen when he just lost his starter position and was subbed out with an injury when Kitchen actually started and already scored for the Hearts. Regardless, there’s not much we can do but trust in Jurgen and hope for the best.

The MLS in Minneapolis

The MLS is a growing professional league with bright prospects. A single team is on average worth $103 million. In just twenty years, the league has expanded from ten teams to what will be twenty-three by 2017, and this is just the beginning. Now even Minneapolis is getting in on the action.

With only five professional teams since 1970, there must be a serious push for Major League Soccer to even be considered in the Twin Cities, and that is exactly what’s happening. William W. McGuire, the former chief executive of UnitedHealth Group and the owner of the Minesota United of the North American Soccer League, is spearheading the effort and attempting to launch the expansion franchise by claiming he will build an open-air soccer stadium with private money.

He has committed $250 million (100 for the M.L.S. expansion fee and 150 for the stadium itself) and intends to focus solely on soccer. This is fantastic news for soccer because the Wilf family, owner of the Minnesota Vikings, opposes the M.L.S. expansion. An immensely powerful family, they potentially have (or rather had) the ability to shut down the project entirely.

Before McGuire pledged the $250 million, they were bidding to make the team play in the Vikings stadium. Had this transpired, soccer would be relegated to a position of lesser significance. It would come after the Vikings. It would, in short, be second.

Mcguire explains, “The sport I love would be a second priority. The N.F.L. is a gold mine, and everything else has to be second. There was always a chance the league would look at that situation and say ‘This is what we want to do.’…the best thing for soccer is to have soccer-specific stadiums, if it could be pulled off, rather than putting the sport into a stadium that’s fundamentally built for something else.”

M.L.S. officials agreed with McGuire and allowed him to build the purposeful stadium he envisioned. Funny enough, McGuire was not born into a soccer-filled childhood. Hailing from Troy, New York, his 6’6” lent itself to basketball and he played at Clear Creek High School in Texas. He spent his spare time fishing instead of kicking a ball around—until 2011, that is. That’s when the N.A.S.L. took control of the at-the-time failing Minnesota franchise, the Stars.

The N.A.S.L. got in touch with Bill’s daughter who, in turn, got in touch with Bill. Still, he was not interested. It was only after going to a couple games and meeting fans in 2012 that he changed his tune. Taken with their passion for the sport and the palpable energy immersing the sport, Bill decided he’d give it a shot. In fact, Bill took on the initiative with an eye to philanthropy than profit. “It was not analyzed extensively on a financial basis,” he claimed.

A sport that has never received much publicity is being kept alive based off of its presence in the community. McGuire elaborated “It was something we should not let disappear from the community after 35, 36 years.” If soccer is already being kept alive on goodwill even without the following it’s known for across the world, it bodes very well for the future of the sport.

Major League Soccer is making a splash in professional sports, and I expect it will only continue.

USMNT Training Camp is Upon Us

It is time, my fellow USMNT fans, to rejoice and celebrate the beginning of training camp. The roster has been called forth by Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, identifying 28 players we could well see representing us in the coming World Cup. Take a gander below (referenced here):

Goalkeeper: Nick Ramando, Jon Kempin, Sean Johnson, Alex Bono

Defenders: Oscar Sorto, Shane O’Neil, Perry Kitchen, Jermaine Jones, Brad Evans, Christian Dean, Steve Birnbaum, Matt Besler

Midfield: Will Trapp, Brek Shea, Dillon Serna, Marc Pelosi, Lee Nguyen, Miguel Ibarra, Luis Gill, Dennis Flores, Max Diskerud, Michael Bradley

Forwards: Gyasi Zardes, Bobby Wood, Chris Wondolowski, Julio Morales, Clint Dempsey, Tesho Akindele.

The camp is bound to promise a comprehensive review of all selected players. This new squad has a few familiar faces as well as a breath of fresh air in its new candidates. It appears 2018 is promising for a new and exciting look into a different team capable of providing the same exhilaration we have grown accustomed to. Joining the likes of esteemed veterans Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley, Marc Pelosi in particular is a promising midfielder to watch.

The former captain of the U17 team, Pelosi is sure to provide an athletic spectacle. After signing for Liverpool but breaking his leg early on, his future has been uncertain. Luckily for him, he will now have Michael Bradley by his side to offer some guidance, thus (hopefully) elevating his game. Already currently exhibiting skill in the Liverpool U21’s, this is his well-deserved chance to see some playing time at the national level.

While of course it is exciting to see so many veterans, I do think it comes as a bit of a surprise. Personally, I was expecting a team completely full of new and invigorating players, ready to shed tears, sweat, and blood if need be for a shot at the World Cup. That said, I am sure the veterans will give it their all. Not to mention, their combined experience, field awareness, and refined skill may just give the USMNT the extra push they need for an even deeper run than before in the upcoming tournament of tournaments.

As a side note, it should be noted that both Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans will not be participating in this camp. Although listed for the roster, the reason why I listed them above, it says here that they may very well not be playing in reality. For Evans, it appears injuries like tendonitis in his knee will be barring his attendance. For Dempsey, the reason for his absence remains to be seen.

No matter what you think of the roster, I’m sure we can all agree that we are excited to see the USMNT back together again. The energy is palpable. The anticipation is building. The cup is coming.

P.S.: For your ticket to the first friendly against Iceland in Carson, California, click here.