Pitch Points promotes, relegates

Let’s round up the latest links relevant in the world of Nashville SC and US Soccer! With commentary! As always, feel free to share with a friend or share anything you’d like me to include on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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Ghost of USL Future. USL President Jake Edwards has a Big Mood about where the United Soccer Leagues will be come the United States’ 2026 host year for the World Cup. The USL has made eyes at pro-rel talk since the launch of League One was announced, but Edwards was fairly unequivocal that he hopes it’s in the long-term plans if the lower league proves itself to be sustainable:

“A lot of focus and attention needs to go into building [League One] up over a short period of time. But we’ve got to get the right owners in League One, the right stadiums and infrastructure.”

I’ve said many times that an incremental move toward promotion and relegation is the way to go (while I still remain skeptical that the American sporting culture would ever support it at the top level in the country). I would like to see it in USL, not least of which because – and this isn’t the most honorable thing I’ve ever thought – if a League One club folds, it means a lot less in the grand scheme than somebody dropping from the top flight and eventually folding.

Edwards, like MLS commissioner Don Garber, has Bad Ideas about expansion, though.

“We’re looking at the ideal number [in the Championship] somewhere around 38 or 40, and that’s where we’re going to top out and cease expansion.”

Yo, that’s dumb. I don’t need to explain the size of our country to you (well, I shouldn’t need to). Limiting the size of the first tier makes some sense, but I don’t agree that the limits it imposes are worth the benefits in scarcity of supply, etc. Artificially limiting the second division in a country comes with all the downsides and essentially none of the benefits (aside from minuscule administrative costs compared to allowing them into League One instead).

(Meanwhile, Indy Eleven’s stadium proposal looks awesome, and I would like for them to have the opportunity to compete at the highest level possible).

I promise it will come around. This is a story about basketball. I really liked one of the quotes used in it as it relates to soccer, though:

“I guarantee you that he played so much basketball without a coach, or without a ref, or without a scoreboard. Just playing. Where out of bounds is the grass, or out of bounds is the street … there’s such a difference between guys who just play and guys who are manufactured by a trainer.”

We often talk about problems with player development in our country, and about how they come back to lack of coaching, poor scouting of underrepresented communities, etc. etc. Those are all valid complaints, and complaints I’ve made multiple times in this space. However, it’s also worth noting that just as huge an issue in our nation is a lack of a pickup soccer culture.

We hear every four years about about [Brazil/Argentina/France] is built on kids who grew up playing pickup games in the streets and turned into [Neymar/Maradona/Mbappe], and those who consume soccer outside the World Cup hear it occasionally, too. There hasn’t been an American who can up with that origin story, aside from maybe Clint Dempsey. There aren’t soccer Jordan Pooles out there.

MLS Playoff format change. This is the first year of a new MLS playoff format, something that will become relevant to Nashville in very short order (hopefully, at least). Does the new format actually improve higher seeds’ chances of advancing, though? Maybe not. The kicker:

The stakes just got higher for winning the Conference in the regular season. But in general the new format does little to change the perspective of most of the teams

I don’t like the expansion to an odd number of teams in the least, but it’s whatever. I still like the idea of using group play and a smaller knockout bracket, rather than what we’re seeing nowadays. It would make it easier to fit the playoff into a smaller calendar – which seems to have been the primary motivation for the recent change – and would appeal to the mainstream American sports fan in the same way that the World Cup does: it sets soccer aside as different, but in a fun way.

Danny Vitiello is popular. This may be the lowest-profile signing to get its own bullet in a pitch points, but hey, the available literature is the available literature. The Long Island Roughriders PDL program, UAlbany athletics, and a soccer-specific site covering NYC and Long Island(!) have all covered the keeper’s signing with the Boys in Gold.

That last one is mostly an aggregation from the other two (and Nashville SC’s release), but regardless, that’s a lot of ink.

Americans Abroad. The big news of the past couple weeks has been a record-shattering transfer for US international Christian Pulisic: his $73.1 million is not just the largest for an American (by a huge margin), it’s one of the top 25 transfer fees ever. There are two confounding factors here: 1) the numbers are on a consistent upward trend worldwide, particularly in recent years, and 2) Chelsea is certainly spending to get a talented winger, but they’re just as much spending to develop business in the American market. Is it possible for Pulisic to live up to that hype? On-field, it may not be as unlikely as you think.

Meanwhile, fellow USMNT winger Timothy Weah has gone on loan from Paris Saint-Germain to Scottish Premier League juggernaut Celtic. He’s expected to be a game-changer with his speed, which sounds like a potential striker role along with the wider position we’re accustomed to seeing him play with the Nats.

American “prodigy” (ESPN’s word, not mine) Ben Lederman has had a rough go since moving to Barcelona as a youngster, for reasons both external – Barça was punished by FIFA for violating player registration regulations, preventing him from playing for the youth setup for a while – and just because it’s difficult to break into such a setup. A cautionary tale that “move to the highest level possible,” while it sounds good on the internet, is not always the best fit for every player. Finding the right move (which sometimes includes staying domestic) is far more important.

Former US international David Wagner was sacked by Huddersfield Town this week, meaning the German-born manager is out of work. He intends to take some time off, but it’d be cool to see him come to the States. He has limited experience (outside of MNT camps) on this side of the pond, so the connection you might expect aren’t there, though.

Etc.: Not a ton of new information in this radio appearance from NSC Technical Director and Nashville MLS GM Mike Jacobs, as long as you’re paying attention to the day-to-day. … Nascar at the Fairgrounds will require upgrades to the track. … Former Nashville SC CEO Court Jeske takes a gig with the USL. … The company that puts on the International Champions Cup has purchased a Latino-focused multi-platform company – the one that puts on Alianza de Futbol in the United States each year. … Donate donate donate. … I like Peter Vermes. … NSC defender Justin Davis joins the FiftyFiveOne pod for a nice long discussion.

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Pitch Points plays in Germany

Welcome to Pitch Points, wherein I round up some of the interesting links around the world of Nashville SC and US Soccer. As always, if you have something you want me to share, let me know in the comments or through social channels on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Photo by Reto Stauffer (Creative Commons license).

Bundimericans. The Bundesliga’s official site is perhaps not an unbiased source when it comes to why the Bundesliga is a good fit for young Americans, but the point remains: it has proven to be in recent years. One of those reasons is fairly obvious:

There are several factors that make the Bundesliga more suitable for American players than Europe’s other top leagues, and one of them is purely administrative: it is easier to get hold of a work permit in Germany than in the UK, where non-EU players are required to have featured in a certain percentage of their country’s recent competitive matches to obtain an endorsement from the English FA.

I wonder if that’ll change when the Brexit fully extricates England from the EU. The British are going to have a ton less access to top European talent (in the way they currently have limited access to American talent), and while that won’t bring about an untimely death of the Premier League, of course, it could certainly help the other four of the Big Five leagues strive to surpass it in global reach.

Of course, our most well-known export to Deutschland in recent years will end his German adventure in the Summer Transfer Window. Christian Pulisic is headed to Chelsea. The style/fit is one thing Pulisic cited for being interested in the move, and how he adjusts to what many consider a higher level of play will be one of next season’s most interesting storylines.

Ayre Force One. Quick quote or two from Nashville MLS CEO Ian Ayre, though the entire article is behind a paywall that’s probably not worthwhile for somebody who’s overseas. The difference between building an MLS club versus heading a Premier League team is obviously a large one. How Ayre navigates it will write the story of the club’s early days.

Speaking of whom, a little bit on how the CEO role was diminished with the hiring of a sporting director, which partially facilitated his departure from Anfield. Ayre announced he was leaving the club no so long after that, and retired even earlier than was scheduled. The personnel on the front-office side – and what he learned about how that should be structured from his trials and tribulations at Liverpool – will be informed by his time there.

Personnel. MLS Multiplex covers the Cameron Lancaster signing. Speedway Soccer has its profile of the USL’s single-season goal-scoring record holder. It’s almost easy to forget how exciting a signing this was, only a couple weeks removed from its announcement.

Another signing (and one that I think was both under-heralded at the time and remains so) is Kharlton Belmar. At least from a fan perspective, seems like it made sense for Sporting KC to unload him to Nashville, to allow Swope Park to give minutes to younger kids. That’s always the intriguing tightrope walk that MLS2 sides between trying to win and trying to develop players for the first team.

What’s in the USL’s future? The league made vague hand motions toward “pyramid structure” and what that might mean in the long-term when announcing its rebrand, but this story is as definitive as I’ve seen in suggesting (from an official league source) that pro-rel is not only something they’re aware of, but actually interested in, if feasible.

Discussion of a new cup competition that would include all Championship and League One clubs to launch in 2020 has already begun, with long-term potential for promotion and relegation between the two professional divisions.

It remains vague, yes, but does demonstrate a willingness to consider in the long run. Obviously I’ve been a skeptic on the topic, but a limited scope (like between two USL divisions) beginning at a lower level is certainly a path toward a long-term future including promotion and relegation.

Etc.: It appears Ramone Howell is playing domestically in Jamaica during the offseason. … MLS Combine is this week. … One Pittsburgh Riverhounds game to catch? When they host Nashville SC. … Doesn’t directly relate to us, but the 2019 MLS schedule will be released this afternoon. … Ropapa Mensah held a mini-tournament in his hometown over the Christmas season. … University of Tennessee senior Khadija Shaw has an incredible (at times heartbreaking) story, and was The Guardian’s female footballer of the year. … How will NYCFC compensate for the loss of MLS all-timer David Villa? Nashville SC will be among the first to find out Feb. 22.

Pitch Points might try to form megaclub

Running through some links of interest to Nashville and US Soccer. As always, please feel free to follow (and share stories!) on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or your social media platform of choice. If you have a story you’d like me to cover in one of these posts, never hesitate to reach out to me on those social channels, in the comments here, or at t.w.sullivan1@gmail.com.

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Club images courtesy those respective clubs. Beautiful graphic by Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Major local youth shake-ups. You can read into a couple organizational changes in youth clubs whatever you’d like. I have thought (and continue to think) that by and large the most prominent clubs in the area are trying to position themselves to either be acquired by Nashville SC when it founds its Development Academy team in the not-so-distant future, or at the very least trying to become affiliated clubs.

There have been various mergers (at the very least, consolidating and sharing of resources) in the past year-plus, and Nashville FC Youth and Tennessee Soccer Club are the latest to explore combining forces.

Club leaders said the merger discussion was the product of their collaboration to support the push to bring a Major League Soccer team to the city in 2017-18. Both clubs had coaches and volunteers on the MLS2Nashville Committee.

The clubs stressed the potential merger is designed to provide more opportunities for youth players in Middle Tennessee to develop and play at a higher level. Each club now has approximately 1,500 players at either the recreational or competitive levels with teams based in Davidson, Williamson and Rutherford Counties.

Does it seem weirdly premature to announce that you’re in discussions with another club with the possibility that nothing happens? It sort of does to me. I guess there’s a bit of a responsibility to families already involved with either club, and a bit of a feeling-out of public sentiment, but… still weird.

Meanwhile, Nashville United Soccer Academy is reorganizing its administration, in a way that seems to be geared toward a more “True Academy” and professional structure top-to-bottom. You may recall NUSA was one of the programs involved with a major merger over the summer, joining forces with Tennessee United and Murfreesboro United.

My thoughts on the matter are basically the same as they’ve always been: more opportunities for kids (and particularly more opportunities with good coaching and good development) are aways better. If these moves help do that, great. It’s always possible that a laudable goal is not achieved – fewer distinct clubs could mean fewer opportunities if teams within different clubs are merged as well, etc. – so it’s worth keeping a skeptical eye on, as well.

Obviously, our state doesn’t produce nearly the number of high-level players it should, so anything that can move toward growth is good.

My ideal layout would be more hyper-local clubs whose best players feed into bigger academy-type clubs, and in turn those clubs’ best players entering a Nashville SC in-house academy. I understand the organizational overhead costs saved by pooling resources in a slightly different way, and just hope it doesn’t mean less soccer for anyone out there. More soccer is better.

The Fury-Concacaf saga plays on. Then it ends with minimal fanfare. USL obviously wasn’t particularly concerned about Concacaf’s refusal to sanction the Ottawa Fury for cross-border play in 2019, having released the Championship alignment and schedule, but it had to go  (or didn’t if an obviously CYA and untrue statement from Concacaf is to be believed) to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Also, the headline here is, uh, something else:

Is CONCACAF playing its own games with the intention of crippling Fury FC?

No? Of course not? What would their motivation be to cripple the Fury? There is none (other than some semi-wild conspiracy theories in there). They’re enforcing the rules of FIFA and their Confederation. They’re doing it in a way that’s overbearing and not in a sporting spirit, perhaps, but to assume malice when there’s an obvious, non-malicious motivation – even if there’s a selfish one by former Canada Soccer head (now Concacaf head) Victor Montagliani – to get Canadian teams playing in the federation and league they’re bound to by FIFA statute doesn’t seem unfair.

There was basically never a chance that the Fury couldn’t play in USL this year, given that they always had the blessing of both the Canadian and American federations.  It’s more likely a power play by Concacaf to set up the “OK, but for this year only” situation where they force Fury into CPL in 2020 and beyond – which seems pretty fair to me, actually. Of course, it resolved to the positive Friday afternoon.

For whatever reason I’m obsessed with MLS roster rules. Fortunately for our purposes, that will become relevant in about 10 months’ time. For now, we’ll just call it a weird quirk.

Anyway, Paul Tenorio predicts the distant future at The Athletic ($), primarily in the form of trying to decide what the salary cap, designated player, and other roster rules will be within a couple years of the United World Cup:

I think it’s possible that MLS clubs will have a $20 million salary budget in ten years’ time, about five times more than in 2018. In this vision, there are four designated player spots, which allow teams who want to spend substantially more on star players to continue to do so.

There’s obviously a hell of a lot more there, including the reasoning for this structure (and more detail to it).

The Lancaster-ing. This will obviously be a running topic on the site (along with all the other offseason player movement), but it should come as no surprise that Cameron Lancaster’s signing has drawn some big attention. USA Today Sports Network Tennessee spoke with Lancaster the day his signing was announced:

“I was really impressed with the vision and ambition they (Nashville MLS GM Mike Jacobs and Nashville SC coach Gary Smith) had with turning Nashville SC, already a top USL club, to a top MLS team,” Lancaster said in an email to the Tennessean. “After facing Nashville last season and seeing the improvements they made each time, and then to make the playoffs in their first year as a team, I knew Gary was a top manager. He had a good group of players, and that excited me.”

The Louisville Courier-Journal discusses the Englishman’s departure from LCFC.

Bundimericans. Gregg Berhalter has been on a tour of Europe, checking in on US Internationals in the various overseas leagues. The Bundesliga’s official site caught up with him to talk about some of the key Americans plying their trade in Germany’s top flight.

On Christian Pulisic:

“I’m not too concerned about where he’s lining up. We want him affecting the game, we want him playing between the lines, taking on players one on one, and it will be up to the team to get him in, and find him in, those positions.”

Weston McKennie (after making fun of Schalke for the bizarre – and ongoing – center forward experiment they’ve been subjecting him to):

“I would say central midfield. I think he’s very good, [he has] a very good ability to win balls. That’s [at] a high level, I think he’s seen that at Champions League level, winning the ball and playing to his teammates.”

And channeling his inner Klinsmann:

bundesliga.com: How important is it for you that these players are playing in Germany, as opposed to the MLS for example?

Berhalter: “The Bundesliga is a top league in the world so that’s taken into consideration when you consider a player’s performance. For us to be a top team in the world we need players performing in top leagues in the world, so that’s one of the issues we’re faced with. This is a high-level programme and if you can perform here that means you’re a high-level player.”

Plenty more in there on a few other key Americans (John Brooks, Josh Sargent, Bobby Wood, Haji Wright) in Deutschland. On this side of the pond, putting together the January camp with almost exclusively MLS players is always an interesting task ($).

Etc.: Ian Ayre’s move across the pond sees the Liverpool Arena and Convention Center name a new chair to replace him. … Nascar will be joining soccer at the Fairgrounds after a long hiatus. … Richie Ledezma transfer to PSV shows that USL (Real Monarchs in this case) can be a path to Europe, though there’s probably something to be said for the MLS team that invested in his development losing him on a free transfer being bad for the long run. … Learn how to build a club. Surely it’s very easy.

As always, thanks for reading. Share buttons below.

Pitch points: With plans! Maybe!

Jacobs and Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre
“We’ve GOT to formulate a PLOT” – Eminem-inspired and forward-looking. Courtesy Nashville SC

For future consideration. Bournemouth has hired a loan manager to track their players who are out with other clubs. Maybe not that interesting on its own (they’re hardly the first to do it – certainly Manchester City and Chelsea have entire departments to manage their empires) – but does indicate a seriousness about the way they intend to do business. As Nashville SC enters the big leagues, these are the sort of ideas that they’ll want to stay on the forefront of. Personnel management (from academy to senior team, to scouts, etc.) is such a huge part of being a club that gets the most out of its resources.

Fortunately, the Nashville Soccer Supporters’ Trust president David Wasiolek got a sitdown with GM Ian Ayre (must be nice 😒), and came away with some positive takeaways in that regard:

  • The club has a strong vision of what a Tennessee-wide academy system would look like and how players could be developed and monitored across all the youth organizations and age groups. Personally, Ian would like to see this begin either simultaneously with the start of the team or even earlier.

  • Ian is working hard with Mike Jacobs on identifying top talent to bring to Nashville. There is a great desire to build a team of exceptional talent that also reflects the diverse flavors that make up the stew we call Nashville.

Those are the key newsworthy items, and a positive sign. There isn’t enough talent in Tennessee to primarily build a roster from home territory – New York/New Jersey is ain’t, much less Southern California – but as the club builds, it can play a role in helping change that.

I’ve been involved in that area of things in a different sport (American football) for most of my professional career, and will be extremely interested in seeing how it plays out.

Bethlehem Steel to Philadelphia. Bethlehem Steel announced this week that they’ll be playing the 2019 season at the home of their parent club, Philadelphia Union, with a change to USL stadium requirements:

Unfortunately, we have been informed by the USL that Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium no longer meets the minimum requirements set forth by the league due to a lack of stadium lighting. Upon hearing the decision that we could not return to Goodman, we visited and analyzed multiple other potential venues with the aim of keeping Steel FC in the Lehigh Valley, but there was no solution that met all the league requirements that could be ready in time for the 2019 season, including field size, capacity, and lighting, among others.

As a result, Bethlehem Steel FC will play next season at Talen Energy Stadium while we evaluate stadium options for beyond 2019.

Steel supporters are not happy, feeling betrayed not by the Steel’s front office, but rather by the Union.

I feel multiple ways about it (first off for the supporters: if you want to feel like the organization owes it to the local fans to stay in Bethlehem, you should have worked to get more than 2,300 fans out to each game). At the same time, clearly the Steel or Union felt like they’d be able to get waivers indefinitely – “the NASL gambit” – or is truly not all that invested in staying in Bethlehem.

USMNTakes. This story with Steve Cherundolo was pretty interesting. The former Men’s National Team standout was a guest coach with the Nats during their two-game stint in Europe. He was recently fired as part of the Stuttgart coaching staff, and has some outsider takes. For subscribers to The Athletic, Paul Tenorio has much more with Cherundolo.

I also present this:

I disagree (and strongly). You call up guys who give you the best chance to win, regardless of their club situation. That’s particularly true for guys whose club situation comes with an asterisk. Is “only turned 18 in February and was ineligible to play for his club team” or “can’t beat out Neymar for a spot in the lineup” damning? Is it worse than “is mediocre starter on mediocre MLS team?” I’d say no.

If the games were meaningful, you could convince me otherwise, but given that Dave Sarachan’s lone mandate seemed to be to blood the young talent – and that it’s the one thing he did pretty well in his 13 months as MNT manager – I don’t understand the complaint. That’s particularly true when Weah in particular proved to be one of the better players for the team over this time period. Clearly “playing for club team” isn’t the only indicator of high performance (which goes back to the above).

The headline here comes across as “finally, proof Christian Pulisic cares about the USMNT” which is an epically dumb take. Fortunately, the story is much more productive. It does, however, include a mention of the hot take to end all hot takes (if only to refute it, as the story implies).

Meanwhile, Tyler Adams writes for The Players Tribune, including the unsurprising “will be going to Europe in January” news. U-20 standout Alex Mendez will sign with Freiburg. And of course, goalkeeper Zack Steffen will likely sign with Manchester City (and then almost as likely, head out on loan somewhere).

Etc.: Add Madera Café in Plaza Mariachi to the soccer bars list. Thanks to reader Santiago for bringing it to my attention. … English clubs’ academy output. … Are we still talking about Jonathan Gonzalez? In a way, yes. … Probably the one guy with a legit argument for beating Matt Pickens as USL keeper of the year does so. …  … Austin Bold’s coach is also the coach of the USVI team. … Story on Liam Doyle’s re-signing from the Isle of Man, and one on Ropapa Mensah from one of the many Ghanaian soccer outlets. … USL Players Association earns league negotiating recognition.

Pitch Points is ready for Bolivia

Welcome to Pitch Points, wherein I run down a few links of note from the world of soccer – from Nashville to the US Men’s National Team and beyond. As always, if you come across something you’d like me to include here, hit the socials (or e-mail), and please feel free to share the post with friends who may be interested.

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See? It’s right there!

Staaaaaadium. Thursday’s first of multiple community meetings regarding planning for the Major League Soccer stadium at the Fairgrounds came away with some interesting ideas. I was unavailable last week, but do plan to try to make it to today’s event (4 p.m. at the Fairgrounds Creative Arts Building) as well as the final public presentation next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in “I hate the city that I am somehow on the council of” news, Metro Councilman Steve Glover indefinitely deferred his resolution to prevent an MLS Stadium from being built (presumably with a literal tail between his legs) at last week’s Metro meeting.

(For the record, if you plan to for for Mayor this week and want to make your decision on a single issue – the MLS stadium – Ralph Bristol, Jeff Obafemi Carr, Harold Love, and Carol Swain should be on your “absolutely do not vote for” list after publicly opposing it).

LigaMX2SA. The concept of a Liga MX team playing in the United States is an interesting thought exercise. This column about it… well, it’s something. Single-sentence paragraphs and dumb analogies galore, if that’s what you’re into.

Speaking with the Spurs official on background last month, I offered to drive a bag of FIFA bribe money to Laredo.

We both laughed nervously.

It was a joke.

Or was it?

Barrel of laughs, that.

That said, I’ve long thought San Antonio (and Phoenix) are not only intriguing, but important markets for bigtime soccer in our country. Whether that’s a version of USL with more exposure, a Major League Soccer franchise, or (lol) clubs existing in an open pyramid where they can move between levels, these heavily Latino areas are important – and San Antonio’s an even more interesting one with its military connections meaning you’re probably more likely to see more Herculez Gomezes than Jonathan Gonzalezes.

We want the cup! And other USMNT short stories. MLSSoccer.com’s Matt Doyle on what a 2018 USMNT World Cup squad would have looked like. It’s… well, it’s a decent group, which makes the failure to qualify all the more depressing. There are some changes I’d make to his squad, naturally, but the bones are there for what could have been a solid side.

In more… realistic news, the roster for the Bolivia friendly dropped yesterday. While we’re talkin’ specific players on it, American Soccer Now has a long interview with defender Erik Palmer-Brown.

Christian Pulisic’s future club situation is going to remain up in the air. There’s a panoply of takes (from both here and overseas) about whether this is the right time for him to move along from Dortmund. Whatever’s better for his continued development as a USMNT star is cool with me.

Here’s what the Olympic team could look like for 2020. Throw in a couple over-agers (the Olympics allow for three in addition to the standard U-23 pool), and you’re building toward the next World Cup, as well.

The search for a permanent MNT manager (or even the GM position) unsurprisingly sounds like a total shambles.

The Jurgening. Lots has been said about the recent long Jurgen Klinsmann SI profile (apologies for sending you to a link to the worst-designed website on the internet), and my observations are hardly going to be revelatory. Nor is this exactly the greatest revelation in the world, though it’s a concise way to sum up the Jurgen experience:

Klinsmann’s critics often note these dualities. They believe he over-tinkered with lineups and failed at communicating but also acknowledge the value of his big-picture ideas and his skills as a motivator. To some, it seems as if he possesses the hardware but not the software.

I don’t even know if I’d use the term “critics” there: I was an unabashed supporter for way longer than Klinsmann deserved, but that’s still a very precise description of my feelings about the guy. In short, I wish (for the big picture) that he’d been better as a coach. I still understand why he was fired.

Surely, one of the reasons for being fired is not knowing how percentages work.

He raised eyebrows last month by telling Germany’s Kicker that his U.S. squad was still well-positioned to reach Russia despite those high-profile losses to Mexico and at Costa Rica. Does he really believe that?

“One thousand percent,” Klinsmann said in an interview this week.

It doesn’t go higher than 100, dude.

Yahoo’s story also gets comment from Bruce Arena, which is depressing.

“We win 4-0 against Panama, so we decide to play the same team against Trinidad. That’s done all the time.”

That move – to ride hot hands, so to speak – has been one of the most heavily criticized, but that aspect of it is total hindsight bias to me. There are serious reasons to question the gameplan in Trinidad, of course, but “you have to rotate the squad” isn’t really one of them. “You didn’t play your best squad” would be (and is).

 

Etc.: Cubs owners buy rights to Chicago USL franchise. … More excerpts from Grant Wahl’s new book. Definitely one to check out when it comes out in paperback formats. … SocTakes on a quarter-season report card for the USL East. … Steve Gans still trying to improve soccer in our country despite not winning presidential election. “Things that will never be said about Eric Wynalda for $100, Alex.” … College soccer and USSF getting along better is a big priority in my eyes; this is a good step. … If the continental teams are going to remain in Concacaf, it’s in everyone’s interest for the Caribbean teams to improve.

United States names squad for May 28 Bolivia friendly

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“USMNT media relations doesn’t care about Lynden Gooch and Alejandro Guido people.” Courtesy US Soccer

US Soccer fans have been waiting to see who would wear the crest of the Red, White, and Blue in just over a week’s time, and now we have our answer. It’s a happy one for fans who were disappointed in the lack of youth to actually see the field in the Paraguay friendly back in March:

GOALKEEPERS:

  • Alex Bono (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0)
  • Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 5/0)
  • Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 2/0)

DEFENDERS:

  • Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG; 2/0)
  • Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 14/1)
  • Matt Miazga (Chelsea/ENG; 5/1)
  • Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United/ENG; 0/0)
  • Erik Palmer-Brown (Manchester City/ENG; 0/0)
  • Antonee Robinson (Everton/ENG; 0/0)
  • Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 16/0)
  • Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 2/0)

MIDFIELDERS

  • Joe Corona (Club Tijuana/MEX; 20/3)
  • Lynden Gooch (Sunderland/ENG; 3/0)
  • Julian Green (Stuttgart/GER; 8/3)
  • Alejandro Guido (Club Tijuana/MEX; 0/0)
  • Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 1/1)
  • Keaton Parks (Benfica/POR; 0/0)
  • Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 20/9)
  • Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana/MEX; 5/0)
  • Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA; 1/0)

FORWARDS:

  • Andrija Novakovich (Reading/ENG; 1/0)=
  • Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 0/0)

This is a solid and very young squad – by my calculations on the handy-dandy spreadsheet, an average birthday of Aug. 13, 1995, with Eric Lichaj, Joe Corona, and keeper Bill Hamid dragging that way up – and also a strong one. There are numerous players in Division One leagues in Europe, some who are looking to break through, and a handful playing at a high level for Liga MX sides. The domestic players are limited to keeper Alex Bono (technically in Canada, but TFC plays in MLS) and defender Walker Zimmerman – though it’s possible that the end of today and tomorrow’s MLS action could see more MLS players called in.

There are seven uncapped players, which is encouraging (though by my count only two of the uncapped players have eligibility for other nations that are a serious threat to the USMNT in Antonee Robinson and Matt Olosunde, and this match doesn’t cap-tie anyone, though accepting the call-up certainly speaks to intent by the players) – hopefully coach Dave Sarachan actually, like, plays some uncapped guys this time around. I actually suspect he will after the grief he took following the Paraguay game, and with the confirmation of the obvious that he’s not a candidate for the gig full-time.

I’ll have more on possible starting lineups and more in the coming days. For now, what do you think about the squad.

Pitch Points: Pulisic plays

Because “alliteration” and “getting hits because people google Christian Pulisic‘s name a lot” are two of my favorite things. As always, hit the comment section, Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail if you have something you wan t me to share in one of these posts.

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Photo by Reto Stauffer (Creative Commons license).

National team talk. Been a while since an extended section on the national team. Here we go. Christian Pulisic will be with the team for some of the Summer’s friendlies:

Should be some chances to see him (maybe even in Nashville?) even though Dortmund/Liverpool will not be played in Music City. If not… I’ll take the MNT even without its biggest star. Josh Sargent should be playing at least in the May/June friendlies (full roster projection from ASN here).

Film room on midfielder Tyler Adams:

First, let’s take a look at his passing. He’s a player who can pick out a pass from anywhere as well as control the game with the tempo of passing. Check out this pass:

Adams shows us two very good things here. First, look at how he fits the pass through four defenders, splitting two of them with pure precision. The pass by itself is crazy, but his work ethic is also demonstrated here. After he makes one of the best passes of the year, he makes a 50-yard dead sprint to follow the play. In one play you can see his passing and his work ethic on display.

Much much more at the link. Not going to do an extensive blockquote on two separate film reviews, but this one on keeper Zack Steffen is v. good, as well. (Y’all know I love me some film room).

The German-American recruiting pipeline might dry up as we move farther away from heavily-used military bases in Deutschland, but there can still be the occasional dual-national to potentially recruit down the line.

Should MLS reconfigure conferences? It’s not, like, a huge priority to me, but I can get on board with a 26-plus team league being split into three, rather than two, conferences:

However, as MLS prepares to add markets 24 and 25 with Miami and Nashville while remaining on the cusp of announcing a 26th team very, very likely to be Cincinnati, it may be time to reintroduce the Central Division.

League structure of MLS is something I’m not super-interested in (at least as a big-picture thought exercise, of which regular readers know I’m very fond), but certainly it will be relevant to our interests in Nashville within the next couple years.

As long as the teams you’re directly competing with for the playoffs are all on the schedule home and away, whatever happens with the remaining games, and however many conferences there are, whatever. Also let’s make the playoffs not last into December.

Political support for the World Cup bid. A House resolution supporting the join 2026 bid passed. It will shock you to find out who tweeted support for the bid while managing to be (remain) the most passive-aggressive dude on the planet:

…without further comment on that one. (Except to say that, in a total non-shocker, the “aggressive” part of being passive-aggressive was likely a violation of FIFA rules – at least not as direct as the violations being committed by the only competitor, I guess?).

Stadium stuuuuuuuuff. The concept of this article assuming that Steve Glover (who is transparently lying) is telling the truth is… troubling. The story was written after Hasting’s Tuesday town hall, so the availability of those two guys gives them a bit of credibility to the reporter, but the credibility of the reporter is clearly compromised in a pretty serious way here.

“They pretended like we have committed ourselves to a location,” said Councilman Glover.

That is an obvious lie. There is no circumstance under which that can be considered truthful. For the writer to not at least question it WHEN YOU CAN READ THE RESOLUTION YOURSELF is journalistic malfeasance (indeed, not even considering this is unacceptable journalism). The resolution that passed commits the council, city, and team to a location.

“We are not trying to show any disrespect for any of the hardworking individuals who put the MLS deal together,” said [District 2 constituent] Hilton, “we just want to make sure they understand that North Nashville wants to be a part of this conversation. It may not be a good fit, but we want to be at the table.”

DeCosta Hastings was at the table. He voted for the resolution. If you have a problem, it’s with your incompetent councilman, not with never having been given a seat at the table.. He has suddenly changed his tune because another councilman who is simply trying to make sure soccer doesn’t happen anywhere in Nashville is manipulating him into it. Good job, good effort.

In other stadium news…

A third kind of football (the rugby variety) trying to make Williamson County its national hotbed. Mostly just an interesting little sports-related article, aside from one throwaway line:

A rendering of the 120-acre facility shows a U.S. Olympic rugby training site and the corporate headquarters for USA Rugby. The complex also could house soccer and lacrosse.

A partnership with your friendly local MLS team for academy and training purposes could be interesting. Of course, a home for an eventual NSC2, whether USL or lower-division is something I’ve previously advocated having in Williamson, as well.

Etc. Where national team members played their youth soccer. …I keep trying (and failing) to dislike the Chattahooligans, I swear. I don’t have much difficulty disliking the Eastern European Ultra CosPlay Club of Oakland County, but Chattanooga dropped the first half of its home-and-home with Detroit City FC. … Speaking of Detroit, I remain dumbfounded at the tone of the local media coverage of their MLS bid. Are they just trying to lead readers on? Ain’t happening in Ford Field, folks. … Soc Takes on the perils of owning a lower-division soccer team in the United States. … I agree that the rift between USSF and high school soccer is bad for development. .. Podcast spotlighting Nashville SC CEO Court Jeske. … Pivoting this site to become an attendance blog (a.k.a. FC Cincinnati blog).

I didn’t google the names of vape brands for this to get a mere one retweet, by the way:

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