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    The time has come for me to share my thoughts on our U.S. team and go public.  (I added some additional news at the end; Sept 2022.) The match was between a 1st place team vs the 2nd place USA, in Cincinnati.    It was scoreless at the break.  It was a crucial World Cup qualifier.  It was a pretty cold night with a Nov. temp in the 40s with some scattered light rain.  Mexico seemed more potent that first half then the U.S. men.  (In his USA soccer uniform is my GI Joe.)  Their defense at times got caught as Mexican opponents ran inside their defense with sheer precision passes; their main problem: they didn’t finish off a last boot to get the ball into the net.  Thank God.


    These are names to watch: Josh Sargent (forward), Timothy Weah (winger-forward, his dad is President of Liberia, Tim scored against Morocco this year, plays in France w/Lille, won't play vs Japan due to injury), Weston McKennie, Californian Brandan Vazquez (plays at FC Cincinnati + he is the leading American in goals in MLS as of August), Walker Zimmerman (center back who due to an injury was out of the Gold Cup), Yunus Musah (forward), Tyler Adams (midfielder, usually R back, and the Captain, who now plays w/Leeds United in the English Premier League), Chris Richards (middle fielder, now plays at Crystal Palace, Premier League), "Jedi" Robinson (left back from Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (veteran, Inter Miami), Ricardo Pepi (plays at Groningen, and actually started at Dallas), Gio Reyna (plays in Germany w/Borussia Dortmund), and last but not least Christian Pulisic, Star forward.  The 2nd half something happened, and our defenders found a way to plug the Mexican offense.  Finally, I can say, after sensing that the defense has been their main weakness for years, I can say with a smile, Oh brother, I think we got our magic formula back from the days of 2002-06 when both defenders and attackers were so quick and tough, the international world took a big notice, especially against a Korean team in 2002, which had a stadium packed with over 60,000 fans in red shirts routing for their home team. (Landon Donovan said everyone was decked in red.  "I've never seen that in my life.  Anytime I close my eyes, I can see that memory so vividly.  They were in unison chanting the whole game.  It was the single best atmosphere I've ever been a part of."); the unknown soldier Mathis, with his Mohawk haircut, scored the first goal; the post-Lalas and Wynalda days.  How proud am I about the U.S. era of 20 years ago? Check this little video out, captained by Claudio Reyna.

    The Mexican team with a smart manager came into the year with a perfect 5-0 record over the U.S. before 2021.  But then, all of the Americans that were playing in overseas leagues were recalled and this is a very important concept, they got to play together.  And, if all goes well and on schedule, overseas and domestic players will continue to get stronger, and scare the pants off the rest of the top hot shot world.  

    So how did the U.S. fare on that Nov. 12 game?  We saw how good the team was without W. McKeenie (plays for Juventus) and Mile Robinson before (Mile scored the winning goal on Aug. 1 in the Gold Cup Championship, against Mexico).  McKeenie?

    How good is McKeenie?  You’ve seen McKeenie react.  He is a no quitter.  

    That November of 2021, he was dam cool, and he scored America’s 2nd goal.  McKennie tried to combine with Adams, but the ball hit a defender and then it fell to him, and McKennie finished it  with a classy shot. 

    The first goal came from the head of Chris Pulisic, who showed no mercy being deadly accurate. He is precise and accurate when he plays on the U.S. squad, but I hope he gets the heck out of present-day Chelsea whose coach denied Chris an opportunity to transfer out, which is another story.  Final score: U.S.-2  Mex.-0. 

    His Nov. header was not easy, and he had to fight his way to get in front of the Mex defender, and then came the header.  That is aggressivenes of a forward with a killer instinct.  Some days before the big match, Ochoa taunted the United States, saying, “Mexico is the mirror in which the U.S.A. wants to see itself and wants to copy.”  In other words, they better than us.  Hmmmmm.

    So, after Chris scored his header goal he ran to the sidelines and pulled up his jersey showing a t-shirt with the words, Man in the Mirror. (According to scout reports, it were his buddies Timothy Weah and DeAndre Yedlin who came up with the T-shirt idea based upon a 1988 song by the famous Michael Jackson, called Man in the Mirror.)   

    So, the United States is lucky to win? and were treated as dorks and clowns and a bunch of guys wishing to be like the “great” Mexico?, only fit to “mirror” its image after their team?

    If you are a young person and know little about the rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico, the barbs and insult exchanges are nothing new.  Winning 3 in a row in 2021 is new.  However, compared to some 15- 20 years ago—really is it almost 20 years ago?—when we had star players like McBride, Beasley, Reyna, Donovan, a goalie duo of Friedel and Keller, O’Brien, Stewart, Lewis, Mathis, Wolff, Agoos, Mastroeni, Sanneh, Pope, lighting fast Cobi Jones, and the guy whose last name I could never pronounce named Frankie whose speed reminded me a lot of myself when I was young, who electrified the soccer world, these new generation of players are going in the right direction by accomplishing what they did, and are doing.   Note: Notable-future-stars Clint Dempsey and Mike Bradley arrived after 2002.  Incidentally, our present coach Berhalter, [a high school teammate of Reyna at St. Benedict’s College Prep] was part of that fabulous era, was a mean defender with a team that was called too young to beat world class teams.  Brother, did America proved them wrong.

     I’ve waited a dozen years to see a new generation make things happen with a team that is lightning quick, that can score, have a stout defense with height, and when up against the wall, respond with tenacity and a never die attitude, as they did back in August in the Gold Cup.  Once upon a time, European generals thought little on the skill of the fighting American during WW II.  You may not like the analogy, but a World Cup is like a battlefield.  You do not literally die, but at times there can be blood as an opponent will try to do everything to assure his victory.




    Out of the ashes of the last World Cup which the United States did not even earn a berth to it, the time has come for another World Cup—to not only revel in the pageantry, music and fun, but to show off their skills. What has been demonstrated the last couple of months, they got it.  It is time to create a new chapter, a time when this nation can again celebrate the chance of advancing where no U.S. Team has dared to venture before.  On top of that, the world comes to us in 2026 when the World Cup will be played in the American hemisphere. 

     We have fluidity of passing, a spark to get the ball wide to Weah or Antonee Robinson on either wing, awesome speed of teammates to receive a diagonal to the space at the heart of the box. But more than that, they must not panic when speed is used against them.  All they got to do is remember the game against Mexico when in the second half Nov. 12th they plugged up things.

     Of what has been demonstrated, so far, many of our players also show an instinct of what to do next. However, as of early-Sept., 3 key players are still nursing injuries, Weah, Robinson, and Steffen, and now Musah who got injured in far-away Spain and is not allowed by his superiors because they say he just had a lesion; let us hope they will be alright by November.

     Our weakness?  It has been our Defensive Tactics, left backs.  They better exorcise it.  

     World Cup play for the USA starts on Monday Nov. 21, and the first round is composed of the nations England, Iran, and Wales. The U.S. plays mighty England the day after Thanksgiving, 11 am Pacific Time.  America advances if they are one of the two best in their round.  They must not play loco air ball passes nor be caught asleep.  Our attackers must have more killer instincts than their foes, and the ability not to miss when they have a chance to put the ball in the net. Moreover, the ratio of advancement must be a product of midfielders to forward line communication.  Each must know their fellow teammate's agility, speed and ways of playing.  Who likes to run v fast when you attack?  Figure among themselves the best way to get the ball to your most talented attackers, and keep your triangles.  Triangles?  It is a method of playing and passing together.  At this website, you see triangular methods of attack at the 4.33 mark and the 4.57 mark.  

       It is my understanding the U.S. men's team will wear white vs Wales and their blue jerseys against England and Iran. 

      2021-2022 goal scoring, part of the great mix.  September ended with games against Japan (Sep 23) and Saudia Arabia (Sep 27). Both were lousy. The game against Japan was ugly, and had zero shots on goal.  No matter what they did in their starting 2-3-2-3 or 3-2-2-2-2 switch of the 2nd half, their passing reminds one of a bunch of rookies. The two goals from Japan were thus: they attack against our right side.  The attacker moves in and most of the Americans seemed to head toward that attacker, and all he does is pass it, and it happened more than once, to his fellow forward who is unmarked and all alone to do his dastardly deed.  All the while the American defense didn't mark everyone, just seemed to hang around the box.  Anyone with strategy, just has to practice to get to the box and, then pass it—using speed on the run.  If the U.S. does not do better marking and correct that, that is how you get past the U.S. defense in 2022.  It is ironic but before the game, everybody was talking about our weak defense being to our left side, not the right.  Yet, in the game vs Japan, they hardly attacked via our weakest side.

      In Japan’s 2nd goal, with 5 mins in regulation time, #15 Kamada who scored the first goal, was substituted and sat down, for he had done his duty.  Then, in the 87th min, their # 18 Mitoma singularly attacked—and, guess from which side?  You guessed it, he ran down our right line, cut inward and just kept advancing, however, he did not pass to anyone.  He just kept on running and running and took a hard but accurate shot. 

      And, Japan converted their second goal and that is how it ended.  Had Turner, our goalkeeper, not done world class saves, they would have scored more.  (Last June, Japan had a devil of a time playing Brazil in a rainy, wet game, as they were well marked. Brazil barely won 1-0, on a penalty kick.)

     The U.S. lineup had 2 key forwards missing from Japan's loss, Pepi and Pulisic.  Yedlin for the back line is supposed to bolster the defense as he too had not played vs Japan.  Until Sept, America had 7 wins when Pulisic wore the captain's armband.  So, you think the first-line trio of Pepi, Pulisic and Reyna would show some moves, better passing, flair and progress?  It never materialized. Forwards Josh Sargent, Timothy Weah incidentally did not play, nor did "Jedi" Robinson and Musah.  You have a few guys missing from the roster and your entire team stinks?  How can that be possible?  The first game vs. Japan, we were squashed 2-0.  At least we were not squashed like a bug vs Saudia Arabia.  Instead, we developed new problems.

       Despite showing better intensity, too many times when they tried to counterattack, one of the American players would act like a retard, and literally give the ball away.  I swear you cannot mount any decent offense if you either kick or head the ball away to your opponent.  Is it a product of not playing together?  Baloney.  For ex: we were able to stop their offense,we gather the ball to try to advance, left side, right side, center it did not matter, I saw it happen all over the place, when boom, a pendejo passes the ball to the opponent's feet, or heads it to them.  Both the offense and the defense repeated the error of passing. You cannot shift blame on the coach.  Moreover, too many times I saw that even when there was minimal pressure and no defender near an American, they just gave it away.  Luckily, the stadium stands were pretty empty, or you would have heard the boo dept.  Incidentally, the first 20 minutes Pepi never touched the ball—not till the 21st.  Just before the 1st half ended, Pulisic was brought down at the edge of the penalty area, but for strange rules, there was no instant replay in this game and the referee said there was no foul.

      The first half ended 0-0.  McKennie's speed was totally lacking; he came out at the 74 min.  Pulisic was also replaced in the 2nd half.  Yedlin, the only player with World Cup experience—back on June 10, 2015, he was on the team that surprised Germany and beat them, got injured. Hopefully, by Nov. he will be ship-shape.  But, the American squad tried some measure of fierce attack.  The closest the U.S. came to scoring came in the first half, when midfielder Tyler Adams missed his low shot by inches.  At  the 88th min, Arriola, from Mater Dei, did a left-footed shot from the R side of the box, but missed.  Two minutes later, he brings down Arabia's Kanno, but luckily their free kick was crummy.  There were 3 minutes of extra time, and an Arabian was taken from behind by Adams.  They were awarded a free kick but, was headed away by a tall Zimmerman.  The U.S. seemed to next advance with some new momentum, until McKennie kicks the ball, into what else? the opponent, and gave the ball away. Dispossessed of the ball, the Saudia Arabia boys attack, penetrate the American defense and fire a shot from a pretty good distance, but it sails over the crossbar.  At the 91 min mark, 2nd half sub Brenden Aaronson near midfield thinks he is Pele or Messi when he is double teamed.  So, they double team him, and Aaronson lost the ball.  

      What can I say?  At least we did not loose the match, however, everything that the U.S. team had shown the previous 14 months or so was like evaporated, as if some mad scientist had used a secret mind-controlling machine, and that which the team knew, just was erased from their minds.  Or, perhaps this is all a trick?  As NBC sports Nick Mendola said, "Maybe Greg Berhalter's just trying not to show his hand to group foes?"  However, there is something that does not bode well.  As an American team, they will not practice together between now and early November.  Many of them are quite young and never been to a real World Cup.  Iran's team, on the other hand, has 16 players who were with their coach in the 2018 World Cup. They were knocked out by Spain and Portugal 4 years ago.  

       In the United States, Fall is mainly for U.S. football.  But for the rest of the world especially in Europe, that is their soccer leagues prime time, meaning any player worth his salt and who is connected to any great European club will not be released no matter what.  No U.S. player that suits up in Europe can practice with any of his teammates that play in the MLS til Nov. 14 in Qatar.  All European-based players will not be able to join the U.S. coach and his staff and those Americans who play here in the U.S. (MLS) til after Nov.12.  

     The future is at hand, and if they are better than the past golden era of the early 2000s, they must bring something new and totally exciting and return to what America had seen a few months ago.  Christian Pulisic can be like Captain America, a leader and threat like in the movie but, this is not a Hollywood script.  When the bells that chime the great World Cup is here, he and his teammates better shape up if they want to advance at least past the first round.  He also has to stay healthy, not get injured or catch any dam colds.  His defenders and midfielders must protect him just like as in the Avengers who rise up to give Captain America help,  They must work in unison as never before and rise to the challenges. 

      Every team member can be a hero, but as a team, they better remember what they did when they engaged teams and won, because their time to practice is over, even though we are 54 days away from the World Cup, as of Sept. 27. The best of America cannot gather as a full group til Nov. 14—a measly week before their Nov. 21 opener.  A time, when everyone else will be out to get you.  I have a funny feeling that the best teams on paper will not be the ones to eventually get out of the initial stages.  It will be the teams who practiced together the longest with the best individual stars. That type of team will not necessarily need to practice with the team to make the team more cohesive.  A World Cup in Nov. is the reason why.  It will be more those with the best overall talent. How many will remain uninjured by the time Nov. rolls around will be interesting.  A team with depth and, as my father would say, with the best luck will make the final 16.  Brackets courtesy of NY Post and Yank Report.

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