US Soccer Players https://ussoccerplayers.com The official site of the USMNT Soccer Players with soccer news, schedule, statistics, players, interviews, and exclusive stories. 2019-12-07T01:15:43Z hourly 1 2000-01-01T12:00+00:00 Trying again at Orlando City https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/12/trying-again-at-orlando-city.html 2019-12-06T21:00:10Z orlando city player nani

By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Dec 6, 2019) US Soccer Players -Orlando City Soccer Club is no one's idea of a marquee Major League Soccer franchise. The Lions have a passionate fan base and an international flavor that comes from Brazilian ownership. Still, they can't or won't compete with the nouveau riche of the league dollar-for-dollar in the chase for MLS championships.

Winning is harder in Orlando that in a lot of MLS cities, if only because the business of soccer in Orlando isn't as lucrative as it is in Atlanta, Toronto, or Seattle. The degree of difficulty in turning Orlando not just into a contender, but into a club regularly attractive to fans year after year is as high as the humidity in Central Florida.

After five MLS seasons and three different permanent head coaches, Orlando is turning to former FC Dallas boss Oscar Pareja to execute the tricky maneuver of making the Lions matter. Pareja is uniquely suited to the job for several reasons, but most important is his experience and success in Dallas. With them, he won a Supporters' Shield and contended for MLS Cups, all the while building an effective pathway from the club's well-stocked academy to the MLS first team.

The proverbial cupboard isn't bare, but there is plenty of work to do in remaking the Lions as a playoff team. In a league that is ever-more reactive, and with a fan base devoid of patience five seasons in, it's worth asking how strong Pareja's mandate is to rebuild the club.

It won't be enough for Pareja to institute a new system of play or add a couple of new players to the lineup. If the expectation is that he'll take Orlando to the postseason in his first season in charge, the Lions might be looking for a new head coach by the end of 2020.

The irony of the moment is that for Orlando to stabilize their program, they need to grant Pareja plenty of time to fix the problems. Even arriving at Pareja as a potential savior is a function of the club's instability. Three coaches in five seasons don't put the Lions among the most trigger-happy clubs in the world, but that number does constitute ridiculous turnover by MLS standards.

Pareja doesn't walk into the Orlando job without support, regardless of what the club's ownership might demand. Alongside Pareja occupying the club's front office position is former FC Dallas technical director Luiz Muzzi. Arriving a year ago, the Brazilian was a jack-of-all-trades in Texas but was most renowned for building the academy structure that made FC Dallas the envy of MLS.

The balancing act for Muzzi and Pareja is as simple to explain as it will be difficult to execute. By recruiting first Muzzi and now Pareja, the Lions are trying to execute the same tight-rope act that Dallas turned into their identity during Pareja's tenure.

Success means making the playoffs at the very least and probably being competitive one the postseason arrives. That's an obvious aim. Because Orlando can't use brute force to build good teams, it will also be up to Muzzi and Pareja to pivot the club towards a more sustainable model of talent development. That's what will aid the first team's efforts to win games. It will also serve as a backstop against fan attrition if and when the club can't challenge for championships every single season.

The easy way to say it is that Pareja's biggest quest is to help instill pride in Orlando City. The chaotic flailing for an effective plan the club engaged in for five seasons produced almost nothing. The club's greatest assets going into 2020 are a very nice, but not particularly notable, stadium, the presence of star player Nani who just turned 33, and a handful of raw talents under the age of 25. It's not clear if the team has enough talent as currently constituted to compete in the Eastern Conference. The results of 2019 don't argue in favor of keeping the majority of the team intact.

Pareja made sure to pay respect to the regimes that preceded him. He went out of his way to suggest that the results this past season might not be indicative of the job done by O'Connor. Pareja loses nothing by being kind to his fellow coaching fraternity member. He might gain some extra consideration from fans by setting up his tenure as less of a revolution than evolution for Orlando City.

This won't be a philosophically-driven change in Florida. Pareja doesn't arrive with a codified style of play that meets the slippery, modern standard of "good" soccer. He doesn't claim a unique insight into unlocking a defense or talk about "playing with the ball" as a pillar of his approach. Pareja's team plays the best soccer they can with the first and only goal being to win the game.

What that largely means is that Orlando figures to be fast, physical, well-conditioned, and difficult to beat. Pareja's philosophical bedrock doesn't reflect a desire to play a particular style, but rather who to put on the field. He does not discriminate. If you're good enough, you're old enough.

Orlando's developmental struggles aren't a secret within Florida and beyond. The club put its reserve team in the USL Championship on hiatus after the 2018 season and relaunched the side as a USL League One team in 2019. The Montverde Academy in Clermont, Florida, previously housed the club's academy and youth teams, removing them from the first team and the club's leadership on a day-to-day basis.

Muzzi started the process of fixing what ails the pathway by bringing all three entities under the same roof this fall. The previous setup speaks to the ad hoc nature of the operation. Without a clear, cohesive vision from the top, Orlando bounced from half-measure to half-measure, never making much progress in any one direction.

Even before Pareja arrived from his stint in Mexico with Club Tijuana, Muzzi was laying the necessary groundwork to push Orlando forward. With the head coach in place, the Lions' future looks certain to be brighter than their past for the first time since the club launched into the league back in 2015.

Pareja is not a "big name" head coaching hire like Matias Almeyda in San Jose or Thierry Henry in Montreal. His resume lacks trophies won in foreign leagues or a playing career that made him a household name in half the world. Then again, Orlando doesn't need a famous name, or even a record of titles won somewhere else. It needs a coach who knows how to take a middle-class MLS club and turn it into a self-sustaining talent machine. It would have been difficult to come up with a better choice than Pareja. Now for the hard part.


Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: matchfitusa@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/davisjsn.

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Is American big money finally warming up to soccer? https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/12/is-american-big-money-finally-warming-up-to-soccer.html 2019-12-06T19:00:34Z weston mckennie and christian pulisic

By Charles Boehm – WASHINGTON, DC (Dec 6, 2019) US Soccer Players - Not so long ago, soccer was an extremely tough sell among the investor class in the United States. That's putting it mildly. Even as the 1994 World Cup charmed American audiences by the millions, former US Soccer president Alan Rothenberg had such a hard time lining up Major League Soccer's ownership group that the league's launch had to be delayed repeatedly over several years. The magic number to move forward was $50 million, around $86.8m in today's currency. Stalled at $10m short, it took a late buy-in from Phil Anschutz to prevent the fledgling project from dying before it began. As a condition, he insisted on the signing of Marcelo Balboa for his Colorado franchise, based on the USMNT icon's bicycle kick in the World Cup match vs Colombia.

"Alan, you know those two free tickets you gave me to the Brazil-Italy final in 1994? So far, it's cost me $350 million," Anschutz is said to have deadpanned to Rothenberg two decades later, after the opening of the LA Galaxy stadium now known as Dignity Health Sports Park. At one point, Anschutz, who turns 80 later this month, owned/operated six of the league's ten teams. After the turn of the century, he was the only person standing between MLS and extinction as his company soaked up nine-figure losses over the years in pursuit of longer-term gains.

It's tempting to wonder what "Uncle Phil" thinks about the landscape these days. Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper is reportedly preparing to pay an expansion fee upwards of $300m just for a place in the league, 40 times what it cost Real Salt Lake to join up in 2005. Add in other costs like stadiums and training facilities, and MLS entry is now a half-billion-dollar ticket for almost every newcomer.

For pro soccer in general, that might be just the start. Last month US private equity titan Silver Lake bought a 10% stake in City Football Group, Manchester City's parent company and the owner/operator of a global network of seven clubs that includes New York City FC, for $500m. The deal values CFG at $4.8 billion overall. If you accept that as a realistic valuation, it makes CFG the second-most valuable sports team on the planet, ahead of the New York Yankees and a few million back of the Dallas Cowboys.

Silver Lake isn't looking for a charity case, either. It's an estimated $43b enterprise that has fruitfully invested in the likes of Dell Computers, Tesla, Skype, AMC Entertainment, Avaya, and NASDAQ, among many others. Apparently, it sees soccer as an alluring new field to plow.

"We are excited to invest in CFG, which is redefining soccer globally and in doing so has successfully built an impressive global platform of marquee soccer clubs across five continents," said Silver Lake managing partner Egon Durban in a press release. "We greatly respect CFG's stewardship of more than a century of soccer tradition and the strong global fanbases of its clubs. We are excited to partner with the Board and CFG's world-class management team to help drive the next phase of CFG's growth in the fast-growing premium sports and entertainment content market."

What's so striking about these words and numbers is not just their size, scope, and jargon. Just a few short years ago, City and CFG looked like "soft-power" projects. Heavy financial losses were willingly incurred by their owners, the United Arab Emirates, to cultivate positive perceptions and both cultural and political clout. The UAE's ruling family appears to have shoveled somewhere around $2b in into the undertaking, via the country's sovereign wealth fund, over their first ten years of ownership.

Man City remain one of the world's wealthiest and freely-spending clubs. The multinational empire they've built now offers enough revenue streams, economies of scale and potential for future growth that American captains of capital are eager to buy in, and at top dollar. That's noteworthy, and it escalates an ongoing trend. According to the 2019 edition of Soccerex's "Football Finance 100," the United States accounts for the largest share of ownership in the world's top 100 clubs. Americans control 18% of the top 100 and 23% of the top 20.

"While this figure is boosted by the US ownership of most Major League Soccer (MLS) franchises, US organizations own a quarter of Premier League teams along with clubs in Italy and France too," noted SportsPro.

Money can generally move much faster than culture, players, and player development. We can also see reasons for cautious optimism that the US is building credibility and value beyond mere spending power. We've seen American players make high dollar moves. Could the currency of coaches be moving in a similar direction?

Jurgen Klinsmann, who's lived in and been influenced by the United States long enough to count as a de facto German-American, just took over at Hertha Berlin, his first return to management since his USMNT tenure. Jesse Marsch is flying the flag and making history as the first American to coach and win in the UEFA Champions League at RB Salzburg.

It's still early days, and small sample sizes, in that regard. Viewed with even a mildly optimistic lens, the bigger picture hints at increased integration, connection, and value for American soccer on the world scene. Could this progress chip away at old stereotypes and open further doors? It's something to track as a new decade arrives.


Charles Boehm is a Washington, DC-based writer and the editor of The Soccer Wire. Contact him at:cboehm@thesoccerwire.com. Follow him on Twitter at:http://twitter.com/cboehm.

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Another shot at a super league https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/12/another-shot-at-a-super-league.html 2019-12-06T15:30:20Z Real Madrid logo.

The soccer news starts with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez disrupting the song and dance between UEFA and the major clubs by potentially moving forward with… you guessed it, a super league. The New York Times' Tariq Panja reports that Perez is trying to gain support from some of those other major European clubs to go their own way, setting aside their domestic leagues and the Champions League.

According to the Times report, the league would have 40 clubs with promotion and relegation between them. It's no surprise that UEFA president Aleksandar Ceferin refers to the plan as :insane." Maybe, but it's also the likliest outcome to a scenario UEFA has plaued a part in pushing since the 1990s and the creation of the Champions League.

European soccer's governing body's first mistake was subbing in "league" for "cup." That only strengthened the outline of the bulls eye for European clubs focusing on bringing in even greater amounts of money. Parading the Champions League as the most valuable property in soccer didn't help. UEFA's competition is next to nothing without 16 of Europe's elite clubs, much less 40. They're wholly reliant on the clubs continuing to agree to confederation, and domestic control of the game. Nothing other than threats of outlaw status really holds them to that. Especially since the Times report has Perez already meeting with FIFA.

A breakaway European Super League still aligned with FIFA keeps the World Cup in place. Since we know from the soccer prosecutions in New York that the confederations are technically only loosely aligned with FIFA, cutting them out at the highest level of the club game may do little or nothing to national team soccer. That may be the unlikeliest part of this latest pitch for super soccer, keeping affiliation with FIFA while saying goodbye to domestic leagues and UEFA competitions.

Regardless of what happens, underlining all of this is that same problem UEFA created. Self high-fiving over your lucrative competition only leads to the real stakeholders wondering why they need you at all.

Moving to the scores, DeAndre Yedlin wasn't in the squad for Newcastle United's 2-0 win at Sheffield United. Allan Saint-Maximin opened the scoring in the 15th minute with Jonjo Shelvey doubling the lead in the 70th. Martin Dubravka kept the clean sheet with six saves. Newcastle United is in 11th-place in the table, tied on points at 19 with 10th-place Arsenal and 9th-place Sheffield United.

Andrija Novakovich was on the bench for Frosinone's 2-1 loss at Parma in the Fourth Round of the Coppa Italia. Trailing from the 20th minute, Marcello Trotta equalized for Frosinone in the 71st minute. Parma converted a penalty two minutes into stoppage time.

Also in the soccer news, the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced Chelsea's transfer ban. Chelsea will now be able to fully participate in the transfer market in January. In a statement, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said, "As we go forward and I feel or we feel as a club that there are positions we could strengthen, then we will obviously look at that, as all big clubs do. That is why people expected less of us this season because lots of clubs around us and below us were spending 100 million or 150 million and we did not have that chance, and we lost Eden Hazard and we lost two #9s. Now the picture has slightly changed and it is important we get it right moving forward."

The Charlotte Observer's Hannah Smoot and Alison Kuznitz updates the situation with the city's MLS expansion bid. Pro Soccer USA's Mitchell Northam on the likelihood that Charlotte will get the 30th MLS team. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tannenwald reports from MLS commissioner Don Garber's press conference. The Athletic's Sam Stjeskal also goes through what we learned from Thursday's MLS meeting.

Bundesliga.com reports that Werder Bremen striker Josh Sargent will miss several weeks due to a torn muscle. SBI Soccer's Larry Henry Jr on Timothy Weah back training with Lille. The Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson stresses potential liability should soccer delay concussion substitutions. The Liverpool Echo's Sean Bradbury, Theo Squires, and Connor O'Neil with Everton's manager search. iNews' Daniel Storey works through the situation at Watford. The Daily Mail's Kit Holden looks at Gladbach's title aspirations.

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

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MLS Power Rankings: 2019 Season Ender https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/12/mls-power-rankings-2019-season-ender.html 2019-12-05T19:00:29Z don garber seattle sounders mls cup trophy

By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (Dec 5, 2019) US Soccer Players - The 2019 Major League Soccer season has been over for a bit now, with Seattle beating Toronto FC to lift the MLS Cup early last month. With the offseason already in full swing and two new clubs on the horizon, the focus has begun to shift to the start of a new decade and a continuation of the league's unofficial expansion era. Before moving on, it's worth a look back at 2019.

Biggest moments

1. Seattle Sounders win the 2019 MLS Cup. Seattle joined some rarified air by winning its second-ever MLS Cup trophy. Only five other clubs have won more than one MLS Cup trophy. Only the Galaxy won two in this decade. Seattle will enter 2020 as the favorites to win the championship despite LAFC's presence in the West. Seattle has the confidence and will look to create a dynasty with another MLS championship.

2. LAFC's Carlos Vela setting the all-time scoring record. Roy Lassiter and Chris Wondolowski sat on 27 goals for some time before Atlanta's Josef Martinez erased that goals-scored record in 2018 with 31. Vela made scoring look easy in 2019 with 34 goals to set the new mark. His season-ending hat-trick against Colorado was particularly impressive. For Vela to challenge his record next season seems unlikely, but LAFC will still be a force in 2020.

3. Philadelphia overcoming a 3-1 deficit to New York in the conference playoffs. When the Red Bulls scored in first-half stoppage time to take a 3-1 lead in their playoff match against Philadelphia, the game looked over. The Union battled back, sending the match to extra time and winning it on an amazing goal from Marco Fabian. The match was just a sample of how exciting the new one-off playoff system was. Hopefully, MLS keeps it this way for good.

Biggest disappointments

1. FC Cincinnati. The league's latest expansion team put together the worst season of this most-recent expansion era. Instead of following the blueprint set by Atlanta and LAFC, FC Cincinnati went off on its own and tried to build a different way. They used the players that helped it succeed in the USL, showing that the two leagues aren't the same. FC Cincinnati had rabid support in its first MLS season, and the team should work hard to appease its fanbase this offseason.

2. Chicago Fire. Certainly, the Fire disappointed its supporters by not reaching the postseason again. The club's level of disappointment runs deeper. Chicago abandoned SeatGeek Stadium in favor of a return to Chicago proper. The Fire's cavernous 2020 home - Soldier Field - dwarfs SeatGeek Stadium. That move risks the Fire playing in front of a smattering of fans in 2020 no matter what the team does in the offseason. The club's horrid new logo will do the team no favors.

3. Vancouver Whitecaps. The Whitecaps have no plan. That is the impression the team leaves after suffering through yet another terrible campaign. Vancouver finished 3rd in the Western Conference in 2017 only for the bottom has fallen out. The Whitecaps finished 8th in 2018 and 12th out of the 12 in 2019. Now, MLS has fined coach Marc dos Santos for calling MLS a "Mickey Mouse league" for having such a long winter break. That might be a good label to apply to the club.

4. Portland Timbers. Portland had quite a big advantage for itself in 2019. With Providence Park unavailable until June, the club closed out the season with nearly all home games down the stretch. Somehow, Portland could not parlay that into a successful record. They needed a home win on the final day of the season to reach the postseason. Portland had the talent available for more but was unable to do much with it. Worse for the Timbers, rivals Seattle sit atop the league, making it that much more of a disappointing year for the Timbers.

Biggest surprises

1. New England Revolution. New England's overall record of 11-11-12 is not overly impressive, nor is the club's one-and-done playoff appearance. However, the Revs went 9-3-10 after they replaced coach Brad Friedel with Bruce Arena. While it may seem like the Revs caught lightning in a bottle, Arena is less of a magician and more of an architect. This team is set for the long haul now, and New England should compete from the start next season.

2. Real Salt Lake. Expectations weren't high with an aging core, no real superstar, and a stacked Western Conference. Throw in Mike Petke's controversial ouster as coach down the stretch, and the club had quite a bit thrown its way. Yet RSL was one of the last four teams left standing out West. RSL promoted interim Freddy Juarez to full-time head coach, and the club should be competitive next season once more.

3. Toronto FC. A team with the resources Toronto FC has should not necessarily be a surprise, but such is life in MLS. Toronto looked like anything but a title contender during an 0-5-3 stretch in May. The team only won consecutive games once after a 3-0-0 start. Then they hit the switch in October and ripped through the Eastern Conference to reach its third MLS Cup in four seasons. This team has shown that it does have a strong foundation. With Greg Vanney in charge, Toronto FC figures to contend for the Eastern crown again in 2020.

Biggest issues moving forward

1. Sporting KC. Perhaps it is time to start over at Sporting KC. The club has shown faith in Vermes time and again and is not wavering from him now. Vermes has been on the job for ten years, but this is the lowest the club has been. The team needs help all over the roster with questions concerning Vermes's effectiveness. We've seen this before in MLS. 2. New York Red Bulls. For much of the last decade, the Red Bulls have featured Bradley Wright-Phillips scoring goals and Luis Robles stopping them. Both of those mainstays are now gone, with the Red Bulls are in a bit of a transition. The club has two Designated Player spots open. They need to fill them with the right players to stay the course and reach the postseason once more. Otherwise, this rebuilding process will keep the team near the bottom of the table.

3. Montreal Impact. Thierry Henry might be the solution for the Impact. Or he might be the latest in a string of coaches. Certainly, Henry is the highest-profile coach the team has had. That said, turning the keys over to an inexperienced coach is risky. Perhaps Henry can bring in some high-profile French players to join Montreal. They'll need something because the roster is in such flux that it will take patience and a skilled hand to get the team to play together. We already know that Montreal management is not patient.

4. FC Dallas. It's not that FC Dallas is a bad team, but someone will have to make room for clubs like Colorado, San Jose, and Houston to make the playoffs. FC Dallas has been just an average team for several seasons now. There's little to indicate that this team will make significant improvements come next season. The days of David Ferreira or Mauro Diaz creating magic in Frisco are long gone.

Clubs on the right track

1. Orlando City. Club Tijuana's loss is Orlando's gain. Former FC Dallas and Xolos coach Oscar Pareja landed with Orlando in what will be a major reclamation project. Pareja is the person to lead such a project. Pareja has shown with Colorado and FC Dallas that he can succeed in this league. Orlando is desperate to get back on track after two horrid campaigns. It is unclear yet how much the roster will change from now until March 2020, but Pareja will have the players who step on the field next year playing at a high level.

2. Colorado Rapids. Colorado is a team that perennially has observers wondering if anyone cares there. With the latest coaching hire, that thought has vanished. Robin Fraser came in at the end of August and instantly won games at New York and home against Seattle and the LA Galaxy. Fraser will have to get the most out of his roster, whatever it looks like next year, as the club likely will not spend big money on a high-profile player or three. Fraser was able to come in and post a 5-2-0 record with what he had, so he should be just fine heading into 2020.

3. Houston Dynamo. Houston has gambled on its new coach, and the gamble will pay off. After a decade coaching in the US youth national team ranks mostly with the U-20s, Ramos has stepped into his first professional coaching job. In one of his first moves, Houston picked up Darwin Quintero from Minnesota in a trade. Quintero gives Ramos a dynamic attacking player to showcase. There will be a change for Ramos, though, from coaching American teenagers to coaching professional athletes from all over the world. It should be one transition he handles well.

4. Atlanta United. Yes, the club struggled through the early part of the season. And yes, Atlanta missed out on hosting MLS Cup. That said, Atlanta once again was the class of the Eastern Conference throughout most of 2019. The team was not the offensive juggernaut it was in 2018, but Atlanta still finished in 2nd-place and won two playoff games at home before falling short. Atlanta showed that its strong foundation will help the team succeed in the future.

Biggest holes to fill

1. LA Galaxy. How do you replace an enigmatic high-profile striker who accounted for more than half of your team's goals? The LA Galaxy will try and answer that ahead of next season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is gonem along with his 30 goals. A much less impactful but equally difficult loss was Uriel Antuna's as his loan ended and Antuna signed with Chivas Guadalajara. Antuna was the second-leading scorer with six goals. The Galaxy is not shy about spending money. That's good because the team will need to throw some cash at somebody to help fill the void left by Ibrahimovic.

2. New York City FC. NYCFC did well to adjust to life after David Villa, finishing first atop the Eastern Conference before a disappointing loss to Toronto FC in the playoffs. However, part of what held the team together was Claudio Reyna's presence. Reyna was the first American to join the NYCFC project. He brought respectability and professionalism to the sporting director post. No matter how much was going on around the club, having Reyna in that position brought stability to the club. Now, he is gone as Reyna left that position to join 2021 expansion side Austin FC. While the team promoted to fill that spot, Reyna's loss will be massive.

3. DC United. Wayne Rooney came to DC United near the end of his career, but he was still quite a productive player in his two seasons with the club. DC United needed a figure like Rooney at the helm to be relevant, and the club has been the last two seasons despite playoff failures each season. Finding a striker to help score goals might not be as much of an issue as having a strong presence like Rooney on the club and in the locker room.

Best Foundations Laid

1. Minnesota United. After a rough start to its MLS existence, Minnesota finally turned the corner. This season was a coming-of-age for Minnesota, with a much-improved roster and a brand-new stadium to play in. While the early playoff exit was far from ideal, the club set itself up for a successful 2020 season. If the team can find a reliable goalscorer, Minnesota could contend for the Western Conference title.

2. San Jose Earthquakes. The playoffs were within reach for San Jose, but the club faltered on the season's final day to miss out. That the Quakes were even that close says a great deal about how 2019 went for them. Matias Almeyda arrived and began the transformation process for a club that has been an afterthought for much of the last decade. Almeyda might work his connections to Liga MX and bring in some reinforcements from down south, like Chivas striker Alan Pulido. If Almeyda can work that magic, San Jose will be in the postseason hunt from the start of 2020.

3. Columbus Crew. Yes, Columbus had a terrible season this year. It took more time for Caleb Porter to get settled than expected. Porter did settle in and showed some success before the season was out. Columbus finished the year with a 5-2-6 record, a more than respectable mark that spread out over the course of the season would be enough for a postseason spot. Columbus will be much improved come 2020 as Porter's worth will show.


Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.

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Lampard says Pulisic can reach “that extra level” https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/12/lampard-says-pulisic-can-reach-that-extra-level.html 2019-12-05T15:30:46Z christian pulisic usmnt training

The soccer news starts in the Premier League. Christian Pulisic subbed out in the 86th minute for Chelsea's 2-1 home win over Aston Villa. Tommy Abraham put Chelsea up in the 24th minute with Aston Villa equalizing in the 41st. Mason Mount scored Chelsea's winner in the 48th minute.

"He is playing really well," Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said. "He can score more, we have a player in Christian who is someone who is really exciting us but when you see this type of player, you see another level which is goals and assists and he has the ability to go on to that extra level which is the top level of world football."

It's quite the compliment for Pulisic, who is showing that he is able to hold down a job at Premier League level. More to the point, at the higher Premier League level with a team in contention for a top-four finish and a Champions League place.

Chelsea is in 4th-place on 29 points, three back of 3rd-place Manchester City and with a six-point gap over 5th-place Wolves. There's no such thing as a comfort zone in the Premier League in December, but Chelsea is certainly in position to come out of the holiday churn of games still holding onto a Champions League spot.

At the same time, they're in position to advance from Group H in the Champions League. Entering the final matchday in 3rd-place tied on points with 2nd-place Valencia, Chelsea has a home date with bottom club Lille. The expectation is three points for Chelsea against a team that's only managed a single point in the group.

What that means for Pulisic in particular is what Lampard said. He's showing that he's a player in position to take that next step.

Also in the soccer scores, Matt Polster wasn't in the squad for Rangers in their 2-2 draw at Aberdeen. Rangers took a two-goal lead with Scott Arfield scoring in the 18th and Ryan Jack in the 30th minute. Aberdeen came back with goals in the 39th and 48th. The Sportsman's Graham Ruthven considers Aberdeen as the team to disrupt the Old Firm.

SI.com's Jonathan Wilson with the issues Manchester United continues to face even after a home win over Spurs. The Independent's Mark Critchley looks at Spurs after their first loss under Jose Mourinho. FourFourTwo's Seb Stafford-Bloor with what should be Mourinho's takeaways after the loss at Manchester United.

International Champions Cup's Manuel Veth tells the story of the Gladbach vs Bayern Munich rivalry. The Athletic's Jack Lang tells the story of Deportivo LA Coruna now struggling in the Segunda Division. Inside World Football's Paul Nicholson reports on UEFA considering using the Nations League for some World Cup qualifying spots.

Pro Soccer USA's Mike Bianchi looks at the situation with Orlando City and new coach Oscar Pareja. MLSsoccer's Phil West talks to Austin sporting director Claudio Reyna

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

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Does Chicharito have an MLS or Liga MX future? https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/12/does-chicharito-have-an-mls-or-liga-mx-future.html 2019-12-04T21:00:09Z javier chicharito hernandez

By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (Dec 4, 2019) US Soccer Players - Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez is open to moving to a new club. According to reports, Hernandez would be willing to move somewhere due to his decrease in playing time in Spain with Sevilla. Hernandez's best move would be to move west across the Atlantic Ocean. The further west he goes, the more his playing time would increase. However, the best move for the player would not be the best move for all parties involved.

Hernandez would do well to join MLS, a league that has drooled over the prospect of landing him for more than a decade. The best move would be one down south. Hernandez to Liga MX would be the blockbuster move that would energize Mexico and whatever club acquires him. Hernandez would gain renewed life as a player, and the league would become even more interesting than it already is. It would also continue to signal that Liga MX should be an option for European-based Mexican internationals considering new clubs.

A return home would help keep Hernandez at a relatively high level and would surely spark his play. Having him home would also benefit the national team as he would be available to Tri coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino whenever Mexico plays regardless of the match, opponent, or game situation.

Still, that seems like the least likely scenario. What is likely to happen, if any move happens at all, is a move to Major League Soccer. That move would be a boon to the league and the club he would land at. Liga MX is at a higher level of play, but that is not the issue. It was not an issue with Carlos Vela, and it would not be one with Hernandez. A move back home would energize the fan base in Mexico like few others could, but Liga MX just isn't the destination for returning Mexico internationals. Players like Giovani and Jonathan Dos Santos, Marco Fabian, and Vela all opted for MLS instead of Liga MX.

That trend took a turn over the summer. Giovani Dos Santos made his way home, welcomed with open arms. Dos Santos's career took a downturn over his four seasons with the Galaxy. He went from being an El Tri icon to a question mark. His first season back in Liga MX with Club America hasn't been easy due to an injury picked up in the superclasico with Chivas in September. Dos Santos had one goal during the regular season but scored in America's upset win over Tigres in the Liga MX quarterfinals.

One of Dos Santos's teammates made a more traditional move. Goalkeeper Guillermo "Memo" Ochoa bypassed MLS when he returned from Belgium. Ochoa was strong in his return, playing 15 games and making big saves. America is in the semifinals against Morelia, one step away from the final. Ochoa will play a deciding role in whether or not America reaches the championship.

Often though, Mexican internationals on the outs in Europe look to MLS and not Liga MX as a better option. The level of play is always improving, something that all players, including Hernandez, say when contemplating this league. The ever-increasing salaries help too.

There are also great comforts in MLS that go beyond the playing field. There is much less pressure playing in MLS than there would be playing back home. There's a difference between low production in MLS and low production in Liga MX, where coaches, players, and team executives are under constant scrutiny.

It's a different environment. Vela pieced together the finest regular-season campaign by any player in league history in his second year in MLS. He helped craft the identity of an expansion team. Fabian helped the Union reach the Eastern Conference semifinals in his first year with the club. Jonathan Dos Santos has drawn rave reviews for his play in the center of the Galaxy's midfield and seems like he could be a lynchpin there for many years to come.

Hernandez would be one of the league's biggest signings in the last decade undoubtedly. He has been a fan favorite for Mexico since his breakout year in 2010. Hernandez also has what many other Mexican internationals do not, respect and adoration from English Premiership fans. Hernandez was a standout for Manchester United and also succeeded with West Ham along with successful spells with Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen.

That widens his appeal. There's no market where Chicharito wouldn't resonate, bringing in greater attention. LA is an obvious place for him, potentially filling the role Zlatan Ibrahimovic left open with the Galaxy. He would pair well with forward Cristian Pavon. Hernandez would also be a great addition to Houston. They're looking to rebuild quickly under new coach Tab Ramos. He would also be a great centerpiece for Orlando City SC and new coach Oscar Pareja. His suitors are everywhere in MLS, and for good reasons.

MLS vs Liga MX may still favor Mexico when the teams face each other in the Champions League or Nations League. For player recruitment, it's MLS with the unlikely advantage. That's why it wouldn't be a surprise if Hernandez finishes his career in Mexico after several seasons in MLS.


Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.

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Inter Miami and Nashville SC focus on MLS experience https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/12/inter-miami-and-nashville-sc-focus-on-mls-experience.html 2019-12-04T19:00:53Z luis robles mls soccer player

By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Dec 4, 2019) US Soccer Players - Expansion teams aren't all flashing lights and logo reveals. They're also, from the moment they gain entry to Major League Soccer, teams under construction.

The materials used to build an expansion team vary from city to city. Resource levels differ. Ambition can take various forms. Sometimes MLS expansion franchises go for big-name coaches who bring immediate credibility to their project. Other times they choose to err towards continuity by keeping their lower division coach.

There's no right way to do it, launching a successful MLS expansion team. Even the idea of success tinges with shades of gray. Not every first-year team is concerned with competing for a playoff spot out of the gate. Building over a longer timeline might be a case of available funds or the character of the club/region/fan base.

Still, there are some common denominators regardless of what type of debut season clubs want. No new team can be 25 players signed from outside of MLS, so the various mechanisms for player acquisition within the league are crucial to creating an on-field product.

There's a certain type of MLS veteran that expansion clubs are particularly dependent on in their nascent stages. These are players with a wealth of league experience, some with accolades both personal and team, who can help a new club ease into the competition. Expansion teams typically struggle because there's no continuity of identity. Veteran MLS hands can mitigate that problem.

Atlanta United leaned on a pair of decorated MLS names when the club entered MLS in 2017. In defense, Michael Parkhurst provided his high standard of heady center back play. He quickly became a team leader in a motley group of players competing under a first-time MLS head coach. Former Revolution, Rapids, Fire, and Galaxy player Jeff Larentowicz became a do-it-all man in the back six, a somewhat surprising development because of Atlanta's investment in young South American talent.

Coach Tata Martino might not have known much about Parkhurst and Larentowicz when he arrived in Atlanta. He may not have had much to do with their acquisition. However, he certainly quickly learned that he could trust them to put in strong, consistent performances.

Parkhurst announced his retirement after the 2019 season. It speaks to the quality of his play in Atlanta that fans will remember his time with that team as much as when he was with the Revolution teams of the aughts or the Crew teams of Gregg Berhalter.

Larentowicz was a Swiss Army knife for both Martino and Frank De Boer. When needed, he filled positions in both the midfield and backline and was never too far from the starting lineup. His 94 appearances over three seasons is a reflection of the steadiness of his play.

The man who oversaw Atlanta's roster build is doing the same job for Inter Miami heading into 2020. Paul McDonough knew how important players like Parkhurst and Larentowicz would be to Atlanta's chances of bucking the prevailing trend of expansion teams missing out on the playoffs in their first season. He carried that same knowledge to South Florida, where he's collected a different set of veterans to be the experienced core of Inter Miami's first team.

Inter signed former Galaxy and Houston defender AJ De La Garza on Monday via free agency. The 32-year old moves to the expansion team after three years with the Dynamo, where he predominantly lined up at fullback. De La Garza suffered through some injury problems in Texas, but his pedigree as a winner in MLS in strong.

"His versatility and experience are vital for the club," McDonough said in a statement on De La Garza's signing. "Pair that with his leadership ability, and he will be able to come into preseason ready to contribute."

De La Garza was once a stalwart of the great Galaxy teams of the early part of the nearly finished decade. Lining up alongside Omar Gonzalez, they formed one of the best pairs of central defenders in the league. That might seem like a lifetime ago in MLS, but it still makes De La Garza an asset to Inter Miami. Starter or depth piece, De La Garza will be part of creating the culture of a club that doesn't yet have one.

Inter Miami also added a proven winner in goal. Following his departure from the New York Red Bulls after eight seasons and 238 appearances, Luis Robles moves to the expansion team. Robles is only a season removed from one of the best campaigns of his career when he set a club record for clean sheets with 14.

The South Florida team figures to start with Robles in goal. It will be a strange sight for Red Bulls fans who once saw him start 183 straight regular-season games for their club, setting an MLS record. Robles in net puts to rest any concerns about the position. His exit from New York was largely a function of timing that worked perfectly in Inter Miami's favor.

De La Garza and Robles join midfielder Lee Nguyen, an expansion draft selection, to give Inter a group of upper-echelon performers from the league's last decade. Together they total 738 career MLS appearances.

Inter's expansion mate, Nashville SC, also made moves towards a veteran, MLS-experienced core with their early acquisitions. Dax McCarty arrives from Chicago to be the leader and midfield anchor for the new team. He'll likely spend time paired with former San Jose Earthquakes man Anibal Godoy, a player with 101 appearances in MLS over five seasons. McCarty's history includes two Supporters' Shield seasons with the Red Bulls. He knows what it takes to win in MLS.

With other additions possible, it appears McCarty will carry the bulk of the load of culture-building in Nashville. He's certainly capable. $100,000 in allocation money and a 2020 second-round draft pick is a bargain for what McCarty will provide in experience alone. He'll enable Nashville to enter their first MLS season confident of a steady hand in a key position. If and when the time comes for McCarty to step aside for a younger player, his example will be invaluable to helping that player learn what it takes to succeed in MLS.

Designated Player signings get the headlines. Stadium construction updates increase excitement levels. Even the launch of an academy program or the unveiling of the club's first on-field look can overshadow the acquisition of veteran MLS hands with resumes devoid of big-time foreign experience. Foreign signings and million-dollar transfers can put an expansion team over the top, but getting in position to make that move requires a significant amount of MLS-tested know-how.


Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: matchfitusa@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/davisjsn.

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Freddy Juarez drops the interim title at RSL, Orlando hires Pareja https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/12/freddy-juarez-drops-the-interim-title-at-rsl-orlando-hires-pareja.html 2019-12-04T15:30:15Z real salt lake coach Freddy Juarez

The soccer news starts with the coaching situation at Real Salt Lake. Interim coach Freddy Juarez is now the new head coach. The club also removed the interim title from general manager Elliot Fall with Real Monarchs GM Dan Egner becoming RSL technical director and former player Tony Beltran hired as assistant GM.

“Having gone through everything with the academy and the Monarchs and now being able to lead the organization with the first team is awesome," Juarez said. "It's something I never dreamed of, but it’s what I've been working for in continuing to get better as a coach and leader. I want to thank Mr. Hansen for the opportunity and trust that he has placed in me and the fans for their support. I can’t wait for the season to start in 2020."

ESPN commentator Taylor Twellman reported via Twitter that the decision wasn't straightforward. "Jason Kreis was offered the job and sources tell me that his “counter offer” offended the decision makers leading to the offer being pulled," Twellman wrote. Kreis is currently the coach of the USMNT U-23s and last coached in MLS with Orlando City.

Juarez took over RSL in August after the club dismissed Mike Petke over a verbal altercation with the fourth official in a Leagues Cup game. That incident sparked a wrongful dismissal lawsuit and discovery that led to a "parting of ways" with GM Craig Waibel in late September. That potential destabilization didn't overly impact RSL's season, with the club moving into 3rd-place on Decision Day. Real Salt Lake knocked out Portland in the first round of the playoffs, losing 2-0 to eventual champions Seattle in the Western Conference semifinals.

What that creates is an interesting set of expectations for Juarez in his first full season. MLS can be a streaky league where most teams end up needing to recover from a run of bad results. Last season, that happened early with RSL losing four games in a row starting on March 16. That was Petke's problem, turning the club around enough to keep them in contention. Juarez will also have to deal with the Leagues Cup, now double the size and more than capable of disrupting a team's momentum.

All of this will happen without goalkeeper Nick Rimando, leaving a major issue for a club that relied on him to bail them out. Rimando had 10 shutouts last season behind a defense that at times gave him too much work. RSL had a -11 goal difference on the road last season, with 12 of their 16 wins coming at home. Even though that record ended up good enough for 3rd-place in the West, Salt Lake's finish was a surprise on the final day of the season. Juarez and RSL would probably take that again in 2020, but this is a team in search of game management home and away if they want to compete with LAFC and Seattle.

Staying with coaching moves in MLS, Orlando City announced that Oscar Pareja is their new head coach. City finished the 2019 season with James O’Connor. Pareja became available at the end of the Liga MX Apertura with Tijuana missing the playoffs. Pareja took the coaching job there after success with FC Dallas.

Oscar is the perfect fit for the Orlando City organization, something I can say with confidence from our history of working together," Orlando City executive VP of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi said. "He possesses the talent and passion to help our club reach both its short term goals on the field and long-term plans for the organization. Oscar checked all the boxes we were looking to fill and his vision is aligned with the plans that we have as a club - to invest in and develop players at all levels of our pyramid to be both proud and successful when wearing the Orlando City crest."

Also in the soccer news, Tim Weah wasn't in the squad for Lille's 1-0 win at Lyon. Jonathan Ikone scored in the 68th minute with Mike Maignan keeping the clean sheet with three saves. Lille is 4th in the Ligue 1 table with 25 points. PSG leads with 33 points after 16 games.

Pro Soccer Talk's Manuel Veth on MLS fining Vancouver coach Marc Dos Santos for refereing to the league as "Mickey Mouse." MLSsoccer's Charles Boehm on the work the Dynamo, DaMarcus Beasley, and the US Soccer Foundation are doing in Houston. The Athletic's Felipe Cardenas talks to Steve Cherundolo about USMNT youth international and NYCFC player Joe Scally's eventual move to Gladbach.

The Guardian's Ben Fisher profiles what Fulham is doing in the Championship. The Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson reports on Britain's Labour Party advocating for supporter involvement in the running of professional soccer clubs. The Independent has UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin's comments on the obvious issues with instant replay.

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

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The next era in MLS https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/12/the-next-era-in-mls.html 2019-12-03T19:00:30Z bank of america stadium in charlotte

By J Hutcherson (Dec 3, 2019) US Soccer Players - I spent 22 of the first 23 years of my life living just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. I went to college there. My first paid job in soccer was there. I'd like to think I know the area, but the last time I visited my family it was another rendition of a not all that interesting game of "that used to be here."

A lot can change in a couple of decades. My incredibly rural high school once included an area that's now a popular suburb. That suburb now has its own high school. Back in my day, and good grief I'm sounding like the lyrics to a second-rate rock song, that area was farmland and forest. None of the kids I knew had parents that commuted to Charlotte.

I'm old enough to remember Charlotte's ASL team the Carolina Lightnin' getting mentions on the local news and selling shirts at the Belk department store at Eastland Mall. The Lightnin' dispersed in 1984. The mall is gone. Its lot could be the site for the potential MLS expansion team's training center. Things change, and in this era of almost constant movement, they change quickly.

MLS is now targeting Charlotte and vice-versa for the most obvious of expansion reasons. The owner of the NFL's Carolina Panthers wants a soccer team and is willing to pay. According to reports, an announcement could come as soon as this week. It's a sound idea in this era of MLS. Plug a team into an existing NFL infrastructure and expect crowds of 40k or more to show up for regular season games. Any throwbacks to the original MLS model that tried and mainly failed in NFL stadiums isn't relevant in 2019. Neither are comparisons to the unabashed enthusiasm for cashing expansion checks that helped doom the original NASL.

We're clearly in new territory when it comes to the outlook for North American pro soccer and the ambitions of MLS. Nothing underlines that more than the cities fighting for teams and the potential investor/operators willing to pay to make that happen.

Back in the early 2000s, my grandparents sent me a clipping from their local paper. It was a report on a potential MLS team coming to their city. They lived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a former factory town that lacks a major airport. Rochester was once on the expansion agenda, with the idea that MLS could build their version of the Green Bay Packers. Now, that sort of thing seems silly. MLS builds big, going to cities that already have at least one team in another major league sport. When Austin is the exception, that's an indication that the model is working.

Still, the more recent rounds of expansion carry with them at least the whisper of a nagging question. It's not impolite to call places like Nashville, Sacramento, Charlotte, and even Austin second-tier cities in recent memory. Yes, all but one have other pro sports teams. Their local boosters would fairly argue that they shook off that second-tier status when major businesses and major leagues came calling. That's completely fair, but they remain areas that have grown massively in a relatively short amount of time. With it comes the issues that quick growth areas face. What happens when those businesses take a better offer somewhere else? What happens when people choose a different town for their temporary forever home, logging into different Reddit and City-Data forums?

There's a reason the major leagues haven't abandoned the rust belt, those supposedly dying cities that will never again be in the top tier of population. It's because the money that fuels pro sports is still there, maybe moved to the suburbs but still available to fund stadiums and entertainment districts to keep the product healthy enough. There are also generations of supporters for those teams and cities that may not necessarily live anywhere near there anymore. Wanting your home town to make good never really leaves.

What new teams offer is that newness, especially in areas with population booms and demographic shifts. It's a fresh team with none of the weirdness that comes from switching clubs. With that in mind, it's almost perfect for these growing cities. They get a sport without decades of tradition tying fans to teams. It's new for all involved, pushing a different sport for a different era in these cities.

The Carolina Panthers sold to Pittsburgh native and former Steelers minority owner David Tepper for $2.2 billion prior to the 2018 season. That's a record, but in an era where the NFL hasn't offered any expansion teams for sale. We don't know what a new team in a new market might cost. MLS is reportedly putting a $350 million price tag on what could be the Charlotte expansion team. That's another record, but it comes after Meg Whitman invested $100 million for a minority stake in FC Cincinnati. The easy math now says that team is worth $500 million.

Waiting for the pro sports bubble to burst is like waiting for the next economic downturn. If any of us could predict it and had the money to bet, we would be in the position to start buying pro sports teams. Instead, the reality is that what we're seeing is what we know. Right now, we're seeing MLS teams going for more than anybody expected in the continuation of an expansion era that started with modest fees and hedged expectations. What this will eventually mean for MLS and its new markets is a futures bet. It's also what growing leagues in North America have to do.


J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him at jhutcherson@usnstpa.com.

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Once again, MLS gets creative with the calendar https://ussoccerplayers.com/2019/12/once-again-mls-gets-creative-with-the-calendar.html 2019-12-03T15:30:33Z mls 2020 ball

The soccer news starts with MLS not content to try and copy an old idea in professional soccer. Teams play each other home and away, and that's the extent of the season. Instead, MLS is going with a new system in 2020 that will see some teams not play each other at all.

In a league with 26 teams and 34 games, MLS is favoring its conferences. Inter Miami officially joined the Eastern Conference with Nashville FC an unlikely member of the West. MLS teams will now play the rest of their conference home and away with the remaining 10 games against clubs from the other conference. Since 13 teams are in each conference, that means each team won't play three teams at all.

With MLS moving merrily along with expanding the league and collecting the fee that comes with that, the home and away ideal might as well go away now. The league's decision to stick with 34 games might seem a little odd considering that a 20 team traditional league plays 38 games, but that ignores the playoffs. It also ignores cramming in the Leagues Cup set for expansion this summer. Add in the Concacaf Champions League, the US Open Cup/Canadian Championship, and the foreign clubs on summer tours, and there are plenty of dates on the schedule that will have coaches all over MLS considering their depth and USL call-ups.

MLS as a competition has so far brushed aside the obvious questions raised in the expansion era. They're still valid, of course. Is it really possible for a 26 soon-to-be 29 team league to improve on quality with the existing salary and player movement restrictions? Does a topflight soccer league where all of its clubs don't play each other at least once during the regular season make sense? Is this still a league of top-heavy squads with a newfound enthusiasm for selling its emerging talent? And so on.

Again, none of this is new. It's certainly worth considering as MLS presses on towards its ever-expanding vision of what topflight soccer should look like in North America.

The Washington Post's Steven Goff looks at the changes to the MLS calendar. The Charlotte Business Journal's Erik Spanberg reports that MLS may make an expansion decision on Thursday with Charlotte the likely choice. The Miami Herald's Michelle Kaufman with Luis Robles joining Inter Miami. The Guardian's Graham Ruthven tries to figure out what Atlanta United is doing on Aberdeen's board. ESPN's Jeff Carlisle highlights the USMNT players that pushed into the lineup in 2019.

Stats Bomb's Thore Haugstad goes in-depth with Christian Pulisic's performances with Chelsea this season. NBC Sports' Daniel Karell charts the problems at Arsenal under former manager Unai Emery. The Guardian's Jonathan Liew points to communication as an issue at Arsenal. The Ringer's Michael Baumann with the situation at Arsenal now under interim manager Freddy Ljungberg.

The Telegraph's Mike McGrath reports on Zlatan Ibrahimovic signing with AC Milan. The Athletic's Raphael Honigstein with what Jurgen Klinsmann needs to get a result at Hertha BSC. Inside World Football's Osasu Obayiuwana interviews former CAF finance director Mohamed El Sherei.

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

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