After three years without one, the SBI Q&A series is back, and SBI readers have helped kick things off with the first batch of questions for SBI’s Ives Galarcep to answer.
The SBI Q&A covers topics ranging from the USMNT, to MLS, and more.
Here are your questions answered:
What does the USMNT team to do in 2019 to be competitive for the Hex? (David Gracie)
More time in Gregg Berhalter’s system should lead to an increased comfort level, but more time should also help Berhalter make the necessary tweaks to help get the most out of his player pool, and system.
I do think there was a bit of panic in the fanbase about the team’s struggles in Berhalter’s system, but I think that was less about a complete incompatibility than it was about Berhalter sacrificing some results for the sake of ingraining certain philosophies. What we saw in November was a coach who is willing to take different approaches when necessary, and that’s not new for Berhalter. Anyone who followed his work in Columbus knows he is capable of adapting to the opposition and making specific match-focused adjustments to try and capitalize on an opponent’s specific flaws. That adaptability should come in handy in the Hex.
In terms of personnel, Berhalter needs to figure out what he wants to do with the defensive midfield role. Tyler Adams returning to health should help answer that question, but Berhalter needs to develop some new options in the position now that we’re moving past the Michael Bradley era.
In my opinion the current player pool is talented enough to qualify comfortably from the Hex, but if the Americans are going to challenge Mexico for the top spot in Concacaf, they will need some players to grow into more prominent roles, like Josh Sargent, Adams and eventually prospects like Chris Richards, Tim Weah and Alex Mendez.
Out of the next crop of young (non main USMNT) players, whom do you see advancing to the men’s team in 2020? (AC)
In the near term, someone like Miles Robinson could take that next step, while Chris Richards is someone who could emerge, though he may still be another year away.
From an attacking standpoint, Gio Reyna could emerge as that wonderkid in the teenage Christian Pulisic mold. He has been making real strides at Borussia Dortmund, and as a wing threat, he could be fast-tracked into a USMNT option considering how light Berhalter is on truly dangerous wingers at the moment.
Richie Ledezma and Alex Mendez are other prospects who could break through in 2020, but they’ll first need to establish themselves with their respective first teams, and at the very least I think they should both have a chance to be big parts of the Under-23/Olympic qualifying team.
Were you surprised by the Red Bulls cutting BWP and Robles? The Red Bulls trying to get younger? (SD)
I wasn’t surprised that the Red Bulls made the moves to part with Bradley Wright-Phillips and Luis Robles, but I didn’t think they would move on from both at the same time. I thought Robles could stick around another year, but I also think Ryan Meara is an excellent replacement who has been long overdue for a chance to be a regular starter.
Ultimately, the Red Bulls needed to make room on their cap for some upgrades, and if they felt Wright-Phillips was on the downside of his career it wasn’t going to make much sense to sign him to a big new deal. The Robles decision struck me as a much tougher one to make, but I think it was more ab out believing in Meara than not believing in Robles, who I see doing very well in Miami in 2020.
Is it a step forward or back for soccer exposure in the US that certain games are no longer broadcast over widely available free-to-air channels such as Univisión/UniMás and Telemundo, but instead are relegated to expensive premium cable channels such as FS2, Fox Deportes, NBC Universo, BeIN, etc.?
What can viewers do to encourage broadcasters to keep showing more soccer games on channels that are more accessible to more viewers, especially young people and families who may lack access to premium cable and/or privacy-invasive streaming? (Tejana)
Soccer is big business, and I don’t really see it as a step back for companies to be investing in showing more of it. The specific exception to me is beIN Sports, because it’s less available than some of the other networks you mentioned. That being said, it’s great to see a deal like CBS landing the rights to the UEFA Champions League and ESPN taking over the rights to the Bundesliga.
It’s a bit idealistic to think that it hurts the game to not just have all games available for free. Premium cable and streaming services are where coverage has moved, and the reality is even with that shift, there are more free-to-air games now than there were a decade ago. Hopefully as ratings grow, the bigger networks start finding value in airing soccer more and more top soccer on non-premium channels.
How do you rate Berhalter’s performance so far? Do you think the talent-level of our player pool can support the possession style he is trying to implement? (DCM)
Berhalter’s first year had its share of growing pains, ugly results, and disappointments, but I also think there’s been a certain level of overreaction to what should have been clearly predictable struggles for a young coach implementing a new system. This wasn’t Tata Martino taking over a Mexico team stacked with talent. This was a coach we already knew was embarking on his first national team job, and doing so with a talent pool clearly in a state of transition.
Does that mean I’m as bullish on the overall progress made as Earnie Stewart was when he spoke to media in November? Not at all, I don’t think the progress was nearly as clearcut as he made it sound. That being said, I get what Berhalter is trying to establish, and I happen to agree with the premise that it’s better to try and aim higher in establishing a style of play rather than just settling for some basic defend and counter foundation that won’t help the team reach new heights.
Does that mean I think the current USMNT player pool can play like peak Spain? No, but I also think there is some serious talent in the pipeline, and while we may not have the present-day squad to thrive in a more possession-based system, I think the 17-21 age range is rich with talent that just might be able to thrive in a more possession-oriented system, so why not plant the seeds now?
What do you think of DC United’s midfield going into next season? Do you think the presumed starting lineup of Asad,Arriola,Rodriguez in front of Moreno and Martins or Canouse can compete in the East, or do they need to splash cash on a #10 to replace Acosta? If they do, who of that group goes to the bench? (Joe)
I think D.C. United needs to go big on a striker. Those midfield pieces are good enough to compete, but you need a 20-goal striker up top. Could a number 10 help, ala Pozuelo? Absolutely, but I don’t see D.C. United adding a big-ticket striker AND big-money playmaker, so if you’re only getting one you find yourself a striker.
Why hasn’t Berhalter, Kreis and Stewart talked to the dynamic Uly Llanez yet? He’s back healthy and scoring at will w/ Wolfsburg U19s and no one in the USSF has talked to him especially with the Olympics coming up. Mexico has been contacting him and his family. It seems like since Tab Ramos has left the USSF, Mexican-American prospects are being neglected. (Ronster)
Uly Llanez is 18 years old and playing (Very well) with Wolfsburg’s U-19s. He has tons of talent, and a bright future, and the unfortunate thing now is the void left by Tab Ramos’ departure coupled with the current mess at U.S. Soccer has Earnie Stewart busy with other things rather than cozying up to youth players.
What I wonder is what happened to the days of players proving themselves with their first teams and playing their way into the picture of a national team coach? Sergino Dest wasn’t really on Berhalter’s radar either just six months ago, but once he earned a first-team place at Ajax he got the call from the USMNT. That’s how it’s supposed to be done. Fans complaining about youth prospects not getting senior team looks is, for me, a bit misguided. Berhalter has enough on his plate right now, does he really need to take time speaking to ever talented youth prospect in the pipeline, even the ones who haven ‘t actually made their pro debuts? That’s a bit much.
As for Jason Kreis not calling Llanez, here are the midfielders and forwards called in for the October camp he could have presumably called in Llanez:
MIDFIELDERS (7): Christian Cappis (Hobro/DEN; Katy, Texas), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; Porto Alegre, Brazil), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC; Federal Way, Wash.), Chris Durkin (Sint-Truiden/BEL; Glen Allen, Va.), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven/NED; Phoenix, Ariz.), Alex Mendez (Ajax/NED; Los Angeles, Calif.), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire; Lemont, Ill.)
FORWARDS (6): Omir Fernandez (New York Red Bulls; Bronx, N.Y.), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; Plantation, Fla.), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake; Park City, Utah), Sebastian Soto (Hannover 96/GER; Carlsbad, Calif.), Mason Toye (Minnesota United FC; South Orange, N.J.)
All the players who would be considered similar to Llanez in this group are players who earned first-team minutes in 2019. We can argue all day about Llanez having the potential to be better than these players, but in terms of players actually playing with their first teams, I don’t see how it was a huge crime to call in players like Cappis, Lennon, Lewis, Saucedo and Fernandez over Llanez at the moment.
Does that mean I think those players are all going to be better than Llanez long term? Absolutely not, Llanez has the talent to be a USMNT standout one day, but people need to slow down with the talk that it was some huge travesty that he was overlooked for that October camp. That being said, it wouldn’t have hurt Kreis to touch base with Llanez, but as we saw with Richie Ledezman, Kreis doesn’t really speak to players until he’s ready to actually include them in his preparations.
Llanez should be a big part of the next U-20 cycle, but if he can break through at Wolfsburg and earn some first-team minutes in 2020 then that should move him into consideration for the U-23s and USMNT that much sooner. Until that happens though, I think folks need to settle down.
Where does MLS stand after the contract negotiations?
Does this mean higher salaries over all? Lower for the top end, but higher bottom?
Just seems like the MLS growth is unstoppable, but is it a mirage of teams over spending?
Will the a team like the Sounders lose talent and not be able to replace.
The reason I ask is it just seems like not a lot happening at the top end in terms of signings…maybe they are just waiting. (Quit Whining About Soccer in the US)
If you mean CBA negotiations, and where will things stand once they are over, you almost always see slowdowns in spending right before a new CBA. Teams are waiting to see what they will have to work with. I also think we’re not even in the January window yet, so what moves were you expecting to have happened already? There will be moves in January and through too the summer, and the new CBA should give teams more money to spend, not less.
LAFC seems set to lose only Miller, Harvey and Beitashour from last season’s routine starters. I think Bradley believes some presently listed as forwards (Vela and Rossi) are really attacking midfielders, so the roster is not as light in the midfield as just looking at the numbers might indicate (Kaye, Blessing and Atuesta are very good, but some injury insurance is needed).
What do you think Bradley needs to do to ensure the defense is solid and the roster is robust against injury and international call-ups?
Separately, what does John Nelson at Dallas have to do to get some playing time (short of crippling Hollingshead)? (Dennis)
LAFC needs to add some depth in central defense, at fullback, and in central midfield and I ‘m sure they will be busy this offseason filling those gaps. They have shown themselves to be very aggressive when it comes to making moves, so I’m not sure why you think they won’t continue that trend this offseason.
As for John Nelson, I think he had a pretty productive 2019, his injury notwithstanding, getting some early-season minutes and then getting time at North Texas later in the year. He’s 21, and is on a team with very good fullbacks (including SBI Best XI pick Ryan Hollingshead) so all he can do is bide his time. One thing is clear, Luchi Gonzalez will give him the chance if he believes he’s ready too take it.
In your opinion what lead to the “lost generation” of USMNT players? Very few players born between 1989 – 1995 have turned out to be international quality. Why do you think that is?
Why does Cristian Roldan keep getting opportunities at the international level? He underwhelms on a consistent basis.
Why has Eric Lichaj been so underutilized in the USMNT throughout his career? Plenty of championship and MLS level players have gotten regular runs (Ream, Robinson, Brad Evans.. etc..) but Lichaj has not. He has gotten call ups here and there but he is a versatile competent defender who can play anywhere across the back line and who has played at high level for a long time. (HTM)
There’s really no clearcut answer for why the lost generation happened. I do think it could have been caused at least in part by MLS academies not being far enough along to properly develop that early generation of academy talent. That, along with there being sparse pro playing-time opportunities for young players clearly hurt that generation.
As for Roldan, I don’t think he’s suited to play as an attacking midfielder, but I do think he could be a useful defensive midfield option.
As for Lichaj, I chalk that up in large part to Jurgen Klinsmann not rating him or liking him, and there were clearly some years when Lichaj absolutely should have been called in. At this point in things he’s 31 and there are frankly better prospects in the pipeline now at fullback, but he absolutely should have earned more caps from 2012-2018.
How/ when does MLS take the steps of becoming more transparent and away from the single entity structure? (Dr. Funk)
I asked Don Garber this very question last month (regarding single entity) and he claimed the league has already moved away from many of the practices of the early single-entity days. We have seen a bit more transparency with things like publicizing allocation money amounts, but there’s definitely still a sense that there is still plenty of behind-the-scenes maneuvering that we aren’t provided information on.
Fire fans overwhelming do not like the new Fire logo is there anything fans can do besides complain? (John Keller)
Don’t buy the new gear? If people don’t buy it, maybe it will make them reconsider the logo change.
In your Opinion the USMNT has A) Performed above expectations, B) Performed to expectations, C) Performed below expectations?
How much leash is Berhalter going to be given before the USSF Brass and Media hold him accountable for the performances on the field?
Ernie backed Berhalter before the game against Canada in Florida, saying he’s seen enough progress in the way the team is playing.” What signs of progress is he seeing that most of the fan base isn’t? (Lost in Space)
That’s a loaded question because it depends on what specific expectations. I didn’t expect the USMNT to be a well-oiled machine running over all comers in Berhalter’s first year. Were there some results that were ugly and disappointing, like the Venezuela loss and the Mexico friendly beatdown and Canada loss? Absolutely, but anyone who didn’t think there would be growing pains in year one wasn’t being realistic.
I think Berhalter will have at least through the early part of World Cup qualifying, so anyone hoping for a coaching change any time soon isn’t paying attention.
As for the “signs of progress” Stewart spoke about, I think he was referring more to seeing the team settling into a more comfortable feel with Berhalter’s system and setup. November’s wins seem to suggest there might be some improved comfort level, but that being said, Stewart didn’t do himself or Berhalter any favors talking things up when he did because at that point in time there was really no evidence to support his glowing review.
Vote for album of the year? Well, you can only pick out of these three albums: :)))
-Benny “Plugs I Met”
-Freddie Gibbs and Madlib “Bandana”
-Griselda “WWCD” (Dainja)
I really need to sit down and put some serious time into a list, but for now here My favorite rap albums of 2019 (I have a bunch of albums to catch up on in the next few weeks so I’ll try to drop a Top 25 by the end of the month):
Jim Jones (El Capo)
Gang Starr (One of the Best Yet)
Da Baby (Kirk)
BIG K.R.I.T. (K.R.I.T. iz here)
Freddie Gibbs (Bandana)
Rick Ross (Port of Miami 2)
Young MA (Herstory in the Making)
Apollo Brown (Sincerely, Detroit)
What are the top three things holding our Men’s NT back in your opinion from making a WC semifinal one day and what changes would you make to address those 3 things holding us back? (Joe Dirt)
The country’s player development system is a mess, with youth soccer driven by profit rather than development. From a fundamental standpoint that’s a serious issue.
Coaching development needs to improve, and while there are suggestions that it is improving, time will tell if that is true.
Third, the need for better embracing the different cultures in this country is something that’s a weakness. There needs to be more representation of Latino and African American communities throughout the upper levels of leadership in American Soccer.
In all your travels covering soccer which trip and where was the most over the top fun you had? (Joe Dirt)
Man, that’s a good question. South Korea was great in 2002, so was Brazil in 2014, Germany in 2006 and South Africa in 2010. It’s hard to pick, but since it was my first World Cup I’d probably say South Korea, because I was young enough to actually be able to party as hard as I worked.
Will the U.S. make it to nations league final?
Will Berhalter’s tactics improve in decisive matches?
Will some players from the olympic squad start to transition to the the senior U.S. side in time for world cup qualifying?
Who is the future forward and who can be called in in as a forward that has a future with the U.S. who hasn’t been called? (Fairjudge)
I think so.
What’s the deal with all the disrespect for Michael Bradley and all he’s done in his career for club and country? (Master of the Obvious)
I wish I had an easy answer for that one because the way he’s been turned into a villain in the eyes of some American soccer fans is pretty absurd. Ultimately, he’s not someone who cares about being liked, and that persona has only made it easier for those who don’t like him to push that negative narrative about him.
When it comes down to it, he deserves so much more credit and respect than he receives for the career he has put together. It’s something to spend a lot more time writing about, and deserves it’s own piece, but since you asked, it’s definitely something I’ve never understood.