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The SBI Q&A: August Edition (Your Questions Answered)

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It is time to answer your soccer-related questions (and a dash of pop culture questions) in the latest SBI Q&A.

Most of the questions selected were U.S. men’s national team related, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the excitement following the winning of two trophies (and beating Mexico twice) this summer.

Among the topics covered are players who could make transfer moves this summer, players who could play their way into the World Cup qualifying picture, and what the future holds for players such as Matthew Hoppe and Paxton Pomykal.

One thing to point out is that just because a question wasn’t chosen doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good question. Some questions that were asked are related to topics I intend to cover with specific articles in the near future, and therefore didn’t want to get into in a Q&A.

With that in mind, here is the SBI Q&A for August, with Your Questions Answered:


JOHN: If you are Berhalter do you rest some players against El Salvador? Any chance he even leaves some players in the US to save them from having to travel?

IVES – Gregg Berhalter has said he would have a larger-than-normal camp so if we’re talking somewhere from 28 to 30 players I don’t see all those players traveling to El Salvador. That said, I do not see any of the top USMNT players missing the El Salvador match. It’s important to start the qualifying cycle with a strong performance so I see the first-choice XI being deployed in the opening match in El Salvador.


ANDREW – What was the name of the American center back that played for Norwich a few years back ,who hardly ever got a call up even though Norwich was in the premiership at the time? I hope this does not happen to Sargent.

IVES – Zak Whitbread was the player. Born in Houston but grew up in England. He was part of the U.S. Under-20s and also played in the failed 2004 U.S. Olympic qualifying squad. Whitbread did earn a USMNT call-up, in 2011, but an injury suffered while with Norwich City kept him from being able to join the USMNT. I doubt you’ll have to worry about Sargent never getting a call-up.


NATE GLASS – The number of Americans making moves to Europe seems off the charts over the past 12-18 months. Is this a “golden generation”, a byproduct of the development academies, or something else?

IVES – This is indeed a Golden Generation, there has never been a group like this before in American soccer history and there are multiple factors at play. You have the development academy playing a part, but you also have more young Americans being willing to make the jump to Europe and more European clubs being willing to take chances on American players, where that wasn’t as prevalent a thing a decade ago.

It isn’t as though there weren’t Americans in Europe then, but now you’re seeing Americans heading to Europe at much younger ages. I also think the fact MLS teams are more willing to take chances on young players is leading to younger and younger players being able to develop that much more quickly, like a Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie.


TEJANA – Are more than 4 (!!!) measly Bundesliga games per year going to be shown on ESPN / ESPN2 this season, and if not, shouldn’t we all just boycott the entire network?

IVES – ESPN+ is the best value in television, so rather than complaining about ESPN and ESPN2 not showing more soccer games consider just how many games you are able to watch online for $6 a month.


JUAN FROM LA – Will bidens new policy of letting just vaccinated people from outside affect the qualifiers, in benefitting the US when teams from carribean, Central america visit?

IVES – It’s going to be interesting to see what sort of waivers/exceptions there will be for foreign athletes traveling to the USA to compete. It wouldn’t be very sporting if teams were stripped of players. As it stands, it won’t be much of an issue until October since Canada is the only visiting team playing a qualifier in the USA, so Jamaica and Costa Rica have plenty of time between now and October to sort out the vaccination situation. I don’t know for a fact that Canada’s entire team is vaccinated, but given Canada’s thorough and aggressive approach to handling COVID I would imagine Canada’s team has a higher-than-normal rate of vaccinated players.


BENJAMIN M. GREY – The USMNT has recently been able to court and retain some great duel nationals (John Brooks, Sergino Dest), but we seem to be losing the battle for Mexican Americans. I still believe there is a wealth of talent that could benefit the USMNT. Is the USSF mishandling this? Will this trend continue?

IVES – The reality is that there are a handful of Mexican-Americans weighing their options and it’s a situation that bears watching, especially if the USA starts losing more of those players than wind up choosing the USA.

As it stands, David Ochoa has yet to announce his decision while Julian Araujo and Ricardo Pepi have yet to make their decisions. If all of those players wind up choosing Mexico, then you have to start asking some real questions, but what needs to be made clear is that it is okay for players to weigh options and consider both teams if they feel some connection to both teams. Obviously in some cases a player will make a choice based on where they see more of a chance to play, but it would be much tougher to explain away a full-blown trend if MOST Mexican-American players choose Mexico. At that point there will be some serious questions for U.S. Soccer to answer.


VIK – Given this exciting group of USA talent coming up, what are realistic expectations for the 2026 WC on home soil?

IVES – It’s still too early to say for sure, but I would argue that the World Cup semifinals would be a heck of an accomplishment. I get that some folks want to talk about WINNING the World Cup and to that I would say until the USMNT has a dozen players featuring prominently and playing key starting roles on the very best teams in the world, talk about winning the whole thing is just unrealistic hype. Of course, two years from now if we have that dozen players not only AT the Bayerns-Man United-Real Madrids-Juventus’ but starring then it will feel a bit less like wishful thinking.


DOWN IN TEXAS – What are you binge watching now and days.

IVES – I finally got around to watching Ted Lasso and absolutely loved it. I have also been giving How to Make it In America a re-watch, a very underrated HBO show.


PAPI SHMPOO – What do you think about Hernan Losada’s impact on DC United?

IVES – It’s hard to argue with that hiring being a successful one. D.C. United is playing an attractive style and you can argue Losada is helping get the most out of a young squad. I’ll readily admit that when he was hired I wasn’t sure about the selection, but right now D.C. United is looking pretty good for picking him.


JASON CRETACCI – Where do you see Paxton Pomykal in the pecking order amongst the MF & how long do you think it will take before he is on a WCQ roster?

IVES – I have never been quite as high on Pomykal as some other people. Clearly there are fans who love him and his game, but I honestly have always felt like there has been a bit of overhyping of his game. He has talent, there’s no denying that, but I feel like he’s a good bit behind the pack in the USMNT midfield pool. Obviously injuries set him back for a good while, and he’s now working his way back and showing some good signs, but I’m not sure he’ll be a factor in World Cup qualifying anytime soon.


MISTER JCTX – Which MLS club will Messi play for, and when? I don’t see NY City because of the baseball stadium situation. I don’t see Miami because of the scandal. Whatever team it is, I believe it happens sooner rather than later…

IVES – Messi will play wherever in MLS he wants to play, and I doubt highly that two years from now anybody’s going to be talking about Miami’s shady handling of contracts. If Messi wants to play in Miami then MLS will make it happen. I think Miami makes the most sense, both in terms of being somewhere I can see Messi wanting to settle his family and also Miami’s status as a very Latin American market. I’d love him to play in New York but don’t see it happening, and he doesn’t strike me as an LA type. He won’t play in America until 2023 at the earliest though.


DCP – Matthew Hoppe was the most interesting (not best) player on the Gold Cup roster for me. He seems to have a lot of potential and could bring a bit of personality to a forward group that at times seems a bit flat, but, as it currently stands, I assume that he would be on the outside looking in for a potential world cup squad. Assuming the US qualifies, where do you think Hoppe could fit for a full world cup squad and what would he need to do over the next year and half to get there?

IVES – Hoppe needs to make a good transfer move this summer that helps him develop in a tough league. The German second division isn’t going to cut it if he’s going to stay in the USMNT picture during qualifying. Hopefully the rumors linking him to the Premier League pan out and he can land somewhere in England, but even if he can settle somewhere in the Bundesliga I think he has the talent to do well there.

Hoppe does bring some unique qualities and if he can continue to sharpen his game he could absolutely make the World Cup team, but first thing’s first, he has to leave Schalke.


BEN R – Who are the next 5 MLS based American players that you see moving to Europe?

IVES – If we’re talking players who haven’t already secured moves (ala Caden Clark) here’s five to consider and yes, it has a heavy Gold Cup feel to it: Miles Robinson, George Bello, Matt Turner, James Sands, Eryk Williamson.

As far as NON-Gold Cup Americans, here’s five: Cole Bassett, Cade Cowell, Justin Che, Kevin Paredes, Kyle Duncan


JOHNNY RAZOR – Who of the players that did not play NL or GC do you think makes a qualifying roster this fall? Konrad, CCV, Luca, Caden Clark, etc…

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

IVES – Konrad De La Fuente and Julian Green are the leading candidates to be involved in qualifying after missing out on the summer tournaments. It will be tough for Cameron Carter-Vickers to break in, and I’m not sure Luca De La Torre can make up the ground he lost on the other central midfielders. Caden Clark is interesting, but I don’t think we see him until 2022, once he’s with RB Leipzig and establishes himself there.


 

Comments

  1. I think KDF has a better shot at the roster than given here.

    He brings a unique set of skill and speed as a pure winger, whereas Pulisic and Reyna are flexible position-wise and can play centrally. Not sure yet where Sargent will play and how much time he gets on the field on the wing and Weah appears to be stuck in a sub role again.

    No reason why KDF would be left out if his starts every week and plays well in the very same league where Weah only gets a few minutes per game

    Reply
  2. To the young players who may be going to Europe, I’d add Araujo and Pepi. I think both are already better than some of our players who have already gone and established themselves.

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  3. I’m not sure this a Golden Generation per se. The core of Puli, Wes and Tyler came along at similar times and are clearly the platform, but this has been coming for 20 plus years. The survival and now growth of MLS, people who grew up with and love the game (instead of ridiculing it and mocking it….a common occurrence on ESPN just several years ago), improved, coaching, facilities, knowledgeable fans, acceptance of the sport, growth outside the suburbs, easier access on media, a more competitive environment, etc, etc, etc…..

    It’s a culmination of all of these things and they did not happen over night. People believed and suffered when things were not great. Academies take several years to bare fruit and we are still just beginning. When the barrel tips, after filling drop by painstakingly slow, sweat from the brow drop, there is a deluge…..and we r at the star of it. The rest of the world, the educated cutting edge soccer world, not the average know it all fan gets it. Countries are searching databases here looking for dual nats and making contact and inviting players early. It’s just starting and the US is going to lift this part of the world on it’s shoulders. We r gonna develop and lose some top players, but we will keep producing.

    It’s just starting. All the hard labor has been done. Its just about growing, refining, improving, and giving newer academies more time. Rejoice, and for those of u to young to know what a joke soccer was considered, how desperate the battle was, and how far we have come enjoy the ride! For those who ridiculed and mocked MLS all those years when it didnt live up to your impossible examples…..no worries. Join the bandwagon and lie to your kids about how u were there when no one else would support…even though that was u. It’s OK! Just pass along to your kids what is happening so we can march on to a WC one day. I may not be alive but it will be feasible….and the rest of the world knows it, and respects, hates, and admires us for being able to do it. Onward!!!!!! The talent train will not stop.

    Reply
    • Golden Generation doesn’t have to mean there’ll be no talent before it, but it is clear without a shadow of a doubt that this current group is deeper and more talented than any before it. That’s literally the definition of a Golden Generation. Could the next group of 2004s to 2008s be even MORE talented? If we’re lucky, but acknowledging this current crop as golden shouldn’t be seen as accepting that there won’t be other great generations to follow.

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    • Your comment is very close to what I was planning on writing. To what you wrote and Ives responded, I don’t think it’s a generational thing at all. It’s a matter of numbers. Even with so many US athletes playing other sports, we still have as many or more youth playing soccer as many major football nations like Spain, France, Italy, all the major European nations. In those countries they don’t think generationally and some down years usually only last less than one World Cup cycle, as we have seen with Italy, for example. I agree with you that this is a gradual thing that has been building as youth development has improved, the number of top athletes committing to the game has increased, and so on. We have reached a tipping point where I think we are now producing a pretty steady stream of good players. I remember reading 2 or 3 years ago how a number of major Europe’s big clubs have set up training camps in the US, which is why players many of us hadn’t heard of seem to suddenly turn up on club rosters like Bayern, even Barcelona, etc.

      Reply
  4. Great analysis, Ives. Good to have you back.

    I give you a lot of credit for selecting the Mexican-American choice question, as it may stir some controversy. I don’t put much blame on USSF in my eyes. After this summer’s losses to the US, I can see the Mexican Federation ramp up recruiting players of Mexican descent here, concerned about the talent pipeline. I can also see Mexican fans here in the US tightening the vice on those same players who haven’t made a decision, worried about a shift in the pecking order between the two countries leaning towards the US. If players like Ochoa spend their lives here, and their entire youth in the US soccer system, even accepting callups to games against Mexico, before making a switch, what does one expect the USSF to do?

    Reply

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