U.S. Soccer

MNT Rewind: Christian Pulisic Helps Borussia Dortmund to DFB-Pokal Title

U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Christian Pulisic added the first professional piece of hardware to his trophy cabinet on Saturday as he earned the game-winning penalty kick in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 DFB-Pokal Final victory against MNT teammate Timmy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt.

A halftime substitute in the match, Pulisic made his minutes count when he got on the end of Raphaël Guerreiro’s lobbed ball into the box before being taken down by Frankfurt goalkeeper Lucas Hradecky in the 66th minute. Referee Deniz Aytekin immediately pointed to the spot and teammate Pierre Emerick Aubameyang coolly finished what would stand up as the game-winning goal.

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because the 18-year-old midfielder also won a game-winning penalty kick for Dortmund in their Bundesliga finale last week, a 4-3 victory against Werder Bremen which secured BVB a third-place finish and spot in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Chandler started the match for Frankfurt and departed the match in the 72nd minute, shortly after his side fell behind.

With the win, Pulisic becomes just the second U.S. MNT player to appear in and win the DFB-Pokal Final after Thomas Dooley helped Kaiserslautern to the 1989-90 title. At 18 years old, he’s also the youngest MNT player to win a major European club trophy.

Check back on Sunday when we’ll have a full rundown of how MNT players performed for their clubs this weekend. 

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MNT May 27, 2017

Michigan Amateurs Bucking the System

The players were banged up. They’d been on a long stretch without a break so Michigan Bucks coach Demir Muftari decided to give his boys a morning off. “They needed it,” he told ussoccer.com. But fast-forward to 9 a.m. that next day and there they all were at the pitch lacing up. “Every single one of them,” said Muftari speaking slowly and admiringly, as he often does, of his young players. “And we’re talking college kids here.”

It’s a good indication of how things are done with the Michigan Bucks, an amateur team out of Pontiac (not far from Detroit). It’s that kind of commitment and tenacity that’s seen the side, made up of an annually rotating cast of some of the country’s best college players, become one of the top teams in the Premier Development League (PDL) and the most effective and consistent giant-killers in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup history. No amateur team has taken more professional scalps than the Bucks.

 

The club has pulled off ten upsets in 11 trips to the Open Cup. In 2000 they became the first PDL team to beat a side from MLS when they edged New England Revolution on the road in Foxboro. Then they beat four-time champs Chicago Fire in 2012, the crowning achievement for a club that takes pride in doing things the right way.

“It’s not something we think about day to day. We don’t stand around and think of ourselves as giant-killers,” said England-born captain Tom Owens, in good mood because his beloved Liverpool booked a place in next year’s UEFA Champions League. “We’re here now and what’s happened in the past is no help to us. Nothing we did in our last game is going to help us in our next.”

Another pro scalp
But the Bucks’ last game in the 2017 Open Cup was something special – a 1-0 win over full pros Indy Eleven of the North American Soccer League (NASL). “It was a massive win for us. We combined belief with preparation and execution,” admitted Owens who’s in his fourth year with the club, revered by many in the developmental ranks as nothing shy of the gold standard. He’s 25 now and his hopes of reaching the professional game – the expressed purpose of the PDL – are fading. He’s begun coaching, with Quincy University in Illinois, but he’s not quite ready to make the full leap. “I need to get this desire to play out of my system before I focus just on coaching.”

Coach Muftari slows down when he talks about his players and his club. He’s serious and he knows he’s discussing something special. Something rare. He sounds like a TV dad in the best possible way. His feeling for his players, like his trusted skipper Owens, quickly becomes clear. “I always tell Tom he’s got a bright future in coaching this game, but he gets mad because he still has the passion to play.”

There is very clearly a Bucks way of doing things, and it’s brought the club massive success since its founding in 1995. “Winning in the Open Cup is just part of the culture here,” said Muftari, head coach of a club that’s placed a growing list of players – like current D.C. United defender Kofi Opare and former U.S. National Team stand-out-turned-assistant coach Pat Noonan – in the professional ranks. “A main reason guys come here is because there’s that potential. The Open Cup is a different animal and it’s a huge opportunity for them to play against pros. All these guys here want to be pros. They’re here in their summer, working and sacrificing for it.” 

   

A lot of coaches in the PDL take it for granted that players will sacrifice and grind, go along with whatever plan is laid out for them. Muftari doesn’t. Not at all. He appreciates his players, those who go on to star for MLS clubs and those who bring the Bucks ethic to fields beyond soccer. He respects their effort, their skill and their character. “There’s a handful of guys coming back from last year,” said the coach who saw seven of his players drafted to the pros at the end of last season. “They keep everyone in check and help manage the attitude and intensity of the group. That core of guys, Tom Owens included, pass on the message of the club.”

“The lads are easy to communicate with,” said Owens, dismissing any notion of pressure as captain of a team where there’s much expected and big history to live up to. “You don’t have to motivate them too much because they’re driven.”

Up next for the Bucks is a tough test against St Louis FC of the United Soccer League (USL), another full professional club coached by former U.S. National Team star Preki Radosavljević. It’s bound to be an interesting evening for the men from Missouri who are currently struggling in ninth place of the USL’s Eastern Conference standings. The force of their amateur opposition, and the strangeness of their game-day surroundings, might surprise the 2015 USL expansion franchise.

At home indoors
“It’s not up to us where we play. We’re players so we’ll play on a baseball field or a basketball court,” said Owens when asked about the huge indoor complex, Ultimate Soccer Arenas, the Bucks call home. It looks, feels and sounds like an airplane hanger. “We have a certain comfort level here that’s hard to explain,” added Muftari about the venue. “We train there every day. The stands are close and there’s an energy to it. We love it.”

St. Louis will do well not to underestimate their amateur hosts. “If we played Indy Eleven ten times we’d lose most of those games,” said Owens who admits to a Cup buzz after the win in the previous round. “But these games in the Cup are special. Anything can happen on the day. When you throw into the mix we’re playing against guys who are at the level we want to be at, you end up with more of a chip on your shoulder.”

 

There’s a sense of anticipation – and expectation – around the Ultimate Soccer Arenas these days. But it’s Muftari’s job to keep his head, to remember the big picture, and make sure things are done the right way. The Bucks way. “History and culture mean a lot here,” he said, slowing down again and thinking precisely about what to say. “We’re not selling these players flimsy promises and false dreams. We’re building something. We have success because we strive to do things the right way.”

Muftari and his staff are doing their jobs right. There’s no doubt about it. It’s clear in the attitude of the players, now just one win away from a game against four-time Open Cup champs Chicago Fire and the possibility of writing their own page in the history books. “Our win over Indy Eleven won’t help us now,” said Owens, following his dreams of a professional career for one more year at least. “Nothing that any Bucks team has done before is going to help us. We want to make our own history and we have a job to do.”

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U.S. Open Cup May 27, 2017

64-Player Roster Announced for U.S. Soccer Futures Camp at NTC

CHICAGO (May 26, 2017) - A 64-player roster has been called to Carson, Calif. for U.S. Soccer’s first Boys’ National Team Futures Camp of 2017. The training camp, which consists of players who were born in 2002 and 2003, runs from May 26-30 at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center.

In pursuit of improving U.S. Soccer’s longer term objectives for talent identification and individual development of young players, U.S. Soccer Director of Talent Identification Tony Lepore has called in the group of players for a four-day camp that will focus on identifying the most talented players in the ’02 and ’03 birth years who appear to be on a later physical development path and/or are born in the second half of the year. Such parameters serve to reduce the impact of physical maturity and relative age effect on identification and evaluation of talent. 

Players taking part in this camp will be exposed to a hyper-focused curriculum formulated around highlighting each player’s unique talents while challenging them to improve decision making and speed of play, raise tactical awareness, and improve technical execution.

Sixty-two players called into the Futures Camp currently play with U.S. Soccer Development Academy clubs.

2002 Birth Year Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Alex Bobocea (New York Red Bulls; Glen Oaks, N.Y.), Khamari Culcleasure (D.C. United; Alexandria, Va.), William Evans (D.C. United; McLean, Va.)

DEFENDERS (8): Ori Bitton (Real So Cal; Agoura Hills, Calif.), Amir Daley (New York Red Bulls; Elmont, N.Y.), Jahlane Forbes (Orlando City SC; Clermont, Fla.), Carl Hartman (Richmond United; Richmond, Va.), Daniel Miller (D.C. United; Dunkirk, Md.), John Michael Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.), Cole Verrico (Philadelphia Union; Kennett Square, Pa.), Omar Wahba (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.)

MIDFIELDERS (18): Matthew Acosta (New York Red Bulls; Annandale, N.J.), Gavin Brose (Vardar; Livonia, Mich.); Jackson Castro (Solar Chelsea SC; Plano, Texas), Alejandro Coury (New England Revolution; Yarmouth, Maine), Cade Cowan (Colorado Rush; Littleton, Colo.), Maxwel De-Bodene (D.C. United; Alexandria, Va.), Matthew Gee (Ballistic United; Hillsborough, Calif.), Tayvon Grey (Cedar Stars Academy - Bergan; Bronx, N.Y.), Christopher Hernandez (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), Tucker Lepley (Charalotte Soccer Academy; Charlotte, N.C.), Andrew Maia (New York Red Bulls; Kearny, N.J.), Mario Penagos (Sacramento Republic FC; Elk Grove, Calif.), Pablo Salazar Jr. (LA Galaxy; La Puente, Calif.),  Ray Serrano (Seattle Sounders FC; Graham, Wash.), Benjamin Smith (Real Colorado; Centennial, Colo.), Nathan Stricker (PA Classics; Sinking Spring, Pa.), Jackson Temple (Continental FC DELCO; Millville, Pa.), Wan Kuzri Wan Kamal (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Metro; Carbondale, Ill.)

FORWARDS (3): Kyle Gee (Charlotte Soccer Academy; Charlotte, N.C.), Michael Tsicoulias (New England Revolution; Newton, Mass.), Griffin Yow (Virginia Development Academy; Clifton, Va.)

2003 Birth Year Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Pablo Andrade (Albion SC; Chula Vista, Calif.), Jackson Leavitt (Solar Chelsea SC; Allen, Texas), Andre Zuluaga (Kendall SC; Miami, Fla.)

DEFENDERS (6): Amir Acree (D.C. United; Washington, D.C.), Jack Anderson (New England Revolution; Holyoke, Mass.), Daniel Edelman (Players Development Academy; Warren, N.J.), Jakob Friedman (New York Red Bulls; Syosset, N.Y.), Noah Laureano (Arlington Soccer Association; Annandale, Va.), Michael Lenis (Weston, FC; Weston, Fla.)

MIDFIELDERS (18): Paxten Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; Medford, N.J.), Ethan Bellek (Colorado Storm; Timnath, Colo.), Cole Cruthers (Portland Timbers; Beaverton, Ore.), Alejandro De Villena (Atlanta United FC; Jefferson, Ga.), Christian Dominguez (World Class FC; Rock Tavern, N.Y.), Francisco Espinoza Jr. (Chicago Fire; Blue Island, Ill.), Anthony Hernandez (Crew SC Academy; Reynoldsburg, Ohio), Luke Hille Capital Area Railhawks - CASL; Cary, N.C.), Jack Jasinski (Charlotte Soccer Academy; Charlotte, N.C.), Ryan Kipness (New York City FC; Stamford, Conn.), Cole Mooney (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.), Orlando Monroy (Sereno Soccer Club; Tempe, Ariz.), Kevin Paredes (D.C. United; South Ridge, Va.), Nicholas Pariano (Crew SC Academy Wolves; Ann Arbor, Mich.), Blake Pope (FC Dallas; Prosper, Texas), Noah Radecki (Beachside SC; New Canaan, Conn.), Aiden Semelsberger (Rio Rapids SC; Los Alamos, N.M.), Damon Smargon (San Diego Surf FC; San Diego, Calif.)

FORWARDS (5): Micah Cain (Philadelphia Union; Pottstown, Pa.), Peter Carriker (Seattle Sounders FC; Seattle, Wash.), Johnny Perez (LA Galaxy; Pico Rivera, Calif.), Mateo Stoka (Sockers FC; Fox Point, Wis.), Gavin Williams (Georgia United; Cumming, Ga.)
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U-14 NDP May 26, 2017

USA Looks to Clinch Group vs. Saudi Arabia | 5am ET | FS1, Telemundo

The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team continues the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup with its third and final Group F game against Saudi Arabia on Sunday, May 28. The match kicks off at Daejeon World Cup Stadium in Daejeon, Korea Republic at 5 a.m. ET and will be broadcast on FS1 and Telemundo. Fans can also follow along on Twitter @ussoccer_ynt.

After a wild, opening 3-3 draw vs. Ecuador and a strong 1-0 victory against Senegal on Thursday, the U.S. sits atop Group F with four points. While results in Saturday’s matches could see the U.S. through to the Round of 16 before it faces Saudi Arabia, Tab Ramos’ side enters Sunday needing a win or tie to guarantee a second-place finish in the group. Through a variety of scenarios, the U.S. could potentially finish second or third in Group F with a loss and still advance to the Round of 16.

“We know that we control our own destiny,” U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos said. “If we win the next game, we are first in the group. That doesn’t happen very often, so we’ll be happy to do that.”

Saudi Arabia comes into the match with three points after splitting their first two Group F contests. The Green Falcons opened group play with a 2-0 loss to Senegal before bouncing back with a stunning 2-1 win against South American power Ecuador. With a win vs. the USA, Saudi Arabia would guarantee its advancement to the Round of 16.

2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup Group F Standings

Team

GP

W

L

D

Pts.

GF

GA

GD

USA

2

1

0

1

4

4

3

+1

Senegal

2

1

1

0

3

2

1

+1

Saudi Arabia

2

1

1

0

3

2

3

-1

Ecuador

2

0

1

1

1

4

5

-1

2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup Group Pairings:
Group A: Korea Republic (host), Guinea, Argentina, England
Group B: Venezuela, Germany, Vanuatu, Mexico
Group C: Zambia, Portugal, Iran, Costa Rica
Group D: South Africa, Japan, Italy, Uruguay
Group E: France, Honduras, Vietnam, New Zealand
Group F: Ecuador, USA, Saudi Arabia, Senegal

U.S. U-20 MNT’s Group F Schedule:
May 22, 4 a.m. ET: Ecuador 3, USA 3; Incheon Stadium, Incheon
May 25, 7 a.m. ET: Senegal 0, USA 1; Incheon Stadium, Incheon
May 28, 5 a.m. ET: USA vs. Saudi Arabia; Daejeon World Cup Stadium, Daejeon

RED HOT JOSH SARGENT

After becoming the youngest U.S. player to score at a FIFA U-20 World Cup (beating out current Men’s National Team striker Jozy Altidore for the distinction), Josh Sargent continued his role as designated scorer vs. Senegal by burying the game’s only goal on Thursday. Heading into Sunday’s group finale, Sargent’s three strikes place him one behind Venezuela’s Sergio Córdova for the tournament’s Golden Boot lead. 

Sargent also sits one goal behind Taylor Twellman (1999), Eddie Johnson (2003) and Jozy Altidore (2007) for most goals scored by a U.S. player (four) at a single FIFA U-20 World Cup.

A SEA OF RED RETURNS

After wearing white jerseys in their opening match against Ecuador, the USA donned its all-red kit against Senegal. The wardrobe change marked the U-20 MNT as the first U.S. Youth National Team, to wear the red jerseys, and the side will once again wear the red kit against Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

The newer look was first revealed by U.S. Soccer at midnight on Valentine’s Day earlier this year and debuted by the senior U.S. Women’s National Team when they defeated Germany 1-0 in the opening match of the 2017 SheBelieves Cup on March 1. The U.S. Men’s National Team first wore red in a 6-0 World Cup Qualifying win against Honduras on May 24.

U.S. U-20 MNT Roster by Position (Club; Hometown)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jonathan Klinsmann (University of California; Newport Beach, Calif.), J.T. Marcinkowski (Georgetown; Alamo, Calif.), Brady Scott (De Anza Force; Petaluma, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (7): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; Salt Lake City, Utah), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur FC; Westcliff-on-Sea, England), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (University of New Mexico; Las Cruces, N.M.), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City; Lee's Summit, Mo.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC; Oviedo, Fla.), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union; Media, Pa.)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; Wappingers Falls, N.Y.), Luca de la Torre (Fulham FC; San Diego, Calif.), Derrick Jones (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.), Eryk Williamson (University of Maryland; Alexandria, Va.), Gedion Zelalem (Arsenal FC; Bethesda, Md.)*

FORWARDS (6): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.), Lagos Kunga (Atlanta United FC Academy; Tucker, Ga.) Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Emmanuel Sabbi (Unattached; Columbus, Ohio), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; O'Fallon, Mo.), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake; Park City, Utah)

*Gedion Zelalem suffered a knee injury during the USA’s opening match against Ecuador and has been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament.


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U-20 MNT May 26, 2017

Wynalda, LA’s Lone Wolf

It’s safe to say Eric Wynalda does things his own way. Always has. From his playing days, when he was among the first Americans to try their luck abroad, to today, spouting big opinions on TV, Wynalda’s very much his own man. But the Southern California native, a legend of the American game who can come off as smug and coarse in the pundits’ booth, has a secret. He cares. A lot. About players, those little moments in the game that can change lives, and the romance of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

“The Open Cup is about something intensely American,” said Wynalda, head-coach of ambitious amateur outfit LA Wolves. “It’s about opportunity. There are opportunities for guys who come from outside the lines. You get an opportunity to show you’re good enough to play with the best. You get to show the strength of one game and one day. One little moment in time.”

 

Wynalda seems to live for that precise moment, that instant when you either take a chance or waste it. He knows about opportunities too, having scored 34 goals for the U.S. National Team over 106 caps. Quick and rangy, he was predatory – an opportunistic striker with swagger and attitude. He lined up at all three World Cups in the 1990s and was a poster boy for that formative period in the American game.

His coaching career so far has blossomed, perhaps predictably, in the wild and unregulated spaces of the Open Cup. It’s a competition where you lose and you’re out. It’s built to be dramatic, with no draws tolerated. It’s a purist’s dream and a romantic’s delight. Wynalda, who scored the first goal in Major League Soccer’s history, never won the Open Cup as a player, but he went to a semi-final with Chicago Fire and was a runner-up with the now-defunct Miami Fusion.

Magic moments
As head coach of Cal FC in 2012, he assembled and guided his amateur side to the Fourth Round of the Open Cup. He remembers fondly one Richard Menjivar, now with NASL glamor side New York Cosmos and capped dozens of times for El Salvador. “He was just a kid in a t-shirt and old jeans who was pretty good on the ball,” Wynalda said. “And he took his chance with Cal FC with both hands.” For Wynalda, that success, which included wins over professional sides Wilmington Hammerheads (USL) and Portland Timbers (MLS), wasn’t about the broad strokes of a team “punching above their weight,” a phrase he thinks is more about marketing than soccer. “They strove to do something wonderful,” he said. “To have a day, a moment in time, that belonged only to them.”

Two years later, in 2014 with Atlanta Silverbacks, Wynalda pulled off a pair of wins over MLS teams Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids before losing in the quarter-finals to four-time champions Chicago Fire. Jaime Chavez and Kwadwo Poku were in Wynalda’s team for that wild ride and now both are cashing big paychecks with NASL giants Miami FC. “I wouldn’t trade the sound of that locker-room after we beat the Rapids for anything in the world,” said Wynalda, speaking slowly and with genuine emotion.

 

Wynalda admits his young LA Wolves don’t fully understand the power of the Open Cup and its charged moments. But they’re getting there, with two wins under their belts – the last at 1-0 squeaker against Chula Vista FC in which Wynalda took a tactical gamble that some of his own players questioned the sanity of. But he insists he won’t rest until they get it, until his players understand what it all means. After their 4-2 win over fellow amateurs San Diego Zest, he told his players to hold hands and go salute the crowd. “They looked at me like I was crazy. There were maybe 100 people there,” he said, a chuckle in his voice. “They were wondering, ‘why are we doing this?’ And my answer is: this is just the beginning. The crowds will grow if you keep going.”

What Wynalda wants most is his Wolves to “force themselves into the conversation,” like Menijvar and Chavez and Poku did before. Like Wynalda did himself so many times and on so many fields. “A day in the Open Cup can change your life,” he said. “Good things will happen if they honor the moment and live up to it. They have nothing to lose at all.”

Orange County, Galaxy on the horizon
Up next for Wynalda’s Wolves is a date with a full professional side – Orange County SC of the United Soccer League (USL). “I saw Logan Pause (former Chicago Fire star and current Orange County coach) hiding under a hat scouting us and I’ve been scouting his team too.” The part of Wynalda that’s a salesman and the part of him that’s a romantic are all tangled up and abuzz about the game and the chance to buck the system once again. “I know it’s not on TV and you don’t get a whole lot of coverage. It’s not in a big stadium,” he said. “You can’t get beer and a hot dog without leaving your seat, but pack a sandwich and get out there because you don’t want to miss this.”

The game will be a third straight at home for LA Wolves on their large field with a perfect natural grass – a circumstance Wynalda insists on. It’s a sticking point for him. “It’s like there’s no grass left anywhere anymore, especially down below the top levels.”

 

Wynalda laughs when asked what he likes better – commenting for FS1 and SiriusXM on the Real Madrids of the world or shouting from the touchline in front of a handful of fans in the Open Cup.  “People say to me, ‘that’s so much pressure talking in front of millions of people,’ but to me it’s easy. There’s more pressure in those few seconds in front of a player who’s looking to you for answers. If Real Madrid lose, that’s someone else’s ass. But here, with these players in these moments, I’m accountable.”

It’s almost game-time again for Wynalda. He’s hoping for the moments to break his Wolves’ way. A win would see them on to a date with the vaunted LA Galaxy. It would be a moment heavy with opportunity and all the things he loves – romance, upsets, realizations, futures. “I love the process,” he said. There’s no bluster in his voice now. No attitude, just appreciation. “The moment when you know you’re part of something special – a play, a team, a game, anything.”

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U.S. Open Cup May 26, 2017
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