USMNT Fall 2023 - Spring 2024: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

InstaFace

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I think with the summer's tournaments behind us, we should get a new thread.

The September roster has dropped. Its selections are... shockingly fine. A few bold try-em-out moves, no are-you-kidding-me level snubs, basically what most smart fans would have expected. It doesn't stop USMNT Twitter from whining, but then again nothing could.

First and foremost, set your calendars now for these sparkling friendly lineups:

USMNT vs Uzbekistan, 5:30pm ET, Saturday 9/9, in St Louis
USMNT vs Oman, 8:30pm, Tuesday 9/12, in St Paul MN

We have, at worst, the A-minus roster in there right now. We have opponents who resemble the opening-credits directors from Monty Python and the Holy Grail ("those responsible for sacking the sackers, have been sacked."), who were replacements for what would've been Brazil and Argentina had CONMEBOL not changed their WCQ schedule kinda last-minute. There's no need to stretch what's asked of any of the starters in this window - the higher-quality friendlies are in October, and the actual-stakes Copa America qualifiers are in November - so let's just let everybody get some reps in, install a few new tactics, try out the newbies, and everyone get home in one piece please.

Except Horvath. He should just not get on the plane back to England and should poke around to find a job in MLS, transfer window be damned.

Potential starting lineup:

Code:
            Balogun
  Pulisic - Aaronson - Weah
       McKennie - Musah
Jedi - Richards - Miles - Dest
             Turner
Could be a 4-2-3-1. Could be a 4-3-3 with Tillman or Aaronson in a more-advanced position. We'll know on Saturday.

Roster Absences (the difference between the current roster and the theoretical full-strength one) for availability reasons include:

- GK Zack Steffen (Man City) - injury, "not being good enough anymore"
- GK Sean Johnson - injury, hand fracture, back ~October
- CB Erik Palmer-Brown (Panathinaikos) - new-club integration
- CB Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic) - medium-term hamstring injury, back ~November
- CB Walker Zimmerman (Nashville) - short-term leg injury
- DM Tyler Adams (Bournemouth) - returning from injury, fitness, new-club integration
- DM Johnny Cardoso (Internacional) - minor knock, too important to his club
- CM Taylor Booth (Utrecht) - short-term injury on 8/12
- AM Gio Reyna (Dortmund) - returning from injury, fitness
- CF Josh Sargent (Norwich) - brutal recent ankle-ligament injury, probably 3-4 months
- CF Jesus Ferreira (Dallas) - not mentioned in USSF injury list but had a 1-week illness he just got over
- CF Daryl Dike (West Brom) - long-term injury (achilles) from April

Of those, only Adams and Reyna are lock starters for us right now, plus Zim a likely starter. Everyone else is available and in St Louis, more or less.

If you're looking for snubs, the only people you could name (i.e. are performing at a good level, aren't too young-and-prospect-y, aren't old and largely dismissed from the program, and/or have been a part of the team before) are:

- CB Auston Trusty (Sheffield United) - just got a move to the EPL from Birmingham and isn't seeing the field yet, but would likely get the call if he's getting minutes; this is sort of a new-team-integration absence but he also hasn't been a core part of the program so he still has to earn membership, sorta
- CB John Brooks (Hoffenheim) - banished from the team for reasons still unknown, likely including "being slow-footed". Someday we'll know the full story.
- LB Sam Vines (Antwerp / UCL) - Vines has never looked to be at the USMNT level but we need a Jedi backup at LB and nobody else has really seized the job either. His club just made the UCL group stage, and although he got hurt in the last game before the window, he had already been not-called-up at that point, so he's a snub.
- RB DeAndre Yedlin (Miami) - "not being good enough anymore", though he might still be arguably more reliable than Joe Scally today.
- RB Reggie Cannon (Without Club) - needs a club. Lot of believers in his talent out there but he needs minutes before he cracks the squad.
- DM James Sands (NYCFC) - has looked good but not great for the USMNT, still developing, his stint at Rangers went fine but they couldn't afford him.
- CM Djordje Mihailovic (AZ Alkmaar) - Did good but not good enough at the Gold Cup. Rumors of a slight knock. He's probably the next name on the CM depth chart after Musah, McKennie and LDLT, but they're all healthy.
- CF Brandon Vazquez (Cincinnati) - Has been getting Bundesliga offers, might move soon, but just isn't as good as Balogun and Pepi.
- CF Haji Wright (Coventry City) - combination of new-club-integration and not being as good as the other options.

I think it's "happy trails, let's do a testimonial in a few years" for the following well-capped veterans: CB Aaron Long, CB Matt Miazga, RB Shaq Moore, DM Kellyn Acosta, CM Alan Soñora, AM Cristian Roldan, AM Paul Arriola, RW Jordan Morris, and CF Jordan Pefok. And likewise, some young guns we're all excited about just aren't quite seizing a full A-team invite yet, from GK Gaga Slonina to CB Jalen Neal, LB Caleb Wiley, DM Aidan Morris, AM Diego Luna... but some will be a part of the Olympics squad for next summer and have every chance of becoming part of the senior-team picture, and so you can't really call them a "snub" yet. Cade Cowell and Benja Cremaschi would be in this category had they not been called, but they were the lucky winners of the "give 'em a shot" lottery this time around.

Expected USMNT Schedule:

September: Friendlies with Brazil and Argentina Uzbekistan and Oman
October: Friendlies with Germany (in Hartford! Everyone should go!) and Ghana, which should be more fun
November: Copa America qualifiers, a home-and-home against a team that will not be Canada, Mexico or Costa Rica (probably Jamaica or Panama), which if we win, we're in Copa America
January: Camp Cupcake, an MLS-heavy familiarization camp that doesn't occur on a FIFA window so all the big-boy A-teamers on big-boy clubs can't attend. U20 / U23 YNT guys with a legit shot to play for the senior team will get extra scrutiny, and we'll play some patsy team just for fun.
March: If we win the November matchup, this will be a Nations League Finals for us - semi and then final (or 3rd place match). If we lose the November matchup, this will be a second-chance qualifier for Copa America, a home-and-home against one of the other teams that lost in November.
June 20th to July 14th: Copa America 2024. Neymar! Messi! *checks notes* Darwin Nunez! This is the highest-quality tournament we could possibly play in before the World Cup and thus is the most important thing we do in the next 2.5 years before WC 2026.
July 24th to August 10th: Olympic Football Tournament. It's a U-23 roster (born 2001-or-later) with a maximum of 3 over-agers allowed. We might otherwise send a bunch of A-teamers who are age-qualified (which includes Gio Reyna and Yunus Musah, among many others), but their likely participation in Copa America means that very few if any will pull double-duty next summer.

For those summer tournaments I think we'll have a new thread. But for now, let's see how we do this window!
 
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Jimy Hendrix

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Musah
McKennie
Adams
Reyna
Weah

All in the top 10 talents of the USMNT, but in the event that they're all healthy, one of them is likely not a lock starter. It will be interesting to see, in the hopeful event that all are healthy at once and none of the other lock guys are hurt, how that is solved.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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I am team MMR over MMA as it feels like our best opportunity to become more clinical and a squad that actually knows what it's doing in the final third.

Love Adams but he's still not a great progressive player and his presence is an implicit commitment to being more defensive-minded, which is perfectly fine but if you roll out the same lineup as Qatar + Balogun, is that enough of a level up? I don't think so. He's also not perfect as we saw against the Dutch.

Of course, as we saw in Qatar, you need bodies! So a group stage would likely feature both starting XI configurations. And odds are one of Reyna/Adams/Puli/Wes will be dealing with some kind of soft tissue issue anyway. Fingers crossed they will all have moved beyond some kind of young guy injury nexus.

I hope we get to see a lot of McKennie and Musah over this cycle without the safety of Adams behind to see how they handle it.

I feel pretty strongly Gregg will play it safe with what he knows, however, and Gio will come in for 20 minutes and look great too late.

For me the "safest" guy on that list is actually Weah who has looked indispensable basically every time he has stepped on the field for USMNT. On that note, there is also the alternate scenario of Weah as RWB to push Gio out to RW but that kind of feels like an invitation for an offense that continues to be in the style of "take turns trying the right side and left side." I want our most talented player at the 10 stirring the whole drink, and helping us dominate games—not just fecklessly controlling possession and hoping for a good bounce. We're not making a real run at the Cup on the back of Pulisic runs from the sideline 40 yards away and hopeless crosses from the wing. If Gio can be physically and mentally ready through the next few years, we have to try it, imo.
 
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Jimy Hendrix

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I don't know that Adams is always a commitment to defense, despite being the player that he is. You could see, for example, particularly against more stubborn sides where we expect to have more of the ball, an Adams/McKennie/Reyna trio with the thought that both McKennie and Reyna would be aggressive in the attack secure in having Adams to snuff out counters. You could argue in those situations that it's Musah's press resistance and ball progression abilities that are more superfluous if a team is not doing much pressing or stopping of ball progression otherwise.

I agree with how Weah has been in for the USMNT, but Pulisic on the right with Milan is making me go hrmm a little bit there. I could see Gio as a LW drifting in and Puli as a RW wider as a combo that really worked, honestly way more than Puli LW/Gio RW

Options and good bench players are both cool things to have, I hope all the players can be healthy at the same time so we can experience that life.
 

67YAZ

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With Leeds, Adams was asked to push the ball vertically very quickly. And he did a good job with it, especially under Marsch. That was a system that had the wingers go up field fast after a turnover and let Adams scan quickly into predictable areas for those runners. Adams was reliable in making that read and making an accurate pass.

But Gregg’s system doesn’t ask him to do this. It’s a lot more of Adams receiving the ball with his back to opposition, having to turn, then scan for mostly short and lateral passes. It’s not a good use of Adams’ talents.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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One thing about Pulisic on the right is that I think we have hung him out to dry a bit with Robinson and his poor touch as his running mate on the left. I really like Jedi as a player and don't see a clear upgrade at the moment but he's definitely a limited offensive talent despite his tremendous pace. By comparison the Dest/McKennie/Weah triangles on the right look like magic.

edit: I'm totally open to being wrong about Adams' abilities compared to perceived limitations because of Gregg. Maybe my issue is just Gregg and fearing another cycle without ideas.
 
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Titans Bastard

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I am feeling fairly pessimistic these days regarding Reyna's health. I think he is the most talented of the core players listed at the start of this conversation, but he misses so much time with injury and when he returns, it's rare that he's truly at 100% health and fitness. As such, I fear that the MMA vs. MMR debate will be purely academic and will almost never be a real-world decision that a manager has to make. If Reyna's body holds together, I am more optimistic than most that we'll see a variety of looks from Berhalter in the midfield depending on the opponent and squad rotation needs. This is largely because I am of the viewpoint that Berhalter's commitment to MMA last cycle and his driving them into the ground at the WC was largely a result of personnel issues and near-complete lack of alternatives that didn't involve a huge step down in quality.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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I am less pessimistic if we in fact know that Gio's summer problem was just that Canadian dickhead fracturing his leg and not yet another muscle issue.
 

Titans Bastard

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Tomorrow:

Pulisic — Balogun — Weah
McKennie — Musah — LDLT/Tessmann
Jedi — Ream — Richards — Dest
Turner​


Balogun will play the first half, Pepi the second. LDLT has a slight calf injury, so if he can't go it will be Tessmann in the midfield.

All per Berhalter today.
 

InstaFace

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I am feeling fairly pessimistic these days regarding Reyna's health. I think he is the most talented of the core players listed at the start of this conversation, but he misses so much time with injury and when he returns, it's rare that he's truly at 100% health and fitness. As such, I fear that the MMA vs. MMR debate will be purely academic and will almost never be a real-world decision that a manager has to make. If Reyna's body holds together, I am more optimistic than most that we'll see a variety of looks from Berhalter in the midfield depending on the opponent and squad rotation needs. This is largely because I am of the viewpoint that Berhalter's commitment to MMA last cycle and his driving them into the ground at the WC was largely a result of personnel issues and near-complete lack of alternatives that didn't involve a huge step down in quality.
The optimistic view here is, we don't need all of RAMM to be healthy at once to have rotation options that don't suck against World Cup level competition. Any of the following could happen:

- LDLT matures into a quality, reliable La Liga starter who can play double-pivot or dual-8 for Gregg (rotating / replacing Musah, mostly)
- Tessmann takes a huge leap as a destroyer (or even Busio as a regista!), moving to Serie A this year or next and being reliably playable against top level competition, thus being a viable option as an Adams backup
- Malik Tillman developing into a Reyna clone, where his best position is CAM but he does just fine as an advanced-8 (McKennie role) in the 4-3-3 or even as a winger in a pinch
- Aaronson being sufficiently versatile / good to hold down the 8 role in the 4-3-3 or to be the 10 he was in Salzburg at the level we need
- Johnny Cardoso proving Internacional right and USMNT-watchers wrong about his eventual level, turning into a viable ball-winner in a double pivot or even able to do the Adams CDM role (he has the athleticism, in theory, but I have yet to see the aggression or the instant recognition that Adams has). He's 21 and regularly starting for a Libertadores club in the Brasileirao with Big 5 rumors swirling, he's not light-years away from that.

We only need 1 or 2 of those 6 to pan out to the necessary level, and/or have sufficient versatility in our schemes, to be able to sustain some injuries and yet still have rotation options that don't force us to run MMA into the ground. None of them count on some U20s shooting the moon (not even Paxten Aaronson, who at 20 didn't look out of place as a #10 in the Bundesliga the other day), or count on an aging retread suddenly discovering levels they had never previously had (i.e. the Ream plan, which is damned rare even for CBs and must surely be almost unheard-of for attackers). And that's also without dipping into the Taylor Booth / Mihailovic / Pomykal / James Sands tier, for whom the odds of being at the level we need are far longer (and yet still not impossible).

Having midfield depth is pretty realistic for us - I can't tell you which bets will be winners, but I can say we have enough irons in the fire to have something come good. I worry about CB, I worry about GK behind Turner, I even worry about our winger depth (Can't run Pulisic & Weah into the ground because you don't trust Aaronson or can't bear to put Reyna out wide). But not about midfield. I think depth behind "whichever 3 of MMAR are healthy at any given time" is a pretty realistic hope, honestly.
 

Cellar-Door

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I don't get why people seem to lock McKennie in even when everyone is healthy. I think he's arguably the worst and least versatile of the CM
 

rguilmar

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Pulisic not being able to blow by #3 who looks like a high school freshman is annoying.

Then #3 hits a cannon off the bar.
 

speedracer

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interesting game, Uzbekistan is really good at jumping any pass that’s slightly inaccurate or slightly lacking in juice, but they seem to not be able to stop the dribble drives
 

Jed Zeppelin

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Was writing up a whole treatise on CP needing more support than Jedi and sure enough Gregg flips him and Weah.

Edit: Nvm, temporary.
 

rguilmar

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Was writing up a whole treatise on CP needing more support than Jedi and sure enough Gregg flips him and Weah.
I think that was more of a function of CP taking (another poor) corner on the right.

NM, they switched then switched back again
 

rguilmar

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The game last night wasn’t great by any stretch. Same old story of not being great at creating chances from the run of play against a dug in defense. The same old pundits and commentators with the same old tired takes, which is probably the thing that will annoy me most about having GGG back. When pretty much the whole team is poor, then some of the blame has to go to the manager. That being said, I’m not putting the performance entirely on him.

I thought LDLT was really effective. The way he turned into space and moved things forward opened things up. It looked like the three midfielders rotated who would play deeper, and generally it looked pretty good. The downgrade to Tessman, who was pretty bad, definitely hurt the performance, but it’s not like you’re going to sub the kid out. I think a lot of people wanted to see a 4-2-3-1 with Tillman at the 10 (myself included) but they did eventually go to this formation and it’s entirely possible that GGG wanted to save it for the next game. We shall see on that front.

Musah and McKennie were ok, with McKennie the main protagonist and Musah doing his thing too infrequently (same with Dest). Musah did seem to be directing traffic a lot, but idk if it’s a system thing or him taking a leadership role. The two CBs were pretty poor IMO. Passed the ball too slowly, got caught out etc. Balo was pretty invisible. He made a lot of good runs and tried to drop deep to get involved at times. Without seeing the stats, I thought Pepi did a better job linking up at the 9 and was more involved. CP had a really bad game, probably as bad as Tessman. One of those days I suppose.

Winning 3-0 looked better than the performance deserved.

What I’m hoping to see going forward is more consistent chance creation against defense-minded teams as well as a workable plan B if the original game plan just isn’t working.
 

Titans Bastard

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Berhalter's promise in the press conference that the lineup will be "very similar" undersold things a bit IMO. At first glance the most interesting piece is how Tillman looks. If he's good, he'll merit experimentation against better opponents, and ideally will emerge as an alternative for an MMR-style midfield when Reyna is unavailable.

Horvath in for Turner, who has already departed camp
M. Robinson in for Ream
Tillman in for LDLT
Lund in for A. Robinson

View: https://twitter.com/USMNT/status/1701736118801100975
 

rguilmar

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I’m intrigued by Malik at the 10, and I know a good portion of USMNT Twitter/X have wanted to see it. I’m not sold on it, but it’ll be fun to see something new.

I’m also finding myself more and more in line with the Scuffed guys in wanting to see Musah playing further back. His aversion to the box and scoring (that’s what she said) is borderline comical.
 

Titans Bastard

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Own goal for the fourth, but it's nice to see Cremaschi, Paredes, and Pepi as the primary facilitators of making it happen.
 

Titans Bastard

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Mexico coughed up an injury time equalizer to Uzbekistan in a game that finished 3-3. You love to see it.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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Balo/Pepi as 1-2 at the 9 is such a floor raiser. Ceiling too, of course. They both find shots the way a lot of our other options simply don’t and it will be a huge boost in the box finding those dirty goals but also picking out the corner from the 14-18 yard range.
 

InstaFace

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Well we looked a lot better, which we should against the #66 ranked team by Elo (Uzbekistan was #60). Part of that was McKennie being on fire, part was Balogun looking like he had more of an understanding with his teammates in his hold-up play and connections.

I'm still optimistic about Tillman, but I thought he was kinda a spectator for a lot of the game. Did anyone else focus on him?

And yeah both Balogun and Pepi showed some real class out there at times. Pepi's turn for his goal happened SO quickly. After years of watching guys take yet-another-touch or take seemingly forever to wind up a shot or letting the perfect be the enemy of the good-enough, it's amazing that we have not one but two guys who create opportunities out of nothing, rather than waste perfectly good ones.

I don't know what Pulisic was doing out there but I thought Aaronson looked as good or better in his 35' cameo.

Lund... looked like a 21yo who's playing in Serie B. A lot of loose play, losing the ball when he didn't have to, and also missing some things defensively that Miles or Richards had to clean up for him. Still a good prospect worth tracking and giving some more looks to, but I hope in October that Sam Vines is back and ready for action. Or we try a wing-backs formation and give Paredes a start out there on the left.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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People get excited about Paredes moving to wingback or fullback and I don’t know what in his slight frame or falling at a stiff breeze says “rely on me more defensively” to them.

Guy could evolve of course but at this point in his career I see him making it on the national team level as a winger or not at all.
 

rguilmar

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Well we looked a lot better, which we should against the #66 ranked team by Elo (Uzbekistan was #60). Part of that was McKennie being on fire, part was Balogun looking like he had more of an understanding with his teammates in his hold-up play and connections.

I'm still optimistic about Tillman, but I thought he was kinda a spectator for a lot of the game. Did anyone else focus on him?

And yeah both Balogun and Pepi showed some real class out there at times. Pepi's turn for his goal happened SO quickly. After years of watching guys take yet-another-touch or take seemingly forever to wind up a shot or letting the perfect be the enemy of the good-enough, it's amazing that we have not one but two guys who create opportunities out of nothing, rather than waste perfectly good ones.

I don't know what Pulisic was doing out there but I thought Aaronson looked as good or better in his 35' cameo.

Lund... looked like a 21yo who's playing in Serie B. A lot of loose play, losing the ball when he didn't have to, and also missing some things defensively that Miles or Richards had to clean up for him. Still a good prospect worth tracking and giving some more looks to, but I hope in October that Sam Vines is back and ready for action. Or we try a wing-backs formation and give Paredes a start out there on the left.
I agree regarding Tillman. Given the overall change to the midfield shape and roles, at least under GGG, I was really interested in seeing how things worked. He had some really great moments but overall wasn’t as involved as you’d want him to be. When the US got the ball into the final third and spaces got smaller, he just didn’t do much. It’s honestly hard to get too much out of the positives of the game given how bad Oman were, but I thought he played well enough to take another look at him in a similar role.

I’m not the biggest Aaronson fan but he was better than Pulisic this game. Puli hasn’t looked great for the US since the last Mexico game, but if he shows up big for the biggest games, I’m fine with that.

I’m so happy for Pepi. He’s still a very good prospect and he’s still so young, but ever since Balogun committed to the US he’s been forgotten or overlooked. I’m betting that he’s gonna be a heck of a player, and is a nice contrast to Balogun. Pepi got two goals this window and honestly could have had more. He missed one or two decent chances and Aaronson missed him wide open in front of the net once. I was watching on Spanish language coverage and their was an audible annoyed groan from the commentator when Brenden didn’t get him the ball. Separately, having Andres Cantor announce USMNT games is a real treat for anyone who is fed up with the English language coverage.

Watching Ethan Horvath play, I’m genuinely curious how low the bar to entry is for professional soccer agent. How can he not find a starting gig? Year after year he ends up in the worst possible situation. He dominated the box last night, we know he’s a good shot stopper, and he’s gotten really good with his feet. I don’t mean starting in the EPL but there are a handful of La Liga teams who could use someone like him.

Anyways, fun game to watch. Oman really didn’t bring much to the table, and I’m excited to see how things look next window against much tougher competition
 

DJnVa

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Story about former US youth team member Jonathan Amon, working his way back from not one, but 2, fractured kneecaps.

Jonathan Amon interview: ‘I’ll definitely get back in the USMNT. I don’t doubt it’ - The Athletic

The following year, Amon was called into the U.S. youth set-up, and then Under-20s USMNT coach Tab Ramos was equally impressed. “We don’t have a lot of players like Jonathan in our system,” he told Goal. “His speed and his ability to take people on is special, and he’s still only 18, so we haven’t seen his best yet.”

In the 2018-19 season, Amon made 27 senior appearances for Nordsjaelland, scoring six goals and assisting another two.

His career should have taken off as quickly as he darts past defenders but, over the following three seasons, he managed just four first-team appearances as a succession of injuries hit.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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Tyler hamstring setback. The MMA vs MGM debate is going to end up being moot. It’s just going to be whichever 3 out of 4 are least injured when games are happening.