USMNT: Soccer's Coming Home

Jed Zeppelin

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Their post-bad turnover recovery has been great, lol. Lots of chaos with the Aaronson, Booth, LDLT group in the game.
 

speedracer

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love how Booth and Dest are just seamlessly changing positions and roles as the situation dictates
 

rguilmar

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I do like Aaronson as a super sub for all of the reasons mentioned, but I’m not sure I agree if it’s at the 10. He just cannot play in tight spaces like that.
 

OCST

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Lots to like. ES couldn’t do much. My adopt-a-prospect is Dike- would love to see him really put it together.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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It is not the hugest sample but this was the best I’ve seen from Gio for the USMNT. And exciting from the standpoint of needing options when CP doesn’t quite have it. And by options I don’t mean prayer crosses from the wi

Thought Miles was really good tonight, nice to see. His athleticism really popped off the screen.

Musah is constantly putting the D in tough spots when he pushes the ball forward but he doesn’t always do it enough. But man he shows a lot of flashes, still so young.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Lots to like. ES couldn’t do much. My adopt-a-prospect is Dike- would love to see him really put it together.
We keep trying to plug and play him into tactical plans that don't really play to a Dike-type striker. If he's gonna ever shine with the USMNT he either needs to get better in link-up or they need to tweak gameplans when he's in there, I don't know why you have a front 3 of Dike and two inverted wingers who are not gonna deliver the kind of service he thrives on.

He was also getting the worst of the "He's strong so it is impossible for him to also be fouled" treatment for a lot fo the game. Dude got a no-call on being straight-up rugby tackled.
 

Kliq

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Thought the US played extremely well but frustratingly struggled to finish in the box which kept it from being a route. Midfield totally beasted all game and the fullbacks were on point.
 

InstaFace

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So that was fun last night. After we scored, it felt like El Salvador were about as close to leveling the game as Grenada was. And of course, they had to win it. I'll leave it to the analysts to tell me why the first half felt so much more disjointed than the second.

What I've instead learned about recently is the USMNT's competition schedule over the next, well, 3 years, per CONCACAF:

- CONCACAF Nations League is changing format for the 2023-2024 cycle. They are expanding the "A" league from 12 to 16 teams, giving the top 4 a bye to quarterfinals, and then playing 4x groups of 3 whose winners join the top-4 in the QFs. Those group games will take place in Sept / Oct 2023.
- The QFs will be home-and-home in Nov 2023. CNL semifinalists (i.e. winners of those QFs) qualify for the 2024 Copa America.
- QF losers get a single-game play-off against each other next March for the final 2 CONCACAF spots in Copa America
- Meanwhile, the CNL semifinalists (already qualified) then play the CNL Finals next March 2024

- Copa America in June-July 2024
- Another Nations League competition Fall 2024 with finals March 2025
- Gold Cups in summers 2023 and 2025, as-expected

- I've posted in the WC2026 thread about the CONCACAF qualifying format, but what's relevant for USMNT purposes is (A) the main rounds of WCQ will take place in June 2024 and then June 2025, and Sept / Oct / Nov 2025. So if we wanted to play anyone in CONCACAF other than Canada and Mexico (though I'm not entirely sure why we would), they're busy those rounds.

So here's our schedule by-FIFA-window for the next, like, 3 years:

-----
Mar 23-28, 2023: CNL GS
June 15-18, 2023: CNL Finals
Summer 2023: Gold Cup (welcome back, Qatar!)
Sept 4-12, 2023: Friendlies (CNL GS)
Oct 9-17, 2023: Friendlies (CNL GS)
Nov 13-21, 2023: CNL QFs / Copa America qualifiers
Jan 2024: Camp Cupcake?
Mar 18-26, 2024: CNL Finals if we win QFs, Copa America qualifier if we don't
June 2024: No confederation play
Summer 2024: Copa America
Sept 2-10, 2024: CNL GS (1-2 competitive matches, if 1 then a friendly too)
Oct 7-15, 2024: CNL GS (1-2 competitive matches, if 1 then a friendly too)
Nov 11-19, 2024: CNL GS (1-2 competitive matches, if 1 then a friendly too)
Jan 2025: Camp Cupcake?
Mar 2025: CNL Finals again
June 2025: Friendlies / warm-up if desired (WCQ)
Summer 2025: Gold Cup
Sept 2025: Friendlies (WCQ)
Oct 2025: Friendlies (WCQ)
Nov 2025: Friendlies (WCQ)
Jan 2026: Camp Cupcake?
Mar 2026: Friendlies?
Summer 2026: World Cup Finals
-----

The two big questions based on this are,

1) What are we doing this fall when the rest of CONCACAF is doing the Nations League GS that we don't have to participate in? I'm sure we'll have friendlies announced soon, though obviously those could be exciting opponents or a total letdown.
2) What are we doing between the March 2025 CNL Finals (for the third year in a row, ugh) and the 2026 World Cup? We have 4-5 FIFA windows and absolutely no competitive matches to speak of, including the early-June 2025 timeframe when the rest of CONCACAF will be playing 2 high-stakes WCQ matches. Obviously we have some time to figure this out, but we know as of right now that it's an outstanding 12-month gap in the schedule.

Taking just the 1st question and asking "who could we even play this Fall", here's what I'm seeing (Elo Ranking in parens):

UEFA: Nations League GS in Sept 22-27, Euro 2024 qualifying in Sept 7-12 and October 12-17. That Nations League schedule isn't even a FIFA date. 7 of the 10 Euro Qual groups have only 5 teams, meaning 1 of them is on a bye at any given matchday. Focusing only on Pot 1-2 teams (up through Scotland / Finland), and excluding friendlies already announced:

- Germany (9) is exempt from Euro qualifying, as the host, so they're available this Fall pretty much the whole time. This (March) window they just played Peru and today they'll play Belgium, but no fall matchups announced yet.
- Scotland (32) available Oct 15-17
- France (3) available Sep 10-12 and Oct 16-17
- Wales (38) available Sep 7-8
- Austria (31) available Sep 7-9 (friendly "TBC" for Sep 9?)

CAF: Doing AFCON Qualifiers in September, for "AFCON 2023" which for football purposes takes place Jan-Feb 2024.
- Due to Kenya and Zimbabwe being disqualified, AFCON Qual groups C and K only have 3 teams, which means there are some teams on a bye in each matchday.
- Morocco (15) hosts one qualifier match Sept 4, perhaps open for another in the Sep 7-12 range
- No competitive matches announced for the October FIFA window, so in theory all teams are available including Morocco (15), Tunisia (34), Senegal (35), Algeria (42) etc, and those with primarily UEFA-based A-team rosters might be very eager to play USA in a European venue. Or to get a break before AFCON in winter.

CONMEBOL: All teams have two WCQ matches in both Sep and Oct windows (they're keeping the full double-round-robin WCQ format, requiring 18 matchdays), so they're pretty much out barring something extraordinary. Worth noting that the schedule does not have them playing WCQ in the March 2024 window, so in theory if we somehow lose the CNL QFs in November and need a warm-up match before a high-stakes play-off in March 2024, they should be answering the phones.

AFC: The 2023 AFC Asian Cup takes place Jan-Feb 2024, in Qatar (of course), with all qualifiers complete as of last June. There are some sub-continental competitions taking place this summer, in Central Asia and South Asia, but nothing announced for the Fall. And WCQ for 2026 starts only in November for the teams we'd want to play.
- Japan (20), South Korea (27, the Fightin' Klinsmanns), Iran (28) and Australia (29, match in London Oct 13) should thus all be available on current plans.

So that UEFA options slate looks mighty tasty. And if we can't schedule them, the giants of both CAF and AFC are around and in need of games too.

Also to return to Problem #2, international football as a whole is clearly in need of something useful to do during Fall 2025. Allegedly AFCON 2025 will take place in Summer 2025 to placate the clubs, the top AFC teams will have already qualified for the WC (the AFC repechage happens Sept-Oct 2025), UEFA NL Finals happens June 2025 with no announced games that fall, and the big 3 in CONCACAF are of course adrift then too. You know what I'm thinking: Global Nations League. And you know who agrees? this guy.

UEFA:
- Albania (73) available Oct 15-17
- Montenegro (68) available Oct 12-14

CAF:
- Cameroon (51) has one match in September, perhaps open for another, and nothing in October
- South Africa (75) has no matches in the September window
- Nobody has anything in October, as noted. Outside of those top 4 mentioned above, you've got Egypt (47), Ivory Coast (48), Mali (53), Nigeria (57), Burkina Faso (58), and Ghana (66), with no plans as of right now.

- New Zealand (74) appears to have no announced matches this fall; they feel like a good Camp Cupcake option, honestly, as they're always starving for matches and we seemingly always get the Kosovo C-team or something.

AFC, below the Big 4:
- Iraq (55) isn't doing squat
- Oman (62) isn't doing squat
- Saudi Arabia (66) isn't doing squat, and they were the only team to beat Argentina at the World Cup so I think that makes them world champions. They owe us a friendly after we went to them last September.
- Uzbekistan (67) also isn't doing squat
- (N.B. Jordan, #65, has their shit together and has scheduled the hell out of their fall, alone out of AFC's top-10 teams)
 
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rguilmar

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There really isn’t too much definitive that we can or should be getting from this window. Just data points and things to pay attention to. There will likely be a new manager at some point who will want to make his or her own judgements on players. It was good to get the guys together, get some Ws, advance in the CNL, and move beyond the Gio stuff. Just some random thoughts on the game:
  • I thought CP was pretty bad, but I was glad he didn’t try to force it knowing he was having an off game
  • Someone else me mentioned it but Jedi doesn’t do Christian many favors. Maybe it’s time to have Jedi hold back a bit more. It’s not like he is a great passer or anything but he’s gotten much better at defending
  • Gio was much better. Weston was really good too and should’ve scored. The assist was nice though.
  • This is the Musah we’ve been seeing all season long at Valencia. He has some nice moments where he blows by a player and puts the defense under pressure then totally disappears for long stretches. I recall one game against Real Madrid where he dusted Nacho (and got the Spaniard a quick yellow) then for the rest of the game.
  • Miles looked pretty good to me
  • Dike didn’t look great. I think he, or a striker with a similar profile, has a place on the squad but more of a late game, break glass in case of emergency type of guy when we need a goal.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Miles looked awesome, I was concerned about an Aaron Long redux where he was good for the national team and never looked the same after his injury, but he looked all the way back to where he was when it seemed like he was one of our lock CB starters for the WC
 

InstaFace

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Miles also has a lot lower number on the odometer than Walker Zimmerman, so if we're relying on him for "destroyer / scramble defender CB", he'll pair nicely for the longer term with Ream or McKenzie or Richards in the "passing CB" role.
 

Arroyo Con Frijoles

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I sort of love Pefok, and even though he cooled off enormously and hasn't been getting as much time at Union, in the games I've watched he always looks pretty good in limited minutes. Would love to see him break out again.
 

Titans Bastard

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The roster for the friendly against Mexico dropped yesterday, drawing nary a post here!

Anyway, it's outside of the FIFA window so most of the USMNT luminaries are not present. The USSF struck a deal with MLS clubs wherein they did not call up anyone from MLS for the March friendlies (except Miles Robinson) and now were able to call up all sorts of MLS guys (except Miles Robinson).


Anyway:
  • Callender and Celentano are two of the better young American GKs in MLS. If they progress further, they may enter the mix for backup GK spots.
  • Sergino Dest is here, which says a lot about how things are going at AC Milan for Sergino Dest.
  • Two prospects get a taste of USMNT camp: LB/LW Caleb Wiley '04, who has had a blazing start to Atlanta, and CB Josh Wynder '05, a USL player who is moving to Benfica this summer. Both should feature at the U20 World Cup this summer, if they are released
  • Miazga is back for the first time since the 2021 Nations League
  • That CM mix does not have a lot of creative potential. I do remain curious about Aidan Morris. He was only okay during January camp, but he's been excellent in MLS this season. Soñora on paper is the creative guy but I am still unsure if he's actually good.

tl;dr it's Dest and a lot of depth battles up and down the roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Drake Callender (Inter Miami; 0/0), Roman Celentano (FC Cincinnati; 0/0), Sean Johnson (Toronto FC/CAN; 11/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Sergiño Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 24/2), Aaron Long (LAFC; 31/3), Julian Gressel (Vancouver Whitecaps/CAN; 2/0), Matt Miazga (FC Cincinnati; 22/1), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 17/1), Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United; 0/0), Joshua Wynder (Louisville City; 0/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami; 77/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 39/3)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 57/2), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew; 2/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 32/0), James Sands (New York City FC; 7/0), Alan Soñora (FC Juárez/MEX; 2/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 16/0)

FORWARDS (5): Paul Arriola (FC Dallas; 50/10), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; 2/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 17/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 51/11), Brandon Vazquez (FC Cincinnati; 2/1)
 

rguilmar

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Jackson Yueill’s inclusion really says it all.

Seriously though, the GKs mentioned above are interesting, I’m excited about Wynder, Aidan Morris and Wiley. I’d like to see the other Morris maybe get a shot at the 9 for a bit. Doubtful it’ll happen, but at the very least I hope they start Vazquez.

Dest has to start. Can’t fly him over here and not play him until he gets tired.
 

Titans Bastard

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The USMNT is playing Mexico in its meaningless friendly tonight, right now on TBS, HBO Max, Peacock, and Telemundo.
 

cromulence

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Ugly first half. Hard to think of anyone who genuinely looked good. I guess Cowell was OK? And Zimmerman was typically competent, I suppose.

Aaron Long steadfastly refuses to advance the ball in any way. It's impressive.
 

cromulence

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Obvious chant on the free kick at the very end. Can always count on El Tri fans to be shitty.
 

sezwho

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Finished watching second half this morning, at least it was better than the first. The commentary at the half indicated the ‘shape’ was fine but they looked rough and like Mexico had a formation advantage throughout the half.

Was about to post how outmatched Ferreira seems (always)…and he got the equalizer. Helluva pass, decent finish, and I still think I would rather see any option than Ferreira though he has a motor.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Finished watching second half this morning, at least it was better than the first. The commentary at the half indicated the ‘shape’ was fine but they looked rough and like Mexico had a formation advantage throughout the half.

Was about to post how outmatched Ferreira seems (always)…and he got the equalizer. Helluva pass, decent finish, and I still think I would rather see any option than Ferreira though he has a motor.
Ferreira had a terrible night with linkup play and touch, but made a very good striker's run and got a finish and a goal out of it. Very much the opposite of his normal reputation, which is of being technically clean but not really a true striker.
 

sezwho

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Yeah that play also spared us all from me making a Jordan Morris rant.
Narrowly avoided inclusion in my post as well. At least he can impact the game positively on occasion in different ways. Feels like if Ferreira doesn’t score he’s primarily impacting negatively with his touches (think he did have one good cross).


Ferreira had a terrible night with linkup play and touch, but made a very good striker's run and got a finish and a goal out of it. Very much the opposite of his normal reputation, which is of being technically clean but not really a true striker.
Yes, he definitely made a sweet run. However I don’t think he’s unique there, and he doesn’t defend or put people in good positions. I think our other strikers are all better and if you put him anywhere else (at least at national team levels) he’s going to hurt you.

Maybe circumstances like dike and team windows limited Hudson’s options, and to be honest I guess I understand the choice to see him at 10(ish?) in the friendly, but I see a fast but overmatched striker. Even though he’s just 22 I’d rather see him on bench and maybe come out to outrun a tired D as a substitute.

Folarin for Ferreira ? : )
 

InstaFace

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Maybe circumstances like dike and team windows limited Hudson’s options, and to be honest I guess I understand the choice to see him at 10(ish?) in the friendly, but I see a fast but overmatched striker. Even though he’s just 22 I’d rather see him on bench and maybe come out to outrun a tired D as a substitute.

Folarin for Ferreira ? : )
Yeah with Dike out injured for probably a year, and Ferreira showing his limitations and maybe not having a ton more technical development left (at age 22 and playing in MLS), and the 23yo Sargent not really getting CF minutes anymore, the big hopes at striker are definitely Pepi and Balogun. Unless Pefok comes out of the woodwork again, slicing up the Bundesliga like he did last fall.

But what do we need from that striker? If we're going to play possession ball, technique and passing vision (and finishing) matter more than speed. Chemistry with Reyna and Pulisic. They're both moderate threats in the air, but our style doesn't rely on having an Olivier Giroud type out there to win headers.

The games I've watched Pepi in, he has been absolutely relentless at making short runs to pull defenders out of position to open up other lanes or just generally present a threat. We know he's a good finisher at a CONCACAF level, and in the Eredivisie this year he has continued a great pace of goals per shot and goals per shot on target and various other finishing metrics (while having a lot of his per-90 stats be low because his team sucks). Finishing also happens to be the only knock on Balogun this season, who has otherwise generated a ton of chances per 90 and is pretty high up on shot-creating actions. Their stats say they're both very different strikers, and I hope we get a chance to compare more thoroughly.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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If Earnie Stewart was a weird perfect fit in the sense that he both was a qualified sporting director and a US international, I was wondering where the next hire would fall on the spectrum. I was worried with the Gooch rumors that it might be a US international with a bare minimum fig leaf of experience, but they seem to have gone the other way with a very experienced guy with no USSF ties at all. He'll need a deputy to tell him who all the recalcitrant youth soccer orgs are if his job goes deep enough in that direction, but all in all this seems like an eminently sensible hire.
 

InstaFace

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From the article:

Crocker spent three seasons at Southampton overseeing the men’s, women’s and youth programs at the club. Prior to his appointment there, the 48-year-old spent seven years at England’s Football Association, overseeing the U-15, U-17 and U-20 English national teams on both the men’s and women’s side, including England’s men’s wins at the U-17 and U-20 World Cups in 2017 and their European Championship at the U-19 level the same year.

Crocker helped the FA establish the “England DNA,” the playing and coaching strategy within the national team setups.

“England DNA was a blank sheet of paper, and there was an opportunity to align a pathway from the junior teams to the senior teams, working with people like Dan Ashworth and Gareth Southgate,” Crocker said in an interview with The Athletic in 2020, shortly after taking over at Southampton.

At Southampton, Crocker worked with then-head coach Ralph Hasenhuttl to develop the club’s methodology, which has been dubbed the “SFC Playbook.” Crocker was heavily involved in the infrastructure side of the club. He also devised a five-year plan for the women’s team, which has been promoted in back-to-back seasons.
With the obvious caveat that USSF could screw up a 2-car parade, I like what I see here and have no upfront complaints or objections. No language barrier, obviously, either. Guy is qualified, there's reason to believe he's very good at what he does, he's young and ambitious, and has seen how things work at the level we aspire to.

Plus his last name will lend itself to a lot of puns, which is something I'm glad USSF chose to value.
 

sezwho

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From the article:
With the obvious caveat that USSF could screw up a 2-car parade, I like what I see here and have no upfront complaints or objections. No language barrier, obviously, either. Guy is qualified, there's reason to believe he's very good at what he does, he's young and ambitious, and has seen how things work at the level we aspire to.

Plus his last name will lend itself to a lot of puns, which is something I'm glad USSF chose to value.
Same caveat. Its terrific he has success up and down the developmental ladder but my favorite thing is he (at initial view?) comes genuinely from outside USSF, so credit due them.
 

67YAZ

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This looks like a great hire. Very hopeful that he can bring together the necessary stakeholders to develop an “American DNA” for our system, such that it is. A massive undertaking, but that’s the kind of vision and work we need to take the next step.

I’m keen to see how Crocker’s relationship with MLS develops. MLS academies and will certainly be core contributors to the future of the national team, rising in importance over the Balkanized and fucked up youth “system.” Can he herd the cats into a common vision?

Also, can he kill the Chicago residency rule? That will help get better managers up and down the program.
 

InstaFace

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InstaFace

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What the hell is a "VP of Sporting"? It's not even grammatical. Guys I'm VP of producting, I producted a lot today. Went and did a product, I tells ya. Real Vincent Adultman vibes.
 

rguilmar

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Bielsa is likely way outside of the budget for USMNT manager.
While this might be true as I haven’t seen firm figures yet, Uruguay paid their manager significantly less than the US paid GGG at the last World Cup. GGG was close to 50% higher in salary. I expect Uruguay is paying Bielsa more than his predecessor, but even if it was doubled the US should have been able to match it. Now, it would be totally fair if US Soccer didn’t think Bielsa was the right fit, and I do like him a lot as a manager, but our pool might not be best suited to his desired system.*

I expect the next USMNT manager to be paid more than Gregg’s $1.25M but people should probably keep things in perspective when names like Jose Mourinho are tossed around. The “Special” One gets about $10M at Roma. No matter what the salary in Chicago ends up being, it will be a HUGE step down.

*I can see both sides of the argument really as Marcelo has shown a lot of flexibility and creativity over the years, especially compared to one Mr. Jesse Marsch who replaced him at Leeds.
 

the1andonly3003

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While this might be true as I haven’t seen firm figures yet, Uruguay paid their manager significantly less than the US paid GGG at the last World Cup. GGG was close to 50% higher in salary. I expect Uruguay is paying Bielsa more than his predecessor, but even if it was doubled the US should have been able to match it. Now, it would be totally fair if US Soccer didn’t think Bielsa was the right fit, and I do like him a lot as a manager, but our pool might not be best suited to his desired system.*

I expect the next USMNT manager to be paid more than Gregg’s $1.25M but people should probably keep things in perspective when names like Jose Mourinho are tossed around. The “Special” One gets about $10M at Roma. No matter what the salary in Chicago ends up being, it will be a HUGE step down.

*I can see both sides of the argument really as Marcelo has shown a lot of flexibility and creativity over the years, especially compared to one Mr. Jesse Marsch who replaced him at Leeds.
Isn't Jesse Marsch in the running? He seemed to play a similar up-and-down running style as Bielsa's.
 

67YAZ

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Would have been wild to see Bielsa squatting on the sidelines of youth camps, public pitches, and indoor rec leagues hunting down the latest crazy tactic.

I hope the new director drops the Chicago residency rule. It may not be a huge problem for an American managing the senior team making a salary of $1m+, but it definitely chases off youth coaches and probably makes the gig less desirable to international candidates.
 

the1andonly3003

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Would have been wild to see Bielsa squatting on the sidelines of youth camps, public pitches, and indoor rec leagues hunting down the latest crazy tactic.

I hope the new director drops the Chicago residency rule. It may not be a huge problem for an American managing the senior team making a salary of $1m+, but it definitely chases off youth coaches and probably makes the gig less desirable to international candidates.
didn't realize this...even the caretaker manager? I should seek them out
 

67YAZ

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didn't realize this...even the caretaker manager? I should seek them out
Gregg lives (lived?) in Lakeview. I thought it was shitty when the Trib published a picture of his house when purchased. Nice house, but he deserves some privacy.

Not sure about the caretakers. No doubt the managers love unsolicited tactical and squad advice.