USMNT: Soccer's Coming Home

rguilmar

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Two people are feeling pretty vindicated today. First is Eric Wynalda who was the first notable figure to discuss a falling out between Reyna and Berhalter at the World Cup. He later backtracked a bit, and he’s taking this vindication exactly as you would expect him to.

The other is some online figure known as 29, apparently connected to Weston McKennie somehow. He emerged after the World Cup on Twitter in some forum (Twitter ”space” or something- a feature that is similar to the ClubHouse app if you remember those 15 minutes) making all sorts of wild claims about issues within the USMNT camp in Qatar. One thing he apparently mentioned was a dust up between coaches and Claudio Reyna at some rooftop venue. 29 was widely criticized online and dismissed as some random hanger on just exaggerating details. Now, many of 29s claims have been verified and he apparently re-emerged last night. This all takes place in the deepest, darkest corners of USMNT twitter that I dare not venture, however the good folks over at Scuffed do listen in and are kind enough to summarize the main points. Needless to say, I am greatly anticipating the next Scuffed podcast to drop, which should be any minute.

Speaking of which, while this entire situation is terrible for all parties involved, it seems to be an unexpected blessing to podcasts and YouTube channels devoted to US soccer, many of which saw massive increases in subscriptions since the Reyna-Berhalter controversy first erupted on December 11. I think Scuffed got more new patrons after that date than in the entire year beforehand (or something along those lines).
 

DJnVa

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Two people are feeling pretty vindicated today. First is Eric Wynalda who was the first notable figure to discuss a falling out between Reyna and Berhalter at the World Cup. He later backtracked a bit, and he’s taking this vindication exactly as you would expect him to.
Wait, I thought Wynalda's claim was that Berhalter was lying about Reyna being injured and not fully fit? I don't think this nonsense makes that claim correct at all.
 

ddeveau

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Wait, I thought Wynalda's claim was that Berhalter was lying about Reyna being injured and not fully fit? I don't think this nonsense makes that claim correct at all
I believe Wynalda's vindication comes from that fact that when GGG released his original statement, many online assumed it was Wynalda that reported the incident to US Soccer.
 

rguilmar

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Wait, I thought Wynalda's claim was that Berhalter was lying about Reyna being injured and not fully fit? I don't think this nonsense makes that claim correct at all.
I believe he also mentioned at the time that there was “internal strife”. He also talked about how Claudio was upset that Gio was being held out of the lineup. It was the first time someone mentioned a “rift” between Berhalter and Reyna, at least to my knowledge. Yes, the injury thing was there too, but there was more to Wynalda’s initial statement after the Wales game.

Some of his comments also appear to be be at least somewhat untrue. He claimed that Gio’s teammates wanted him on the field, and that’s not likely the case based on what we’ve been hearing.
 

Cellar-Door

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I believe he also mentioned at the time that there was “internal strife”. He also talked about how Claudio was upset that Gio was being held out of the lineup. It was the first time someone mentioned a “rift” between Berhalter and Reyna, at least to my knowledge. Yes, the injury thing was there too, but there was more to Wynalda’s initial statement after the Wales game.

Some of his comments also appear to be be at least somewhat untrue. He claimed that Gio’s teammates wanted him on the field, and that’s not likely the case based on what we’ve been hearing.
I don't think that's clear at all. His teammates seemed quite supportive of him when this all came out via insta (or at least the young Europe based ones).

Wynalda was right about there being strife between the Reynas and Berhalter, he was right that there appears to be a divide in the lockerroom, he went too far saying Gregg asked Gio to lie about his injury, we don't know, we do know Gregg probably lied about the injury.

It certainly seems in the aftermath of the cup that there are issues in the lockerroom beyond Gio v. Gregg, and part of it seems like some of the other young Euro based stars aren't big fans of Berhalter, and the older MLS guys are his core support. Even that though is wishy washy since nobody goes on record so you have to piece it together from a bunch of people writing "rumors" or "anonymous source" pieces.

In terms of Gio and his teammates, it sure seems like he sulked, got called on it, apologized and most guys took that as the end of it and were backing him.
 

Titans Bastard

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It certainly seems in the aftermath of the cup that there are issues in the lockerroom beyond Gio v. Gregg, and part of it seems like some of the other young Euro based stars aren't big fans of Berhalter, and the older MLS guys are his core support. Even that though is wishy washy since nobody goes on record so you have to piece it together from a bunch of people writing "rumors" or "anonymous source" pieces.
Is there any evidence of this?
 

Titans Bastard

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Zidane apparently has turned down the USMNT job. I’m not necessarily sold on him as a national team manager, and a lot would depend on who he brings in. It’s nice to see the federation going after some big fish though.

View: https://twitter.com/usmntonly/status/1611811256041705472?s=46&t=A61HUA8q1FgjVJ8aEYmG3Q
USMNTOnly is a clickbait account. The source article says that Zidane “declined the approach” of the US and a few other countries. I highly doubt he was offered a contract. I think it’s much more likely that someone reached out to his representation as a feeler and were told that Zidane wasn’t interested.
 

rguilmar

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USMNTOnly is a clickbait account. The source article says that Zidane “declined the approach” of the US and a few other countries. I highly doubt he was offered a contract. I think it’s much more likely that someone reached out to his representation as a feeler and were told that Zidane wasn’t interested.
That’s fair. ESPN also has an article up that probably would have been better. That article states that Zidane turned down Portugal (who has since closed in on hiring Roberto Martinez) and Brazil. Twitter is just easier to copy and link.

The overall point remains though that at least it looks like the US has been exploring other options for this cycle, and big name ones at that. Zidane was always a reach because I imagine his salary demands would be extremely high by US soccer standards and he’s not very fluent in English, which apparently was a reason why he wasn’t comfortable taking the Man U job earlier.
 

67YAZ

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Last cycle, the USMNT was rebuffing interest from established managers like Lopetegui and Moyes. Now we’re reaching out to a successful manager out of a job. That’s progress!
 

InstaFace

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USMNTOnly is a clickbait account.
Oh c'mon that's really unfair to Arthur there. Even if I buy your characterization of this particular event,

- His is the largest USMNT-focused account on Twitter, and the first hub by which a lot of people start following the team more closely. It was my first USMNT follow on twitter as I started finding the community.
- The tone of his feed is incredibly positive and whatever the opposite of "toxic" is. He celebrates victories. He shares pain. He doesn't lash out. He doesn't blame or whine. Hell, he taunts El Tri like 1/10th of the average USMNT account. All the shit that people do to try and get attention on twitter and boost their follows, which is generally negative / toxic stuff, he doesn't do. We need more accounts like his.
- In point of fact, he has none of his own journalism to promote, so there's nothing to "clickbait", he can't drive clicks to anything useful to him, it's purely a passion project.

If someone were to ask me how to start following the USMNT more closely than occasional sports-news articles, @USMNTOnly is the first place I'd point them to. Signal-to-noise ratio there is incredibly high. If he mischaracterized this one, we can be charitable and call it a misreading. He's got the track record to deserve that from us.
 

Titans Bastard

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Oh c'mon that's really unfair to Arthur there. Even if I buy your characterization of this particular event,

- His is the largest USMNT-focused account on Twitter, and the first hub by which a lot of people start following the team more closely. It was my first USMNT follow on twitter as I started finding the community.
- The tone of his feed is incredibly positive and whatever the opposite of "toxic" is. He celebrates victories. He shares pain. He doesn't lash out. He doesn't blame or whine. Hell, he taunts El Tri like 1/10th of the average USMNT account. All the shit that people do to try and get attention on twitter and boost their follows, which is generally negative / toxic stuff, he doesn't do. We need more accounts like his.
- In point of fact, he has none of his own journalism to promote, so there's nothing to "clickbait", he can't drive clicks to anything useful to him, it's purely a passion project.

If someone were to ask me how to start following the USMNT more closely than occasional sports-news articles, @USMNTOnly is the first place I'd point them to. Signal-to-noise ratio there is incredibly high. If he mischaracterized this one, we can be charitable and call it a misreading. He's got the track record to deserve that from us.
Okay, I don't disagree much with what you said, and I'll walk back my comment. I do think this news item was clickbait-y and it's a pattern, but calling the whole account clickbait is unfair. Totally agree that it's far from toxic.

My main beef with USMNTOnly is that it is kind of like a Rex Chapman account for the USMNT. Good vibes, but sometimes the attribution is done in a way to make sure the aggregator vacuums up all the clicks and engagement. But hey, I'm not a writer or a content creator, so I guess I'll leave that fight to them.
 

Cellar-Door

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Last cycle, the USMNT was rebuffing interest from established managers like Lopetegui and Moyes. Now we’re reaching out to a successful manager out of a job. That’s progress!
maybe. Depends whether we really reached out with intent, or it's one of those... "We asked" things where he says "I wouldn't coach anyone other than France" everyone knows that and you leak that he isn't interested to make it LOOK like you are going after established big names. Not that uncommon. My club team used to do it all the time... "West Ham have had a bid for (insert top player on a CL side) rejected"
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Unless he comes back and lights the world on fire he's gotta be moving on from Chelsea this summer.
Yup, contract is only until 2024 and Chelsea clearly wants to shift him.

His body just doesn't seem made for the Premier League. I think Serie A or a return to the Bundesliga make the most sense. Milan might be a good destination if they sell Rafael Leao and need a LW player.
 

Titans Bastard

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There are going to be a lot of USMNT and USWNT games on HBO Max and TNT, who have a contract with the USSF through 2030. The main commentator will be Luke Wileman, an English guy who has most recently worked in Canada for TSN. I've never heard of him before and am unfamiliar with his work.

https://theathletic.com/4077203/2023/01/10/luke-wileman-us-soccer-hbo-max-tnt/

Julie Foudy, DaMarcus Beasley, Shannon Boxx and Kyle Martino will feature as analysts and Luke Wileman will serve as lead play-by-play announcer for U.S. women’s and men’s national team coverage under the new deal with HBO Max and TNT, Warner Media announced Tuesday.

People have noticed, however, that since HBO Max doesn't have much of a history of doing live sports, there's currently no option to sell a package to bars, so non-TNT/TBS games won't be able to be shown in public places unless something changes.

View: https://twitter.com/ktrain_11/status/1613256249021444096

EDIT: Also, the USSF still hasn't sold the Spanish language rights for USMNT/USWNT games...

View: https://twitter.com/thegoalkeeper/status/1612914770104950818?s=21&t=gV2rEmAa6LWeeM9Kx097-g
 
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Senator Donut

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There are going to be a lot of USMNT and USWNT games on HBO Max and TNT, who have a contract with the USSF through 2030. The main commentator will be Luke Wileman, an English guy who has most recently worked in Canada for TSN. I've never heard of him before and am unfamiliar with his work.

https://theathletic.com/4077203/2023/01/10/luke-wileman-us-soccer-hbo-max-tnt/




People have noticed, however, that since HBO Max doesn't have much of a history of doing live sports, there's currently no option to sell a package to bars, so non-TNT/TBS games won't be able to be shown in public places unless something changes.

View: https://twitter.com/ktrain_11/status/1613256249021444096

EDIT: Also, the USSF still hasn't sold the Spanish language rights for USMNT/USWNT games...

View: https://twitter.com/thegoalkeeper/status/1612914770104950818?s=21&t=gV2rEmAa6LWeeM9Kx097-g
Unsurprising given this is the USSF's first television negotiation. Perhaps it would have been prudent to align themselves with a business entity that mutually benefits from growing the game of soccer in America. This hypothetical soccer marketing union could then use their combined market power to get more money and better exposure for both parties. Just an idea.
 

Titans Bastard

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Unsurprising given this is the USSF's first television negotiation. Perhaps it would have been prudent to align themselves with a business entity that mutually benefits from growing the game of soccer in America. This hypothetical soccer marketing union could then use their combined market power to get more money and better exposure for both parties. Just an idea.
This is A+ trolling.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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Full camp roster:

GOALKEEPERS: Roman Celentano (FC Cincinnati), Sean Johnson (free agent), Gaga Slonina (Chelsea)

DEFENDERS: Jonathan Gómez (Real Sociedad), Julian Gressel (Vancouver Whitecaps), DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution), Aaron Long (LAFC), Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy), Sam Rogers (Rosenborg), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Paxten Aaronson (Eintracht Frankfurt), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Alan Soñora (free agent), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers)

FORWARDS (7): Paul Arriola (FC Dallas), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Matthew Hoppe (Middlesbrough), Emmanuel Sabbi (Odense), Brandon Vazquez (FC Cincinnati), Alejandro Zendejas (Club America)
 

67YAZ

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Well, that's an interesting roster!

There has got to be a very messy backstory with Club America releasing Zendejas and Zendejas accepting the call up.
 

InstaFace

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Well, that's an interesting roster!

There has got to be a very messy backstory with Club America releasing Zendejas and Zendejas accepting the call up.
I assume part of it is distinguishing themselves from Chivas: "We're cool with Mexican-Americans, even those who consider [or might consider] themselves more American". Part of it might be thinking that they can make Zendejas an acquisition target; he's 24, probably beyond a point where UEFA money might come, but an MLS team might well make a call. Also, their club's main sponsor is AT&T and their uniforms are Nike, both of them American companies, so we might presume they're trying harder to market themselves in the US.

Something I just learned: of the 18 teams in Liga MX, fully 8 of them have an Argentine coach. Only 7 have a Mexican coach!

As for the rest of the roster, very encouraged to see JoGo, Slonina and Paxten Aaronson got releases. Although they're not regular first-team starters for their clubs, I think that usually hasn't mattered in the past so it's good that they're getting released this time. The players who are hoping to improve their situation or change the direction of their career on this list clearly include: Alan Sonora (free agent), Hoppe (Boro, and probably not long for them), Sabbi (high upside, a bit stuck where he is), Tolkin (UEFA showcase), and maybe Aidan Morris as well. Good to see Eryk Williamson and Cade Cowell aren't excommunicated, too.
 

Titans Bastard

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Well, that's an interesting roster!

There has got to be a very messy backstory with Club America releasing Zendejas and Zendejas accepting the call up.
The two sides worked out a deal that will allow him to be a late arrival to camp. Here's Anthony Hudson:

First, we're extremely grateful to the club. They've been incredibly supportive. He's one of the players that's going to play on that day that camp starts but they're going to let him fly in and play against Serbia. So, huge appreciation to the club because he was another player we wanted in but didn't think we were going to get.
Hudson on the WC vets who are in camp:

The guys that we brought in that were part of the World Cup group - I think from a selfish point of view - they're amazing to work with. They're amazing people, amazing characters, and love representing the national team. Some of the phone calls I had with them, it wasn't even a long conversation. It was like ‘we're in, we're coming, you don't need to ask twice’. The other thing is these guys they know what's expected on and off the field. They know how we train, the intensity that we want to train at, and they know the standards. All of them individually have leadership skills.
 

Titans Bastard

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Full camp roster:

GOALKEEPERS: Roman Celentano (FC Cincinnati), Sean Johnson (free agent), Gaga Slonina (Chelsea)

DEFENDERS: Jonathan Gómez (Real Sociedad), Julian Gressel (Vancouver Whitecaps), DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution), Aaron Long (LAFC), Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy), Sam Rogers (Rosenborg), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Paxten Aaronson (Eintracht Frankfurt), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Alan Soñora (free agent), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers)

FORWARDS (7): Paul Arriola (FC Dallas), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Matthew Hoppe (Middlesbrough), Emmanuel Sabbi (Odense), Brandon Vazquez (FC Cincinnati), Alejandro Zendejas (Club America)
This is a fun roster relative to what I was expecting. A few of my own thoughts:

GK
There's no urgency here since Turner has at least another cycle in him. Gaga is on the phenom track for now (we'll see what life on the bench at Chelsea brings...), Celentano was a 2022 draft pick who quickly won a starting job and did well. Both have a legitimate chance of pushing into our top three goalkeepers over the course of the next cycle.

RB
We don't have a ton of depth needs here, but Gressel is a good high-floor player who fairly recently became an American citizen. I'm happy for him to get the call but I feel like he'll only be in the NT picture for an A team game if something goes wrong with Dest or Scally.

CB
We know Walker and Long. Rogers didn't get a homegrown deal with the Sounders and made his way from USL to the Norwegian second tier to Rosenborg. Good story, but I think he's a long shot for the USMNT. Jalen Neal is one of our better young CB prospects, but he's a U20 along for the ride. He's not yet broken into the Galaxy first team.

LB
This is one of the more interesting positions to watch because we so badly need depth at LB behind Antonee Robinson (as well as genuine competition for him before the cycle is over, tbh). I think DeJuan Jones has a chance to be a reliable depth player, though I'm not sure he has the potential for more than that. Tolkin and Gomez are younger and higher-upside. Gomez is the subject of a long-running dual nat tug of war between El Tri and the USMNT and I'm glad to see him here. It's hard to watch him because he's with Sociedad's reserve team. Right now Tolkin is the more accomplished player and he feels like he's on the verge of a move to Europe in the next couple of transfer windows.

CM
This along with LB is where we have a desperate need for depth. Pomykal and Williamson are candidates for depth behind McKennie and Musah. Morris is a candidate for depth behind Adams. Sonora has only played in the Argentine league and is currently a free agent (possibly coming to MLS); I've never seen him before but I believe he'd be on the attacking end of the spectrum. It's hard to pin down Paxten Aaronson's position — he's played out wide, as a false nine, and as an attacking midfielder inside. Ideally he'll get going at Frankfurt and emerge as an attack-minded option for the midfield trio. For now, he's a U20 who isn't that close to the USMNT A team.

Forwards / Attackers
Of this group, I'm most looking forward to seeing Brandon Vazquez. If his 2022 form is replicable, I think he stands a good chance of forcing his way into the USMNT rotation because he's started to do a lot of things you want to see from a center forward.

It's not good that Hoppe is here because it shows how little his club cares about him. I'm not sure that Hoppe is that good anyway — he's really gotten a lot of mileage out of that Schalke hat trick and hasn't done much since.

On the winger side, Cade Cowell is someone out of a comic book. Since age 17, he's always looked like a 34 year old actor playing a HS student who shoves kids into lockers in a 1980s movie. He's all pace and power. For now, his technique is only okay, and his decision-making is great. Another U20 WC candidate.

Zendejas is another kid who FC Dallas recruited from El Paso; they sold him to Chivas without much MLS experience and he got very little attention. Most NT fans don't watch Liga MX, he wasn't playing much for Chivas, and signing for Chivas is a pretty anti-USMNT decision to make anyway. But in 2020 he left the club and became a starter with Necaxa, then moved to América. I'm not sure exactly how good he is now, but his club resumé is solid at this point.

Sabbi is another new face. I admit to not watching him in a while, but based on old viewings I have a hard time seeing him break into the rotation on the wing.
 

rguilmar

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I'm a little more excited for this roster than I thought I would be. We don't really have any idea of which players were not released, and I think it is fair to assume that Seattle players were not even requested given that they are headed off to the Club World Cup.

Alejandro Zendejas, Alan Sonora, Jalen Neal, John Tolkin, and Brandon Vazquez are the guys that I am looking forward to seeing most. Some of the guys I wish were not coming because it means that they are not in their parent clubs' immediate plans- Hoppe, Aaronson, and Gomez in particular. That being said, seeing them in games for the USMNT should be fun, and having JoGo is good for dual nat battles. I'm really glad Williamson is back too.

Having some of the veterans just to work with the young guys is fine too, but I would be a little annoyed to see Sean Johnson starting. I wonder how much input Varas had in selecting some of the U-20 guys.

Sonora has only played in the Argentine league and is currently a free agent (possibly coming to MLS); I've never seen him before but I believe he'd be on the attacking end of the spectrum.
I saw him a couple of times at Independiente and he was like a classic 10, a creative CM without much defensive responsibilities. Part of me hopes he returns to Argentina simply because it was fun to have a reason to watch one of the big 5 Buenos Aires clubs. Those games were wild events, especially against Racing, whose stadium I didn't realize is separated from Independiente's by maybe 200 yards. Rumors are that he is headed to MLS though, with Montreal supposedly the most likely destination.
 

ThePrideofShiner

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Claudio Reyna apparently has a history of going after national team coaches over his son's playing time. Wild.

The elder Reynas should feel shame, as well. Claudio Reyna admitted in a statement released earlier this month that he was texting Stewart and USMNT GM Brian McBride, another former U.S. teammate of his and Berhalter, about his frustration around Gio’s lack of playing time while in Qatar. That would be inappropriate behavior for a parent of an under-12 player. For a former USMNT captain and current MLS sporting director whose son was then at the World Cup, it was extremely unbecoming.

Those kinds of actions seem to be part of a pattern for Reyna, who, as first reported by Fox Sports last Thursday and later confirmed by sources to The Athletic, previously tried to influence then-U.S. under-17 national team head coach Raphael Wicky regarding his treatment of Gio at the 2019 U-17 World Cup.
https://theathletic.com/4109534/2023/01/20/usmnt-reyna-berhalter-saga/
 

DJnVa

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How was Reyna treated at the U-17 World Cup in question? Why does there always seem to be smoke around Gio?

You know the saying "If you can't spot the weirdo on the bus it's because it's you..."?
 

Jed Zeppelin

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Gio has resting pouty face. Which doesn’t help his case when he or his kin are pouting on top of it.

I have resting asshole face on occasion but luckily I don’t have my mom calling my boss to request preferential treatment.
 

Titans Bastard

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It's game day. This camp is not deeply meaningful, but it is a fun roster. The main objectives for these next two games:

  • See if one of the LBs (most likely Tolkin) can step up to be a legitimate backup LB in the full team
  • See if one of the CMs can earn an audition to be in the depth rotation for the full team
  • See if Brandon Vazquez looks good at the 9
And in the case of tonight's game:
  • See if I have 90 minutes in me for a 10pm midweek kickoff. There are good reasons to be skeptical I'll make it to the final whistle.

View: https://twitter.com/USMNT/status/1618277486793748480
 

rguilmar

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That lineup has me pretty excited for a January friendly. Not excited enough to stay up and watch it, but excited enough to watch it tomorrow.