USMNT Talk: Thoughts on Roster to Face Portugal and Sam Allardyce as Next Manager

There hasn’t been a dual day in US Soccer media since “that day” as it’ll be remembered as, the day USA failed to qualify for the World Cup and Bruce Arena vacating the manager chair. On top of that, many soccer fans here in the States have been calling for Sunil Gulati to step down as president of the US Soccer Federation. Until the final list of candidates is announced, I’d like to stay away from presidential talk and debate.

For now the Men’s national team has to turn its attention to the third best team in FIFA, Portugal. Dave Sarachan has been put in charge of the team as interim manager for the time being. With such a meaningless friendly, we all kinda hoped for a roster not full of usual and just use it as an opportunity to cap tie youngsters and give them their first caps against a formidable opponent in a game that isn’t making or breaking anything.

We got the following roster: (Credit to US Soccer)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas; 0/0), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 3/0), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 1/0)

DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 32/3), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Sheffield United/ENG; 0/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 13/1), Matt Miazga (Vitesse/NED; 3/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 26/1), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 14/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 48/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 16/1), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 65/2), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland/ENG; 2/0), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 0/0), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution; 3/1), Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town/ENG; 22/2)

FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 26/3), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC; 3/2), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union; 2/0), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher; 0/0)

At first glance I noticed three things: 1.) No Pulisic 2.) No Bradley 3.) No Jonathan Gonzalez. Pulisic has elected to stay in Dortmund camp to focus on their domestic campaign which I’m totally ok with. No Bradley means I don’t immediately start the game with hatred and anger and anxiety. No Jonathan Gonzalez isn’t a make or break for me because he’s only 18 and has a lot to prove to me. I’ve heard a lot of good about him and he’s verbally committed his allegiance to the USA but since it was in the news I thought US Soccer would make it official.

At second glance, and as a Union fan I was ecstatic to see CJ Sapong finally get his second chance with the National team. He became the clubs all-time leading scorer this season and has really solidified himself as a club legend. It was also nice seeing Josh Sargent and Weston McKennie get their opportunity with the senior team after their pivotal role in the success of the U20’s.

Obviously Dave Sarachan isn’t going to last for forever and the discussion over who should take over is in full swing. First and for most we are definitely going to wait until the election of the new USSf president to appoint a coach or at least it’d be in our best interest.

The man who has kinda thrown his own name in the hat is Sam Allardyce. He was quoted on talkSport radio saying:

“Yes I would go, I think. I think there’s a presidential election in January which has stalled the process. If I got the opportunity to speak to the U.S. then I would look forward to it,” Allardyce said. “International football is totally different to Premier League football. It’s 10 games a year. There’s a huge amount of down time, to go and watch the players and all that. It’s not the same day-to-day pressures as you get in the Premier League. I’ve always loved the States. I’ve been going for many, many years. I played there for the Tampa Bay Rowdies and had a terrific time by the way.” 

So the question is, would you take Sam Allardyce? In the Premier League he had a good record of inspiring a group of guys and keeping them alive in the league and safe from the drop. He does mention the shorter schedule and he knows how to get the best outta players when needed. Although I think our upcoming generation is too young for him. He’d try to give the experience players and veterans the chance and we’d dig our own hole. I ultimately wouldn’t be pissed if we got Sam Allardyce but I think there are other candidates we need to take into consideration.

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Why isn’t Mental Health Taken More Seriously?

It’s estimated that one out of every six adults and children in the United States of America is affected by some variation of mental health. That is roughly 53.6 million people. According to the national council, the United States spends $483.7 million on funding for mental health research and treatment. This is only 1.27% of the 2016 federal budget. Compare this to the $598 billion we spend on the US military which is 54% of the federal budget. With suicide taking 44,193 American lives each year leading it to become the 10th highest cause of death in America(AFSP), why is the United States seriously underfunding what should be a national epidemic?

Mental health and mental health funding is a topic I take quite personally and it means a lot to me. I was a born with a speech defecate commonly known as a “stutter”. I didn’t start speaking until the age of two and when I did start speaking, I was unable to pronounce many syllables. Due to my lack of speaking, my social development was severely stunted. It didn’t physically prevent the development of my brain, but it did hurt me mentally. I was picked on in school and often mocked for my stuttering. I was constantly being taken away from my school classes to go through speech therapy. A lot of the time I felt very alone and different from the other kids. I had the impression I wasn’t meant to be here and distanced myself more and more. As I got older and made friends and my speech began to get better. I had a lot of catching up to do socially and although I was always good in school, my mind was so focused on not messing up what I was saying, I didn’t always focus on the task in front of me. I became very obsessive compulsive or OCD. According to psychology today, “Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, images, and sensations (obsessions) and engage in behaviors or mental acts in response to these thoughts or obsessions.” I’d find myself focusing so hard on my speech I needed the distractions and focused intensively on everything. I still obsessively almost to the point of insanity over the littlest of things and I definitely sometimes can come off insane. There is no cure for stuttering, I can’t go for an injection and make it all better. But by having more funding, we can offer more speech therapy jobs and make it more affordable for people to seek help early and catch it before it totally ruins their life.

There are many other forms of mental health besides stuttering. Dictionary dot com defines mental health as the “psychological well-being and satisfactory adjustment to society and to the ordinary demands of life.” Mental health is far more than just a physical issue, it’s a way of life issue too. Marla Cantrell puts it best when she said “I challenge you to find any family, during a family’s lifetime, that doesn’t have some kind of mental health problem.” It’s prevalent across all of America and isn’t stopped by social or economical boundaries. It affects more than the person, everyone close to that person can be affected. Many people with mental health require more attention or constant watch. Some can’t rationally think for themselves and someone has to help them. It isn’t like having an elderly grandpa with a heart problem, he can still use the bathroom and make smart decisions and for the most part will have his wits about him. People affected by mental health may have lost their “wit” very early.

It will probably be a very long time or a lot of mass shootings later until the majority of the public agree that mental health needs more funding than the military, especially in post 9/11 America where anyone who doesn’t look like you is looked upon differently. If we are going to remain too stubborn to adjust the budget, we need to think of ways to improve mental health. One of those ways is raising the minimum wage. Bill Gardner wrote in Opposing Viewpoints, “In 1998, Britain passed the National Minimum Wage Act, which created a minimum wage of £3.60 ($7.35 in current U.S. dollars) and resulted in about a 30 percent raise for the typical worker below that threshold. That law, British economist Aaron Reeves and his colleagues report in Health Economics, substantially improved the mental health of low-wage earners “by reducing financial strain in low-wage workers.” Stress is the most common form of mental illness and can’t necessarily be diagnosed. Helping people not worry about whether or not they’ll be able to feed their families each evening is one way to lower the stress level of someone. Also by increasing the minimum wage, people will have the money to pay for medication and treatments that may not be entirely covered by health insurance or previously able to afford. At the low end of the spectrum, an antidepressant will cost you $39 per month equaling $468 per year. Compare this to someone who gets a medium coffee from Tim Horton’s everyday of the year, they will spend about $653.35 that year. Think about how many people rely on their coffee and spend that, some people require medication to make it through the day and we can’t help them pay ⅔ of that. People shouldn’t be punished if they can’t afford the necessary treatment. Stopping someone mid therapy or mid prescription is dangerous and will result in a lot of struggle to eventually be cured or brought to a livable level. Locking up the mentally disabled isn’t going to solve the issue. Mental Health of America writes “For many mental health consumers, access to the full range of the most effective medications is a crucial component of successful treatment and recovery. Such medically necessary psychotropic medications, and their combination with other services and supports, are often essential to permit people with mental health and substance use conditions to recover and to lead healthy and productive lives in their communities.” Instead of eliminating millions of people from society and not giving them the equal opportunity to better society and contribute to the economy, we only hurts ourselves.

It’s hard to escape shootings in America. It seems as if one happens everyday now. Clearly no sane human would ever take the life of multiple innocent people. If we increase the funding and availability to help for people suffering from mental illness, we should see a drop in crime rates. Melissa Healy writes “For people with severe psychiatric illness, taking an antipsychotic medication appears to drive down the risk of engaging in criminal violence, a large study has found. And for patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mood-stabilizing medication has the same effect.” Something as simple as a prescription can be the difference between life and death. I’d like to think I’m not that crazy but what if I didn’t receive speech therapy and what if I never made friends and what if I didn’t have a purpose anymore, who’s to say someone with something as simple as a speech problem could lead to something else. We stress so much in school the dangers of bullying, isn’t not getting people get the necessary help the same as beating up a kid for his lunch money?

Now more than ever we have to raise attention to mental illness because of the current Republicans in the senate and house. In February 2016, congress repealed a rule that use to block the sale of firearms to the extremely mentally ill as well as those deemed incapable to manage their finances. Mental illness usually comes in waves and hits you worse on some days than others. People may not feel the need to constantly be on medication so to save the expenses they drop it and lose medicaid funding and then when they need it, it’s gone. According to Melissa Batchelor, “Under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, an estimated 1.3 million Americans with mental illness gained health insurance for the first time.” Under president Trump’s proposed healthcare bill, the vast majority of these people would once again be without healthcare. You may be thinking that’s fine, there’s always private insurance companies. Well states can now choose whether they enforce insurance companies to cover “essential health benefits” or “pre-existing conditions”. The GOP sees people with mental illness as nothing more than expense. They see us as people who they’ll have to assist for the entirety of our lives and that’s something they don’t want to do. They are far more invested in the growth of the economy and lining their pockets than the people not given a fair opportunity. If we don’t raise awareness now, this bill is going to pass and it’ll be at least another three years until repeal is even talked about.

There are a lot of important things to worry about in this world. National security and the general well being of everyone is increasingly important and I don’t disagree. Making sure people who did good and do good are given food and housing is also important. We teach kids to stress over homework and making sure their every action in school is spot on and get increasingly anal about making sure they stand for the pledge and manipulate them into thinking objective things are subjective. We give the working class so much anxiety over the state of the economy and not letting their part fail. You think that’s bad, try spelling quit, quite, & quiet 30,000 times a day in your head to make sure you remember the difference. I obsess over things to and worry about things like you. I wish I could worry like you did about those things when I just can’t when I’m to focused on remembering my own name. It’s time myself and others far worse than I am are allowed to worry about those things too. We usually can’t because we have to look upon our own emotions and make sure their online and by the time we get up to speed we get knocked right back down. There are a lot of things far from possible in this lifetime. Solving global warming and world peace are two of those things but providing a drug that will help people smile and have a chance at being normal not left out is extremely doable and it’s something we should be doing now.

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Sources:

Batchelor, Melissa “People With Mental Illness Will Suffer Under Proposed GOP Health    Care Plan” Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Galegroup.com

Cantrell, Marla. “Mental Illness is Prevalent in America” Opposing Viewpoints in                 Context. galegroup.com

“Federal Budget for Mental Health & Addictions” National Council. thenationalcouncil.org

Gardner, Bill, “How to Improve Mental Health in America: Raise the Minimum Wage” Opposing Viewpoints in Context. galegroup.com

“Generic Antidepressants Can Save Consumers $1,200 a Year” ConsumersUnion. consumersunion.org

Healy, Melissa “Better Mental Health Care Can Reduce Violence” Opposing Viewpoints in Context. galegroup.com

“Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder” Psychology Today. psychologytoday.com

“Restricting Medications for Mental Illness Harms Patients” Opposing Viewpoints in Context. galegroup.com

“Suicide Statistics” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. asp.org

Brian Carroll Calls It Quits- #ThankYouBC

On Thursday October 19th, 15 year MLS veteran Brian Carroll announced he will be retiring following the Philadelphia Union’s season finale this Sunday. Carroll has been with the Union since 2011 and prior spent time with DC United and Columbus Crew. He has won two MLS Cups and four Supporters Shields(Only player in MLS history to win four consecutive Supporters Shields). Only scoring nine career goals and never seeing a red card really helped Carroll fly under the radar, so what legacy will he leave behind?

Anyone you ask who worked with Carroll will say he is a role model and leader. He led from example on and off the field. Carroll was a defensive midfielder. Anyone who watches soccer knows you only notice the defensive midfielder when something goes wrong. I’ve said it before, it’s my favorite position to watch and analyze. As I said before, Carroll was never shown a red card, which as a holding midfielder is really impressive.

Carroll is 4th all-time in MLS appearances with 370 regular season appearances. He is sixth all-time in minutes played with 30,776(This is after not playing any minutes his rookie season or this season). He leads the Union all-time in minutes played with 13,818. Carroll also has eight caps for the US Men’s National Team but none since 2010. Carroll also appeared in 27 US Open Cup games, scoring two games and played in one final(Unused sub in both 2014 and 2015 finals).

Carroll was never going to make the bone crunching tackle or 60 yard pass, but I promise you I’ve never seen him miss hit a four yard square pass. He is the poor man’s Dax McCarty in many ways. He’s simple on the ball, does his job, and has a positive affect on everyone. I had the honor of meeting him multiple times and always had time for a chat.

Carroll says he plans on moving to Indianapolis to be a financial advisor. Personally I think Carroll has to good of a brain not to coach one day. Whether it is High School in Indiana or returns to the Union, this isn’t the last we see of Carroll. Best of luck BC, you’ll be missed but forever loved.

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Wake Up America

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…” Allegiance, a noun meaning “the loyalty of citizen to his or her government or of a subject to his or her sovereign.” So right from the beginning we[Americans] give no choice to our children but to be loyal to a piece of fabric with 50 stars, 13 horizontal stripes, and 3 colors on it. Symbolically yes, it represents a whole lot more but the reality is symbols are interpreted differently by everyone. To educators and parents, it’s our responsibility to present information to the children of this country, not beat them into believing your ideology. The constitution of the United States isn’t age specific, if you want this country to be a true constitutional democrat you can’t be selective as to what amendments apply to who and when(this applies to more than just the pledge).

Lets take for example 16 year old Kerry Douglas who attends Dawson High School in Texas. She was “paddled” for not standing during the pledge. According to the schools student handbook, there is no rule forcing students to stand during the pledge or anthem. She was punished on the claim of “disruption and disrespectful”. Hypocritical? I’l let you decide for yourself… (Watch news story here.)

During the 20th century, the Soviet Union was accused of using the figure of Vladimir Lenin as a way of “brainwashing” kids into believing and only knowing the political agenda of one party. His figure was everywhere: statues, pictures, propaganda, textbooks, cereal boxes, etc. He was the Soviet’s “Uncle Sam” except a lot more destructive.

Children in school would stand at attention in front of his statues, you only knew one thing and that was Lenin. Soviet historians manipulated his life stories into making him look almost like a God. Children learned nothing but him. What happened to this generation of children? They became a good portion of the 20,000,000 casualties the Soviet’s suffered in WW2.  The government thought if they brainwashed and trained an entire generation to fight their cause they would win. They succeeded in breeding an entire generation to do their dirty work, fortunately it wasn’t enough.

The first Bill written in our constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” If someone, whether 8 years old or 88 years old, wants to peacefully sit and not participate in the mindless reading of an outdated pledge or anthem, who are we to stop them? It’s unconstitutional to do otherwise.

download.jpgThe United States does a good job of being constitutional when it wants to be and when it’s convenient for the political agenda of the current majority party. Our priorities currently lie with wanting to be the big dick in foreign affairs which yes we have the capability of doing so and yes we have to be but it shouldn’t be a priority. We are engulfed in a social culture that you have to be the best of the best and always the next big thing, we are never focused on stopping and channeling our energy on what needs to be solved.

11.3% of the United States population doesn’t have health insurance. 4.4% are unemployed. 564,708 people are estimated to be homeless in the United States. What are we doing to fix that? In stead of channeling our energy into shaming people who choose not to participate in the anthem/pledge, why don’t we work on making the flag a symbol of a country people are actually proud to stand behind.

Why Everyone Should Live With Faith

Helpless, lost, no one to turn too… I can only imagine these are some of the things people without faith think and feel when times are hard. I pray a lot for people who are in these positions. I don’t pray but their situation to resolve, because half of them won’t learn anything. Rather I pray God takes their hand and leads them through these situations and helps them not only get on their physical feet but spiritual feet.

In spite of the recent news about baby Charlie Gard, I’ve been furious with how some people view human life and made me reflect on how little I’ve done recently to help the cause. For those of you who don’t know what’s going on, baby Charlie is terminally ill and his family would like to transfer him to either the Vatican hotel where he can die in a more peaceful setting or even send him to America for experimental testing but his request to leave the London based hospital has been denied. The case has even been brought to court where the family has lost the battle. To read more on the situation, click here.

I disagree with what the hospital is doing. First of all I believe it should be the parents decision as to where there son faces the inevitable we all face which is death as the child is too young to make the decision on his own. Now you may just see this as a terminally ill child with little hope but those parents have faith. Those parents brought that child into this world with the intention to cherish it and help it live it’s life to the fullest and baby Charlie isn’t being allowed to do so.

What are we doing when we allow people to be pulled off life support? We open the door to “the easy way out” Assisted suicide is defined as “when a doctor “knowingly and intentionally providing a person with the knowledge or means or both required to commit suicide, including counseling about lethal doses of drugs, prescribing such lethal doses or supplying the drugs.” So essentially it’s you or a medical professional deciding your life is over, this is the end, no hope, wanna jump early? He’s dragging you to the bridge and putting you on the ledge. “This is a peaceful way” he’ll tell your family who are to grieve struck to think straight. When you open the door and give them the option, someone out there is going to take it and that’s wrong.

Do we want to bring up the next generation teaching them there is an easy way out? That if there is no more road to rundown it’s cool if you just jump into the ocean at the end? Do we want them to get the impression they can play God and alter his plan he has for all of us. Do you really expected to be brought into his kingdom arms open wide for you if you cheated your way there quicker without anyway of knowing if it was actually your time?

 “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.” ~Saint John Paul II

The solution to leading away from all of this temptation? Faith. I would love to sit here and tell you it’s the easy solution but it isn’t. Some people are born with faith and are nurtured to believe in it and don’t question it. Others ask a lot of questions and so many it takes them away. Others need to unfortunately have some sort of unfortunate event to make their faith stronger. Once you solidify faith, something to believe in, you gain hope.

Hope is a powerful gift God gives us, it can be so easily destroyed. Especially in my generation and living in the political war we’re currently all suffering through, hope is hard to come by. Whether for the adults amongst us it was watching the election of a racist reality TV star to the office of president or for the kids, something so simple as that boy/girl you like not texting you back in what you consider is “fast enough.” People who lack hope don’t allow for God’s plan to unfold, you won’t sit back and take a breathe. I blame this forsaken generation and technology where everything is expected at the snap of their fingers because it’s what we’re becoming accustom too.

If you don’t lack in faith and belief everything is always going to work out for the best, your hope won’t be as easily destroyed. Of course things are going to disappoint you and immediately feel hopeless and reactions are natural like that, we are human after all. It’s the people who bounce back the quickest and take something positive away from the worst of situations who are strongest in faith.

As part of my nightly prayer I always ask God to keep me on the path he laid for me and that I can do everything he asks of me because he gives me the strength necessary. Something that has always helped me when I feel my faith lacking is to constantly remind myself I have faith.

I wish I could sugar coat all the horrible stuff that goes on this world. The dishonesty, brutality, racism, discrimination, pain, it’s all there. Whether you’re fed up with it all and want the easy way out or if you were told you don’t have anything else to live for and have been slapped with an expiration date, faith will keep the easy way out door closed. So find that faith, grow it, nurse it.

There is no such thing as being hopeless because you never know what God has planned for you. His plan is only unrevealed to you as you live and experience it. The only way to do that is to have faith, hope, and love everyone. All life is sacred and should be cherished to it’s fullest extent…10427258_814326108603034_9140596965499743966_n.jpg

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What I Wanna See From The USMNT At The Gold Cup

For a lot of USMNT talk, follow my Twitter @JonathanMolik

With the 2017 Gold Cup scheduled to kickoff this Friday and the USA’s first game Saturday in Nashville, I thought it was time to talk about what I wanna see from the boys this tournament. Coming off a not so impressive Gold Cup in 2015, taking fourth place, the USA are certainly going to look to compete with Mexico and return to the top of CONCACAF. Not only will a USA win be a huge moral boost going into crucially important qualifiers in September, it’ll knock down Mexico’s moral even more after coming up short of a podium spot in Russia at the Confederation’s Cup.

Here is the complete 23 man roster courtesy of the US Soccer Website:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 55/0), Bill Hamid (D.C. United; 2/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 5/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 40/1), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX; 40/1), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas; 3/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 11/0), Matt Miazga (Chelsea/ENG; 2/0), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC/CAN; 1/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna, MEX; 7/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City; 47/5)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 9/1), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana/MEX; 5/2), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 61/2), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana/MEX; 18/2), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire; 7/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 0/0), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution; 1/0), Kenny Saief (Gent/BEL; 1/0), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 32/6)

FORWARDS (3): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 23/3), Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City; 1/1), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 16/2)

*Caps and goals updated including Ghana game*

Cristian Roldan is the only one yet to have a cap with the national team as Kelyn Rowe, Kenny Saief, and Dom Dwyer all appeared in the USA’s 2-1 win over Ghana in Hartford Saturday night. Dom Dwyer even celebrated the occasion with a goal.

  1. Dom Dwyer Stealing The Show

Speaking of Dom Dwyer, the first thing I want to see from the USMNT is to help Dom impress. Since being drafted by Sporting Kansas City in 2012 16th overall, Dwyer has lit up the MLS. He’s scored 57 times in 128 games for SKC including 2 in 2013 after returning from loan from Orlando City to help SKC win the Eastern Conference and MLS Cup. Dwyer was born in England and only earlier this year became an official USA citizen and eligible for call-up. Dwyer will be 27 at the end of July and will certainly be in the discussion for Russia if this tournament goes his way and I really hope it does. Dwyer is pivotal to SKC and is the all around striker the USA drastically needs. Often compared to Diego Costa for his short temper, strength, and clinical finishing in the box. He’s the better bad boy version of Chris Wondolowski. If USA win the Gold Cup, look for Dwyer to be the Golden Boot winner. Without Jozy, Deuce, Pulisic, or Wood, Dwyer along with Morris and Agudelo will need to step up and provide goals.

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2. No Bradley= Experiment in the Midfield

Since Bruce Arena returned to the national team, the only consistent midfielder has been Michael Bradley who apart from the Mexico game has done virtually nothing. I know a lot of you are going to say he’s misused but without him in the Gold Cup, if our midfield impresses, it’s going to be a big transitional opportunity from relying heavily on Bradley. Kelyn Rowe, Cristian Roldan, and Kenny Saief are all new faces in the midfield and should all look to impress and should all get the opportunity. Along with Dax McCarty, Alejandro Bedoya, and Kellyn Acosta the USA have a plentiful of experience to nurture the new kids. Kellyn Acosta is slowly becoming a reliable staple at the number six role and thus allow the other two midfielders(assuming we play three in the middle) to push forward and play box to box. If none of the new boys do the job this should at least mean we can put Bradley at an 8 role so he is a little more comfortable.

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3. Use all three goalies….please!

Brad Guzan is 32 years old, going on 33 this September, of course he will be in Russia along with Tim Howard(38) but we should really start looking at next cycle and life without the two and the Gold Cup is a great place to start. Sean Johnson was a rock at Chicago for years and is now applying his trade for NYCFC, he’s 28 years old. Bill Hamid has been DC United’s number one since Beckham was still in the league. He’s 26 years old and is a great shot stopper. Now my ultimate goal is after 2018 neither of these two start but rather Ethan Horvath has a tremendous standout year for Club Brugge and at the age of 22 learns from these keepers and is gently guided into the number one spot for hopefully many cycles to go.

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4. Less Omar and more of the three Matt’s

Matt Hedges, Matt Miazga, and Matt Besler have all been included in the 23 man squad as well as Omar Gonzalez. Don’t get me wrong I think Omar is a fantastic center back but we can get off without using him especially in the group stage games. Hedges is 27 and is from an hour away from me so I’m a little biased but think he is an overlooked and under appreciated center back. Miazga has been virtually non existent since leaving for Europe and needs a good Gold Cup to get back into the fold and Besler offers a lot of experience and leadership from the back. I would love to see Bruce play five at the back with the three Matt’s in the middle, Zusi at right wing back and Villafana on the left but they may be a little unnecessary not playing a tough away game.

This leads me into how I would like to see the team lineup. I’m not crazy about five at the back but I can’t get over how good we looked in Mexico playing it.

Guzan

Zusi          Hedges          Besler          Miazga          Villafana

Acosta

McCarty        Bedoya

Dwyer          Morris

What do you think? What would you change from my XI and what do you hope to get out of the Gold Cup?….

Jermain Defoe’s Revitalization On And Off The Pitch

If you would have told me at the age of 34 Jermain Defoe would be coming off the back of a 15 goal campaign with Sunderland and back in the England fold, I would have thought you were crazy. I say this because three years ago I sat in the upper deck at BMO Field in Toronto and watched Jermain Defoe bike an inswinging cross off the crossbar just to later add to his 11 goals in 16 games tally for Toronto FC. Then at the age of 31 and not being selected that summer for the World Cup, his career looked to be a wash. But after being included in England’s two most recent qualifiers and penning a deal at Bournemouth which will see him make 65,000 a week, things are looking great for Jermain Defoe.

Defoe has always been a clinical striker. Good in front of goal and pacy on the ball. Scoring 198 career goals in 535 games across all club competitions. That’s an average of 0.37 goals per game. Not only on the club stage can he score goals but on the national stage too. Defoe has 20 in 57 for England averaging 0.35 goals per game. He’s very consistent.

Now it’d be one thing to be scoring 15 goals a season at a club like Manchester City where you have the service from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Yaya Toure, etc. but to be doing it at Sunderland is even more impressive. Adnan Januzaj lead Sunderland with three assist last season. Defoe was essentially on his own. Now joining a Bournemouth team that has the likes of Harry Arter, Dan Gosling, Marc Pugh, Max Gradel, etc. Defoe will have the service he needs and will allow him to play off another striker with his back to goal like he was so good at doing especially with Tottenham.

So what can we attribute his on field success too? Well we should start with his girlfriend. Defoe in a recent interview with the telegraph said “I reckon the diet beneficial, it’s challenging. It’s hard, I love fish, But I’ve found not eating meat makes me feel lighter on my feet.” It’s also no secret Defoe is a mamas boy. His mother and him are still close and take holidays together and supports him at his games. He’s also a people’s person. Active on social media and never turns down the opportunity to take a photo with a fan, the community keeps him going.

By now everyone knows of his best friend Bradley Lowery. The terminally ill six year old Sunderland supporter who at every game wouldn’t leave Defoe’s side. During one of his chemo treatments, Defoe even went and slept with the kid in the hospital. Not only is Defoe beloved by many, he does a lot of charity work which includes the Jermain Defoe foundation. The foundation raises money for St. Lucia to help rebuild the country after it was devastated by a hurricane. Defoe is currently in St. Lucia for the opening of his children’s home and more is to come, especially if his mom continues to make her cakes to sell at his fundraisers.

Our first look at Defoe in a competitive game for Bournemouth this season will be Saturday August 12th away to West Brom. Then we should expect to see him in the September qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia. Will Defoe keep it going at 34? He shows no signs of slowing down on or off the field.

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Three Things: United Need to do this Summer

Coming off a successful season, depending on who you ask, United need to have a big summer to improve and build on last season. It’s already confirmed their highest goal scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be on his way out the door, they’ll look to bring in someone to fill those very large shoes as well as build a team around him who can offer the support he needs. So here is my list of what I think United need to do this summer and what I would like to see them do.

 

  1. Decide Wayne Rooney’s fate

 

United’s all-time top scorer has obviously been on his decline for years now and isn’t going to be included in the squad week in and week out anymore. There has been stirring rumors that he is on his way out, frontrunners include: Everton, China, and America. Wherever his next destination will be, he deserves to make his own decisions. If he leaves, it will allow Mourinho to bring in another impact player for the bench. If he stays another season, he can still offer something off the bench, especially with the tough European schedule that awaits United. Record shows how short tempered Rooney can be and the last thing you need is him kicking off for being forced into making a decision he didn’t want and it’s unnecessary around the club.

  1. Replace Zlatan

If it was up to me, Rashford would start up top and get the time and opportunity he has earned and deserves. But Jose Mourinho definitely has other ideas. Already this window being linked to Morata and Griezmann, Mourinho is on the hunt. Many papers are also linking Ronaldo back to United who would slide into that number nine slot. Personally I think Ronaldo has a shit attitude and is very one dimensional and isn’t the kind of character we need in the locker room. I don’t fancy seeing Pogba and Ronaldo’s big statues butting heads. As I am Polish, Robert Lewandowski would be the dream. Tons of goals on all the major levels of football but I don’t foresee Munich letting him go. With a plentiful of speedy attacking midfielders, whatever striker dons the United 9 shirt, needs to be a poacher and complete forward ready to get on the end of anything and definitely won’t lack the service and opportunities.

  1. Sort out the defense

A defense that includes giving Darmian and Phil Jones playing minutes in the Premier League isn’t a defense that can expect to survive against Europe’s elite. At the beginning of next season, Luke Shaw will be 22… GET OFF HIS BACK! He’s suffered greatly from injuries and yeah right now he doesn’t look to be in Mourinho’s plans but if he wants to play amongst the best against the best Mourinho is going to make him work and he is our best leftback option. Next to him Eric Bailly looked terrific in his first season. He’s comfortable on the ball, strong, and technically capable of anchoring that back line. Next to him it looks like it’s going to be and should be the new boy Victor Lindelof. Victor has been in the Benfica senior team since he’s been 19 and looks to be a great signing. Although he won’t be the most vocal, he will be a rock and offer strength to a United backline who is constantly being called upon. One thing you can expect is him to be comfortable on the ball. Mourinho stresses comfortability on the ball in his playing style and Lindelof will complement Bailly nicely. Lastly at right back we have Matteo Darmian. Although not always the most reliable or consistent defender, on his day, the 27 year old Italian can do a job. If we do choose to move on from him, Antonio Valencia isn’t a right back, he did the job but don’t put me through another season with him. The ideal signing would be Kyle Walker but 50M for 31 year old Kyle Walker seems a little steep. Dani Alves is available on a free but at 34 and no premier league experience, is the risk worth it? Ideally I would love to see us go in for Martin Montoya from Valencia. Brought up under the Spanish system of football, he’s comfortable on the ball and pacy as all hell, the perfect fit for the Mourinho system. Not the strongest of individuals which could let him down in England.

It’s only the end of June, there is a long summer window ahead. But things are going to have to change if we want to see a successful year at Old Trafford.

Follow me on Twitter @JonathanMolik

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My Mexico Diary 2017

It’s not everyday you get to go to another country so when the opportunity to go to Mexico aroused I knew I couldn’t say no. A lot of people from the beginning told me it was a bad idea. Mexico has been labeled as an unsafe country by the media especially for Americans after president Donald Trump threatened to build a wall between the two countries in an attempt to control illegal immigration and fix the drug problem. I wasn’t going to listen, I never do, and boy was it a good thing I didn’t.

4:00 AM 6/09: I use to be a morning person when I was a kid, I still am compared to some people I know but I think anyone can agree with me that hearing an alarm at this hour when it signals the beginning of your vacation is one you certainly won’t be hitting snooze on. So there I was, trying to come to my senses and get into Eric’s car as he agreed to drive me to the airport.

The next 11 hours consisted of airports and flying which I could go into detail about but no one wants to know, it can be all summed up into my inability to listen to directions from the TSA officer, inability to sleep, and awkward custom questioning in Mexico.

Fast forward to 2:00 local time in Mexico City. Two Americans standing like clueless idiots in the terminal trying to use our high school spanish education to find our way to the exit and order an Uber to our hotel. I made a stop at the money exchange booth on my way out and was astonished at how far the American dollar goes in Mexico. With the conversion rate about 16:1, it made it more exciting I could enjoy myself and not worry.

This was my first time leaving the country with the exception of Canada which is basically another state as the cultures are inseparable along the border except they have better poutine and free health care. I’ve seen videos and photos of impoverished areas and have spent a significant amount of time working with underprivileged people but nothing compared to the first five minutes in Mexico City.

While everyone was taking pictures and wasting in how cool it was to be there, it took me a little before I could vast. Building that you see abandoned or “run-down” in America are thriving businesses in Mexico. Dogs and people wonder the streets, most begging for a peso to eat. Then there was the smog and pollution smell. Now the air is thinner in Mexico city but I don’t think that made a difference just even harder to breathe. At first it seemed as though everyone was depressed but it was completely opposite. People have embraced this as their lives, probably because this is all they know.

Kids played in streets, garages were transformed into bars, people biked and walked, the traffic was worse than anything you could imagine but was still an efficient way of transportation. There traffic cops actually control traffic and keep it flowing. Not like the ones after the Sabres games who cause more of a back-up than the traffic lights would.

The rest of the night would be spent meeting up with friends as our various flights landed as well as meeting other Americans staying in our hotel and of course eating tacos and drinking margaritas. Also managed to catch the Cavs only win in the NBA finals.

5:00 AM 6/10: Now you’re probably thinking, what the hell are you doing setting an alarm on your first day of vacation? Ohh don’t worry, it took a lot of encouragement to do it too but I’m glad I did. We made our way downstairs and into another Uber over to another hotel to get on a bus that was going to take us to Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan is an archaeological site home of Aztec pyramids. We spent the morning with a tour guide learning about the different pyramids and meanings as well as climbing to the top of a few. Definitely wasn’t expecting a workout but it made it a lot easier to adjust to the altitude difference.

After an exhausting couple of hours we made our way over to the Azteca ranch where we were greeted with a buffet of food and five tequilas to taste test. If I wasn’t sold on Mexico by this point, I now was. I went into Mexico with the expectation of eating nothing but tacos for four days and I wasn’t upset in the slightest.

We eventually found our way back to the hotel and pool side on a rooftop pool overlooking Mexico City. This was only to kill time until the US Soccer sponsored welcome party and the infamous night before party. One of my favorite parts about US games is how easily it is to become friends with people from all over the country over one common interest.

8:00 AM 6/11: Finally! no alarm. It was game day and the excitement and nerves were already coming in. Andrew(roommate) and I went and got breakfast and took a walk around the city. Now we were only gone for 30-45 minutes and managed to see a pop up boxing ring, a carnival, a music festival, and a bike ride similar to what we know as the ride of Roswell. It’s safe to say Sundays in Mexico city are bopping.

When it was time to get on the bus to go to the tailgate and game is when things got real. We were put into coach buses and as one bus pulled away a cop pulled out in front of and behind it. Security was always going to be tight and necessary for away fans in Mexico, especially americans. Although the bus was in good spirits singing and chanting anything with the word America in it, I was too concerned with what was going to happen on the field. We really needed an impossible result and I knew Bruce was going to set us up to defend and one mistake would be game over.

The tailgate was at the equivalent of any rich guy’s house stereotyped in movies in Mexico. This beautiful gated in ranch with a covered patio full of food and drinks. Greeted by a mariachi band and later a DJ. tickets were handed out and everyone was in good spirits.

Then it came time to board the buses again and head over to the Azteca. Words cannot describe the feeling I was having. I wasn’t sure if I was in awe of being in the Azteca as it’s a dream of any soccer fan, or if the sight of rows of armed riot shield guards scared the literally crap outta me.

The greeting from the Mexicans was very diverse. Some were waving and smiling and taking pictures. Others were flipping us off and launching beer in our direction. It didn’t help the antagonization by the americans. We slowly got funneled into the gate and frisked. After taking our flags, scarves, bandanas, belts, and dignity we were escorted up into our section. In the section we were greeted by a perimeter of armed guards with riot shields and a 10 foot high steel barb wired fence. It would have been easier to escape prison.

Then came that magical moment by someone who doesn’t normally produce magic, that moment when Michael Bradley picked up the ball and chipped Ochoa from almost 40 yards out. At first I was startled, I wasn’t sure it went in, then the eruption. Every single American flung their arms up and started screaming and jumping around. Pure emotion rushed my heart it was hard to even breathe, seeing the national team i treasure and adore score away against their biggest rivals in a game where we needed a result against all odds was too much to handle…. then 10 minutes later it was 1-1.

The game ended in the midst of a downpour and eruption from the American fans. A huge point, we were all on top of the moon. As we hurried out of the stadium to the booze and jeers of Mexicans and the absolute abuse we didn’t even care. We were all so happy and proud of our boys. As we boarded the buses it may have just been the cold rain but i was silent and in shock. The ride home was a mixture of Miley Cyrus and Toby Keith being blared over the aux, it was a good day,

That night we all went our separate ways with the only thing on our minds being to celebrate and enjoy our last night in Mexico.

The next day we packed up and headed towards the airports, back to reality. Saying our goodbyes already anticipating the many games in July to look forward too when we aren’t photographers, accountants, marketers, doctors, just a group of people who love to watch soccer together.

Onto the next one, Nashville I’ll see ya soon…

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