USA 1, CHILE 1

5 thoughts on the U.S. Men's National soccer team

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Not all matches are created equally; a friendly in soccer can very often be overlooked. The history of exhibition games in other sports may lead the casual fan to believe that a friendly in soccer is just that.

In a span of five days, the US Men's National team hosted two exhibition matches vs. top South American competition; which to a team riding a new identity is very much needed for self-evaluation.

1 Nation, 1 Team is the new slogan; unity will be required at all levels to fulfill that.

Timing

The moment in which things happen in life isn't always predictable. In the sports realm, that truth holds much more weight with the uncertainty behind the day to day happenings within that world. After being named the new manager in December, Gregg Berhalter's timing couldn't have come at a better time. A team searching for an identity, not from a talent standpoint but more from a tactical aspect as skill and youth is spread all around this roster.

I love what he brings to the USMNT as he isn't afraid to experiment and put players where he truly believes he can get the best of them. Undefeated in his first four games as manager (3-0-1), the impressive number has to be 289, the minutes the team went without conceding a goal under Berhalter before finally surrendering one to Chile.


Youth

I mentioned the youthfulness of this current roster and that's something you hear with a voice of optimism when looking at the present state of the National Team. 26 years, 7 days was the average age of the starting eleven vs. Chile. The average age on the last US squad to qualify for the World Cup in 2014 was 27 years-296 days, over a 1.5-year-old difference. But what stands out from that team are some of the leaders were much older at that moment with DaMarcus Beasley, Jermaine Jones, and Clint Dempsey all in their early 30's.

The Golden Child

Speaking of youth, Christian Pulisic became the fastest USMNT player to reach ten goals at 20 years, 189 days. The party was short lived as a right quad injury forced him to leave the game, but not before leaving an imprint on the scoreboard. When he was on the field, things seem to operate more fluidly as his first touch and ability to turn up the field and go is what motors this team. The German Bundesliga has served him well as you can see how it reflects in his game play. He loves to get the ball in space and make defenders chase, sometimes hurting his final touch. Chelsea agreed to pay Dortmund 64 million euros for the American phenom but loaned him back to the German side for the remainder of the season. A move to the English Premier League might be best for Pulisic but staying on the field is still a significant concern. He's been limited this season after tearing a calf muscle late last year and a then a thigh injury in February. Berhalter has shown some concern over the reoccurring injuries, ''I think you look into the why, and you do an inquiry as to why it's happening, and you make adjustments,'' Berhalter said. "I think he's at a top club and going to a top club. We have very high-level medical personnel on our side, and we'll get it right.''

Passing the Test

In Berhalter's first few matches the team faced off vs. Panama and Costa Rica, netting five goals and keeping two clean sheets in the process. Many wanted to see a bigger sample size against perhaps slightly better competition. The CONMEBOL is known for a more physical type of play, and the tactics teams bring combined with the number of foreign players and skill sets are a step ahead of the CONCACAF. Ecuador is currently ranked 58th in the FIFA world rankings while Chile is 13th in the world. Against Ecuador, the game plan would be different as they faced a team they knew they could take possession from and ended up doing just that dominating 62% of the ball while having five goal attempts compared to the South American's 38% with one shot on goal. The USMNT would go on to win 1-0.The next test came with a quick turnaround facing a tough Chilean squad that brings a pressing style of football. They press high and make your defenders play out from the back or clear it turning over possession frequently. The US was out dominated on ball possession 34-66%, but much of that was expected with the manager making seven changes. In the press conference, Berhalter expressed the confidence gained in his players to be able to adapt quickly and learn to play with each other with different tactics and minimal practices in between.

Grade: B+

Overall, with the feel and attitude, the manager had in the post-game conference, I consider the overall performance in the two matches a success. Not only on the scoreboard, which won't be remembered but more of the ability to play vs. tougher opponents in short periods, something that will come in handy in International tournaments where you have to adapt to foes in short periods of time. The team still lacks some things I would like to see slightly different, for example vs. Chile much of the balls were played out wide down the flanks, mostly the left side but I notice a lack of size outside of a couple of players to play that way so often. Operating this way, Gyasi Zardez was forced to make runs into the box while having to beat multiple defenders to the spot through the air, on balls that never got there. Resulting in wasted energy on pointless runs.
After the match, both coaches and players were exhausted in the locker rooms. Many commented on the first half taking a ton of energy from both teams explaining why the 2nd half was so close and tight leading to minimal scoring chances.

I love where this team seems to be headed at the moment. Change is sometimes needed to bring out the best of peoples abilities, with Berhalter, I believe we got just that.

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

Former Astros manager Andrew Jay Hinch is on a short list of candidates to become manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2021.

The question is, after being suspended and later fired for his role in the Astros sign-stealing scandal, does A.J. Hinch deserve to manage again in baseball?

It's weird to think because so much has happened in 2020, but Hinch was suspended and fired only nine months ago. His banishment, however, ends in a matter of weeks with the final out of the upcoming World Series. At that point, he will be available to manage the Tigers or any other team. There's a possibility that the Mets are interested. Some were hoping it'd be the Astros, but the Astros are committed to manager Dusty Baker for next year. After that … never say never.

Shortly after getting the Astros ax, Hinch went on MLB TV and apologized for his role in the Astros cheating scandal. Although baseball's investigation said the garbage can banging scheme was "with the exception of (Astros coach Alex) Cora, player-driven and player-executed," Hinch took responsibility as manager and didn't challenge his punishment. No players were punished.

"I still feel responsible and will always feel responsible as the man out front," Hinch said. "As the leader, I was in charge of the team. I put out a statement to apologize. But there is something different to doing it on camera and putting a face to an apology, and saying I'm sorry to the league, to baseball, to fans, to players, to the coaches.

"It happened on my watch. I'm not proud of that. I'll never be proud of it. I didn't like it. But I have to own it. And the commissioner's office made very, very clear that the GM and the manager were in position to make sure that nothing like this happened. And we fell short."

In effect, while Hinch didn't authorize or participate in the sign-stealing scandal, he didn't do enough (really anything) to stop it. He is the rare case of being a guilty bystander.

To be clear, Hinch has not been offered the Detroit manager job. However, he has more experience and more wins under his belt than most of the other candidates being considered.

Hinch's reputation is blemished, but his credentials can't be disputed. During his five years as Astros manager, the team never had a losing season, won 100 or more games three times, including a team record 107 wins last year, made the playoffs three times and won a World Series.

Has baseball forgiven Hinch, and does he deserve another chance to manage in the big leagues? This is America, the land of forgiveness and second chances.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

Hinch knew his team was cheating and didn't do enough to stop it. There's no defense for that. But I think he's paid enough of a price to get back in baseball.

Mike Tyson raped a woman, went to jail, and now he's practically America's sweetheart. Hillary forgave Bill. We not only forgave Confederate leaders, we built schools and statues to honor them. Martha Stewart went to jail for insider trading, now she's back on TV baking crumpets. Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for pee'ing on a monument outside the Alamo, there is no more sacred place in Texas, and now he sells out concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Pee-wee Herman, well, let's not say what he was caught doing, but he's planning to tour the U.S. celebrating the 35th anniversary of Pee-wee's Big Adventure movie.

Remember, Hinch was suspended for a year. It could have been worse. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to ban people for life. Since becoming the commish, Manfred has permanently banished two people: former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa for hacking into the Astros computer database, and former Atlanta Braves general manager, John Coppolella for signing international players illegally.

Manfred also has temporarily banned Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for shouting inappropriate comments at female reporters last year. Taubman is eligible to apply for reinstatement after this year's World Series. However, if he commits one more violation of baseball rules, he will be banned for life.

Lifetime bans aren't as unusual as you might think. Since baseball's beginnings in the 1800s, dozens of players, managers and team owners have been banned, mostly, like Pete Rose and the Chicago Black Sox, for gambling-related offenses.

A.J. Hinch copped to his crime, suffered the consequences, now it's time for him to manage a baseball team again. It's not like he'd be landing a plum job with Detroit. The Tigers are out of this year's playoff picture. They lost 114 games last season. And were 64-98 the two years prior. Managing the Tigers will be punishment enough.

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