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Minnesota United’s latest; USA Men’s National Soccer Team’s biggest test; Video-Assisted Refs

Trying to predict the main pool of 23 players for 4 final World Cup qualifiers is never easy. But Bruce Arena should have a pretty solid list now after coaching the team through 4 previous qualifiers, winning the Gold Cup and a handful of friendly matches. Barring injury I think his list is set.

This list is also a look long range to the World Cup in Russia next summer.

The best part is that there are always surprise players that you never expected to rise to the desrired level at exactly the right time. The bad part is that there are always injuries to consider. Make no mistake, someone from my list of 23 will not go to Russia, and more exciting is the possibility that someone not even on my extended lists will grab that opportunity.

Since Bruce Arena has returned as head coach of the team they have not lost a game, with 9 wins and 5 ties.

The four qualifying games that remain:
Fri Sep 1 v Costa Rica
Tue Sep 5 at Honduras
Fri Oct 6 v Panama
Tue Oct 10 at Trinidad + Tobago

My prediction for Bruce Arena’s roster will look like over the rest of this year, and the main group for the World Cup if they qualify:
Goalkeeper
Tim Howard – Colorado Rapids
Brad Guzan – Atlanta United Football Club
Bill Hamid – DC United
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Defense
DaMarcus Beasley – Houston Dynamo
Matt Besler – Sporting Kansas City
John Brooks – Verein fur Leibesubungen Wolfsburg Fussball GmbH
Geoff Cameron – Stoke City Football Club
Omar Gonzalez – Club de Futbol Pachuca
Jorge Villafana – Santos Laguna SA de CV
DeAndre Yedlin – Newcastle United Football Club
Graham Zusi – Sporting Kansas City
—–
Midfield
Kellyn Acosta – Football Club Dallas
Paul Arriola – Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente
Alejandro Bedoya – Philadelphia Union
Michael Bradley – Toronto Football Club
Fabian Johnson – Borussia VfL 1900 Monchengladbach
Darlington Nagbe – Portland Timbers
Christian Pulisic – Ballspielverein Borussia 09 eV Dortmund
Gyasi Zardes – LA Galaxy
—–
Forward
Jozy Altidore – Toronto Football Club
Clint Dempsey – Seattle Sounders Football Club
Jordan Morris – Seattle Sounders Football Club
Bobby Wood – Hamburger Sport-Verein

There are always veteran players ready and waiting for their chance if someone is injured, suspended or out of favor:
G
Nick Rimando
D
Tim Ream
Tim Chandler
Eric Lichaj
Matt Hedges
M
Danny Williams
Kyle Beckerman
Benny Feilhaber
Sacha Kljestan
Brek Shea
Jermaine Jones
Dax McCarty
Joe Corona
F
Chris Wondolowski
Aron Johannsson

And then there are the talented youngsters and new faces on the rise who are chomping at the bit:
G
Ethan Horvath
D
Cameron Carter-Vickers
Greg Garza
Matt Miazga
Walker Zimmerman
M
Sebastian Lletget
Christian Roldan
Kelyn Rowe
Kenny Saief
F
Dom Dwyer

Only time will tell who makes the team, and who has the needed impact.

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Minnesota United got back to winning last weekend with a complete throttling of DC United. The 1 team in all of MLS lower in the standings than the Loons.

A 4-0 victory after going 358 minutes without a goal (just 2 minutes short of the equivilant of 4 full games) seemed like a rain storm in the desert. But some reality needs to be focused on here: DC are terrible. And over those 4 games Minn was outshot 29 to 72. Even DC had an 8-18 edge. If Houston and DC had converted a few of their early chances it could be very ugly right now. So every fans should be kissing a lucky charm of some sort right now. Mine is a horseshoe from Seattle Slew.

The Loons have added 3 players to the squad, had a couple return from International matches and a couple others from injuries. All of it helped a team that was so thin that a few games recently they couldn’t even dress the maximum 18 players for games. Positives options off the bench have never been available this season, until now. And not for the first time Miguel Ibarra was that player to inject life.

Christian Ramirez felt a tightness in his hamstring in the 40th minute against DC and instead of taking a chance, with the team up 2-0, he came off. His buddy and co-superhero Ibarra (Batman to Ramirez’s Superman) was the replacement. The night before the game Ibarra posted a note on social media expressing his frustration at being told he would not be starting. It was evident in his spirit when he entered the game that once again it was “time to prove somebody wrong.” Ibarra has a penchant for playing much better when he is peeved at the world. Ibarra’s wicked cross was turned into an own goal by DC’s Jared Jeffries and then a blistering run and nice little juke move gave Ibarra space to shoot past the out stretched hand of DC keeper Bill Hamid for the games 4th and final goal.

Kevin Molino was another who had something to prove in this game. Although for some reason when he dogs it for 3 or 4 games in a row he never faces the coaches wrath and gets benched. (Favoritism in full effect.) But this time Molino delivered.

The Aug 10 transfer window deadline is nearing and coach Adrian Heath keeps repeating that he hopes to bring in 2 more players. That would be a good thing. One has to be a 3rd goalkeeper, but I don’t expect anything more than a body for training sessions there. Fans cannot get there hopes up for an automatic starter quality player though. It just doesn’t feel like that is in the cards. Unfortunately. When you are asking people to renew season tickets a player with pedigree adds to the allure.

There are just 4 home games left on the schedule too, due to U of M football games: Aug 5 v Seattle, Sep 9 v Philly, Sep 23 v Dallas and Oct 7 v KC – three of the four are MLS Cup contenders.

And finally there are 8 road games left in which the Loons really need to avoid going winless on the season.

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Starting next Saturday, Aug 5, Major League Soccer will become the world’s first professional league to introduce Video Assistant Referee full-time. (Here is a good overview of the program via Wikipedia.)

To American sports fans it’s basically video replay. It can be used in a very limited types of review: Goals, penalties, red cards and mistaken identity.

It’s highly likely that there will be some sort of chaos in the opening weeks, days and months. And no doubt it will be highly criticized by a loud minority. I am going to hold my judgement, but on principal I am against it. Human error is a big part of sports, from players to coaches to referees. And using video review can be a slippery slope to potential more and more use, killing the spirit and energy of a game. Let’s hope not.





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