Positive News From Europe Encourages U.S. Fans
October 21, 2016
Bradley prepares for home debut
Bob Bradley lost his Swansea City coaching debut, 3-2 away at Arsenal, and the team's performance generated a fair amount of chatter. There was a huge talent gap separating the two teams but Bradley’s men played extremely hard and nearly earned a result. Arsenal had not conceded two goals in a match since August 14 and had not been scored on in its last four matches.
The bad news: Swansea fell into the relegation zone as a result. Bradley’s team is going to have inferior talent to just about every team this season unless management makes major upgrades in January. The former U.S. national team coach is going to need to find a way to win games as the underdog and that is why he was hired—to make this uphill climb.
The good news is that the team looks poised to fight for him—at least at the start. And yes, if the team plays at the level it did last weekend, it will win games. Bradley has been doing all the right things right now to earn the support among the team’s fans. He has come across as enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and dedicated. On Tuesday he made a surprise visit to the Swansea City Disabled Supporters Association's Q&A session at the Liberty Stadium and greeted the fans personally.
Bradley has always done a great job interacting with fans. He famously marched with the people of Egypt as the country fell into political unrest and 74 fans were killed in the Port Said soccer riot in 2012.
That does not mean he will be successful but it should buy him needed time and give him the benefit of the doubt early. A win over Watford this weekend will go a long way toward extending the goodwill.
Danny Williams quietly surging
The October friendlies were important to determine a pecking order of central midfielders beyond the aging Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman. While Sacha Kljestan made a strong case for an attacking role, Danny Williams put himself above Caleb Stanko and Perry Kitchen for the No. 6 spot. With the reported downturn of Darlington Nagbe’s relationship with U.S. Soccer staff, Williams seems primed for a call-up for the Hexagonal.
Williams remains a vital player at Reading, as the club sits in 10th place in England's second tier. On Saturday he scored a goal in a 1-1 draw with Queens Park Rangers and while it's hard to see him starting against Mexico he could be in line to get minutes off the bench.
American fans have been waiting for Williams to turn the corner in Klinsmann’s pecking order since 2011 but he looks to be closer now than he has ever been.
Pulisic expands role at Dortmund
Christian Pulisic, 18, continues to make the most of his opportunities with Borussia Dortmund and went a full 90 on Tuesday in a 2-1 win over Portugal’s Sporting CP.
Pulisic now has played 495 minutes for Dortmund’s first team this season across all competitions. His upward trajectory has been remarkable and he now has a very good chance at starting the qualifier against Mexico.
The Pennsylvania native is playing very well and while there will be rough patches ahead—as there are with any young player—he has raised the bar for American teenagers. The sky appears to be the limit with this special talent.
Timothy Chandler is rising
The fastest rising American abroad over the past month is Timothy Chandler. The German-American has not only reclaimed his starting spot with Eintracht Frankfurt but he is also performing very well for the club. Last weekend he assisted on an equalizing goal in a 2-2 draw against reigning champions Bayern Munich.
This is going to set up a very difficult decision for U.S. national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Chandler, 26, has 141 Bundesliga appearances in his career and at times he has played at a very high level in Germany.
His U.S. national team career has been very rocky, though—much to the frustration of American fans. He has had commitment issues in the past and his best performance with the Yanks came in his first cap under Bob Bradley in 2011
Meanwhile, DeAndre Yedlin is decent at right back for the U.S., and has gradually improved. Unfortunately for Yedlin, he is not starting at Newcastle United which is leading the Championship (and therefore not pressed to make a change).
Now with the U.S. facing its biggest rival to open the Hexagonal, does Klinsmann go with Yedlin, who is firmly established in the team, or does he roll the dice with the unreliable Chandler?
Miazga makes first Eredivisie start
Young players almost always hit peaks and valleys. Since joining Chelsea, it has been tough for Matt Miazga to get minutes. Not surprisingly, he played just twice for Chelsea’s first team in the spring and then he was sent out on loan to Vitesse.
The New Jersey native has been riding the bench in the Netherlands since his arrival but got the chance after Maikel van der Werff picked up a long-term injury. Miazga made his first Eredivise start last Saturday in a 2-2 draw with AZ Alkmaar and generally earned favorable reviews for his play.
Can he sneak back into the U.S. picture? If he can emerge as a regular starter for Vitesse and take the job away from van der Werff, perhaps he can be a back-up option for either Geoff Cameron or John Brooks.