Wednesday kickaround: CCL Final preview, USMNT coaching change, and much more
May 31, 2023
WHILE ASN HAS been primarily focused on the U-20 World Cup over the past two weeks, there is plenty of other news in the American soccer stratosphere to cover including a big shakeup with the United States national team, many Americans abroad seasons ending, a full slate of MLS games, and the CCL Final.
With that said, let’s get right into it.
Hudson leaves U.S. Soccer
With the United States national team set for a big six weeks ahead with the 2023 Nations League and Gold Cup tournaments, the team will have to do so with another interim head coach as Anthony Hudson has left his post to take a coaching job abroad.
Now with less than three weeks away from the USMNT – Mexico game in the Nations League semifinal in Las Vegas, B.J. Callaghan will take control of the team through the summer. Callaghan, 41, is a native of New Jersey and has been an assistant USMNT coach for four years. Prior to joining the staff under Gregg Berhalter, Callaghan was heavily involved with the Philadelphia Union, first in the academy and later as first team assistant under Jim Curtin.
It's hard to analyze this too much. Callaghan will likely try to keep the team moving forward in the manner of Berhalter and not try to change things too much. The best he can do is be consistent with the past so that the players know what to expect in camp and during the games ahead. Any kind of significant changes in approach will come in the fall once the new manager is hired (or Berhalter is rehired).
In the press release, U.S. Soccer mentioned how Callaghan has been the point of contract for about 12 players including Yunus Musah, Ricardo Pepi, Tim Weah, Tim Ream, Brenden Aaronson, Walker Zimmerman, Tyler Adams, and Zack Steffen.
Ream, who is the team’s longest tenured veteran and who has easily had the best season of any American player anywhere, offered up a supporting quote.
“First of all, congratulations to Anthony and we wish him all the best in his new opportunity,” Ream said. “After speaking to B.J., one main takeaway is that nothing changes for this group. The messaging, goals, and ideas stay the same, with a new voice at the top. His is a familiar voice that we are all comfortable with and have been around for years. We are positioned well to win another Nations League and we need to be prepared from day one of camp to get the job done.”
Thank you. ???? pic.twitter.com/ZzevXLmKEc— U.S. Men's National Soccer Team (@USMNT) May 30, 2023
And in the news release there was a lot of mention about team culture and how Callaghan was part of building that.
“Apart from the analysis side of my job, I always viewed myself as a guy looking after the culture of the team,” Callaghan told ussoccer.com of his time with the USMNT. “I take a lot of pride in making sure everyone feels connected to the team and is contributing to the culture of the group. I always viewed myself as the glue and someone who was supporting the messages coming from the head coach. With two important competitions approaching us quickly this summer, I feel continuity is what we need.”
It is easy to see why U.S. Soccer turned to Callaghan as a last-minute job to keep the team moving forward. He was the best option for a hire that is designed to maintain the status quo. It is probably true that the players like Callaghan and will know what to expect from him.
But this doesn’t change the fact that Callaghan has a very tough job, no matter how comfortable the players are with him. It would be a tough job right now no matter who the coach is – whether it be Callaghan, Berhalter, Hudson, Jesse Marsch, Jurgen Klopp, any anyone else.
The reality is that just about everyone on the team will be arriving in June on the heels of a tough season. The last nine months have not been a good period for American players. Ream has had the best season but he is returning from a fractured arm. Antonee Robinson, Mark McKenzie, Ricardo Pepi, and Ethan Horvath are some of the rare exceptions. Cameron Carter-Vickers and Malik Tillman had good seasons in Scotland but they’re currently injured.
But it’s been especially rough for many of the team’s top players. Christian Pulisic and Chelsea have had a tumultuous season. Gio Reyna’s productivity numbers have been good but his total number of minutes played is way down. Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams (who has been injured), and Brenden Aaronson have been relegated at Leeds. Yunus Musah has struggled mightily at Valencia and may have lost his starting job. It looks like Joe Scally has lost his starting job at Monchengladbach. Luca de la Torre and Celta Vigo are collapsing and another relegation for de la Torre is very possible. Tim Weah has been playing mostly fullback at Lille because it is the only way to get him on the field. Sergino Dest has had a lost season at Milan and never plays anymore. Matt Turner didn’t play a single minute in the Premier League this season. Chris Richards only rarely played.
Even further down the depth chart, it’s mostly tough news. Erik Palmer-Brown and Troyes were relegated. Jordan Pefok hasn’t scored since September. Matthew Hoppe’s loan to Hibernian did not work out. Reggie Cannon almost never plays right back anymore.
Folarin Balogun, has obviously had a great season, and he will now take his first USMNT steps under Callaghan.
This laundry list above is what Callaghan will have to manage when the team soon assembles. He may have been a great assistant that helped the team in its big summer in 2021, throughout qualifying, and then in Qatar. But managing this group at this present moment is tough.
He’ll have to ask questions about the form of injured players and players who rarely played to figure out the best possible lineup right now. That’s a tough thing for anyone.
USMNT schedules two games
While it is a distant thought for anyone, U.S. Soccer announced its two friendlies for the October international window:
- October 14: USMNT vs. Germany at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, CT
- October 17: USMNT vs. Ghana at Geodis Park in Nashville, TN
The #USMNT has announced 2 friendlies.— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 30, 2023
- vs. Germany on October 14 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, CT (3pm ET)
- vs. Ghana on October 17 at Geodis Park in Nashville, TN (8:30pm ET)
The games in the September window have not been formally announced but the fall will be an important time for the team as it will be moving forward with a permanent head coach.
CCL Final: LAFC vs. Leon
On Wednesday night, Los Angeles FC will be in Mexico to visit Club Leon for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final. LAFC will be looking to keep the trophy in the hands of an MLS team after Seattle became the first MLS team to win the modern version of the tournament last year.
LAFC has a great chance to win this series but, as always, the trip to Mexico will be tough in dealing with the altitude, the hostile atmosphere, and a talented Leon team (who lost to Seattle last year in the quarterfinals).
MATCHDAY. FOR LOS ANGELES. pic.twitter.com/xUWZlN0KzN— LAFC (@LAFC) May 31, 2023
Success for LAFC will be walking out of Mexico with presumably a draw or a narrow one-goal loss. With away goals counting, scoring is also very important. Last year, Seattle was able to rally for a 2-2 draw away to Pumas.
On the balance, this LAFC team is better than Seattle. But this Leon team is also better than Pumas. If LAFC can somehow win in Mexico, they would be heavily favored to win this tournament as the second leg would be in Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, the attacking duo of Denis Bouanga and Carlos Vela and going to be critical.
Should LAFC emerge victorious, it would be a tremendous boost for manager Steve Cherundolo and his growing coaching resume. Cherundolo has been among the most promising former USMNT World Cup players to transition into coaching.
LA Galaxy fire Klein
On Tuesday, the LA Galaxy announced that it had fired team president Chris Klein. The decision was made by AEG President and CEO Dan Beckerman. Head coach and sporting director Greg Vanney will now be in charge of everything and report to Beckerman.
The Galaxy is in contention for the Wooden Spoon with nine points from 14 games. This is all while watching LAFC play in the CCL Final after winning the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup last year.
Galaxy supporters have wanted Klein gone and it’s easy to understand why given the poor run. But it seems as if Klein’s ouster is only going yield positive effects to the team if further changes come. Who will ultimately replace Klein? Is Vanney ever going to find himself in jeopardy?
Fixing the Galaxy seems like a lot of work. As Cincinnati shows, turnarounds in MLS can happen quickly but it also takes a realization over everything that is wrong. Cincinnati replaced a lot of people when they finally got it right. Does the Galaxy understand everything that needs to happen to get to where they want to go?
Full slate of Wednesday MLS games
We have another slate of midweek games in MLS. Among the best matchups is fifth-place Atlanta United hosting the third-place New England Revolution. In particular, it will be fun to watch young American midfielder Noel Buck who is enjoying a breakout season for the Revs. As for Atlanta, U.S. national team defender Miles Robinson is also likely to be a big part of the U.S. team’s summer plans.
Another good game will take place in Chester, PA as the Philadelphia Union host Charlotte. Philadelphia is now looking to rise in the standings and has won four of five. Charlotte has also won four of five and is playing like a true playoff team.
Meanwhile, Inter Miami has lost three games in a row and there is speculation that Phil Neville could be on the hotseat. Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls need to finally show what they’re about. Gerhard Struber is now long out. Troy Lesesne should be comfortable and his team now has just about everyone back. Lewis Morgan is ready. Luquinas is ready. Frankie Amaya is ready. Kyle Duncan is ready. There are no longer any excuses. The team needs to show what they’re about.
New York City hosts FC Cincinnati in another telling game. FC Cincy is atop the East while NYCFC is winless in its last five games. Brandon Vazquez should start for Cincy as he likely is building a case to be part of the USMNT this summer – a tougher job now that Balogun is in the mix.
- Atlanta United vs. New England Revolution
- Columbus Crew vs. Colorado Rapids
- DC United vs. Montreal
- Inter Miami vs. New York Red Bulls
- New York City vs. Cincinnati
- Philadelphia Union vs. Charlotte
- Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire
- Austin FC vs. Minnesota United
- Sporting KC vs. FC Dallas
- Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy
- Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes
- Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo