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Netherlands defeats the USMNT 3-1 in knockout round

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USMNT

The USMNT came up short against the Dutch
Image: Getty Images

How far do moral victories and actual losses go for the United States men’s national team? After failing to defeat The Netherlands at the World Cup, U.S. Soccer needs to take a hard look in the mirror.

There’s one word to describe where the United States men’s national team resides in the landscape of international soccer: Purgatory. The Americans’ third straight World Cup appearance to end in the Round of 16 took place Saturday. The second-youngest team at the tournament — and youngest to make the knockout stage — will depart Qatar with more experience, but also with unknowns. Appearing among the final 16 is better than missing the World Cup, as the USMNT did in 2018. It’s completely fair to view the business trip to Qatar as a dress rehearsal for when North America hosts the quadrennial event in 2026. Only the higher-ups at U.S. Soccer know the answer to this question, but it’s vital it’s answered quickly — how far do the moral victories go?

The Americans’ inexperience showed against the Dutch, falling 3-1. The killer instinct needed to be a global power wasn’t there. Four years down the line, a 28-year-old Christian Pulisic will surely have it. A 27-year-old Tyler Adams is on track to be one of the best midfielders in the world by then. But why wasn’t it there now? A 20-year-old Landon Donovan had it in 2002 at 20 in the only World Cup where the United States won a knockout-round game.

In review of the tournament — and truly the last four years of American soccer, as everything funnels through the World Cup — the first thing that needs to be evaluated is the job status of head coach Gregg Berhalter. The best way to assess whether he should lead the Stars and Stripes moving forward is by his own edict. Treat the World Cup as two different tournaments — the group stage, and the knockout round. The head coach oversees everything. As you grade the USA, you judge Berhalter. The USMNT was impressive in its first three games as the only team in Qatar to not concede a goal in open play during that stretch. Two first-half goals were the Americans’ only scoring efforts in the group stage. So, it wasn’t perfect. The Yanks advanced and that’s truly most of what matters. No doubt a Sadio Mane-less Senegal would’ve been an easier knockout opponent. Group B-winners England earned that right. I give the U.S. a group-stage grade of B+.

Now onto that loss to The Netherlands. This was a masterclass from Holland on how to take advantage of scoring chances. The USMNT had a great start, had opportunities at the Dutch goal, and better overall play in the first half. Against good teams, without a goal, that’s far from good enough. Dutch-born U.S. defender Sergiño Dest had his best 45 minutes in an American uniform to start the game — and got beat once on the final play of the half and Daley Blind scored. Adams had been exemplary in the tournament. The first time he loses track of the opposing player he’s responsible for defending, Memphis Depay scores. The usually solid American midfield looked average for the first time in Qatar. Yunus Musah looked gassed about a half hour in and was never subbed off. Weston McKennie didn’t make a major difference. Adams put out tons of fires, but that matters less amid an inferno.

Knockout round games tend to expose every issue a national team brings to a World Cup if you’re on the losing end. In 2014, the lack of experienced finishers at the international level hurt the USMNT. Jürgen Klinsmann’s decision to leave Landon Donovan at home didn’t hurt him until that knockout-round loss to Belgium. For Berhalter, it was his overall personnel choices. He should be applauded for bringing back Tim Ream and playing the Fulham center back every second the USA was on the field in Qatar. Berhalter brought in three strikers to the showcase, two of whom proved to be ineffective at a World Cup — Jesus Ferreira and Haji Wright. When Josh Sargent got injured against Iran, Berhalter essentially left the U.S. with its pants down, ass out, ready to be spanked. The Netherlands obliged.

Wright scored the only goal against the Dutch where either a mis-hit was the perfect decision or his pop-up was a stroke of genius. Doesn’t matter, he clearly touched the ball and it went into the net.

Wright had two other golden chances and didn’t cash in against Holland and he looked completely useless in his three other World Cup appearances. Ferreira got the start against The Netherlands as the central striker and was invisible, being subbed off at halftime for Gio Reyna. Why couldn’t the Borussia Dortmund striker have started? Reyna didn’t have a standout performance, but he wasn’t put in his ideal position either. Moving Tim Weah to the middle and having Reyna on the right side of the USA attack was the right move. Playing Reyna with his back to goal was an odd tactical decision. Berhalter was late to react the entire tournament with substitutions. He waited too long to bring on Brenden Aaronson in a win-or-go-home game. You throw everything forward with your tournament life at risk and the U.S. still had one change at its disposal in stoppage time.

At the USA’s weakest position, bringing three strikers to Qatar was a mistake from the jump. If you didn’t plan to play Joe Scally or Luca De La Torre one second of the tournament, why leave Jordan Pefok and Ricardo Pepi at home? Of course, you can’t predict injuries, but Berhalter betting on Wright and Ferreira to make a difference was the wrong move and speaks more to his isolationist mentality than any other decision from the World Cup. Your strikers scored one goal in four games. No country hoping to win on the international stage gets that output. Also, Aaronson and Reyna had a combined zero starts in Qatar. Two of the Americans’ best five players only saw the field in the second half of games. Berhalter’s grade for the knockout stage is a D-, only not a complete failure because of how imposing the USMNT looked at times.

Tabulating the results leads to a result of 75 out of 100. The B+ gets an 88 and the D- is represented by a 62. The definition of average. That’s the tough part about exiting the World Cup. This tournament felt like American progress and stagnancy co-existing. Berhalter had four years to find a reliable striker and didn’t. If that guy isn’t in the USMNT talent pool, base your system around not getting exposed up top and Berhalter didn’t make those moves.

Franchise-altering decisions are made in the NFL around a starting quarterback. No team wins a Super Bowl without a proper signal-caller. No team wins a World Cup without a dangerous striker. Without both, you can’t run an offense effectively. We saw the United States sputter in Qatar without a strong tip of the arrow.

The last two USMNT managers to lead the team to a Round of 16 World Cup exit kept their jobs into the following year but were on thin ice. Bob Bradley was fired in 2011. Klinsmann made it to 2016 and should’ve been canned a year earlier. With the biggest stakes U.S. Soccer has ever faced coming in 2026, we should know Berhalter’s employment status moving forward soon. Did he help advance how American soccer is portrayed domestically and abroad? Sure. Did he progress it enough in four years on the job? That’s a true coin flip. And why risk the silver-platter opportunity of hosting a World Cup on heads or tails? That’s why I believe Berhalter needs to go. He left substantial doubt he’s the right man to lead the Yanks moving forward. And the USMNT couldn’t afford its existence when arriving back stateside.



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No mention of Flores’ lawsuit in Goodell Super Bowl presser

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference in advance of Super Bowl LVII at Phoenix Convention Center on Feb. 8, 2023, in Phoenix.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference in advance of Super Bowl LVII at Phoenix Convention Center on Feb. 8, 2023, in Phoenix.
Image: Getty Images

Every year at the Super Bowl, journalists get a chance to ask NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell the questions that need to be answered on live television as the world watches. This year, the inquiries and subject matters ranged from two Black quarterbacks making history, Damar Hamlin, officiating, and the potential ways that the league will broadcast upcoming games. But, the Black cloud — no pun intended — that’s been hovering over the NFL for over a year wasn’t mentioned once on Wednesday. And it’s proof that the NFL is loving the fact that people seem to have forgotten that Brian Flores, Steve Wilks, and Ray Horton have an ongoing class-action lawsuit against the league for its alleged racist hiring practices.

Distractions are part of the game

It’s been over a year since the former Miami Dolphins head coach — and current defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings — dropped a bomb on the sports world when he decided that legal action was the only way to make people thoroughly understand just how rigged the game is for Black coaches in the NFL.

“It’s hard to speak out…but this is bigger than football. This is bigger than coaching,” said Flores.

Days later, Goodell was on stage answering questions at the Super Bowl about that, and more.

“I think I’d start with the basis that racism or any form of discrimination is against our values. And really something that we will not tolerate,” he said at last year’s press conference.

Same as it ever was

On Wednesday, it was more of the same. “I do, but I still feel like there’s better work, and more work ahead of us,” Goodell said about the “meaningful progress” that’s taken place with diversity amongst head coaches. “I think that there is progress, and we’re pleased to see progress. But it’s never enough.”

A lot has happened since Goodell took the stage last year in Los Angeles and when he returned to it in Arizona. For instance, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton joined Flores’ lawsuit. Flores spent last season as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he’s now with the Vikings — as an assistant, again. Wilks was the interim head coach of the Carolina Panthers, but due to the history of the men who carry that title with his skin color, he never had a chance of permanently landing the job — no matter if Panthers owner David Tepper is claiming to be trying to eradicate the league’s “old boys network.” Horton is coaching in the USFL. And you can still count the number of African-American head coaches in the league on one hand and have some fingers left to spare, as Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh), DeMeco Ryans (Houston), and Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay) are the melanated trinity.

I thought Goodell said progress was taking place. Does it look like it to you? Maybe my eyesight is bad.

Last fall, the plaintiffs’ lawyers were alleging racial bias against the NFL as the league wanted things to move to arbitration — where nobody can see. In court documents, the lawyers wrote that “arbitration would allow ‘unconscionably biased one-sided ‘kangaroo courts’ to determine the outcome. If arbitration is where things land, it means that Goodell will be the arbitrator — which is in the best interest of the teams that are being sued, and the league. The latest development occurred last week when it was reported that the judge presiding over the case has requested that more written briefings about arbitration be submitted later in the month.

What does that mean?

That this thing is still in limbo, as we’re waiting to see if this will play out in court or behind closed doors.

But, even if this arbitration decision does go the way of Brian Flores, Steve Wilks, and Ray Horton, we have no idea when the dust will finally settle — which is a win for the league. Because while the league might wind up losing this case, they have a winning strategy. Which is to ignore it, as everyone else did on a Wednesday afternoon in Glendale, Arizona.



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Man United 2-2 Leeds LIVE! Sancho goal – Premier League result, match stream and latest updates today

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S

ubstitute Jadon Sancho’s first goal since September earned Manchester United a thrilling 2-2 draw with Leeds United in the Premier League on Wednesday as the hosts came back from two goals down to salvage a point.

Leeds flew out of the traps and stunned Old Trafford into silence after 55 seconds when Wilfried Gnonto arrowed the visitors in front from the edge of the penalty area.

The home side wasted a host of chances to level in the first half, before Leeds looked to have stormed into a match-winning position early in the second period as Raphael Varane put through his own net to double the visitors’ advantage.

However, in-form Marcus Rashford headed the hosts back into the match in the 62nd minute and Sancho stepped off the bench to rescue his side a point eight minutes later, squeezing the ball past goalkeeper Illan Meslier.

Old Trafford sensed another rousing comeback would be completed with a late winner, but their side ran out of steam, failing to win at home for the first time in 14 matches in all competitions.

United stayed third in the standings, three points ahead of Newcastle United in fourth, having played one game more.

Managerless Leeds climbed one place to 16th, one point clear of the relegation zone.

United had beaten their Roses rivals Leeds by a scoreline of 11-3 in their previous two clashes at Old Trafford, and the visitors were on a seven-game Premier League winless streak which led to manager Jesse Marsch being sacked this week.

Their form made it all the more surprising when Leeds raced into an early lead, Gnonto netting the second-earliest goal scored by an away player at Old Trafford in the Premier League, after Edin Dzeko’s strike in 2014 for Manchester City.

After De Gea denied Leeds a second with a smart stop at his near post, United twice went close to levelling as debutant Marcel Sabitzer volleyed over before Garnacho drilled just wide.

The chances kept coming for the home side, with Garnacho rounding Meslier before seeing an effort blocked and Sabitzer denied by a brilliant save.

The hosts’ profligacy looked to have proved costly as Leeds appeared to be on course to secure a first win in 18 trips to Old Trafford after Varane was powerless to prevent Crysencio Summerville’s cross rolling into his own net.

Rashford, however, had another ideas, steering a header home to become the first Manchester United player to score in six consecutive appearances at Old Trafford in the Premier League since Wayne Rooney in 2012.

Brenden Aaronson hit the post from a Leeds free kick, a let- off Manchester United capitalised on as Sancho, back in the squad after a lengthy absence due to physical and mental wellbeing issues, grabbed the equaliser with a calm finish.

Live updates

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Thank you

Thank you for joining Standard Sport’s LIVE coverage of Manchester United’s draw with Leeds.

Find our report and reaction below.

Good night!

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Ten Hag sends exciting Sancho message after key Man United goal

Erik ten Hag hailed the “magnificent” Jadon Sancho after the Manchester United forward scored his first goal since September in Wednesday’s thrilling draw with Leeds.

The England international only recently made his return to the United set-up after training on his own following what ten Hag said to be “physical and mental issues”.

Sancho’s strike won a point for the home side after Marcus Rashford had first pulled one back following Leeds’ quick-fire start in both halves.

Read Ten Hag’s message in full here!

AFP via Getty Images
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Full match report: Sancho steps up to save Man United but worrying signs without Casemiro

Jadon Sancho’s first goal since September rescued a point for Manchester United in a thrilling draw with rivals Leeds.

Wilfried Gnonto had put the visitors ahead in less than a minute, catching a United side missing the midfield control of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen cold.

Jadon Sancho’s first goal since September rescued a point for Manchester United in a thrilling draw with rivals Leeds.

Wilfried Gnonto had put the visitors ahead in less than a minute, catching a United side missing the midfield control of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen cold.

The home side wasted a host of chances to level in the first half, before Leeds looked to have stormed into a match-winning position early in the second period as Raphael Varane put through his own net to double the visitors’ advantage.

Read our full match report here!

Manchester United via Getty Images
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FT: Man United 2-2 Leeds

A thrilling draw at Old Trafford.

Just a reminder, these two teams play again on Sunday!

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FIVE MINUTES ADDED ON!

90 mins: Are we in for a winner?

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All Man United now

83 mins: Dangerous game for Leeds.

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CHANCE FOR MAN UNITED!

79 mins: Varane heads over the bar!

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Brilliant game

73 mins: Both teams still going for it! Surely there’s going to be a winner.

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GOAL! Man United 2-2 Leeds | Jadon Sancho ‘69

69 mins: MAN UNITED LEVEL!

Sancho squeezes one in from close range!



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Martin Bakole will look to enforce shot at Daniel Dubois | ‘He’s possibly the most avoided heavyweight out there’ | Boxing News

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Martin Bakole will look to force a shot at Daniel Dubois and the WBA ‘regular’ title that the London heavyweight holds.

Bakole’s last outing was an impressive, conclusive win over French Olympic champion Tony Yoka from the away corner.

Born in Congo and now based in Scotland, Bakole has only lost once in his 19-bout professional career.

Martin Bakole
Image:
Martin Bakole is willing to take on anyone in the heavyweight division

He is now rated at number two in the WBA’s heavyweight world rankings and has signed to join new promoter BOXXER.

BOXXER’s Ben Shalom told Sky Sports that Bakole intends to enforce a shot at Dubois.

“I think they’re about to order a mandatory for Daniel, Martin wants that title. Martin is top of the tree in the WBA now,” Shalom said.

“With his win against Tony Yoka, he was so impressive to go out and do that in Paris against a former Olympic champion. On the circuit he’s possibly the most avoided heavyweight out there. Delighted to have him. I think he could challenge for world titles very soon.”

Martin Bakole, Billy Nelson
Image:
Martin Bakole with trainer Billy Nelson

Oleksandr Usyk is the WBA’s full world champion, but Dubois holds a secondary or ‘regular’ belt with that sanctioning body.

The Londoner is recovering from an injury he sustained in his last fight, a scare against Kevin Lerena. That though is the fight Bakole is gunning for.

“Martin backs himself in any fight in the heavyweight division. Daniel Dubois is on his list and Billy Nelson [Bakole’s trainer] has been talking about him for a long time and they’re ready to go,” Shalom said.

“It’s definitely that title that we have our eyes on. Obviously Daniel’s injured at the moment. But luckily with Martin he will fight anyone. They could pick any name for him to fight for that title and he would take it.

“So we’ve got a very, very good heavyweight that’s willing to fight anyone. That’s a perfect mix.”



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