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FBR8. UCL Special: MW1

The first matches of the 18/19 Champions League are in the books, and there were some stunners, some thrillers, and some snoozers. Now, Hunter (8-8) and Zander (10-6) are here to lay it all out for you. (Those numbers are how their picks fared, FYI.)

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FBR7. 18/19 Match Day 5 & UCL Match Day 1 Picks

The EPL (and all of European football) is back after their first international break and Hunter & Zander tell you how it all shook out. Then, they go over UCL Match Day 1 action coming to you on Tuesday and Wednesday, revealing their intensely thought-out picks.

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Match Report: US v. Mexico – Sept. 11, 2018

Some games just mean more. Whether it is the time or place or opponent, some games just end up holding a place in the mind of a team or player that puts it above others. For the US, those games are any time they play our archrivals, Mexico, and considering the date of this particular occasion, the stakes for this match were even higher. September 11th holds a special meaning for every American; it is a dark reminder of one of the most tragic days in our history. The US knew this full well and even visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York in preparation for the match. Who is to say how much any of this impacted the players, but coming off of a dull, 2-0 loss against Brazil, they needed something to give them a spark, and, unfortunately, the pre-game tactics of USMNT Head Coach, Dave Sarachan, were not going to get that job done.

The US came into this match even more shorthanded than the previous. John Brooks, one of the best performers of the Brazil match, and Paul Arriola, one of the worst, both returned to their respective sides, Brooks to Wolfsburg in Germany, Arriola to DC United. These sort of personnel changes, combined with the lackluster result against Brazil, would seem to indicate a need to change the tactics of the side, but no. Sarachan rolled out the same 4-1-4-1 formation that struggled to put pressure on the Brazilian defense with only cosmetic alterations, and as the first half rolled along, the side played to type. The possession was fine, not great, and they could not build any forward motion that held its conviction. Anchored by goalkeeper Zach Steffen, who snuffed out Mexico’s few opportunities including saves in the 15’ and 37’, the central defense held firm against Mexico’s attack and continued to outshine the other areas of the squad. Going forward, there will be a real debate about the best center back pairing for the US. Right now, Brooks and Miazga have their places nailed down, but Carter-Vickers is young and could start to pressure them, if they are not careful. The only real difference between the tactics of this and the Brazil match was the concerted effort made by the US to try to feed Gyasi Zardes, who replaced the phantasmic Bobby Wood in the starting XI, over the top. None of these balls were successful or even close to it, so both sides continued to be stymied at a scoreless draw. Then, as the half drew near, Weston McKinnie, a standout from this camp, picked up a knock, and was relieved by Julian Green, leaving the match scoreless at the halftime whistle.

Coming out for the second half, the US showed their first signs of life. Sarachan had shifted formations from the 4-1-4-1 to a more traditional 4-4-2, moving Green up from McKinnie’s midfield roll into a forward spot and brining up Wil Trapp to fill the void in midfield. The possession in this new formation was much better, more prolonged, and the legitimate attacking chances started to materialize. Then, the US hit Mexico with a 1-2-3 punch over the course of 15 minutes.

First, Sarachan brought on Antonee Robinson in the 56’ for Eric Lichaj at left back. Lichaj had struggled all evening with his possession, positioning, and temper, nearly picking up a yellow card for dissent in the first half for arguing a throw-in call, so the substitution was justified. Robinson’s influence was felt immediately. He brought pressure up the left side of the pitch and brought US possession with him. It was a good rebound for Robinson who was caught out of position against Brazil several times and had a less than stellar performance overall. Then, in the 67’, just after a shouting match inside the US 18 between Matt Miazga and Mexico’s Diego Lainez, which featured Miazga mocking the striker’s 5’5’’ frame, Mexican midfielder, Angel Zaldivar made an exceedingly dangerous, two-footed slide into the feet and legs of Trapp. His attempt was no where near the ball and caught Trapp with full studs on the shin. With the referee standing less than 10 yards away, Zaldivar received a much earned straight red card. When play resumed, the US continued their good form and in the 71’, after good build-up on the left side of the pitch, Robinson laid off a grounded cross to just above the penalty spot. Zardes had already made his run, pulling the Mexican defense forward, which created a pocket of space that was filled in by the trailing Tyler Adams, who placed a strike past the Mexican keeper. The rest of the half was positive, but uneventful. Neither side had many good opportunities, but the US had the majority of possession, which is expected as they were a man up. In the end, the score line remained 1-0, US.

The result is obviously good. Anytime you win, it is hard to be displeased, but the first half was definitely a blemish. Overall, there were some bright performances and fewer disappointments than against Brazil, most notably the improved play of Robinson and the poor play of the man he replaced, Eric Lichaj, but looking at this two game series as a unit, there were some definite standouts:

• The central defense looks stout, as I already mentioned (even if I was never too keen on Miazga before the series), and Zach Steffen looks like he is solidifying his place atop the goalkeeper depth chart.

• Yedlin is already showing great improvement after his move to and increased role with Newcastle United, and should be a perpetual starter on the back line.

• Adams, even if you ignore his goal, appears to be a solid choice for a holding midfielder role, and his pairing with McKinnie, who also came out of this series looking quite good, in the middle of the pitch should be a partnership to watch moving forward. They need to get to know each other’s tendencies a little more, but that will come with time.

• Pulisic was present, even in his absence. His skill set seems to perfectly align with the most glaring gap in this camp’s side. His attacking talent, in mindset, possession, and distribution (especially on set pieces), was very much needed.

Moving forward to the next set of matches in October and getting a 10,000 foot view of the side, there are some areas of concern and consideration:

• While the US has a good crop of defenders to use when completing the defense that would already include Miazga, Brooks, Carter-Vickers, and/or Yedlin, their inexperience in these two matches was apparent and there were times their effort to get back after a run up the pitch was questionable. If any of those four solid defenders go down with an injury, the US would have a hard time replacing them.

• If the US moves Pulisic more central, in a sort of 4-4-1-1 sort of system, the performances at the wing position did not instill confidence that they would be able to perform well. Weah is developing at PSG, so he should get better, but over the two matches, they had the second hardest time as a group. Arriola was bad against Brazil, Acosta was decent after came in against Brazil and against Mexico, but not a standout, and Green was active, but not productive.

• The group that causes the most concern is the forwards. Zardes has had a great year with the Columbus Crew, but that did not translate into a good performance against Mexico. Bobby Wood has never impressed with anything other than his positioning. He can get to the right place, but struggles with finishing. It would have been nice to have seen Novakovich at some point during these matches, considering his good start of the season in the Eredivisie, but Sarachan decided against it. Josh Sargent is a good prospect, but he was too busy tearing it up with Werder Bremen’s U23 side, 5 goals in 7 matches, to report for this camp. He may end up being a great and natural fit up top, but the US has not seen enough from him with the senior squad to say that for certain. There are some older forwards that could have a role moving forward, like Jozy Altidore, but they would all be getting a little long in the tooth by the time the next World Cup arrived.

All in all, the squad came out with a good, not great result, but the path forward remains quite undecided. Sarachan is still the interim head coach, and the decision about his replacement is said to be coming before the end of the year, but nothing more specific than that. There is scuttlebutt that Gregg Berhalter is likely to be named as the coach once the MLS season ends, but those are just rumors. Whoever they hire will be adopting a team full of talent and potential, but in need of direction, identity, and coaching. In the end, the future for the US is bright, especially considering how dark the past year and half has been, but it is quite uncertain.

Match Report: US v. Brazil – Sept. 7, 2018

The honest truth is that the United States Men’s National Team is in a rough spot. Are they better off now than they were a year ago? Absolutely, but that can only be said because their biggest failing of this century is now behind them. Missing the 2018 World Cup was an inexcusable catastrophe that now serves as a tombstone for a series fading national team favorites.  Clint Dempsey and Jermaine Jones, players that were shoe-ins for starting spot when healthy one or two years ago, are recently retired and there are serious discussions in the USMNT camp about the futures of captains and mainstays, most notably Michael Bradley. These are uncomfortable and necessary conversations considering the recent past, the amazing flood of young talent that has been and continues to be discovered among US eligible players, and the long slog that qualifying for the Qatar World Cup will be; however, talking is not enough. Continue reading Match Report: US v. Brazil – Sept. 7, 2018

FBR3: 18/19 Match Day 3

Three weeks are in the EPL books and, if you didn’t already know, Liverpool is obviously running away with it. I mean, why even try now? Also, Man United has bailed Arsenal out of the hot seat among the big six by being in total disarray, a bunch of USMNT guys got into action as the Bundesliga kicked off, and Puma’s new release is kinda weird.

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41. NBA, NFL, & Segment Segment

Don’t be put off by the title, this is a fun ep. Hunter and Zander bounce the conversation all over the place. It was just kinda hard to pick out what the sections were actually supposed to cover. They end up talking about sandwiches and Chick-fil-a in the NBA section. The Seg Seg includes Club Irrelevant, Pod O’ Beef, and Q’s from Youse.

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39. Tiger vs. Phil, CFB Top 25, “Hey, We Just Watched This!” – Colts vs. Ravens, & Segment Segment

Whew. Hunter got steamed in this one, some real hot takes. He and Zander started off by improving the “Deathmatch in the Desert” between Tiger and Phil, checked the AP Top 25, reviewed their trip to a Colts game, and then did a huge Segment Segment of Pod O’ Beef, the new Overrated Opinions, and Q’s from Youse.

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32. “Hey, We Just Watched This!”, VGRFYBM: Super Mario Odyssey, & Segment Segment – 8/3/2018

Whoa. Grant got on three episodes in a row? How’d that happen? Whatever. Today, Hunter, Zander, & Grant talked about a nature doc they just watched, break down Super Mario Odyssey, and do a huge Segment Segment with Q’s from Youse, Peaks & Lows: Elementary School, & 5 Rules to Live By: College.

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27. Interview with Grant Brown, “Hey, We Just Watched This!”, & Segment Segment – 7/22/2018

We were joined by one of our writers today! Check in and get to know Grant Brown a little. Then, Hunter and Zander talk about VVitch and have a good ole time with Grant in the Segment Segment. “Pod O’ Beef” and a new segment, “Highs & Valleys,” are included. Continue reading 27. Interview with Grant Brown, “Hey, We Just Watched This!”, & Segment Segment – 7/22/2018

26. World Cup Wrap-up, NBA Off-season, & Segment Segment – 7/19/2018

There’s a lot of beef in today’s episode as Hunter & Zander wander hither, thither, and yon around the main topics of the episode. Then, they introduce some more variety into the Segment Segment with the inception of the “Q’s from Youse” and “Pod O’ Beef” segments, as well as a VGRPRFYBM. Continue reading 26. World Cup Wrap-up, NBA Off-season, & Segment Segment – 7/19/2018

25. Mega-Sized Return from a Break – 7/13/2018

We are back from our break! Hunter and Zander spend a bunch of time going through what they missed during the past few weeks.  Considering the World Cup is almost over, NBA Free Agency has mostly shaken out, and summer has more behind us than ahead, that is a lot of stuff.  They also debut a new segment and the new and improved Segment Segment. Continue reading 25. Mega-Sized Return from a Break – 7/13/2018

Prospects to Watch This Season in College Basketball

You may not know it from looking at us, but we are huge college basketball fans here at MMITM. Zander and I were talking about some things to watch for this upcoming season and it got me thinking, in this world of one and dones, which freshmen should we be watching this season? There are plenty of other players I could have put here, but I wanted to keep the list to five players so please don’t be upset with my list (or do, I will sleep just fine either way). Continue reading Prospects to Watch This Season in College Basketball

13. College Football Playoff – 11/13/2016

Wow. It’s been a good bit since we have had a podcast and a lot has happened in the world… but we are ignoring all of it and focusing in on the chaotic college football Saturday that was November 12th. Half of the top ten teams lost this past weekend and the College Football Playoff is in turmoil. How will it all shake out? Well, we have some ideas.