The USMNT is doomed? Try again.

Remember the halfway point?

Sadness. . .

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Last night the United States faced their final game of FIFA World Cup qualifying. Win and go to Russia. . . or lose and go home.

The opponent was Trinidad and Tobago, two small islands from the Caribbean whose backup goalkeeper is still in college. A winnable game? Yes. Did they win? No, they played like they didn’t care. Clint Dempsey didn’t break the goalscoring record. Christian Pulisic’s heroics didn’t rescue the United States. Small, lonely T&T knocked off the land of “fake news”.

Naturally people are bound to overreact, and of course I get to rip this apart. A common phrase sweeping around the Internet is “the USMNT are doomed!” Clint Dempsey will be 38 in four years. Michael Bradley will be 34. Tim Howard will be ancient. How could we possibly recover?

Look at the players coming up through the youth system. Club Brugge’s Ethan Horvath has proved himself a decent shot stopper for one of the Belgian Pro League’s finest sides. He’s only 22. We don’t have to talk about 19 year old Pulisic. We can mention Darlington Nagbe, a 27 year old energetic playmaker that burst onto the scene last summer, and should fill Bradley’s shoes.

Remember the name Weston McKennie. The lively 19 year old midfielder is making waves in the Bundesliga, and Schalke 04 have rewarded him with a five year contract extension. He’s appeared in six of Schalke’s eight games since the end of preseason, and is creating chance after chance for Leon Goretzka and Co.

I can’t wait to see him play alongside Pulisic in the red, white, and blue. Both will be 24 when Qatar rolls around, and even Gedion Zelalem might take strides at mighty Arsenal. To everyone who thinks the USMNT are doomed:

McKennie — Nagbe — Pulisic

 

 

Look out.

College Football Power Rankings Week 6

A quick note: Because I procrastinated last week, two posts in a row will be CFB power rankings. Fun.

Where did that come from? Week 6 was supposed to be a boring, predictable slate of games. It was anything but. Oklahoma and Michigan went down, Alabama had trouble with Texas A&M, and Miami launched itself into the playoff race. As you might expect, the rankings changed quite a bit.

1. Clemson

The top spot is unchanged this week, as the Tigers took care of Wake Forest despite their star quarterback going down.

2. Alabama

I confess the second paragraph is not entirely true. The Tide only beat Texas A&M by 8 points. . . but they had a two touchdown lead until the final minute. Don’t expect them to drop anytime soon.

3. Georgia

The SEC Championship Game might be contested by the top two teams this year. The Bulldogs’ latest victim is Vanderbilt, a team Alabama whacked 59-0. Georgia delivered an almost as impressive 45-14 win, and the undefeated Bulldogs are in control of the East. And where is the SEC Championship Game? Atlanta.

4. Penn State

Last year’s Big Ten champions control the conference. . . for now. The loaded B1G East also features Michigan, Ohio State, and a sneaky good Michigan State team that pulled of a victory in Ann Arbor last week.

5. TCU

Lurking behind the Lions, the Horned Frogs keep picking up impressive victories. They leap over Washington this week after their superb win against West Virginia.

6. Washington

Cal is a solid team that should make a bowl game. The Huskies just don’t care. Washington is destroying opponent after opponent, but the Apple Cup looms.

7. Auburn

Helped by teams above them losing, the Tigers roared to a 44-23 victory over a shell-shocked Mississippi side. Helped by teams above them losing, Auburn rises once again.

8. Washington State

Similar to Auburn, Wazzou moves up after destroying a subpar Oregon side, only because. . . well, upsets.

9. Miami 

The Hurricanes have launched themselves into the national spotlight. Malik Rosier’s heroics against Florida State thrust Miami up five spots in my rankings, and they will climb even further if they remain undefeated and earn a trip to the ACC Championship Game. The Hurricanes would have a chance to book a place in the Playoff by knocking off Clemson.

10. Oklahoma

The Sooners lost to Iowa State’s third string QB. The only thing keeping them in the top ten is that win over Ohio State.

11. Ohio State

The team most affected by Oklahoma’s collapse, the Buckeyes took care of Maryland 62-14. . . but the loss to OU doesn’t look as good anymore.

12. USC

Oregon State is not a good team, and the Trojans won’t benefit from destroying them. Here’s some bad logic not to use. USC beat Oregon State by 28, and Minnesota beat the Beavers by 38. So our Gophers are 10 points better than the Trojans!

I wish.

13. Michigan

In-state rivalry losses don’t look as bad on a resume, especially when your team is playing with its backup quarterback. I’ve seen some people drop the Wolverines all the way to 22. Michigan State is a solid team though, and Michigan boasts some nice non-conference wins.

14. Wisconsin

The Badgers are undefeated, but they will keep falling until they actually play a decent team. Nebraska doesn’t count.

15. North Carolina State

An article detailing this year’s thrilling ACC race will be out soon, and the Wolfpack are in the thick of it. NC State dominated Louisville for the entire game en route to a 39-25 victory. Interesting scoreline, but the Wolfpack are very, very good.

16. Virginia Tech

Another surprise ACC contender, the Hokies’ only loss is to Clemson. They fall one spot due to NC State’s massive win and their uninspiring 23-10 victory over Boston College.

17. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys had a bye last week. Don’t expect much change in their ranking unless the teams above are upset.

18. Notre Dame

The Irish benefit from Michigan State’s win at the Big House, a team Notre Dame beat by 20.

19. San Diego State

20. South Florida

21. UCF 

Three impressive Group of Five teams who look like the prime contenders for the slot in the New Year’s Six appear here, and could rise in the rankings. SDSU in particular, as a win at Boise State would be very impressive.

22. Stanford

Filling the shoes of Christian McCaffrey is a challenging task. But Bryce Love is tearing up Pac-12 defenses, and Stanford have won four straight.

23. Louisville

24. Texas Tech

25. Navy

 

Hopefully you all enjoyed the article! Come back tomorrow for analysis of the thrilling ACC race unfolding before our eyes.

 

Join After the Whistle’s NFL Fantasy league!

Do you have what it takes?

This year, After the Whistle has teamed up with the epitome of nerd stats, Futhead. Think you can win? Do you think you can beat me? Can you beat the Futheaders?

Slots in the league are filling up fast, so hurry! Comment your email down below so I can invite you to the fantasy league, or email championofkb@gmail.com.

Also, if you manage to win the league, you will be treated to a feature on the blog.

Gold Cup 2017: Predicting Semifinals

At last the four best teams have done their jobs. Some have smashed their way through to the semifinals, and some merely survived. This is where it gets harder to predict.

Costa Rica vs. United States

This is going to be a simply thrilling Saturday night in Phoenix. On one hand you have the sleeping American giant, fresh off absolutely dominating El Salvador. Then you have Los Ticos, who just barely scraped through against Panama. However, El Salvador is hardly on Panama’s level.

Costa Rica is missing four key players to injury, and star goalie Keylor Navas has not been allowed to come to the Gold Cup as he is in Real Madrid’s squad for the club’s preseason tour. The US are also without players that play for a European clubs, as Christian Pulisic, Fabian Johnson, and John Brooks are not able to come. The Americans should be able to get through to the final, as they can exploit Costa Rica’s lack of healthy wingers and second-string goalkeeper. Pick: USA

Mexico vs. Jamaica

Mexico brought their B-team to this Gold Cup, as many players including Hirving Lozano and Carlos Vela were subject to CONCACAF’s international playtime restrictions as they had taken part in the Confederations Cup recently. It hasn’t hindered El Tri yet as they face a full strength Jamaican team that made the final in 2015. Mexico’s midfield presence should dominate Jamaica, and the high press they’ve been utilizing should cause problems. Pick: Mexico

 

So what did you think of my predictions? Let me know in the comments below! Be sure to like and follow if you enjoyed!

 

Upon Further Review: Gold Cup 2017 Group stage/QFs

Welcome back to Upon Further Review, where today I review my CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage and quarterfinal predictions. Here goes.

Group A contained the likes of Costa Rica, Canada, French Guiana, and Honduras. I predicted Costa Rica to top the group. The Ticos did so without a loss. I then said Honduras would finish second with Canada third. The teams swapped positions in real life unfortunately. Everyone would’ve anticipated French Guiana to finish bottom and they did so. However, the hilarious drama created by the French overseas department fielding the ineligible Florent Malouda brought a smile to many fans.

Group B consisted of Panama, Nicaragua, the United States, and island Martinique. Go right down the line as I correctly predicted the USA to top the group with Panama, Martinique, and Nicaragua following.

Group C was the most obvious outcome of them all.I predicted Mexico to top the group and Jamaica second. The final spots were a toss-up and I got them right, putting El Salvador third and Curaçao fourth.

The first quarterfinal featured an intensely boring game between Costa Rica and Panama where Los Ticos did as I predicted, vanquishing the bronze medalists of 2015.

Second and third quarterfinals. US and Mexico win comfortably. Next.

Finally, Jamaica and Canada faced off in the quarter everyone wanted to see. An early goal from Shaun Francis opened the scoring. Jamaica doubled their lead in the 50th minute before Junior Hoilett gave Canada hope 11 minutes later. No further goals were scored and Jamaica moves on, completing my perfect sweep of the quarters.

Group stage score: 10/12.

Quarterfinals score: 4/4

 

Semifinals predictions will be out later today.

 

CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying: Matchday 5 Roundup

Matchday five in the Hexagonal, CONCACAF’s fifth round of World Cup qualifying. Three games. Every nation with a chance to vault up the table should results go their way. Let’s get into it.

At 8:00 ET, the United States took on Trinidad and Tobago. Many fans of the Americans were already looking ahead to Sunday’s clash with Mexico, but their team didn’t want to get ahead of themselves. T&T may have been in the cellar, but with a win the Trinidadians could bounce into the top three.

The US had plenty of chances early on. In the 15th minute, Clint Dempsey received the ball on the edge of the box. His strike flew just over the bar. Then in the 20th minute, John Brooks found himself in a similar position. He kept his shot on target, but J. M. Martinez was more than equal to it.

The Americans exhibited a shocking lack of energy in the 33rd minute, where Kevin Molino launched a terrific cross into the area for T&T striker Kenwyn Jones, but Jones could only watch his header hit the bar.

After the halftime break, the US put the pressure on Trinidad and Tobago. It paid off in the 52nd minute, when Darlington Nagbe found Pennsylvania-born Christian Pulisic for the first goal of the game.

Pulisic added to his track record, scoring another goal and putting the game away ten minutes later. And what a remarkable record he has. This 18 year old would be a college freshman if not for soccer. Instead he has 44 appearances for German giants Borussia Dortmund, won the DFB Pokal with his club, and is the youngest American to score in the UEFA Champions League. He also has seven goals and five assists in 15 international caps for his country. That’s downright impressive.

Pulisic’s brace carried the Americans to a 2-0 win. The other two games were unfortunately not nearly as exciting. Mexico absolutely thrashed Honduras 3-0 with goals from Osvaldo Alanis, Raul Jimenez, and 21 year old wonderkid Hirving Lozano.

Costa Rica faced Panama in the final game of the night. Both sides were missing key players due to injuries. The game finished 0-0 in immensely boring fashion.

Table analysis

At the end of the day, the CONCACAF table looks like what you see at the top of the article.

Mexico is sitting nicely in the top spot with thirteen points. They have the opportunity to cement that position with a win on Sunday against the United States. However, the US will be looking to defeat El Tri, stabilize their position in the top three, and even jump to second if Costa Rica lose. Panama, T&T, and Honduras look to be fighting it out for fourth place.

A quick note: Mexico currently sits in 17th in the world in the FIFA Rankings. If they can move into the top ten AND grab 20 points or more total in qualifying, FIFA will be forced to seed them in the World Cup, which means El Tri will almost certainly get an easier group in Russia.