Evening kickaround

USMNT adds games, Olympic puzzle, Morris & Amaya move, McKennie in limbo, MLS notes, & more

ASN's Brian Sciaretta offers up a column breaking down the news in American Soccer - from the Copa, to the Olympics, to MLS, and to the transfer window.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
June 25, 2024
7:55 PM

THIS IS A VERY BUSY weekend for American Soccer right now on so many different fronts. The U.S. national team is in the middle of the Copa. The USA is hosting the tournament. MLS continues to play during all the tournaments. The Olympic roster will drop next week. Then you have the transfer window prepared to open and that will affect many different players.

Every day brings a wave of news, and it is very difficult to know where to start.

Let’s start with the USMNT


USMNT adds to schedule


After the Copa America, the USMNT will turn to a long process of preparing for the 2026 World Cup on home soil. There will be some Nations League games thrown in and the Gold Cup next summer, but opportunities are limited. Europe has World Cup qualifiers and Nations League games. South America has World Cup qualifiers.

International soccer is at a tough point. With the World Cup expanding to 48 teams, qualifiers won’t be nearly as intense for the top countries. For the USMNT, the key will be finding a way to stay involved in the Copa America regularly, otherwise there really isn’t anything interesting outside of a Nations League or Gold Cup game vs. Mexico during the four years between World Cups.

But for the coming years, teams are going to want to play in the United States ahead of the World Cup. But there are going to be times when regional competitions forces most teams to stay within their region.

With that in mind, U.S. Soccer announced three USMNT games for the coming fall. For fans, it probably won’t move the needled in terms of excitement.

  • September 7: USMNT vs. Canada in Kansas City
  • September 10: USMNT vs. New Zealand in Cincinnati
  • October 12: USMNT vs. Panama in Austin


For the U.S. team to be playing Panama four months after taking them on in the Copa America should be reflective of the options the team has during these fall windows.

As for talking points, there will be a lot of media attention about the coaches when the USMNT hosts Canada with Jesse Marsch getting to face his home country as Canada’s coach.

From a U.S. team perspective, it will be interesting to see how the player pool changes post-Olympics and if any of those players are given a chance to build a case for the full national team.


McKennie faces big summer

For most of 2023/24, Weston McKennie was having a good season with Juventus and he was picking up assists and was a key part of the team as it finished in the Champions League spots and won the Coppa Italia.

But McKennie cooled down the stretch, Max Allegri left and was replaced by Thiago Motta. We now know that Motta’s plans for Juventus do not include McKennie. McKennie recently rejected a move to Aston Villa due to him seeking a reported salary of €5 million net per season (double his Juventus wage). 

McKennie, who turns 26 later this summer, is now scrambling for a club. But this isn’t easy if he maintains his high wage demands. He’s a good player, but he’s not for every team. He also has just 12 months left on his current Juventus deal and can leave next summer on a free (and he can begin negotiating with teams in January).

The problem for McKennie is that if he is seeking €5 million in salary, the market for him is going to be exceptionally thin. Clubs that can afford that, usually have a very high bar to start in central midfield. It is also strange that Juventus have said he’s not in their plans before signing him to an extension. With 12 months left in his deal, clubs are not going to spend a lot to get him knowing Juventus will have to sell him for cheap just to get anything for him.

There have now been reports from the Athletic that FC Cincinnati is asking around. There should be truth to that given the deep pockets of MLS ownership and the status of McKennie in the United States. With McKennie’s value having taken a hit given Juventus’ stance, Cincinnati could make a competitive offer.

Cincinnati is likely a contender but far from the only one. If McKennie is flexible with his salary demands, there is going to be a lot of interest. If McKennie is not, Cincinnati has a real chance.

On a final note, if McKennie sticks around at Juventus because he can't find another club, maybe he can find his way back into the team's plans as he did with Allegri after his unsuccesful loan to Leeds when no one expected him back. 


Olympic Roster next week


U.S. Olympic team head coach Marko Mitrovic will name his Olympic team roster next week and these is a very difficult roster to build. The team has only an 18-player roster, three overage players are allowed, and releases are non-mandatory. That last part is the trickiest part.

Here are just a few issues at play.

Release issues are tough for Bryan Reynolds, Tanner Tessmann (who is likely moving), and Aidan Morris (who is moving to Middlesbrough).

Mitrovic is facing a huge potential problem in central midfield if Morris and Tessmann aren’t released because there are issues with the backups. Obed Vargas has already switched to Mexico. Gianluca Busio injured his hamstring in Venezia’s season finale and did not play in the last camp. Rokas Pukstas has already been taken off the table by Hajduk Split.

Some people reading this might be asking, why not Weston McKennie while he’s getting his club situation sorted out? Good question.

There have been discussions about some of the USMNT age-eligible players coming down to double shift. Assuming Folarin Balogun and Malik Tillman are ineligible given their involvement with England and Germany’s U-21 teams in what were Olympic qualifiers, the remaining players are Gio Reyna, Ricardo Pepi, Joe Scally, Yunus Musah, Kristoffer Lund, and Johnny Cardoso. From that list, Musah and Cardoso stand no shot of being released. Lund doesn’t seem needed. The rest are interesting but still uphill climbs to get them to go to Paris. The hope for Mitrovic is that he gets one or two.

In terms of overage players, it is not that complicated. The age-eligible central defense pool is the weakest area of the team, and it likely means two overage spots are necessary. Walker Zimmerman is one and the other will likely be Miles Robinson.

The third overage spot is still an open question mark. Brandon Vazquez was in the mix, but it might go to a player of necessity if releases are problematic.

For a team who has a roster due next week, that’s a lot of moving parts.

Among the 18 players, Mitrovic likely has the releases: Patrick Schulte, Gaga Slonina, Walker Zimmerman, Miles Robinson, Nathan Harriel, John Tolkin, Jack McGlynn, Taylor Booth, Griffin Yow, Paxten Aaronson, and Duncan McGuire.

That is 11 players who I feel are likely signed off with a release. You can add Gianluca Busio to the mix if he is healthy (which is probably likely).

For the last six, that leaves Mitrovic scrambling for a right back, an age-eligible central defender, three central midfielders, and then an attacker (winger, forward, or a No. 10).  


Marsch & Canada down Peru


After falling to Argentina in its opening Copa America game, Jesee Marsch and Canada defeated Peru 1-0 in front of a small crowd in Kansas City. The winning goal came from Jonathan David on an assist from Jacob Shaffelburg. Maxime Crepeau had to make a big save late to preserve the win.

Canada was up a man from the 59th minute. But even up an man and up a goal, Peru still had plenty of chances.

Argentina defeated Chile 1-0 on Tuesday night. Argentina now has six points, Canada has three, while Peru and Chile both have one. Canada will get to take on Chile with a chance to advance – a draw likely puts them through.

Marsch’s team needs to play its best game to get a result against Chile. They are still a long way from their potential.


Morris prepares to leave


Aidan Morris was given a fantastic send-off from Columbus Crew fans when he was subbed out in the 60th minute of his team’s 4-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.

In that game, Morris completed 89/89 of his passes, had an assist, and showed why he has been such a good player over the years for Columbus.

As for his coming move to Middlesbrough, it is time for him to move. I am not one who believes that players need to rush into a move. I like it when they sign locally and build roots before leaving. But Morris has won two MLS Cups, recovered successfully from an ACL tear, and lifted his team into a CONCACAF Champions Cup final in a run that featured two wins in Mexico.

Morris leaves behind a tremendous footprint with the Crew and he developed a true attachment with the club. Even if he has a long and successful career in Europe, it’s hard to see him never coming back to the Crew.

But his transfer is important. MLS teams have been successful in selling young players in the 18-20 age range. Selling players in the 22-25 age range is another hurdle. Teams are buy less potential and more finished product. There is an expectation at this age range that players will be able to help right away.

If Morris can be successful, it will open a different avenue for MLS teams to positively engage in the global market for players at better prices.


Amaya to Toluca


In news of another American moving abroad, Frankie Amaya is transferring from the New York Red Bulls to Toluca for an impressive fee of around $3.5 million. Toluca finished second in Liga MX’s regular season in May.

For those who have watched the New York Red Bulls the two seasons, Amaya has blossomed as a central midfielder and is one of the more underrated American players in the league. If Amaya were four months younger, he’d be on the U.S. Olympic team and there wouldn’t be a problem in the midfield.

Now he will make a lucrative move that will substantially increase his income.

For the New York Red Bulls, this creates a huge hole in the midfield. With Amaya leaving and Peter Stroud suffering a long-term injury, the team needs to use that money and buy a midfielder ASAP.


Some MLS thoughts


It is a little late, but here are some thoughts on some things around MLS.

Luchi out: Luchi Gonzalez has been fired as San Jose’s head coach. With one point from their last seven games and a league-worst 11 points from 19 games, the results weren’t there for Gonzalez and he was let go after Saturday’s 6-2 loss to LAFC. Two quick points: first, San Jose has problems much bigger than Gonzalez. Things haven’t been right in a long time with the Quakes. Second, Gonzalez has a great resume working with young players at FC Dallas. Maybe his next step will be youth oriented. He should play to his strengths.

New England Revolution turnaround: after being a Wooden Spoon leader in the first half of the season with everything going wrong under new manager Caleb Porter, the New England Revolution reversed things around very quickly. On Saturday, they traveled to Cincinnati and came away with a 2-1 win against one the league’s best teams in one of the league’s most hostile venues.

“I think we are all growing,” Porter said. “That’s it. We’re not too interested in statements. We’re interested in points. We’re interested in substance and interested in continuing to move up the table and get out of this hole. I do love that w.e were able to show to ourselves, and obviously for these guys, to feel confident about beating a team like Cincinnati, because now we know we can go into any game not hoping to win, but expecting to win. I think that’s the mindset

Cincinnati’s injury concerns: Cincinnati might be in the push to sign McKennie, but they need central defense. Matt Miazga is out with a long-term injury and now Nick Hagglund has a broken bone in his leg. Then, Miles Robinson might be gone for three weeks for the Olympics. They’ve made a lot of smart decisions over the years and most of what they have done has worked under this front office. But they need some big upgrades in the back to realizer their potential the rest of the season.

Panic button for Philly: The 2-0 loss at home to Charlotte on Saturday was the Union’s third loss in a row. They now have one win in their last 13 MLS games. One thing Philadelphia might be showing is that MLS is a fast-changing league. It’s like an iPhone or any other piece of technology – things get out of date quickly. Look at the Union’s central defense tandem of Jack Elliot or Jakob Glesnes. They were once the best in the league. Now, they’re big reason why the club is struggling.

I’d go ahead and hit the Panic Button if I’m Philadelphia. They need some serious changes with the roster, not the coach or front office.

Too late to panic for SKC: After the 4-0 loss to Columbus, it’s too late to hit the Panic Button for Sporting Kansas City. I don’t see them pulling another turnaround like they did last season. They need a lot of changes. On Tuesday, Sporting KC fired technical director and vice president of player personnel Brian Bliss. If the team is serious, this is just not enough.

RSK’s streak snapped: Real Salt Lake saw its 15 game unbeaten run snapped in a 1-0 loss to the Galaxy but we are still awaiting word on Chico Arango’s injury which forced him out of the game. He’s one of the league’s MVP candidates this season, so far. As for RSL, they’ll be fine if Arango is cleared to play.

Both LA teams are in great form: LAFC drilled the Quakes 6-2 and the Galaxy went into RSL and came away with a 1-0 win. Both teams have four wins in their last five games. Both teams have 37 points to make up a three-way tie (along with RSL) on points for top of the West. The Galaxy have hit a home run with the two recent DP signings Gabriel Pec and Joseph Paintsil. This comes after a long run of expensive busts. Meanwhile, LAFC has been the best team in the league over the past month and watching Kei Kamara score for them now is just icing on the cake.

Olsen wins return to DC: Ben Olsen returned to the nation’s capital to face the team he played and coached for a two-decade run, but this team he was coaching the Houston Dynamo. All of his team’s goal were in the second half and DP forward  Sebastián Ferreira had a hat trick. But Houston reportedly has a new DP forward coming in. So, what happens with Ferreira?

Meanwhile, Olsen continues to be doing a very good job with Houston.

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