USMNT gets Copa Group of Life, Pepi continues hot run, MD-1 in Columbus, & More
December 08, 2023
WE’VE MADE it to Friday and the news continues to come fast. Last night we had the Copa America draw and throughout the week we’ve had stories in the lead up to MLS Cup, games with Americans Abroad, and all sorts of other stuff.
So with that, let’s just start at the top
Copa America Draw
After a bunch of boring speeches, the draw for the 2024 Copa America was held last night after the tournament’s venues were announced earlier in the week.
The USMNT was draw into Group C along with Uruguay, Panama, and Bolivia.
Here is the draw and the team’s schedule.
USMNT vs. Bolivia: June 23, 2024 - Arlington, Texas
USMNT vs. Panama - June 27, 2024 - Atlanta, Georgia
USMNT vs. Uruguay - July 1, 2024 - Kansas City, Missouri
Take on the draw
This was a good draw for the United States. They face a known opponent in Panama and one of the weakest teams in South America before hosting a powerful Uruguay team in what should be a pro-American crowd.
There were four seeded teams: The USA, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. The U.S. team received the best draw. Consider that among the two teams yet to be decided, one could be an underperforming but still talented Canadian team. Argentina could in fact face Peru, Canada, and Chile. That is a hard draw for the reigning World Cup and Copa American champs. Meanwhile, Brazil has Colombia and Paraguay along with a CONCACAF TBD.
The U.S. got the draw it wanted, and the team should be a tough out playing at home. The key is to get six points ahead of the group finale against Uruguay.
"Excitement, that's what it is. The next year is going to be a phenomenal year."@JennyTaft spoke with @USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter following the 2024 Copa América draw ?? pic.twitter.com/wqGHR22sPe
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 8, 2023
Afterward, Gregg Berhalter spoke about being favored to advance.
"That's the reality," Berhalter said. "And for us it's about now going on the field and competing. We know that you can be favorites and not win the game. So, for us it's about being focused, trying to get momentum with the fans and then trying to go as far as we can in this tournament."
As for the preparations, Doug McIntyre confirmed reports last night on Fox Sports that the USMNT is set to play Brazil in a pre-Copa friendly as well as another team depending on the draw (they don’t want to play a group stage opponent).
Berhalter also spoke about juggling the two rosters with the Olympics and he said that he is looking to send the strongest team possible to the Copa America.
There were a lot of games abroad this weekend and there were some significant Americans abroad stories generated among them.
The big one was on Thursday where PSV defeated Heerenveen 2-0 behind a Guus Til goal in the 33rd minute that was assisted by Malik Tillman and a Ricardo Pepi goal that was scored in the 78th minute.
The assist from Tillman came down the left side and he was a nice cross to set up Til. Tillman ended up playing 90 minutes. As always, the question with him is whether he will convince PSV to exercise its option to buy him on the loan from Bayern. That should be his end goal as he's in a good spot.
Then Pepi’s goal was just another classy finish by a player who is in great form.
As for Pepi, I am expecting him to get some chances to start very soon. I think that is why he was playing with Jong earlier this week when he was given a full 90 minutes.
Other takeaways this week was that Matt Turner is looking better and better after a terrible outing for Nottingham Forest in a 5-0 loss to Fulham. Forest’s Odysseas Vlachodimos had a nightmare of a performance. To be fair, Forest’s defense was nonexistent and they wouldn’t have gotten a result with Turner. But Vlachodimos was part of the problem, not part of the solution. In another note, it was a good 75 minute shift from Antonee Robinson who is also in great form.
Cameron Carter-Vickers only played the first half of Celtic’s 4-1 win over Hibs on Wednesday but Celtic manager Bendan Rodgers said it was just precautionary.
Brendan Rodgers on taking Cameron Carter-Vickers off at HT today:
— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) December 6, 2023
“Just a precaution. He felt his hamstring a little tight. He wanted to continue but there's no point in risking him when we've got a centre-half on the bench.”
Jonny Cardoso played what was likely his last match for Internacional in a 3-1 win over Botofogo. He came into the game in the 72nd minute to see out the win and he was given the armband. He is linked with a move to Real Betis in January.
MLS Cup MD-1
It’s the old Matchday minus one in Columbus as the Crew prepare to host LAFC in the final and later today, Don Garber will give his annual State of the League address. Between Apple, Messi, a proposed fourth DP spot, continued expansion, a new tournament with South American teams, there is going to be a lot to talk about.
There are a lot of great storylines for this game. Here are some of my favorites:
Crew forward Diego Rossi gets to take on his former team in LAFC (where he was then sold to Fenerbahce).
Can Giorgio Chiellini at 39 stay with the Crew’s attack that includes Cucho Hernandez and Rossi? No matter what, Chiellini has been a great acquisition for LAFC and an ambassador for the league.
Is this the finale for Chiellini and Carlos Vela who see their contracts end after this year? Charles Boehm had a good piece on this.
Both teams have two very good goalkeepers who are in form: Crew’s Patrick Schulte and LAFC’s Maxime Crepeau. How will both fare?
How does the Crew stop Denis Bounaga who set records this season with goals?
Prediction: I think the Crew will win this 2-1. Homefield advantage has been important in these playoffs and LAFC has not dealt with forwards yet in the postseason in the manner of Hernandez and Rossi. The Crew’s difference makers are younger, and they have been playing well. Schulte will have to make some big saves for this to happen, and I think he will.