Weah returns, USMNT to Bradenton, Vassilev debuts, Miljevic joins U-20s, & more

The holidays are over, news is in full swing, and there is a lot of good stuff going on. The USMNT found a late-replacement for Qatar, U.S. U-20 mid Indiana Vassilev made his Aston Villa debut, Tim Weah returned from injury, Matko Miljevic is set to join the U.S. U-20s, NYCFC finally has a manager, and much more. The latest from Brian Sciaretta
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 06, 2020
4:00 AM
THERE WAS a lot of news both on and off the field from the weekend and at the top of everything was U.S. Soccer’s decision to relocate January camp from Qatar to Bradenton, Florida due to tensions in the Middle East.

That decision was a no-brainer given recent events but it does for the U.S. team into having to create an entirely new schedule last minute. Part of the benefits of holding camp in Qatar is that there is a large number of European teams holding winter break camp in the Middle East and the opportunity was there for the U.S. team to play numerous high-quality scrimmages – and one was already announced against Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg team. Now with the camp in Florida, quality opponents will be much harder to come by.

The decision, however, was smart. The safety of the players and staff must come first. The fact that U.S. Soccer has sufficient venues such as Bradenton available last-minute is a positive reflection of this country’s soccer infrastructure.

Gooch scores twice

In England, Lynden Gooch scored his sixth and seventh goals of the League One season during a 3-1 win over Lincoln City on Saturday.

The Santa Cruz native has been playing quality soccer this season, when healthy. His production level is high in just over 1300 minutes.

Sunderland is just a point out of the promotional playoff positions but if the club fails to go up this year, how much patience will Gooch have with staying at Sunderland? He’s been with the club in some capacity since he was 10. But at some point, he’s going to want to play at a higher level now that he’s entering into the prime years of his playing career.

Vassilev debuts for Villa

A few weeks after Owen Otasowie debuted for Wolverhampton in a Europa League game (where both teams had their fates sealed for the next stage), Indiana Vassilev became the next 2001-born American to make his professional debut. The Georgia native played the final 10 minutes for Aston Villa in a 2-1 FA Cup loss to Fulham (U.S. U-23 eligible Luca de la Torre played the final six minutes for Fulham).

It is tough to tell if or how much a club rates a player simply by giving him a few minutes in a Cup matchup. Aston Villa is in a relegation battle in the Premier League and that is where its priorities are at the moment.

But Vassilev has progressed nicely through Aston Villa’s system and seems to be rated by the club. Unfortunately, with the club’s elimination from the FA Cup, there won’t be many opportunities for Vassliev to play outside of the Premier League.

On the flip side, it might make Aston Villa more inclined to release him for U-20 camps through this summer’s World Cup qualifying.

Miljevic to join U.S. U-20 team

The United States U-20 team does not have a coach yet – although it will probably announce one soon. But there is a camp set to open this Wednesday and some names have already filtered in. Journalist Arch Bell was able to confirm that Matko Miljevic is one of them and that is a great sign for U.S. Soccer.

Miljevic has already begun to play for Argentinos Juniors this season and the club currently sits in first place in Argentina’s Primera at the midway point of the season.

Former U.S. U-20 boss Tab Ramos attempted to bring in Miljevic in September but his club denied his release.

Eligible for three nations, Miljevic has played for Argentina’s youth teams in 2019 and Croatia has shown interest. But for the Miami-born Miljevic, getting involved with the U-20 team at this point is a promising sign for U.S. Soccer.

At the upcoming camp, the U.S. U-20 team will take on Mexico (possibly twice).

Weah returns to full training

American attacker Tim Weah announced via his Instagram that he has returned to full training with his club, Lille, in France.

Weah has been out since August with a hamstring tear.

Deila named NYCFC boss

The last managerial vacancy in MLS has been filled as New York City FC named Norwegian manager Ronny Deila to lead its team.

Deila, 44, has a mixed managerial history. After leading Stromgodset to the Norwegian title in 2013, he moved onto Celtic where he won two Scottish titles – at a time when Rangers were not in the league. His history in Europe was not good as the club was eliminated from the Europa League two times before New Years during his tenure.

The past three seasons he has been with Valerenga in Norway but the club has not moved beyond mid-table.

Now Deila will inherit an NYCFC team that finished first in the Eastern Conference but lost to Toronto FC in its first playoff round. But he will not have a lot of time to adjust as NYCFC will play in the CONCACAF Champions League next month in February.

While Deila has won silverware, his hiring doesn’t match the recent managerial announcement from Inter Miami that it had reached a deal with Diego Alonso to be its first manager.

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