Just finished taping this week’s podcast filled with two massive, seismic pieces of news which we will cover in this missive. The USMNT’s humbling 2-0 defeat in World Cup qualifying North of the Wall in Canada, and Frank Lampard’s appointment as Everton manager. Let’s start there and dive in.
One note: We are going to break down all of today’s last minute wheelings and dealings, take a look at the window’s biggest winners and losers on Greenroom at 6 PM ET today, and will be joined by journalist and American Soccer Insider Tom Bogert – Tommy Scoops – who will break down all of the Baby Eagles who have flown the MLS nest and made their way to Europe’s top leagues. Come and join us and ask your questions about everything and anything. Here is the LINK.
1. Super Frank: Once a Blue, Always a Blue
This morning, Frank Lampard was officially announced as Everton’s 6th permanent manager in 6 years under Farhard Moshiri. He was unfurled in a video which made it seem like a trailer for Magic Mike. With Everton 4 points above the relegation zone, there will be no honeymoon. He must win and win now. How do I feel about it?
On one hand, no manager can solve Everton’s problems. They are inflicted by our owner and his big wallet/low strategy Jerry Jones-tampering style of ownership. Psychedelic-recruitment, alienating key football staff, and reckless managerial appointments have exhausted the club’s passionate and deeply connected fanbase, and ditched the club into freefall. The prospect of our first relegation in 71 years is very real. Will we be the first proud Florida Cup champions in history to be relegated?
In that regard, Frank is not known as a relegation scrap-fireman manager. His managerial career is still so green, he is not known for much to be honest. Yet, he was the least worst of the final options – and is willing to board Doom Ship Everton – a step even Wayne Rooney would not take. The thing that gives me the most confidence is… he needs this to work as badly as Everton do. Both manager and club share a desperate need for redemption.
And that is where the football fan’s default setting towards optimsm kicks in. All I can do now is shut my eyes and feel a surging, childlike joy flow through my body. Donny van de Beek pulling strings. Dele resummoning lost joy. Feeding Iwobi and Andros Townsend – his fellow voyagers on “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams attack.”
As any Everton fan can tell you, sadly, dreams are not realities. From a footballing perspective, Frank has to cut out the ridiculous Michael Keane-fueled defensive chaos. Find balance in a midfield that has lacked it, and find harmony between DCL and Richarlison. More than anything, I draw strength from this: We finally have a manager who will trust young talent like Anthony Gordon, Nathan Patterson, Lewis Dobbin and Baby Giraffe Branthwaite. Who will look at them and proclaim, “Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you're already dead!"
Godspeed to club and manager.
2. USA: Canada is our Daddy 🇨🇦
This loss was a reality check that has been coming. Huge respect to John Herdman, who has built a true collective from his squad, in which every player knows the game plan and his role. They took the field without Alphonso Davies and Stephen Eustáquio and still dropped us with a counter-attacking game plan – a trap the US essentially walked straight into.
Les Rouges play with true joy, feistiness, and goalkeeping athletiwear. They remain undefeated, 4 points clear of the pack. So close to World Cup qualifying for the first time since 1986, they can almost taste the human rights abuses wafting over from Qatar. “DEUX A ZERO” as they would say up in the magical kingdom of Poutine. I loved what Herdman said in victory about the build up to the game, the game itself, and the post-match reaction in Canada. That it made him feel for the first time that he was living in “a football country.” That is the US of our dreams.
3. Gregg Berhalter’s Post-Game Interview was… Not Good
Watch it here. What was that? Confusion? Denial? Floundering? It reminded me of Brendan Rodgers towards the end of his Liverpool tenure, where he would grin at the camera in the wake of a loss and talk about winning the possession. The United States squad feels unnecessarily confused at the moment:
Who is our Number One Goalkeeper? Turner or Steffen?
What is our favored Center-Back pairing?
What is Pepi’s place in the Depth Chart and who are our Top 3 strikers?
How can we help Pulisic leave his club form at home when he comes to camp, and summon the joy of being a big fish in a smaller pond?
Who is our captain? Is it Tyler Adams or is it really roving?
By necessity, international football is a much simpler beast than club football. National Teams are fleeting creatures. The teams come together, train 2-3 times, play, then are gone. Simple football, clearly communicated, with known roles that make sense and are understood. That is what wins. With this US squad, there is too much over-complexity. Nothing feels simple. Every detail compounds the lack of clarity, adding up to create a collective that is lesser. Much lesser, rather than more. So the inexperience of our young squad warps towards the immature, and they lack the fight that has been a hallmark of this USMNT squad historically, because it is replaced by confusion and frustration.
4. This was a Symbolic Loss, not a Fatal One. But will we learn our Lessons?
We seem to do this every cycle: Go in talking about a “9 point window.” Then we hit turbulence and default to “You don’t understand the realities of how hard CONCACAF is.” Only Canada, who were playing without their best player of all time, are rolling through with ease. I said this after the El Salvador game, and I repeat it now – out of love, not scorn. But it is important. Posts about our coach’s sneaker game are not cool. Mug posts, also not cool. Winning is cool. That is what makes for an interesting manager. Let’s do that on Wednesday night against Honduras, who have already been eliminated from World Cup qualifying. I can’t imagine they are thrilled to have to board and plane and fly into a subarctic Minneapolis. But it also feels sad that our minds have to go there at this point…
Let’s end on a positive note: Magic to see Christian Eriksen back, after he signed with Brentford until the end of the season. It will be incredible from both a footballing and a human perspective to watch him in action again. We wish him strength, health and Godspeed.