Song of the Day: Smashing Pumpkins – Drown

It’s been a long while since I’ve done a Song of the Day, and so I figured maybe bringing it back will at least stimulate my heart and mind for a bit. Maybe it’ll do the same for you!

I decided to start back with a band that has totally overtaken my listening habits for the past couple of weeks. Most particularly the song “Drown” which never featured on a Smashing Pumpkins album, but rather Cameron Crowe’s soundtrack for the ’92 film “Singles”.

There’s this special quality about this song where not only do the lyrics create this beautiful, yet crushing narrative, but so too does the music. It starts with the opening chords which bring you down, I can’t help feeling slightly melancholic hearing them. Then follows the lyrics:

No matter where you are

I can still hear you when you drown. 

You traveled very far

Just to see you I’ll come around

When I’m down

Between verse one and two, there’s a slight build in the composition of the music yet it comes right back down. It’s almost as if the main character of the song is searching for a reason why he was broken up with but right before he breaks down, he takes a deep breath and reels it in. The second verse follows the same formula as the first, sad lyrics about a breakup followed by a building composition, until then… BOOM! The music explodes as the lead singer questions “Is it something someone said?” again looking for answers to which there’s nothing to be found.

The music then comes back down, it relaxes again, but only for a short while. It builds and explodes again as the character exclaims there’s nothing he can do but feel the same, he can’t get over the hurt and the music does the same thing. It won’t let you get past it, either. With the music at its most cacophonous the character says “I wish I could lie. I will, I will try. I will, I will. Goodbye”. 

The track ends with a roughly four-minute feedback outro which to me is absolutely crushing. The feedback always seemed like the battle to get past this break-up. It goes on and on, which is similar to life. Sometimes pain is unrelenting, much like the feedback, it’s not easy to get past things it just takes time. Just like the music to Drown there’s the lull, the crash, then the prolonged fight to be better.

I always appreciate this quality in music. It’s clear that o much thought went not only into the narrative of the lyrics but also the narrative of the musical composition. They are both on the same page and that is something special to hear.

~you traveled far, like a star. And you are~

 

It Happened Again To No One’s Surprise

I can’t even act surprised anymore, should we really? At this point in time, 58 people were murdered and 515 were injured at a Country Music festival in Las Vegas. I know, in your mind you’re thinking “how horrible, what is our World coming to”, but have you ever stopped and thought that 1) it’s not a World problem it’s a distinctly American problem? 2) This is exactly what America is? We’re a gun-loving, 2nd Amendment idolizing, do-nothing about it type of Country. We turned our heads when high schoolers were murdered in Columbine, covered our eyes when movie-goers were executed in Aurora, shook our heads at 1st grades killed while learning basic science in Sandy Hook and shrugged about those slaughtered while dancing at Pulse nightclub. All of these events follow the same pattern of response. How can we claim we care and yet do nothing about it? All of our friends post their thoughts and prayers on Facebook, maybe a nice little photo with a heart around it, and wonder what our World is coming to. They then forget a couple of days later and go about their own business. A couple of months later, the same thing happens and it’s back to the familiar pattern. So it goes. We do the bare minimum, offer up thoughts and prayers, and expect America to change its ways. It won’t. Stop feeling surprised. This is a fabric of our Country, this is America.

 

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David Becker – Getty Images

 

And it’s in times like these we look to our elected leaders for some sort of solace. Yet, all we were blessed with was a verbalized Facebook post from Donald Trump asking for a moment of silence and prayers for those affected. Not quite inspiring to say the least. Nothing about changes we can make to avoid these types of executions just clear cowardice in plain sight. Oh, you were expecting Trump to say something about the weapons used? Lest we forget that Donald Trump’s campaign accepted $30,000,000 from the NRA during the 2016 election. Additionally, they gave $20,000,000 more to other officials elected to Government positions in 2016. So, please, don’t for a second think they’ll do anything to change this. When many are murdered, the politicians turn to their cash and find solace there. These elected officials are as much to blame as the weapons used. At least the weapon doesn’t understand who or what it’s killing, just that it is. Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, et al. know who they are letting perish for previous votes during an election year. Guns kill people, but so too does the inaction of paid off Politicians. This is America.

 

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Trump scowling at deaths affecting his building’s revenues

 

You know who else deserves blame? Gun owners. Those gun owners who refuse to have any sensible discussion about gun legislation, the ones who have the 2nd amendment tattooed on their bosom. It sucks, I know, to hear this but America is a community and sometimes you need to give up something for the good of your community. What is more important to you the assault rifle you bought at Wal-Mart that you have likely never and never will use or the 58 dead in Las Vegas? Be open to talk about gun reform or be a part of the issue. Give up something to protect the lives of others, care about something other than yourself and a weapon used to inflate your own masculinity. Don’t close your eyes and ears, don’t retort with “It’s my right to own these guns”, listen to those affected and help make changes for good in your community. If not, then please don’t act surprised when this all happens again because, I assure you, this is America.

I don’t know why I’m writing all of this. It’s something you’ve read before over and over again, I’m sure its tired. I guess I feel helpless and I’m sure you do too. I’m exhausted of inaction, hypermasculinity, and our same response to these acts of unjustifiable violence. Please, do call your local public officials and tell them what’s on your mind. They may do nothing, but at least you’ll be bothering them. I know it’s hard, I’m struggling too, but let this be an act of change. Let’s do all we can to try and never feel this way again. Read up on various gun legislation in the works, talk to your friends who are pro-gun, and just try your best to love everyone you see. This will happen again, I’m sure of it, but do everything you can with unflinching resolve, in hopes that what you’re doing will be the change this country needs. Do what you can to make this an America that you can be proud of.

~love~

Felt Around and Pulled Out the Obstruction: The Turnaround of US Soccer and Hexagonal Round 5 Preview

George Costanza once prophesized “The sea was angry that day, my friends – like an old man trying to send back soup at a deli.”

And for sure, the sea was quite angry when we last met. Last November, the United States was languishing away in the last place of the Hexagonal group.

US Soccer – here recognized as George Costanza – continued by saying “Well then, from out of nowhere, a huge tidal wave lifted me, tossed me like a cork, and I found myself right on top of him – face to face with the blowhole. I could barely see from the waves crashing down upon me, but I knew something was there. So I reached my hand in, felt around, and pulled out the obstruction.” 

The Sea Was Angry

US Soccer did just that. Sunil and his colleagues pulled out the obstruction inside the US Men’s National Team’s blowhole, a Titleist golf ball herein named Jurgen Klinsmann. Since this obstruction had been dislodged from the team’s blowhole, the whale known as the US Men’s National Team has been swimming freely ever since.

In four qualifying matches since Bruce Arena has taken over, the men have amassed eight points, one of which came at the Estadio Azteca. Things have turned around to the point that the US can actually secure World Cup qualification through this round of qualifiers, although it would take divine intervention to make it happen.

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Even though qualifying this round is a near impossibility, our guys can make it a whole lot easier if they take care of business at home on Friday vs Costa Rica and earn at least a draw away to Honduras. On Sunday, Bruce revealed his 26-man roster for this round, a roster that he believes can get this very job done. This roster can be seen below.

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Again, much of the same from Bruce and who’s to fault him? He has done historically well with these groups of guys and hopefully will continue to do so. In order to better understand this “whale” let’s take a look at it by position.

Goalies

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I’m sure I couldn’t choose a positional group that I fear more than our current crop of goalies. The only two who would get any consideration for time, have been very poor with their respective clubs, to say the least. Tim Howard has given up 9 goals in his last 5 games which were highlighted by this meek attempt to save this magnificent own goal scored by Jared Watts.

Brad Guzan has not been much better. The Atlanta United netminder has allowed 5 goals in the last 4 games which have seen the new club only pick up 3 points in that time span. Nick Rimando and Real Salt Lake have been better of the course of the last few weeks, but I’d be hard pressed to give a 38-year-old with no qualifying experience an opportunity in these massive games.

I still believe the US is in capable hands with Howard/Guzan in net, but after this World Cup, it is surely time to move on from all three of the above. Furthermore, it seems a bit mindless to bring in a 38-year-old Nick Rimando who has no experience in WCQ when we could at least give a younger keeper, say, Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, or Ethan Horvath, the opportunity to experience the pressure of being in camp ahead of “must-win” qualifiers.

Defenders

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Next up are the defenders who I certainly feel more upbeat about. Obviously, John Brooks who will likely miss the entirety of the remaining qualifiers is a huge miss for this American backline. But luckily, we have capable replacements who should be able to sure up the defense.

Tim Ream comes into this camp on-fire form for Fulham. This form was highlighted by his display in a 0-0 draw with Reading where his defensive partner, Tomas Kalas, was sent off after 30 seconds. This performance lead Ream to be named to the EFL Team of the Week. Ream also comes into camp after two very solid performances over the last couple of hexagonal rounds. Ream was good against Panama away and was even better at Estadio Azteca.

Having a healthy Geoff Cameron should also calm American’s nerves as he is undoubtedly the best defender in the American pool. He brings a leadership and tactical awareness that the US desperately needs. To extrapolate, in the three hexagonal matches that he has not played in, the US has given up 6 goals and only amassed one point. In the matches, he has played the US has scored 9 and only given up one goal. In that time we have amassed 7 points.

Regardless of who plays along the backline, the USise in healthy hands. Of course, we as fans wish DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks were available but this group has more than enough talent to see the US through the next two games.

Midfielders

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In our most talented positional area, the US brings a loaded group for this round of qualifiers. The midfield group is highlighted by none other than Christian Pulisic. The 18-year-old enters this camp as one of the best players in the Bundesliga. In fact, Kicker, a German sports magazine, has Christian ranked as the 6th best player in the Bundesliga based on performances so far. He opened the season with a man of the match performance for BVB scoring a goal and providing an assist in the 3-0 win over Wolfsburg. He failed to score in the next match for Dortmund but continued to show his talent as he was the driving force in Dortmund’s attack. Much like Kramer hitting the Titleist golf ball into the whale’s blowhole, Pulisic is a one in a million talent. I don’t need to be the one millionth person to tell you that we’re on the verge of something special here, but let video evidence do the talking.

The midfield is further strengthened by who I personally feel is the United State’s most technical player, someone who is becoming more and more valuable to the stability of the US – Darlington Nagbe. The Portland Timber man has become a star under Bruce Arena, somehow Jurgen Klinsmann did not find him useful under his tenure as manager. While I think Nagbe is a star, I feel people misunderstand his use in the Red, White, & Blue. His ability to dictate where to attack, the speed of the attack, or to just keep the ball in tight situations are some of the best I’ve seen in my 15+ years of watching the US. I’ve never seen someone who can so quickly get out of pressure in a tight space and allow the US to recycle the ball and get it moving forward. There aren’t many US players who can produce this sort of magic (over our best ever keeper, also).

Add in the completely revitalized Michael Bradley, the tenacious Paul Arriola, and the skilled Fabian Johnson and you’re cookin’ with arguably the CONCACAF’s best midfield. This is only just the beginning of the American Golden Age of midfielders also, but I’ll save that for another post *waves to Weston McKennie*.

Forwards

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Then there are the usual suspects in the striker position. I’d like to focus on Jozy first. The Toronto FC striker comes into National Team Camp in good form scoring two goals in his last two MLS matches. While many US fans seem to count him out for some godforsaken reason, I feel Jozy is still incredibly important to this set-up and is the United States’ best forward. His passing has improved leaps and bounds over the last few years, which is something that he has shown as of late across MLS & the US Men’s National Team (see his assist to Pulisic vs T&T or his pass that lead to Lletget’s goal vs Honduras or his assist on Pulisic’s first in the same match). Across 23 appearances for TFC this season he has scored 11 goals and provided 5 assists. Not bad at all. Jozy has yet to score in this Hexagonal, but he has chipped in with 3 assists and let’s not forget about his performance in the Gold Cup final. It’s only a matter of time until he puts a few into the back of the net for the US in the Hex.

Another player coming in on good form is the Hawaiian, Bobby Wood. The striker has scored 2 goals in 3 appearances across all competitions so far for Hamburg. I still think he gets the case of the “yips” in front of goal and in these hugely important qualifiers that makes me worry just a bit. His ability to stretch the backline, especially playing off Jozy, is one that could give any backline fits. But I think based on current form we couldn’t go wrong with playing him. See below for his latest strike for Hamburg.

Last and certainly not least is Clint Dempsey. The Seattle Sounder man has been in fine form as of late, scoring 4 goals and assisting 1 in his last 5 MLS appearances. He has proven even more important for the national team as of late. In his last 3 hex appearances, he has scored 4 goals. If you include the Gold Cup, Clint has scored 5 and assisted 3 in his last 6 USMNT appearances. The question becomes, does Bruce & Co. recognize his form right now and start him, or does he continue to be a super-sub for the US?

Oh, and Wondo. He’s with the team for some reason, probably to be a traffic cone in practice. I don’t see him making the 23 for either match this round. That is all I’ll say about him.

Lineup & Score Predictions

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Costa Rica

I see Bruce trying to go out with a more attacking team at Red Bull Arena. Costa Rica are a very good team, who embarrassed the US who can also wrap up qualification this round and their best chance might actually be beating the US at home (they face Mexico at home on Tuesday. Although depending on results this could be a rotated Mexican team that will have already qualified for Russia). Look for Pulisic to continue to find space in the middle of the field for the Nats and be able to distribute or run off the ball into space. He will pull the strings in the final 3rd for the US.

Prediction

USA 2 – Costa Rica 0 (Goals scored by Pulisic & Jozy)

 

Honduras 

This one is a bit more tricky to call. Honduras is a beatable team, we’ve won away there before, but in CONCACAF it’s always smart to be cautious. If the US happens to lose to Los Ticos on Friday, then I’d imagine the US go for the win in San Pedro Sula. This is where the second lineup comes into play. Being in the 4-4-2 gives the US the ability to attack but also keeps a rigid formation that, if utilized correctly, is a nuisance to break down.

Conversely, if the US get a win vs Costa Rica, then it isn’t hard to imagine the US set up more defensively to settle for the draw away to Honduras. The left lineup is geared with that in mind. The toss-up in my mind is Fabian Johnson, will he be able to go two matches in a row or will Bruce trust Lichaj/Zusi to start in the back? The rest all have attacking potency and more importantly the tenacity to defend. Either way, I certainly see Bobby Wood having a part to play in Honduras – his ability to turn nothing into something is the exact type of player you need in these situations.

Prediction

USA 2 – Honduras 1 (Goals scored by Wood & Acosta; Elis for Honduras)

I cannot see Honduras dropping points to Trinidad & Tobago – a team who failed to qualify for the Gold Cup this summer. So the US needs to guarantee a win in New Jersey on Friday to avoid a very hairy situation down in Honduras. I think they’ll do just that. This whale is swimming and breathing freely now! If I were the head coach I’d go out equally as attacking away to Honduras, but I don’t have that sort of power, so I do expect Bruce to dial it back and set the US up to gain a point. If things go to plan and the US pick up 4 points this round than the United States can guarantee qualification with a win vs Panama in Orlando (needing other results to go their way also) on Oct. 6th.

The US take on Costa Rica at 6:55 pm this Friday, September 1st on ESPN then will travel to Honduras for a match on Tuesday, September 5th at 5:30 pm. That match will air live on BeIn Sports as well as Universo.

As always, support your country! It means the World to me that you made it this far without bashing your skull on your keyboard. If for some reason you enjoyed my idiotic and sometimes incoherent rambling about the US Men’s National Team, then please share and follow my US Soccer Twitter at DontTreadSoccer

~Love ya~

*all roster photos provided by US Soccer*

US Soccer With a US Sucker Ep. 1

https://bumpers.fm/_/embed/b4sc0nmq3h5g014fg61g?isInline=true

 Hi, Guys. This is a new weekly “podcast” I’m working on called US Soccer with a US Sucker where I talk about anything and everything US Soccer ever if it crushes my optimism.

Episode 1 cover notable Gold Cup omissions, my line-up and score predictions for the USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago, as well as recent US Soccer transfer news. If only my voice didn’t sound like fingernails on a chalkboard (shouts to my Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Morse). I seriously hope you like this even if you have no idea what I’m talking about. Let’s get 3 this Thursday evening!

~love~

Why I Love Jerrod Carmichael’s “8”

I’ve watched Jerrod Carmichael’s recent HBO stand-up special, “8” at least five times since it was released on March 11th and I have been blown away after each viewing. I think there are three aspects to “8” that make it his masterpiece.

First is Jerrod’s insistence on unflinchingly honest commentary. He gives his opinion on everything from supporting the troops and what that even means to global warming and its effect on children’s understanding of what Tony The Tiger is after real-life tigers go extinct. It is laugh-out-loud funny, yet also a painfully humbling experience for the viewer. At one point during the stand-up, he points out an interracial couple and asks the man what his grandmother would think about him dating a white girl, it made my jaw-drop and laugh without actually producing any sounds. As funny as it was, it was also a stark reminder of the value of honesty. I did not expect to go into a 60-minute stand-up special that would end with a full-blown existential crisis questioning how often I am truly honest. It was an upsetting realization amidst so much laughter. There was a bit where Jerrod was talking to his cousin who was part of the Army reserves to which Jerrod had the gall to say “more people have died in a movie theater than in the army reserves”. But my favorite bit was Jerrod was explaining how much more important Jay-Z is to him than Martin Luther King, Jr ever was. “I can rap every Jay lyric, but I only know, like, four bars of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech”.  It was stunning and painfully hilarious.

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Second is Jerrod’s comedic style which I found refreshing. When you begin to watch “8” you become entrenched with how extemporaneous and one-on-one Jerrod’s style is. He talks with such ease it makes the viewer feel like Jerrod is their friend and that he is just speaking openly and honestly about anything on his mind and his heart. It didn’t seem as planned out as most comedies do, there were many times during the special where Jerrod would pause and say “what else can we talk about?”. I appreciated his laid back style, it made me enjoy his comedy that much more, he is just someone who can be funny speaking about anything from ISIS and how it affects his attendance at a lesbian wedding to the specific times he goes to the movies to avoid mass murder. This style was furthered by his choice of outfit. “8” was shot at the Masonic Hall in New York City and was a black tie event yet Jerrod comes out with a denim jacket and timbs. Even his outfits seem laid back and it’s a welcome change of pace amidst such a stuffy situation like talking earnestly about sensitive subjects. Jerrod feels like a normal guy and he talks to the crowd like one as well.

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Third, and my favorite part of “8”, is the vulnerability, Jerrod displays. Comedy in itself is expressing one’s vulnerability on stage. There are many comedians, Louis CK & Bo Burnham, who have made their name being open with such subjects of anxiety, death, love, and loneliness, etc but Jerrod and this stand-up seemed to take it to the next level. The way it was directed – beautifully by Bo Burnham – increases the vulnerability of each bit. The first scene is startling. The opening credits start with a bubbly song that makes you smile and then out of nowhere it cuts and the viewer gets an extreme close-up of an emotional Jerrod on the verge of tears who then proceeds to ask the crowd in a broken voice “are we gonna be ok?”. Shot in December, “8” comes only a few weeks after “he-who-must-not-be-named” was voted* President of the United States. This genuinely seemed to concern Jerrod and he seemed really broken about it. Many times Jerrod’s voice would crack and he’d lose the words he wanted to say. Later, Jerrod talks about love and how he truly doesn’t know if he’ll ever find a girlfriend even though he’d be a great boyfriend and send “the most bomb texts” (in his mind). This overly vulnerable tone plays throughout the HBO special and it ends in the very same way it started. To me, it feels like the whole point of this special is for Jerrod to try to better understand himself. He talks about how exhausting it is being black, and how he desperately wants to do a better job at being a black person even though he has no idea how to do so. It’s heartbreaking and yet, it’s hilarious. Jerrod finishes “8′ talking about how his grandparents probably long stopped loving each other we get another extreme close-up of him searching for words as he says “so what are we gonna talk about next” and it then jumps back to the original theme we heard in the opening credits. This editing and directing style gives credence to Jerrod’s vulnerability. It ends the same way it started Jerrod unsure of himself and who he is, this vulnerability allows us all to connect to him in a sense. Jerrod is searching for meaning as are we all, so maybe we should laugh about it along the way.

All in all Jerrod’s “8” is a masterpiece of vulnerable and unflinchingly honest comedy. “8” will certainly make you laugh, but will also force you to look in the mirror and question who you are and how you can improve yourself. To be frank, I’d much rather question myself and the standards of my being in a mirror than do it in front of a crowd of people dressed in tuxedos and dresses who are all laughing at me. If you have HBO Go or HBO Now I urge you to watch this special and if you’re looking to laugh and maybe have an existential crisis, this special is for you.

Righting the Rudderless Ship – USA vs Honduras

In the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, it seems like “four scores and seven years ago” since we’ve all collectively been optimistic about the US Men’s National Team and the prospect of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. November came around and stole any hope we held inside our souls, a hope stolen on the backs of a devastating 2-1 loss to Mexico in Columbus and the worst loss I’ve ever witnessed at the hands of Costa Rica. These losses forced US Soccer’s hand, a hand which relinquished Jurgen Klinsmann from his position as head coach of the Men’s National team.

Since then, our favorite Soccer Dad, Bruce Arena, has been hired back as the head coach of the program. His main priority? To right the ship that has been lost at sea for many moons. January came, and we were bored to death, yet slightly intrigued. There were signs of improvement, or rather a sense of pragmatism that had been missing. It wasn’t ever pretty, but it was effective and it was calming. The wind filled the sails and our ship began to sail.

We’ve now sailed onward to the month of March. We face two crucial WCQ ties against the likes of Honduras at home and Panama away. A win in both matches and we are back on track. This starts with the announcement of our Roster for said qualifiers which was released today on FS1. So without further to do, here’s the list of the 24 boys who will be in this crucial upcoming camp.

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Like I said… pragmatic. There’s not a whole lot of surprise here. Yedlin (inj.), Lichaj (inj.), and Chandler (suspended) – our three most capable right backs- are out. That creates a bit of a problem as we don’t have a settled right back in the camp. The other slight surprise is that there is no set #10, Feilhaber and Kljestan simply weren’t called in. Does this mean we’ll play a flat 4-4-2 or that the keys have been fully given to Pulisic? Here’s how I see it panning out at the moment….

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I know, I know. I so desperately want to see Fabian in the midfield, especially after his performance this past week vs Schalke – his best in a Gladbach kit. I’m just not sure we have the defensive clout in that position to count on anyone else. Don’t forget about his stellar performances at right back during the 2014 World Cup. We’ve tried Orozco there and it didn’t work out. Geoff can do a job there, but the thought of Omar and John Brooks back together in the middle gives me gastrointestinal pains (*shudders at the thought of Costa Rica result*). I can certainly see Geoff out there though to force Fabian to the left midfield. I just think Cameron and Brooks are our two best pairing, they were fantastic through most of the Copa America and seem to play well with each other.

Next is Beasley at left back – who will most likely keep playing until he starts in the 2042 World Cup ahead of his Son. The only reason I have him here is that I completely trust him. He started off the MLS season with a fantastic couple of performances for Houston and think he will carry that into Qualifying. He’s been here before and won’t be scared of the situation at hand. That was needed in November and still needed now. I could see Villafaña start as well but he hasn’t made an appearance for Santos Laguna since his January camp appearance. Beas it is!

There’s really no question about Bradley, he was always going to start. I’m not entirely sure Bedoya and Lletget weren’t cloned from the same skin cells, they are extremely interchangeable and as often as Bruce mentioned Lletget in the telecast today, I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts ahead of Bedoya. Pulisic – at 18 – is a 100% lock in this team. In the past 4 games for Dortmund, he has scored 3 goals and provided 2 assists. No way he doesn’t start. Last is Nagbe. I love Nagbe. I think he’s one of the most talented players in our pool, his ability to connect the defense and jumpstart the offense is so, so important. However, I only have him starting here right now because of the right-back conundrum.

Lastly is the Strikers. I don’t think one could argue against the pairing of Jozy and Bobby Wood. Both have solid hold up play and Bobby Wood off the ball is fantastic and can make something happen out of virtually nothing. It wouldn’t be too much to question if Dempsey starts up top, but Bruce mentioned he may just be a super sub at this point until he is 100% ready. However, it may be a different story should the US lose to Honduras on the 24th.

And that’s it. This match against Honduras is a must-win in my book. These are the guys who are going to put the wind back in our sails. The US plays Honduras Friday, March 24th at 10:30 PM eastern on Fox Sports 1. Support your country! Come On You Yanks!!

If you like this and have an urge to keep up with everything US Soccer please follow my  Twitter @DontTreadSoccer! It would mean the World. ❤

Six US Youth Prospects to Look Out For in 2017

As most of us know 2016, or the year which must not be named, was a burning trash fire for everyone involved. One glimmer of light that shone through all of the nuclear fallout was the play of American youth Internationals. This was of course highlighted by the play of Christian Pulisic who continues to shine week-in-week-out for Borussia Dortmund. His form for the German giants helped force his way into National team picture and then eventually the starting line-up. Bruce Arena will go into 2017 with the young gawd Pulisic leading the line. He wasn’t the only young gun who made a statement in 2016. Lynden Gooch flew up the radar when he started for lowly Sunderland to open the premier league season. Much of Goochie’s electric play was the only thing exciting about a mind-numbingly bleak Sunderland attack. Gooch made his first National team appearance against New Zealand and followed it with a cameo in that lifeless performance against Costa Rica. Lynden looked like the next youngin’ to become a mainstay within the US National Team camp, but he, unfortunately, injured his ankle in a PL2 match and will be out for the next couple of months. With these players breaking through, it begs the question, “who will be next”? I intend to give you six players who I feel are primed to put their name in the lights with both their club and the US Men’s National Team.

6. Andrew Carleton – Atlanta United FC  – 16

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Andrew Carleton is the youngest player on this list, but it could be argued he has the largest upside of any of our youth talents, even Christian Pulisic. However, that is all subjective at this time, but I mean, look at this highlight reel of his skill most of which come from when he was 14 years young. Carleton possesses a skillset that most don’t have at his age. There’s merit to this bold claim as well. In 35 appearances with the U-15s, and U-17s Carleton boasts a brain shattering, 22 goals. This shows us at least two things, 1) he is a mainstay with the Youth set-up (which is a lot harder than it seems) and 2) he performs every time he is given an opportunity. He was so impressive that he was signed as Atlanta United FC first homegrown player and is expected to be the face of the team moving forward. Keep your eye on the 2017 MLS season and Atlanta United to track Andrew and his growth. The prospect of Andrew and Christian bombing down the wings is one that should make any US Soccer fan giddy with excitement. He isn’t the only one who will certainly make noise from the 2016 U-17 Nike Friendly champions. He was chosen simply because he is ahead of most of them and may have a shot of a call-up sooner than the rest.

5. McKinze Gaines –  VfL Wolfsburg – 18

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Gaines, a Texas native, is a striker/winger who signed with Wolfsburg of the Bundesliga this summer from Texas power club Lonestar SC. In fourteen matches this year, Gaines has amassed 5 goals and 6 assists for the Wolfsburg u-19s so far and has even featured for the first team in some friendlies they have played. The club is obviously very impressed with what they see in McKinze and he could be one who we see break into the first team sooner rather than later. Germany is an interesting place for our young guys because of the Winter break. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few of our guys training with the first team over this break. Keep in mind, this is where Pulisic really broke through and asserted himself on the main stage for BVB. While McKinze is killing it for Wolfsburg, he hasn’t translated that over to the national team stage. He hasn’t had a US Youth appearance in over two years, though this is a long time without an international appearance, I wouldn’t let it count against Gaines as he is closer to a first team appearance than any of the other German contingent.

4. Joshua Perez – ACF Fiorentina – 18

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Joshua Perez is an 18-year-old winger that hails from La Habra, California who signed with ACF Fiorentina early in 2016. Since then he played well enough for the u-19s, scoring 4 goals and assisting 2 in 7 games, that he began training with the first team. In November of 2016, he made his inaugural appearance for the first team in a huge match against Inter Milan. Since then, Josh has consistently made the gameday squad and been training with the first team of the Tuscan club. Josh, like Gaines, hasn’t made a youth national team appearance in a couple of years, his last coming at the u-17 world cup in 2015 (where we got thrashed). Josh possesses a wealth of talent. Watch him patrol the wing here against Guatemala. Using his quickness, Josh usually looks to take on the defender and is dangerous going both forward or cutting inside. Josh creates quite a conundrum for the US moving forward like Gaines and Pulisic many of our youth prospects are comfortable on the wing. I suspect that as Christian starts to take over the country, he will be moved more inside to a number 10 position creating space for the likes of McKinze Gaines and Josh Perez.

3. Erik Palmer-Brown – F.C. Porto – 19

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Erik Palmer-Brown is a Center-Back that hails from Lee’s Summit, Missouri where, at the time of his loan to Porto, was starting for Sporting Kansas City. He made his first appearance for the MLS club at the age of 17 while they were amidst an injury crisis. He played well enough that the club eventually had to turn down a $1 million offer from Juventus to hold on to his services. As he continued to play for KC, the interest from foreign clubs grew and in early 2016 he was loaned to Portuguese giants, F.C. Porto. There he anchored the defense for the reserve squad which won the 2015-2016 LigaPro by going 6-2-2 and posting a +9 goal differential during his time as a Center Back. He played well enough to train with the first team in November and some were positioning him to make the squad for an early round of Taça de Portugal, but he, unfortunately, missed out. Now he finds himself in a bit of a gray area as his loan with Porto is up. He’d come back to Sporting KC and be their starting Center Back right away, but some suspect Porto, or one of many other European clubs, will make a bid to sign him permanently. Furthermore, reports are expecting that Erik wants to continue his career in Europe rather than play in the MLS. Whatever happens next for Erik, it will be a big step in his career. He, too, adds to the strong wheelhouse of center backs that the US is producing as of late.

2. Haji Wright – Schalke 04 – 18

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Haji Wright is an 18-year-old striker who practices his trade for Schalke in Germany. Wright has been a revelation for Die Knappen. Since signing for the club in April, The LA Galaxy youth product has been lighting it up for the Schalke u-19s, scoring 6 goals and assisting 8 in 13 appearances. This scintillating form was carried over from his time with the u-17 national team where he scored 27 goals in 34 appearances. In fact, Haji was the other star on the u-17 YNT that featured the likes of Christian Pulisic and Joshua Perez. It remains to be seen how Schalke will move forward with the young Striker. As I said with Weston McKennie, the winter break can be a Godsend for the young athletes as most clubs provide an opportunity to make an impression with the first team as they are gearing up for the Bundesliga to return. I expect to see Haji training with the first team ahead of the league restart. However, we will have to wait and see if this opportunity will jumpstart the career of the striker and allow him to have the same sort of ascension that we saw with Pulisic. Based on Haji’s skill and size, I think he will make a positive contribution on the powers that be. Watch Haji’s positioning and his technique on most of his finishes, he uses both of his feet well and his long strides help provide him with speed that will help him to reach the next level. Here’s to hoping that 2017 will be a big year for Haji!

1. Cameron Carter-Vickers – Tottenham Hotspur – 18

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Cameron Carter-Vickers is one of the brightest stars that the United States has ever had in their arsenal and it seems that Tottenham Hotspur feels the same. The teenager has made senior appearances twice this season for the London side and continually features in the match day squad, usually ahead of Austrian international Kevin Wimmer. Spurs are so impressed with Cameron, that many liken him to club legend Ledley King. Even at 18, Cameron seems to fit both with the speed, physicality and technicality of the game at the highest level. The US and Juergen Klinsmann was so impressed by his rise that he was called in to represent the US during the first Hexagonal round. This is why I was particularly miffed when Juergen did not cap-tie the dual national after we were getting beaten unconscious by Costa Rica. On the bright side, Cameron has reiterated that he feels American and his goal is to represent the United States at the highest level. Strong, fast and talented on the ball, Cameron represented the American U-20’s when he was only 16 years old. To think of a pairing between CCV and John Brooks crushing opposing forwards for years to come makes me particularly excited. I expect Cameron to get an appearance for the US Men’s National Team sometime in 2017. Let’s just hope that appearance cap-ties Cameron to the US for good.

The United States finds itself at an exciting time in their history. Many of our youth players are making waves in Europe and even more are making big strides in the Americas. There are many players who could easily jump into the top 6, these are just those I thought were positioned best to make first team strides. For a list of honorable mentions, see below my signature. I know 2016 has hurt all of us in the long run, but if there’s anything American you should hang your hat on, it’s the future of American Soccer. Keep your eyes on the U-20 world cup this summer to see many, if not all, of these players in action for the Red, White and Blue!

~Come On You Yanks~

Honorable Mentions (in no order):

  1. Gedion Zelalem – 19 – Arsenal FC
  2. Justen Glad – 19 – Real Salt Lake
  3. Matt Miazga – 21 – Chelsea FC (on loan to Vitesse Arnhem)
  4. Josh Sargent – 16 – TBD
  5. Timothy Weah – 16 – Paris Saint Germain
  6. Danny Barbir – 18 – West Bromwich Albion
  7. Kai Koreniuk – 18 – Vitesse Arnhem
  8. Keaton Parks – 19 – Varzim SC
  9. Ayo Akinola – 16 – Toronto FC
  10. Matt Olosunde – 19 – Manchester United
  11. Emerson Hyndman – 20 – Bournemouth
  12. Chris Durkin – 16 – D.C. United
  13. Weston McKennie – 18 – Schalke 04
  14. Nick Taitague – 17 – Schalke 04
  15. Bjorn Maars-Johnsen – 25 – Hearts of Midlothian
  16. Djair Parfitt-Williams – 20 – West Ham United
  17. Niko Håmålåinen – 19 – Queens Park Rangers
  18. Timothy Tillman – 16 – Bayern Munchen
  19. Konrad de la Fuente – 16 – Barcelona
  20. Mukwelle Akale – 19 – Villareal
  21. Shaq Moore – 19 – Levante
  22. Andrija Novakovich – 20 – Reading FC
  23. Marlon Fossey – 18 – Fulham FC
  24. Brandon Austin – 17 – Tottenham Hotspur
  25. Luca De La Torre – 18 – Fulham FC
  26. Antonee Robinson – 19 – Everton FC
  27. James Sands – 16 – NYC FC
  28. Tyler Adams – 18 – NY Red Bulls

And so much more.

Song of the Day: Kanye West – I Feel Like That

I Feel Like That (Music Video) by Kanye West from Klemen Ahmetovic on Vimeo.

Kanye West was hospitalized Monday afternoon in Los Angeles after police responded to a medical welfare call. He was hospitalized for his own health and safety, sources say. This comes just a couple days after a 45-minute rant which concluded with him ending his show early. His rants were often, like always, erratic. He jumped from subject to subject, touching on his relationship with Jay-Z and Beyonce to talking about the Radio. It was clear, though, that something was wrong. The next day, he canceled the rest of his Saint Pablo tour which was a clear indication that he had some things going on in the background which I think is part of a much larger problem.4

Mental illness affects millions every day. It affects people you know and people you look up to. It’s very rare, though, that we see our heroes speak out about their own battles. After the news of Kanye being hospitalized, I felt the need to write about one of his most important and lesser known songs “I Feel Like That”. On this track, we find West on a comedown from the “All Day” half of the video. Physically and mentally exhausted, Kanye goes through what is essentially a mental health checklist saying all of these ailments that we may be afflicted by.  The production is intoxicating to the point where we are almost lulled into listening to exactly what he is saying. His verses are stripped back and seem like simple dialogue. Quite honestly, this song seems so intimately produced so that he is having a conversation with me. It’s just him and I or you and him. He ends each verse by saying “I feel like that all the time”. He puts his pride aside and lets us in, to say that, “yes I get angry, I get upset, I feel like harming myself and I’m no different than you”. He is trying to make a connection between his fans and himself. A connection that is often lost amongst the grand scheme of music, and most especially in hip-hop.

I commend Kanye West for wanting to get help. Masculinity can be the damnedest thing. Often times it prevents men from being vulnerable and accepting when they need get help. For me, this is the most admirable thing about Kanye. His ability to be vulnerable reminds me that he too is human. He struggles just like I do, just like you do too. I hope he’s ok. If he’s not, I hope him being admitted to the hospital will help set him on his way.  To any of you who are struggling, 1) don’t be afraid to get help. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. 2) I’m always here for you if you need to speak to anyone.

Get well soon, Kanye. We’re all thinking of you.

~ I Feel Like That All The Time~

For The First Time In A Long Time, I’m Lost

 On multiple occasions, I’ve pondered what it would be like for this misogynistic, climate change denying, sexual abusing, fraud to become President of what is supposed to be the most powerful nation on the planet. Now, we’ll have the truly unfortunate pleasure of finding out.

On November 8th, 2016 us idiots elected a Vice President who wants to defund HIV/AIDS research and use that money for conversion therapy. We elected a President who (seriously) tweeted “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” While conservative reports say we are in for one of the worst refugee crises in Human history come 2040 because of climate change. And we elected a man who is going to trial for Racketeering in just under a month. A man who was complaining about how “rigged” this election is. Funny, though, that we won’t hear about this election being rigged any further. Short memories, I presume?

The worst part about this is that who will be left to clean up this guy’s mess? Us. The Millenials. Early polls show that we voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, but we’ll have to clean up, yet again, for the old farts who have no care for how they leave this World and this Country. Most importantly, I fear for my brother, who lives a  privileged life beyond belief, yet continually struggles with bullying in elementary school. I fear for my friends of color who I was so privileged to grow up alongside and learn from. Due to Trump’s proposed nationwide stop and frisk proposal, they will not be able to walk down the street without being stereotyped (as if they weren’t enough already). Donald Trump’s golden building sits very cozily in the (safe) heart of Downtown Chicago overlooking the Southside. And yet we’re meant to believe that he gives a damn about any of those people or has any sort of plan to help combat this violence? No. He doesn’t, and he never has. In fact, he did not even allow people of color to live in his buildings. Yet, somehow, here we are. You ask me to accept the results of this election? I absolutely will not. This is unacceptable and will not only color a dark shade over those who voted for this self-centered, ego-maniacal oaf but the whole entire Country. We are the laughing stock of the whole entire World. And you all are celebrating while the stock market plummets due to the uncertainty of Trump as the leader of the free World.

I urge all of my friends, and people of my age to stay put. We will fight, hand in hand and show that there is immense value to those who are under-appreciated by our President-elect.  My brother will not be bullied because the President makes it ok. My sister will not go to “conversion therapy” for being who she is, Mike Fuckin’ Pence. My beautiful friends of color will not be portrayed in a negative light.  My  amazing cousin, who lives every day with Autism, will not live under a man who openly mocks those with the same ailments. And I will not sit idly by and let this guy run what is already a “great” country into the ground. You elected a man who lives in a home paved with gold and eats from a silver spoon as the man who will best represent you? It doesn’t get worse. Now, it’ll be up to whoever runs in 2020 to actually Make America Great Again. I’m lost for words, but I hope somewhere along my incoherent rambling you’ve found something that struck a cord, something that will motivate you to love yourself and love others. We are better than what Donald Trump and his voters perceive. Now let’s show it.

Song of the Day: Kevin Abstract – Miserable America

Miserable America is a new single by Texas native, Kevin Abstract off his sophomore album “American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story”. The song finds Kevin rapping about quite literally a “miserable America”, that still is unable to accept him as he is.

He says “I’m stuck in the closet, I’m so claustrophobic” about the life that the lives. He finds that he is still can’t come out because he knows his mother is homophobic. Even worse, the boy he is with won’t introduce him to his parents not because of them being together, but rather his parents not approving of his skin color.

In 2016, we live in a Country that has yet to come to terms with its own people. If you’re not white you’re often looked down upon. However, these norms are being valiantly challenged by many. Kevin came out a month ago through an amazing video for his lead-single Empty. There are many artists such as Cakes Da Killa, Le1f, Frank Ocean, Young Thug and Laura Jane Grace just to name a few who are pushing the antiquated narrative surrounding gender and sexuality. Any one person’s sexual or gender preference is not up to anyone’s jurisdiction but their own and we should be totally ok with that. That’s what I love so much about these artists. They give us a look into a world that many of us do not know or understand and they are making us all the better for it.

Kevin Abstract’s album “American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story” comes out November, 18th.  Each single has been a hit so far, with the latest “Miserable America” being the stand out in my eyes. Keep a look out for Kevin once his album comes out, I feel that he will be the next to break the mold with Miserable America being the song that demands to be heard. It’s catchy, it’s important, it’s euphoric. Listen to it, then buy his album on November, 18th and listen some more.

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