Seems like a dream, or, for that matter, a nightmare: Five weeks ago, the United States failed to qualify for the World Cup because it couldn’t manage a draw against lowly Trinidad and Tobago.
The fallout has been severe: widespread criticism of the players, coaches, U.S. Soccer Federation and player development system; the firing of Bruce Arena; mounting pressure on USSF President Sunil Gulati to step aside; and a rush of candidates lining up to challenge the previously unchallenged Gulati in the federation election in February.
Meantime, the games go on. The Americans will take the field for the first time since the hexagonal fiasco, visiting European champion Portugal in a friendly in Leiria today at 3:45 p.m. ET (FS1, UniMas, Univision Deportes, Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer Match Pass, univisiondeportes.com, fuboTV).
Dave Sarachan, Arena’s top lieutenant, is the caretaker coach. His squad features 12 players from Europe, eight from MLS and one from Mexico. He did not summon any players active in the MLS playoffs.
Fresh faces: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Sheffield United), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Weston McKennie (Schalke) and Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen). Average age: 18.
Midtjylland’s Bill Hamid (three caps) seems likely to start in goal ahead of Brugge’s Ethan Horvath (one) and FC Dallas’ Jesse Gonzalez (none).
Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is not in the Portuguese squad, which on Friday defeated visiting Saudi Arabia, 3-0, on goals by Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia) and Joao Mario (Inter Milan).
>> The USSF has lined up the first men’s friendly of 2018: Bosnia on Jan. 28 at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. The match will come at the end of the annual winter camp involving an MLS-heavy roster. Last winter, the Americans played two friendlies (Serbia in San Diego, Jamaica in Chattanooga), but this time there’s just one.
>> The 14th and final European slot in the World Cup will be settled today as Ireland hosts Denmark following a 0-0 draw in the first leg Saturday. Kickoff is at 2:45 p.m. on FS2, Fox Sports Go, Fox Sports Match Pass and fuboTV.
>> Sweden’s celebration Monday in Milan was epic:
>> Tasty friendlies today:
Argentina vs. Nigeria 11:30 a.m. ET (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Espanol, beIN Sports Connect, fuboTV)
Russia vs. Spain, 1:45 p.m. (ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN, ESPN3)
Germany vs. France, 2:45 (ESPN2, WatchESPN, ESPN3)
England vs. Brazil, 3 (Fox Deportes, Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer Match Pass, fuboTV)
>> Cameron Lancaster scored in the 88th minute as Louisville City defeated Swope Park Rangers, 1-0, in USL Cup in front of a sellout crowd of 14,456 at Slugger Field in Kentucky — the second largest crowd for the USL second-division final.
>> Love this photo taken in Vietnam on Sunday …