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USMNT’s back-to-back clean sheets are deceiving, they’ve been more lucky than good ahead of Nations League

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The United States men’s national team have just produced back-to-back cleansheets in friendlies against Morocco and Uruguay, and that overall will make manager Gregg Berhalter happy. You are always content when the other team fails to score, but if you look a bit deeper, there are still reasons to worry. Put aside the issue in attack that this team does not have a capable, consistent striker, and you’ll see that the defense is missing not only key players, but cohesion and shape remains absent.

Here are three takeaways from the last 180 minutes:

1. Chris Richards is sorely missed

It feels like things are trending towards Walker Zimmerman locking up a spot at center back for the World Cup as he’s been first choice at the position for a while. He’s validated the selections by putting together some formidable performances, and he has a consistency that is needed. Against Uruguay, his block late on Diego Rossi was a prime example of his awareness to close down when it matters most.

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But who in the world is going to be next to him? Will John Brooks get another shot? This team is on the verge of going too young for its own good, which could lead to a humbling experience at the World Cup, but I would slot Chris Richards next to Zimmerman and not look back. 

After allowing an xG of 2.13 to Morocco and 1.36 to Uruguay, the Americans somehow did not concede. It wasn’t because of a superior defense — it was torn apart more than once, but a lack of precision from a guy like Edinson Cavani and some fine saves by Matt Turner and Sean Johnson helped mask the issues this defense currently has.

Richards can play with both feet, he has so much versatility, he’s improving in attack, and he is the center back in this pool with the highest ceiling. He’d be there now if it wasn’t for injuries, and not playing will hurt him, but he should get the chance later this year to show why he should start at the World Cup. The question is if there will be enough time when he returns to the team.

The options behind him just aren’t all that great. Aaron Long, Erik Palmer-Brown, Cameron Carter-Vickers and others looks like decent options but simply at backups. If Richards can have a good start to next season, be it at Bayern Munich or somewhere else, he’ll be right back in the conversation, and the U.S. need him.

Listen below and follow In Soccer We Trust: A CBS Sports Soccer Podcast where three times a week your three favorite former USMNT players cover everything you could possibly want to know about the beautiful game in the United States.  

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2. The lack of width has been concerning 

Too often we’ve seen the fullbacks get caught inside, and that is giving teams way too much time in the box. It will result in strong crosses across the face of goal, and sooner or later those are going to start going in.

Just look at the image below early on against Uruguay, where the defense is so out of sync that Zimmerman has to be the guy to close down the widest Uruguay player as one defender is dealing with two attackers in the box. DeAndre Yedlin stayed inside after being beaten instead of tracking his defender, and the U.S. were fortunate not to concede.

Every U.S. defender was closer to the goal than the player with the ball.
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Having Zimmerman in front of goal, with his ability to block shots, is crucial. He stepped out on Jose Maria Gimenez because nobody was there, and that was the right thing to do, but it was all because of a lack of execution from the left side of the defensive unit.

3. Keeping shape at the back must improve

Late on in the game a ball went over the top to Darwin Nunez with Cavani with him. Uruguay at one point had what looked to be a two-on-one that resulted in a shocking Cavani miss at the death. But just look at the defensive shape a few seconds after the ball is sent long. They were essentially clean through on goal with two defenders behind them. A fortunate deflection off Palmer-Brown was able to throw Cavani off enough, but being caught out like this is alarming.

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Where is the U.S. defense?
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It’s something Berhalter will surely continue to address, because others might not be as forgiving. 

Now, this all probably will mean very little in the Nations League against inferior opponents, at least early. But when it comes to preparing for the World Cup later this year, there needs to be progress, and it has to come quickly. While on paper Group B with England, Wales and Iran doesn’t seem all that bad, you can expect quite the test for this inconsistent U.S. backline. We all know what England have in attack, Wales’ Gareth Bale can still be a top performer and Dan James can cause trouble, and Iran have two, legit striker options that are far better than what the U.S. have at the same position.

The issue is minor right now, but it could become major later on if not corrected.

With an improved defense, there should be a realistic belief this team will escape the group. Without it, don’t be surprised if they are watching the knockout stage at home.

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Tommy Pham hits walk-off single to give Red Sox a 3-2 victory over Yankees

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Tommy Pham ripped a walk-off single to give the Boston Red Sox a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees in ten innings.



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Fernando Tatis Jr. suspension: An optimistic look at the Padres’ season without their star shortstop

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The Padres have lost shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr. for the rest of the season and into May of next year. He’s been suspended 80 games for a violation of the league’s joint drug agreement

Of course, the Padres haven’t had Tatis all season, so did they actually lose him? 

If it sounds like I’m about to go on a path of optimism in looking at the prospects for the Padres moving forward during Tatis’ suspension, that’s because it’s exactly what I’m going to do. Look, I grew up a Cubs fan. I’ve had to be an eternal optimist for the entirety of my sports fandom in order to maintain sanity. It comes in handy at times like these, so I’ll channel that energy here for the sake of Padres fans — really, for any baseball fans who wanted to see new blood late in the playoffs in the form of these Padres. 

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But mostly those Padres fans who are reeling right now. Let’s get to it. 

Padres haven’t had Tatis anyway

As noted, the Padres have gotten zero games from Tatis this season, so it’s not like they lost a lineup fixture who has been doing heavy lifting for the team all season. That’s what Manny Machado has been doing, and he’s fully capable of continuing to have a huge season. He’s a 29-year-old seasoned veteran. He won’t run out of gas. 

The Padres as a whole have been in playoff position basically all season. They started 14-7 and have been under .500 just one day this season — when they started 0-1. 

A big part of the Padres’ success this season has been the rotation. It’s been one of the better rotations in baseball this season, and with Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Mike Clevinger and Sean Manaea, it figures to remain strong into the playoffs. The Tatis injury doesn’t affect that. 

What needed a boost was the offense. 

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Trade deadline additions

Let’s just take Tatis out of the equation entirely for 2022. Let’s say he was out for the season from the get-go and we never even thought about his return. We’d be talking about a team that was 60-46 through Aug. 2. The starting pitching was in great shape. The bullpen was good as well and added elite potential in Josh Hader in front of the deadline. 

The offense needed a boost. Machado is the star while Jake Cronenworth and Jurickson Profar were having quality offensive seasons, but they needed more. 

Josh Bell was hitting .301/.384/.493 (152 OPS+) with 24 doubles, three triples, 14 homers, 57 RBI and 52 runs in 103 games, and the Padres added him. Brandon Drury was hitting .274/.335/.520 (126 OPS+) with 22 doubles, two triples, 22 homers, 59 RBI and 62 runs in 92 games, and the Padres also added him. 

And, of course, they added one of the best and most polished hitters in baseball: Juan Soto

So, we’re talking about a team that was 14 games over .500 adding a top-shelf closer, two very good offensive players and a generational talent. 

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It sure seems like there’s a chance they’ll be OK, right? 

Division title was unattainable

One area they won’t be OK is in the race for the NL West. That’s over. After being swept by the Dodgers this past weekend, the Padres were facing a 16-game deficit in the division heading into Friday. They were never, ever going to make that many games up in this short period of time. Even if Tatis came back 100 percent healthy and played exponentially better than he ever has, they’d still fall short in the division. 

Follow the Braves’ path? 

In terms of sheer talent level, age and potential moving forward, Ronald Acuña, Jr. is a fair comparison for Tatis. He finished second in MVP voting at age 21 while Tatis finished third at age 22. Acuña might have been en route to an MVP last season, too, but he tore his ACL on July 10. 

The Braves were able to rally without him for a World Series championship. This was a team that only won 88 regular-season games, making them the playoff team with the worst record. They beat a 95-win Brewers team in the NLDS, a 106-win Dodgers team in the NLCS and then a 95-win Astros team in the World Series. 

No two teams ever have the same circumstances. We all know this. The 2021 Braves doesn’t mean the 2022 Padres are going to win the World Series. No one truly believes that. It doesn’t hurt for the team to look at a situation and believe they can pull off something similar, though. Plus, as we established here at the top, the Padres didn’t technically lose Tatis this season, as he never played a game. They also had a better record through July than those Braves did. The Braves didn’t add a player the caliber of Soto at the trade deadline. 

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Hell, if anything, these Padres are better suited for a deep run than those Braves were. 

This has been your optimistic spin on the Padres’ current situation, vis a vis the Tatis suspension. 

Did it work, San Diego? 



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Kyle Tucker crushes go-ahead grand slam to give Astros the lead

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Kyle Trucker crushed a go-ahead grand slam to give the Houston Astros the lead over the Oakland Athletics.



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