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AL RAYYAN, Qatar—An hour after the U.S. men’s national team had been eliminated from the World Cup, a handful of players were still strolling around the field at Khalifa International Stadium. They walked around, barefoot on the grass, soaking in their final moments on soccer’s biggest stage before they began the four-year wait for another shot. U.S. captain Tyler Adams lingered for as long as he could before the grounds crew ushered him off. The Americans had lost 3-1 to a technically superior Netherlands side, but Adams was convinced that his team shouldn’t have been the one going home.
AL RAYYAN, Qatar—An hour after the U.S. men’s national team had been eliminated from the World Cup, a handful of players were still strolling around the field at Khalifa International Stadium. They walked around, barefoot on the grass, soaking in their final moments on soccer’s biggest stage before they began the four-year wait for another shot. U.S. captain Tyler Adams lingered for as long as he could before the grounds crew ushered him off. The Americans had lost 3-1 to a technically superior Netherlands side, but Adams was convinced that his team shouldn’t have been the one going home.
The Striking Problem That Doomed America at the World Cup
  + stars: | 2022-12-03 | by ( Andrew Beaton | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: 1 min
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter and Christian Pulisic walk off the pitch after the 3-1 loss to the Netherlands. AL RAYYAN, Qatar—The clearest sign that the U.S. would be returning home from the World Cup after the Round of 16 came just three minutes into its clash with the Netherlands. Christian Pulisic had the ball in the middle of the box, with only the Dutch goalkeeper between him and a 1-0 lead. Pulisic’s shot was saved without much difficulty. If the best U.S. goal scorer couldn’t capitalize on an ideal opportunity, how were the Americans going to score enough to hang in the World Cup?
Lawyers for world champion Magnus Carlsen and Chess.com moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Hans Moke Niemann, the teenage American grandmaster who is facing bombshell cheating allegations, writing in court filings Friday that Niemann’s claims are a public relations ploy with no factual or legal basis. Chess.com’s filings say that Niemann’s complaint presents no evidence for any sort of conspiracy to damage his career, and that Niemann has failed to plausibly show how anything Chess.com has said about him is false.
AL RAYYAN, Qatar—Almost a decade ago, an American teenager who was starting to attract attention from the top teams in Europe made a pit stop in the Netherlands. Christian Pulisic’s time at PSV Eindhoven was brief, but he was there long enough to play in a youth tournament against the academies from other elite clubs. And one of his teammates would eventually become an even more dangerous attacking talent than he was. His name was Cody Gakpo. And Gakpo is now the player capable of sending Pulisic and the Americans home from the World Cup.
When quarterback Deshaun Watson demanded a trade from the Houston Texans nearly two years ago, interested teams were faced with one of the most consistently uncomfortable problems in sports: weighing off-the-field ick against on-the-field value. The Cleveland Browns eventually decided that it wasn’t a difficult calculation at all. They not only traded three future first-round picks to acquire Watson, a player who had risen to superstardom in college at Clemson, they signed him to an unprecedented, fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract. In terms of dollars and draft capital, it is perhaps the most expensive deal in NFL history.
The World Cup of Air Conditioning
  + stars: | 2022-12-02 | by ( Joshua Robinson | Andrew Beaton | Jonathan Clegg | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: 1 min
DOHA, Qatar—When Brazil star Antony noticed that his throat was bothering him and a few teammates just days into the Qatar World Cup, he didn’t need to look far for an explanation. He just had to glance at the thermostat. Organizers once thought that scorching temperatures here would pose the greatest danger to players’ health at the World Cup in the desert. But as it turns out, the biggest problem for players has been Qatar’s expensive solution for heat: the air conditioning.
AL RAYYAN, Qatar— U.S. men’s national team star Christian Pulisic said he would do “everything within my power” to play in the Americans’ Round of 16 match against the Netherlands on Saturday, but stopped short of guaranteeing he will appear after suffering an injury in the group stage finale against Iran. The U.S. win over Iran that sent the team to the knockout stage came at a high price when Pulisic was hurt as he scored the only goal in the 1-0 win. After briefly returning to the pitch, he left the game at halftime and was taken to the hospital for tests, where he followed the end of the game on a cellphone. Pulisic is officially labeled as “day to day” with a pelvic contusion.
DOHA, Qatar—In order to advance to the knockout stage of this World Cup, the U.S. men’s national team knew it needed a way to unlock Iran’s notoriously stingy defense. What the Americans came up with was a play that produced one of the most memorable goals in U.S. soccer history. When Christian Pulisic connected with a headed pass to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead—and ultimately win a spot in the Round of 16 and a Saturday date with Netherlands—members of the team insisted that the key sequence wasn’t merely a handful of improvised passes finished off by one clever run. They said it was a designed progression that the team had practiced meticulously just in case the opportunity arose.
Poland’s players, exhausted and nervous, gathered on the pitch after the final whistle around a coach with a screen. They had just lost 2-0 to Argentina, and their World Cup fate was unfolding in the palm of their coach’s hand. The team was watching the dying moments of Mexico’s game against Saudi Arabia, the clash between the other two teams in the group that would suddenly decide whether or not it was time to go home from Qatar. Only after more than five minutes did a referee’s whistle 14 miles away put Poland out of its misery and send them into wild celebration.
The Epic Blunder That Made America’s Goalkeeper
  + stars: | 2022-11-28 | by ( Andrew Beaton | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: 1 min
DOHA, Qatar—Before Matt Turner became a star for the U.S. men’s national team, he was famous for the one and only thing that a goalkeeper never wants to become associated with: an all-time howler. The goal Turner gave up in 2013 was so astonishing that a Fairfield University soccer clip went viral. Videos of the play—which began with a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar, popped into the air and then rolled off Turner when he tried to collect it, into his own net—rapidly spread across social media and the nightly news. Turner rode the bench for the rest of the season while seemingly everyone watched his mistake over and over.
DOHA, Qatar—A day after the U.S. Soccer Federation deleted a social media post with an altered version of the Iranian flag ahead of their crucial World Cup clash, American coach Gregg Berhalter apologized on behalf of the players and staff for causing offense—even though he said they had no advance knowledge of the federation’s plans. “We had no idea about what U.S. Soccer put out. The staff, the players, we had no idea,” Berhalter said Monday. “All we can do is apologize on behalf of the players and the staff. But it’s not something that we were a part of.”
DOHA, Qatar—A day after the U.S. Soccer Federation deleted a social media post with an altered version of the Iranian flag ahead of their crucial World Cup clash, American coach Gregg Berhalter apologized on behalf of the players and staff for causing offense—even though he said they had no advance knowledge of the federation’s plans. “We had no idea about what U.S. Soccer put out. The staff, the players, we had no idea,” Berhalter said Monday. “All we can do is apologize on behalf of the players and the staff. But it’s not something that we were a part of.”
DOHA, Qatar—With the U.S. and Iran set to play a high-stakes match in the World Cup here on Tuesday, the U.S. Soccer Federation took to social media to make what it says is a statement of support for protesters inside Iran: an altered version of the Iranian flag. The federation’s action resulted in an Iranian soccer official calling for a FIFA investigation and disciplinary action against the Americans, just two days before a match the U.S. must win in order to advance.
DOHA, Qatar—With the U.S. and Iran set to play a high-stakes match in the World Cup here on Tuesday, the U.S. soccer federation took to social media to make what it said was a statement of support for protesters inside Iran: an altered version of the Iranian flag. Then, Sunday afternoon, the team deleted the post, which wasn’t run past U.S. players or coaches and inflamed tensions with the Iranians ahead of a decisive showdown on the field.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter and his players after Friday’s draw with England, a result that was open to wide interpretation. AL KHOR, Qatar—Yunus Musah and Tim Ream played on the same side in the same game. But after their U.S. team drew with England in a hotly anticipated World Cup showdown on Friday, it sounded like they experienced entirely different affairs. Musah beamed about the potential long-term impact from standing toe-to-toe with one of the tournament’s favorites. He thought the Americans should have won.
America’s Secret Weapon at the World Cup: The Military
  + stars: | 2022-11-24 | by ( Andrew Beaton | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: 1 min
DOHA, Qatar—Air Force Major Daniel Bair’s job here involves plenty of sitting at a desk, writing emails and making calls. It isn’t exactly the kind of thing that rivets his kids when he FaceTimes with them. But ever since he was deployed to Qatar over the summer, he has looked forward to two things. He couldn’t wait for the heat to subside. And he was eager for another celebrated group of Americans, known as the U.S. men’s national soccer team, to arrive.
DOHA, Qatar—From the moment the U.S. learned its draw in this World Cup nearly eight months ago, there was immediate and breathless hype focused on a single game scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, the Americans would get to test themselves against one of the top soccer nations in the world, a team that just happens to be the model for how the U.S. dreams of playing. Now the U.S. is finally set to play England for the third time in World Cup history. And the stakes for what may be the most heated clash since Bunker Hill are as high as anyone could have imagined: a spot in the knockout round, the prospect of national humiliation for England, and the Americans’ best chance in years to measure their progress on the global stage.
DOHA, Qatar—Judging by the swell of Mexico fans who flew to this tiny emirate, chanted on the local subway en route to the game and painted the blue seats almost entirely green here at Stadium 974—where there was only a speck of Polish red mixed in—there was no sign that the last couple of years haven’t lived up to El Tri’s standard as the dominant force in its region. No matter anything else, Mexico still has goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and its supporters arrive at the World Cup with the same expectation every four years: a trip to the knockout rounds. That’s exactly what has happened in each of the previous seven World Cups—and Mexico promptly lost in the Round of 16 each time.
America’s World Cup Hopes Depend on Gen Z
  + stars: | 2022-11-21 | by ( Andrew Beaton | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: 1 min
After an infamous loss to Trinidad and Tobago caused the U.S. Men’s National Team to miss the 2018 World Cup, new coach Gregg Berhalter landed in the job with a surprising plan. He didn’t turn to trusted veterans in a bid to steady the ship. As he prepared for the next spin through World Cup qualifying, he did the exact opposite. No team heading to Qatar relied on a younger set of players to get there than the Americans. Most didn’t have the scars of past U.S. embarrassments, simply because they hadn’t even been part of the national team yet.
AL RAYYAN, Qatar—The United States Men’s National Team spent the past eight years on the sidelines of the World Cup after a disastrous failure to qualify in 2018. For the Americans, it was the ultimate missed opportunity. Then on Monday, the U.S. marked its return to the World Cup with another blown chance in its opening match against Wales.
AL RAYYAN, Qatar—The United States Men’s National Team spent the past eight years on the sidelines of the World Cup after a disastrous failure to qualify in 2018. For the Americans, it was the ultimate missed opportunity. Then on Monday, the U.S. marked its return to the World Cup with another blown chance in its opening match against Wales.
DOHA, Qatar—Right after Los Angeles FC won the most dramatic MLS Cup in the history of the league this month, coach Steve Cherundolo had a sobering realization about the player who had just saved his team. Gareth Bale had scored the 128th-minute goal, deep into stoppage time of extra time, to tie the game, send the match into a penalty shootout and tee up LAFC’s victory. It was exactly the kind of moment that Bale, the former Real Madrid star, was signed to deliver. And it didn’t take long for Cherundolo to remember that Bale’s next game wouldn’t be in an LAFC shirt. Bale would be wearing a Wales uniform, and lining up against the U.S.
DOHA, Qatar—When Qatar made its unlikely pitch to host the World Cup in a tiny Muslim Gulf state, officials laid out their plan in extraordinary detail, including climate-controlled stadiumsand elaborate transportation networks. However, according to people familiar with the bid, Qatar remained intentionally vague about how it would handle one aspect of the world’s largest sporting event: beer.
Even in this golden age of scrambling quarterbacks in the NFL, there isn’t anyone quite like the Chicago Bears’ Justin Fields. He broke the record for quarterbacks with 178 rushing yards in a single regular-season game a couple of weeks ago. One way of measuring Fields’s recent play is through how millions of people track NFL players: fantasy football. Over the past two weeks, he has two of the 50 best all-time fantasy performances for a quarterback. When quarterbacks can run—and Fields does that perhaps better than anyone else in the league—they become fantasy football cheat codes.
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