Throwback Thursday – John Harkes

Captain for life, at least that is the title of his biography, John Harkes is an American soccer legend. When I think of a legend, I think of a player that did something first, a player that was transformative in his time and a player that broke a lot of preconceived notions along the way. Harkes was just that player.

A son of Scottish immigrants, Harkes was a first generation American. As a Kearny, New Jersey native, Harkes had the luxury of growing up in a footballing paradise. Harkes excelled through the youth ranks and ended up at the University Virginia, under current LA Galaxy head coach, Bruce Arena, where he won the Hermann Trophy, which designates the best college player in the country. Upon graduation Harkes began his career in Albany, NY but transferred after a season to Sheffield Wednesday in the English Football League.

Then this happened:

They say all players have a marquee moment. Well, here it is. It was this thunderbolt that earned Harkes, the league’s goal of the year. Beyond that, Harkes became the first American player to play in the Premier League when Sheffield Wednesday gained promotion. He also became the first American to score in a cup final, when Wednesday lost to Arsenal 2-1 in the League Cup Final.

Harkes would play another season in the Premier League with Derby County and West Ham United. During that season, the MLS announced that it was to have its inaugural season in 1996 and Harkes signed with DC United later that year.

harkes dc untited

Harkes played with DC United, the New England Revolution and the Columbus Crew during his time in the MLS.

He also had a stellar international career. He was part of the 1990 and 1994 World Cup squads but was famously cut from the 1998 team just weeks before the World Cup was to begin. The head coach at the time, Steve Sampson, cited “leadership issues” as the reason Harkes was removed from the squad. In his book, “Captain for Life,” Harkes criticized Sampson for lacking “credibility to a group of guys who had hundreds and hundreds of caps among them” and “putting a huge amount of pressure on young, internationally inexperienced players”, and concluded, “I can’t think of one thing that Steve did right in the months leading up to the World Cup.”  The USMNT lost all three games during that World Cup and ended up finishing last overall in the tournament. Harkes would be called up again to the national team in 1999 by his former college coach, Bruce Arena and would finish his career with 90 CAPS.

harkes usmnt

Harkes has been a youth director, a color commentator, and an assistant coach since his time playing.  In 2005, he was inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame. He is one of the of the most accomplished American players ever and one that broke many borders for future American players. Player’s that are able to push the limits of what those have done before are true leaders and inspiration for all those to follow. We thank John Harkes for his incredible contribution to the game and that is why is this week’s Throwback Thursday Player of the Week!

New US Soccer Away Kit

Nike officially unveiled the new US Soccer Away Kit today.  Both the Men’s and Women’s team will have the privilege of competing in them.  The Women’s team will debut the kit in the Algarve Cup in the beginning of March and the Men’s team will wear the kit against Denmark on March 25th.

Naturally, Nike got the likes of Dempsey and Alex Morgan to model the jersey for the release photos.  Check out some of the photos and let us know what you think.


Dempsey Back
Alex Morgan


Away Kit


USMNT Releases 2015 Friendly Schedule (Jan-June)

Now this is how you schedule friendlies. All of these teams will give the US tough challenges which will help them measure how they are progressing towards their goal of reaching the semifinals in 2018. Hopefully Germany fields their A team instead of their B team this time so the USMNT can really test themselves.

Playing For The USA: Joe Gyau

Speed kills. It is the most essential element during a counterattack to help a team outnumber an opponent’s defense and exploit the man advantage in order to create quality scoring chances.

Aside from DeAndre Yedlin, speed was largely absent from the wing for the USMNT in Brazil this past summer. Landon Donovan used to provide this speed on the wing. This was perfectly illustrated by the game-winning goal against Algeria in the final group stage match during the 2010 World Cup where he scored on the break after receiving a quick outlet from Tim Howard. Speed in the attack was also a large reason why Eddie Johnson and Charlie Davies were able to find a place for them on the USMNT over the years.

That lack of speed this summer, among other things, is why the offense in Brazil seemed stagnant at times. The need for groundbreaking speed on the USMNT roster is one of the reasons why Joseph Claude “Joe”Gyau is one of the most intriguing attacking prospects for the USMNT.

The 22 year-old Florida native played club soccer in Maryland before joining the IMG Academy in 2009. In 2011, after two sharp years at the academy, Joe signed with German club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim II, and was quickly promoted to their first team. In the summer of 2014 he was transferred to Borussia Dortmund II, the 3rd division side in the Bundesliga which serves as the U-23 team for the renowned Borussia Dortmund, after having played on loan at FC St.Pauli.

Borussia Dortmund II is a fertile breeding ground to cultivate Gyau’s talent, but as many Americans have found, breaking into the first team of a major European side is a difficult task. Despite this, the primary benefit of playing for a major European club team is the competition for roster spots and the superior coaching staff. Joe Gyau has the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest coaches and talent developers in the game, Jurgen Klopp, and his time within the development system at Borussia Dortmund could prove invaluable to his growth as a player.

In fact, Gyau did not have to wait long to make his debut on the first team. On September 22nd he came in as a substitute in the 74th-minute in a 2-2 draw against Vfb Stuttgart after being an unused substitute in the previous two matches. He played a solid match where he almost had an assist and completed 8 of 9 passes but the most important thing to note about his debut, and his spot on the bench in the previous two games, is what both mean for his first team prospects this season. A consistent selection for the first team roster means that Joe gets to train day in and day out with some of the top talent in the world as well as exposure to the lectures and unique teaching style of one of the world’s most respected coaches and his staff. There are not many American talents who can boast those credentials and it is why Joe Gyau is poised to be an important part of the future of the USMNT’s attack.

Currently, Jozy Altidore is the focal point of the front line; but he could use a quick, creative winger to work off his hold-up play and provide crosses. Speed and creativity is a missing element of the current USMNT attack and Joe Gyau can be the player that provides both. He is an incredible athlete who shows great strength on the ball and is very comfortable with the ball at his feet. During the recent game against Czech Republic he showed what he can add to the team going forward. At times he was not as effective but he showed the intangibles which US soccer fans have been clamoring for. His tremendous upside, coupled with the perfect environment to nurture his development, has led many to believe that he is certain to make the 2018 USMNT World Cup roster. The most important part of insuring his inclusion is whether he gets the requisite playing time to gain experience and develop his abilities. Thankfully, his rise to the bench of Borussia Dortmund’s first team roster could not have come at a better time due to their current underwhelming form and injuries to Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Whether he manages to exploit this opportunity still remains to be seen.

There will be growing pains for him as there are for most USMNT prospects. Jurgen Klinsmann demands his players to be playing against top competition but players do not develop as quickly riding the bench, no matter where they are playing. Riding the bench at Borussia Dortmund is not necessarily better than starting every game at Utrecht, and for that reason players such as Joe Gyau are always under the threat of losing their form.

Former US international David Wanger is the current coach of Borussia Dortmund II so he will make sure to get the most out of Joe Gyau when he is playing for Borussia Dortmund II. However, Gyau needs first team experience in order to reach his full potential.

Julian Green went to Hamburg on loan to help himself find playing time and Joe Gyau may have to do the same to insure his talent does not stagnate. If he can remain in form and utilize his opportunity to train under one of the greatest coaches and teams in the world then he can add a new dynamic to the USMNT offense that was so lacking in the 2014 World Cup.


First Published in First Touch

Jordan Morris Gives Klinsmann A College Education (First Published On First Touch)

On August 28th, 2014 Jurgen Klinsmann did something that hadn’t been done in 15 years. He named a current collegiate player to the USMNT team roster. His name is Jordan Morris and he is 19 years old forward for the Stanford men’s soccer, the Seattle Sounders youth team, and the U-20 team. After the game on September 3rd he was able to add USMNT to his list of accomplishments. If his development goes according to plan, he could earn his first international cap; although that probably won’t be for another few years.

The roster spot that Jordan was granted may never have been available if it weren’t for the weird idiosyncratic rules of MLS that allows clubs to refuse to release its players from participating in international friendlies. There may be no all-star forwards in the pool at the moment comparable to a Daniel Sturridge or Edin Dzeko, but there are several proven internationals in Aron Johannsson, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, and Terrence Boyd. However, the lack of available MLS players convinced Jurgen to use the game against the Czech Republic to test his younger talent against senior level talent. Once again, Klinsmann is staying true to his promise to foster the young talent within the USMNT player pool in order to help the US one day compete for a World Cup title. Even though Jordan Morris never got on the field, the experience he gained in training could prove invaluable towards his development. Jurgen’s faith will be returned tenfold if US fans get to witness Jordan Morris score a goal in the 2022 World Cup.

Who is Jordan Morris? Is he just another flash in the pan or could he one day be a key cog in the USMNT team? Questions like these never have definite answers, and unfortunately the odds are stacked against him. It was not long ago that many believed Freddy Adu to be the next big thing in America soccer and now he is playing in Serbia for FK Jagodina and has since become a prime example of what hype and over expectation can do to a player. What is known about Jordan Morris is that he is a perfect combination of speed and strength. Not only can he beat players in 1:1 but he also is a playmaker who can use his playmaking creative abilities and vision to open up opportunities for his teammates. His mere presence on the field can distract the defense and open up holes for his team to exploit. In essence, he is the consummate forward who now needs to prove he can translate these skills to the faster paced club and international soccer environment. Skills like these, however, are hard to teach so if they are incubated and harnessed correctly they could open many opportunities for this young man.

Despite his talent, there are many other talented forwards in Division 1 college soccer that were over-looked in favor of Jordan Morris. Looking at his stat line from last season it is hard to see why. In 2013 he played his first season in the collegiate ranks and led all conference freshmen in assists (7) and points (19) and tied for lead in goals (6) while finishing second on his team in points. While the stats are notable they hardly seem to warrant a college player getting a call-up for the USMNT for the first time in 15 years as they are not particularly gaudy. What most likely led to his call-up were the performances he put on for Jurgen Klinsmann and his coaching staff behind closed doors. Before leaving to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup the USMNT had closed scrimmages with the Stanford men’s soccer team. Although there are no direct reports from that game, Jordan Morris acknowledged he scored a goal. His performances for the U-20 Youth team, which is coached by Jurgen Klinsmann’s well-respected assistant Tab Ramos, coupled with those closed-door scrimmages seem to have been just enough to convince Jurgen that Jordan was a talent worth nurturing.

During his time with the Seattle Sounders youth team Jordan scored 28 goals in 32 games. This was enough to earn him a scholarship to Stanford where he has continued to impress. At the moment he is furthering his development at Stanford and with the US national youth teams but at some point he must move on to a tougher test. Unfortunately, due to the striker partnership of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins for the Seattle Sounders senior team it is improbable that Jordan Morris gets any playing time on the senior team any time soon so his development will have to come from somewhere else. The college soccer system has a spotty record at developing talent which means if Jordan Morris is going to develop he must turn professional sooner rather than later. How his talent is developed will be a key factor in determining whether he realizes his potential or he may never again earn another call-up for the USMNT. If he develops accordingly he will be key factor towards providing the competitive depth needed to finally create a USMNT forward line capable of becoming an international force.

This article was first published on First Touch “”America’s Longest Running Free Football Weekly” please click here for the online PDF or if you are in the NYC metro area pickup a copy at your local soccer pub.

NASL Player, Miguel Ibarra, Set To Be Called Up To USMNT Camp

According to recent rumors, Jurgen Klinsmann is set to call up Miguel Ibarra, the dynamic 24-year old winger who plays in the NASL for Minnesota United. If so then this would be the first time a player was called up to the national team from the second tier since 2005 when Clyde Simmons of the Richmond Kickers was called up (Feel free to use that fun-fact next time you are watching a soccer game at the local pub). His potential call-up illustrates Jurgen Klinsmann’s efforts to scout and foster talent both locally and abroad, no matter what league they are playing in. Many have seen him scouting NASL matches so it is refreshing to see that Jurgen is leaving no stone unturned. The strategy could pay huge dividends as the US soccer talent pool is spread very far and it wouldn’t be the first time talent has slipped through the cracks of the USMNT youth system. Although the call-up has not yet been made official it is still an encouraging sign of the length to which Jurgen will go to identify talented US players to help bring the USMNT closer to their goal of challenging for a World Cup title. In the US it has been far too easy to “go through the motions” and identify players like Dempsey, Altidore, Zusi, Bradley, Beasley and Donovan who, although talented enough to bring the USMNT to the round of 16 in the World Cup, are not talented enough to win the US a World Cup. Jurgen’s new approach may help push the USMNT to new heights in time to reach a semi-final birth in the 2018 World Cup.