Soccer insider notes: Berhalter visiting European-based USMNT players, Sampaoli's agent misses Atlanta trip

Major League Soccer came to a close this past weekend and the United States men's national team is not scheduled to play again until 2019. Things have slowed down for soccer in the United States but that doesn't mean there isn't any action behind-the-scenes. There's been plenty of movement off the field on the men's and women's national team front, and we could also be seeing a big-name manager replacing Tata Martino in Atlanta. Let's dive into this week's insider notes.

Berhalter goes across the pond

Gregg Berhalter, recently appointed to coach the men's national team, flew to Atlanta to catch the MLS Cup between the Portland Timbers and Atlanta United at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Up next is a 10-day trip to Europe where he'll meet with national team players beginning on Wednesday. CBS Sports has learned he'll be making stops in England, Germany and France, where the majority of the European-based USMNT players are. He's expected to meet with key players like Christian Pulisic (Dortmund) and Weston McKennie (Schalke) in Germany. It would also make a ton sense if he connected with John Brooks (Wolfsburg) and Bobby Wood (Hannover) while in Germany. His trip to England will give him the chance to see guys like DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle), Tim Ream (Fulham) and others. In France, he could be set to visit guys like Tim Weah (PSG) and Matt Miazga (Nantes). 

Now, it's unclear what matches he plans to attend, but there are two that make a ton of sense in the next 10 days:

  • Borussia Dortmund vs. Werder Bremen on Dec. 15: match would give him the chance to potentially see both Pulisic and Bremen's young striker Josh Sargent, who just scored his first goal with the club with his first touch. That match is at 12:30 p.m. ET. and can be streamed on fuboTV (Try for free).   
  • US Orleans vs. Paris Saint-Germain on Dec. 18: It's the round of 16 of the Coupe de la Ligue, which means Weah could get some minutes, as those who don't play much usually see the field during this types of games. 

Sampaoli's agent misses ATL trip, but there's still contact

CBS Sports reported last weekend that Jorge Sampoali's agent was set to meet with Atlanta United on Sunday, the day after the club won MLS Cup 2018. But sources tell CBS Sports that the agent did not end up making the trip, and an associate of his was in Atlanta in his place. 

With all signs pointing to Tata Martino taking the Mexico job, whoever is the next coach will enter a situation that is expected to see a lot of change. Gone is Greg Garza, picked up by FC Cincinnati in the expansion draft, and it remains to be seen what happens with Miguel Almiron. Which leads us to ...

What's next for Atlanta's Almiron, Martinez?

The club says it hasn't received an offer from Almiron (per he Atlanta Journal-Constitution), but based on the way he walked off the field waving at the rowdy fans of the Five Stripes when he was subbed out in the second half of Saturday's final, it certainly felt like a goodbye. He's arguably the best player in Major League Soccer and is looked at as a sure-fire talent that can thrice in European competitions -- his previous stops at Lanus and in MLS has only reinforced that. 

On the plus side, league MVP Josef Martinez looks like he's there to stay. He said before the final that he'll stay as long as they'll have him, and sources told CBS Sports he has zero interest right now in giving Europe a try again. 

Steffen joins City, likely headed for loan

The Columbus Crew announced on Tuesday that goalkeeper Zack Steffen has signed with Manchester City and will be joining next summer. It's a big-time move for one of the most promising young keepers the national team pool has. Sources continue to tell CBS Sports that he's expected to go on loan when he officially moves, but he'll stay with Columbus for now until next summer. 

One of the clubs I'm hearing he could end up at on loan is Girona of La Liga, which is under the same ownership group as Manchester CIty. 

USWNT eyeing sweet revenge at World Cup

If you are the United States women's national team, you have to love the draw you got for the 2019 World Cup. Facing Sweden will obviously be a challenge, but it is also a chance at sweet revenge after the Swedes knocked the U.S. out of the 2016 Rio Olympics. The Netherlands and Japan would have made the draw a bit tougher instead of Sweden, as both are higher ranked and a tad better at the moment. But landing Thailand, the lowest-ranked team in Pot 3, and adding Chile from Pot 4 certainly feels like at least six points for this team when the group stage is all said and done. 

The U.S. opens with Thailand and then Chile, meaning the team could be qualified for the knockout stage by the time the Sweden game comes around. That would mean that game could be to see who wins the group. 

"They obviously knocked us out of the 2016 Olympics, so I think there's going to need to be a little bit of redemption there," defender Kelley O'Hara said on Saturday after watching the draw from Atlanta, which hosted the MLS Cup. "I think that's going to be a really good game just to evaluate us for the rest of the tournament."

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CBS Sports Writer

Roger Gonzalez is an award-winning writer based in Virginia that has covered pro soccer from Europe's top clubs to Argentina's first division. Roger started out his pro soccer writing career with Goal.com... Full Bio

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