5/7/21 Indy 11 Home Opener 7 pm MyIndy TV+ESPN+, NWSL Final Sat 1 pm CBS, 2 American’s to UCL Final, Big TV Games

Indy 11

The Indy 11 kicks off their home schedule this Saturday night at 7 pm vs Tulsa at the Mike and on MyIndy TV 23. Due to stadium limitations only season ticket holders will be allowed in for the games in May –- with hopes that will change in June. I will be there !!  Season Tix start at just $10 per game and are still Available.   Indy 11 wins opener 1-0 at Birmingham as GK Jordan Farr slots clean sheet.

What’s New with Indy 11- Lots – Indy Star Kevin Johnson

MLS

Its Derby weekend as El Traffico LAFC vs LA Galaxy Sat at 8 pm on FOX and Seattle vs Portland 3 pm Sun on ABC – lead the way.  Just 2 weeks ago I bragged about MLS and how far they have come in the CCL – of course 3 Mexican teams knocked out Portland/Seattle/Columbus this week leaving just the Philly Union in the Final 4. Assuming Carlos Vela is healthly for LAFC – this should be a huge game as he matches up against the leading scorer in MLS – Chicarito for the LA Galaxy. 

NWSL Challenge Cup Final Sat 1 pm CBS

After four weeks of play, the Portland Thorns will host NJ/NY Gotham FC on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on CBS in the second iteration of the NWSL Challenge Cup. And thanks to loosening COVID-19 restrictions in Oregon, the stadium will host around 3,800 fans, giving the Thorns an extra home-field advantage boost. Both teams enter the Cup final undefeated, but the Thorns are the stronger squad. In the group qualifying stage, they notched three wins and a draw (aka tie) to win the West division. On the other hand, Gotham FC won two and drew two on their way to the top of the East and haven’t scored since their second match. Portland has the upper hand, especially with legendary players like Lindsey Horan and Christine Sinclair on the roster. But if Gotham striker Midge Purce, who’s already scored twice, can find the net again, or Carli Lloyd hits paydirt they’ll have a good chance to stun the favorites.

Champions League – 2 Americans in Final

I will start by saying I was livid when American Christian Pulisic did not start for Chelsea vs Real Madrid.  Yes he had a yellow card – but he was clearly the best player on the field in the first leg scoring the only the away goal for Chelsea at Real Madrid.  So he starts him on the bench of course.  70 Minutes in Pulisic FINALLY entered and was the most electric player over the last 25 minutes.  He ran at the back line and finally connected with Mason Mount for the game clinching 2nd goal to put the game away.  That’s 2 of the 3 goals Chelsea scored in about 90 minutes of play over 2 legs.  So we will now have an American – in fact 2 American’s (Pulisic and Man City’s Backup goalie Zach Steffan) in a EUFA Cup final for the first time ever.  This is the Superbowl of Soccer – top 2 teams in the world – and we have a chance for an American to start and possibly score in the biggest club game in Soccer on May 29th on CBS.  Oh and the job Tuechel has done at Chelsea (other than not starting Pulisic EVERY GAME) has been brilliant.  In 3 short months he has made Chelsea a defensive jugernaght and coaxed some semblance of offense out of team that was just average for former manager Frank Lampard.   They were far the better team vs Real Madrid – 13 time champion – they dominated what was the best midfield in the world – and the #6 Nagolo Kante showed he’s the best #6 in the World again.  Kante was man of the match again – as he dominated the middle and launched the Chelsea counter attack time after time – after winning the ball deep.  Interesting match-up with Man City who will be playing their first ever title.  Chelsea becomes the first team ever to send their Men’s and Women’s teams to the European Club Finals. 

GAMES to WATCH This Weekend

Big news that Fox Sports added the Copa America Cup to its soccer TV line-up this summer and over the next 6 years along with South American Mens and Womens games – adding Argentina, Brazil and all the South American teams to the TV audience in the US will be cool – just when I had given up on Fox Sports and soccer. Bravo !

Games on Network TV galore this weekend !!  American’s Reyna for Dortmund and Adams for RB Leipzig square off at 9:30 am on Saturday on ESPN as Dortmund is desperately looking to climb back into the top 4 (just 2 points back).  Barcelona and Sergenio Dest will host Atletico Madrid at 10:15 am on beIN Sport looking to take the lead in La Liga as the top 2 teams battle with a few games left.  Chelsea and Pulisic will host Champions League Final opponent Man City at 12:30 on NBC and the Blues need the points to stay in 4th and to keep Man City from winning the EPL at Stanford Bridge. The NWSL Challenge Cup Final follows at 1 pm on CBS Saturday with the Portland Thorns and a host of USWNT players hosting Carli Lloyd and NY/NJ Gotham FC.  MLS takes over at 6 pm with Orlando City vs NYCFC, and El TrafficoLAFC vs LA Galaxy at 8 pm of Fox.  Of course our Indy 11 play Tulsa at 7 pm on My IndyTV and ESPN+.  Sunday on ABC at 3 pm MLS’ best rivalry the Portland Timbers will host Seattle Sounders right after Inter Miami hosts Atlanta United at 1 pm.  Not sure why Juventus and American Weston McKinney hosting AC Milan with 4th and Champions League at stake in Italy is not on ESPN at 2:45 pm – its on ESPN+ instead.  (ESPN is just clueless on Italian Serie A coverage – they never show good games on the networks – truly clueless.  American’s on TV this weekend

Congrats to The Indiana Hoosiers who won their first 2 NCAA tourney games and will play Seton Hall in the Quarter Finals Monday at 5 pm on ESPN3.   The No. 3-ranked Indiana men’s soccer program (9-1-1) earned the third overall seed and a first-round bye.  NCAA Bracket

Ed Sheeran – yes the Singer has signed on as shirt sponsor of his hometown club in England –Shape of You: Sheeran becomes Ipswich shirt sponsor

HUGE CONGRATS to Former Carmel FC and CHS Coach Carla Baker who was recently inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame!  Here’s a CHS profile on Carla from a few months back.   

GAMES ON TV

Sat, May 8

7:30 am NBCSN           Leeds United vs Tottenham

9:30 am ESPN             Dortmund (Reyna) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

9:30 am ESPN+           Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Union Berlin

10:15 am beIN Sport Barcelona vs Atletico

12:30 pm NBC               Man City vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

1 pm CBS                     Portland ThornsFC (Dunn, Horan, Sauerbrunn, Smith) vs NY/NJ Gothem FC NWSL Challenge Cup Champ

3:!5 pm Peacock                Liverpool vs Southampton

6 pm ESPN                          Orlando City vs New York City FC  

7  pm ESPN+, Myindy TV      Indy 11 vs FC Tulsa

8 pm Fox                     LA Galaxy vs LAFC – El Traffico

Sun, May 9

10:15 am Peacock             Aston Villa vs Man United 

11:30 am NBCSN              West Ham vs Everton 

1 pm ABC                            Inter Miami vs Atlanta United 

2 pm NBC                            Arsenal vs West Brom  

2:45 pm ESPN+           Juventus (McKinney) vs AC Milan (Zlatan)

3 pm ABC                    Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders

3 pm beIN Sport                 Real Madrid vs Sevilla 

7:30 pm FS1                       Sporting KC vs Austin FC

Tues, May 11 

1 pm NBCSN               Man United vs Leicester

4 pm beIN Sport                Levante v Barcelona (Dest)  

Weds, May 12

3:15 NBCSN                        Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Arsenal  

2:45 pm ESPN2                  Sassuolo vs Juventus (McKinney)

10:30 pm ESPN+                San Jose vs Seattle Sounders

Thurs, May 13

2:45 pm ESPN2                 RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Dortmund (Reyna) DFB Portal  

3:15 NBCSN                        Man United vs Liverpool

8 pm ESPN+                        DC United vs Chicago Fire  

Fri, May 14

3 NBCSN                              New Castle vs Man City  

Sat, May 15

7:30 am NBCSN                  Leeds United vs Burnley

10:00 am Peacock             Man United  vs Fulham (Robinson)

9:30 am ESPN+                  Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Union Berlin

12 noon ESPN+           Juventus (McKinney) vs Inter Milan

12:30 pm ESPN+           Leicester vs Chelsea (Pulisic)  FA Cup Final

4  pm ESPN+                       LA Galaxy vs Austin FC

8 pm ESPN2                        Tampa Bay Rowies vs Phoenix Rising USL

Sun, May 16

6 am ESPN2                       Fiorentina vs Napoli

9 am NBCSN                      Tottenham vs Wolverhampton

11:30 am NBCSN              West Brom vs Liverpool                   

2:30 pm ESPN+                 RB Liepzig (Adams) vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)

4 pm Fox                     Cincy vs Inter Miami (stadium reveal)  

6 pm ESPN2                New England vs Columbus Crew

3 pm beIN Sport                 Real Madrid vs Sevilla 

9:30 pm FS                  Seattle Sounders vs LAFC

MLS Schedule

NWSL Season TV Schedule

 

Indy 11 home opener Sat Night 7 pm @ Mike

What’s New with Indy 11- Lots – Indy Star Kevin Johnson

·      INDY ELEVEN HOSTS FC TULSA FOR 2021 SEASON OPENER

·      RECAP | INDY ELEVEN CLAIMS VICTORY IN SEASON OPENER AT BIRMINGHAM LEGION

Gallery: Eleven fend off Legion in season opener for both clubs – Soctakes.com
INDY 11 BYB Spot

2021 New Roster

InDY ELEVEN SCORES “OFFICIAL SPORTS BETTING PARTNER” IN BETRIVERS

Season Tix Available

USL League Standings

NWSL Finals Sat 1 pm CBS

Final Preview

Behind the philosophical revolution of the Portland Thorns and Meghan Klingenberg
15-year-old soccer player sues NWSL over age restrictions

Report: NWSL expansion team to move from Sacramento to San Diego

WSL Chelsea can win Title Sunday at 9:30 on NBCSN

NWSL Season TV Schedule

MLS


El Trafico LA showdown, Portland Timbers-Seattle Sounders Cascadia 
Derby Highlight MLS Weekend
Portland Timbers fall to Club Amèrica, eliminated from CONCACAF Champions League

Club America, Monterrey advance in CONCACAF Champions League

Union’s Jim Curtin blasts Atlanta United’s Gabriel Heinze after CCL win

 

Champions League 2 US Players in Final

Pulisic adds American flavor to UCL final
Three things we learned from Chelsea – Real Madrid; Pulisic Watch

Pulisic admits frustration with coming off bench in Chelsea win (video)

UCL talking points: Will it be Man City or Chelsea to lift the trophy?

 Man City’s wild celebrations after reaching UCL final, as captured by Steffen
UEFA insist Istanbul to host Champions League final; Villa Park, Wembley mooted
Tuchel bullish, talks up Chelsea’s chances of Champions League glory
Tuchel transformation takes Chelsea to brink of Champions League glory
Chelsea’s Werner relieved by Champions League redemption
Real Madrid outclassed by Chelsea as defeat raises fresh doubts around old guard
Madrid’s Hazard ‘sorry’ for ‘offensive’ post-Champions League exit 
Man United – Villarreal set for Europa League final; Arsenal crash out
Three things we learned from Chelsea – Real Madrid; Pulisic Watch
Three things we learned from Chelsea v Real Madrid
PSG regret Mbappe absence and loss of discipline in latest Champions League exit
Three things we learned from Man City v Paris Saint-Germain

Cavani 9/10, Telles 3/10 as Man United reach Europa League final

EPL
Manchester City – Chelsea: How to watch, injury news, start time, 

Man Utd’s Liverpool clash rearranged after fan fury

Premier League fans to return for final two matchdays

Foreign money and coaching sees English clubs dominate in Europe again

WORLD


No longer the special one, Mourinho heads to Roma in search of revival

Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic face off in battle for Champions League spot
Crunch time for La Liga’s title race as contenders go head to head

Bayern renew bid to win league as Dortmund battle Leipzig

PSG left to chase Lille for Ligue 1 title after Champions League exit

UEFA allows 26-player squads for Euro 2020

Fox Sports Boosts Soccer Portfolio With Six-Year CONMEBOL Deal

 USA

USMNT to play Costa Rica in post-Nations League friendly

Man City’s wild celebrations after reaching UCL final, as captured by Steffen

USWNT summer series games announced in Texas
The Rush: Carli Lloyd on reuniting with her family, staying on top of her game and changing a few soccer rules

 

GK Jordan Farr with the save !

What’s new with Indy Eleven in 2021? A lot.

Kevin Johnston  Special for IndyStar 5/7/21

https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.455.0_en.html#goog_1254535317 INDIANAPOLIS – If the Indy Eleven need a campaign-style cliché for 2021, “change” certainly fits the bill.The Eleven switched venues in the offseason, departing Lucas Oil Stadium for their original home at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium. They also vastly overhauled their roster while kickstarting a new trend of selling players to Major League Soccer. And results-wise, they’ll hope to improve upon a dismal 2020 season in which they collapsed down the stretch and missed the playoffs after a sizzling start.The chance to right the ship began with three points last weekend as the Eleven won 1-0 at Birmingham Legion FC in their season debut. Their home opener is 7 p.m., Saturday against FC Tulsa, with MyINDY-TV 23 and ESPN+ handling the respective local and national broadcasts.The return to Carroll Stadium comes at an especially interesting time as the team works to finalize the details — including the location — of its future home, Eleven Park. During a virtual town hall meeting Thursday, club president and CEO Greg Stremlaw provided an update on the sites in consideration.“There are three real bona fide locations,” he said. “They’re all unique in their own right. We do have kind of an alpha, if you will, but the other two are special as well.”Coach Martin Rennie is back this season, as are assistants Phil Presser and Andy Swift. Here’s how the 2021 Indy Eleven roster shakes out after ample offseason changes:Returnees: G Jordan Farr, D Neveal Hackshaw, D Karl Ouimette (vice captain), M Ayoze Garcia (captain), M Carl Haworth, F Nick Moon, F Matthew Roou

Additions: G Bobby Edwards, G Alex Svetanoff, D AJ Cochran, D Rece Buckmaster, D Nedeljko Malic, D Jared Timmer, D Matthew Senanou, D Aidan Liu, M Nicky Law, M Patrick Seagrist, M Aboubacar Sissoko, M Peter-Lee Vassell, M Jeremiah Gutjahr, M Gershon Koffie, M Patrick McDonald, F Jordan Hamilton, F Cammy Smith, F Manuel Arteaga, F Gordon Wild https://4ea0731402a770edb98a82eb05f7a7e9.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html Rennie has rostered 19 new players while retaining only seven from the 2020 squad. Indy will rely heavily on the incoming guys for improved results this season, as evidenced by the lineup Saturday in the season opener. Eight of the 11 in the starting group were newcomers.

Among them, central midfielder Nicky Law played a prominent role and figures to be a key cog in the center of the park all season for Indy. The 33-year-old Englishman stationed himself very high up the pitch against Birmingham, completing 89% of his passes and creating four chances.The average position chart from Indy’s season opener shows midfielder Nicky Law (No. 27) practically playing as a forward.Law explained that he was mostly a defensive midfielder earlier in his career, but eventually evolved his game to become more of a box-to-box midfielder or central attacking midfielder.

“As my career went on, I definitely found myself farther up the field, whether that be an eight or as a 10,” Law told IndyStar. “Obviously, last week I played as a 10. … I can also play deeper in one of the six or eight slots as well with the way that we try to play here.”Former Indy forwards Tyler Pasher and Josh Penn, along with goalkeeper Evan Newton, were transferred to MLS teams in the offseason. Receiving transfer fees for selling players to MLS marks a new revenue stream for Indy, one that frankly isn’t that common in the USL since several clubs already function as reserve sides for MLS teams. Having extra cash to operate would be a nice luxury for any lower-division club right now.Due to pandemic-related protocols, only Indy Eleven season ticket holders can attend home matches until further notice. Tailgating is also prohibited.“We continue to work with the Marion County Health Department, City of Indianapolis, Indiana University and other organizations on a venue plan for home games that will put the health and safety of players, staff and spectators at the forefront.“For the May 8 home opener versus FC Tulsa, Indy Eleven can confirm access will be limited to 2021 season ticket members only,” the club announced in a statement.FC Tulsa sits at 2-0-0 after beating OKC Energy FC and Sporting KC II to start the season, so look for Saturday’s match to be competitive in the Eastern Conference’s newly aligned Central Division.

NWSL 2021 Challenge Cup Final: Thorns vs. Gotham, Sat 1 pm CBS

Portland Thorns FC and Gotham FC battle it out for the NWSL 2021 Challenge Cup championship

By Sandra Herrera

The National Women’s Soccer League will close out the 2021 Challenge Cup on Saturday as Portland Thorns FC and Gotham FC square off for the championship at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon.

A new Challenge Cup champion will be crowned after the inaugural 2020 Challenge Cup winning Houston Dash were eliminated from contention in group play. Portland, winners of the 2013 and 2017 NWSL championship and 2016 NWSL shield are no strangers to big games, while Gotham FC, 2020 Challenge Cup semifinalist, now find themselves in the 2021 final.

Here’s how to watch and what to know about the big game this weekend:

Viewing information

  • Date: Saturday, May 8
  • Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
  • Location: Providence Park — Portland, Oregon
  • TV: CBS
  • Streaming: Paramount+

Portland Thorns host another final

Portland Thorns FC will host the Challenge Cup final after closing out their group play with 10 points out the West Division. After opening last year’s NWSL Challenge Cup with a 2-1 loss to North Carolina, Portland have lost only one of their last 13 matches (W7 D5) in the Challenge Cup and Fall Series. 

The Thorns have outscored opponents 18-7 in those 13 matches, never conceding more than one goal in any match.  The club has a history of competing in big games, and have a roster with depth that have show they can compete at a high level. Nine different Thorns players have been involved in their six goals during this season’s Challenge Cup. Six different players have scored their six goals, while three other players have registered an assist.

Eyes will be on big name players like Linsdey Horan and Crystal Dunn, but look for Rocky Rodriguez and Simone Charley to have an impact during the match.

Gotham FC step into bright lights

Formerly Sky Blue FC, Gotham FC rebranded ahead of the 2021 Challenge Cup as NY/NJ Gotham FC. The east coast metropolis club have built off their 2020 Challenge Cup semifinal appearance, winning their first two matches in the East Division during the 2021 group stage. 

The team enters the Challenge Cup final off two consecutive scoreless draws, although Gotham kept clean sheets in three of their four NWSL Challenge Cup matches to reach the final. Those two shutouts were Gotham’s first consecutive clean sheets in a single season since a pair of 1-0 wins to close out the 2014 regular season. The team will now try to get back to scoring on the big stage. Gotham recorded assists on all five of their goals in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup group stage, with Margaret Purce the only player to score twice and Ifeoma Onumonu the only player to record two assists. Look for striker Paige Monaghan to stay active on the top line for the club as well.

 

Can Mexican stars Carlos Vela and Chicharito deliver historic El Tráfico?

Kevin Baxter  LA Times  Fri, May 7, 2021, 4:11 PMLAFC’s Carlos Vela and Galaxy’s Javier Chicharito Hernandez help MLS strengthen connection with Mexican and Mexican American fanbase. Their two teams face off Saturday in another installment of El Tráfico. (Leopoldo Smith; Bob Levey / Getty Images) For most of its existence, Major League Soccer has struggled to tap into the passion, and especially the TV ratings, of the Mexican and Mexican American fan base.

The league imported Mexican stars such as Jorge Campos, Rafa MárquezCuauhtémoc Blanco and Claudio Suárez; created tournaments like the Leagues Cup, Campeones Cup and short-lived SuperLiga to compete against Mexican teams; and even played 10 seasons with a Liga MX-affiliated franchise in Chivas USA. None of that had the desired impact.

So MLS will try another approach Saturday when the Galaxy (2-1-0) and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, face off against LAFC (1-0-2) and Carlos Vela, the league’s single-season scoring leader, before a socially distanced crowed of 7,193 at Dignity Health Sports Park and a national TV audience on Fox.

If both men play, it will be the most significant meeting of Mexican stars in league history.

“Having iconic players like Carlos Vela, Javier Hernández and other Mexican national team standouts in the headlines throughout Mexico has a significant benefit toward increasing the fan base for Major League Soccer and deepening the engagement of our current fan base,” said Dan Courtemanche, MLS’ executive vice president of communications.“It’s a priority for Major League Soccer to showcase Saturday’s match and have it in prime time on the East Coast.”That showcase could lose much of its luster if Vela, whose 52 career MLS goals are most by a Mexican player, is unable to participate. Vela, who came out of LAFC’s opener with a quadriceps injury after 22 minutes, has only recently returned to training, and coach Bob Bradley said his status would be a game-time decision.

With or without Vela, MLS is making inroads with Latino viewers, especially those in the younger demographics who don’t remember the league’s halting early years. And they are drawn now not just by Mexican internationals like Vela and Hernández, but by young South Americans such as LAFC’s Diego Rossi and Atlanta United’s Ezequiel Barco, and the presence of former European stars like Inter Miami’s Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi.But the league still has a lot of work to do.The most-watched MLS game in the season’s first three weeks — the Galaxy’s opener with Inter Miami — drew a combined 558,000 viewers on ABC and ESPN Deportes. Yet that was 155,000 less than Liga MX games are averaging in the U.S. on the Spanish-language Univision/TUDN network, according to Nielsen. And Saturday’s marquee matchup may not win over many more hearts and eyeballs since it will kick off at the same time as the Liga MX single-elimination playoff game between Atlas and Tigres on Univision/TUDN.“There’s still not a big fan base for MLS,” Alejandro Gómez, a veteran soccer journalist, said in Spanish from Mexico City. “It’s still not an event Mexicans follow, much less going up against the start of the Liga MX playoffs.”But, Gómez added, Vela and Hernández, whose league-high five goals in three games has been big news in Mexico, may be the exceptions to that rule.“They’re two players who define a generation. They’re players that people like,” he said.Those who do tune in could see history because the former teammates, who came up through the Chivas player-development system together, haven’t played against one another since a 2013 Champions League game, when Hernández was at Manchester United and Vela was with Real Sociedad.Hernández, who missed the Galaxy’s three games with LAFC last season, said Thursday that he hopes Vela plays.“I don’t know if Mexico is going to care about that or not,” he said. “[But] this one has more special meaning in a way. We grew up together in Guadalajara. We played together in two World Cups.“Obviously I always want to face the best teams, the best players. It’s always great when Vela and the best players in the MLS are available, are doing good. That elevates the level of this league. It will be amazing if he can play.”Galaxy coach Greg Vanney, who has watched MLS chase Mexican and Mexican American fans since its inception, agreed.

“It’s an important fanbase for the league and for our communities and even the players,” he said. “This is another great opportunity for two teams with two fantastic players who come from Mexico to compete and a rivalry for Los Angeles. Those are definitely prominent sort of headlines.”

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN CLAIMS VICTORY IN SEASON OPENER AT BIRMINGHAM LEGION

By Indy Eleven Communications, 05/02/21, 1:15AM EDT size=1 width=”100%” align=center>

Indiana’s Team Captures Three Points Via Debut Goal by Venezuelan Forward Manuel Arteaga

https://www.youtube.com/embed/MpK8Oxp0WXo BHMvIND Post-Match Quotes – May 1, 2021

BIRMINGHAM (Saturday, May 1, 2021) – Indy Eleven started its 2021 USL Championship season on a high note with a 1-0 win at Birmingham Legion FC after a 28th minute poacher’s goal from forward Manuel Arteaga in his team debut. The result raised Indy’s record against the Legion all-time to 2W-1L-0D, with tonight’s season opener marking the first competition between the two teams since Sept. 20, 2019 at BBVA Field.

The game’s lone goal came after one of many driving runs from recently acquired defender Patrick Seagrist’s cross to forward Cammy Smith. The Scotsman’s shot forced a point-blank save from Birmingham ‘keeper – and long-time Indy opponent – Matt Van Oekel, but the rebound was followed up and tapped in by the Venezuelan from near the penalty spot.“It feels great, it’s been seven months since we’ve played a game so it’s really nice to get the win. There were quite a few good performances from all of the players and everyone had to work hard and fight hard,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “It was a really hard first game because Birmingham Legion (FC) are a really tough team and it was their home opener. It was quite a difficult field as well, but we got a great result.”The game’s first chance came in the 14th minute when Legion forward J.J. Williams was able to latch upon a loose ball after a short clearance fell near the top of Indy Eleven’s box, but he beamed his shot wide into the side netting.Legion FC’s Alex Crognale was on the delivering end of the home side’s next chance four minutes later, a corner kick from Bruno Lapa rebounding off the former Eleven defender’s head and towards ‘keeper Jordan Farr, who gathered the ball without issue.Though Legion was heavy-handed on the attack, it was Indy that managed to break the stalemate. In his USL Championship debut, it was the Inter Miami CF loanee Seagrist that unlocked the defense on the play, his well-weighted ball putting Nicky Law to the endline. Law’s centering pass found Smith inside the BHM penalty area, and while his initial shot was parried away into a crowd of players, Arteaga broke through the pack to find the scoresheet on his debut off the bounce.Farr was called into action again in the 36th minute after Nico Brett volleyed a shot from outside of the box, but the Salem, Ore.-native halted the last dangerous attempt of the first stanza. Though Birmingham led possession 54- 46, it was Indiana’s Team that led heading into the break.High tensions led to the start of scrappy affairs at the beginning of the second half began, with Birmingham’s Anderson Asiedu earning the first yellow card of the evening in the 61st minute.

Indy’s defense was on the back foot for most of the second half, and while the Legion FC sent in multiple crosses all were handled well by the Eleven’s back line. During one late barrage of crosses Williams made contact with Indy captain Karl Ouimette inside the area, and upon not drawing a point to the spot his lash-out reaction against the Canadian defender resulted in a straight red card for the forward in the 87th minute. The accumulation of events led to the fourth official signaling for five minutes of stoppage time, but neither side saw any additional looks at goal as Indy claimed all three points at the sound of the final whistle.  “They all did well. It was a good team performance defensively; we had a good shape. A.J. [Cochran] won a lot of good headers, and I also think that helps a lot if a team is playing long balls. They had J.J. Williams who is a threat. but A.J. won those battles and that helps us,” explained Rennie. “The players from the front worked very hard to that shut down the opportunities and in the end that was a good clean sheet. Not too many chances given up, but I thought Jordan Farr did well with all the things he had to do including kicking on a difficult surface.”Indy Eleven will look to start an early winning streak in its home opener at Michael A. Carroll Stadium against FC Tulsa, the team returning to its original home next Saturday, May 8. For the time being, the only way for fans to secure tickets to the 7:00 p.m. kickoff is by becoming an Indy Eleven Season Ticket Member, details for which can be found at IndyEleven.com. Fans that cannot make it to Carroll Stadium for the home opener can follow along live on MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+, and Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com (Spanish audio broadcast).

USL Championship Regular Season – #BHMvIND
Birmingham Legion FC  0 : 1  Indy Eleven

Saturday, May 1, 2021 – 7:30 p.m. ETBBVA Park – Birmingham, Ala. 2021 USL Championship records

Indy Eleven (1W-0L-0D, 3 pts(T-2nd in Central Division)

Birmingham Legion FC (0W-1L-0D, 0 pts.) (T-5th in Central Division)

 Scoring Summary:
IND – Manuel Arteaga 28’


Disciplinary Summary:

BHM – Anderson Asiedu (yellow card) 61’

BHM – J.J. Williams (red card) 87’

IND – Jordan Hamilton (yellow card) 90 +5’


Indy Eleven lineup (3-4-3, L–>R): Jordan Farr; Neveal Hackshaw, A.J. Cochran, Karl Ouimette (Captain); Rece Buckmaster, Aboubacar Sissoko (Jeremiah Gutjahr 74’), Nicky Law (Jared Timmer 90+2’), Gerson Koffie, Patrick Seagrist; Manuel Arteaga (Jordan Hamilton 62’), Cammy Smith (Nick Moon 62’)


IND Substitutes: Robert Edwards (GK), Aidan Liu, Nedeljko Malic, Jared Timmer, Jeremiah Gutjahr, Jordan Hamilton, Nick Moon

IND Stats: Shots: 8, Shots on Goal: 2, Possession: 44%, Passing Accuracy: 77%, Fouls: 12, Corners: 2, Offsides: 2

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Attend a Free 20-Minute Webinar on Nursing Bridge Programs

4/30/21 Indy 11 Season Kickoff Sat 7:30 ESPN+, US Pulisic Scores in Champions League vs Real Madrid 1-1, NWSL Champion Cup last weekend

Rick Giesel passed away last weekend on the soccer field watching his son, former Carmel FC and CHS starting Goalkeeper Henry Giesel, playing a tourney in Ohio. Great story about him in the Current in Carmel this week.

“Watching Heath and Henry play soccer was his joy, and it is in some way fitting that he took his last breath on the sidelines of the pitch,” his wife Mary said. “We love him and we miss him already, but there is no doubt in our minds that he will continue to be present at every game Heath and Henry play.” Rick was a fantastic soccer dad and the entire Carmel FC family joins me I am sure in wishing his family Mary, Heath and Henry the best. A go fund me page has been set up to help with funeral expenses visit gofund.me/71b1c2f5.

Champions League – Pulisic 1st American to score in Semis

The US actually has a chance to put 2 Americans thru to the finals of the Champions League (the world’s greatest club competition) this season as Christian Pulisic became the first American to ever score in a Champions League Semi-Final match as his goal put Chelsea ahead 1-0 early on. 13-time Champions Real Madrid and Benzema did tie the match up at 1-1 so the two teams will head to London next week with Chelsea with a slight lead as they head home with the ½ goal lead.   Pulisic’s 5 Champions League goals also breaks Ft Wayne’s own DaMarcus Beasley’s record of 4.   Can’t wait to see if Pulisic can help Chelsea win at home next Wednesday afternoon at 3 pm on CBS Sports Network and Paramount plus. PSG dominated the first half and should have scored at least 3 goals but their 1 goal scored was not enough as Man City recovered scoring 2 lucky goals in the 2nd half to take a 2- I will give cudos to the CBS Coverage as the Pre and Post game shows have been solid and CBS Sports Network is replaying the games at 7 pm each night and again at midnight along with other times overnight each week.  The Finals of course will be on Saturday, May 29th on CBSSN and perhaps CBS? 

Indy 11 & USL

The Indy 11 season starts Saturday as they will travel to their first game tomorrow at the Birmingham Legion on ESPN+ at 7:30 pm.  Just 1 week and Counting until the Indy 11 kickoff the home season at the Mike on Sat May 8 7:30 pm vs Tulsa. Due to stadium limitations only season ticket holders will be allowed in for the games in May –- with hopes that will change in June.  Season Tix start at just $10 per game and are still Available.  Indy 11 Louisville opened their new stadium in style with 2-0 win last Sat night.  USL will have a new show USL All Access on SeriusXMFC Tues nights at 7 pm, of course the Indy 11 are heavily featured each Soccer Saturday at 9-10 am on 93.5/107.5  the Fan with the voice of the Indy 11 – Greg Rakestraw.

Expected Starting Line-Up

Arteaga/Hamilton

Ayoze/Haworth

Law/Sissoko/Koffie

Hackshaw/Ouimette/Cochran

GK Jordan Farr

INDY 11 BYB Spot

Indy Eleven 2021 Season Preview – USL Championship

Power Rankings USL – Indy 11th

USA

The news out of Germany’s Red Bull Leipzig that American Coach Jessee Marsch is taking the head job next season is huge news for American coaches.  Marsch has moved up the Red Bull coaching tree from NY Red Bulls in MLS to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria where he is about to win his 2nd league title.  Will be great to see him unite with American Tyler Adams – with midfielder also rumored he may get a look for the German team currently in 2nd place just 7 points behind Bayern Munich.  Huge news for American forward Daryll Dike as Orlando has extended his stay at English Championship team Barnesly thru the playoffs at the end of May as they battle for the last EPL slot.  He has 9 goals in 18 games and was the Dykes player of the month in April. 

MLS

Great to see Javier Chicharito having success now for the LA Galaxy – his hat trick last weekend puts him at the top with 5 goals in just 2 games (he had 2 goals all last season).  The Mexican #9 has a chance to be one of the biggest stories in MLS this season.  The turnaround for the Galaxy has come along with their new coach Gregg Vaney which puts them at the top of MLS Rankings this week.  The huge game of the week has the Galaxy traveling to Seattle on Sun night at 9 pm of FS1. Look what popped up on the Toronto practice field in Tampa last week!

GAMES to WATCH This Week

Of course Champions League Semi Finals with Man City hosting PSG up 2-1 Tues and Real Madrid tied at 1-1 traveling to Chelsea and American Christian Pulisic on Wed both on CBS Sports Network at 3 pm lead off the big games this week. With pregame shows starting at 2 pm and post game right after on CBSSN as well.  Saturday Chelsea and Pulisic will host Fulham America at 12:30 on NBC – (Tune in folks – this will have the only 2 American’s currently starting in the EPL).  La Liga has 3 teams battling for the top and 2 of them play this weekend as Real Madrid host Osasuna Sat at 3 pm on beIN Sport, and Barcelona fresh off a loss Thurs travel to Valencia and American midfielder Musah at 1 pm on Sunday.  Sat night our Indy 11 of course start the season on the road at Birmingham at 7:30 pm on ESPN+, while at the same time the North Carolina Courage will look to grab a NWSL Cup playoff spot as they host Alex Morgan and the Orlando Pride at 7:30 on CBS Sports Network (look – you probably have this station you just don’t know it).

Sunday huge top 6 EPL battle between Man United and Liverpool with Champions and perhaps Europa League next year at stake on NBCSN at 11:30 on Sunday AM.  American Weston Mckinney and Juve travel to Udinesse in a must win situation on ESPN plus at 12 noon if they want to stay in the top 4 Champions League spots.  Here’s where all the American’s are playing.

Congrats to The Indiana Hoosiers who Won their 3rd Straight Big 10 Title and are headed to NCAA’s where they will play Sunday night.  The No. 3-ranked Indiana men’s soccer program (9-1-1) earned the third overall seed and a first-round bye. The Hoosiers will await the winner of Milwaukee (8-4-0) and St. Francis Brooklyn (5-1-2) in the first round of action.

 GAMES ON TV

Fri, Apr 30

2:30 pm ESPN+, Des          Werder Bremen (Stewart) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

3 pm NBCSN                       Southampton vs Leicester City 

7:30 pm ESPN2                  Phoenix Rising vs San Diego Loyal (Donovan)  USL 

10 pm FS 1                          Tijuana vs Necaxa

Sat, May 1

7:30 am NBCSN                  Crystal Palace vs Man City

12:30 pm NBC             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Fulham (Robinson)

3 pm Peacock                     Everton vs Aston Villa

3 pm beIN Sport                 Real Madrid vs Osasuna

7 pm Univsion                    Houston vs LAFC  MLS

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Orlando City vs Cincy 

7:30  pm  ESPN+         Birmingham Legion vs Indy 11

7:30 pm CBSSN                  North Carolina Courage (Lynn Williams) vs Orlando Pride (Morgan)

10 pm FS 1                          Monterrey vs Mazaltan

Sun, May 2

9 am NBCSN                       New Castle vs Arsenal

11:30 am NBCSN        Man United vs Liverpool

12 pm ESPN+                     Udinese vs Juentus (McKennie)

12:30 pm Paramount +    NY/NJ Gotham FC vs Racing Louisville FC (NWSL)

1 pm ESPN                          Nashville vs Inter Miami

2:15 pm NBCSN                 Tottenham vs Sheffield United

3 pm beIN Sport                 Valencia (Musah) vs Barcelona (Dest)

7:30 pm Paramount +       Houston Dash vs Portland ThornsFC (Dunn, Horan, Sauerbrunn, Smith) NWSL

9 pm FS1                     Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy 

Tues, May 4 

3 pm CBSSN                Man City vs PSG  Champions League Semis

8 pm FS1                             Atlanta United vs Philly  CCL

10 pm FS1                           Toronto vs Cruz Azul CCL

Weds, May 5

3 pm CBSSN                Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Real Madrid  Champions League Semis

8:30 pm FS2                       Columbus Crew vs Monterrey CCL

10:30 pm FS1                     Portland vs America CCL

Thurs, May 6

3 pm CBSSN? Para+           Villarreal vs Arsenal Europa Final 4

3 pm CBSSN? Para+           Man United vs Roma Europa Final 4

Sat, May 8

7:30 am NBCSN                  Leeds United vs Tottenham

10:15 am beIN Sport Barcelona vs Atletico

12:30 pm NBC               Man City vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

1 pm CBS                             NWSL Challenge Cup Championship                           

7:30 pm ESPN+, Myindy TV   Indy 11 vs FC Tulsa

Sun, May 9

10:!5 am ?                          Aston Villa vs Man United 

11:30 am NBCSN              West Ham vs Everton 

1 pm ABC                            Inter Miami vs Atlanta United 

2:!5 pm Peacock                Tottenham vs Sheffield United

2:45 pm ESPN+           Juventus (McKinney) vs Milan

3 pm ABC                    Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders

3 pm beIN Sport                 Real Madrid vs Sevilla 

7:30 pm FS1                       Sporting KC vs Austin FC

MLS Schedule

Indy 11 and USL

Goalkeeper Jordan Farr set to start for Indy 11 this season


INDY 11 BYB Spot

Indy Eleven 2021 Season Preview – USL Championship

In Conversation With… Martin Rennie, Indy Eleven

Power Rankings USL – Indy 11th

NEW ASSISTANT COACH MAX ROGERS ROUNDS OUT INDY ELEVEN TECHNICAL STAFF FOR 2021 SEASON

PRESEASON RECAP – INDY ELEVEN 1 : 1 PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS SC

INDY ELEVEN SIGNS JAMAICAN INTERNATIONAL PETER-LEE VASSELL

INDY ELEVEN 2021 BROADCAST SCHEDULE SET

INDY ELEVEN ACQUIRES MF PATRICK SEAGRIST ON LOAN FROM MLS’ INTER MIAMI CF

2021 New Roster

InDY ELEVEN SCORES “OFFICIAL SPORTS BETTING PARTNER” IN BETRIVERS

Season Tix Available

USL

20121 5 Atlantic Division Talking Points

2021 PREVIEW – Eastern Conference, Central Division

2021 PREVIEW – Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division

2021 PREVIEW – Western Conference, Mountain Division

2021 PREVIEW – Top Five Forwards in the Championship

2021 PREVIEW: Top Five Goalkeepers in the Championship

2021 PREVIEW: Top Five Full Backs in the Championship

 

USA

Jesse Marcsh’s Climb Up to Red Bull Leipzig in Germany a huge step for US Coach  SI Brian Straus

American Coach Jesse Marsch headed to #2 team in Germany – RB Leipzig – ESPNFC

Pulisic makes USMNT history with UCL goal
Pulisic Watch: USMNT star scores, draws 6 fouls v Real Madrid (video)

Orlando Forward Dike extends stay at Barnesly thru end of May 

Champions league Semi-Finals 2nd leg Tues/Wed

Pulisic makes USMNT history with UCL goal
Christian Pulisic becomes first US men’s international to score in Champions League semifinal

Christian Pulisic becomes first American to score in Champions League semifinal

Pulisic ‘didn’t expect to be so free’ for Chelsea UCL goal v Real Madrid

Pulisic Becomes First American to Score in Semis – SI – Avi Creditor
Three things we learned from Real Madrid – Chelsea

Three talking points from Real Madrid 1 Chelsea 1

Benzema embodies survival spirit after leading another Real Madrid recovery

Tuchel: ‘Composure, precision’ eluding Chelsea finishers as Werner ‘angry’

Chelsea’s Tuchel criticises Champions League reforms: ‘Quantity, not quality’

Steffen thought Man City interest was a joke –Goal.com
Three talking points from PSG 1 Man City 2

Man City get big-time performances from their big-time players
 ESPN ulien Laurens

EPL

Pulisic Update after West Ham Win
Premier League run-in: What’s the latest in the top four battle?

Premier League run-in: What is the relegation situation?

Muslim soccer player thanks opponent for allowing him to break Ramadan fast in-game

USMNT prospect Balogun signs new Arsenal contract

Henry and Shearer inducted into Premier League Hall of Fame

MLS
Soccer: Gator crashes Toronto FC training session in Florida

MLS Power Rankings Week 2

 Galaxy’s Hot Start not Just 5 Goals from Chicharito
‘Chicharito’ scores first MLS hat trick in Galaxy’s victory over Red Bulls

Top 5 surprises of Week 1 in MLS
Union stun Atlanta in CONCACAF Champions League

3 Takeaways Philly over Atlanta United

 

WORLD

Nagelsmann to Bayern, Marsch to Leipzig: Bundesliga’s top clubs in transition
Advantage Barca, Bayern champagne on ice, ‘King’ Burak: Talking points from around Europe

Atletico defeat by Athletic Bilbao hands initiative to Barcelona

Inter on brink of Serie A title with ‘nine point’ win, Atalanta move second


Teams set to be allowed 26-man squads for Euro 2020

Danish FA calls for FIFA ‘action’ on Qatar World Cup

Nagelsmann to become new Bayern Munich coach

UEFA to probe Ibrahimovic’s alleged betting company investment

 

Pulisic Watch: USMNT star scores, draws 6 fouls v Real Madrid (video)

Nicholas MendolaTue, April 27, 2021, 3:23 PM

Christian Pulisic could’ve had at least one assist by the time he took matters into his feet in the UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against Real Madrid on Tuesday.Pulisic was at the heart of everything Chelsea was doing early at the Bernabeu, and he put the Blues up 1-0 within a quarter-hour of kickoff.Moments after Pulisic’s cross-box header to Timo Werner was denied by ex-Chelsea man Thibaut Courtois, the American took advantage of the goalkeeper when given acres of space in the Madrid box.Antonio Rudiger looped a pass over the Madrid defense, and Raphael Varane had no idea that Pulisic had zipped behind him.The USMNT star was calm with the ball as only Courtois came near him, touching around the keeper before smashing a shot off Varane’s shoulder and into the goal.Pulisic’s fifth Champions League goal is easily his most important and gives him two for the Blues this season and three in his Chelsea career.

Pulisic Watch

7th minute: There have been some quick touches and tidy passes as Pulisic and Chelsea have held onto early possession but the chess feel of a late stage first leg is apparent.

9th minute: There’s an assi— oh no! Ex-Chelsea man Thibaut Courtois makes a terrific leg save on Timo Werner after Pulisic heads a deflected ball into a very xG place for his German center forward.

12th minute: A big part of the combination play as Chelsea brings the ball from right to left before Ben Chilwell’s cross goes out for a corner.

15th minute: He’s got their attention now — Pulisic scythed down by Nacho Fernandez at midfield.

22nd minute: The American leads a rush but a combination of miscommunication with Werner and a slightly-too-hard pass find the ball out of bounds for a goal kick.

25th minute: He’s got the ball off an incisive square pass and cut a ball back toward the top of the box but Chilwell mishits his drive through traffic and it’s wide for a goal kick.

41st minute: A quiet spell after Real equalizes, Pulisic is in the center of a three-wide rush and has the ball but Werner moves toward him instead of stretching the defense and seems confused when Pulisic plays the obvious ball. Werner smashes wide.

66th minute: A cagey if quieter start to the second half sees Pulisic subbed off with Werner, as Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech enter the fray.

FT statistics: 54 touches, 25-of-28 passes completed, three key passes, 54 touches, 13-of-19 duels won, six fouls drawn, two tackles, goal.

Pulisic Scores vs. Real Madrid, Becomes Third USMNT Player to Feature in UCL Semifinals

AVI CREDITORUPDATED:b  APR 27, 2021  SI 

Christian Pulisic joined exclusive company on Tuesday with his appearance for Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals, becoming just the third U.S. men’s national team player to feature on such a lofty stage—and the first to score on it.Pulisic joined Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, 2020) and DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven, 2005) with his showing vs. Real Madrid in the first leg of their semifinal clash, and he scored the opener to put Chelsea on the right path in a 1-1 draw. Pulisic joins Beasley as the only U.S. players to start a semifinal match, as Adams came off the bench for Leipzig vs. PSG last season following his heroic goal in the quarterfinals that clinched the club’s place in the final four.

Pulisic’s appearance comes nearly 16 years to the day Beasley started vs. AC Milan in a series that PSV ultimately lost on the away-goal tiebreaker. Pulisic will hope for a different fate, which could present him with the opportunity to become the first U.S. player in a Champions League final. Jovan Kirovski was part of Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League–winning team in 1997, but he did not feature for the club that deep in its title run.On Tuesday, Pulisic very nearly helped give Chelsea the lead in the ninth minute, teeing up Timo Werner for an early point-blank chance only to have Thibaut Courtois make the save.He wound up taking matters into his own hands five minutes later, taking a long ball down from Antonio Rüdiger, rounding Courtois and showing his composure in the box before finishing for a key away goal. In doing so, he became the first U.S. player to score against Real Madrid and he became the highest-scoring U.S. player in Champions League play with five goals.Pulisic, who called the goal a “proud moment” in his postmatch remarks, exited as part of a triple substitution in the 66th minute, with Chelsea level at 1-1 following Karim Benzema’s 29th-minute equalizer.Pulisic has endured an up-and-down season at Chelsea, one beset by injuries and then required him to win back his place under Thomas Tuchel, who was the coach that gave him his first-team break when the two were together at Dortmund. He’s rounded into form recently, with three goals in his previous six appearances, including a pair against Crystal Palace in Premier League play on April 10.”I feel very confident in my body and fitness level at the moment,” Pulisic said on Monday in his prematch comments. “I have played a string of games. I had some time out in the past year and a bit. It is really just about taking care of my body and putting myself in the best position to be available for every game. I feel good about that right now.”Before Tuesday’s strike, Pulisic had one goal in the Champions League this season, which came against Krasnodar in the group stage. His most significant Champions League goal in his brief career to date came in the 2017 knockout stage when he helped Dortmund get by Benfica in the round of 16.His latest goal adds to what’s been a history-making season abroad for U.S. men’s national team players. Man City goalkeeper Zack Steffen became the fourth American to win the League Cup with his shutout of Tottenham last Sunday (he’s expected to be City’s backup vs. PSG in the other Champions League semifinal on Wednesday). Sergiño Dest became the first U.S. international to win the Copa del Rey after helping Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao earlier this month. In January, Weston McKennie won the Italian Super Cup with Juventus, while this past weekend, Mark McKenzie won the Belgian Cup title with Genk.

Marsch’s Leipzig Move a Step Up Red Bull’s Ladder and a Giant Leap for U.S. Coaches

While U.S. players are breaking glass ceilings in Europe, coaches still have a ways to climb, but no one has positioned himself better than RB Leipzig’s new manager, Jesse Marsch.

BRIAN STRAUS  APR 29, 2021

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It would have been fitting if Neil Armstrong were still alive and available to break the news.Jesse Marsch’s managerial move from Austrian champion Red Bull Salzburg to German contender RB Leipzig is, in several ways, a small step. He’ll be working for the same bosses at the same company, wearing an almost identical logo and coaching a similar style of play. Marsch won’t even have to study a new language.In other potentially historic ways, however, Thursday’s announcement represents a giant leap for the U.S. game. It has been a season-plus of breakthroughs by U.S. players in Europe, many of whom have started to set new standards for Americans abroad. Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and their compatriots are redefining what’s possible. They’re proving to the powers that be that Americans can play the game at the highest level.Convincing them that U.S. players know the game, however, has been tougher. U.S. coaches remain largely sidelined by skepticism, inertia and the lack of an established pathway to Europe’s top leagues. Bob Bradley got his chance toward the end of 2016 at U.S.-owned Swansea City, but he was saddled with a struggling team and overwhelmed by doubters from the start. He used funny but intolerable phrases like “road game” and had American mannerisms, and when Swansea lost three Premier League matches in a row that December, he was gone. Bradley lasted 11 games. The benefit of the doubt had been less than zero.David Wagner (formerly of Huddersfield Town and Schalke 04) and Pellegrino Matarazzo (VfB Stuttgart) have managed in Europe’s “big five” leagues, but neither developed as coaches in the USA. Wagner, whose father is American, was born in Frankfurt and has spent his entire life in Europe. Matarazzo, who’s from New Jersey, has been in Germany for more than 20 years and got into coaching after spending a decade playing in the country’s lower tiers. He rose through the German ranks.Marsch is U.S. born and bred, and so, like Bradley, he’s vying to be considered an exception to what’s felt like a couple of almost ironclad rules: U.S. players don’t understand soccer, and they can’t lead or inspire a European locker room. It has taken years to forge a players’ pathway to Europe, and it’s still somewhat tenuous. Delivering a U.S. coach to a club like RB Leipzig, which was a Champions League semifinalist in 2020, always was going to require something a bit more novel—something that would cut through the skepticism and insulate a coach while he grew accustomed to the European game.Enter Red Bull. Bemoan New York’s status as the secondary appendage of a global soccer conglomerate all you like, but without the MLS team’s ties to Austria and Germany, Marsch never steps foot on a path that leads toward the top of the Bundesliga. After his 2012 departure from the Montreal Impact (reportedly by mutual consent), Marsch was hired by New York in the wake of the sudden dismissal of fan favorite Mike Petke. It was a moment of inflection for the club and its supporters and an opportunity for Marsch to prove himself in a skeptical environment. He blossomed, mastering Red Bull’s system of play while leading the team to the MLS Supporters’ Shield in 2015. Marsch also shepherded Adams from the club’s USL Championship side to the first team, helping him become the elite midfielder who’d make his own way to Leipzig in 2019. https://d1e279f99c04e0b4e0cc992f5ed5561e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html Red Bull’s teams are closely integrated, and Marsch had earned the trust of his colleagues and passed every audition. He trusted them in return, electing to leave New York in the summer of 2018 for an assistant’s role in Leipzig. It was a step back in seniority that prepared him for a subsequent leap forward. When Marco Rose departed Salzburg for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer of 2019, Marsch stepped in as the seamless replacement.“Pedigree still matters a lot to people in Europe,” Marsch told The Guardian in 2019. “A year in the Bundesliga as an assistant and working under Ralf Rangnick gave me a little bit more to put in my back pocket to go into the next job. It has helped me be better at my job, but it’s also helped the perception of me here.”Salzburg was already an Austrian juggernaut, having won six consecutive league championships before Marsch arrived. But there was still plenty to prove. This was a head coaching gig in Europe. The dressing room would be his. The expectations and standards were high, and the Champions League beckoned.“My goal was to assimilate, to be myself, but to also honor the culture that I’m working in,” he told The Guardian.Marsch once again aced his exams, winning the domestic double with Salzburg, unleashing Erling Haaland on Europe and giving Liverpool and Napoli all they could handle in the continent’s biggest competition.“I couldn’t have more respect for what Salzburg are doing here, the way they play football,” Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said following the second game between the clubs. “Massive respect for Jesse and what they did.”That respect seems to have spread a bit throughout Europe. Marsch was linked to Borussia Dortmund over the winter, to Celtic last month and to Tottenham Hotspur this week. Whether or not those connections were legitimate, seeing an American’s name mentioned in those reports represents a big step. But Leipzig always was his most logical destination. Every Red Bull team is a feeder team—and like every German side, RB Leipzig supplies Bayern Munich. When Julian Nagelsmann announced on Tuesday his intention to take over the German champions this summer, Marsch immediately was listed among the favorites to succeed him in Leipzig. The confirmation came quickly. Marsch’s two-year contract begins July 1.It’ll be the most significant, high-profile test ever faced by a U.S. coach at the club level. And Marsch’s performance could have a lasting impact on the width of that transatlantic managerial pathway. He needed Red Bull to help blaze the trail, but now he’ll rise or fall on his own merit. He’ll be at the apex of the Red Bull pyramid, where results matter as much or more than development. He seems ready. He’s proven himself at every stop, and he’ll have the organization’s best players and resources at his disposal—along with the pressure that comes with Champions League expectations.”I love football—training, tactics, all of it,” Marsch told the BBC last month. “But people and relationships is what really makes me tick. And ultimately if you were to ask me why I came to Europe, it was to see if my idea of relationships and leadership could function in the most competitive environment in our sport.”His command of training, tactics and building relationships has taken him to the top at Red Bull, and further than any U.S. coach has gone before. Now he’ll really see if his ideas will work at the highest level, while the rest of the world gets its first look at an American doing the same.

 

 

 

Indy Eleven 2021 Season Preview

By NICHOLAS MURRAY – nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 04/20/21, 5:00PM EDT

2021 OUTLOOK

Having advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in 2019, Indy Eleven’s flying start to the 2020 season that saw it win four consecutive games and five of its first six supplied the belief that the side could go one better last year. Instead, a second-half swoon that included three consecutive defeats to rival Louisville City FC and two to Sporting Kansas City II helped the postseason slide away after a final-game defeat to Saint Louis FC.It’s hard to figure where things went wrong,  but regardless the Boys in Blue are going to have plenty of new faces for the 2021 season after a busy offseason in the transfer market. Both leading scorer Tyler Pasher (Houston Dynamo FC) and goalkeeper Evan Newton (Vancouver Whitecaps FC) were sold to Major League Soccer clubs, while potential newcomer Cal Jennings was sold to Los Angeles FC before playing a game for Indy after signing as a free agent earlier in the offseason.That said, there’s plenty of new talent coming on board, especially to replace Pasher’s absence in attack. Fellow Canadian Jordan Hamilton has produced impressively in previous stints on loan in the Championship from Toronto FC, while Gordon Wild and Manuel Arteaga also look like solid options to join the returning Nick Moon. Another new arrival is defender AJ Cochran, who could team with Karl Ouimette and Neveal Hackshaw to make a solid back three. After last year’s disappointment, things are set up for a positive rebound for Head Coach Martin Rennie’s squad.

TWO TO WATCH 

Jordan Hamilton, Forward

Looking to replace Tyler Pasher – who notched 21 goals over the past two seasons – Indy brought in another forward from north of the border who could have just as large an impact on their attacking fortunes. Jordan Hamilton never quite found a breakthrough in Major League Soccer, although he did notch 11 goals in more than 50 appearances between Toronto FC and Columbus Crew SC. While on loan in the Championship, though, he proved  he’s capable at this level. Hamilton recorded eight goals in 10 games in the 2019 season, averaging a tally every 92.4 minutes. Indy will be hoping their new arrival is up there with the Golden Boot contenders.

Ayoze, Defender

The Spaniard may now be 35 years old, but his ageless ability to create and defend makes him an ideal fit as the left-sided wing back for Head Coach Martin Rennie’s system. Ayoze has notched 16 assists over Indy’s first three seasons in the Championship and has continued to shine so far in preseason ahead of the new campaign. Ayoze’s ability to create will certainly be welcome for Hamilton, Gordon Wild and Manuel Arteaga as they look to make their mark on Indy’s attack.


NOTABLE ARRIVALS

Jordan Hamilton, Forward: The Canadian brings experience from both MLS and the Championship

Aboubacar Sissoko, Midfielder: Shone in Canadian Premier League for HFX Wanderers in 2020

AJ Cochran, Defender: Former Championship All-League selection makes way from Phoenix

Manuel Arteaga, Forward: Venezuelan forward has played previously in Copa Libertadores


NOTABLE DEPARTURES

Tyler Pasher: Transferred to Houston Dynamo FC

Evan Newton: Transferred to Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Conner Antley: Signed with Tampa Bay Rowdies

Tyler Gibson: Signed with Louisville City FC

In Conversation With… Coach Martin Rennie, Indy Eleven

By NICHOLAS MURRAY – nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 04/29/21, 8:00AM EDT


AHEAD OF HIS CLUB’S SEASON OPENER, WE GO IN-DEPTH WITH THE BOSS OF THE BOYS IN BLUE

After a busy offseason that saw numerous players moved on via transfer to Major League Soccer clubs and the recruitment of high-profile replacements, Indy Eleven kicks off its 2021 USL Championship season this Saturday night with a visit to Birmingham Legion FC (7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN+). 

USLChampionship.com’s Nicholas Murray caught up with Indy Head Coach Martin Rennie to talk about new Houston Dynamo player Tyler Pasher, getting his break in Cleveland, what it means to be returning to Michael A. Carroll Stadium permanently, and the players he’s most excited to have aboard for the new campaign. 

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Nicholas Murray: So, have you been keeping up with Tyler Pasher the last couple of weeks? 

Martin RennieYeah, I’ve noticed he’s done well the first couple of games. Not surprised at all, though, it took us three years to really get him going, but he’s a great player, got great ability. 

NMHow does it make you feel to see him not only getting starting minutes for the Dynamo, but looking sharp in the way he’s performing? 

MR: Not surprised, but really happy. That was the thing, he was with us for three years and the first year he didn’t really play, had a lot of things to work through and I think we worked very hard to help him, but his ability is way beyond. I think his level is above MLS, he can play at a level higher than that, it’s just whether he can put it all together and find that little edge that you need to have. Technically and physically, he’s a top, top player. 

NM: I’ve got to say, it’s been really exciting for me given how much I’ve enjoyed talking with and watching him play. It feels like it used to be mostly defenders that could move up from the Championship and find a solid starting spot somewhere, this feels new with an attacking player like Tyler starting to shine a bit more brightly. 

MR: Exactly, and we sold four players in this window, and while Evan [Newton] was a goalkeeper, the other three were all attacking players. Cal Jennings has already been on the field, Josh Penn has already been on the field in MLS as well, so they’re also very talented players and I think you’ll see a lot from them, especially because Josh Penn’s so young, he might surprise at just how well he can do, but Cal Jennings has that potential as well. 

It’s really good for a club like Indy Eleven to be able to sell those guys, and it’s helped us recruit guys that are very talented that could also do that.   

NM: Do you think we’re getting close to a turning point in terms of the way top Championship players are starting to be perceived by more MLS executives? 

MR: It’s hard to know. I think it should be the case. There are certainly a number of guys who have had success at this level who would definitely be able to do well in MLS, and definitely would add to the squad of an MLS team – the first 15, 16 players – so I definitely think that. The game’s maturing, the USL Championship’s developing, there’s a lot of very talented players and really excellent coaches, and I think there’s going to be more of a pathway for players and coaches into MLS going forward. 

There’s a lot of guys who come over from other countries – coaches and players – and they don’t know the system, they don’t adapt to the culture. There are always some, of course, that are big hitters that have done really well, but there’s a lot of guys that are on that next level down where there are better players than them in the USL. 

NM: Last year – I hate to drag that back up – everything seemed to be going right, and then suddenly it wasn’t anymore. What was that post-mortem like looking back on how the season unfolded, ultimately missing the postseason? 

MR: I think last season was really an unusual year, and obviously you’ve got to review everything and take lessons from it, and we definitely did that, but you’ve also got to look at it and say we’re in the middle of the most unusual part of time in history, certainly our history, and I think it impacted us in the sense that we started off really well, going along really well, had a lot of good results, lot of wins, and then didn’t finish well. I think there were some reasons for that, some if it was just the mental drain on players over time in the sense of you were just going to training, going back to your apartment, go to training, go back to the apartment. You weren’t really socializing too much, when you went on the road you weren’t able to connect with people, get out of your room and that, so I think there were a lot of things outside soccer that impacted us last year, and maybe impacted us more than some other people.  

Of course, it affected everyone and there’s no excuse that comes just down to that, but I do think that was a factor. I think as well, there was a lot for us to learn in making adjustments and growing our team and adding to our squad. One of the big things that we took from it was over the past few years, we’ve built a very good team, we’ve become one of the best teams in the USL, but we want to be the best, and to do that we maybe need to find some other players that maybe haven’t played in the USL before.In the three years before, the players that we’d signed had been players at this level, and they’d been good players at this level, but if you want to be better than that, you’re going to have to try and find some players that are above that level, and that’s very hard to do, but we feel like we had a long offseason and an opportunity to do really put so much time into scouting and recruitment. 

There were also players available this year that aren’t normally available, so I think we were able to get some guys that would normally have been out of our price range or budget, but also just wouldn’t have really been looking at the USL. With what’s going on in some other markets, they were interested, and we’ve been able to get some guys we’re really excited about.  

NM: You mentioned this earlier, the higher you go, the more you start to think about it, there can be a challenge that when things don’t go right, you can start to question yourself – I think that’s true of any profession, not just soccer. How do you try to compartmentalize, learn and then move on without looking back too regularly? 

MR: I’ve done this for a long time, I’ve done it for about 15 years, and before that I had a 10-year career in business, and from that one of the skills you learn is winning, but then learning from your mistakes and moving forward from it. There’s no point dwelling on your mistakes or beating yourself up about, ‘oh, this game didn’t go well,’ or ‘we lost that cup final, this means we’re terrible.’ The reality is we’re very close. All the teams I’ve coached, we’ve won, I’ve been successful, but there are some of them that were just a game or two away from being the best, and that’s really the trick, finding a way to win those consistently, win those big one or two games that take you over the top. That’s, I think, where we are with Indy Eleven and where I am as a coach, and I think that’s a good place to be. 

Obviously, the best place to be is to be winning, and keep winning, and keep winning, and keep winning, but there’s only a couple of coaches in the world that do that, and even they have years and days and weeks where it doesn’t work out. That’s just part of the game, when you’re playing, when you’re competing, there’s another team and another club trying to win, so you’ve got to give respect to the others as well.  

NM: You’re back at Michael A. Carrol Stadium – The Mike – this regular season, which I think a lot of fans are excited about. After the taste you guys got during the 2019 Championship Playoffs, what is it going to mean calling that venue home for the full campaign this year? 

MR: I think that’s something everyone involved with the club is very excited about – the front office, the players, and of course the fans – just because the atmosphere in that stadium is really electric. It’s almost like a European-type venue where it’s really loud, the fans are very close to the field, it’s open air as opposed to Lucas Oil where you couldn’t have any pyrotechnics or anything like that. It’s a great venue, it’s an old venue but it’s a venue with character, and a venue that brings certain homefield advantages as well. 

NM: Your preparations seem to have been going well, too. How close do you think we are to seeing a fully realized lineup and the potential that it holds the newcomers that have come aboard this offseason? 

MR: We have our first game this weekend on [May] 1st, and then our second game on the 8th, then we have a week off, and then the week after we get back at it and then we’re consistently playing after that. The first couple of weeks, we want to be ready to go and play and win and do well – and we think we can – and at the same time I think we’ll be building our squad at that time. We’ll be learning more and more, we’ll be getting guys into full fitness to start those games, so it might take those first two couple of weeks, but I think hopefully once we’re into the mid- to end-of-May we should be up and running and looking good. 

NM: Who are you most excited about in terms of the newcomers that have joined the club, because for me personally, I love Jordan Hamilton, I’ve gotten to know him a little bit seeing him when Toronto was down here for preseason, and the ability he brings, I’m really excited to see what he can do full-time in this league. 

MR: Me too, I think in preseason him and Manuel Arteaga – who you might not know – both scored six or seven goals each. They’re both strikers, they’re both very good, high-level players, and that was something I think last year we didn’t really have, a No. 9, and now we’ve got a couple of guys who can score goals, who can hold the ball up, who can lead the front line, who can do a lot, so I think those will be two to watch, but there’s quite a few guys that maybe aren’t well-known in the USL but are very good players.  

Someone like Gerson Koffie, who has played about 200 games in MLS, has played at a high level in Europe, he’s a really accomplished player. Abou Sissoko was the best player in the Canadian Premier League last year, he isn’t well-known here but we’ve seen him up close throughout this preseason and he’s an extremely exciting player, very talented, and then there’s guys like Nicky Law, who people here don’t really know but has played 500 games in his career and is extremely fit, extremely motivated and I think has scored 100 goals, 100 assists in his career, which is just phenomenal for a midfield player.  

NM: I know the hype train from Canada has been steaming down the tracks about Sissoko, so I’m really excited to get to see him on a regular basis. I got to see him a little bit in the Canadian Premier League last year, those games were airing on Fox Sports, so I got a couple of chances to see that league in action, but I think he’s a really intriguing prospect. 

MR: He is, and I just think there’s a lot of guys in our team that have a lot to prove. There are guys like Patrick Seagrist, who’s on loan, who’s a very talented player, Rece Buckmaster, who a short time ago was playing in MLS Playoff games for the Red Bulls, so there’s a lot of guys like that who are maybe a little bit below the

I think also this season, because last year was a little bit different, I think a lot of teams in the USL looked at last season as, ‘Oh, we had a really successful year,’ but they may not have been playing against the best competition every week, and there’s a significant difference between the top three or four teams, and the bottom eight teams. So, if you were in a group where you were playing the bottom eight teams on a consistent basis, you might come away thinking, ‘we don’t need to improve our team that much, we’re right on track.’ If you look at us, where it was pretty much Pittsburgh, Louisville, Saint Louis pretty much every week, then we look at our season a bit differently.  We’ve been working so hard to improve our team, we’ve put so much into really improving and developing and even selling players, so I think this season’s going to be interesting. Last year might have thrown a few people off on exactly where their team’s at. Not sure, but just a feeling I’ve got. 

NM: If you had to rate yourself, where would you put Indy in the pecking order in terms of the Eastern Conference? 

MR: [Pauses] I don’t know, that’s one that comes back to bite you, doesn’t it? Because as a coach it’s my job to see ourselves as the best, and it’s our job to see ourselves as the ones that can win it all, and I think that’s definitely possible for us. That’s not being disrespectful to other teams, because I think there’s a lot of good teams – Pittsburgh, Louisville, Birmingham, Tampa – and others that are always going to be good like Charleston, Hartford were good last year, so there are a lot of good teams in the East and there are new teams in the East that I don’t really know. Even teams like Kansas City last year had a lot of players who were not young, academy kids, who were talented players who were 23, 24, looking to make their breakthrough into the First Team. 

Ultimately as a coach of any team, I’ve got to believe my team can be the best, and I’ve got to believe that my team can win it all, and I’ve got to believe that we can be consistently winning games and playing in an exciting way, because we can. We’ve already shown that in preseason, but now it’s up to us to show it in the regular season, and then importantly to do it, but then to keep doing and to be consistent with that. I think we’ve got the players to do it, we’ve got the coaching staff to do it, what we really need is that connection amongst each other, that culture and that sense of team sprit that we feel like we’re getting that is just so, so important. 

NM: The Mike’s great, everyone’s excited to be back there, but we’re seeing the new venues start to appear around the Championship that are really taking the league to a new place in terms of infrastructure. We’ve seen the plans for Eleven Park. What would it mean for Indy to see Eleven Park come to fruition as a permanent home for the club? 

MR: That would be an absolute gamechanger because we already have all the other pieces in place. We’ve got the fanbase, we’ve got the front office, we’ve got the people on ticket sales, sponsorships, all that kind of thing, we’ve got incredible ownership, unbelievable training facility, great housing, really nice place to live, all sorts of recovery, nutrition and psychology there for the team, but the stadium is the key because that’s where you can find a home and a field that can take you over the top and maybe even allow you to add a few more players to the squad. That, to me, would be a gamechanger. 

NM: Do you hope it happens? Do you think it happens? 

MR: It will happen, there’s no doubt about it.   

PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN TRAVELS TO BIRMINGHAM LEGION FC FOR 2021 SEASON OPENER

By Indy Eleven Communications, 04/30/21, 11:00AM EDT  size=1 width=”100%” align=center>

#BHMvIND Gameday Preview   Indy Eleven at Birmingham Legion FC   Saturday, May 1, 2021 – 7:30 P.M. ET   BBVA Field | Birmingham, AL   FOLLOW LIVE    Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click to subscribe)  

 2020 USL CHAMPIONSHIP REGULAR SEASON RECORDS  

Indy Eleven: 7W-7L-2D, 25 pts. (+2 GD), 3rd in Group E  

Birmingham Legion FC: 7W-5L-4D, 25 pts. (+10 GD), 2nd in Group G

 The dawn of Indy Eleven’s eighth season will break this weekend in the heart of Alabama, where Indiana’s Team will take on Birmingham Legion FC as both teams begin their “Central Conference Era” at BBVA Field. The first of 32 USL Championship regular season affairs will break the chain of 210 days without a game in official competition, ending the longest hiatus between games in Indy Eleven’s growing history.With that much time off, it is needless to say that Head Coach Martin Rennie is not the only one itching to see what the new-look Eleven have in store – though he’ll certainly be the most interested observer. The Scottish skipper led a roster overhaul that features 16 new Boys in Blue added to 10 returnees – with only six of those familiar faces seeing minutes in Championship action for Indy in 2020.Those that return will be looking to quickly expunge the memories of last year’s grueling finish, the squad’s 7W-7L-2D record and 25 points ultimately falling just short of qualifying for one of two postseason bids from a Group E that arguably was the Championship’s “Group of Death” in 2020. Meanwhile, Birmingham didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory either, but their earlier body of work stood tall enough to overcome a 1W-4L-1D mark down the stretch run of the regular season. The Hammers’ first USL Championship Playoff berth did not last long, however, ending their first time out with a 4-2 loss in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to eventual conference victor Tampa Bay Rowdies.Indy Eleven’s 2021 preseason left plenty of room for optimism, with an impressive 2-0 showing against a young outfit from MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps FC, a thorough 3-0 trouncing of USL League One side Forward Madison FC, and a 1-1 draw against fellow Championship foe Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC to close things out last weekend. The preseason featured plenty of goals from the new forward tandem of MLS veteran Jordan Hamilton and Venezuelan newcomer Manuel Arteaga, both of whom will look to make up for the departure of two-time defending Eleven scoring leader Tyler Pasher (currently showing out for Houston Dynamo FC after his offseason transfer to the MLS side).The club’s “fountain of youth” – midfielder and newly-named captain Ayoze – also showed he has plenty left in the tank during his preseason performances, while third-year pro Nick Moon also provided plenty of spark mostly from the right flank.In goal, it looks as if fourth year Eleven performer Jordan Farr will earn the number one spot between the posts over newcomer Bobby Edwards. In front of him, there will be plenty of competition for spots on Rennie’s three-man backline, a corps stacked with talent that includes two-time All-USL performer Neveal Hackshaw, vice-captain Karl Ouimette, another one-time All-USL honoree in A.J. Cochran, 15-year Austrian leagues veteran Nedeljko Malic and former Butler University standout Jared Timmer.Meanwhile, Birmingham enters 2021 having added serious fuel to its attacking fire in the person of defending USL Championship Golden Boot winner Junior Flemmings (15 goals in 2020), the Jamaican set to play alongside two of the league’s other top scorers from 2020 in forward and fellow countryman Neco Brett (9 goals, T-9th) and Brazilian playmaker Bruno Lapa (8 goals, T-11th).Alex Crognale, who enjoyed a cup of coffee with Indy Eleven in 2019 on loan from Columbus Crew, was Birmingham’s Defender of the Year in his first season with the squad in 2020 and will look to anchor the Legion backline that added ex-STLFC standout Phanuel Kavita in the offseason. Rennie will see another familiar face in Daigo Kobiyashi, the 38-year-old midfield stalwart now in his third season in Birmingham; he was under Rennie’s charge with Vancouver Whitecaps FC in 2013, the first of the Japanese legend’s five MLS campaigns. Behind everyone will be Matt Van Oekel, the 34-year-old goalkeeper who will be familiar to Eleven fans – although he could be pressed for time this season by Valparaiso native Trevor Spangenberg. 

SERIES HISTORY VS BHM (1W-1L-0D)

With both of 2020’s originally scheduled meetings cancelled after the COVID 19 pandemic caused an early season re-shuffle into groups, the series history consists of their 2019 contests, both won by the home sides.Indy Eleven impressed in the first meeting on June 26, 2019, a comprehensive 3-0 win at Lucas Oil Stadium that featured a five-save shutout by Jordan Farr and tallies by Tyler Pasher (7’) and Thomas Enevoldsen (90+1’) bookending Mathieu Laurent’s own goal (44’). Legion FC got the better of Indy in the return match at BBVA Field on Sept. 20, Brian Wright’s 39th minute goal proving enough in a 1-0 triumph over an Eleven squad that finished with 10 men after Drew Conner’s 53rd minute red card.Saturday’s game marks the first of four 2021 matchups, the series continuing with a pair of meetings in the Circle City three weeks apart on July 3 and July 24 and concluding back in Alabama on Oct. 10.

 INDY PLAYER TO WATCH: MF NICK MOON

Even with all of the shiny new toys to play with in regards to the Eleven’s bevy of offseason additions, Moon’s preseason showings earns him the pole position in this space. The former All-USL League One performer showed flashes of his potential at forward during his first campaign with the Eleven in 2020, but early returns from 2021 seem to indicate he’ll provide more danger facilitating from out wide, be it from the midfield or top-line positions.When the competition stiffened over the last three spring exhibitions, the 24-year-old had a hand in five of the squad’s six goals (a goal, two assists and two hustle players resulting in “hockey assists”), helping to make the case for his inclusion in Rennie’s first XI selection this weekend. With Pasher’s production needing to be replaced, don’t be surprised to see Moon fill his fair share of that void alongside Hamilton, Arteaga, and Gordon Wild.

 BIRMINGHAM PLAYER TO WATCH: MF BRUNO LAPA

While Matt Van Oekel was the original option because, well, it seems like we’ve been playing against him for forever, the more we looked into it the more the spotlight shone on Lapa. The 23-year-old burst onto the Championship scene during his rookie campaign in 2020, starting all 17 matches for Birmingham after a decorated collegiate career at Wake Forest University.Including Legion FC’s playoff match, he went on to lead the team in chances created (35) and in shots (26), tie for the team lead in assists (5), and finish second in goals (8). The midfielder finished the season as one of only two players in the Championship to tally at least eight goals and five assists – the other being reigning league MVP, Solomon Asante of Phoenix Rising FC. For all the firepower the Jamaicans Neco Brett and Junior Flemmings bring to the front line, Lapa deserves at least as much attention – and you can bet he’ll get plenty of it from the Eleven midfield collective in an attempt to cut off his dangerous service.

4/23/21 USL Kicks off Sat, SuperLeague Fails, Pulisic/Chelsea in must win vs West Ham Sat 12:30 NBC, Champ League, USWNT Games Set, MLS Week 2

MLS

So all the talk in Soccer this week has been Super League – a shame since MLS got off to a pretty good start on National TV this past weekend as over ½ million watched LA and Miami on ABC the largest since 2011.  Miami just barely lost their home opener on ABC Sunday as the LA Galaxy and Chicharito retuned to formed with 2 goals by the Mexican in a 3-2 thriller over Miami.  Saturday on Fox Austin looked much better than your average expansion team in giving LAFC all they could handle in a 2-0 loss in LA as over ½ million watched as well.  The big news was 2019 MVP Carlos Vela being subbed early on injury when he wasn’t ready to come off in confusion.  Supposedly he will be fine to return next game for LAFC.  Seattle kicked things off Friday night with a solid 4-0 thumping at home of last season’s surprising Minn United.  And finally Columbus and Philly tied in Columbus Sunday on FS1 – 0-0 as both teams looked tired from midweek CONCACAF Champions League wins.  This weekend the biggest matchup is 4 time Finalist Seattle traveling to LAFC Saturday at 6 pm on ESPN for a battle of the top 2 teams in the West over the past 2 seasons.  Hopefully Carlos Vela will be back in the line-up for Bob Bradley’s crew.  Saturday At 3:30 pm on on TUDN and Univision – Carmel’s own Matt Hedges and Dallas will travel to San Jose both teams looking for their first wins, whilejust before at 1 pm on ESPN+ Cincy will travel to NYCFC.  Sat at 10:30 pm on ESPN+ Indy 11 fans can watch former forward Tyler Pasher and Houston as they travel to Portland  to face the Timbers. 

MLS CCL

A record 5 teams are advancing to the Final 8 of the CONCACAF Champions League. Toronto FC will face Club Azul on Tues on FS1, while Toronto faces Mexican stalwart Club America. At least 1 MLS team is guaranteed into the Final 4 as Atlanta United and Philly will faceoff for a spot.  Could this finally be the year MLS wins the CCL? 

Super League

All the talk this week was about A New Breakoff Super League with the top teams from Spain, Italy, and England leading the group of 15 huge clubs looking to replace UCL – Champions League midweek competition with a new Super League with set teams each year.  The richest, most recognizable teams in the world – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Man United, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Inter, AC Milan, Juvenus were the 12 announced teams with Germany’s Bayern Munich, Dortmund and France’s PSG expected to fill out the 15 permanent members (though they publically said no the entire time).  Five other clubs would play their way in – to fill out the 20 team – (2 leagues of ten) – that would included 2 games per team in each league with the top 4 teams advancing to a playoff.  While the concept of having the largest most recognizable teams in the world play each other more often is appealing.  Having those 15 teams as permanent locked in members is the issue here.  Finishing top 4 or top 3 so you can be in Champions League would be no more.  Arsenal finishes 11th in the league but it still in?   This was the fatal flaw of this concept.  Champions League is just that – champions – finish in the top 3 or 4 in your league and you get to be in next year and get the rewards and windfall of money that comes with that.  Interesting that this new plan comes along with Juventus, Dortmund, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham all battling for top 4 slots this year to even make next year’s Champions League.  I am thrilled it blew up and very quickly at that – the fans spoke up and shamed them into backing down.  It will be interesting to see if another group or these try this again in a few years – again I think having a few more of the top teams playing each other in Champions League is a great idea – obviously however – automatic membership for the big 15 teams is not the way to do this. 

Indy 11 & USL

Two Weeks and Counting until the Indy 11 kickoff the home season at the Mike on Sat May 8 7:30 pm vs Tulsa. Due to stadium limitations only season ticket holders will be allowed in for the games in May – with hopes that will change in June.  The 11 will travel to their first game next Sat at the Birmingham Legion on ESPN+ at 7:30 pm.   The USL starts this Sat night with Louisville hosting Atlanta United 2 in their new stadium at 7 pm on ESPN+.  See some season previews below and I will have more preseason previews next week when more teams start playing.  USL Pre-Season Rankings

US Women

Close to 300K watched the US beat France on ESPN2 a couple of weeks back on Tuesday afternoon – not bad seeing as Champions League was going head to head against them.  The Groups have been announced for the Olympics this summer and of course the US will face #5 Sweden first.  The US always plays Sweden in the group stage it seems and will be looking to avenge being knocked out by them in the last Olympics in the US’ worse showing ever.  The US also plays New Zealand and Australia in the group stages with the top 2 teams advancing to the next round.   

GAMES to WATCH This Week

Of course Champions League Semi Finals with Man City vs PSG Wednesday and Real Madrid hosting Chelsea and American Christian Pulisic on Tuesday both on CBS Sports Network at 3 pm lead off the big games this week. With pregame shows starting at 2 pm and post game right after on CBSSN as well.  Great to see these games on TV – instead of just paramount plus (hopefully they are simulcasting on both for those that just have PP.)  Saturday a huge top 4 EPL battle between West Ham and Chelsea with Champions League next year at stake on NBC at 12:30 on Saturday.  Sat AM a German battle of American’s battling for top 4 slots as #3 Wolfsburg and John Brooks host #5 Dortmund and Claudia Reyna at 9:30 on ESPN+.  Sunday its League Cup finals and a chance for American GK Zack Steffan to raise a trophy with Man City as they face Tottenham (sans Jose Marino who was relieved of the head job) at 11:30 am on ESPN+.

 

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Apr 23

3 pm NBCSN                       Arsenal vs Everton

4 pm bein Sport                 Barcelona (Dest) vs Getafe

7:30 pm FS1                       Sporting KC vs Orlando City

10 pm FS 1                          Tijuana vs Necaxa

Sat, Apr 24

7:30 am Peacock                Liverpool vs Newcastle 

9:30 am ESPN+                  Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Dortmund (Reyna)  

11 am beIN sport              Metz vs PSG

12:30 pm NBC Chelsea (Pulisic) vs West Ham United

1 pm ESPN+                        NYCFC vs Cincy  MLS

3:30 pm Univision, TUDN San Jose vs Dallas (Matt Hedges) MLS

3 pm beINSport                  Real Madrid vs Real Bettis

6 pm ESPN                  LAFC vs Seattle Sounders

7 pm ESPN+                        Louisville vs Atlanta United 2 USL

10:30 pm ESPN+                Portland Timbers vs Houston (Pasher) MLS

Sun, Apr 25

9 am NBCSN                       Leeds United vs Man United

10:15 am beIN Sport         Villareal vs Barcelona (Dest)

11:30 am ESPN+                Tottenham vs Man City (Steffan) (League Cup Final)

2 pm Cock                           Aston Villa vs West Brom  

2:30 pm ABC                      Forentina vs Atalanta  –   Italy

3 pm beINSport                  Athletic Club vs Atletico Madrid

6 pm FS 1                            La Galaxy vs NY Red Bulls

Tues, Apr 27

3 pm CBSSN                Real Madrid vs Chelsea (Pulisic) Champions League Semis

8 pm FS1                             Atlanta United vs Philly  CCL

7 pm Para +                        Washington Spirit vs  NY/NJ Gotham FC

10 pm FS1                           Toronto vs Cruz Azul CCL

10 pm Para +                      OL Reign vs Red Stars NWSL

Weds, Apr 28

3 pm CBSSN                PSG vs Man City Champions League Semis

8:30 pm FS2                       Columbus Crew vs Monterrey CCL

10:30 pm FS1                     Portland vs America CCL

Thurs, Apr 29

3 pm CBSSN? Para+           Villarreal vs Arsenal Europa Final 4

3 pm CBSSN? Para+           Man United vs Roma Europa Final 4

Sat, May 1

7:30  pm  ESPN+         Birmingham Legion vs Indy 11

7:30 pm CBSSN                  North Carolina Courage (Lynn Williams) vs Orlando Pride (Morgan)

Sun, May 2

9 am ?                                 New Castle vs Arsenal

11:30 am NBCSN              Man United vs Liverpool

12 pm ESPN+                     Udinese vs Juentus (McKennie)

12:30 pm Paramount +    NY/NJ Gotham FC vs Racing Louisville FC (NWSL)

1 pm ESPN                          Nashville vs Inter Miami

2:!5 pm Peacock                Tottenham vs Sheffield United

3 pm beIN Sport                Valencia vs Barcelona

7:30 pm Paramount +       Houston Dash vs Portland ThornsFC (Dunn, Horan, Sauerbrunn, Smith) NWSL

9 pm FS1                     Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy  

MLS Schedule

USA

US Players overseas this week

Gold Cup sites include six stadiums in Texas

U23 Men’s Debacle Debrief – SI –

USWNT to face rivals Sweden at Tokyo Olympics

Man United’s Heath returns to U.S. with injury

Ahead of Man City-Chelsea showdown, Dahlkemper details life across the pond

SuperLeague Debacle

Super League cabal have spectacularly failed to read the room– Mark Ogden

Will New Super League Destroy Global Soccer?  – Yahoo

How to Fix Super League Issues and make it Work – Harry Bushnell Yahoo Soccer

Klopp not Happy with new Superleague

Defiant UEFA announce new Champions League  – Mark Ogden

Are there Real Problems in Soccer that the Super League could help solve?  538

Champions league Semi-Finals Tues/Wed

Defiant UEFA announce new Champions League  – Mark Ogden

Champions League talking points: Man City, Real Madrid the teams to beat?
Marquinhos among PSG trio back in training before Champions Legaue semi

Gundogan: New UCL format ‘just the lesser of two evils’; ‘more and more and more games’


s

Indy 11 and USL

USL Starts Sat Night

2021 PREVIEW – Eastern Conference, Central Division

2021 PREVIEW – Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division

2021 PREVIEW – Western Conference, Mountain Division

2021 PREVIEW – Top Five Forwards in the Championship

Louisville City Player Remembers his first Game

PRESEASON RECAP – INDY ELEVEN 3 : 0 FORWARD MADISON FC

INDY ELEVEN 2021 BROADCAST SCHEDULE SET

INDY ELEVEN ACQUIRES MF PATRICK SEAGRIST ON LOAN FROM MLS’ INTER MIAMI CF

21 New Roster

Season Tix Available

EPL
Man City’s De Bruyne fit for League Cup final, PSG clash
 
De Bruyne, Aguero, Kane injury updates ahead of League Cup Final

Guardiola backs USMNT’s Steffen, confirms League Cup spot

Iheanacho fires Leicester into FA Cup final on fans’ return

Jose Mourinho: from ‘Special One’ to trophy-less Tottenham tenure

Tottenham fires manager Jose Mourinho after 17 months
Rodgers pleads for Leicester to stay focused on Champions League race

WORLD

Depleted Real can’t keep pace with Atletico
Advantage Atletico after patched-up Real Madrid held by Getafe

Juve’s Champions League at risk, Inter edge towards title despite Napoli draw
Bundesliga: Brooks’ Wolfsburg, Reyna’s Dortmund win to set up huge tilt

Goalkeeping

Best Saves April early

Costa Rica and PSGs GK Keylor Navas (the Puma) Saves

Navas 10 Saves Sends PSG Thru

Great Saves from International Break

At 44 Buffon still one of the Best

Great Saves Mexican Keeper

Ter Stegen VS Manuel Neuer Who The Best Goalkeeper Of Germany?!!

 

USWNT to face old rivals Sweden at 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Apr 21, 2021ESPN

The United States women’s national team have been drawn against old rivals Sweden as well as Australia and New Zealand in Group G for the Tokyo Olympic football tournament, it was announced on Wednesday.

Great Britain will face Canada and Chile as well as hosts Japan in Group E, while European champions Netherlands were drawn against Brazil, China and Zambia in Group F.  

The USWNT are seeking to become the first women’s side to win a World Cup and an Olympic gold medal back-to-back.”After waiting an extra year for this Olympics, the draw represents a real milestone in our journey and helps us focus in even more on our preparation and what we need to do to achieve our goals,” USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski said.”We have great respect for all three of our group opponents and we know this tournament will push us to our limits both mentally and physically, as well as challenge us every game technically and tactically, so we will do everything we can in the next three months to prepare for success.”There will be a new winner in the women’s tournament, with 2016 champions Germany failing to qualify.Great Britain will be led by former Olympic gold medallist Hege Riise at the tournament.”There is no doubt we have been drawn in a very exciting group. The host nation Japan are an extremely talented team and have been a strong force in women’s football for many years,” she said in a statement.”Canada are another very good physical team, as we saw earlier this month when England and Wales both faced them at home in the April FIFA window. Chile are not a team I know quite as well, but they put in a very impressive performance against Cameroon to secure their place in this summer’s Games for the first time in their history.”Riise will name her 18-player squad — which will feature players from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — at the end of May.The men’s draw saw Rio 2016 Olympic men’s champions Brazil being drawn against GermanyIvory Coast and Saudi Arabia in Group D.

Hosts Japan will face MexicoSouth Africa and France in Group A while two-time Olympic champions Argentina will play SpainEgypt and Australia in Group C.

Group B consists of New Zealand, South Korea, Honduras and Romania.

The football tournament at Tokyo will take place from July 21 to Aug. 6 in six cities across Japan.

Men’s Olympic draw

Group A

Japan, South Africa, Mexico, France

Group B

New Zealand, South Korea, Honduras, Romania (would have been US)

Group C

Egypt, Spain, Argentina, Australia

Group D

Brazil, Germany, Ivory Coast, Saudi Arabia

Women’s Olympic draw

Group E

Japan, Canada, Great Britain, Chile

Group F

China, Brazil, Zambia, Netherlands

Group G

Sweden, United States, Australia, New Zealand

Debacle Debrief: Inside U.S. Soccer, Stewart’s Response to a Qualifying Failure

The U.S. U-23 men’s national team’s failure to qualify for the Olympics isn’t American soccer’s first big setback, but it is the first one to be assessed by U.S. Soccer’s new technical setup.

BRIAN STRAUS  APR 21, 2021  SI  

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It’s quite possible, if not probable, that the players who would’ve helped the USA finally qualify for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament were in Belfast, 5,000 miles away from the action.It was the evening of March 28, and the senior U.S. national team had just beaten European opposition on European soil for the first time in nearly six years. The late-night celebration took place in one of those bland, beige hotel meeting rooms, where staff and players gathered to watch their U-23 compatriots face Honduras in Guadalajara. The winner in Mexico would qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, the draw for which was held on Wednesday morning.Fifteen of the players on the senior squad that defeated Northern Ireland that day—a result that helped vault the USA into FIFA’s top 20 for the first time since 2014—were Olympic eligible (and that doesn’t include the likes of Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Timothy Weah, who weren’t in camp). Yet thanks to FIFA regulations that limit access to players for junior events, the only contribution they could make toward the Olympic cause was to watch on a pull-down screen and hope. And they went to bed disappointed. Their colleagues in Guadalajara were second-best all evening, just as they’d been second-best for most of Concacaf’s qualifying tournament.The senior U.S. men have failed to qualify for one of the past eight World Cups, and it took an almost incomprehensible array of bad decisions to make that happen. The U.S. U-20s have failed to qualify for one of the past dozen U-20 World Cups. The U.S. U-17s have missed out on one of the 18 all-time U-17 World Cups. American failure happens, but it’s been largely the exception at the regional level. Yet the U-23s have now missed out on three straight Olympic tournaments. What is it about that age group, or that event, that has so bedeviled U.S. Soccer?Perhaps the answer this time is simple: The men who could’ve ended the streak and taken the USA to Tokyo just weren’t present. But there’s a counterpoint: By now, shouldn’t U.S. Soccer and MLS have produced more than 20 U-23 players who can beat Honduras? The timing and conditions surrounding Concacaf’s qualifying tournament certainly weren’t helpful. The U.S. men were still in preseason—many had gone three months without a competitive game—while their opponents were deep into their domestic campaigns. Combine that lack of match fitness with the heat and altitude of Guadalajara, and you have a recipe for poor passes, missed traps and heavy legs. But then again, maybe those are just excuses—feeble attempts to justify failure by those unwilling to do the hard work and face hard truths.The Olympic elimination touched a nerve, perhaps unearthing some U.S.n soccer PTSD left over from the 2017 disaster in Couva. There was a lot of frustration. But this failure is different from that one, and from the two prior Olympic disappointments, in one crucial way. This time, U.S. Soccer has the full-time technical people in place to evaluate it and make possible changes.There was no more engaged viewer last month than Earnie Stewart, U.S. Soccer’s sporting director. His position didn’t exist in 2017. Before Couva, the federation president was the driving force behind the hiring and firing of national team coaches, with a rubber stamp from the board of directors. Following World Cups, U.S. Soccer’s various departments would prepare reports and evaluations and share them with the rest of the federation. The national team’s coaches would critique the soccer performance. Conclusions or recommendations would emerge from that collective effort.Those days are gone. U.S. Soccer has overhauled its technical structure since Couva and has hired soccer people to make soccer decisions, for better or worse. Stewart, who reports to CEO Will Wilson, is supported by two full-time general managers: Brian McBride on the men’s side and Kate Markgraf on the women’s. All three are decorated former players, and Stewart earned administrative experience at NAC Breda, AZ Alkmaar and the Philadelphia Union before moving to Chicago in the summer of 2018. The soccer side of U.S. Soccer now is in their hands, and they’re the ones charged with crafting the evaluation and response to an outcome like the one in Guadalajara.There’s a routine in place. Stewart meets with the two GMs every week, and then with the two senior national team coaches, Gregg Berhalter and Vlatko Andonovski, every other week. In addition, Stewart heads the federation’s Internal Technical Board, which gathers twice a month to discuss big-picture topics. The ITB includes Stewart, the GMs, director of technical development Barry Pauwels and director of sport development Dan Russell. Pauwels, who is Belgian, joined the USSF as the director of coaching education in early 2018 and now oversees the federation’s big-picture technical plan and the implementation of principles of play across different age groups. Russell has been in Chicago since 2013 and is the administrative lead in charge of initiatives like coaching education, talent identification and referee development. https://7e486f2bd90cbedbba10f21b5f6e4c96.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html It’s that group, and not just the coaches, who are now responsible for camp and competition debriefs and soccer policy. Only Russell, who worked in coaching education back in 2017, was at the USSF before Couva. The ITB also occasionally reports into the Technical Development Committee, which is a subset of federation board members that keeps track of on-field developments. The board and federation president don’t make soccer decisions, but they can weigh in on a prospective hire (especially where salary is concerned) or dismiss Wilson, the CEO.What happened in Guadalajara wasn’t U.S. soccer’s first setback. But it is the first to be evaluated and addressed by a modern, in-house technical structure. Stewart, who departed Mexico after the first two group-stage games, decided on this occasion to let the situation breathe a bit before diving in. He elected to have a detailed debrief with U-23 coach Jason Kreis and Berhalter on April 8, more than a week after the defeat to Honduras. The conclusions from that call would then be brought to the ITB. “I don’t react to reactions. That doesn’t help me in my daily job, so I don’t do that for the most part. That’s a waste of time. But my first reaction is it’s disappointment,” Stewart said of the furor that followed the immediate aftermath of the loss. “In this case, first I made sure that everybody could have their moment for themselves. After that, we actually had the debrief and talked about those elements that could make it better for the future.“If I hear it correctly, the banter—and it goes back to three years ago and what happened [in Couva] and the, ‘What are they doing?’ and all that kind of stuff, I guess the expectations were still the same for this group—which is fine,” Stewart added. “That was the group that was there. That was the group that was available. And unfortunately, we didn’t perform up to par. And that’s what we spoke about on [April 8]. What are the things that we could’ve done? We looked at camps. We looked at programming. There were a couple opportunities—two players we could’ve brought in inside the FIFA window [at the end of the Olympic qualifying tournament]. Would that have been something we should’ve thought [more] about? But we made choices.”They made choices in terms of the coaches who were appointed (the U-23 gig isn’t full-time, and Kreis has now returned to his job at Inter Miami) and in terms of the roster. There was criticism of Kreis’s team when it was released. Concerns that it lacked sufficient heft at the attacking midfielder and striker positions arguably were supported by the results. But Stewart told Sports Illustrated that, considering the refusal of European clubs to release players for Olympic qualifying (he revealed that Barcelona wouldn’t let Konrad de la Fuente go, even though he’s not part of their first team)—heck, Atlanta United even prevented three players from going to Guadalajara—they were content with the roster they had.“They were rightfully there in that place and didn’t perform to the standard that there was. Even if we’d brought in [different players], they would’ve been in the same situation as well,” Stewart argued. “They’re also players that hadn’t played and hadn’t played games for a longer period of time. [Outsiders believe that] the players that are not there are always better than the players that are there and don’t qualify. … No, those players were the ones that were chosen to represent us and bring us to the Olympics and unfortunately it didn’t happen.” Having concluded that the individual players and manager weren’t the primary problem, insofar as they were the best available, Stewart and the USSF’s new technical setup are left to address the big-picture issues. After three Olympic misses in a row, the federation has to find a way to make those available players better. FIFA isn’t going to change its rules governing releases for youth competitions. Concacaf has offered no indication that it plans to move the tournament away from the early spring, and MLS certainly is in no mood to change to a winter schedule. Odds are that when the 2024 qualifying competition comes around, U.S. Soccer will be sending a squad of young MLS players just exiting their offseason. The challenge is to put them in position to overcome those obstacles. Those hurdles may be reasons. They may be excuses. But they’re probably not going away.One way to address the issue is to make the U-23 team a more constant fixture. That would include a full-time, permanent coach and additional camps and games. U.S. Soccer tried to do some of that during the most recent Olympic cycle and staged a half dozen U-23 camps throughout 2019. The pandemic put a stop to that early last year, however. Stewart said continuity and familiarity are crucial at every age level, and he hinted he’ll be asking the federation to expand the budget to handle even more U-23 initiatives going forward.“The programming that got put in place for U-23 was actually a step up from anything we had done in the past. Every FIFA window we would have the group together. That actually happened in the year leading up before COVID,” Stewart said.“If there’s one thing I’ve learned over all these years, no matter if you’re in a club environment or you’re in youth national teams, you need platforms for talents to play as much as possible at the highest level that there is. Adding that programming is good and if you add programming, that means you’ll have full-time coaches that are always there.”Kreis was named U-23 coach in March 2019, in time for the first U-23 camp of the cycle and just one year ahead of the originally scheduled Olympic qualifiers. Appointing one much earlier, and getting a prospective player pool up and running further in advance, sounds like something that might address some of the USA’s issues at the age group. But Stewart can’t just snap his fingers and make it happen, he said. There are budgets and competing priorities, and the board would have to decide that the U-23s and the Olympics, whose importance on the men’s side remains debatable, are worth the investment. At least there’s someone in Stewart’s position to advocate for change.“All coaches should be full-time,” Stewart said. “I would say that is something internally that we need to discuss with U.S. Soccer, because my wishes are not the only wishes that there are. We have a lot to do when it comes to soccer in the United States and what we do for membership, and then what we do for programming as well. And that all has to fit. I’m a huge proponent of having full-time coaches in every position and having as much programming as possible.”

All Stewart can do now is plan for the future and try to put the next generation of Olympic hopefuls in position to reverse a troubling trend. He knows U.S. Soccer likely will have to rely solely on MLS players, and he knows those players—barring an MLS overhaul—probably will be less match-fit than their counterparts come qualification. The only way to overcome that is through chemistry and quality, and that is now the federation’s mission. The group sent to Guadalajara simply wasn’t good enough to handle that obvious adversity. It’s also true that a few years ago, there’s no way a selection of players in their early 20s would’ve been good enough to beat Northern Ireland in Belfast, or to find their way to a bunch of Europe’s leading clubs. The U.S. player pool is improving. That hotel meeting room was evidence. U.S. Soccer and MLS just haven’t reached the point where they’re producing enough players to do both. Stewart and his colleagues must now see if they can accelerate that process while maintaining focus on their top priority, which is developing players for the senior team. It’s an opportunity and responsibility that hasn’t been available at U.S. Soccer before, and their solutions will be a valid test of the federation’s new technical structure.“The really good part is actually that we have a group of I’d say, 20 to 25 U-23 players that are performing at a really high level. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it, they’re all in Europe and they would not be released,” he said. “I’d say the player pool from two years ago until today has gotten bigger, more players, younger players, so that part is positive. But it’s not that a player pool grows from whatever it was 2.5 to 3 years ago and now all of a sudden you have 50 or 60 that all have the same level. That’s not where we’re at.”Stewart continued, “I think we can make a huge huge step in the United States because we have a lot. We really have a lot. But at the same time, I think there’s extra steps that we can take and once we take those steps, I’m sure in 5 to 10 years from now, we can actually talk about it that way.”

4/16/21 MLS Kicksoff Tonight, Pulisic stars in UCL-FA Cup Sat vs Man City, USWNT ties and wins,

MLS

The MLS season kicks off its 26th season this weekend with 27 teams with the new Austin FC added the season will last thru Nov 7 with the postseason in Dec.  Games start on Fox, FS1 and ABC as more and more games will be on the main networks this summer.  Of course ESPN+ continues to be the home of MLS with most games that aren’t on regular TV being featured there.  Lots of predictions and season previews below.  I always like to wait until after the first weekend to make my picks – but I see LAFC, Portland and Seattle (4 of the past 5 finals) battling it out in the West – while I like Columbus, NE and Philly or perhaps Orlando in the east.  Last Season’s top 2 teams in the West Seattle and Min United will kick things off tonight on FS1 at 9:30 pm, right after Houston with former Indy 11 striker Tyler Pasher host San Jose on ESPN+.   Sat gives us Western Favorites LAFC facing expansion newcomer Austin FC at 6 pm FOX with their exciting new partial owner –  right on right on right on – Mathew McConaghey – you have to check out some of these interviews below. He will be good for MLS!   

Matthew McConaughey Shares How Soccer Became Such a Huge Part of His Life (Exclusive) Video
McConaughey, Austin prepare for ‘100-year war’ in MLS

Matthew McConaughey on role with MLS’ Austin FC: ‘Not interested in just being a mascot’

Local teams Cincy and Chicago Fire will both play at 8:30 pm on ESPN+ as Cincy travels to Nashville and Chicago hosts New England.  Finally Sunday we get defending MLS Champs Columbus Crew hosting a rebuilding Philly Union at 5:30 pm on FS1 right after Beckem’s Miami hosts the LA Galaxy in their new stadium at 3 pm on ABC.   Interesting that no real stars were brought in this off season.  Chicago replaced the entire team which is good – they have stunk for years but I am not sure there is anyone I would say – hey I am going to drive to Columbus, Cincy or Chicago to see play like in the past.  The overall quality and competitiveness may be better, but I am not sure how many real stars we have in the league this year.  Yeah I am missing Zlatan!   

MLS CCL

A record 5 teams are advancing to the Final 8 of the CONCACAF Champions League Including Toronto FC who upset Mexican powerhouse Leon.  Toronto FC will next face Club Azul in Late April, while Toronto faces Mexican stalwart Club America. At least 1 MLS team is guaranteed into the Final 4 as Atlanta United and Philly will faceoff for a spot.  Could this finally be the year MLS wins the CCL?  Catch all the action starting Apr 27/28 on FS1 and FS2.   

US Women win 1, tie 1

The US women looked rather lackluster in their 2-0 win over France on Tuesday.  Unfortunately France did not start their best players as many had returned to Lyon for club play.  That left an un-experienced group not really reflecting the #3 ranked team in the world.  France will not be in the Olympics so perhaps a slow build for them.  Morgan started up front with Rapinoe on the left and Press on the right.  Hi-lights  Morgan was especially active up front and drew a PK before slotting her first goal of the game for the US 2nd  I am going to say that Morgan has reclaimed the #9 slot after her return from pregnancy.   The defense looked stronger with the return of Dahlkemper along with Sauerbrunn in the middle of defense.  The midfield was dominant with Mewis and Lavelle starting together for the first time.  When Horan came on and moved Lavelle to right wing – it was especially dominant.  Overall the US looked good – but this was a watered down France so hard to really gauge if we got better after Sweden overall.  I do have to say this – ESPN2 did a horrible job with the audio not matching the video for the entire daggum game.  The announcing crew was fine but the audio not matching up for 90 minutes in not excusable at any level but certainly not for the #1 Ranked US Ladies.  Come on ESPN!!  Also playing this game at 3 pm at the same time as Champions League PSG vs Bayern Munich was stupid.  1 pm, 5 pm any other time would have been fine – but even France’s starters elected to stay home and watch PSG on TV – bad planning US soccer as literally no one in the world tuned in. 

The US Ladies were fortunate to get the tie at Sweden on Sunday on Fox.  Sweden definitely took the game to the US and I would call this an equal game pretty much in possession and in shots, heck GK Naeher had to come up with 2 big saves.  The penalty call late was certainly questionable – as to OHara was in the box or not.  I think she was on the line which is in – but it could be argued either way – certainly a harsh call from Sweden’s perspective.  I thought the US was exposed on both flanks as Sweden came down the left side beating O’Hara many times.  I also thought the younger Davidson at centerback had some issues and was a weak point on the day.  Up front Williams was non-existent on the right as Christian Press looked much there when Rapinoe came in late.  Would still love to see Mewis and Lavell on the field at the same time like the World Cup.  Horan is playing fine but I think Mewis and Levell might be the best 2 in the world right now.  Again a 1-1 tie was fortunate for the US and this will hopefully serve as a good wake-up call for the US before the Olympics. 

Champions League

Wow – Champions League rarely disappoints – as another shocker with PSG and Neymar knocking holders Bayern Munich out 3-2 on Aggregate after a fine show at home with a 1-0 loss that PSG should have won like 3-1 if not for GK Nueur and the dang post 3 times.  Real Madrid completed the win over Liverpool blanking 2 year’s ago champs 0-0 at home in route to a 3-1 aggregate. Man City cheated and knocked off my Dortmund and of course the biggest story may be Pulisic’s Man of the Match play vs Porto.  It sets up an exciting Semi-Finals later this month with Chelsea vs Real Madrid and Man City vs PSG. 

Barca lose 2-1 to Real in El Classico

 I had a chance to take in the entire 2nd half of El Classico – and it was well Classic !  The hard fought 2-1 win by Real Madrid – continued to show the magic of Zidane as he once again pulled the right triggers despite missing great players in Ramos and Varane in the middle of defense.  Courtios made some great saves and Madrid survived the home game in soaking wet and 50 degree conditions. Sad to see American Serginio Dest go off after a ball bounced off him for an own goal on a free kick. This sets up a 3 way race with Atletico Madrid 1 pt up on Real and Barcelona just 2 pts off the lead with a game hosting Atletico on the final game of the season.  The title race is one with just 5 games to go. 

Games to Watch This Week

The FA Cup Semi-Finals are this weekend with Chelsea and Christian Pulisic facing Manchester City and American GK Zach Steffan on Saturday at 12:30 pm on ESPN+ – don’t ask me why this game is not moving to ABC, ESPN or some ESPN network station – Pulisic is coming off of back to back Man of the Match performances for Chelsea – has scored 3 goals in the last 3 games and was the best player on the field in their Champions League draw with Porto as he was fouled a record tying 11 times (tied with Messi).   Sunday Leicester City will face Southampton at 1:30 pm on ESPN+ all the games at Wembly of course.  I have given you the rundown on the MLS games on TV this weekend, be sure to tune in – the more we watch – the more games they will give us folks.  That Seattle Sounders vs Minnesota game should be especially exciting tonight at 9:30 on FS1.   Everton vs Tottenham today at 3 pm on NBCSN also as they battle for top 6 Europa spots. 

Saturday the Copa Del Rey finals pit Barcelona and American Serginio Dest vs Basque standout Athletic Club at 3:30 pm on ESPN+.   Sunday early morning has American Robinson and Fulham desperately fighting relegation vs Arsenal at 8:30 am on NBCSN followed closely by Serie A 3rd place Juventus and American midfielder McKinney traveling to 4th place Atalanta at 9 am on ESPN+.   Finally 9:30 on ESPN+ gives us a battle of American’s as Dortmund and Claudia Reyna host Werder Bremen and forward Josh Stewart.  All before the 3 pm MLS double header on ABC then FS1 .

Former Carmel FC GK playing for Depauw

It was fantastic to see former Carmel FC Goalkeeper Grey Collins playing his second season for DePauw University.  They faced off against the Indy 11 at home last week where he garnered his first start of the season. So proud of him and his progression at Depauw.  Grey was one of the first GK’s I started training with Carmel FC back when he was U12 and he played with the club all the way thru High School – always one of my favorites!  Good luck on the season Grey – we’ll be rooting for you!  

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Apr 16

2:30 pm ESPN+                  RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Hoffenheim

3 pm Peacock                     Everton vs Tottenham

3 pm beIN Sport                 Lille (Weah)  vs Montpellier

8pm ESPN+                         Houston vs San Jose –MLS

9:30 pm FS1                       Seattle Sounders vs Minnesota  MLS Kickoff

10 pm paramount +          OL Reign vs Houston Dash   NWSL

Sat, Apr 17

7:30 am NBCSN                  Newcastle United vs West Ham

9:30 am ESPN+                  Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Bayern Munich                        

12:30 pm ESPN+              Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man City –  FA Cup

3:30 pm ESPN+                  Copa Del Rey – Athletic Club vs Barcelona

6 pm FOX                            LAFC vs Austin

8:30 pm EPSN+                  Nashville vs Cincy

8:30 pm ESPN+                  Chicago Fire vs New England

Sun, Apr 18

7 am beIN sport                 PSG vs Saint Ettienne

8:30 am NBCSN                 Arsenal vs Fulham (Robinson)

11 am NBCSN                     Man United vs Burnley

9 am ESPN+                        Atalanta vs Juve (McKinney)

9:30am ESPN+                   Dortmund (Reyna) vs Werder Bremen (Stuart)

1:30 pm ESPN+                  Leicester City vs Southampton

3 pm ABC                            Miami vs LA Galaxy

5:30 pm FS1                       Columbus vs Philly

10 pm ESPN+                    Vancouver vs Portland

Tues, Apr 20

3 pm peacock             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Brighton

6 pm Para +                        NY/NJ Gotham FC vs North Carolina Courage NWSL

8:30 pm Para +                  Red Stars vs KC NWSL

Weds, Apr 21

1 pm Peacock                     Tottenham vs Southampton

3 pm NBCSN                       Aston Villa vs Man City 

7 pm Para +                        Orlando Pride (Morgan) vs Washington Spirit NWSL

10 pm Para +                      Portland Thorns (Rapinoe) vs OL Reign NWSL

Thurs, Apr 21

3 pm NBCSN                       Leister City vs West Brom

Fri, Apr 23

3 pm NBCSN                       Arsenal vs Everton

4 pm bein Sport                 Barcelona (Dest) vs Getafe

7:30 pm FS1                       Sporting KC vs Orlando City

10 pm FS 1                          Tijuana vs Necaxa

Sat, Apr 24

7:30 am Peacock                Liverpool vs Newcastle 

9:30 am ESPN+                  Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Dortmund (Reyna)  

10 am NBCSN                     Liverpool vs Aston Villa

11 am beIN sport              Metz vs PSG

12:30 pm NBC Chelsea (Pulisic) vs West Ham United

1 pm ESPN+                        NYCFC vs Cincy  MLS

3:30 pm Univision, TUDN San Jose vs Dallas (Matt Hedges) MLS

3 pm beINSport                  Real Madrid vs Real Bettis

6 pm ESPN                  LAFC vs Seattle Sounders

7 pm ESPN+                        Louisville vs Atlanta United 2 USL

10:30 pm ESPN+                Portland Timbers vs Houston (Pasher) MLS

Sun, Apr 25

11:30 am Peacock             Tottenham vs Man United

2 pm Cock                           Sheffield vs Arsenal

2:30 pm ABC                      Forentina vs Atalanta  –   Italy

3 pm beINSport                  Real Bettis vs Athletico Madrid

MLS Schedule

 

Eastern Conference Winners Predictions 

Western Conference Winners Predictions 

MLS Cup Winners Predictions

MLS Western Conference Preview: LAFC, Minnesota Lead The Pack While Familiar Faces Follow

MLS Eastern Conference Preview: Crew & Revs Lead Pack Of Mass Rebuilds

MLS Power Rankings

Yahoo – Season Preview

Matthew McConaughey Shares How Soccer Became Such a Huge Part of His Life (Exclusive) Video
McConaughey, Austin prepare for ‘100-year war’ in MLS

Matthew McConaughey on role with MLS’ Austin FC: ‘Not interested in just being a mascot’

DC United hires Lucy Rushton, 2nd female GM in MLS history
D.C. United to make history by hiring Lucy Rushton as club’s new general manager

Sounders undergo overhaul after another run to MLS final

Columbus Crew and Austin fC will be forever tied – SI – Brian Straus
Cincy Season PreviewColumbus Season Preview

Chicago Fire Season Preview

20 young American players to watch in the 2021 MLS season

 Toronto Shocks Leon, Philly, Advances

MLS Puts 5 Teams in the Final 8 of CCL  

 

US Ladies


USWNT explore options, show versatility vs. Sweden, France as Olympic prep continues
 Julie Foudy

US Uneven in Performance vs Sweden
USWNT gets back in win column with strong win over No. 3 France

Rapinoe, Morgan score as USWNT beats France

U.S. coach: Alex Morgan regaining sharpness

Carli Lloyd Becomes Third USWNT Player to 300 Caps
USWNT Lawsuit Settled in Part Though Appeal Over Pay Still Looms

Carli Lloyd on 2020: Worst of times, best of times as soccer star reunites with family

NWSL investigates Gorden racism allegation

 

CHAMPIONS + Europa League

 Pulisic Fouled record 18 times in Champs League game
Pulisic Watch: USMNT star fouled 11 times as Chelsea advances

Four things from the Champions League quarter-finals
Chelsea into Champions League semis for first time since 2014

Neuer blames first-leg loss for Bayern’s Champions League exit

Guardiola on Man City quadruple path: ‘It’s incredible what we’ve done’
Tuchel: Chelsea reaches UCL semis with ‘solidarity, discipline, courage’

PSG edge epic Champions League tussle with Bayern despite second-leg defeat

Three things we learned from Borussia Dortmund – Man City
Klopp on Liverpool’s Champions League exit: ‘We lost the tie in Madrid’

Hansi Flick mulling Bayern future as signs point toward Germany job

‘Happier than before,’ Neymar feels ‘at home at PSG’

3 Things We Learned – Liverpool vs Real Madrid

Barca Blame Ref on 2-1 loss to Real Madrid in El Classico

Neymar Was The Guy At The Bar Contemplating ‘Just One More Shot’ Against Bayern

Pulisic Matches Record That Messi Held For Last Decade; Chelsea Advances To Semis

US Men

Denver to host Nations League with U.S., Mexico  Jeff Carlisle  ESPNFC

Gold Cup final set at Raiders’ site in Las Vegas

Captain America –Pulisic is back – Goal.com

US new Sensational Forward D Dike interview on Men In Blazers

Pulisic, Dike, Mckennie, & De La Torre Star In Big Weekend For Yanks In Europe

Yanks Abroad: Pulisic, Dike & McKennie highlight an exciting weekend

Daryl Dike scores 8th goal in 14 league matches for Barnsley

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LAFC over Columbus Crew for MLS Cup? Our 2021 predictions, MVP favorites, team-by-team talking points ESPN

The 26th season of Major League Soccer kicks off on Friday as Houston Dynamo host San Jose at BBVA Stadium (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+) and after a wild season in 2020, it’s a clean slate and a reset in 2021 with a full schedule, another new team (welcome, Austin FC) and plenty of iconic players and teams with a lot to prove. And so, a little over four months since Columbus Crew SC thumped Seattle Sounders to win MLS Cup, we’re back and ready for a fun season.

– Catch MLS all season long on ABC/ESPN/ESPN+

Who is your MVP?

Carlos Vela, LAFC — Injuries slowed Vela in 2020, but now he’s healthy again and looks primed to repeat his stellar form of 2019. That and LAFC looks set to be just as aggressive going forward this season as it has in the past. Vela figures to be the prime beneficiary of that. — Carlisle

Emanuel Reynoso, Minnesota United — It’s easy to forget that “Bebelo” joined Minnesota as recently as September, because he produced two goals and 14 assists in his first 16 appearances for the club. That sort of production so early in a player’s transition to MLS is rare. He’ll be more prolific with former Boca Juniors teammate Ramon Abila now leading the Loons’ line. — Lindberg

Carlos Vela, LAFC — After a year in which his availability was limited for various reasons, the expectation is that Vela will return to something close to the form he showed in 2019, when he turned in the best individual season in league history. — Bonagura

Lucas Zelarayan, Columbus Crew — This award is Vela’s to lose and Josef Martinez is primed for a feel-good return season, but Zelarayan has what it takes to build on the late form he found last season that led to him winning MLS Cup MVP. Like defending regular-season MVP Alejandro Pozuelo of Toronto, Zelarayan will be key in creating lots of chances rather than scoring tons of goals. But is Zelarayan even the best player on the Crew roster?

Carlos Vela, LAFC — After a stop-start season due to opting out of the MLS is Back tournament and injuries, look for the Mexico playmaker to rekindle the form that saw him set the league ablaze in 2019 to the tune of 34 goals and 10 assists en route to the Golden Boot and the MVP award. — Elvin


Who are your Eastern Conference winners?

New England Revolution — Let’s face it, parity is rife in the Eastern Conference. Any one of a half-dozen teams could win. But I’m going with New England given how well the Revs played once Carles Gil returned to fitness. Manager Bruce Arena has shored up the team’s weaknesses, adding more bite in midfield with the arrival of Wilfrid Kaptoum. Arnor Ingvi Traustason has also been added for attacking depth. Health is an issue for any team, but at present, New England looks primed to make a run at the conference title. — Carlisle

Columbus Crew — Last year’s MLS Cup champs are the favorites to win the East, and will edge out New England, NYCFC and Toronto for that crown. With Lucas Zelarayan, Gyasi ZardesJonathan Mensah and Darlington Nagbe returning, and the additions of Bradley Wright-Phillips, Kevin Molino and Alexandru Matan, Caleb Porter’s side should be even better in 2021. — Elvin

Orlando City — The Lions should forget about Daryl Dike returning and will probably play without fullback Joao Moutinho for a long stretch. But if things go well for that attack — NaniMauricio Pereyra, and Alexandre Pato stay healthy while Chris Mueller and Andres Perea continue to grow — this team can definitely claim the East. — Guerra

Columbus Crew — The Crew deserve top preseason billing after their march to MLS Cup, but there are strong cases to be made for the Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC, Atlanta United, New England Revolution and Orlando City. — Bonagura

Columbus Crew — Columbus was consistently among the best teams in the league throughout 2020, culminating in a well-deserved MLS Cup. Since, Caleb Porter has added sharp-shooting Bradley Wright-Phillips, wide threat Kevin Molino and hard man Perry Kitchen. There is quality and depth that rivals any club in the league. — Lindberg


Who are your Western Conference winners?

LAFC — LAFC was an MLS Cup contender when the curtain fell on 2020, but sporting director John Thorrington did plenty to address the team’s needs, acquiring defenders Marco Farfan and Kim Moon-Hwan. This was on top of adding center-back Jesus David Murillo late last season. There’s always a chance that the likes of Seattle, Portland, Sporting Kansas City or Minnesota could rise to the top, but with Vela and Diego Rossi still on board, LAFC is poised again to make a run at the championship. — Carlisle

Minnesota United — The Loons’ infamous three-year plan culminated with a playoff berth in 2019, and they were oh-so-close to appearing in MLS Cup last season. Now, with Emanuel Reynoso having a full season under his belt, and Ramon Abila taking up the No. 9 position that had previously been a revolving door of underwhelming forwards, Minnesota has positioned itself as one of the favorites for MLS Cup in 2021. — Lindberg

LAFC — An impressive run to the CONCACAF Champions League final with their full complement of players was instructive about the heights LAFC can hit. They’re the clear favorite in Western Conference, ahead of the usual cast of characters, including Portland, Seattle, Sporting KC and even FC Dallas. — Bonagura

Portland Timbers — Like Vela and the MVP race, this is probably LAFC’s to lose. Seattle, SKC and FC Dallas will make things fun the playoffs. However, the Timbers’ veteran laden-midfield — coupled a good striker rotation in Jeremy EbobisseFelipe Mora and (eventually) Jaroslaw Niezgoda — will emerge out West.

LAFC — With Seattle losing Jordan Morris to injury, and the Portland core a year older, look for LAFC to capitalize after an underwhelming 2020 league season. Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Eduard Atuesta are as good a trio as any in MLS, and Bob Bradley and Co. also made a couple of nice offseason additions to address their issues at full-back. Brian Rodriguez’s future (on loan at Almeria) remains a question, as is the center-forward position, but LAFC will outgun Portland and SKC to win the West. — Elvin


Who are your MLS Cup champs?

LAFC over New England Revolution — For all of its regular-season brilliance during its first three years in MLS, getting to the MLS Cup final has eluded LAFC, but this is the year they should break through. New England, meanwhile will fall just short, making it 0-for-6 in the grand finale. — Carlisle

Minnesota United over Columbus Crew — The Loons stand to possess too many options for any opponent to successfully stop. There’s the playmaking of Emanuel Reynoso, the finishing of Ramon Abila and opposite winger Robin Lod, as well as rumored additions Franco Fragapane of Talleres and Adrien Hunou of Stade Rennes. And we haven’t even mentioned a midfield of Ozzie Alonso, Jan GregusHassani Dotson and Wil Trapp— Lindberg

LAFC over Columbus Crew — A theoretical Columbus-LAFC final would certainly deliver both in terms of star power and an entertainment perspective. LAFC, who broke records in 2019 when they were last at full strength, have unfinished business and with Carlo Vela and Diego Rossi in attack, they get over the hump and knock off the reigning champs in what would be a blockbuster final. — Elvin

LAFC over Columbus Crew — LAFC gets over the postseason bump, which will serve as an appropriate sendoff for Diego Rossi, who is overdue for a move to Europe. — Bonagura

Orlando City over Portland Timbers — A rematch of the MLS is Back tournament in 2020. Alexandre Pato and Nani play like its 2010, Joao Moutinho returns to form, Chris Mueller makes his case to stay in USMNT mix, and Orlando beat a Portland that will could face a roster reboot in 2022. — Guerra

MLS 2021 season preview: Key questions, who to watch and much more

Andy DeossaThu, April 15, 2021, 6:38 PM Major League Soccer’s 26th season is about to kick off, with the opening match between the Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes on Friday evening. The Columbus Crew are the defending champions, and everyone will be eager to take the trophy off them. It figures to be a deep field of challengers, too, with at least half the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals comprised of MLS clubs.What can we expect in 2021?

Key MLS 2021 season storylines

Can the Crew repeat?

MLS hasn’t seen back-to-back champs since the 2011-12 Galaxy. But if you look at the additions Columbus made this offseason in adding skilled winger Kevin Molino and ageless goal machine Bradley Wright-Phillips, there’s no reason to believe the Crew can’t do it. Oh, and don’t forget about MLS Cup MVP Lucas Zelarayán. This team is stacked and has a shiny new stadium to prove it in.


Who are your Eastern Conference winners?

New England Revolution — Let’s face it, parity is rife in the Eastern Conference. Any one of a half-dozen teams could win. But I’m going with New England given how well the Revs played once Carles Gil returned to fitness. Manager Bruce Arena has shored up the team’s weaknesses, adding more bite in midfield with the arrival of Wilfrid Kaptoum. Arnor Ingvi Traustason has also been added for attacking depth. Health is an issue for any team, but at present, New England looks primed to make a run at the conference title. — Carlisle

Columbus Crew — Last year’s MLS Cup champs are the favorites to win the East, and will edge out New England, NYCFC and Toronto for that crown. With Lucas Zelarayan, Gyasi ZardesJonathan Mensah and Darlington Nagbe returning, and the additions of Bradley Wright-Phillips, Kevin Molino and Alexandru Matan, Caleb Porter’s side should be even better in 2021. — Elvin

Orlando City — The Lions should forget about Daryl Dike returning and will probably play without fullback Joao Moutinho for a long stretch. But if things go well for that attack — NaniMauricio Pereyra, and Alexandre Pato stay healthy while Chris Mueller and Andres Perea continue to grow — this team can definitely claim the East. — Guerra

Columbus Crew — The Crew deserve top preseason billing after their march to MLS Cup, but there are strong cases to be made for the Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC, Atlanta United, New England Revolution and Orlando City. — Bonagura

Columbus Crew — Columbus was consistently among the best teams in the league throughout 2020, culminating in a well-deserved MLS Cup. Since, Caleb Porter has added sharp-shooting Bradley Wright-Phillips, wide threat Kevin Molino and hard man Perry Kitchen. There is quality and depth that rivals any club in the league. — Lindberg


Who are your Western Conference winners?

LAFC — LAFC was an MLS Cup contender when the curtain fell on 2020, but sporting director John Thorrington did plenty to address the team’s needs, acquiring defenders Marco Farfan and Kim Moon-Hwan. This was on top of adding center-back Jesus David Murillo late last season. There’s always a chance that the likes of Seattle, Portland, Sporting Kansas City or Minnesota could rise to the top, but with Vela and Diego Rossi still on board, LAFC is poised again to make a run at the championship. — Carlisle

Minnesota United — The Loons’ infamous three-year plan culminated with a playoff berth in 2019, and they were oh-so-close to appearing in MLS Cup last season. Now, with Emanuel Reynoso having a full season under his belt, and Ramon Abila taking up the No. 9 position that had previously been a revolving door of underwhelming forwards, Minnesota has positioned itself as one of the favorites for MLS Cup in 2021. — Lindberg

LAFC — An impressive run to the CONCACAF Champions League final with their full complement of players was instructive about the heights LAFC can hit. They’re the clear favorite in Western Conference, ahead of the usual cast of characters, including Portland, Seattle, Sporting KC and even FC Dallas. — Bonagura

Portland Timbers — Like Vela and the MVP race, this is probably LAFC’s to lose. Seattle, SKC and FC Dallas will make things fun the playoffs. However, the Timbers’ veteran laden-midfield — coupled a good striker rotation in Jeremy EbobisseFelipe Mora and (eventually) Jaroslaw Niezgoda — will emerge out West.

LAFC — With Seattle losing Jordan Morris to injury, and the Portland core a year older, look for LAFC to capitalize after an underwhelming 2020 league season. Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Eduard Atuesta are as good a trio as any in MLS, and Bob Bradley and Co. also made a couple of nice offseason additions to address their issues at full-back. Brian Rodriguez’s future (on loan at Almeria) remains a question, as is the center-forward position, but LAFC will outgun Portland and SKC to win the West. — Elvin


Who are your MLS Cup champs?

LAFC over New England Revolution — For all of its regular-season brilliance during its first three years in MLS, getting to the MLS Cup final has eluded LAFC, but this is the year they should break through. New England, meanwhile will fall just short, making it 0-for-6 in the grand finale. — Carlisle

Minnesota United over Columbus Crew — The Loons stand to possess too many options for any opponent to successfully stop. There’s the playmaking of Emanuel Reynoso, the finishing of Ramon Abila and opposite winger Robin Lod, as well as rumored additions Franco Fragapane of Talleres and Adrien Hunou of Stade Rennes. And we haven’t even mentioned a midfield of Ozzie Alonso, Jan GregusHassani Dotson and Wil Trapp— Lindberg

LAFC over Columbus Crew — A theoretical Columbus-LAFC final would certainly deliver both in terms of star power and an entertainment perspective. LAFC, who broke records in 2019 when they were last at full strength, have unfinished business and with Carlo Vela and Diego Rossi in attack, they get over the hump and knock off the reigning champs in what would be a blockbuster final. — Elvin

LAFC over Columbus Crew — LAFC gets over the postseason bump, which will serve as an appropriate sendoff for Diego Rossi, who is overdue for a move to Europe. — Bonagura

Orlando City over Portland Timbers — A rematch of the MLS is Back tournament in 2020. Alexandre Pato and Nani play like its 2010, Joao Moutinho returns to form, Chris Mueller makes his case to stay in USMNT mix, and Orlando beat a Portland that will could face a roster reboot in 2022. — Guerra

⚽

USWNT explore options, show versatility vs. Sweden, France as Olympic prep continues

Apr 14, 2021   Julie Foudy   Contributor, espnW.com

  • EmailAs we inch closer to the summer Olympics — dare I say, even in a whisper, that I feel confident the Games will indeed happen — I will, of course, spend a lot of time dissecting the U.S. women’s national team. Given that the roster size for the Olympics is only 18 players, my completely unscientific dissection will only intensify as we get closer to June.But I digress. Let’s go back and review the two most recent games the USWNT played in Europe: their 1-1 draw vs. Sweden in Stockholm on Saturday and their 2-0 win over France in Le Havre, France, on Tuesday.

Vlatko Andonovski, USWNT head coach, came into this two-game European swing knowing it would be the toughest test his side would face leading into the Olympics, and the U.S. came to Europe with a 15-0 win/loss record under Andonovski, the most wins by any U.S. coach to start their tenure. Until Sweden, of course. (Why does it always have to be Sweden?)Sweden had different plans for this U.S. team. Only by the grace of god (aka there was no VAR being used), the U.S. women were gifted a penalty in the late stages to salvage a draw. Instead of what should have been a free kick outside the penalty area, Megan Rapinoe instead placed the ball on the penalty spot … and we all know how that show ends.All in all, Sweden played a tremendous game. Clean, tactically solid and defensively excellent, they matched the U.S. stride for stride for most of the 90 minutes. If Kosovare Asllani & Co. had been a little more clinical in front of goal, they could have secured the win. The U.S. did outshoot Sweden 20 to 9 but just never found their rhythm. They were not as technically clean as we’ve seen them in the past, especially in the final attacking third.The good news for the U.S. (beyond equalizing, of course) is that this back-and-forth game was a wonderful (and always needed) reminder of the work that still needs to be done. Those reminders, especially when relatively bruise-free, are gifts in life.The other good news? This was the first of two games, which gave the U.S. a chance to address some of the shortcomings against France. As Andonovski pointed out after Saturday’s tie: “It is not good enough, not good enough to win the Olympics. This is a good thing for us. I don’t wake up wishing we don’t do well, but still you are exposed to something we hadn’t seen before. We will address it going forward.”

Well, address it they did. In typical U.S. fashion, the players extracted the lesson from the Sweden game and brought a renewed energy and focus to the clash with France. (One thing to remember: This was essentially France’s B-team.) They were missing six of their Lyon stars due to a recent COVID-19 outbreak at the club, meaning key players such as Wendie Renard, Amandine Henry, Amel Majri, Sakina Karchaoui and Delphine Cascarino were unavailable. Yes, that hurts. They also did not start Sandy Baltimore or Kadidiatou Diani, two standouts from their win vs. England days earlier.

Baltimore came on in the second half, though Diani never saw time on the field. Also, PSG star and leading scorer in Ligue 1 Marie-Antoinette Katoto played only the first half. In fact, only two French starters remained from that classic quarterfinal clash in Paris at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Contrast that with 10 of the starting 11 for the U.S. The only starter missing for the U.S. from that game was Tobin Heath, still out with an injury. France fielded a young and talented side, yes, but not nearly the French team we are accustomed to seeing.The U.S. got off to a great early start (exactly what they didn’t do against Sweden) and were swiftly up 2-0 thanks to Alex Morgan. Morgan drew a PK in only the fifth minute, which Rapinoe of course calmly converted, and then Morgan herself finished a beautifully slipped-in ball from Christen Press in the 19th minute. From there, the U.S. never looked back.France sat in a low block most of the game, showing so little urgency in the second half that it looked as if the U.S. were the team down two goals. In full command, the U.S. even had a chance to try something they have never done before: bring in all four midfield stars together. Yes, Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsay Horan and Rose Lavelle finally got to share the field, and full disclosure: I loved it. Lavelle played up high on the right side and was very active coming inside. I’ve wondered of late whether the four could play in a diamond, or whether Horan could play as a false 9. There are lots of options, and the promising point is that it gives the U.S. another layer of versatility.

For some final good news, folks, we officially have a field of 12 teams that have qualified for the Olympics. The 12 teams, in alphabetical order, are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Great Britain, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, the USA and Zambia.Say it in a whisper… I can see the light.

USA defeats lackluster France 2-0

USA tightened up after a rough game against Sweden, but also faced a weaker opponent.By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Apr 13, 2021, 2:34pm PDT

Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher, Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn, Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle, Christen Press, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe

The United States got an early momentum swing in this game as they picked up a penalty call in the 4’ for a takedown on Alex Morgan. But despite Megan Rapinoe calmly burying the ball to make it 1-0 early on, by no means did the US completely dominate the field, even with an understrength French roster facing them. They also had a lower line of confrontation at times, dropping off and picking their fights in the midfield. Andonovski could be heard at times asking them to step harder to try and expose a leaky back line.And indeed, Alex Morgan looked like she’d picked up a step since previous outings, playing the target forward at times, getting behind the defenders easily (though sometimes while offside). Morgan got the second goal for her efforts in the 19’. Christen Press dropped her a lovely through ball and Morgan simply slipped both her defenders to run on and finish.France had their own chance in response in the 22’, forcing a diving fingertip save from Alyssa Naeher. They weren’t making a lot of big shots on target, but they were able at times to give as good as they got against Crystal Dunn and force errors from her. Dunn also had some unforced errors with her passing, but she also had an incredible recovery and drive at goal in the 35’ with a hard shot on target to force the save. Then another chance from wide, this time from Kelley O’Hara on the right, making the cross for Rapinoe, who darted in from behind the defender. Her touch wasn’t quite enough to make it past the goalkeeeper.The game felt more erratic as the first half wound down, with not a ton of urgency from the Americans, who seemed content to run it out at 2-0.France tried to change it up in the second half, bringing in Sandy Baltimore as a sub, and for a while that channel on the pitch was pretty lively. The French also tried pulling the game wide right as well while looking for the switch to an open Baltimore to set her up for a cross or shot, but that wasn’t fruitful.The US tried working into the box playing off each other through the halfspaces on both sides of the field, with Rapinoe, Mewis, and Lavelle are playing each other in and making runs, but these plays often didn’t result in a shot on target.In the 63’ Rapinoe subbed off for Lindsey Horan, which, very interestingly, pushed Lavelle closer to a right forward position. Press went to left forward. Lavelle helped counteract Baltimore on the right side a bit, giving them more options to carry the ball out of pressure there. Horan at times drifted so high as to look like she was in a two-front with Morgan, trying to get numbers up and pressure the French CBs together.The US made two more subs in the 75’, with Carli Lloyd replacing Morgan in a like-for-like, and and Sophia Smith replacing Press at LF as well. Smith looked a little bit tentative out there at times, particularly when teeing up in front of goal. She was a target for Horan, who was extremely active in that left channel, forcing the ball to the touchline and looking up at who was int he box.There was a nervy moment in the 80’ when a Baltimore cross in front of goal missed Naeher and Dunn’s attempt to clear almost looked like it might have created an own goal, but she managed to get the ball away. After that, the last 10 minutes plus stoppage were a holding pattern, the US not pushing too hard, and France seemingly sitting back and waiting for their fate to arrive. The game ended at 2-0.As much as fans might have been looking for some kind of response to the US having to chase Sweden for so much of their previous game, this wasn’t the most emphatic response. Part of it might have been the opponent, a rotated French team with lots of off-the-bench players. The most interesting thing to happen was honestly the use of so many midfielders, not pulling Lavelle when Horan came on. With Vlatko Andonovski often committed to the 4-3-3, it’s been quite a conundrum having such an incredible midfield and only having three of them on at a time.After the game, Andonovski said this was something he was trying as a way to create overloads in the middle, particularly with Lavelle’s ability to come inside, giving them a 4-on-3 advantage. And it worked at times, as the US was able to clog up a lot of the midfield and limit France’s ability to look forward, while also giving Lavelle yet another area of the field in which to create trouble. Of course, any tinkering with the system needs time to gel, and so we’ll see if this experiment continues in the next round of pre-Olympic friendlies.

⚽NWSL: Chicago Red Stars owner/ESPN host Sarah Spain and NJ/NY Gotham FC general manager Alyse LaHue were fined yesterday for their tweets in support of Red Stars defender Sarah Gorden, who, along with her boyfriend, was racially profiled after last week’s season opener.

  • Why the fine? The league had issued a memo asking front office members not to comment on the investigation of the situation. Hmm…time to walk that talk, NWSL.

Denver to host Nations League with U.S., Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica

12:31 PM ET  Jeff Carlisle  U.S. soccer correspondent

The United States men’s national team will play on June 3 against Honduras in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals in the altitude of Denver’s Empower Field at Mile High, the confederation announced on Thursday.

The semifinals, featuring the USMNT vs. Honduras and Mexico vs. Costa Rica, will be held on June 3. The final and third place matches will take place three days later. The semifinal matchups were determined by the outcome of group stage play in the fall of 2019, with the four League A winners advancing. All four matches are scheduled to take place during the first June FIFA match window.The semifinals were originally scheduled for June 4 last year in Houston and the final on June 7 last year in Arlington, Texas, but were rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“The CONCACAF Nations League includes all 41 of our member associations, making it a true celebration of our football, our region and our unity as One CONCACAF,” said CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president Victor Montagliani. “The 2019 group stage was a huge success in delivering more competitive football for all men’s national teams across CONCACAF. Now we can look forward to a great final four in the outstanding facility that is Denver’s Empower Field at Mile High, and to crowning a first ever CONCACAF Nations League champion.”The CNL Finals will serve to crown the first-ever champion of a competition created to provide more competitive matches for all 41 CONCACAF member associations, and maximize the official match dates available within the FIFA international calendar.

U.S. Men’s Soccer Key Dates

Friendly vs. SwitzerlandMay 30
Nations LeagueJune 3-6
Friendly vs. TBDJune 9
Gold CupJuly 2-Aug. 1
World Cup qualifyingSept.-March ’22
2022 World CupNov. 21-Dec. 18 ’22

The USMNT’s top players will likely take part in the tournament. USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter had said previously that his Europe-based players — such as Chelsea‘s Christian PulisicJuventus‘ Weston McKennie, and Barcelona‘s Sergino Dest — would be given time off following the Nations League event and ahead of World Cup qualifying, which is set to begin in September.

The U.S. will also participate in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July, with that final set for Aug. 1 in Las Vegas.CONCACAF added that it will provide information regarding any local and federal COVID-19 protocols which will need to be observed by attending fans.

Denver and Empower Field at Mile High have hosted soccer events in the past, including matches at three CONCACAF Gold Cups in 2013, 2017 and 2019.The U.S. Under-23 men lost to Honduras, 2-1, in the CONCACAF men’s Olympic qualifying semifinal last month.

Premier League run-in: What’s the latest in the top-four battle?

The Premier League run-in is here and the business end of the season will provide plenty of drama, as always, as the countdown to the final day on May 23 is on.So, what is left to play for? Who needs what? Which teams will be scrapping away in the final seven games of the season?

Our weekly series, the run-in, keeps you fully up to date on all of the different battles going on up and down the Premier League.Below we focus on the all-important race for the top four and UEFA Champions League qualification, which is more interesting that it has been for the last decade, and perhaps longer.

This will be epic.


Premier League top-four battle: The run-in analysis

Let’s assume that runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City and second-place Manchester United (nine points above fifth place) will finish in the top four, and that leaves two Champions League spots up for grabs. Six into two does not go.

So, who else is in the mix?

There are just eight points between Leicester City in third and Everton in 8th, and the latter also have a game in-hand so that gap could close further.

Right now, upstarts Leicester and West Ham are in the driving seat but Chelsea and Liverpool are now lurking just outside the top four and Jurgen Klopp’s men have a much easier schedule, on paper, than the other top four contenders.


Leicester City
Current position: 3rd
Games played: 31
Current points: 56
Goal difference: +18
Remaining schedule: West Brom (H), Crystal Palace (H), Southampton (A), Newcastle (H), Manchester United (A), Chelsea (A), Tottenham (H)


West Ham United
Current position: 4th
Games played: 31
Current points: 55
Goal difference: +12
Remaining schedule: Newcastle (A), Chelsea (H), Burnley (A), Everton (H), Brighton (A), West Brom (A), Southampton (H)


Chelsea
Current position: 5th
Games played: 31
Current points: 54
Goal difference: +19
Remaining schedule: Brighton (H), West Ham (A), Fulham (H), Man City (A), Arsenal (H), Leicester (H), Aston Villa (A)


Liverpool
Current position: 6th
Games played: 31
Current points: 52
Goal difference: +16
Remaining schedule: Leeds (A), Newcastle (H), Man United (A), Southampton (H), West Brom (A), Burnley (A), Crystal Palace (H)


Tottenham Hotspur
Current position: 7th
Games played: 31
Current points: 49
Goal difference: +17
Remaining schedule: Everton (A), Southampton (H), Sheffield United (H), Leeds (A), Wolves (H), Aston Villa (H), Leicester (A)


Everton
Current position: 8th
Games played: 30
Current points: 48
Goal difference: +3
Remaining schedule: Tottenham (H), Arsenal (A), Aston Villa (H), West Ham (A), Sheffield United (H), Wolves (H), Man City (A)

INDY ELEVEN 2021 BROADCAST SCHEDULE SET

By Indy Eleven Communications, 04/09/21, 2:00PM EDT

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20 Local Broadcasts Include Six on WISH-TV, 14 on MyINDY-TV 23; June 15 Home Match vs. Pittsburgh to Air Nationally on ESPN Deportes, with Remaining 31 Contests Available via ESPN+

INDIANAPOLIS – Indy Eleven today finalized its 2021 broadcast calendar, which will feature six matches on WISH-TV, 14 games on MyINDY-TV 23 (WNDY), and one nationally-televised broadcast as part of the USL Championship’s 19-game slate on ESPN linear networks.  The club’s home tilt with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium on Tuesday, June 15, is one of nine Championship fixtures that will air nationwide on ESPN Deportes in 2021. Indy Eleven’s remaining 31 regular season contests – and over 700 additional Championship and USL League One matches in 2021 – will be available via live streaming video on ESPN+.

“We are thrilled to have ESPN return to Indianapolis to feature the best atmosphere in the USL Championship this June,” said Indy Eleven President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Stremlaw. “We’re proud that, once again, between WISH-TV, MyINDY-TV 23, and the ESPN family our fans will be able to follow every single minute of Indy Eleven action in 2021.”

Fans can sign up to ESPN+ for just $5.99 a month (or $59.99 per year) at ESPN.comESPNplus.com or on the ESPN App (mobile and connected devices). The Disney Bundle also provides access to ESPN+ in addition to the popular Disney+ and Hulu streaming services.

The Championship season will culminate on Sunday, November 28, with the 2021 USL Championship, set to be broadcast on ESPN or ESPN2. The contest between the Eastern and Western Conference Title-winners will also air on ESPN Deportes, with kickoff scheduled at 8:30 p.m. ET.

“This is the biggest and brightest platform we’ve ever had for our league,” said USL Executive Vice President Court Jeske. “We are thrilled at the wide selection of games, clubs and landmark moments that will appear on national television this season. It’s a special thing for our league to be able to showcase our clubs and cities across the USL Championship and League One on ESPN’s networks in addition to streaming an incredible schedule on ESPN+.”

As announced last month, WISH-TV and MyINDY-TV 23 – Indy Eleven’s founding Official Broadcast Partners – will deliver the action to local fans for an eighth straight season. The stations will combine to carry all 16 regular season home contests at “The Mike”, including six that will air on WISH-TV, starting with a June 5 meeting with Memphis 901 FC and concluding September 18 with the last of this year’s four matchups against archrival Louisville City FC.

MyINDY-TV 23 will air the remaining 10 home games plus all four away affairs on the local broadcast slate, including a June 26 clash against Louisville at Lynn Family Stadium and the squad’s regular season finale on October 30 at Memphis.

In addition to the two-hour game window, every local broadcast will be followed by the Honda Post-game Show, a wrap up of the evening’s action featuring extensive highlights and interviews with personalities from Indiana’s Team.

Visit indyeleven.com/2021-schedule for the most up-to-date schedule and broadcast information surrounding Indy Eleven’s 2021 season.

 2021 INDY ELEVEN TV SCHEDULE

Saturday, May 8 vs. FC Tulsa | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, May 22 vs. Sporting Kansas City II | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Wednesday, June 2 vs. OKC Energy FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, June 5 vs. Memphis 901 FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | WISH-TV

Tuesday, June 15 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC | 8:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23 / ESPN Deportes

Saturday, June 26 at Louisville City FC | 7:30 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, July 3 vs. Birmingham Legion FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | WISH-TV

Saturday, July 17 vs. Memphis 901 FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, July 24 vs. Birmingham Legion FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | WISH-TV

Wednesday, August 4 at FC Tulsa | 8:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, August 14 vs. OKC Energy FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, August 28 vs. Real Monarchs SLC | 7:00 p.m. ET | WISH-TV

Saturday, Sept. 4 vs. Atlanta United 2 | 7:00 p.m. ET | WISH-TV

Saturday, Sept. 11 vs. Sporting Kansas City II | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, Sept. 18 vs. Louisville City FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | WISH-TV

Sunday, Sept. 26 at OKC Energy FC | 6:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, October 2 vs. Atlanta United 2 | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, October 16 vs. Louisville City FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, October 23 vs. FC Tulsa | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, October 30 at Memphis 901 FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

PRESEASON RECAP – INDY ELEVEN 2 : 0 VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC

By Indy Eleven Communications, 04/10/21, 6:15PM EDT  Canadian Striker Jordan Hamilton Renews Acquaintances with MLS Side by Bagging Brace for Indiana’s Team in 65-minute Exhibition

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Indy Eleven used a pair of goals by forward Jordan Hamilton and a number of key saves from goalkeeper Jordan Farr to post a 2-0 win over MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The 65-minute affair was contested at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Ill.

The neutral site affair was a game with familiar faces to both fan bases. Indy Elven Head Coach Martin Rennie was the sideline boss of the British Columbian club throughout 2011-2013, when the first Canadian team in MLS history reached the Playoffs while also winning a Cascadia Cup. The stay of new Eleven midfielder Gershon Koffie in Vancouver was twice as long, the Ghanian’s tenure starting in 2012 with two seasons under Rennie’s watch and lasting into the 2016 campaign.On the opposite bench, longtime NASL and USL Championship coach Marc Dos Santos brought goalkeeper Evan Newton into the MLS ranks via transfer in late January, this after seeing up close what the number one between the posts for Indiana’s Team the last two seasons could do en route to becoming the Championship’s career leader in shutouts and saves.In the 4th minute, it was a beautiful turn by Hamilton that turned the scoreboard first.  Midfielder Nick Moon began the play with a shoulder tackle before playing a nifty 1-2 with the newest member of the Eleven, Cammy Smith, just right of the area. Moon’s first-time cross was accepted by Hamilton as he spun centrally, freeing a half-yard of space. The Scarborough, Ontario-native left nothing to chance from just eight yards out, firing hard to beat Newton and put Indy up in the early going.The Eleven continued to push the pace, the ninth minute seeing Smith put a low shot on frame that took a fortunate deflection right into the arms of Newton. Two minutes later the ex-Eleven ‘keeper was at it again, making a big stop on Koffie, who found a recycled corner from Ayoze land at his feet in the heart of the penalty area.The tide of the match turned in Vancouver’s favor for the next ten minutes, Farr making a routine save in the 12th minute and a much larger one a minute later, when he went low and looked big to stop Theo Bair’s close-range effort. The resulting corner provided more danger for Whitecaps FC, but defender Gianfranco Facchineri headed over from 10 yards.The 17th minute saw Farr make back-to-back saves, the first on a nice diving effort to his left to parry diagonally and away from dangerous traffic. The next minute saw him cut down a chance on the left endline, the Oregonian sliding in sternly – but fairly – to tackle away.Indy took back the wheel with two big chances down the right flank around the 23rd minute, both involving Moon. The first again saw Newton forced into a save, this time by the Scotsman Smith, whose shot marked the final big chance of the first 30 minutes. The Eleven earned the first chance of the second half with a jailbreak out of tight space that turned a Vancouver set piece chance into a 2-v-2 counter with Smith on the ball. His chip for Hamilton’s central run was just a hair heavy and gathered by Newton.

However, Hamilton’s second was inevitable, and he bagged his brace in the 40th on a play that began with Moon fighting hard to earn a throw-in on the right sideline. His snappy restart caught Vancouver off guard, allowing midfielder Aboubacar Sissoko to clip a short ball for his fellow Canadian to finish inside the right post from about 15 yards.Vancouver nearly got one back in the 43rd minute as Damiano Pecile put Kamron Habibullah into the left channel on a counter, but after looking to the far post he drug his near effort just outside the woodwork. On the 50th minute Smith got Moon involved again on the right side, but his cross to the six for Indy’s trialist forward was nodded out for a corner on a pivotal intervention by a Vancouver defender.The final quarter-hour until was relatively quiet until the game’s final attack in the 65th minute, when Sissoko’s chip unlocked a trio of defenders for Smith, whose shot from 25 yards whistled just high.Only three weeks remain in the Indy Eleven preseason, which winds down with exhibitions the next two Saturdays against Forward Madison FC of USL League One and fellow Championship side Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.Those friendlies will help Indy Eleven build towards the club’s 2021 USL Championship opener at Birmingham Legion FC on May 1, followed a week later on Saturday, May 8, by its home opener against FC Tulsa. Currently, the only way to save a spot for the team’s return to IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium is by becoming an Indy Eleven Season Ticket Member. Learn more out packages starting at only $170 for 17 games and secure one of the limited memberships remaining by calling 317-685-1100 or visiting the Tickets section of indyeleven.com.

2021 Spring Preseason Exhibition (65 minutes)

Indy Eleven  2 : 0  Vancouver Whitecaps FC (MLS)

Saturday, April 10, 2021 – 3:00 p.m. ET

SeatGeek Stadium – Bridgeview, Ill.

Scoring Summary:

IND – Jordan Hamilton (Nick Moon) 4’

IND – Jordan Hamilton (Aboubacar Sissoko) 40’


Disciplinary Summary:

VAN – Gianfranco Facchineri (yellow card) 60’


Indy Eleven lineup (3-4-3, L–>R): Jordan Farr; Neveal Hackshaw, Nedeljko Malic; Karl Ouimette; Ayoze, Gershon Koffie, Aboubacar Sissoko, Cammy Smith; Guest Player, Jordan Hamilton, Nick Moon


Vancouver Whitecaps FC lineup (4-2-3-1, L–>R): Evan Newton; Keishean Francois, Javain Brown, Cristian Campagna, Gianfranco Facchineri; Patrick Metcalfe, Michael Baldisimo; Kamron Habibullah, Damiano Pecile, Amir Batyrev; Theo Bair

2021 Preseason Calendar

March 23 – Indy Eleven  3 : 1  Detroit City FC (NISA)

Grand Park  | Westfield, Ind.

March 27 – Indy Eleven  5 : 0  Bridges FC

Grand Park  | Westfield, Ind.

March 30 – Indy Eleven  6 : 0  DePauw University (NCAA)

Grand Park  | Westfield, Ind.

April 10 – Indy Eleven  2 : 0  Vancouver Whitecaps FC (MLS)

SeatGeek Stadium  |  Bridgeview, Ill.

April 17 – Indy Eleven vs. Forward Madison (USL League One)

April 24 – Indy Eleven vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (USL Championship)

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4/9/21 USWNT vs Sweden Sat 1 pm Fox, Tues 1 pm France, El Classico Sat, NWSL Starts Tonight, MLS next Fri, UCL Tues/Wed

 US Women to Face Sweden Sat 1 pm on Fox and France Tues 3 pm ESPN2

The US Ladies will face a pair of top 10 foes on the road in Europe as a warm up to the Olympics this summer.  This roster which includes 20 of the 21 players on the She Believe’s Cup roster could well be a final preview of who will be on the 18 person roster to Japan this summer.  The US plays Sweden on Sat at 1 pm on Fox as they look to avenge their last Olympic loss in 2016 before heading to France for a 3 pm game on ESPN2.  US Sweden Preview

 

USA Women’s Roster GOALKEEPERS

Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS

Alana Cook (PSG), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Midge Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)

MIDFIELDERS

Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City), Catarina Macario –OUT HURT (Lyon), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City)

FORWARDS

Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Manchester United), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage), Tobin Heath (Man United) is Still Injured

NWSL Kicks Off

The US Women’s Soccer League kicks off its season tonight with a rematch of the Championship as the defending Champs Houston Dash will host the Chicago Red Stars at 8:30 pm on CBS Sports Network and Paramount plus (formerly CBS+), Sat night we get to see Racing Louisville host their first game vs the Orlando Pride at 7 pm on Paramount+ .  All the NWSL games will be featured on Paramount plus ($6/month) with occasional games on CBS Sports Network and CBS.  .  The Season will kick-off again with 21 game Challenge Cup this time at home stadiums around the country.  Interesting that the season is starting during an international break so all of the US Women and many world stars are playing for their countries this weekend.   The Challenge Cup will continue thru May 8 with a Cup Champ Game on CBS on Saturday May 8th.  The regular season will then get underway the following weekend and continue thru the summer.  (Check out season previews in the ole Ballcoach)

Champions League

The final 8 got underway last week and it was thrilling.  Real Madrid found their scoring on the way to a 3-1 lead on struggling Liverpool going back to Anfield Wed at 3 pm on Paramount+.  Another upset had PSG taking a 3-2 lead over Bayern Munich at home as GK Kaylor Navas was spectacular with 11+ saves.   They wrap up Tues at 3 pm.  Of course Wed Pulisic and Chelsea will face Porto with a 2-0 lead in hand.  Pulisic played well off the bench in the 70th minute and should have scored a goal on a shot that hit the post.  I have been frustrated with CBS – as they showed no Champions League coverage on Tues/Wed but then showed the pregame/Goalazo show and postgame for Europa League on Thursday on CBSSN with the individual games on Paramount plus.  Champions League is a far bigger deal why not at least show the pre and post game shows on CBS Sports Network if not 1 of the 2 games on at 3 pm each time?  That and how in the world are both games of the top 8 teams in the world playing simultaneously?  Crazy!  Anyway I assume the 2nd leg of the Europa League will be Goalazo format again on Thursday with 3 EPL teams still alive – enjoy. 

MLS + CCL  

The MLS season kicks off next weekend with games on Fox and ABC as more and more games will be on the main networks this summer.  Of course ESPN+ continues to be the home of MLS with most games that aren’t on regular TV being featured there.  Last Season’s top 2 teams in the West Seattle and Min United will kick things off next Friday night on FS1 at 9:30 pm.  Of course before then – 4 MLS teams have gotten off to their best ever Concacaf Champions League start with wins or ties on the road in the first leg.  I have to admitI tuned in and the play was good especially for Columbus 4-0 winners.  Play continues this Tues/Wed night on FS1 at 6 and 8 pm.   4 TakeAways for CCL this Week

Games to Watch This Week

Besides the US Ladies Sat + Tues 3 pm games, the NWSL kickoff tonight at 7 pm on CBSSN and the Champions League and MLS CCL games Tues and Wed we have plenty of good games to watch this weekend.  American’s Josh Stewart of Werder Bremen and Adams of RB Leipzig will play at 9:30 am Sat on ESPN+ as RB Leipzig looks to hang on to 2nd place in the German league.  Of course EL CLASSICO is Saturday at 3 pm on beIN Sport as Real Madrid and Barcelona battle to take over 1st place in La Liga.  Plenty of stories lines on if this is possibly Messi or Ramos last Classico games against each other below (in the ole ballcoach).  Sat at 10 am Liverpool will host Aston villa while at 12:30 pm on NBC Chelsea will face Crystal Palace with US Christian Pulisic probably coming off the bench late.  Sunday we get Tottenham vs Man United unfortunately on Peacock at 11:30 am and a first ever on ABC a Serie A Italian league game Fiorentina vs 4th place Atalanta.  

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Apr 9

3 pm Peacock                       Fulham (robinson) vs Wolverhampton 

8:30 pm CBSSN                     Houston Dash vs Chicago Red Stars  NWSL

10:30 pm paramount +       Portland Thorns vs KC   NWSL

Sat, Apr 10

7:30 am Peacock                 Man City vs Leeds

9:30 am ESPN+                    Werder Bremen (Stewart) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)  

10 am NBCSN                       Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12:30 pm ESPN+                  Stuggart vsDortmund (Reyna)

12:30 pm NBC                      Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Crystal Palace    

1 pm FOX             Sweden vs USA Ladies

3 pm beIN Sport               Real Madrid vs Barcelona (El Classico)

7 pm Para +                           Racing Louisville vs Orlando Pride  NWSL

Sun, Apr 11

11:30 am Peacock               Tottenham vs Man United

2 pm Cock                             Sheffield vs Arsenal

2:30 pm ABC Fiorentina vs Atalanta 4th in Serie A

3 pm beINSport                    Real Bettis vs Athletico Madrid

Tues, Apr 13

3 pm TUND, Para+               Porto (0)  vs Chelsea (2) (Pulisic) UCL

3 pm Paramount+               Bayern Munich (2)  vs PSG (3) UCL

3 pm ESPN2                        France vs US Women

6 pm FS1                                Marathon 1  vs Portland Timbers 1  CCF Champ League

8 pm FS1                                Alajulense 0 vs Atlanta United 1  CCF Champ League

10 pm FS 1                            Cruz Azul vs Archaie

Wed, Apr  14

3 pm CBS SN                         Liverpool  1 vs Real Madrid 3  UCL

3 pm Paramount+               Man City 2 vs Dortmund 1  (Reyna) UCL

6 pm FS1                               Saprisa vs Philly Union  CCF Champ League

8 pm FS1                               Leon vs Toronto FC  CCF Champ League

8 pm FS 2                               Olympia vs America 

Thurs, Apr 8

3 pm CBS SN                          Granada  0 vs Man United  2  Europa

3 pm Paramount+                Aresenal 1 vs Slavia Praha  1 Europa

8 pm FS1                               Real Esteli vs Columbus Crew  CCF Champ League

Fri, Apr 16

3 pm Peacock                       Everton vs Tottenham 

9:30 pm FS1                         Seattle vs Minnesota  MLS Kickoff

10:30 pm paramount +       OL Reign vs Houston Dash   NWSL

Sat, Apr 17

6 pm FOX                               LAFC vs Austin

8:30 pm EPSN+                     Nashville vs Cincy

Sun, Apr 18

3 pm ABC                               Miami vs LA Galaxy

5:30 pm FS1                         Columbus vs Philly

10 pm ESPN+                          Vancouver vs Portland

 

US Ladies

US Sweden Preview – S&S

 

International Friendly: USWNT vs. Sweden – Match History & Preview | Five Things to Know

USWNT REWIND: Challenge Cup Set to Kick Off, Victories in England and France

 USWNT Out To Avenge 2016 Debacle At This Summer’s Olympics

 The United States faces a tough challenge vs. Sweden at the ..
Morgan frustrated by NWSL Cup schedule
  ESPNFC
Kathleen McNamee

Rapino encouraged by Tone Shift by US Soccer
Carli Lloyd on 2020: Worst of times, best of times as soccer star reunites with family

 NWSL Starts this Weekend

NWSL 2021 Season Preview  
NWSL buzz ahead of Challenge Cup reaches new heights
 ESPNFC

Full NWSL Challenge Cup Schedule
NBC Sports to air 2020-21 FA Women’s Super League

Orlando Pride Send Kit to Space
Morgan frustrated by NWSL Cup schedule
  ESPNFC
Kathleen McNamee
Carli Lloyd on 2020: Worst of times, best of times as soccer star reunites with family

CHAMPIONS + Europa LEAGUE

Breaking Things Down After the First Leg – EPSNFC Marcotti
Lack of ‘killer instinct’ leaves Bayern facing Champions League exit

Mbappe stars as PSG win at holders Bayern Munich

Chelsea punish wasteful Porto to put one foot in Champions League semis

Klopp says Liverpool Champions League comeback will be tough at empty Anfield

Three things we learned from Real Madrid v Liverpool

Vinicius double puts Real Madrid on top against Liverpool

Ruthless Real Madrid turn to Barca after Liverpool rout

Dortmund dream of downing Man City despite ‘brutally annoying’ away defeat

Pep says no quadruple pressure, KDB calls late Dortmund goal a ‘shame’

– Ogden: Man City win, but UCL dream looks wobbly
Goal Compilation of the Day: UCL Quarterfinals – 04/07/2021
Europa League wrap: Late goals see Man United win big(ger), Arsenal draw

 

Concacaf Champs League MLS vs Mexico, CA

4 TakeAways for CCL this Week
Horror tackle, brawl mars Philadelphia’s debut CCL win (video)

CONCACAF Champions League: 10-man Atlanta wins, Portland draws

Portland Timbers draw CD Marathòn in opener of the CONCACAF Champions League

Darlington Nagbe: Columbus have the tools to win Concacaf Champions League

 US MEN


USMNT rise in latest FIFA world rankings

Tuchel: Pulisic will be ‘huge weapon’ for Chelsea

USMNT Number #9 Power Rankings: The Top 10

Americans at home: MLS is back, again, still, who should we talk about?

USMNT’s Robinson reveals pride in ‘Fulhamerica’ legacy

Barcelona open to offers for USMNT’s Konrad in summer – sources

After a yearlong absence, Mexican national soccer team again will play often in U.S.

 EPL


Solskjaer welcomes rivalry between goalkeepers De Gea and Henderson

De Bruyne signs new contract for 4 more years at Man City

WORLD

 Will this Be the Last EL CLASSICO for Messi and or Ramos?    
Zidane hopes there will be more Clasicos for Messi and Ramos

Messi happy again but Barca wonder if this Clasico will be his last

 Griezmann nets hat trick with third child born on same day

Lille trace unlikely path towards French title

Serie A: Lukaku drives Inter closer to title, Juve settles for top four hope

MLS Stars Next Fri 4/16

Season Previews for Every Club – MLS.com

Cincy Season Preview

Columbus Season Preview

Chicago Fire Season Preview

Indy 11 – Season Starts May 1

2021 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED

Return to the Mike

21 New Roster

Season Tix Available

INDY ELEVEN SIGNS SCOTTISH PREMIER LEAGUE STRIKER CAMMY SMITH

Indy Eleven Adds Bloomington Native Jeremiah Gutjahr to Roster

Hundreds of Hopefuls Attend 2021 Open Tryout

Indy Eleven & WISH-TV Extend Broadcast Partnership through 2022 Season

Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Football Club Acquires Forward Cal Jennings via Transfer

USA vs Sweden: match preview and how to watch

The USWNT begin their Eurotrip against Sweden.

By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Apr 9, 2021, 6:00am PDT

The United States last saw Sweden when they were beating them 3-2 in a friendly in Columbus in 2019. Prior to that, they beat Sweden 2-0 in the group stage of the 2019 World Cup in Le Havre. And before that they beat them 1-0 in their own country in Gothenburg in 2017. So perhaps any narratives about lingering tension from that time Sweden ignominiously booted the United States from the Olympics are well and truly over. Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a competitive game; you don’t haul a whole team over to Europe during COVID just to enjoy a relaxed friendly. There’s serious Olympic slots on the line with just one more FIFA window after this before things kick off in Japan, although USSF may be pulling players outside of the window to prepare.

Looking at Sweden

Iconic Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl is out for this game, after positive COVID tests at her club, Atletico Madrid. She was replaced by 23-year-old Emma Holmgren, currently uncapped for the WNT. Holmgren is one of several young and relatively untested players on this squad, although they are certainly backstopped by a core of mega-experienced players like Nilla Fischer, Linda Sembrant, Kosovare Asllani, Sofia Jakobsson, and Caroline Seger.

Asllani and Jakobsson have been having an overall decent time of it in Spain with Real Madrid, and alongside Blackstenius, create an obvious offensive core to watch. On the other end of the field, center back Magdalena Eriksson could be a target for the United States’ high attacking pressure, stopping her from using her ability to cycle the ball out from the back and limiting Sweden’s ability to work out of pressure deeper in their own territory. And in the middle, even at 36 and 211 caps, Caroline Seger is still one to watch as a two-way midfielder whose defensive work and passing can help flip the team from being on the back foot to transitioning in attack.

Sweden roster: Jennifer Falk, Emma Holmgren, Zecira Musovic, Jonna Andersson, Magdalena Eriksson, Nilla Fischer, Hanna Glas, Amanda Ilestedt, Emma Kullberg, Josefine Rybrink, Linda Sembrant, Jessica Wik, Filippa Angeldal, Kosovare Asllani, Hanna Bennison, Stina Blackstenius, Rebecka Blomqvist, Filippa Curmark, Lina Hurtig, Sofia Jakobsson, Madalen Janogy, Fridolina Rolfö, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, Olivia Schough, Caroline Seger

Hard roster decisions for the United States

So you’ve got too many Olympic caliber players on your roster. Who weeps for Vlatko Andonovski?

Probably one of the players who he’ll be forced to cut, given there’s depth at every position with this bunch. Look at this roster and choose who gets viciously cut to make the roster fit the 18-player maximum?

USA roster: Jane Campbell, Casey Murphy, Alyssa Naeher, Alana Cook, Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Kelley O’Hara, Margaret Purce, Becky Sauerbrunn, Emily Sonnett, Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario, Kristie Mewis, Samantha Mewis, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Megan Rapinoe, Sophia Smith, Lynn Williams

Okay, the goalkeepers are maybe slightly easier since you can only have two and you know Alyssa Naeher is probably going to be one of them. At center back there’s Cook, Dahlkemper, Davidson, and Sauerbrunn, with Sonnett additionally able to shift inside sometimes. Sonnett joins the fullbacks with Dunn, O’Hara, and Purce. Kristie Mewis might get the tragically short end of the midfield given the feel-good story of how she’s played her way back into the NT picture but how do you argue with a midfield that already has Horan, Lavelle, Macario, and Sam Mewis in it, with Ertz sitting deeper? Then amongst the forwards, who don’t even have Tobin Heath currently available due to injury, there’s even more decisions to make. Perhaps, controversially, Rapinoe might be in question here; she certainly still has the skill, but the engine is starting to fade. Do you keep someone who’s got the head for big-game moments and can still turn the tide but only has 30-45 minutes at a time in her legs, particularly given the fast-paced constraints and reduced recovery time of a tournament? Let’s find out together!

Time and TV info

USA vs Sweden  Saturday, April 10  1 PM ET / 10 AM PT   Live on Fox

How Real Madrid beat Liverpool, why Bayern should rally vs. PSG: Breaking down Champions League QF first legs

9:23 AM ET   Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer

Well how about that for fun? The Champions League quarterfinal, first legs, produced a ton of excitement and drama. Some big results, too: Real Madrid shrugged off key defensive absences (Sergio RamosRaphael Varane) to thump Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool, while Paris Saint-Germain enjoyed a bit of revenge against Bayern Munich, following last season’s 1-0 defeat for Neymar & Co. in the final to the Bavarian giants. There was also a nervy win for Manchester City against Erling Haaland and Borussia Dortmund, while Chelsea cruised to a comfortable (kinda) win over FC Porto.

With the first legs of all four Champions League quarterfinals in the books, let’s take a look at the stats that mattered most from each match and what matters the most heading into next week’s second legs.

Jump to: Real Madrid vs. Liverpool | Man City vs. Dortmund | Bayern vs. PSG | FC Porto vs. Chelsea


https://a.espncdn.com/combiner/i?img=/i/teamlogos/soccer/500-dark/86.png&w=126&site=espnfc
https://a.espncdn.com/combiner/i?img=/i/teamlogos/soccer/500-dark/364.png&w=126&site=espnfc

Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool

Return leg: Wednesday, April 14, 3 p.m. ET


Wanted: aggression

Real Madrid are third in La Liga and had to labor heavily to advance to the Champions League knockout rounds. Though they’ve flashed glimpses of all the obvious, expensive talent we’ve come to expect, this isn’t the most intimidating squad they’ve ever fielded. Heading into the quarterfinals, FiveThirtyEight gave Liverpool a 53% chance of advancing despite the Reds’ own laundry list of issues.

https://i.espncdn.com/design05/images/2021/0408/liverpoolvmadridgraphic_800x450.jpg

Liverpool played the first leg, however, like a massive underdog, even more than Borussia Dortmund, an actual massive underdog (18% chance of advancing), did. Everything about their approach screamed “let’s just get to the second leg down one goal.” Jurgen Klopp started neither his most press-friendly forward (Roberto Firmino), nor his most attack-minded passing midfielder (Thiago), opting for Diogo Jota and Naby Keita instead.

– Hunter: Kroos the master as Real Madrid thump Liverpool

Klopp’s system is based on a combination of possession principles and pure defensive intensity, but in Madrid, the Reds allowed 14.8 passes per defensive action, their third-highest average of the season. (The only times they were higher: against Manchester City in November, and against an equally passive Wolves in December.) They attempted zero first-half shots and logged just two touches in the penalty area.

The good news, if you can call it that: Things got better. In the second half (with Thiago subbed into the lineup), they allowed 11.6 PPDA and finished 32 possessions in the attacking third to Real Madrid’s 14. They still put only one shot on goal, and while that shot went in the net, so did a 65th-minute response from Vinicius Junior off of a throw-in. Liverpool might have been the better team, but they didn’t end up cutting their two-goal deficit.Still, the field tilted in their direction. That, combined with the road goal they managed to score, gave them a lifeline. A 2-0 win in Liverpool would put them through, and FiveThirtyEight’s projections still give them a 20% chance of advancing.

A 2-0 win requires you to keep Vini Jr. off the board, though

Two things stood out from Real Madrid’s performance: (1) they did a fantastic job of stretching Liverpool with long, accurate passes, and (2) Vinicius Jr. was maybe their best player for the second straight Champions League match.

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The average match features about four to five switches of play (long, mostly horizontal passes that flip the ball from one side of the field to the other) per match. Real Madrid attempted 18, including four from Toni Kroos and three each from Lucas VazquezLuka Modric and Eder Militao. This horizontal action stretched Liverpool’s defense and opened up vertical passing lanes; Kroos, Modric and Casemiro, Real Madrid’s aging but still technically gifted midfield, also went 19-for-25 on long balls (forward passes at least 35 yards downfield). Kroos was 9-for-9, and a long ball set up the first of two Vinicius Junior goals.

If Kroos wasn’t their best player, Vini Jr. was. He’s becoming an extremely Real Madrid player: fine in La Liga, great in the Champions League. He’s averaged 0.38 goals and assists per 90 in league play, but he’s up to 0.83 in the UCL. For the second straight knockout match (following their 3-1 win over Atalanta on March 16), he was utterly brilliant. He put two of his four shots in the net and completed 14 passes in the attacking third.

If this version of the precocious 20-year-old continues to show up, Real Madrid could win the whole damn tournament.


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Man City 2-1 Borussia Dortmund

Return leg: Wednesday, April 14, 3 p.m. ET


Biggest red flag for City: high-quality chances

In one sense, it’s pretty simple to prepare for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, as you don’t have tons of options.

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They’re much better at swallowing up counters before they begin than they were a season ago; it’s why they’re the No. 1 team in Europe right now, per FiveThirtyEight. But in each of their only two losses in the past six months (2-0 to Tottenham Hotspur and 2-0 to Manchester United), and in all four of their losses in the past eight months (including 5-2 to Leicester City and 3-1 to Lyon), the formula has been the same:

– None of these four teams had greater than 34% possession
– None averaged more than 0.09 shots per possession
– None allowed fewer than 17 passes per defensive action (PPDA)
– None finished more than 24% of their possessions in the attacking third
– None began more than five possessions in the attacking third (only Manchester United began more than two)
– All of them averaged at least 0.13 xG per shot (only Lyon was under 0.20)
– All of them put at least 50% of their shots on target (only Spurs were under 75%)

The FC guys react to the assistant ref asking for Erling Haaland’s autograph after Dortmund’s loss to Man City.

“Create great chances and strike them well” isn’t exactly the easiest advice in the world to follow, especially against the most expensive side in the world. But BVB have to be encouraged by the fact that of the seven shots in this match that generated at least 0.1 xG, they had three of them. And that total doesn’t include the disallowed tap-in BVB’s Jude Bellingham created for himself in the 31st minute, tipping the ball away from City’s Ederson before getting called for a controversial foul.

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City will again control the ball in the second leg because it’s what City does. But if BVB can create four or five really good chances for itself and put two or three of them into the net — something a squad with Erling HaalandMarco Reus & Co. certainly have the skill to do on a really good day, though it would be great to get Jadon Sancho back from injury — then an upset and a spot in the semifinals is still possible.

When no one’s a forward, everyone’s a forward

Borussia Dortmund’s rigid defensive structure prevented City from creating quite as many chances as they’re used to, but like termites, City finds a way through a defense eventually. And while Ilkay Gundogan has benefited the most this season from Pep Guardiola’s occasionally striker-less attack, it was Phil Foden‘s turn on Tuesday.

– Marcotti: Unpacking the Erling Haaland transfer roadshow

Though ostensibly a left winger, Foden had nine of City’s 21 touches in Dortmund’s penalty area and produced four shots, including by far their two best scoring chances of the second half. He nearly put City up 2-0 in the 65th minute and then, making an identical run with Gundogan in the 90th minute (they did that a couple of times late in the match), he pulled back, received a pass from Gundogan and put home the game winner.

Wherever your defense lacks structural integrity, a City player will be there to exploit it. You just might know who it’s going to be ahead of time. Hmm. Maybe they aren’t simple to prepare for after all.

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Bayern Munich 2-3 Paris Saint-Germain

Return leg: Tuesday, April 13, 3 p.m. ET


Bayern at its most relentless (and glitchy)

In all of the leagues for which Stats Perform logs matches and sends our way, here’s a complete list of matches since Aug. 1 in which a team (a) generated at least 2.5 more expected goals (xG) than its opponent and (b) lost. Matches in bold also featured a shots advantage of at least +25 for the losing team.

– English Championship: Bristol City 3, Swansea City 1 (Swansea’s xG advantage: +3.1)
– Ligue 1: Nice 2, Lens 1 (+2.9)
– Premier League: Crystal Palace 2, Brighton 1 (+2.6)
– Eerste Divisie: NEC 3, Volendam 1 (+2.6)
– Chilean Primera Division: Audax Italiano 2, Cobresal 1 (+2.6)
– Japanese J1 League: Vegalta Sendai 2, Vissel Kobe 1 (+2.6)
– UEFA Champions League: PSG 3, Bayern Munich 2 (+2.5)

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At the moment there are 15,262 matches since Aug. 1 in our data tool. Bayern and Vissel Kobe are the only teams to pull off a loss with a +2.5 xG advantage and +25 shots margin.

makeshift formula I created last week named Bayern as the most watchable team in Europe’s “Big Five” leagues, and Wednesday showed us why.

On the rare occasions that they’re losing, they push forward with a relentlessness we rarely see. Their possession principles are strong, they circulate the ball from side to side, they surround the defensive box with what seems like 18 players, and they start shooting, and shooting and shooting.

Eric Choupo-Moting, Thomas Muller and defender (!) David Alaba had five shots each. Kingsley Coman, whose goal beat PSG in last year’s Champions League final, had four. Benjamin Pavard had three, as did Leon Goretzka in just 33 minutes. Midfielder Joshua Kimmich created 10 chances for his teammates.

PSG’s Kylian Mbappe, meanwhile, had two shots. In the third minute, with the score tied at 0-0, his first shot put Les Parisiens ahead. In the 68th, with the score tied at 2-2 and PSG having just blown a lead it spent nearly an hour protecting, his second shot provided the game winner. Neymar assisted both. The duo that was rendered scoreless by Bayern last August was cold-blooded and perfect in the two moments it needed to be so.

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In the 11 minutes or so that this match was tied, PSG created two perfect chances and converted both. In the other 79 minutes or so, they bunkered down like no team has ever bunkered down before, creating one out-of-nowhere goal on a sudden change of possession and otherwise allowing Bayern a decent-looking shot every 170 seconds or so. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas had nearly as many saves as Mbappe had touches, but it somehow got the job done.

For now, anyway. In a week, Bayern will attempt to unleash hell once more, and it will be interesting to see what PSG comes up with to maybe slow them down a bit more this time.

Turns out missing that the best striker in the world matters

Bayern still fielded a lineup featuring Muller, Coman and Leroy Sane on the wings, Kimmich in the middle, etc. When manager Hansi Flick needed a quick tactical shift late in the first half, he was able to sub off Goretzka for one of the most exciting fullbacks in the world, Alphonso Davies, who completed 19 of 21 passes in the attacking third. Almost no team has the roster luxury that Bayern has.

At striker, however, they fielded Choupo-Moting, a PSG backup in 2020-21, instead of Robert Lewandowski, the best striker in the world at the moment. One figures that probably made a difference, but Lewandowski suffered a knee injury on international break and will remain out through next week’s second leg.

Now, it should be noted that Choupo-Moting performed almost exactly to the level stats suggested — his five shot attempts generated 1.2 xG and one goal. The biggest coulda-woulda-shoulda moments came from the trio of Goretzka, Pavard and Alaba, whose 11 shots generated 1.3 xG, some really tight misses and zero goals. But anything less than Lewandowski is a downgrade, and it’s easy to assume he would have created one more quality chance that Bayern’s lineup did not. That said, with all the injuries Neymar has had to deal with through the years, one doesn’t figure PSG feels too sympathetic at the moment.

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FC Porto 0-2 Chelsea

Return leg: Tuesday, April 13, 3 p.m. ET


Porto ran out of ideas

Porto manager Sergio Conceicao had to be pretty pleased with his team.

In the round of 16, Porto went toe-to-toe with Juventus in the first leg and emerged the better for it, winning 2-1. They did the same in the second until a red card forced them to bunker down a bit, but they managed to survive anyway thanks to a Sergio Oliveira free kick in extra time that went under a pretty pathetic Juve wall and into the net. Still, they advanced by playing like themselves and not backing down.

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They did so again on Wednesday against an even richer club. They attempted twice the shots as Chelsea and generated a slightly higher xG level (1.69 to 1.65). They pressured the ball effectively, ended nearly twice as many of their possessions in the attacking third and forced Chelsea to primarily play the role of a counterattacking, defensive team.

The Blues hogged possession, but attempted 62% of their passes in their own half and neither attempted nor completed many long balls or switches of play.

It was, for long stretches, possession for the sake of possession (and for making Porto run some miles off of its tires).

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Porto was on the front foot for most of the first half, but in the 32nd minute, a seemingly harmless run of Chelsea possession created a Jorginho-to-Mason Mount goal out of almost nothing.

By this point, Porto had already generated two solid scoring opportunities: a blocked Luis Diaz transition move in the 12th minute and a scary corner-kick opportunity for Zaidu Sanusi in the 24th that sailed over the goal. Moussa Marega would create a decent transition chance in the 51st minute, and Porto nearly scored on another corner in the 56th.

Two-thirds of the way through the match, Porto had 11 shots to Chelsea’s three and had produced 1.6 xG to Chelsea’s 0.4 … and then they ran out of ideas.

In the last 30 minutes, they managed only one shot to Chelsea’s three, and all three of Chelsea’s shots could have gone in. Cesar Azpilicueta nearly headed home a free kick at the 63-minute mark, and Christian Pulisic thundered a counterattacking shot off the bar in the 84th minute.

Just 45 seconds later, Chelsea put the tie away with a one-man counter and goal by Ben Chilwell. The last three chances were Chelsea’s best of the evening, and Porto was saved by the bell, so to speak. If matches were 100 minutes long, this could have been 3-0 or 4-0.

Because matches are only 90 minutes, Porto still heads into the second leg with a shot. But Chelsea’s strong passing and stronger legs made the odds of a comeback pretty small.

NWSL Releases Full Schedule and Broadcast Details for 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup Presented by Secret Deodorant

Opening match between Houston and Chicago to air on CBS Sports Network; Final to air on CBS Television Network & stream on Paramount+ Twitch to stream all games internationally

CHICAGO (March 9, 2021) – The National Women’s Soccer League today announced the full schedule for the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by Secret Deodorant. The 21-game tournament kicks off on April 9, 2021 with a rematch of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup final between Houston and Chicago at BBVA Stadium on CBS Sports Network, followed by Kansas City’s first match since joining the league in December 2020 against Portland Thorns FC at Providence Park at 10:30 p.m. EST on Paramount+, the premium streaming service from ViacomCBS.The opener and three additional games will air on CBS Sports Network, the final will air on the CBS Television Network and stream on Paramount+, and every other game will stream exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. All games will be available internationally on Twitch, including in Canada for all games that are not on CBS Sports Network.“I’m so excited to kick off a new year in style with the 2021 Challenge Cup presented by Secret Deodorant, and thrilled to once again partner with our friends at CBS Sports to bring the best women’s soccer league in the world to our viewers,” said NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird. “My thanks to CBS, Twitch and all of our partners, for continuing to invest in this league and showcasing these incredible athletes.”“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the NWSL and build on the immense success across all platforms of the 2020 Challenge Cup,” said Dan Weinberg, EVP, Programming, CBS Sports. “The 2021 Challenge Cup will showcase soccer’s top players, and we look forward to bringing fans the action across CBS, CBS Sports Network and Paramount+.”In their inaugural season, Racing Louisville FC will make their NWSL debut on April 10, 2021 when they host the Orlando Pride at Lynn Family Stadium. Following their first-ever match in Portland, Kansas City will travel to Chicago and face the Red Stars on April 20 before playing their first home game at Field of Legends on Monday, April 26, 2021 vs. the 2020 defending NWSL Challenge Cup champions the Houston Dash. The first Cascadia rival match of the 2021 campaign will come on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 when Portland Thorns FC host OL Reign on CBS Sports Network at 10 p.m. EST. The full schedule and broadcast details can be found below.The 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by Secret Deodorant will see the league’s 10 teams organized into two divisions, East and West. Each team will play four matches in home markets, as approved by the NWSL’s Medical Task Force, followed by the top team from each division competing in the final slated for May 8, 2021 on CBS. The championship site will be determined by the league at a later date. For a full list of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup rules and regulations that differ from NWSL’s regular season policies and procedures, click here.

2021 NWSL CHALLENGE CUP PRESENTED BY SECRET DEODORANT SCHEDULE
**All games to stream internationally on Twitch**

DATETIME (EST)HOMEAWAYVENUEPLATFORM
Friday, April 98:30 PMHouston DashChicago Red StarsBBVA StadiumCBSSN
Friday, April 910:30 PMPortland Thorns FCKansas CityProvidence ParkParamount+
Saturday, April 103:30 PMNC CourageWashington SpiritSahlen’s StadiumParamount+
Saturday, April 107 PMRacing Louisville FCOrlando PrideLynn Family StadiumParamount+
Wednesday, April 147 PMOrlando PrideSky Blue FCExploria StadiumCBSSN
Thursday, April 157:30 PMChicago Red StarsPortland Thorns FCSeatGeek StadiumParamount+
Friday, April 167 PMWashington SpiritRacing Louisville FCSegraParamount+
Friday, April 1610 PMOL ReignHouston DashCheney StadiumParamount+
Tuesday, April 206 PMSky Blue FCNC CourageMontclair StateParamount+
Tuesday, April 208:30 PMChicago Red StarsKansas CitySeatGeek StadiumParamount+
Wednesday, April 217 PMOrlando PrideWashington SpiritExploria StadiumParamount+
Wednesday, April 2110 PMPortland Thorns FCOL ReignProvidence ParkCBSSN
Monday, April 266 PMRacing Louisville FCNC CourageLynn Family StadiumParamount+
Monday, April 268:30 PMKansas CityHouston DashLegends FieldParamount+
Tuesday, April 277 PMWashington SpiritSky Blue FCSegraParamount+
Tuesday, April 2710 PMOL ReignChicago Red StarsCheney StadiumParamount+
Saturday, May 17:30 PMNC CourageOrlando PrideSahlen’s StadiumCBSSN
Sunday, May 212:30 PMSky Blue FCRacing Louisville FCMontclair StateParamount+
Sunday, May 24:30 PMKansas CityOL ReignLegends FieldParamount+
Sunday, May 27:30 PMHouston DashPortland Thorns FCBBVA StadiumParamount+
Saturday, May 81 PMChampionshipTBDCBS, Paramount+

 

 

USMNT rise in latest FIFA world rankings

https://www.nbcsports.com/vplayer/p/BxmELC/nbcsports_embed/select/media/30RA3Ff3VIRm?form=html&autoPlay=false&ssid=nbcsports_embed_yahoo Joe Prince-Wright  Thu, April 8, 2021, 8:45 AM

That sound you can hear is the USMNT on the charge back up the FIFA world rankings, as they are in the top 20 for the first time since 2014.After a number of hugely positive results, and performances, over the last 12 months, Gregg Berhalter has led the USMNT back into the top 20 in the world rankings and it feels like this is just the start for this young side. Recent wins at Northern Ireland and against Jamaica and Panama at neutral venues will have helped this ranking, so too did the draw away at Wales.

Latest USMNT news

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A note of caution: all four of those games came with the USMNT having their strongest squad (barring a couple of players) available, while their opponents were severely understrength. Still, it has been a tough few years for USMNT fans so climbing back into the top 20 is a step in the right direction. The Stars and Stripes were ranked as low as 35th in 2017, and they have been hovering just outside the top 20 for a long, long time.With a friendly away at Switzerland in late May, then CONCACAF Nations League Final Four, Gold Cup and 2022 World Cup qualifiers coming up in the summer, there is a real chance for the U.S. to push closer to CONCACAF’s best team, Mexico, who is ranked 11th as they slipped down two places. European giants dominant the top 10 with Belgium in first, France second and Brazil in third. England sit fourth, Portugal fifth, Spain sixth, Italy seventh, Argentina in eighth, Uruguay is ninth and Denmark is tenth.  Below is the latest top 30, with plenty of changes coming up this summer as the Gold Cup, European Championships and Copa America tournaments take center stage.

Top 30 FIFA world rankings (April 7, 2021)

1. Belgium
2. France
3. Brazil
4. England
5. Portugal
6. Spain
7. Italy
8. Argentina
9. Uruguay
10. Denmark
11. Mexico
12. Germany
13. Switzerland
14. Croatia
15. Colombia
16. Netherlands
17. Wales
18. Sweden
19. Chile
20. USA
21. Poland
22. Senegal
23. Austria
24. Ukraine
25. Serbia
26. Tunisia
27. Peru
28. Japan
29. Turkey
30. Venezuela

 

Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: Messi, Ramos have helped define Clasico. Will this be their last?

1:39

Barcelona: Enjoy Messi, if this is indeed the end

Right now, it seems certain that Lionel Messi is revitalised, happy, evangelically recommitted to Barcelona — as certain as it was last August that he would be, at any cost, leaving FC Barcelona. Relations are at the point that, by May or June, it seems realistic that he will announce he’s staying at Camp Nou under a new contract. But that’s the point.It seemed 100%, cast-iron certain just a handful of months ago that everything was broken, that Messi was sick to the back teeth of being surrounded by mediocrity and mendacity, and yet here we are. A full 180-degree pike, with triple salchow, change of attitude and all it requires now is what any person in sales will tell you is the hardest part: closing the deal.For those reasons, it’s obligatory to mark this weekend’s Clasico by saying that if there were another reverse-flip, if Barcelona somehow displeased him with their inability to sign new talent or in their capacity to offer him the right remuneration over the next two or three years — lots of ifs and buts — or if it turned out that there’s something special on offer at Manchester City or PSG, then this would be his last chance to play Real Madrid in blaugrana colours.Whichever side of the Clasico divide you find yourself on, it’s a sobering thought even for us neutrals. Sixteen years of Messi vs. Madrid, and his magic-on-demand, have flitted past us like countryside images out the window of a high-speed train. Gorgeous and imprinted on our consciousness, but gone far too soon.For the good of this fixture, for the nourishment of La Liga and, unquestionably, for the benefit of FC Barcelona, who are fundamentally committed to keeping their in-house genius, let’s hope that win, lose or draw, we see the nimble, dancing, scheming legend from Rosario, Argentina gliding and dribbling across the Camp Nou and Santiago Bernabeu pitches many more times in classic Clasicos.But if not, what are we left with? His impact has been gargantuan: that’s the only word for it. It should probably go without saying that Messi has faced no other rival as many times as he’s played Real Madrid, one of the two clubs that was hovering in hope when, back in 2001-02, negotiations between Barca’s slow directors and his father, Jorge, were turning sour.

Just as Spain‘s FA made tentative moves to discover whether Messi wanted to play for La Roja instead of Argentina — Messi was appalled by the idea — Madrid were primed and ready to pounce when, finally, a couple of Camp Nou men woke up to the fact that they absolutely had to find a way to retain this 13-year-old whose massive talent outsized his tiny frame.And once they failed to get him, Madrid became a foil. From his Clasico debut, one sharp, tangy November evening in Spain’s capital nearly 16 years ago, until this weekend at an empty but nonetheless iconic Alfredo Di Stefano stadium in Madrid’s superb training complex, if Los Blancos didn’t exist, Messi would have had to invent them.”I’m Argentinian, but I feel very Catalan,” said Messi in a recent sports paper interview in Barcelona. It showed, too.

I was at his debut against Madrid, sitting next to my friend John Alexander, whose ticket in the section reserved for friends and family of Real Madrid players had “from Zinedine Zidane” stamped on it. I’d ducked work duties and was just there to savour it — little did I know there would be a clever, confident cameo performance that, though dwarfed by Ronaldinho’s two brilliant goals in a 3-0 win that night, would endure long past the Brazilian’s sell-by date.Messi was an imp that night. He cared not a jot for the stage or the baying Real Madrid fans; he wasn’t put off by the racist abuse that both Samuel Eto’o and Ronaldinho suffered, nor could Madrid’s players subdue him. Two Clasicos later, the seeds that were sown in his first game against Real Madrid flowered with a hat trick at Camp Nou, as when Barcelona’s 10 men (with defender Oleguer red-carded) wrested a 3-3 draw against a thunderously powerful, Ruud van Nistelrooy-inspired Madrid.The stories and the images go on, and on. But for once, the stats actually tell a good tale.

Before the era of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Pep Guardiola the coach, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Messi, Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Sergio BusquetsNeymar and Luis Suarez, it’s not that Barcelona couldn’t beat Real Madrid — it’s just that they didn’t do it all that often. The all-time Clasico scorecard was heavily balanced in favour of Los Merengues.No more; the head-to-head stats are as tight as the seals on a submarine’s port-holes. The trophy count, particularly in La Liga and the Champions League, has metamorphosed. And notwithstanding all the brilliant talent I mentioned, along with a dozen more essential, exceptional cameo role players, the number one catalytic element, by far, has been Messi. Why not, he’s a genius? Which is why, ahead of this weekend, it’s a little strange to break down Messi’s Clasico numbers.Like I said, he and Madrid are like Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, Superman and Lex Luthor, Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote, Tom and Jerry. (Please note, who’s the hero and who’s the baddie depends wholly on which club you support: the roles are fully interchangeable!) This 33-year-old Argentine, born some six-and-a-half-thousand miles from the Spanish capital, has imposed himself on the fixture. Nobody, including his compatriot (Di Stefano) after whom this weekend’s stadium is named, has scored more goals when Real Madrid and FC Barcelona do battle. Ever.

Messi’s overall stats against Barca’s mortal rivals: Played 44, Won 19, Drawn 11, Lost 14, 26 goals, 14 assists and 11 yellow cards.

What do you reckon about those figures? Less impressive than you remembered? Stunning because it’s against one of the best, most ambitious, most “winning” clubs in football history? What’s your take?One of the standout facts, I reckon, is that one way or another, Madrid have increasingly got his measure in recent seasons. Against Los Blancos, Messi has ‘only’ scored five times in their last 17 meetings. He’s not hit the net in a Clasico for three years now and it’s four years since Messi scored while winning a Clasico in La Liga.Hmm. Interesting, no?

It’s linked that six of the 14 defeats Messi has suffered against Real Madrid (roughly half) have come in those last 17 matches, in which he’s only managed to score five times. (By the way, Karim Benzema has scored five goals across his last 19 Clasicos, just to put Messi’s slight drought in context.) It may well be that this little marvel is the most dominant figure in the history of a beautiful, dangerous, culturally volatile fixture, but his win rate is less than 50%!Of the 23 other club opponents Messi has faced 10 times or more, his win rate is usually much higher than that, hovering around 80% in most instances. Against no other opponent, whether club or country, has Messi lost a double-digit number of games. Next closest is Atletico Madrid, against whom he’s lost eight of 42 meetings while winning 24. Against no other opponent has Messi had more yellow cards (11), either.

It is, I think, a picture of how this Herculean talent used to hit Madrid like a hurricane, often left opponent coaches and players in smithereens, but has gradually been reigned into a status closer to a small storm as Madrid built defences, prepared better and began to understand what to expect. And in my mind, it’s not just about Messi ageing or the Barcelona squad declining. It’s kudos to Real Madrid for working out the answer to “how do you solve a problem like La Pulga?”You can take it to the bank that Barcelona’s No.10, who just became their all-time leader in appearances — to accompany all his other all-time achievements — is obsessed with winning the league and Copa del Rey double this season. He knows better than anyone that despite his renewed appetite for life at Camp Nou, the deal to stay is never definitive until terms are thrashed out and the ink is dry on a bumper contract.

The thought of another trophyless season, even more so if this were to be his last in Catalunya, is utterly abhorrent to him. Did you see his evangelistically joyful celebrations when Sevilla were defeated in the Copa semifinal at Camp Nou last month? Or the huge, emotional leap into Ousmane Dembele‘s arms when the Frenchman scored a last-minute winner against Valladolid at Camp Nou on Monday?

This Saturday’s Clasico, as part of the route to what might become Messi’s 11th Liga title, will have him as tense, as hungry and as filled with competitive adrenaline as any he’s played in since the 2011 Champions League semifinal first leg when, it turned out, he gave probably his all-time, signature performance.This meeting happens against a backdrop of Madrid having won, clinically and deservedly, at Camp Nou last autumn, Madrid being the defending league champions and Madrid owning the head-to-head record this season that would automatically make them champions if the two sides finished equal after 38 games. It also comes against a backdrop of Messi having looked sluggish and short of cutting-edge crispness against Valladolid, having gone over two weeks without a match during the international break.It’s not an arithmetical fact, but the suspicion lingers that unless Barcelona can win this test against their (and Messi’s) favourite rivals, the league title may just be beyond them. It is a fact, however that since December, Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona have intermittently played the most thrilling, most electric and smartest football of this strange La Liga season. Can they convert that to a seismic result when the chips are down?Whether or not this happens to be Messi’s last joust with his eternal rival, and given that one of his chief tormentors, Sergio Ramos, isn’t playing, will the Argentine’s inherently voracious instincts mean we are in for a Clasico masterclass in which he torments Real Madrid with his old majesty?Saturday brings another Clasico in the Messi Era. Intriguing, intense and unmissable, but hopefully not “adios, maestro.” — Graham Hunter


Real Madrid: It’s not just about Messi, but his longtime rival, Sergio Ramos

You know who won’t miss Messi if he goes? Real Madrid. Oh, wait, actually that’s not right. Or at least not entirely.

In the history of the Clasico (which wasn’t always called the Clasico), only Di Stefano and maybe Johan Cruyff have done as much to tilt the power balance towards one of these great, historic rivals. And Cruyff had two chances, as player and as manager, to do it.

If Messi scores at the weekend, or indeed any weekend between now and the end of the season, it will be the thirteenth season in a row that he’s scored at least 30 goals. No one has had a prolonged run of success like it — not even Di Stefano, not quite. No club has lorded it over the league and the cup like Barcelona have with Messi.

He’s won 10 league titles and that, of course, means 10 league titles Real Madrid haven’t won, at a time — let it not be forgotten — when they too have had some of the best players in the world.

1:39

How Vinicius Junior overcame his biggest flaw vs. Liverpool

Alejandro Moreno breaks down how Vinicius Junior was able to influence Real Madrid’s 3-1 win vs. Liverpool.

Just look at the stats Graham has outlined there. Or listen to Ramos, Madrid’s captain. “Without Leo, we would have won more,” he says.

It’s simple, but it’s true.

Ramos knows that well; he knows the danger, has felt the hurt. Messi has felt it too, quite literally. Remember in 2010, when Barcelona won 5-0 and the last thing Ramos did was run over and boot him into the air — not so much a tackle, as an assault — and one so premeditated that the referee that day, Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez, could see coming. “It was one of those you can ‘smell,'” he recalled. “I saw him running towards Messi and I thought: ‘he’s going to whack him.'”

Which he did.

Ramos would want rid of Messi, you would think. And yet, when it looked like the Argentine was about to go this summer, he insisted that there was no need for Messi to leave. “We’d like him to stay here,” Ramos said. “He makes his team better, the league better, and the Clasico nicer.”

Saying so underlines his own success, Madrid’s success; maybe it makes sense. Maybe it’s even selfish as much as it is admiration. After all, facing the best makes you better, and beating the best makes success even greater. True rivalries are built on this. Ramos knows that too, and was explicit about it: “It’s good for those of us who like to beat the best,” he said.

And yet, Ramos has never had any doubts that “the best” meant Messi. The Madrid captain even took on the late Diego Maradona when he had criticised Messi, saying that the 1986 World Cup-winning captain was “light years” behind his countryman. In a recent interview, Ramos even said that he would “100%” like Messi to join Madrid if he had to leave Barcelona. He would put him up at his house if it helped.

Yeah, nice try, Sergio. But it is true that Messi’s departure would take something from this game. It’s true, too, that Ramos’s absence would as well.

And this is the other element in play here. Madrid’s captain is injured and will be unavailable on Saturday, though he will be at the game as ever, his voice booming around. If Messi may be about to play his last Clasico, Ramos may have already done so. His contract is up at the end of the season, and while it always feels like there can’t be any outcome other than him and the club agreeing a deal to keep him there — “the best thing for the club is that Ramos stays, the best thing for Ramos is that Ramos stays,” teammate Nacho said this week — he still hasn’t renewed and his relationship with them isn’t good.

Maybe he could go to Barcelona instead, then?

Without Messi, Madrid would have won more, and yet they come into this game knowing that they can’t really afford to lose. That’s the bad news; yet it’s also the good news.

Here are two lists:

– LiverpoolAtalanta (twice), Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Inter Milan, Barcelona
– Alcoyano, LevanteShakhtar Donetsk (twice), Alaves, Cadiz

Guess which one is the list of games Madrid have won, and which is the list of games they lost?

OK, so you knew that one, but it’s still quite something to lose to all of those teams in the second list. As is the fact that they didn’t beat Elche or Osasuna either while they haven’t lost to any of the big teams. And yet, when it mattered, Real won. Against the bigger teams, they won. As they always seem to do.

Last year, Zidane had been on the verge of the sack before Christmas, and he went on to win the league. This year, the same thing happened: in December, he was on the way out. He had just “hours” left in the job, El Mundo claimed. Madrid had won less than half of all their games, faced elimination from the group stages of the Champions League for the first time ever, and a huge week lay ahead, with must-win games against Sevilla, Borussia Monchengladbach and Atletico.

They won all three.

They have to win this Clasico too, and as ever, the obligation is an opportunity.

Madrid come into this game clinging to the hope of winning the league, which just three or four weeks ago seemed impossible. So do Barcelona. For much of the season, a title didn’t seem likely for either of them. Atletico were too far ahead. Now, the gap is tiny: a single point from Barcelona, three above Madrid. Atletico have opened the door, and the wolf is there. Two of the fanged devils, in fact.

Neither of these teams are top and yet it still feels like that the one who wins will emerge from this weekend as favourites. Madrid have lost just once in 19 league games. Barcelona have lost none in 19. Atletico have won only three of their last eight. It’s huge, but then it always is. It may be decisive, but then it’s almost always that too.

It may also be the last time we see either of these men: Messi on the pitch, Ramos up in the stands. And you can guarantee — absolutely guarantee — that Ramos will seek out his nemesis from Rosario at the end. You can’t help thinking that they’ll be back. You can’t help hoping so too, that all of these words here are worthless — yeah, sorry about that, but plus ca change and all that — and that with any luck, we can do it all again next year. Because when eventually they go, a generation will go with them.

Madrid fans will miss Ramos. They, like him, might even miss Messi too.

Well, sort of. — Sid Lowe

NWSL SEASON PREVIEW

Following the COVID-19 sports pause, the NWSL was the first professional North American team sports league to return to action in 2020. After the season was postponed in March, the inaugural Challenge Cup kicked off in June with record-setting viewership numbers. Music to our ears.

  • And although the Orlando Pride withdrew from the tourney before play began, there were no positive COVID-19 tests throughout the tournament. The league’s successful month-long bubble tourney paved the way for other sports leagues to return to action.
  • Behind stellar play from the aforementioned MVP Daly, the Houston Dash hoisted the Challenge Cup trophy after defeating the Chicago Red Stars 2–0 in the final.

🚨 This year’s format

While the 2020 Challenge Cup was played in a bubble in Salt Lake City, Utah, this year’s tourney will be held in home markets. The NWSL’s 10 teams (expansion team Racing Louisville FC joins the fray this year) are divided into two divisions — East and West — with each team playing four matches, one against each team in their division.

  • From there, the top team in each division advances to the championship game scheduled for Saturday, May 8th, airing on CBS in the U.S. and on Twitch in Canada. HYFR.
  • And while the Challenge Cup doesn’t have an impact on regular season standings, it does offer teams a chance to sort things out and gain momentum ahead of the May 15th regular season start. Give us all of the soccer, please.

Another major factor in this year’s Challenge Cup is the scheduling. With an international break overlapping with the start of the tournament, NWSL teams will be without some of their top talent for at least the first two games. Teams with deeper rosters will be eager to capitalize and grab points in those early matches. Keep an eye out.

💪 The teams

op contenders: As the regular season champions and NWSL Championship winners for both 2018 and 2019, North Carolina Courage had an unexpected early exit from the 2020 Challenge Cup, but we feel they’re destined to return to their winning ways in the East Division thanks to their deep roster.

  • The West Division — led by Portland Thorns FC and the Chicago Red Stars — is seriously stacked. With all-time leading international goal scorer and Canadian Christine Sinclair as their captain, the Thorns should have no trouble finding the back of the net.
  • As for the Red Stars, they’ll be entering the tourney with a new ownership group and be playing with a chip on their shoulders as they look to avenge last year’s loss in the final. Watch out, world.

Middle of the pack: In the East, the Washington Spirit and (newly rebranded!) NJ/NY Gotham FC will contend to overtake the favored Courage. The Spirit are stacked on defense with USWNT members Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett. As for Gotham, it’s all about the offense, with USWNT strikers Carli Lloyd and Midge Purce leading the way.

  • The Houston Dash and OL Reign have the odds stacked against them in the West Division. Even though the defending champion Dash have most of their core players returning, they’ll likely struggle at the start with players out for international friendlies.
  • The Reign might benefit from their later start, as they open their season against the Dash on April 16th. With offensive stars Megan Rapinoe (pronounced Ra-PEE-noe), Quinn and Tziarra King, the Reign could defy expectations this go round.

Just happy to be here: Rounding out the East are the Orlando Pride and new kids on the block Racing Louisville FC. The Pride will be competing in their first-ever Challenge Cup, after having to withdraw last year due to COVID-19, while new Louisville fans will just be happy to see their team take the field.

  • The final team in the West is Kansas City (KC) NWSL (formerly the Utah Royals). While KC probably won’t hoist the trophy, we’re still celebrating their new ownership group, which includes former college soccer player Brittany Matthews, Patrick Mahomes’ fiancée.

💃 The offense

Trinity Rodman, Washington Spirit, Forward: As the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NWSL draft, Rodman will make her highly anticipated debut against the stacked Courage tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. ET. With key pieces of the Spirit offense playing internationally,  she will have a chance to make an immediate impact.

Megan Rapinoe, OL Reign, Forward: Wherever Rapinoe goes, we follow. After opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Rapinoe is excited to return to the NWSL. After the USWNT’s April friendlies, Rapinoe will likely be back in time for the Reign’s tilt with the stacked Portland Thorns on April 21st. Mark your calendar.

Shea Groom, Houston Dash, Midfielder: Groom’s breakout three-goal performance in the Dash’s 2020 Challenge Cup run earned her a new three-year contract ahead of last year’s Fall Series. And Groom brought the heat again, scoring three goals and adding two assists. Houston, other teams might have a problem.

Desiree Scott, KC NWSL, Midfielder: This year will be somewhat of a homecoming for the CanWNT vet, as she first played for FC Kansas City during the NWSL’s inaugural 2013 season. She’ll bring a wealth of experience to this fresh-start club after returning from playing in Canada’s international friendlies.

🏆 Defense wins championships

Casey Krueger (née Short), Chicago Red Stars, Defender: With USWNT defenders Julie Ertz and Tierna Davidson away at friendlies, the Red Stars will rely heavily on Krueger, who started every game for Chicago during last year’s Challenge Cup run.

Abby Erceg, North Carolina Courage, Defender: This lockdown defender was named to the 2020 Challenge Cup Best XI and, heads up, she can get it done on offense too. Get you a girl who can do both.

Bella Bixby, Portland Thorns FC, Goalkeeper: Bixby’s breakout performance during the first few games of last year’s Challenge Cup was sadly cut short due to an ACL tear. We can’t wait to watch the Oregon-native run it back in her home market this year.

Ashlyn Harris, Orlando Pride, Goalkeeper: After being left off the USWNT roster for upcoming friendlies and the Pride missing out on the 2020 tournament, we’re expecting big things from Harris in her Challenge Cup debut. Talk about mom goals.

4/2/21 US out of Olympics, US Men Win Twice, Champs League back Tues/Wed, US Ladies vs Sweden/France next weekend

 

US Eliminated from Olympics by Honduras Sun 2-1  

The US Men failed to qualify for the Olympics again – for the 4th straight time – the U23 US men are not going to the Olympics.  They were knocked out again by a good Honduras team that simply would not be denied.  Despite having more possession in the first half (55-45) the US trailed in shots 4-1 and in goals as Honduras scored on the final play of the 1st half off a free kick from distance was bodied in beyond Stefan. The US simply had no connection in the final third and missed on numerous opportunities to line up shots in the first half.  I thought having Jack Yuelle not playing the #6 holding midfield and instead playing the 8  – hurt the US making the transition from offense to defense which really didn’t make sense. Early In the 2nd half – US GK Ochoa – after saving the US all tourney long –made a stupid play and mishit a ball dropped to him right into the Honduras forward and it bounced painfully into the net.  The 2-0 deficit was too much to overcome for the US despite repeated shots and attempts late in the 2nd half.  The US dominated the final 15 minutes and had numerous shots towards goal that simply would not go in.  To say its devastating to the US and the men’s U23 is an understatement.  Yes you can argue that this is unfair as most of the best players who are U-23 in the US who are really good – were playing for the full national team on Sunday.  Pulisic, Dest, Reyna, Musah, were all wearing beating Northern Ireland rather than playing in this tourney – as most European clubs won’t release our best players to play.  Still the thought of adding a few of our real superstar U23s for the Actual Olympics certainly had my mouth watering.  A full U24 list of US stars could have certainly competed for Gold – but you have to qualify – and this B team of US players simply couldn’t get it done.  Yes our B team should have gotten it done – but alas – the US men are once again sitting home for the Olympics since the last group played in 2008.  That’s 15 years of no Olympics for the men.  Sad. 

US Men Dominate 2-1

The US Men won their first European road game in over 10 years as they defeated a slightly undermanned Northern Ireland 2-1 over the weekend.  Pulisic and Reyna scored the US goals and both looked on target for most of the day Sunday.  The US came out in a 3-5-3 alignment with Brooks and Carter back in Germany removed off the backline.  Robinson held down the left with Pulisic playing a similar role that he plays now with Chelsea on the left inside tucked behind our #9.  Overall the US held possession for about 60-40 and outshot NI  – as well.  A good game for the US Overall.  So Weston McKinney was bared from playing for the US this past week by Juve because he had a slight knock.  So what does he do?  He hosts a party at his house during Covid.  He along with some teammates have been suspended from this week’s games – f

US Women to Face Sweden Sat Apr 10 1 pm on Fox and France Apr 13

The US Ladies will face a pair of top 10 foes on the road in Europe as a warm up to the Olympics this summer.  This roster which includes 20 of the 21 players on the She Believe’s Cup roster could well be a final preview of who will be on the 18 person roster to Japan this summer.

USA Women’s Roster GOALKEEPERS

Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS

Alana Cook (PSG), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Midge Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)

MIDFIELDERS

Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City), Catarina Macario –OUT HURT (Lyon), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City)

FORWARDS

Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Manchester United), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage), Tobin Heath (Man United) is Still Injured

 

Champions League Is Back!  The Final 8

The final 8 of Champions League returns Tues/Wed on CBS Sports Network and Paramount at 3 pm with Man City vs Dortmund I assume on Paramount and Liverpool and Real Madrid ((without Sergio Ramos) on CBS Sports Network Tuesday.  Wed gives us Bayern Munich (without Lewendowski) vs PSG (with Neymar) on CBS SN and Chelsea and Pulisic vs Porto on Paramount plus both at 3 pm.  Don’t ask me why they can’t spread these dam games out and not play them at the same time?  Its crazy – best 8 teams in the world and they play the only 2 games of each day as the exact same time.  European Soccer is just stupid sometimes – especially EUFA.  

 

GAMES ON TV

Sat, Apr 3

7:30 am NBCSN   Chelsea (Pulisic) vs West Brom

9:30 am ESPN+                  Dortmund (Reyna) vs Frankfurt

12:30 pm ESPN2                RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Bayern Munich

12:30 pm NBCSN               Leicester City vs Man City

2:45 pm ESPN2                  Bologna vs Inter Milan

3 pm NNCSN                       Arsenal vs Liverpool

3:30 pm beIN Sport          Athletic Club vs Real Sociadad

Sun, Apr 4

9 am NBCSN                       Newcastle vs Tottenham

9:30 am ESPN+                  Stutgart vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

11:30 am NBCSN               Aston Villa vs Fulham (Robinson)

2:30 pm NBCSN                 Man United vs Brighton

3 pm beINSport                  Sevilla vs Athletico Madrid

Tues, Apr 6

3 pm CBS SN                       Real Madrid vs Liverpool  UCL

3 pm Paramount+             Man City vs Dortmund (Reyna) UCL

6 pm FS1                             Marathon vs Portland Timbers  CCF Champ League

8 pm FS1                             Alajulense vs Atlanta United CCF Champ League

10 pm FS 1                          Cruz Azul vs Archaie

Weds, Apr 7

12:45 pm ESPN+                Juve (McKinney) vs Napoli

3 pm CBS SN                       Porto vs Chelsea (Pulisic) UCL

3 pm Paramount+             Bayern Munich vs PSG UCL

6 pm FS1                             Saprisa vs Philly Union  CCF Champ League

8 pm FS1                             Leon vs Toronto FC  CCF Champ League

10 pm FS 1                          Olympia vs America  

Thurs, Apr 8

12:45 pm ESPN+                Juve (McKinney) vs Napoli

3 pm CBS SN                       Granada vs Man United  Europa

3 pm Paramount+             Aresenal vs Slavia Praha Europa

8 pm FS1                             Real Esteli vs Columbus Crew  CCF Champ League

Fri, Apr 9

3 pm NBCSN                       Fulham (robinson) vs Wolverhampton  

Sat, Apr 10

1 pm FOX                           Sweden vs USA Ladies

3 pm beIN Sport              Real Madrid vs Barcelona (El Classico)

Wed, Apr 13

3 pm ESPN2                      France vs USA Ladies

 

USA Men
5 things we learned from USMNT friendlies

Berhalter explains new formation; Pulisic wants to be USMNT leader

Berhalter shares next step for USMNT Man of the Match winner Pulisic

US men’s national team player ratings: Reyna, Pulisic …
USMNT vs Northern Ireland: Player Ratings- Pulisic stars
OneGoal USMNT Player Ratings – USA v Northern Ireland …
 USMNT player ratings: Reyna, Pulisic, Aaronson impress vs. N. Ireland
U.S. men’s national team breaks out a three-man back line, extends unbeaten streak

Musah tied to the US with appearance at Northern Ireland
USA v. Northern Ireland, 2021 Friendly: What we learned
Daryl Dike reportedly drawing interest from Everton
McKennie, Juventus teammates facing fines after party

 

U 23s Men Fail to Qualify for Olympics
Why FIFA blocks the U.S. men’s national team from playing for an Olympics spot

US U-23 player ratings: High marks for Yueill, few others in Olympic qualifying failure

Boehm: Three takeaways from the US’ gutting Olympic qualifying failure  Boehm MLS.com 

Kreis: US “absolutely devastated” after Olympic Qualifying defeat

Carrillo: ‘Arrogance’ knocks U.S. out of Olympics

The USMNT has talent, now it’s up to US Soccer to create a culture of winning

 

US Ladies

Macario out of U.S. games vs. France, Sweden
U.S. women’s soccer calls up 23 players as Tokyo Olympics preparations continue

Host Cities for 2023 World Cup Announced

 

WORLD

Champions League predictions: Bayern Munich, Chelsea to reach the final?
Neymar back for PSG in time for decisive week

Juve suspend Dybala, McKennie, Arthur vs. Torino
Pandemic blamed for lack of VAR in World Cup qualifiers after Ronaldo fury

The history of promotion and relegation in the Premier League era

Champions League is Back

Sources: Ramos to miss Barca, Liverpool ties

Man Utd, Liverpool can play Euro ties in Spain

Haaland one of the best in the world – Guardiola
Battle for Premier League top four heats up

Bayern without Lewandowski, French title tussle and long-awaited final – what to watch in Europe

Basque rivals finally meet in delayed Copa del Rey final

Why FIFA blocks the U.S. men’s national team from playing for an Olympics spot

Kevin Baxter Mon, March 29, 2021, 4:34 PM 

Honduras defender Wesly Decas, center, comforts U.S. forward Sebastian Soto, right, beside Ulysses Llanez following Honduras’ 2-1 win in a CONCACAF Olympic qualifying match on Sunday. Why isn’t the U.S. men’s national team allowed to play for an Olympics berth? (Fernando Llano / Associated Press)

A U.S. national team featuring 15 players off European megaclubs such as Barcelona, Manchester City, Chelsea and Roma beat Northern Ireland on Sunday in a friendly, the soccer equivalent of an exhibition game. Teenager Gio Reyna scored the first goal and Christian Pulisic, the youngest player to ever captain the men’s national team, scored the second as the U.S. beat a European team at home for the first time in six years.

Four hours after that game ended, another U.S. national team kicked off in Mexico needing a win to qualify for the Tokyo Games. That team featured only three players from outside MLS, including a goalkeeper who has made just one MLS start. That team lost to Honduras and the U.S. failed to make the Olympic cut for the fourth time in five tries.

Which begs a simple question: Why was the A team in Europe playing a relatively meaningless friendly while a lesser team was in Mexico losing to Honduras in a game that meant everything? The answer isn’t as simple, but it has a lot to do with FIFA, the governing body for global soccer.

For starters FIFA required those big clubs to release their players to their senior national teams because Sunday’s game took place during an official match window set aside for international competition. But they weren’t required to release their players to events such as Olympic qualifying, which FIFA classifies as an age-group tournament. Even Atlanta United, an MLS club with close ties to U.S. Soccer, declined to let three of its age-eligible players go to the Olympic qualifying event.

While the women’s Olympic tournament, which debuted in 1996, has always been considered a major championship open to the best players in the world, that is more a product of FIFA’s long-held disdain for the women’s game than it is an attempt to raise the profile of the tournament. FIFA has long conspired to make sure the men’s Olympic event pales in importance to the World Cup, although the two competitions have a common beginning.

FIFA actually managed the 1920, ’24 and ’28 Olympic tournaments, which were amateur events that proved so successful the winners were considered “world champions.” But the International Olympic Committee opposed opening the competition to professionals, so FIFA took the sport out of the 1932 Games in Los Angeles to create and promote its own tournament, the World Cup.

Soccer returned to the IOC’s calendar in 1936, under FIFA’s direction, yet by then the World Cup had eclipsed the amateur tournament and the Olympics have never regained the prestige it once had — and both the IOC and FIFA share the blame for that.

By clinging to strict rules banning professionals into the 1980s, the IOC effectively kept the best players in the world out of its event, allowing the World Cup to become the globe’s largest and most important sporting competition. And FIFA intended to keep it that way, so when the IOC voted to allow professional players for the 1984 L.A. Games, FIFA watered down the competition by placing restrictions on who could participate.

It codified that in 1992 by turning the Olympic tournament into an age-group competition, limiting rosters to players aged 23 and younger, with three over-age exemptions. The IOC, it should be noted, didn’t protest, fearing that a World Cup-level event during the Games would overshadow traditional Olympic sports such as track and field, gymnastics and swimming.

But while some nations have figured out how to make that work — Argentina won back-to-back gold medals in 2004 and 2008, and Mexico has made the knockout round in seven straight World Cups while qualifying for six of the eight Olympic tournaments in the U-23 era — the U.S. has not.

Not only did the Americans miss the 2018 World Cup, but they’ve played in the Olympics just once since 2000 and have won just four matches in the Summer Games since 1992. Not exactly the kind of resume that cries out “soccer nation.”

However, Sunday’s loss to Honduras — a country that qualified for four straight Olympics and two of the last three World Cups — will sting more than the rest.

With the likes of Pulisic, Reyna, Sergiño Dest, Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie and Tim Weah all age-eligible for Tokyo — provided they were able to secure release from their clubs, the final FIFA-constructed hurdle — the Americans would have entered the Games as medal favorites.

Now they’ll be watching on TV instead. And that will leave a mark, said World Cup veteran Stuart Holden, who, in 2008, scored the game-winning goal in the last Olympic match the U.S. won.

“You think about the opportunities we have to play in a tournament that replicates the World Cup, but also where we actually get to play in games that mean something against top teams from all around the world. That doesn’t happen other than the World Cup,” said Holden, now a Fox Soccer commentator. “The Olympics is that other opportunity that is a truly global tournament.”

Lionel Messi’s only international title came in the 2008 Olympics. Neymar delivered a gold medal for Brazil eight years later.

“Some of the best players to ever have played the game have played in the Olympics,” Holden said. “It actually kind of infuriates me that people just write it off as ‘Well, the Olympics doesn’t really matter.’ It definitely matters because of that opportunity. Imagine we could roll out a team with our best under-23s. We’d be up there for the first time ever, when it comes to a global tournament, with one of the best five teams going to the Olympics. That’s putting yourself in a conversation with Germany and Spain and Brazil, Argentina.”

On Sunday, expecting a U.S. victory, Holden broke out the Olympic jacket he wore during the Beijing Games, hoping to feature it during the Fox broadcast. Instead, he put it back in storage after the loss to Honduras. But the experience of those Games remains fresh, and Holden is sorry this year’s team won’t get the chance to make memories of its own.

“That stacks up with my best lifetime achievements,” said Holden, who won two MLS Cups, a Gold Cup and played in a World Cup match. “I remember walking out representing the United States in the opening ceremony, and you’re walking with the best athletes from all other sports, and it’s really such a unique opportunity, where sports collide.

“You feel like you’re representing Team USA. It was just such a special moment. I had a wave of emotions, anger, frustration, disappointment [that] these guys will miss out on that opportunity. It means so much to go to the Olympics.”

Apparently not to FIFA.This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Three takeaways from the US’ gutting Olympic qualifying loss to Honduras | Charles Boehm

March 28, 202110:31PM EDT  Charles BoehmNational Writer

All together now: Time is a flat circle.At least it is when it comes to US men’s national teams in must-win games over the past half-decade or so. Drop in the McConaughey “True Detective” gif wherever you see fit.On Sunday the US Under-23s had one game to win, one opponent to navigate past in order to reach the Tokyo Olympics, and they failed. There’s really no other way to say it. We can talk about circumstances and challenges and letdowns – and there is important context to consider – but for all the bumps and diversions on the road they’ve traveled over the past two years, this was an attainable ask for the U-23s.And they shot themselves in the foot, and were duly defeated by a deserving Honduras outfit. Goalkeeper David Ochoa wears the goat’s horns for his horrific error in possession right after halftime, but as you load your slings and arrows, remember: Ochoa, the youngest player on this roster, saved his team’s bacon in their vital opening win over Costa Rica, without which the US would’ve never gotten this far.Here’s three observations from another U.S. Soccer Waterloo.

They got the details wrong

Coach Jason Kreis made some debatable choices with his rosters, and could be accused of being overly dogmatic with his team’s shape and insistence on building out of the back. From where I’m sitting he did, however, trot out the strongest and most sensible starting XI at his disposal right now. Things got dicey soon after that, however.For some reason Andres Perea was preferred as the single pivot at the base of midfield, while usual holding mid Jackson Yueill pushed up into a No. 8 role, and the United States’ possession game suffered as a result, looking plodding and tentative for the game’s first hour.Perea is a rangy, powerful engine-room presence, while Yueill has the cultured range of passing to set the tempo and switch the point of attack. To me they would’ve made a lot more sense in the opposite deployment, but this was a purposeful wrinkle to try and catch Honduras out.“Andres is a great player, he disrupts a lot of the opponents’ transitional play and I think he’s very crafty with the ball,” said a somber Yueill postgame. “I think our game plan was to get me into higher spots and try to play good balls in behind to the runners.“The first half was a little slow in those moments, trying to break them down, but as the game got on I think me and Andres’ connection got better and better and we were able to find each other more. I think we could have utilized the outside wingers a little bit better and got behind them a little bit more.”It didn’t work, and that stymied US hopes of seizing the initiative with an assertive, front-foot start to the match.

The wiser, more mature team won

Soccer, it’s often said, is a game of mistakes. The side that makes fewer of them usually wins. And so it was at Estadio Jalisco on Sunday.

Los Catrachos did what they have done throughout this tournament and what their national teams have done for much of their modern soccer history: They were organized, tough, intense, committed, quick and purposeful in transition. As the final seconds of the first half ticked away, Honduras kept focus when the North Americans’ slipped, and were rewarded with Juan Carlos Obregon’s scrappy finish from close range, an opening goal of enormous weight.Obregon is actually a product of the US system; he was born in New York and played some college soccer before turning pro. His most recent club was USL Championship side Rio Grande Valley Toros. He didn’t tilt this game in his team’s favor with some transcendent display of skill; he sniffed out space at the back post on a speculative set-piece delivery into the US penalty box, committed himself at the right time and bundled home.From there on the US were chasing the game, and Ochoa’s gift on the other side of intermission magnified that. Why was the Real Salt Lake ‘keeper so casual with the ball at his feet? Why did he entertain such glaring risk with such scant corresponding reward?

We know that Jason Kreis and the coaching staff have been doggedly committed to playing out of the back, emphasizing the long-term gain even when short-range pain results. But composed decision-making is central to that philosophy and in that crucial moment, it was lacking. That’s on both Ochoa and the staff that have been preparing him for times like this.

This is one developmental data point among many

There are no excuses for the US men’s latest Olympic failure, EVEN IF the U-23s were missing the top 20 or so players on the depth chart due to their clubs electing not to voluntarily release them.And EVEN IF this created a talent deficit relative to what an ideal US roster could’ve been here, the group in Guadalajara fluffed their lines in a must-win situation, much like the full USMNT did on that fateful final night of 2018 Concacaf World Cup qualifying down in Couva, Trinidad & Tobago.It’s cause for self-criticism, even recriminations, any time a team of professionals falls short in such scenarios. But the alarm bells don’t screech quite as loudly this time as they did in 2012 and 2016, because over the past year or two the senior national team has practically become a U-23 team itself as a golden generation of young talent climbs into some of Europe’s biggest leagues and clubs.This month’s USMNT roster for the friendlies vs. Jamaica and Northern Ireland had an average age of just over 23, and were the protagonists in both of those two victories. We don’t yet know how that group will handle truly high-pressure games – we’ll learn more when they contest the Concacaf Nations League semifinals and World Cup qualifiers later this year – but it doesn’t seem overly optimistic to speculate that they’ll handle it better than the Olympic squad did.If they don’t? That’s when the panic strikes in earnest.

The USMNT has talent, now it’s up to US Soccer to create a culture of winning

More trophies, less crying  By Parker Cleveland@AekprrAcdeellnv  Mar 29, 2021, 7:30am PDT

The American soccer program has a long history of winning that is based not only on technical skill, but also a mentality that losing is not an option. It seems to get stronger as matches drag on and ruthlessly exploits whatever weakness an opponent has to overcome whatever strategy they’re using to stand in the team’s way. In fact, the strongest competition the team faces is for spots on its own roster. Of course this pertains to the US Women’s National Team.They are winners and competitors in the purest sense even conniving to have managers replaced or shunning family members in favor of following a training regime that gives an edge. If you somehow combined the will to win of Tom Brady and Serena Williams and multiplied it by 11 and you have the spirit of the USWNT. This is not something that is shared by the USMNT and was not on display as the USMNT U-23 team lost to Honduras last night.The game was pathetic and overall the US played badly in the tournament. Against Costa Rica the highlight was the performance of David Ochoa playing the game of his life to preserve a 1-0 win. Group stages in tournaments will have tough games like this, but it wasn’t an overall stellar performance. The team easily beat the Dominican Republic, but only after a fairly unsteady first half and several substitutions that clearly signaled a shift in the gameplan, whatever it was. With the game against Mexico, the USA conceded for the first time in the tournament, but the overall defensive approach to the game and entire qualification process hampered any ability to make a comeback.The US really played badly and was outmatched by Honduras. Yes, David Ochoa made a mistake in goal, but the overall moment of that goal pales in comparison to the overall approach of the team in the tournament. Rather than trying to be on the front foot and take the game to the opponent from the start, the side relied on its defense which was outmatched time and again aside from the Dominican Republic game. This is not how you win a tournament or even come in second place in one.Taylor Twellman, the distinguished statesman of deep cutting rants after disappointing losses, had this to say last night:

Obviously, the players share some responsibility for this, but the overall mentality and approach to the way they play is set by the coaching staff. After the game, Jason Kreis said this to reporters about what he told the team following the loss to try to pick them up:Right, ok Rocky, it’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you get hit and get back up. The point is though that you have to pick yourself up in the middle of the fight and get up, no champion sits around after a loss and laments that they lose more than they win.

Here’s what first came to my mind when I saw this:

This from the last match Kreis managed before becoming USMNT U-23 coach. In it, Orlando City lost its sixth game in a row and he blames the players for not trying hard enough. Aside from basically asking to get fired, this mindset should have disqualified him from being U-23 manager, or running an Arby’s or whatever. It is a mindset that the US Men’s program needs to erase from its vocabulary.If Michael Jordan thought to himself after he got cut from his high school basketball team, “well, you lose more than you win” we would have to suffer through everyone talking about if John Stockton or Patrick Ewing was the best basketball player of the 90s, MJ never would have punched Steve Kerr in the face and nobody would know who Steph Curry is. This is the kind of stuff on the line here, not the Olympics, but the entire cascade of events and history that follows it. Do you really want to live in a world where Reggie Miller and Karl Malone have won NBA titles? That is the world US Men’s Soccer wants you to live in.This is the kind of mentality that has a coach down a goal late in a Gold Cup Final against Mexico and he looks to his bench and uses his last sub on DANIEL LOVITZ. Luckily, some of the players on the senior squad seem to have a harder edge to their competitiveness than Kreis and possibly Berhalter. At the very least, Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie seem absolutely hellbent on being the best possible player they can be and challenging themselves at the highest level.That said, setting the overall tone will come from Gregg Berhalter for the USMNT and changing the mentality from the one that Kreis feebly demonstrated to one in which the expectation is higher for the men’s program overall will need to be set by Sporting Director Earnie Stewart and General Manager Brian McBride. Frankly, they really do not need to look any further than to their counterparts on the USWNT for the culture of a champion.

. USMNT Tests Out a Different Look in Friendly Win at Northern Ireland

The 3-4-3 wasn’t an unequivocal success in the 2-1 victory, but formation flexibility will be key as the U.S. men’s national team progresses into the matches that truly matter.

BRIAN STRAUS  3/28/21 Sports illustrated

European national teams traditionally present a high hurdle to the U.S. men, and on Sunday in Belfast, coach Gregg Berhalter added an additional challenge to his players’ plates: a new formation.

For the first time in nearly two years, the Americans played with three center backs and two wing backs in a 3-4-3, and although there were several predictable growing pains, the visitors handled their assignments and their opponents well enough to secure a tight 2-1 triumph over Northern Ireland at windy Windsor Park. Gio Reyna scored on a first-half deflection, and Christian Pulisic added the game-winner from the penalty spot.

The victory not only extended the Americans’ unbeaten run to nine (8-0-1) dating back to the fall of 2019, it marked the first win against a European side on its home soil since June 2015. After four straight friendlies against Concacaf opponents and a nearly-two-year stretch during which 16 of 18 matches have been against regional rivals, Berhalter and his players were excited this week to prepare for a different sort of challenge.“It’s going to be a test for us. It’s something we haven’t seen in a little bit and I think the guys are excited to play a non-Concacaf team, and I know our coaching staff is really excited for this test and just to kind of get out of our own kind of region,” U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen said before the game. “We don’t have many opportunities to come to Europe and play European teams on their soil, so we want to get a win—an away win. So this is a really good test for us.”Northern Ireland is hardly a top European team. It entered Sunday’s game on an 11-match winless run. It failed to qualify for this summer’s European Championship. It’s ranked 45th in the world (well below the USA at No. 22) and on Sunday, it fielded only one player who started in the World Cup qualifying loss at Italy on March 25 (Blackburn Rovers midfielder Corry Evans). Yet the Green and White Army still presented a stiff challenge, as European teams always seem to do when they’re surrounded by the comforts of home. The depth of quality on soccer’s most powerful and successful continent is just different.Add to that the formation change, and the USA was in for an interesting day. Berhalter last played with three in the back in a June 2019 friendly against Jamaica, a 1-0 defeat during which the Americans created almost nothing going forward. Since then, he’s been focused on the 4-3-3 and on getting his young team more comfortable with a single, consistent approach. The best teams can vary their approach, however, and with talented players like Pulisic (Chelsea) and Sergiño Dest (Barcelona) playing in different spots with their clubs, the manager decided it was time to expand his side’s repertoire while giving future opponents more to think about.Berhalter said the formation change was prompted in part by Northern Ireland and in part by his team’s evolution.”We knew it was going to be difficult dealing with their first balls. We know they play with two strikers and the one player’s tall, really difficult to win the first ball from. So we wanted some protection for second balls,” the U.S. coach said following the game. “The second thing is, looking at their shape, we felt like we could exploit some spaces with our midfield configuration the way we had it, with basically four guys in midfield. The other thing is that we think it’s important to continue to challenge this group, and it was a good opportunity to do so tonight.”

The starting U.S. side was anchored by Aaron Long, Matt Miazga and Tim Ream in a back three, with Dest (on the right) and Antonee Robinson (left) as flank players. Dest had impressed as a left back in Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Jamaica in Austria, but he plays as a right wingback for Barcelona and said this week that he’s happy either way.“For me personally, it’s not that hard. I can play on both sides,” Dest said after scoring a gorgeous goal against Jamaica. “Right back is good for me. Left back is good for me. I don’t prefer any to be honest. I just like to play the game, and it doesn’t matter for me which position I play.”With Dest and Robinson supposedly offering more width in the attack, Pulisic and Reyna, normally wingers in the 4-3-3, might have more opportunity to play inside and get closer to goal. Striker Jordan Siebatcheu, who plays in the Swiss league with Young Boys, made his first start. In the seventh minute, the new formation showed its promise. Siebatcheu laid the ball off for a nearby Pulisic, who split the opposing center back and right back with a smart pass toward the end line. Robinson was there to run on to it. His cross was just a bit too far in front of Siebatcheu, but the Fulham back’s ability to get behind the Northern Irish back line would’ve been exactly the sort of play Berhalter was searching for.Unfortunately for the USA, however, those plays were few and far between. More frequently, the unfamiliar runs and positions, some congestion in the offensive half and Northern Ireland’s ability to put pressure on the ball disrupted the visitors and led to slow, sluggish or broken play. Not surprisingly, the crispness and immediate fluidity just weren’t there. On two occasions in the first half, awkward midfield turnovers resulted in quick counters and scoring chances for the hosts. In the 16th minute, veteran Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty was played through but rolled his shot wide. And in the 38th, Shayne Lavery was set up with a similar chance but saw his goal-bound shot well saved by a diving Steffen.

“We trained about eight minutes,” Berhalter said of the new 3-4-3. “When you see the game you can see that there were good parts, but we still have a lot of work to go in the spacing, to really hurt the opponent. We got into some really good positions but weren’t able to hurt the opponent enough, I thought. But overall I’m proud of the guys the way they took in that information.”Where Northern Ireland failed to take advantage of its chances, the USA had the quality and good fortune required. In the 30th, Reyna enjoyed the sort of bounce he was looking for during a more frustrating outing three days earlier against Jamaica. Ream had some time and space in the left channel and fed Reyna inside, where the Borussia Dortmund youngster had an opportunity to take a couple touches and set up a right-footed shot. His blast deflected wildly off Northern Ireland defender Ciaron Brown and over the helpless goalkeeper.The match remained close as substitutes started to change the game’s complexion. But Pulisic, who played only 45 minutes against the Reggae Boyz, remained on the field and finally was rewarded for the confidence he demonstrated this week to use his dribbling skills and take on defenders. Pulisic was tripped up in the penalty area in the 59th minute and took the penalty himself, rolling it a few inches to the goalkeeper’s left for his 15th international goal.Berhalter lauded Pulisic’s skill, effort and work rate after the Chelsea forward’s man-of-the-match performance.”Forget about all the great stuff he does on the ball,” Berhalter said. “He just competed today, and when he’s in that type of mode he’s just an unbelievable player. That’s what I was most happy with today. It was relentless pressing. He just kept going and going and going, and he’s so good on the ball he can unbalance the [other] team. To me he had an overall really strong performance.”Said Pulisic when reflecting on both games this week, “I was happy with my performances and the team’s. It’s really good. It helps our confidence going out and getting two good results. It’s really nice to come in and get minutes again, get 90 today, and I’m definitely proud of the guys.”Regarding his role in the 3-4-3, Pulisic said, “I was definitely playing my game. Obviously positionally things changed a bit and from a formation standpoint, but when I get the ball I still have the same objectives in mind. I’m still going right at the goal and trying to create things, and I was able to do that today.”The U.S. had more of its way during the game’s latter stages as both teams made changes. Substitute forward Daryl Dike came close on a couple of occasions to scoring his first international goal, and Sebastian Lletget hit a one-timer reminiscent of his two goals against Jamaica. This time, however, his shot was saved. Northern Ireland halved the American advantage in the 88th minute as Aberdeen’s Niall McGinn beat Steffen with a beautifully struck, dipping half-volley from an acute angle.Northern Ireland will look to rebound quickly as it faces Bulgaria in a World Cup qualifier on March 31, while the Americans will return to their respective clubs. The next time Berhalter gathers his team, the stakes will be much higher. After a friendly at Switzerland on May 30, a first-choice USA will face Honduras in the Concacaf Nations League semifinals at a U.S. site to be announced. A third-place game or final against either Mexico or Costa Rica will follow. Although the Nations League title isn’t a major one, that international window is expected to be the final time Berhalter calls up his top European-based players before World Cup qualifying begins in September.

Champions League predictions: Bayern Munich and Chelsea to make it all the way to the final?

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Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

Pep Guardiola and Manchester City must navigate a daunting route to the club’s first-ever Champions League final after the draw for the quarterfinals and semifinals pitted the Premier League leaders against Borussia Dortmund and the winners of the clash between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.

With UEFA mapping out the road to the final in Istanbul by drawing both the quarters and semis, the prospect of Liverpool repeating their 2005 Champions League success at the Ataturk Stadium depends on Jurgen Klopp’s team overcoming Real Madrid in the last eight, before facing the winners of the Chelsea-Porto tie. Before winning the Champions League in 2005, Liverpool beat Chelsea in the semifinal with Luis Garcia’s infamous “ghost goal.”

The draw also keeps alive the prospect of an all-English final, with a box office clash between Real and Bayern also possible.

With the route to Istanbul now clear, ESPN has attempted to predict how the final rounds will shape up — and who will meet in the final on May 29.


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Manchester City vs. Borussia Dortmund

While Manchester City will be strong favourites to progress over a Dortmund team that’s outside the top four in the German Bundesliga, it could all go horribly wrong for Pep Guardiola’s team if they fail to nullify the threat of Erling Haaland.

The 20-year-old, whose father Alfie played for City between 2000 and 2003, is a major summer target for Guardiola, but right now, he’s the biggest threat to City’s prospects of reaching the semis. Haaland is the top scorer in this season’s competition with 10 goals and will be unfazed by facing City, but Dortmund also have the attacking talents of former City youngster Jadon Sancho to cause concern for Guardiola and his players.

EDITOR’S PICKS

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UCL draw: Madrid vs. Liverpool, Bayern vs. PSG

Dortmund’s weakness is at the back, as they’ve conceded nine goals so far this season in the competition. City, meanwhile, have allowed just one goal in eight Champions League games: a 14th-minute goal in City’s 3-1 win over Porto back in October. But as impressive as City have been, they’ve not faced a striker of Haaland’s quality during a soft run to the quarters, so the tie is less clear-cut that it would seem on paper.

City’s overall strength, with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, should see them progress, but Haaland could turn the tie on its head.

Who qualifies? Manchester City

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3/26/21 USWNT vs N. Ireland Sun 1 pm FOX, US U23s Olympic Qualifier vs Honduras Sun 6 on FS1, Europe WCQ Sat-Wed, Former Carmel FC player signs with Wright State

Olympics 1 Game Away- Must Win vs Honduras Sun 5:30 pm on FS1  

The US U23 Men can qualify for the Olympics for the first time in 12 years with a win on Sunday vs Honduras at 6 pm on FS1.  The US lost a 1-0 match vs Mexico in a game where Mexico was the better team no doubt. Both the US and Mexico will be favored to win and advance to the finals on Tues at 9 m on FS1.  Both finalist will advance to the Olympics this summer in Japan. 

U-23 USMNT TRAINING CAMP ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; HOMETOWN):

GOALKEEPERS (4): Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.), Jonathan Klinsmann (LA Galaxy; Munich, Germany), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes, Alamo, Calif.), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; Oxnard, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (10): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; Lompoc, Calif.), George Bello (Atlanta United FC; Douglasville, Ga.), Marco Farfan (LAFC; Gresham, Ore.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; Las Cruces, N.M.), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; New York, N.Y.), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC; Bolingbrook, Ill.),), Austin Trusty (Colorado Rapids; Media, Pa.), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Frankie Amaya (FC Cincinnati; Santa Ana, Calif.), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; Littleton, Colo.), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; Denville, N.J.), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC; Federal Way, Wash.), Andres Perea (Orlando City SC; Medellin, Colombia), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas; Hoover, Ala.), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers; Alexandria, Va.), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; Bloomington, Minn.)

FORWARDS (9): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United FC; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; Plantation, Fla.), Ulysses Llanez (Heerenveen/NED; Lynwood, Calif.), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.), Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal/CAN; Jacksonville, Fla.), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas/MEX; Park City, Utah), Sebastian Soto (Norwich City/ENG; San Diego, Calif.)

US Men Win 4-1, Play Sun 1 pm on Fox

Well the US came alive late again and blew out Jamaica 4-1 on Thursday.  It was nice to see Pulisic finally back on the field for the US – even if he was just ok in his 45 minute 1st half stint.  With Serginio Dest (possibly the best US player right now in the world) starting on the left side behind Pulisic – the combination at times was electric.  Honestly our 2 best players on the same side attacked with reckless abandon and Dest scored a miracle first goal cutting back inside on his favored right foot just made it obvious he was the man of the match.  His movement and slick footwork, allowed Pulisic to make free runs into the middle and while Pulisic was frustrated and not sharp – boy the potential looks fascinating.  Other interesting notes included how well Josh Sergeant looked in the #9 slot. He had a few chances not get on target but had a magical assist and overall was among the best we have seen up front for the US in a while.  I thought Kellyn Acosta looked great in the #6 slot with Adams not here.  He showed he might could be a solid sub for Adams if needed as he played very well.  Also strong on the night were Lletget (2 late goals) and Yunus Musah. The 18 year old Musah just shows so much strength in holding the ball and breaking down pressure- I love that he always looks to go forward (unlike any #8 the US has had in the past.)   Aaronson also looked strong coming in for Pulisic in the 2nd half as he scored and really opened things up on the left wing.  Should be fun to see how we line up in this 2nd game as we get closer to the summer with nations cup and Gold Cup coming up and possibly Olympics if we qualify.  Why not send Chris Richards, Sargeant, Pulisic, Reyna, Adams, McKinney, Cannon?  They are all U23s and would form the best Olympic squad perhaps in the World. Why not win a Gold Medal rather than lose in the finals of the Gold Cup after playing in the Nations League Cup in June?  I for one would love to see it – If we can Qualify Sunday!   Cool Story about the 2000 US Olympic team of Brad Freidel, and John Obrien, Landon Donovan – the last US team to make the Medals Round. 

Full USMNT squad

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 4/0), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City/ENG; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 19/0)

DEFENDERS (10): John Brooks* (Wolfsburg/GER; 39/3), Reggie Cannon* (Boavista/POR; 13/0), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 5/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 19/3), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht/BEL; 20/1), Erik Palmer-Brown (Austria Wien/AUT; 2/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 41/1), Bryan Reynolds (Roma/ITA; 0/0), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 1/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 8/0), Serginio Dest, Barca

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 2/1), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 25/2), Christian Cappis (Hobro/DEN; 0/0), Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED; 1/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 18/4), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 2/0), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton Wanderers/ENG; 1/0), Adams (Red Bull), 

FORWARDS (6): Daryl Dike (Barnsley/ENG; 1/0), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen/FRA; 2/2), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 34/14), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 2/1), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 12/5), Jordan Siebatcheu (Young Boys/SUI; 0/0)

US Women to Face Sweden Apr 10 and France Apr 13

The US Ladies will face a pair of top 10 foes on the road in Europe as a warm up to the Olympics this summer.  This roster which includes 20 of the 21 players on the She Believe’s Cup roster could well be a final preview of who will be on the 18 person roster to Japan this summer.

USA Women’s Roster GOALKEEPERS

Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS

Alana Cook (PSG), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Midge Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)

MIDFIELDERS

Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City), Catarina Macario (Lyon), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City)

FORWARDS

Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Manchester United), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage), Tobin Heath (Man United) is Still Injured

CARMEL FC

Good luck to the Carmel FC’s 2006 Girls Gold team headed by Aaron Monke and Andy Keller as they start Great Lakes Club play this weekend at Hoosier FC.  The 2006 Girls recently won the IFJ Turf Classic.   The 2005 U16 Boys Gold team is also playing in the Great Lakes League Premier II division this spring. 

Huge Congrats to former Carmel FC and Carmel High School All-State Goalkeeper Erin Baker as she signs with Wright State University. Her mom Carla Baker was a long-time coach at CFC and dad Tom Baker still coaches with us.  Congrats to all!    https://twitter.com/erinbaker03/status/1375134549005451267 

I know the MLS Schedule dropped this week and our Indy 11 start play in early May. I will have more on that next week.

GAMES ON TV

Saturday, Mar 27

Montenegro vs. Gibraltar10 a.m.ESPN3
Russia vs. Slovenia10 a.m.ESPN+
Belarus vs. Estonia1 p.m.ESPN3
Croatia vs. Cyprus1 p.m.ESPN+
Netherlands vs. Latvia1 p.m.ESPN+
Norway vs. Turkey1 p.m.ESPN2
Czech Republic vs. Belgium3:45 p.m.ESPN2
Republic of Ireland vs. Luxembourg3:45 p.m.ESPN+
Serbia vs. Portugal3:45 p.m.ESPN+
Slovakia vs. Malta3:45 p.m.ESPN+

Sunday, Mar 28
10 am NBCSN                     Chelsea vs Aston Villa Women’s

1 pm on Fox                      USA Men vs Northern Ireland

1 pm ESPN+                        Albania vs England   WCQ

3:45 pm ESPN+                  Romania vs Germany   WCQ

6 pm FS 1                            USA U23s vs Canada/Honduras winner Semi 1

9 pm FS1                             Mexico vs Canada/Honduras loser Semi 2

Tuesday, Mar 30
9 pm FS 1                            USA U 23s vs Mexico (hopefully)  Olympic Qual Final

3:45 pm ESPN2                  Wales vs Czech Republic WCQ

3:45 pm ESPN+                  Gibralter vs Netherlands WCQ

Wednesday, Mar 31
2:45 pm ESPN2                  England vs Poland WCQ

2:45 pm ESPN+                  Lithuania vs Italy  WCQ

Sat, Apr 3

7:30 am NBCSN?                Chelsea (Pulisic) vs West Brom

9:30 am ESPN+                  Dortmund (Reyna) vs Frankfurt

12:30 pm ESPN2                RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Bayern Munich

12:30 pm NBCSN?             Leicester City vs Man City

3 pm NBCSN?                     Aston Villa vs Fulham (Robinson)

Sat, Apr 10

1 pm FOX                           Sweden vs USA Ladies

Wed, Apr 13

3 pm ESPN2                      France vs USA Ladies

US Men Key Dates

USA Men

Friendly vs. SwitzerlandMay 30
Nations LeagueJune 3-6
Gold CupJuly (dates TBD)
OlympicsJuly 21-Aug. 7
World Cup qualifyingSept.-March ’22
2022 World CupNov. 21-Dec. 18 ’22


Dest shines at left-back, Aaronson helps answer depth questions in U.S. win
 
3hJeff Carlisle

USMNT’s Berhalter: No Pulisic injury; Dest-Pulisic on left ‘difficult to handle’ NBC Sports

 WATCH: Sergino Dest opens USMNT senior account with tremendous goal

USMNT player ratings: Dest, Aaronson lead the way in victory over Jamaica  MLS.com

What We Learned – S&S

Three things learned | 

Player ratings 

Doyle: The Gio Reyna experience & other US takeaways

“Low-key” Lletget impresses again with late brace for USMNT

U.S. men’s national team report card: Grading Pulisic, McKennie, Musah & Co.  1hBill Connelly

Kinship, connection, belief: Why Musah chose the U.S.  Jeff Carlisle

Record-setter Dest: Barca system perfect for me

US U23s
U.S. falls to Mexico in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying match

Player ratings, Three things we learned from US U-23s loss to Mexico

US U23s Recap of 0-1 loss to Mexico S&S
U.S. men’s 2000 Olympic medal-round run told by those who lived it
 
3dKyle Bonagura

 WORLD


UEFA World Cup qualifying: Greece vexes Spain; Zlatan assists on return

England player ratings vs San Marino: Chelsea duo Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell stand out in easy win

England are much improved under Southgate, but will that be enough at the Euros?

US Ladies

ESPN FC Women’s Rank: The 50 best players in the game right now
U.S. women’s soccer calls up 23 players as Tokyo Olympics preparations continue
Pinoe and Purce go to Washington

Dest makes strong case at left-back, while Aaronson, Acosta highlight USMNT’s growing number of options

6:24 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Such has been the progression of talent, both domestically and abroad over the last 18 months, that the question facing United States men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter isn’t so much where players are going to come from, but rather where to put them. As we found out on Thursday, this is the case even as some of Berhalter’s first-choice XI — like Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams — aren’t available.On Thursday, Berhalter got some more answers to that question in a 4-1 friendly win over Jamaica, one that was due in part to the performance of left-back Sergino Dest. Left-back has historically been such a problem position for the USMNT to fill, that former winger DaMarcus Beasley took over that role late in his career. That situation has continued into the Berhalter era with no player able to make the position his own. Enter Dest, who has played primarily as a right-back at the club level for Barcelona and Ajax since committing to the U.S. 17 months ago, but was stationed at left-back on this occasion. Such a switch requires certain calculations on the part of the manager. Does a given player feel comfortable playing out of their preferred role? And most important of all, does it make the team better?The first question was certainly answered in the affirmative. Dest not only looked capable defensively but also was a force in attack. His finest moment came in the 34th minute when he cut in from the left onto his right foot to fire home a long-range blast for his first international goal.”First of all, Sergio is sick,” said U.S. midfielder Brenden Aaronson. “He’s so good, man… He’s playing left side first of all, I mean it’s hard enough, but then he comes in on his right, he just bangs it; bangs the shot far post. I didn’t expect anything else. He has that quality.”Dest also forged an instant partnership with Christian Pulisic — making his first appearance for the U.S. since Oct. 2019 — with the duo causing plenty of problems down the left flank.

U.S. Men’s Soccer Key Dates

Olympic qualifyingMarch 18-30
Friendly vs. N. IrelandMarch 28
Friendly vs. SwitzerlandMay 30
Nations LeagueJune 3-6
Gold CupJuly (dates TBD)
OlympicsJuly 21-Aug. 7
World Cup qualifyingSept.-March ’22
2022 World CupNov. 21-Dec. 18 ’22

“I think the chemistry is good right now; off the field, in the field,” said Dest. “I think if you play more often, it’s only getting better, and right now I’m satisfied with Christian on my side. I think we made some nice combinations also.”Berhalter added, “I think if we can get those two guys passing and moving and having the intention to get behind the backline, it would be really difficult to handle because they’re very quick and very technical players. I can imagine it will be really difficult for the opponent to handle that.”The question of its impact on the team was also positive but less clear-cut. While Reggie Cannon didn’t have his best night on the opposite flank, it is important to remember it was only one game. Berhalter appears to be looking at Dest’s position on a game-by-game basis. There is also the chance that Fulham‘s Antonee Robinson could yet emerge on the left side, while there are more options at Berhalter’s disposal on the right.”It just depends on the personnel that we have in camp, it depends on who’s in form in the left-and right-back positions,” the U.S. manager said. “But, you know, Antonee is a guy who came in and did really well. We have Reggie. We have Brian Reynolds on the right. We have DeAndre Yedlin on the right. So now we have a ton of people on the right, and sometimes it may make sense to play [Dest] on the left.”It was a match that provided some other data points as it relates to the U.S. side. The plight of Pulisic has been an ongoing area of focus as he attempts to secure more consistent playing time with club side, Chelsea. On this night, his 45-minute stint in the first half mirrored that of the team; some rough early touches gave way to more fluidity in attack. The only item missing was the finishing touch, as he failed to convert on a couple of clear looks at goal.But most encouraging of all was the way some depth pieces are emerging for the U.S. side. To be clear, there will be tougher tests ahead from the CONCACAF opponents that the U.S. have recently faced, starting with Sunday’s matchup against Northern Ireland. Even tougher will be the May 30th tilt against Switzerland. But Kellyn Acosta filled in capably for the unavailable Adams, providing a physical presence in midfield as well some valuable link-play.  Aaronson replaced Pulisic at half-time and made an immediate impact, putting Giovanni Reyna through on goal in the 52nd minute, and then converting Joshua Sargent ‘s low-centering feed for the U.S.’s second goal of the night two minutes later. Given Pulisic’s injury issues over the last year, that depth piece might prove to be the most critical of all. And if Aaronson isn’t available, it would be worth getting another look at Luca de la Torre, who looked sharp in his 17 minutes of work and set up Sebastian Lletget for one of his two goals.The assist from Sargent was indicative of his performance on the night, as well as his season with Werder Bremen. He did plenty of dirty work, and his ability to spin away from his defender in the run-up to Aaronson’s goal was top-notch. The only thing that was missing was a goal, and he nearly converted on a couple of occasions, only to be denied by some sharp defending or a matter of inches. At present, Sargent sits atop the depth chart, though Berhalter has made it clear that he needs more from the Bremen striker.”I still want [Sargent] to be more active in the penalty box,” he said. “He was close to a number of opportunities, but I want him to be scoring in the penalty box and I think that that’s going to come. When he gets used to the service, when he gets used to the fact that guys are going to be playing him balls in the penalty box, I think he’ll be able to convert those. But overall pleased with his performance.”Jamaica did reveal some vulnerabilities in the U.S. that will bear watching going forward. Berhalter noted that the Reggae Boyz threatened in transition, and their goal from Jamal Lowe came on a counter after a U.S. set piece.But overall the performancecontained far more positives. The pieces are beginning to fall into place, which bodes well ahead of a busy calendar that includes World Cup qualifying starting in September.

Armchair Analyst: The full Gio Reyna experience & other USMNT takeaways

March 25, 20214:53PM EDT CLICK HERE TO READ THIS STORY WITH THE VIDEOS Included —  Doyle: The Gio Reyna experience & other US takeaways 

March 25, 2021  Matthew Doyle   Senior Writer

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets/follow_button.0edc1ef9f8b82d9b79c6115bda79f63f.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&screen_name=MattDoyle76&show_count=false&show_screen_name=true&size=m&time=1616776319050 The US men’s national team beat a hodgepodge Jamaican side 4-1 on Thursday afternoon in Austria. They outshot the Reggae Boyz 28-9 and out-possessed them 69% to 31%. It wasn’t precisely a “there’s only one team on the field” performance in the way that recent wins over Trinidad & Tobago, El Salvador and Panama were, but there was a clear protagonist, and that was the US.Owning that role and making it something the team’s comfortable with has been head coach Gregg Berhalter’s mandate since he took the job a bit over two years ago. I think it’s fair to say that there’s been some noteworthy progress, but that more is needed.A few takeaways:

The Full Gio Reyna Experience

Reyna probably has the highest upside of any player in the pool, save maybe for Christian Pulisic (Sergino Dest would be in that conversation as well, but attackers are just more valuable than defenders). He is, at 18-year-old a regular for one of the best teams in Germany, and he has moments of skill that are inimitable from within the pool.

This is superb: video

https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6243947059001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 Reggie Cannon’s overlap is late, so Reyna freezes the defense then cuts inside and draws the attention of almost the entire Jamaican backline. This was a “fine, I’ll do it myself” moment out of the Clint Dempsey playbook. He was quick, decisive, ruthless and creative in that moment, and credit to Liam Moore for making a great read to get a block on Josh Sargent’s shot.

You can’t teach what Reyna did right there. Players with his combination of individual technique and athleticism are rare, and it’s worth living with the mistakes he makes in terms of his reading of the game and ability to make his teammates better. But man, are moments like this frustrating to watch:

https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6243946887001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 This time — which was earlier in the game — Cannon’s underlap was perfectly timed and Reyna simply has to play him through. The whole point of positional play as Berhalter’s system uses it is 1) to control the game, and 2) to put players in positions where their strengths amplify the qualities of their teammates. For the wingers, that often means making the right choice in that exact spot in order to get the ball into the optimal assist zone on the foot of an overlapping (or underlapping) fulllback for a pull-back across the face of the goal.

This was it. This was exactly how the system is supposed to work, and Reyna left Reggie on read. It was not the only time he did that (we’ll get to the other one later on), and it is similar to what we’ve seen from him at the youth level, in his previous full US appearance and across this season for Dortmund. He had a chance to make the right play, but instead he tried to make the hero play.

It’s exciting because he has the ability to make the hero play. There’s a reason he’s considered something like a $50 million asset. It’s frustrating because the frequency with which he makes the right play is low.

We’ve seen it at the club level, too. Reyna had 2g/4a in his first five games for his club team this season. Over the subsequent 29 he’s managed just 2g/2a and has pretty clearly dropped down the pecking order.

I don’t mind this, by the way:

https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6243946067001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 First off, that was the exact right run he needed to make in order to find the first chance. His touch got away from him a little bit, but that can happen to literally anybody. If Reyna’s consistently getting into that position — a massive “if” given his off-ball movement still needs work — he will score goals.Secondly, I absolutely do not mind the decision to shoot with his weaker left foot rather than slip a pass to Brenden Aaronson at the top of the box. Being selfish when trying to dribble four guys at the top of the box is one thing; being selfish when in shooting position with the ball on your foot and you’re in the midst of a months-long slump? Zero problem with him having another crack at it there.Anyway, at some point it’s going to click for Reyna. He’ll bring all his talent to bear and be both a floor-raiser and a ceiling-raiser and quite possibly the most important cog in this machine Berhalter is trying to build.

But as talented as he is, it wasn’t today.

Kellyn Acosta, D-Mid

Defensive midfield is the thinnest position in the pool by most measures, and Tyler Adams having to withdraw from camp might’ve opened a gap for Acosta to work his way into the picture. Acosta has bounced between fullback and more of a No. 8 role throughout his career for both club and country, but today he looked like a true No. 6 in terms of putting out fires, winning the ball and organizing the attack. And he’s got a real talent for ball-progression:

https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6243943665001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 Yes, that’s another missed underlap from Reyna.

Anyway, Acosta had a strong all-around day at an iffy spot on the depth chart. I’m not sure if that puts him into the mix as a defensive midfield in Berhalter’s system on a longer timeline — he plays as an 8 for the Rapids and his low usage numbers would worry me if the US were determined to play through him — but he’s made a solid case as a “break in case of emergency” defensive midfield substitute, and his ability to play multiple positions makes him a worthwhile gameday 18 type of player.

A few bullet points to think about:

  • Set pieces were a problem for the US. Jamaica’s only goal came from a counterattack off a US corner, and then the final 10 minutes were rife with US sloppiness defending restarts. I don’t think it’s a persistent thing, but I’ll be keeping an eye on it for Sunday in this camp’s second friendly against Northern Ireland.
  • There is, quite obviously, a good case for Dest at LB. There is less of a case to move him to LB in order to get Cannon onto the field, as Cannon struggled. Of course, so did Antonee Robinson, who’d nominally be the starting LB if Dest is moved to RB.
  • Christian Pulisic was poor in his 45 minutes of action, his first for the US since October 2019. I’m going to choose not to read too much into it for now.
  • Brenden Aaronson, meanwhile, was a game-changer after he came in for Pulisic on the wing (told ya that’s his spot). He constantly found space, pressured the Jamaican backline on and off the ball, created chances and even finished one. I don’t think we’ll be seeing a ton of Aaronson in the Free 8 roles going forward; I genuinely think he’s a winger.
  • I’m glad Josh Sargent got a lovely assist on Aaronson’s goal — that precise play, which I don’t think any other forward in the US pool makes, is precisely why I have Sargent atop my own, personal center forward depth chart. But beyond that play, his hold-up work was excellent, his pressing was very good and his movement in and around the box was encouraging. He deserved a goal.
  • Luca De La Torre was a pleasant surprise. He’s got a deceptiveness and a change-of-pace to his game that opened up space for both himself and his teammates, and he showed an ability to complete passes on the run. I’m not sure he played himself directly into the first team, but he’s Olympic-eligible. It’s very easy to imagine him in one of those Free 8 roles this summer, should the US make it to Tokyo.
  • Calling Sebastian Lletget “Mr. Reliable” for the US is both a deserved complement and a disservice to his all-around ability. It is going to take a lot to get him out of the XI for any big game.
  • If someone has a petition for Valencia to move Yunus Musah from the wing to central midfield, tweet it at me. I will sign it.

US men’s national team player ratings: Sergino Dest, Brenden Aaronson lead the way in win over Jamaica

March 25, 20217:12PM EDTGreg Seltzer MLS.com  Contributor

The US men’s national team continued preparing for the busy summer to come by patiently dismantling familiar foe Jamaica for a 4-1 friendly victory in Wiener Neustadt, Austria on Thursday.The Nats controlled play for most of the night, but were unable to get much traction in attack until Sergino Dest’s splendid curler opened the scoring on 34 minutes. Spurred by a few subs, the US then methodically piled on a trio of second half goals to eventually win going away.As a periodic reminder, all grades are handed out on a scale with “6” as average. The marks are also relative to time played, meaning that a “7” earned over a full shift is more impressive than one received for 15 minutes of action.

United States Player Ratings 

Zack Steffen (5.5) — Aside from what has become a routine ball-handling goof, the Man City netminder got caught overplaying a sharp angle on Jamaica’s lone goal. Steffen made up for it to some extent with a terrific last-minute robbery.

Reggie Cannon (6) — It wasn’t an entirely bad outing, to be sure, but it was definitely less steady than we’ve come to expect from Cannon. His work going forward was only intermittently convincing and the Boavista right back was among the culpable on Jamaica’s goal rush.

Aaron Long (5.5) — Although he made a couple of nice help plays at the back, the Red Bulls man also experienced some disconcerting hiccups. One can’t do things like allowing a forward to push you back 10 feet on a routine hold-up play and turning the ball over right in front of your own area, and Long did both in this one before departing at halftime.

John Anthony Brooks (6.5) — The Wolfsburg back line put in a fairly nondescript shift, but keeping rare Jamaica threats in front of him and playing simply out of the back was plenty on this night.

Sergino Dest (8) — Simply put, the Barcelona wide back was a class above in this one. Dest kept the team chugging forward throughout his shift, repeatedly opening spaces for teammates with his penetration dribbles. He punctuated the performance with an ice-breaker goal made for the highlight reel.

Kellyn Acosta (7) — Full disclosure: I was quite dubious about Acosta starting in the gate-keeper role. And I was wrong. The Colorado midfielder was all over the place, acting as pressure valve at one end and as Alex Ring-esque possession support at the other. There were times I was convinced there were two Acostas out there. Can he do this against top foes? I don’t know, but it’s worth finding that out. He does get dinged for letting the set-up pass slip by on Jamaica’s goal, but only slightly because he’d busted his hump just to get back as cover.

Yunus Musah (6.5) — We got another encouraging shift from the Valencia teenager, who seemed to make decisions a little quicker on the ball than the last time we saw him. Musuh may be green, but he looks set to be a genuine transition game weapon for a decade to come.

Sebastian Lletget (7.5) — The USMNT’s designated glue guy did that job to a tee before turning into the insurance man with a pair of professional strikes in the waning moments.

Giovanni Reyna (6.5) — The Borussia Dortmund phenom’s indecisiveness issue was apparent early, but he grew into the game and started thinking the game up to speed. Though Reyna was unable to conjure any end product, his ability to unnerve defenses was on show over the back half of his 68 minutes.

Christian Pulisic (6) — Much like with Reyna, Pulisic’s showing was more about dislodging the defense to the benefit of teammates than it was about producing the big play.

Josh Sargent (6.5) — The Werder Bremen striker struggled to make area noise against Jamaica’s fast, physical defenders until a fine slip move allowed him to tee up the US winner early in the second half.

Coach Gregg Berhalter (7) — The boss generally pulled all the right levers to keep the team pointing in the right direction. Using Acosta as the No. 6 may one day prove to be a master stroke.

Subs

Brenden Aaronson (7) — The dedicated transition engine wasted little time making an impact, and had a goal for his troubles after just seven minutes of play.

Chris Richards (6) — The young defender looked excellent right up until the moment he inexplicably allowed a restart serve to bounce across the US doorstep.

Nicholas Gioacchini (6.5) — It was a slightly clumsy start for the Caen attacker, but he quickly got into the flow and served up a wise assist on Lletget’s first strike.

Antonee Robinson (6.5) — It was a solid relief outing for the Fulham left back, who pushed play up his flank and served a couple of tempting crosses into the box.

Luca de la Torre (7) — It could certainly be argued that no one raised their US stock on the night as much as De la Torre. He turbo-charged the transition game late, and eventually notched the smart assist his probing efforts deserved.

Jordan Siebatcheu (-) — The striker was limited to a gentle header on goal during his eight-minute USMNT debut.

U.S. men’s 2000 Olympic medal-round run: An improbable adventure, told by those who lived it

Mar 22, 2021   Kyle BonaguraESPN Staff Writer

When the United States U23 men’s national team kicked off in the Olympic qualifying tournament, it did so understanding that the only meaningful way to measure success would be simple: qualify. Anything short of securing a trip to the delayed Tokyo Games will be viewed as a failure, especially in the wake of the senior team’s collapse in 2018 World Cup qualifying and with the emergence of young Americans such as Christian PulisicWeston McKennieTyler Adams and Sergino Dest playing at high levels in Europe.

With most of those high-profile, age-eligible stars unavailable for the under-23 event — clubs are not required to release players for qualifying, nor for the Olympics — coach Jason Kreis is relying on a group of mostly domestic-based players. After beating the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, the U.S. will advance to the semifinals regardless of the outcome of its group-stage finale against Mexico. Those semifinals, where the Americans will meet one of Honduras, Canada, El Salvador or Haiti, will determine which countries will advance to the final and subsequently the Olympics in Japan.

The thin margin for error and roster rules are contributing factors in why the U.S. men have missed out on three of the past four Olympics, but it doesn’t change the fact that U.S. Soccer missed out on three key events in the past two decades and the wide-ranging benefits that would have come along with them. Before that disappointing period, however, the U.S. qualified for five straight Olympics, a stretch that was capped by a magical run in 2000 that saw the Americans make an unlikely trip to the medal rounds — by far Team USA’s best-ever performance in an Olympic tournament.

The 2000 team featured several players who went on to become — and in many cases remain — some of the most influential figures in American soccer. This is the story of that team’s pursuit of Olympic glory, in their own words.

Individuals are identified by their position, age and club team or role at the time of the 2000 Olympics and by their current or a recent professional role. Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.


In 1996, Clive Charles was named the U.S. U23 coach with an eye toward the 2000 Sydney Games. At the time, he was a well-respected coach of the men’s and women’s teams at the University of Portland and served as an assistant to Steve Sampson, then the head coach of the United States men’s national team. An Englishman who started his career playing for West Ham United in 1970, Charles moved to the United States to play for the Portland Timbers in the North American Soccer League in 1978.

Charles hired John Ellinger as his assistant coach and Peter Mellor as his goalkeeper coach and spent the years leading up to the Olympics taking various groups to train and compete all around the world. By the time qualifying arrived in April 2000, the core group of the team had been playing together for years. Confidence was high.

CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament

John Ellinger, assistant coach | Technical director, Soccer Association of Columbia: We went into qualifying with what we thought was an awesome roster and it was in Hershey, Pennsylvania, of all places. We knew that we had to get to the final to get to the Olympics. Christian Pulisic’s dad, Mark, was the coach at Lebanon Valley College nearby, and that’s where we did our training.

Ben Olsen, midfielder, 23, D.C. United | Former head coach, D.C. United (2010-20): I couldn’t believe it when I heard. What do you mean the Olympic qualifiers are in Hershey? That’s 10 minutes from my house. This doesn’t make any sense. So with that, personally, came a lot of hoopla and a lot of extra layers to what was already an intense event.

Chris Albright, forward, 21, D.C. United | Technical director, Philadelphia Union: So that whole tournament was outrageous because I had my family driving an hour and a half from Philly out to Hershey. I might have had 100 people there myself. We were in Ben’s backyard. The whole hometown feel around what was an international event was a really wild dynamic.

Brian Dunseth, center back, 23, New England Revolution | TV analyst, Real Salt Lake: It was unbelievable for me because my family is Hershey, my grandmother is a Hershey.

In the opening match, the United States beat Honduras 3-0, with goals from Albright (2) and John Thorrington. In the second match, Tim Howard kept a clean sheet in a goalless draw against Canada to advance to the semifinal against Guatemala, where a win would secure a berth in the Olympics.

Chad McCarty, center back, 22, Tampa Bay Mutiny | Head men’s soccer coach, Clovis (Calif.) Community College: We didn’t really have pro soccer growing up. It wasn’t a goal of mine. I got into playing competitive soccer in ODP [Olympic Development Program] with the idea of representing our country in the Olympics. For me, personally, I remember just being so excited and so anxious, but also confident and happy that we were right here, we had to just get over this last hurdle and unbelievably, we were going to qualify for the Olympics.

John O’Brien, midfielder, 23, Ajax | Clinical psychologist: The other semifinal, with Mexico, was going on before ours, and that went to extra time. We’re just really nervous because I remember Mexico lost to Honduras and they were that close to the Olympics, but it’s just one game. They should be going. So I remember that we had to wait in the locker room longer. So we’re all pent up and just, like, super energized and nervous.

Albright: It was over in the first 12 minutes.

O’Brien: I scored the first goal [46 seconds into the game]. The ball got knocked out and bounced up nicely around the 18-yard line for me. I just crushed it with my left foot. Smashed it. And I remember [then-full U.S. men’s national team coach] Bruce Arena was right behind the goal and I talked to Bruce about it afterwards. He’s like, “I saw that bouncing for you.”

Landon Donovan, forward, 18, Bayer Leverkusen | Head coach, San Diego Loyal: This was a real challenge for me. Playing with real pros who were pros every day, it was a big step up. I had a number of great experiences with the team and probably the best was — or the one that solidified really my chance to go — was in qualifying in Hershey. In the game that we qualified, I scored two goals against Guatemala and I think that helped push my standing not only with the coaches, but with the group. They could trust that I could contribute.

The United States beat Guatemala 4-0 to punch its ticket to Australia. “We owe this win to MLS,” Charles said at the time. “I don’t coach this team, I manage this team. They already know how to play.” A 2-1 loss to Honduras followed in the championship, but with the berth already secure and nothing of consequence at stake, Charles rotated the squad.

With 4½ months before the Olympics, players went back to their respective clubs knowing their form would play a role in what the final 18-man roster would look like. The core group didn’t figure to change, but Olympic rules allow for three overage players to be used in the tournament, which would alter the makeup of the team. Injuries to defenders Thorrington and Steve Cherundolo kept them out of contention.On Aug. 15, about a month before the team was scheduled to open the Olympics, the roster was released. Charles used the overage slots to select defenders Frankie Hejduk (Bayer Leverkusen) and Jeff Agoos (D.C. United) and midfielder Chris Armas (Chicago Fire). At 18 years old, Donovan was the youngest player named to the squad, while Conor Casey, who played for Charles at the University of Portland, was the only player yet to make a professional debut. DaMarcus Beasley, 18, was one of the final cuts and was designated as an alternate.After the roster was announced, Armas and Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Adin Brown suffered injuries that took them out of the mix, leading Charles to call in Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Friedel and LA Galaxy rookie midfielder Sasha Victorine, who won the MAC Award as the National College Player of the Year for UCLA in 1999.

 Brad Friedel, goalkeeper, 29, Liverpool | Sports agent, PromoEsport USA: I got home from going out in my boat one day in Bonita Bay, Florida, and there was a message from [U.S. Soccer national team coordinator] Craig Blazer. I didn’t even respond to it at first. The next day, Clive calls and says, “Fried, are you ever gonna pick up the phone?” I was at Liverpool at the time and I just got through the season — I was on my break. He goes, “Didn’t you get Blaze’s message?” I said, “Oh, yeah. But he didn’t say much. He said just to give him a call.” And he goes, “I need you to play in the Olympics. Do you want to play in the Olympics?” I said I’m gonna have to call over to Liverpool and see if they’ll release me. And we called Liverpool and they released me and I flew out to San Diego the next day, or something like that.

Sasha Victorine, midfielder, 22, LA Galaxy | Chief solution officer, FanThreeSixty: Clive gave me a call, and it’s one of those things where you’re devastated because you don’t make the initial run at it and then you get a fortunate kind of break in some ways. Obviously, [others] got hurt, which is unfortunate — but you get a call and it’s just like, wow, pretty exciting.

Donovan: I do remember a period of time when I was back home during the offseason and I was literally going running at 7:00 a.m. every morning and in my head going, “You’re going to the Olympics, you are going to go to the Olympics.” That was such a big deal for me. It was such a source of pride to make an Olympic roster.

O’Brien: In my myth of athletic culture and sport culture, the Olympics lived more than the World Cup. I grew up in L.A., and we had the Olympics in 1984, we went to some events. And that made an impression on me at a young age; the World Cup came later.

Pete Vagenas, midfielder, 22, LA Galaxy | Assistant coach/technical director, Shijiazhuang Ever Bright (China): The theme that sort of carried from Hershey to Australia was sort of the man behind the scenes pulling the strings. And that’s Clive Charles.

All 13 people interviewed for this story spoke glowingly, at length, about what Charles did for them individually and collectively. By all accounts, he struck a near-perfect balance for when to be serious and when to keep things light. He was a mentor and a father figure, but also a friend, and is remembered as one of the most respected, influential figures in U.S. Soccer history. Before the tournament began, Charles received devastating news.

Dunseth: He found out that he had terminal cancer before we went to the Olympics, and didn’t tell anybody. Only his family knew. He was the best coach I’d ever had. I actually named my second boy Micah Clive after him, because that’s how important he was.

Friedel: I was aware, but it was because we were working with the senior national team. So it was not something that was ever said to any of the other players. Never. Maybe I was one of one, I don’t know. I can’t remember. But I was asked not to say a word and I did not say a word.

Jeff Agoos, defender, 32, D.C. United | Vice president of competition, MLS: I did not find that out until well after the tournament. And when I did find out, a lot of things just started to click in terms of understanding some of the things that Clive did.

Vagenas: That’s as big, if not bigger, than anything that happened on the field … we were so young. It’s even more remarkable now to think back in terms of what Clive was going through and his family. I don’t know how we would have processed that as kids with our coach.

O’Brien: Just a legend, man. For me as a young pro in Europe, there was a way he approached me that I could kind of connect with him having a pro career in England. So, for me, there was something that felt understood. And I wonder if more people just felt this from him. He could feel and just understood people. So that was just really, really nice and appreciated. I think he made me feel like I could kind of be me and do my thing.

Donovan: He was really special. As a manager of a team now, if I can have that kind of impact on a player, none of the other s— matters. The results don’t matter. The way he impacted people was truly special.

Alexi Lalas, NBC Sports Olympics TV analyst | Soccer analyst, Fox Sports: That’s perfect Clive for you, and whatever he may have been going through, he recognized that this was the moment for these players. And he didn’t want to do anything that would take anything away from that. And the man was humble to the end.

Charles dealt with prostate cancer until his death in 2003, and in his final season, he coached the University of Portland women’s team to the NCAA title in 2002.


The 16-team Olympic soccer tournament format doesn’t fit in the window between the opening and closing ceremonies and requires more large venues than existed in Sydney, where the games were based. As a result, the men’s soccer tournament started on Sept. 13, two days before the opening ceremony, and the U.S. team began in Canberra, roughly 175 miles from Sydney.

Dunseth: So we landed in Sydney, we got on a three-hour bus ride to Canberra, which is the capital, and we went to the U.S. Embassy. Jackie Chan’s parents used to work there, so the employees took us upstairs and Jackie Chan had his little karate workout room. So we got to see that, that was incredible.

Olsen: What I remember about Canberra is there was a casino. We just couldn’t believe that we were at the Olympics and that they were going to put us up at a hotel with a casino on the first floor. I think it took about 20 minutes for us to throw down our first $100 on the roulette table. We popped our bags up in the rooms and we went right down to it and started gambling. It was that type of crew.Josh Wolff, forward, 23, Chicago Fire | Head coach, Austin FC: You’re enjoying yourself off the field and you work on the field. And the casino is just a whole other level of entertainment because who doesn’t enjoy a casino?

Agoos: Josh had this very interesting theory about how to play roulette. His theory was that if he loses, he just doubled down until he wins. And then over time, because of that theory, he would win more than he lost.

Albright: It was a significant amount of us, like half the Olympic team or more. I think we were getting per diem at the time or something, so we had cash. We’re all professionals, right? And plus, we were in Australia at the Olympics and were kind of like, “Yeah, whatever.” And we’d be like, “OK, $25 on red.” If it hit black, we’d go $50 on red. And if it hit black, we’d go $100 on red, and we just stuck to this theory.

Olsen: A lot of us, we were just following Wolfie. He’s always had real real guts with that stuff.

Donovan: It was epic. It was so eye-opening for me, because here I am, this 18-year-old kid, and I think pros go to bed early, they’re preparing or whatever. Guys were up so late playing roulette. And the last thing, they were doing like five tables at a time. Walk over to that one and the next one was over and that one would hit so you pull your money off that one and put it on the next one. Guys were just cleaning up.

Olsen: We all started to win. We all seemed to be just looking at ourselves like, “What is this? Why are we winning?” You never win at casinos, let alone all of us winning. In fact, there were a lot of parents that came on the trip and they were all scheduled to go home right after the first round, but then we advanced. So everyone was rebooking their flights and trying to find hotels to keep on staying and follow this circus that we were on. So anyways, a lot of us paid for our parents to stay. I was like, “Hey, Mom, I just made $1,000, stay a little bit, rebook your flight, I don’t care.” So that casino paid for many extended stays for our families.

Wolff: That’s 100% true, and that was the case for many of us. Absolutely, the money we made helped keep the party going so to speak for the rest of the family. No doubt about it.

Dunseth: I still have the watch that I bought after turning $20 into $4,000.

Albright: We all made multiple thousands of dollars staying in Canberra. And we literally did that for like 10 days. Every day, here’s the U.S. Olympic team running around like degenerate gamblers. It could have been very easy for Clive to be like, “We shouldn’t be doing that. That’s a bad look,” even though it was legal. But he just let us kind of be ourselves and have fun.

The United States was placed into Group C, with the Czech Republic, the European runner-up at the 2000 UEFA European Under-21 Championships; Cameroon, one of four African teams; and Kuwait, one of three teams from the Asian Football Confederation. Kickoff against the Czech Republic was carried on tape delay by MSNBC.

Game 1: United States 2, Czech Republic 2

The Czech Republic didn’t bring any overage players, but it had multiple players in the German Bundesliga and featured Marek Jankulovski, who would later win the Champions League with AC Milan. The U.S. went up 1-0 in the 21st minute on a goal from Albright and led 2-1 at halftime after Wolff scored in the 44th. A penalty for the Czech Republic early in the second half leveled the score, and the Americans settled for one point despite outplaying their European counterparts for the bulk of the game.

Wolff: I remember breaking down the left side and slipping a ball in front to Albright, and I scored one in a very similar fashion at the back post. The first games of tournaments are critical. You can put a point on the board and, not that it takes away the pressure of the next two games, but you put yourself in a position where you understand what’s ahead of you, and you can kind of control your destiny. They were a very good opponent and we probably could have won that game. We came up with points and we felt good about it.

Albright: I remember back in D.C., the front cover of The Washington Post was me like, elated, running to the corner flag big, blown up. It was the Olympics, it showed the gravity of the event.

Donovan: What I remember most is Conor Casey absolutely destroying the Czech Republic in every way, but he couldn’t score. He was in this run of form where he was so good, but he was having trouble hitting the net and there was real competition in that team to get on the field when you had Wolfie, Albright, myself. There was real competition in that team so that that game stood out to me because I know Conor was also on the verge of going to Europe at that time, and there’s a lot of talk about him. And so I just remember thinking, “Holy s—, he is dominating this game.”

Game 2: United States 1, Cameroon 1

Cameroon was undoubtedly one of the most talented teams in the tournament and would go on to win the gold medal. It featured 19-year-old striker Samuel Eto’o, a few years shy from joining Barcelona, and Real Madrid defender Geremi, who was nominated for the Ballon d’Or that year. Overage attacker Patrick M’Boma opened the scoring in the 16th minute, and Vagenas answered with a penalty in the second half, one of four he would convert in the tournament.

Josh Wolff scored the second U.S. goal in the draw with the Czech Republic. Mark Dadswell/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

McCarty: They had a handful of players playing in [top European leagues] already. Noted players like guys who were already playing in the biggest turn to the biggest leagues in the world. But again, we had a really good team, organized defensively, and we had some explosive players in the attack. I do think we caught them off guard, I think they underestimated us as did most teams during that time.

Agoos: I remember the Cameroonian team was very loud, wearing all sorts of bright colors, when we sat across from them in the cafeteria. They loved being part of this experience, and they were great to be around. We felt sort of a kindred feeling with Cameroon in terms of how they were approaching the tournament.

Albright: It should have been 4-1. We just couldn’t finish our chances.

O’Brien: I remember the ref actually coming over to us right next to Pete and he said, “You guys better score, otherwise you’re gonna lose this game.”

Vagenas: I don’t think Clive ever designated who was going to take penalties. I do remember when the penalty kick was called, I was close to John, and we have a unique history. Because John and I had known each other since we were probably 15, 16 years old. … The only person I spoke to was John and I think I asked him, “You want it?” And I think he said, “No, you got it.” And that was that. Then from there on out, it was sort of an unspoken agreement within the team that I would be the one taking them so long as I made them, I guess.

With two points from two games and Kuwait up next, there was a clear path for the U.S. men to advance in the Olympics for the first time since 1924, when the tournament was a straight knockout competition. To this point in the tournament, Donovan, already viewed as a future star for the national team, had yet to make an appearance.

Dunseth: His dad went on Big Soccer [an online message board] and I just remember his dad fileted Clive and the coaching staff for not playing Landon. It kind of became this thing like, “What the f—, man? Why is your dad posting this s—?” It was a little subplot that was happening. But we all knew that he was special. He was just young and, physically, it was a huge jump.

Ellinger: I’ve known Landon since he was 15. He was really troubled by [not playing] because we had just played our world championships in New Zealand [with the U17s]. And then he’s still in the midst of trying to earn playing time at Bayer Leverkusen. Then this happens to him at the Olympics. And so he was definitely a little embarrassed, and a little miffed by it. We had numerous conversations about this.

Donovan: Personally, I remember being very frustrated, because I was watching not just Conor — I was watching our team play well — but I also felt I could contribute. So I was really trying hard to get on the field. Now in retrospect, I was just this punk 18-year-old who was just — my ego was taking over. But I wanted to get on the field and help the team because it’s also my dream to play in the Olympics. For some soccer players around the country, the Olympics are an afterthought. But for me, it was absolutely a dream to get on the field and play.

O’Brien: I felt like in practice, [Landon] would come after me, come after players and try to kind of make a difference, make a mark. I felt like at times he was trying to put pressure on me just because I was one of the better players on the team. And so there did feel like there was an element of like, well, keep your place, stay in your place. There’s a pecking order here. He’d later blow that out of the water.

Agoos: I give [Donovan] a lot of credit in the sense that he wanted to push to go through that because as a young player, you kind of just sit and you do what you’re told. So you could see that he was very motivated to move into a different space, but you have to be able to manage that. I think Clive and the technical staff handled it absolutely perfectly. They were able to get him to do things coming off the bench and become an important part of the team by the end of the tournament.

Game 3: United States 3, Kuwait 1

Danny Califf headed in a corner kick from Agoos in the first half and Albright slotted in a second to put the Americans up 2-0 in the 63rd minute, but Kuwait scored one of its own in the 83rd. In the final minutes of the game, Donovan, who came off the bench, played Wolff into space down the right side to set up a 2-on-1, before Wolff rolled it back across for Donovan to bury in an open net. Not only did the goal seal passage to the next round but the U.S. would finish ahead of Cameroon on goal differential and top the group. “This game had Landon Donovan written all over it,” Charles said afterward.

Wolff: It proved to be an important goal because we didn’t we didn’t face Brazil in the next game. We got Japan instead.

Ellinger: After the game, [the Kuwaiti] guys are hugging all our players [because of the United States’ role defending Kuwait during the Gulf War]. It was quite a sight, actually. They were thanking them, thanking these guys. It was crazy. I mean, they just lost but they were just overwhelmed with emotion with what the U.S. had done. I hate to bring politics into it, but it happened. I was there. I saw it.

Albright: Then we went back to the hotel and we were sharing the hotel with the Spanish team. I remember going back to the lobby and we’re kind of celebrating on one side of the lobby with our parents and I just remember looking over at the other side and all the Spanish dudes are in killer long Gucci trench coats. Xavi (then early in his legendary career with Barcelona) is in a long trench coat with some bombshell on his arm. … To us, [advancing in the Olympics] was the most amazing achievement and they were probably like, “We got Champions League when we get home.”

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I just remember looking — it was like in Karate Kid. The first time Daniel-san looks over and sees like the real karate guys. You’re like, “Oh s—.” It was like we were just a bunch of ragtag college kids trying to take down like Xavi and [Carles] Puyol. I’ll never forget that.

Vagenas: That would explain [Albright’s] eclectic fashion choices. I think at one point, he was rocking a mink coat. Maybe that’s where he got it from.

Quarterfinals: United States 2 (5), Japan 2 (4)

Japan was led by Hidetoshi Nakata, who had just secured a transfer to AS Roma in Italy’s Serie A. It was an evenly matched game, and Japan took the lead in the 30th minute before Wolff tied it in the 68th. Japan answered quickly, and the match went to extra time after Vagenas scored from the penalty spot in the 90th minute.

O’Brien: I remember talking to Tim Howard about this. Before the game, we were watching the finals of the 100-meter race — there’s a TV in our locker room. That’s just like, “Go America, go.” So there was definitely a pride thing.

Wolff: [On my goal], it fell to me and I took it well — it might have been slightly deflected — but wiggled its way and we gave it a little roll the dice in the corner and because we were all playing in the casinos. A pretty logical celebration after that goal.

Vagenas: Brad Friedel was Superman in goal. I was a first-year professional at the LA Galaxy. I had just left UCLA, a cocky young kid, I didn’t realize what world class really meant until I saw Brad day in and day out and his performances in those matches. He made some incredible saves during that game that kept us alive.

Albright: If you ask all those guys, the fact that Pete — and Pete is one of my good buddies — was our designated penalty taker on that team is hilarious. If you listed all those names, you’d be like, “OK, well, Donovan’s gonna hit it or Wolff’s gonna hit it or O’Brien’s gonna hit it.” Oh, Pete’s gonna hit it? This diminutive defensive midfielder is your penalty-kick taker? But he was ice, man. He was ice.

The game went to penalties, and both sides converted their first three shots, with Vagenas, Agoos and Donovan scoring for the U.S. Nakata missed for Japan; Wolff gave the U.S. a 4-3 lead; and Victorine went fifth with it tied 4-4.

Victorine: Clive gets everybody together, and he’s like, “Guys, great performance. I trust every single one of you guys and you guys tell me who are the five who want to take the penalties?” Guys raise hands. Pete goes first to get us started, and he reached out to me to say, “Hey, Sash, you should do it.” And I’m like, “All right.” So I raised my hand and they put me as the fifth kicker.

I think I played like 30 minutes so far in the Olympics, and you get this moment and to this day, I think I remember every second of that moment, from the point where I get a chance to walk up to win the game.

McCarty: I was actually going to be the sixth kicker [if it had gone to sudden death], I was next, and nobody was happier in the stadium than me when Sasha put it away for the victory. Even to think about it now sitting here talking with you, man. The nerves in my body, the excitement, there’s an uptick. We all sprinted [to join him in the celebration]. I sprinted 50 yards as fast as I could, I think we caught Sasha on the side of the six-yard box, and it was mayhem. It was a dog pile. Probably the best soccer experience I’ve ever had in my life.

Victorine: My wife — at the time, she was my girlfriend — had traveled out there to Australia. And she had been at all the games: she was in the games in Canberra, and then she was in the games in Melbourne. And we were going to Adelaide for this quarterfinal game. She’s like, “Should we go?” I’m like, “No, I haven’t really played yet. You go to Sydney, enjoy the Olympics.” So they go to Sydney, we go to Adelaide and this game happens. I was literally calling my wife after the game telling her and she was so upset because I’d told her not to go.

Donovan: I just remember people were starting to realize we were moving through the tournament a little bit and then when Sasha scored, it was a huge deal. So I just remember hearing that back home, there was like some real traction being gained.

The win also meant for the first time in the tournament, the U.S. team was headed to Sydney, where the rest of the Olympics were being held. The team had been staying in luxury hotels to that point but stayed in the Olympic Village in Sydney. The consensus was that it was fun to experience the village but that the dorm-style accommodations weren’t ideal.

Donovan: That was cool for me, because I’m so awed by athletes and what they do. And so when you’re walking through there, you are literally looking at the best athletes in the world in every sport walking through there. It was just sensory overload because you just couldn’t believe that you’re in the presence of these people: nobody knew who they were, but in rowing or badminton or whatever they did, they were the best in the world.

McCarty: It was chaotic. The village is wild. And for the majority of the athletes, getting to the Olympics is the goal. When they get there, they’re enjoying themselves.

Wolff: It’s a pretty wild scene to begin with. Then it’s rooms of six, seven, eight people and it’s not really one room, but it’s a small area. We were only there one night. When Clive saw that he was like, “This isn’t for us.” We had to find new lodging because again, we kept progressing [through the tournament] and didn’t really have plans yet. So we stayed there a night and then we moved into a hotel and got back to work.

Semifinal: Spain 3, United States 1

Reaching the semifinals assured the U.S. of two chances at securing a medal, but the Americans were heavy underdogs against a Spanish team that featured players primarily playing first-team soccer in La Liga. Three members of the squad, Barcelona midfielder Xavi, Barca defender Carles Puyol and Deportivo La Coruna defender Joan Capdevila would later start for Spain in its win against the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final. Vagenas scored a second-half penalty, but the U.S. team didn’t register a shot on goal from open play.

McCarty: I think we went into the game thinking that over 90 minutes, anything can happen. And then the whistle blew.

Agoos: Years later, everybody would understand “tiki-taka” and the possession piece, but nobody really knew that about Spain at that time in 2000. It was just absolutely one of the most frustrating 90 minutes that I will remember, and as I look back, I do look back on that with a little bit of fondness because knowing now who was in that game and what they were doing, this was really the beginning of the surge of Spanish soccer for the next two decades.

Years before it became mainstream in the soccer world, the U.S. was given a lesson in tiki-taka in a 3-1 semifinal defeat to Spain. Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Albright: I remember playing against Puyol because I think he was playing left-back and it was like playing against your dad when you were 11. I had never been around something like that. He was just manhandling me.

Donovan: They were just at a different level. It wasn’t even close. We were pros, we weren’t a college team anymore [like previous U.S. teams at the Olympics] and so we felt like we could compete, but they had guys playing at some of the best clubs in the world, and starting and playing all the time for their teams.

Bronze-medal match: Chile 2, United States 0

For most of the team, losing to Spain was easy to move past because the team still had an opportunity to win an Olympic medal against Chile, which was led by striker Ivan Zamorano. Zamorano was arguably the most accomplished player in the tournament, having completed a prolific goal-scoring stretch for Real Madrid (1992-96) and was then at Internazionale. The U.S. outplayed Chile for long stretches and had two good chances in the second half — Casey had a shot saved, and Dunseth hit the crossbar — before a needless challenge from Califf sent Zamorano to the penalty spot in the 70th minute. He buried it and added a second to keep the U.S. off the medal stand. “The second half, we played the best soccer we played in this tournament,” Charles said. “And all of a sudden, we’re giving away a penalty and the whole game changed.”

Donovan: That was disappointing because I accomplished a lot in my career. I was very fortunate to be a part of some really great teams, but that is one regret. I wish I could have walked away with an Olympic medal, that would have been so special.

Wolff: To this day, it’s one of the most frustrating things to not come up with a medal. The whole experience was phenomenal, but to come away with — I have that sheet of paper they sent. Congratulations on being part of the Olympics and your fourth-place finish.

Olsen: It was an incredible feat, but one that comes with a little bitterness that we weren’t able to hold the medal because you get that close. It hurts a little bit, at least personally. But the Olympics, from an enjoyment standpoint, it was the best soccer trip I’ve ever been involved in. The best tournament and the best experience I ever had as a soccer player.

Agoos: It’s one of the most important events I’ve played in with the federation. It’s different from a World Cup. It’s different from anything in CONCACAF. You’re around other athletes; you represent your country. When I tell my neighbors today that I play in the Olympics, they can’t believe it. But if I tell them I played in the World Cup, they’re like, “Oh, that’s nice.”

Vagenas: It’s funny, because I have a 12-year-old son, who was not alive then, but does know that his dad played in the Olympics and was an Olympian. But whenever it’s brought up or mentioned to him, that’s definitely the bomb. That’s the measuring stick for him. “You didn’t win a medal so it doesn’t really count,” is what I hear from him.

Ellinger: To this day, most of those guys feel that’s the best soccer experience of their life. I feel the same way and I’ve been to the World Championships with the U17s three times.

The performance stands as one of best ever by American men at any level and helped propel several members of the team forward with the national team. In the first game of the 2002 World Cup against Portugal, six members of the group — Agoos, Friedel, Hejduk, Donovan, O’Brien and Beasley, an alternate who participated in Olympic qualifying — started. Of the 18 players who went to Australia, 16 earned at least one cap for the full national team in their careers and nine made final World Cup rosters.

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3/23/21 US U23s play Mexico Wed 9:30 pm FS1, Sun 6 or 9 pm FS1, USWNT vs Jamaica Thurs 1 pm ESPN2 , Sun 12 noon Fox, World Cup Qualifiers in Europe on ESPN+

Olympics 1 Game Away

The US U23 Men can qualify for the Olympics for the first time in 12 years with a win on Sunday vs either Canada or Honduras at 6 or 9 pm on FS1.  The US men will play for tops in the group when they face the favorites Mexico on Weds at 9:30 pm on FS1.  The winner will be top of the group and will face the loser between Thursday’s Canada vs Honduras game.  Both the US and Mexico will be favored to win and advance to the finals on Tues at 9 m on FS1.  Both finalist will advance to the Olympics this summer in Japan.  The US eeked out a win vs Costa Rica at 1-0 before thrashing the Dominican Republic 4-0.  Mexico beat Cost Rica 3-0 and is the leading scoring team in the tourney.  The US needed the heroics of Goalkeeper David Ochoa as he made over 11 saves including 4 spectacular saves to help protect the shutout.  It will be interesting to see if the US goes full boar vs Mexico Wed night or holds back some key players for Sunday’s Semi-Final winner take all match.  With both CB Justin Glad and forward Jesus Ferreira on yellow cards I don’t see them playing and possibly missing the Semi-Final must win game on Sunday.  Either way the centerbacks will need to tighten up as both centerback pairings looked weak in games vs Costa Rica and the DR.  If the US fail to advance It will be the horrific and extremely unpatriotic decision by Atlanta United to not allow top MLS defender Miles Robinson to play – this former Captain of the U 23s was held back because Atlanta United has Concacaf games next weekend,  Hard to believe Atlanta United’s Carlos Bocenegra (my favorite US Defender) would not allow Robinson to represent his country at this crucial juncture.  Hopefully we can win without him – but I suspect Mexico will abuse our starters.  But again Wed night vs Mexico doesn’t matter – Sunday is the game we have to win, then we can go all out vs Mexico Tues night in the Finals to prove who’s the top young team in CONCACAF. 

U-23 USMNT TRAINING CAMP ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; HOMETOWN):

GOALKEEPERS (4): Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.), Jonathan Klinsmann (LA Galaxy; Munich, Germany), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes, Alamo, Calif.), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; Oxnard, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (10): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; Lompoc, Calif.), George Bello (Atlanta United FC; Douglasville, Ga.), Marco Farfan (LAFC; Gresham, Ore.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; Las Cruces, N.M.), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; New York, N.Y.), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC; Bolingbrook, Ill.),), Austin Trusty (Colorado Rapids; Media, Pa.), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Frankie Amaya (FC Cincinnati; Santa Ana, Calif.), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; Littleton, Colo.), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; Denville, N.J.), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC; Federal Way, Wash.), Andres Perea (Orlando City SC; Medellin, Colombia), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas; Hoover, Ala.), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers; Alexandria, Va.), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; Bloomington, Minn.)

FORWARDS (9): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United FC; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; Plantation, Fla.), Ulysses Llanez (Heerenveen/NED; Lynwood, Calif.), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.), Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal/CAN; Jacksonville, Fla.), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas/MEX; Park City, Utah), Sebastian Soto (Norwich City/ENG; San Diego, Calif.)

US Men Return to Action Thurs/Sun

The US men with a full squad including our best European players mostly will face off against Jamaica Thursday at 1 pm on FS1 and Sunday vs Northern Ireland on Fox at 1 pm.  It will be nice to see Christian Pulisic finally back with the US team along with Josh Stewart and of course newly minted US midfielder Yunus Musah. With Juve’s McKinney out with a slight knock – it will be interesting to see how Coach B handles the midfield and top 3. Do we finally get to see Pulisic and Reyna on the wings with Josh Stewart in the 9 or perhaps Daryl Dike? Can Chris Richards win a spot next to Brooks at Center Back with Robinson and Dest on the outside?  Who plays the 10 along with Adams at the 6 and Musah at the 8? Should be fun to see how we line up as we get closer to the summer with nations cup and Gold Cup coming up and possibly Olympics if we qualify.  Why not send Chris Richards, Sargeant, Pulisic, Reyna, Adams, McKinney, Cannon?  They are all U23s and would form the best Olympic squad perhaps in the World. Why not win a Gold Medal rather than lose in the finals of the Gold Cup after playing in the Nations League cup in June?

Full USMNT squad

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 4/0), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City/ENG; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 19/0)

DEFENDERS (10): John Brooks* (Wolfsburg/GER; 39/3), Reggie Cannon* (Boavista/POR; 13/0), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 5/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 19/3), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht/BEL; 20/1), Erik Palmer-Brown (Austria Wien/AUT; 2/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 41/1), Bryan Reynolds (Roma/ITA; 0/0), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 1/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 8/0), Serginio Dest, Barca

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 2/1), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 25/2), Christian Cappis (Hobro/DEN; 0/0), Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED; 1/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 18/4), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 2/0), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton Wanderers/ENG; 1/0), Adams (Red Bull),  

FORWARDS (6): Daryl Dike (Barnsley/ENG; 1/0), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen/FRA; 2/2), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 34/14), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 2/1), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 12/5), Jordan Siebatcheu (Young Boys/SUI; 0/0)

US Women to Face Sweden Apr 10 and France Apr 13

The US Ladies will face a pair of top 10 foes on the road in Europe as a warm up to the Olympics this summer.  This roster which includes 20 of the 21 players on the She Believe’s Cup roster could well be a final preview of who will be on the 18 person roster to Japan this summer.

USA Women’s Roster GOALKEEPERS

Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS

Alana Cook (PSG), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Midge Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)

MIDFIELDERS

Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City), Catarina Macario (Lyon), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City)

FORWARDS

Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Manchester United), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage), Tobin Heath (Man United) is Still Injured

Games to Watch on TV

The 10 day international break is upon us with multiple World Cup Qualifying games in Europe on ESPN+ along with the US Friendlies of course.  See the full schedule below – but Germany vs Iceland gets an ESPN2 slot at 3:45 after the USA vs Jamaica game at 1 pm.  Next week England vs Poland gets an ESPN2 slot at 2:45 pm.  Of course the US games vs Jamaica and Northern Ireland on Sunday at 1 pm on FOX, along with the Olympic Qualification games vs Mexico tonight and hopefully next Tuesday night and the Huge MUST WIN Sunday match-up at 6 or 9 pm on Fox Sports 1 vs Canada or Honduras will have the most drama. 

GAMES ON TV

Wedneday, Mar 24
1 pm ESPN+                        Turkey vs Netherlands WCQ

3:45 pm ESPN+                  France vs Ukraine WCQ

3:45 pm ESPN+                  Belgium vs Wales WCQ

9:30 pm FS 1                      USA U 23s vs Mexico

Thursday, Mar 25
1 pm ESPN2                        USA vs Jamaica

3:45 pm ESPN2                  Germany vs Iceland   WCQ

3:45 pm ESPN+                  Spain vs Greece  WCQ

8 pm Paramount+             Canada vs Bermunda

10 pm FS1                           Honduras vs Canada (winner plays US probably)

Sunday, Mar 28
10 am NBCSN                     Chelsea vs Aston Villa Women’s

1 pm on Fox                      USA Men vs Northern Ireland

1 pm ESPN+                        Albania vs England   WCQ

3:45 pm ESPN+                  Romania vs Germany   WCQ

6 pm FS 1                            USA U23s vs Canada/Honduras winner Semi 1

9 pm FS1                             US or Mexico vs Canada/Honduras loser Semi 2

Tuesday, Mar 30
9 pm FS 1                            USA U 23s vs Mexico (hopefully)  Olympic Qual Final

3:45 pm ESPN2                  Wales vs Czech Republic WCQ

3:45 pm ESPN+                  Gibralter vs Netherlands WCQ

Wednesday, Mar 31
2:45 pm ESPN2                  England vs Poland WCQ

2:45 pm ESPN+                  Lithuania vs Italy  WCQ

Sat, Apr 3

7:30 am NBCSN?                Chelsea (Pulisic) vs West Brom

9:30 am ESPN+                  Dortmund (Reyna) vs Frankfurt

12:30 pm ESPN2                RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Bayern Munich

12:30 pm NBCSN?             Leicester City vs Man City

3 pm NBCSN?                     Aston Villa vs Fulham (Robinson)

Sat, Apr 10

1 pm FOX                           Sweden vs USA Ladies

Wed, Apr 13

3 pm ESPN2                      France vs USA Ladies

US Men Key Dates

Friendly vs. SwitzerlandMay 30
Nations LeagueJune 3-6
Gold CupJuly (dates TBD)
OlympicsJuly 21-Aug. 7
World Cup qualifyingSept.-March ’22
2022 World CupNov. 21-Dec. 18 ’22

USA Men

Musah, Pulisic headline U.S. squad for friendlies
Kinship, connection, belief: Why Musah chose the U.S.  Jeff Carlisle
Record-setter Dest: Barca system perfect for me
Reyna, Sargent cleared to play vs. N. Ireland
Sergino Dest: “USMNT have to set a new standard” 
USMNT announces Switzerland friendly for May

Pareja: Dike is showing the world how much talent we have in US

USMNT, Man City star Steffen emerges as leader in anti-racism education 

Yanks Abroad: Tyler Boyd & Sergiño Dest provide the braces

US U23s

USA U-23 vs. Mexico, 2021 Olympic qualifying: What to watch for By Rob Usry  Stars and Stripes
Standouts Thus For in Tourney
Boehm: Three takeaways from the US’ Olympic qualifying win over DR

US & Mexico clinch semifinal spots: Latest Olympic qualifying results, standings and schedule

Dotson, Mihailovic power US past Dominican Republic at Olympic qualifiers
Kreis hails RSL ‘keeper Ochoa after huge effort in Olympic Qualifying
Boehm: US’ old-fashioned grit bails out tactical ambition to sneak big win over Costa Rica
Ferreira on target as US make winning start to Olympic Qualifying

 US Ladies

ESPN FC Women’s Rank: The 50 best players in the game right now
U.S. women’s soccer calls up 23 players as Tokyo Olympics preparations continue

 WORLD

Europe starts World Cup qualifying amid pause for pandemic
Neuer challenges Germany to throw down marker, Kroos drops out

Lukaku allowed to leave Italy for Belgium camp amid Inter outbreak

USMNT: European-based stars return; players readmitted as COVID restrictions change

Andy EdwardsMon, March 22, 2021, 9:15 AM

Gregg Berhalter has recalled the vast majority of the USMNT European-based stars, including Christian Pulisic, Sergino Dest and John Brooks, for the first senior-team camp of 2021.There have also been some players who can only join up with the team in certain locations, as Nicholas Gioacchini had to withdraw from the original squad but has now been readmitted due to COVID-19 restrictions changing in a very fluid situation across Europe, and the world, right now.USMNT trio Chris Richards, Gio Reyna and Josh Sargent, who all play in Germany, were all due to leave the camp after the USMNT’s first game against Jamaica in Austria, but they are now permitted to travel to Northern Ireland for the second game too.

However, Tyler Adams is not able to travel for either game as he is based in Leipzig and Tim Weah is also not able to travel due to new lockdown restrictions in northern France where he is based with Lille.The USMNT will face Jamaica on Thursday in Austria, followed three days later by a trip to Belfast to face Northern Ireland for the first time in 70 years.Only two players — Brooks and Reggie Cannon — will depart camp following the game against Jamaica as they face strict COVID-19 quarantine requirements upon returning to the countries of their respective clubs.

Berhalter revealed in his press conference that the abbreviated availability of further players — namely, Matthew Hoppe and DeAndre Yedlin — was decisive in his final decision to not call them into camp.

Weston McKennie was left out of the squad due to a “slight injury,” according to Berhalter, who lamented the fact the Juventus star won’t be leading the group next week.

Other notable players selected include 18-year-old Yunus Musah, who last week pledged his international future to the USMNT, striker Josh Sargent, who has four goals in his last eight Bundesliga games, and 20-year-old midfielder Brenden Aaronson, who has hit the ground running since joining Red Bull Salzburg in January.

Full USMNT squad

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 4/0), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City/ENG; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 19/0)

DEFENDERS (10): John Brooks* (Wolfsburg/GER; 39/3), Reggie Cannon* (Boavista/POR; 13/0), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 5/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 19/3), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht/BEL; 20/1), Erik Palmer-Brown (Austria Wien/AUT; 2/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 41/1), Bryan Reynolds (Roma/ITA; 0/0), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 1/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 8/0), Serginio Dest, Barca

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 2/1), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 25/2), Christian Cappis (Hobro/DEN; 0/0), Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED; 1/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 18/4), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 2/0), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton Wanderers/ENG; 1/0)

FORWARDS (6): Daryl Dike (Barnsley/ENG; 1/0), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen/FRA; 2/2), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 34/14), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 2/1), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 12/5), Jordan Siebatcheu (Young Boys/SUI; 0/0)

 USA U-23 vs. Mexico, 2021 Olympic qualifying: What to watch for

Bitter rivals meet with low stakes.By Rob Usry@RobUsry  Mar 23, 2021, 5:00am PDT

The dream scenario for the United States has come to fruition during this Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament. Jason Kreis’ side has clinched a spot in the all-or-nothing semifinal round before even having to play hosts and Group A favorites Mexico after winning their first two group matches. Thankfully that means this matchup between bitter rivals in an important competitive tournament is about as low stakes as it could possibly be. The finishing order of the group is still up for grabs with the winner getting the privilege of playing the runner-up in Group B. The U.S. can only take home top spot with a win because they trail on goal differential. Here are a few things to watch for in this interesting edition of the U.S./Mexico rivalry at the U-23 level:

To Dare Is To Don’t

With every USA/Mexico match at any level the first inclination is to throw caution to the wind and go all-out for the win. Unfortunately, if there are any logical bones in Jason Kreis’ body, he doesn’t have that luxury. With the ultimate goal of qualifying for the Olympics, this match means very little in the big picture. He must ignore any desire to puff his chest out against El Tri and be smart when it comes to his team selection. Both Jesus Ferreira and Justen Glad, starters in both group matches so far, are one yellow card away from picking up a suspension. It stands to reason both should be used with a lot of caution on Wednesday, if at all. This could easily apply to any player Kreis deems crucial to the team’s best possible lineup. There’s really no need to risk players for this match when there’s an exponentially more important match in the semifinals a few days later.This is not the time for being bold or daring when it comes to picking the team. Being conservative and smart is the way to ensure your ticket to Japan.

On The Rise

Jason Kreis has said multiple times that there really is no preferred starting lineup for this group of players. He proved that with six different changes to the lineup that beat Costa Rica in the opening group match. One player who is making a great case for his name to be inserted into the semifinal lineup is Minnesota United’s Hassani Dotson. The versatile midfielder subbed on against the Dominican Republic and immediately offered some much needed dynamism in the midfield. Outside of his two well-taken goals, he was a breath of fresh air in the middle of the field. His ability to get on on the ball, offer some quality and push the team forward was desperately lacking for the first opening hour of that match. The question now becomes can he continue that level of play against better competition? If he can, he should play a huge role in the team’s midfield three in the do-or-die match to come.

United States U23s beat Dominican Republic in Olympic qualifier – will advance to the Semi’s

9:28 PM ETAssociated Press

Jackson Yueill redirected Sebastian Salcedo’s cross for the go-ahead goal in the 60th minute, second-half substitute Hassani Dotson added a pair of goals and the United States beat the Dominican Republic 4-0 on Sunday night in Guadalajara, Mexico, in qualifying for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament.Djordje Mihailovic had a goal and two assists for the U.S., trying to reach the Olympics for the first time since 2012.In the second game of the doubleheader, Mexico played Costa Rica. A Mexico draw or win, would advance the U.S. to a qualification match on March 28 against a team from Group B, likely Honduras or Canada.Playing two days after his 24th birthday, Yueill scored just after Johnny Cardoso hit the crossbar. Substitutes were waiting on the sidelines at the time to come in for both Yueill and Cardoso.Dotson, who replaced Cardoso, scored on a right-foot shot from just inside the penalty area in the 73rd minute off a short pass from Mihailovic, who came in for Salcedo. Dotson combined with Mihailovic again in the 78th, scoring on a right-foot shot from eight yards, and Mihailovic scored on a sliding shot from 3 yards in the first minute of stoppage time off a cross from Benji Michel, another second-half sub.The U.S. completes the group stage against host Mexico on Wednesday night.Olympic men’s soccer qualifying is limited to players born Jan. 1, 1997, or later, and each team reaching the Olympics can add three wild-card players.The U.S. failed to reach the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, a setback that preceded the senior national team’s failure to reach the 2018 World Cup.The U.S made six changes from the starting lineup in the opening 1-0 win over Costa Rica, when Jesus Ferreira scored in the 35th minute,JT Marcinkowski started in goal in place of David OchoaJulian Araujo at right-back for Aaron Herrera and Henry Kessler at central defender for Mauricio Pineda, joining central defender Justen Glad and left back Sam Vines.

Yueill was in defensive midfield, and Cardoso, Saucedo and Andres Perea joined Jonathan Lewis in advanced midfield, replacing Dotson, Mihailovic and Benji Michel. Ferreira again headed the attack, then was replaced by Sebastian Soto at the start of the second half.

The Dominican Republic started six teenagers, part of the youngest roster in the tournament.

USMNT initial roster for Olympic qualifying U24’s – Full squad lists, here

U-23 USMNT TRAINING CAMP ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; HOMETOWN):

GOALKEEPERS (4): Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.), Jonathan Klinsmann (LA Galaxy; Munich, Germany), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes, Alamo, Calif.), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; Oxnard, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (10): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; Lompoc, Calif.), George Bello (Atlanta United FC; Douglasville, Ga.), Marco Farfan (LAFC; Gresham, Ore.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; Las Cruces, N.M.), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; New York, N.Y.), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC; Bolingbrook, Ill.),), Austin Trusty (Colorado Rapids; Media, Pa.), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Frankie Amaya (FC Cincinnati; Santa Ana, Calif.), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; Littleton, Colo.), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; Denville, N.J.), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC; Federal Way, Wash.), Andres Perea (Orlando City SC; Medellin, Colombia), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas; Hoover, Ala.), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers; Alexandria, Va.), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; Bloomington, Minn.)

FORWARDS (9): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United FC; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; Plantation, Fla.), Ulysses Llanez (Heerenveen/NED; Lynwood, Calif.), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.), Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal/CAN; Jacksonville, Fla.), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas/MEX; Park City, Utah), Sebastian Soto (Norwich City/ENG; San Diego, Calif.)

US U-23’s old-fashioned grit bails out tactical ambition to sneak huge Olympic Qualifying win | Charles Boehm

March 18, 202110:01PM EDT  Charles Boehm National Writer  MLS.com

First things first: There’s no substitute for victory, period.When you’re staring at a must-win opening game with a 12-year Olympic qualifying drought hanging over your head, three points is the only acceptable outcome, and the US Under-23 men’s national team got it done against Costa Rica at Estadio Jalisco on Thursday.The win gives the US the edge on their main rival for advancement out of Group A, alongside Mexico, and puts them on course for a successful tournament. That said, they did it in just about the most arduous, agonizing fashion imaginable, allowing Jesus Ferreira’s vital early goal to become a crutch that they leaned on more and more heavily as the 90-degree Guadalajara evening unfolded.OK, correction – the young Yanks also did some heavy reclining on the willing back of goalkeeper David Ochoa, the fourth-youngest player on their roster and a surprise starter considering that his San Jose Earthquakes counterpart JT Marcinkowski had for some time been expected to be the No. 1. Without Ochoa’s whopping nine saves – a couple of them denying clear, inviting Tico looks at goal – the United States would’ve been stranded as they wilted under the warm Mexican sun.“It wasn’t great,” admitted coach Jason Kreis in his postgame press conference. “It was an important result for us but I would say that we would have hoped to have gotten that result in a little bit of a better fashion. I think we would have hoped that we could have been better on the ball and made better decisions and maintained the tempo of the game better.”With a dominantly MLS-based squad and the league starting its 2021 six weeks later than usual, most of Kreis’ players haven’t put on a match kit in months, and it showed, though sooner for some than others. Add in the usual big-game jitters and an ambitious pass-and-press tactical blueprint handed down from the senior USMNT, and you had a recipe for tension, and a long, slow fade as gas tanks steadily ran dry for the team in blue.“Without a doubt, I think that the system that we’re playing is a very difficult one, it requires a lot of energy, it requires a lot of running, it requires the players to be calm on the ball,” said Kreis. “It’s not easy to be a team that’s looking to build out of the back or maintain possession of the game, this isn’t the easy way to play. The easy way to play is to be reactive and counterattack. But again, it’s not our DNA and ultimately we’re going to continue forward with this identity.”Multiple generations of US transition aces like Cobi Jones and Landon Donovan might take issue with that bit about DNA, and Costa Rica would (and did) point to the match statistics that showed them to be superior in passing, possession, shooting and pretty much every other category except the final score.But whether it was their plan all along or not, Kreis’ side burst out of the gates with more intensity from the opening kickoff – Ferreira could easily have had a first-half hat trick, hitting the post and flubbing a 1v1 with Ticos ‘keeper Kevin Chamorro – and the advantage that it carved out for them was ultimately, barely enough.Kreis has made clear that he embraces an assertive, pass-happy philosophy just as much as senior side boss Gregg Berhalter does. But that imposes a smaller margin for error in high-stakes tournament settings like this one and his players shrank it further with some slack passing and excessively casual buildouts, forcing them to bear down, bleed the clock and ride their luck.“It’s not surprising to me, because we were asking our team to build up. I think it may have been a different affair if we would have just said OK, every goal kick we get we’re going to take long, we’re going to push into the opponent’s half and fight for second balls, but that’s not part of our DNA,” asserted Kreis. “That’s not who we are. And so we asked to build up. The majority of the shakiness that I saw came through just mistakes in buildup. So again, I think that’s just a footballing issue.“Part of guys not playing matches is that it’s not just about fitness, it’s also about their touch on the ball. So I felt that the majority of what Costa Rica did to hurt us was in transition, when we gave the ball away very cheaply.”Which leads us back to arguably the most enduring, influential meta-question facing the USMNT in this century: How to sustain the quest for a more sophisticated mastery of progressive play without losing the gutsy, tenacious defiance of old? Berhalter and Kreis’ predecessors wrestled with it, and now it sits squarely on their plates, too.There will be more time and bandwidth for all involved to address that in the months ahead, once passage to the Tokyo Olympics (and eventually, World Cup 2022) is attained. First these U-23s have to reach this month’s tournament final, and though they at times looked like your uncle’s creaky Volvo station wagon with just enough change in the ashtray to fill ‘er up, they made it to their first milepost.

U.S. Olympic qualifying standouts so far; Assembling a 2nd all-MLS side

Nicholas Mendola

Mon, March 22, 2021, 4:13 PMThe United States men’s U-23 team has failed to capture the imagination so far in CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying, but their pair of wins has delivered some standout performers.

Jason Kreis’ men were arguably second-best in a 1-0 win over Costa Rica to begin the tournament In Mexico (READThree things learned), the same Los Ticos team who would later lose 3-0 to El Tri — and then struggled for an hour before turning to familiar faces in a 4-0 win over the Dominican Republic (READThree more things).

[ MORE: The latest PL transfer buzz ]

But here are the players who’ve stood out in the Yanks’ 2-0 start. And yes, three of the four are on the score sheet but in the words of Felicia “Snoop” Pearson from “The Wire,” they earned these mentions like a… midfielders.

More USMNT news

NYCFC signs USYNT left back Gloster from PSV Eindhoven USMNT, Man City star Steffen emerges as leader in anti-racism education USMNT: European-based stars return; players readmitted as COVID restrictions…

Hassani Dotson, Minnesota United

Those of us who haven’t caught a ton of Loons action the past couple of years and wondered why the name Hassani Dotson kept coming up now have a good understanding of why.

He’s looked confident if not cocky, and that swagger combined with a unique physical skill set and plenty of good on-field reading to produce moments like this thread, where he turns in a congested area and keeps himself available to spring an attack and play a role further up the pitch.

The second video is even better, going man amongst boys versus two Ticos before showing vision and touch to spring a would-be goal.

Played 270 of 360 minutes in CONCACAF Nations League, going the distance in 7-0 and 4-0 wins over Cuba and a 4-1 defeat of Canada. Gregg Berhalter left him on the bench in favor of Michael Bradley and Cristian Roldan in the fourth game and that was a 2-0 loss in Canada.

Whether that’s coincidence or truth, every one of Yueill’s nine full USMNT caps are written all over on the grass during this tournament. He looks well above the fray and both deservingly and fittingly broke the Yanks through versus Dominican Republic.

Djordje Mihailovic, Chicago Fire

This one also feels a bit like cheating, although he doesn’t have the same level of USMNT impact in his back pocket that lives in Yueill.

Mihailovic has played 71 MLS matches with seven goals and 11 assists at age 22, and the playmaking plays the kind of balls that give lesser-experienced players fits.

But there’s no denying the six-times capped Mihailovic is delivering in the final third, posting a goal and two assists in the final 17 minutes on Sunday.

Justen Glad, Real Salt Lake

Unquestionably the Yanks’ best center back, the RSL stud did have a bad giveaway against Costa Rica but was instrumental in so many moments that saved a goal.

Honorable mention

  • Sam Vines, Colorado Rapids — Has looked quite good going forward but defensive duties few and far between.
  • David Ochoa, Real Salt Lake — A ton of saves in the opener against Costa Rica, but a couple dodgy moments, too.

USA vs. Jamaica, 2021 friendly: Scouting Jamaica

The USMNT faces off against a familiar CONCACAF opponent. By Brendan Joseph  Mar 23, 2021, 6:00am PDT

he United States Men’s National Team heads to Austria for a friendly against a CONCACAF foe. It is at the Stadion Wiener Neustadt where Gregg Berhalter’s team will take on Jamaica in the first of two matches on this European tour. With a big summer on the horizon for the senior and U-23 squads, this camp is one of the final opportunities for players to prove themselves and work their way into the overall picture.The United States has a 16-3-8 all-time record against Jamaica. The Caribbean nation was most recently in action last November, playing two friendlies against Saudi Arabia, losing the first, 0-3, and winning the second, 2-1. The Reggae Boyz, traditionally one of the better teams in CONCACAF, are looking to qualify for their second-ever World Cup, the only appearance coming in 1998.Jamaica is led by Theodore Whitmore, who has been with the program for over a decade as an interim (2007, 2009), assistant (2008), youth coach (2014-2015), and senior team manager (2009-2013, 2016-present). Since his return to the top role, he has a 20-10-8 record. The stalwart reached the final and semifinal round of the 2017 and 2019 editions of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, respectively.Whitmore called in a 20-player roster for the match against the United States, with several potential additions held out by visa issues. The squad is split evenly between nine players registered to Jamaican clubs and ten competing at various levels in the English pyramid. The domestic players “have not featured in a game since the coronavirus forced a halt to the National Premier League last March,” and there will be limited training sessions before the friendly.

***

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jeadine White (Cavalier FC), Kemar Foster (Portmore United), Shaven Paul (Mount Pleasant)

DEFENDERS (8): Adrian Mariappa (Bristol City), Michael Hector (Fulham), Curtis Tilt (Wigan Athletic), Amari’i Bell (Blackburn Rovers), Ethan Pinnock (Brentford), Liam Moore (Reading), Wes Harding (Rotherham United), Renaldo Wellington (Montego Bay United)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Ricardo Morris (Portmore United), Omar Holness (Darlington), Kevaughn Isaacs (Mount Pleasant), Luca Levee (Harbour View), Kasey Palmer (Bristol City)

FORWARDS (4): Andre Gray (Watford), Chavany Willis (Portmore United), Jabari Hylton (University of the West Indies Football Club), Jamal Lowe (Swansea City)

***

The roster is without several regular players in the midst of a contract dispute with the federation. The ongoing negotiations have been “more difficult” than originally presumed, as the salary dispute almost led to a strike during the November matches against Saudi Arabia. Resolving the situation is a priority with the Gold Cup and, more importantly, World Cup qualifying drawing closer.Despite the shortage, Jamaica pulled out almost all the stops for this friendly, calling in several newcomers based in England. Top additions include Andre Gray from Watford and Reading’s Liam Moore. Occasional England call-up Michail Antonio was expected to receive a call-up after recently committing to the Reggae Boyz, but the West Ham striker was not included in the roster.

The national federation is pushing the mildly controversial plan to include more England-born players in the squad, referred to as “UB40s” after the Birmingham reggae band. “Once their heart is with Jamaica, nothing else can stop it,” declared Whitmore. Talents such as red hot Brentford striker Ivan Toney, Damari Gray, Max Aarons, Kemar Roofe, Isaac Hayden, and Mason Holgate are currently on the radar, welcome to join for qualifying.

Traditionally, Whitmore prefers the 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 formations, although the 4-1-4-1 was deployed in the recent friendlies against Saudi Arabia. The Jamaican defensive depth chart is loaded: a stacked group that, when fully utilized, is possibly CONCACAF’s best. With so many regulars missing, there is an impulse to simply throw out the 11 most talented players and see how they compete together.The goalkeeper position is a toss-up between youngster Jeadine White and veteran Shaven Paul, both with two career senior international appearances. The former, a 20-year-old with Cavalier SC, should get the start, as he is a frequent member of the squad and was on the bench for November’s friendly victory over Saudi Arabia. His strength is acrobatic shot-stopping, with the 6’1” Kingston native preferring to stay within the goal area.The definite starter at center back is Michael Hector, one of the roster’s star players who could carry Jamaica through qualifying. The towering Fulham defender is a regular with the national team and played in both friendly matches against Saudi Arabia. Do not be surprised if the 28-year-old lines up at defensive midfielder, as this squad’s embarrassment of back line riches may force a few mildly awkward moves in the formation.

His partner will be a first-time call-up, with three options jumping off the page. Reading’s Liam Moore, Ethan Pinnock of Brentford, and Curtis Tilt currently on loan at Wigan Athletic are recent additions bringing real experience to the national team’s center back depth chart. Pinnock is the likely starter, as he almost led his club to promotion last season and is once again on pace for a spot in the Championship playoffs. The “solid performer” is a physical presence that wreaks havoc on opposing attackers and in the final third, providing a marking challenge on set pieces.Adrian Mariappa is the most experienced member of this squad, with 49 caps since making his debut in 2012. The 34-year-old Bristol City defender is a center back at the club level but has mostly played as a right back for the Reggae Boyz. He is a distributor of well-timed tackles and something of a threat on dead balls, although the glory years at Watford are firmly in the past. Amari’i Bell, another veteran of the English pyramid, should line up at left back. In his fourth year with Blackburn Rovers, the Burton-on-Trent native pushes high up the field and can also serve as a winger.The central trio is tasked with the challenge of not being overrun by their dynamic American opponents. Kevaughn Isaacs, a 25-year-old with five caps, will set the tone for the Reggae Boys. The Mount Pleasant defensive midfielder is the start of most possession and has the tendency to push into the attacking half with a long dribbling run or disruptive tackle. His holding partner, the lanky Chavany Willis of domestic Portmore United, is an aggressive player with a tendency to roam all over the field, buzzing with constant involvement in the build-up. Omar Holness, currently in the sixth-tier National League North at Darlington, must provide the creative spark. The 27-year-old loves the long ball and can be a target in the box.A recent, dangerous addition to the program is Swansea man Jamal Lowe. Whether deployed at striker or out wide, the quick 26-year-old pressures the back line and is a menace in the final third. The exciting, technical player can do it all: dancing through crowds, playing quick passes, and scoring. The other winger should be Ricardo Morris, a left-footed 28-year-old with 29 caps. Based at Portmore United, the dynamic attacker pushes the tempo at a frenetic pace and constantly challenges the opposing goalkeeper with unexpected shots. However, his role will likely be more in support, as the national team brought in a top talent to lead the formation.The Jamaican Football Federation worked overtime to attract striker Andre Gray, a player that could lift the nation’s fortune in qualifying. The 29-year-old Watford man is rounding into form in the midst of a down year, scoring three goals in five matches following a hamstring injury and months of low production. If his teammates can find him in advantageous positions, even a single yard of space, he will convert. The American back line must maintain constant awareness of the former England C international that is always on the lookout for a break forward.This Jamaican roster is many things. There are several experienced players, with deep ties to storied English clubs, paired next to a group of largely unknown domestic talents. However, the absence of the national team’s core – Kemar Lawrence, Alvas Powell, Dwayne Miller, and Leon Bailey, among others – will be missed. The friendly offers a partial glimpse into a squad that could qualify for the World Cup provided they are able to gel and accept regular call-ups throughout the course of CONCACAF qualifying.The United States should win this match, although the opponent is more of a challenge than it appears on the surface. Expect a wide open affair featuring plenty of counter attacking. With Jamaica fully embracing dual-national players, perhaps this is the first look at a growing regional power about to take the first step into the top tier of CONCACAF.The match is scheduled for Thursday, March 25th at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, 10:00 a.m. Pacific. Viewing options include ESPN 2, UniMás, TUDN, and Fubo TV (free trial).

Why Yunus Musah chose the USMNT: Kinship with stars, connection with coaches and belief in the project

Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent EPSNFC

The recruitment battle for dual national talents is one that every coach is familiar with, which is why March 4 may go down as a day to remember for the United States men’s team. It was on that day that manager Gregg Berhalter received a text from Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah with a simple request: “Coach, can I talk to you?”

Berhalter said yes. At that point, Musah — who, in addition to the U.S., was eligible to represent GhanaEngland or Italy — informed him that he would be pledging his international future to the red, white and blue.

– Valencia’s Musah picks USMNT over England
– Lowe: Musah’s rise for Valencia, U.S. is no fluke

“It was quite a happy conversation,” Musah told ESPN in an exclusive interview. “I told [Berhalter] I appreciate everything and how he welcomed me to the team, and I just want to embark on this journey with everyone else and the USA.”Berhalter wasn’t as composed. While this was the latest recruiting coup of a player with multiple international options, a list highlighted by Barcelona defender Sergino Dest, Musah is looked upon as another special talent.”I screamed into the phone. I gave a loud ‘Yeah!'” Berhalter told ESPN. “But it was good. It’s not only judging him as a player, just as a person. It’s great to have someone like that in your team.” When one country wins out on a player with multiple international options, the others lose. It is a zero-sum game that, in some instances, forces players to feel like they’re torn in two. The 18-year-old’s ties to England in particular ran deep, as he not only lived in London starting at age 9, but played extensively for the Three Lions at youth level, though never in official competition. Musah even took the field twice for England against the U.S. at the under-17 level, including the 2017 Nike friendlies in which England prevailed 1-0. In this case, the Valencia midfielder isn’t walled off from the emotions that came with saying no to England. And there were other suitors as well.”It was a difficult situation, as England have done so much for me,” he said. “When someone’s nice to you, you don’t want to kind of leave them upside down. But at the end, you have to make the best decision for yourself.”I was getting so many phone calls from a lot of diferent people, a lot of different organizations. And that sort of made it hard, and also the fact that I represented England in the past. That’s why it was a really hard decision to make.”

But he added, “This is just so exciting. I can’t wait to get started.”Thus concluded a 20-month recruiting process by the U.S. to win Musah over, one that was pitch-perfect every step of the way. It started soon after Musah signed with Valencia in the summer of 2019, when the Spanish club notified Nico Estevez, a U.S. men’s assistant (and former Valencia coach), that there was a player with a U.S. passport on the roster. Berhalter soon reached out with a get-to-know-you phone call to make Musah aware of the U.S. team’s interest. That call eventually opened the door for a meeting with the player’s family to discuss the U.S. program in more depth.Like most recruiting battles, relationships played a key role, and the bond between Musah and Estevez took on immense importance. Musah says that from the moment the U.S. first made contact, he and Estevez spoke at least once every two weeks. Berhalter added that there were times when his assistant and the player spoke as often as every other day.Estevez’s knowledge of Valencia helped Musah navigate his way through his first season with the club’s B-team, as well the player’s initial foray with the first team in the 2020-21 campaign. He helped him adapt to life in a new country as well: Estevez would talk Musah through his games and send him video clips. Berhalter recalled that the level of trust between the two was such that Musah began soliciting advice and video from Estevez instead of the U.S. assistant being the one to reach out.”We just speak as people, really,” Musah said of his relationship with Estevez. “He didn’t really treat it as player-coach or something — more just friends, you could say. He talked to me about how my week is going. He helped me analyze and improve my game. He understands some of the things that I’m going through.”By the time Berhalter invited Musah to a national team training camp in Wales last November, much of the groundwork had been laid, but there was still work to be done. Fortunately for the U.S., a wave of talented players have entered the program in recent years, including Juventus‘ Weston McKennieRB Leipzig‘s Tyler AdamsBorussia Dortmund‘s Gio Reyna and Dest. They made sure that Musah arrived to a warm embrace.

The positive vibes paid off, and if there was ever a telltale sign that Musah was leaning towards the U.S., it was evident in the pregame team photo ahead of his international debut against Wales last November. These photos are usually about players having their game face on, all intensity and concentration. That was largely the case here, save for Musah, who sported the widest of smiles.

“I told myself, ‘Listen, just enjoy this moment, because it only comes once,'” he said. “And surprisingly enough, the coaches as well told me the same thing, the players told me the same thing and so what I was thinking about was enjoying the game. And as you can see in the photos, I was enjoying it already.”Musah delivered an impressive debut, helping the U.S. control the match from the center of midfield in what ended up being a 0-0 draw. That role is a change from where he has been typically deployed with Valencia, where he’s mostly played as a wide midfielder in a 4-4-2. But the center of midfield is where he — and Berhalter — feel he’s best-suited. It gives him the chance to show off his range of skills: his confidence running with the ball, his vision when it comes to connecting on his passes and his energy on defense.

“I feel like I can play in a lot of systems,” he said. “But particularly with the U.S., I feel like we want to be on the field and express ourselves. And when you’re on the field and trying to express yourself, I think the best version of yourself comes out. And that’s really important.”Granted, it wasn’t just about Musah choosing the U.S. The player also had to impress beyond what happened on the field, but Musah passed those tests with ease.”He endears himself to everyone,” said Berhalter about Musah. “He’s such a good guy, such a friendly guy to be around; great demeanor, great attitude. The thing about him is when you’re around him, you can just feel this warmth from him.”Musah was also all-in on the U.S. team’s anti-racism message before the Wales game, one in which his warm-up jacket had the message “United As One.””A lot of people talk about racism and how they don’t like it, but not everyone does something about it,” he said. “And the fact that we decided to do something about it was a real big thing, and I definitely wanted to be involved and be a part of it. So, I wrote my own message ‘United as One,’ because no one should have to go through that alone. We’re together in this.”The friendly matches cemented the bond, as the U.S. went on to beat Panama 6-2 in the second match of that international window. The U.S. staff and players didn’t let up with their recruiting pitch, as evidenced by the flow of communication between Musah and his U.S. teammates on Twitter and Instagram. But the hard work had been done.”I think [about] the amount of time and effort that Gregg and the staff put into it, always contacting me since last year, and also get me to come to camp, and see how it goes,” he said. “Everyone was really welcoming. Everyone was great, like it was as if we’ve seen each other or met each other before. And that that helps me because I’m new, and they welcomed me really well. In the end, we played two games really well and also had fun.”

Berhalter is quick to remind everyone that Musah is 18. There is a lot of growing left to be done, but the U.S. manager also can’t help but be excited by what the future could look like.”With a lot of our players, they’re really young, so we have to just keep that in mind when we’re projecting,” he said. “But what I see from [Musah] is just a tremendous dynamic with his speed and quickness, and then he’s technically a very good player. He’s open to learning, so to me, he has a really high ceiling.”Musah is one of those players who appreciates every ounce of his success so far. He was born in New York City while his family was vacationing there, which made him eligible for U.S. citizenship. Musah spent his early childhood in the northern Italian town of Castelfranco Veneto near Venice. His earliest soccer memories are of walking to a nearby park and squaring off against his older brothers, Abdul and Nabil.

By the time the family moved to east London when Musah was 9, the game was already in his blood, and it helped him adapt to a new country and culture. He soon joined Arsenal’s academy and rose through the ranks before departing for Valencia when he was 16. The reason was simple: He saw an easier path to first-team minutes in Spain than he did with the Gunners, but everywhere he went, he took that positive attitude with him.”I think my parents and the culture that we’ve been around, I think that told me to be happy with little, if you say,” Musah said. “I feel like whenever there’s anything that’s bigger than a little, I say, ‘I’m most happy about that.’ I like to be grateful for everything in life, and whatever comes about. This is how I am.”That approach has served Musah well in a league season in which he experienced the high of his first La Liga goal against Getafe last November, as well as some lows that have seen him reduced to a substitute’s role.”It’s been tough,” he says. “It’s not the ideal thing obviously. You want to always have ups and have great games and win and win. But football isn’t like that, and if you understand that, then I think that’s the main thing, just keep working and working. Then you’re going to have more ‘ups’ potentially. You can’t give up. You have to keep working and keep trying to improve. And as a young player, I’m very young in my career, I think it’s great to take this as a learning experience, and made sure I learn from it.”Berhalter has long said he wanted to make sure that when a dual national chooses the U.S., they do it for the right reasons, and that they feel a connection to the country. The U.S. manager says that in Musah, he “really sensed how proud he was to be an American.”But beyond Musah’s play on the field and his body language around the U.S. team, there was a more subtle indication. His use of “we” readily and naturally when referring to the U.S. team flowed easily, showing his unforced connection to this group. While their journey has a long distance left to run, with the 2022 World Cup looming just over the horizon, the U.S. team’s latest recruit is definitely on board.

U.S. Men’s Soccer Key Dates

Olympic qualifyingMarch 18-30
Friendly vs. JamaicaMarch 25
Friendly vs. N. IrelandMarch 28
Friendly vs. SwitzerlandMay 30
Nations LeagueJune 3-6
Gold CupJuly (dates TBD)
OlympicsJuly 21-Aug. 7
World Cup qualifyingSept.-March ’22
2022 World CupNov. 21-Dec. 18 ’22

USWNT’s Olympic Roster Competition on Display in Squad Chosen to Face Sweden, France

AVI CREDITOR  SI It’s no secret that trimming the U.S. women’s national team player pool to 18 for the Olympics is a difficult task, and that’s evident by who Vlatko Andonovski has called on for a trip overseas for two difficult friendlies.

Of Andonovski’s 23 players chosen to face Sweden and France, 21 were part of the SheBelieves Cup–winning side that beat Canada, Brazil and Argentina last month, with Sam Mewis and Alana Cook rejoining the fold, taking the places of Casey Krueger and Jaelin Howell.The first match comes April 10 vs. Sweden—the opponent for Andonovski’s first match as U.S. coach, a 3–2 win—in Stockholm before a return to France for the first time since winning the 2019 Women’s World Cup title to play against Les Bleues in Le Havre on April 13. That latter friendly is notable, given it takes place against the last opponent to beat the U.S. at the site of that defeat. Since then, the U.S. is unbeaten in 37 matches, has won another World Cup (which included a return to Le Havre, where the U.S. beat Sweden in the group stage) and now has set its sights on Olympic gold.The matches against the two top-five teams, according to the most recent FIFA world ranking, will put the USA’s 16-game winning streak under Andonovski to the test and overlap with the start of the NWSL Challenge Cup, taking select NWSL players away from their clubs for the competition. In total, 17 of the 23 players heading to Europe are based in NWSL. “I give our larger pool of players credit for always making selections difficult, but this group going to Europe has shown consistent quality in their performances as well as in their abilities to contribute to the overall chemistry of the team,” said U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski, who indicated he’d have his Olympic choices set by mid-June on a call with reporters on Tuesday. “We still have much evaluation to do from trainings, international matches, NWSL matches and overseas club matches before selecting the Olympic team, but I’m really looking forward to these two games for what adversity they will bring. The exciting thing is that I know our players have the talent and mentality to meet those adversities with a great energy and overcome them.”

Here’s a closer look at the squad:

GOALKEEPERS

Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

This is the same trio that Andonovski took to the SheBelieves Cup and is a good indicator of who will be in the mix to head to Tokyo, with Naeher the entrenched starter and Campbell becoming the preferred No. 2 to the previous backup, Ashlyn Harris. The U.S. has kept clean sheets in 14 of the last 15 matches, including six straight.

DEFENDERS

Alana Cook (PSG), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Midge Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)

The core group hardly changes here, with seven of these eight the same as those chosen for the SheBelieves Cup, the one difference being Cook stepping in for Krueger, who is out injured. Just how many defenders Andonovski will take as part of his 18-player Olympic roster remains to be seen, but versatility plays in Dunn’s and Purce’s favor, while there should be fierce competition behind Dahlkemper and Sauerbrunn for center back depth.

Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City), Catarina Macario (Lyon), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City)

Trimming from this group will be next to impossible given form, potential and experience. It’s just a very complementary group with no real weaknesses. If there is an Olympic omission from this group, Kristie Mewis is likely to be closest to the cut line, though that’s based on it being a numbers game alone. Her resurgence—she went more than six years between caps—is one of the more unique and admirable tales on the team. Macario is back in the mix amid her continued progression at Lyon, where she’s appeared in the Women’s Champions League. Her side will face Cook’s PSG in the quarterfinals. Sam Mewis, Lavelle and Dahlkemper’s Man City, meanwhile, will face Barcelona.

FORWARDS

Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Manchester United), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage)

Another deep group features the return of Lloyd, who is one cap shy of hitting 300 in her illustrious career. Only Kristine Lilly and Christie Pearce Rampone have hit that mark in international soccer history (Canada great Christine Sinclair is four caps away). Andonovski is giving her and Rapinoe every chance to make another Olympic team, while Morgan will continue to keep building in her return following the birth of her daughter. She scored her first international goal as a mom in the SheBelieves Cup finale vs. Argentina. The group still doesn’t feature Tobin Heath, who remains out with an ankle injury but figures to be a good bet to go to Japan if and when she’s back.

 

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2/26/21 USWNT Wins Cup, CBSAA adds US games to Soccer Coverage, Chelsea vs Man U Sun 11:30 AM NBCSN

Games to Watch on TV

Not a lot to watch on Sat this week – as EPLs top spot Man City hosting 4th place West Ham at 7:30 am on NBCSN and Sevilla vs Barcelona and American Sergio Dest battling for 3rd in La Liga on beIN Sport at 10:15 am, and RB Leipzig with Adams hosting Borussian Mgladbach at 12:30 pm provide the only top ranked games.  Sunday does give us some good ones though as Man United travel to Chelsea and seldom used American Pulisic (can you sense the anger in my typing with the Dang German Coach Tuchel) and 4th place Roma host Italian leaders Inter Milan at 2:45 pm on ESPN+.  Arsenal do travel to Leicester City in 3rd at 9 am on NBCSN.  

Wed gives us Cup games in Germany as RB Leipzig and Adams face Wolfsburg and John Brooks on ESPN+ at 2:45 pm and Barcelona and Dest play Sevilla and midfielder Mussala) at 3:15 pm.   Lots of rumors this week at Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic to Bayern Munich and Dortmund’s Gio Reyna to the EPL have both been making the rounds.  Good thing I didn’t buy that long sleeve Chelsea Jersey yet!

USWNT beats Brazil 2-0, Argentina 6-0 to Win She Believes Cup

Of course the US finished up the Cup with a solid 5-0 win over Argentina to wrap up as Champions of the She Believes Cup for the 4th time in 6 tries.  The Argentina game saw Rapinoe score 2 more goals, Kristie Mewis 1 and 1 by Morgan (finally) – and 1 by Lloyd who really runs her butt off at the #9 slot.  I thought Morgan or Press should be starting up top but honestly Lloyd outhustles them both –and while she doesn’t always score – her assists and disruption are both pretty solid.  That’s a tough call for Coach A – but Lloyd’s got to be on the team if healthy.  At this point I think Press has earned a starting slot along with either Rapinoe or Heath on the wings.  I just realized Williams is 31 years old and with her inability to finish and score it might leave her out in exchange for someone like 20 yo Sophie Smith or 21 yo Macario.  The midfield is wide open but Lavell and Sam Mewis and Julie Ertz are of course starters.  Tough decisions on everyone else but Horan and MaCario I would think – maybe Kristie Mewis.   In the back its Dunn on the left, Ohara on the right with Sauerbrunn and Dahlkemper in the middle – probably Sonnett as backup on the right side since she can play in the middle as well and perhaps 22 yo Tierna Davidson since she can play wing back, middle or Dmid?  Man cutting this roster to 18 is going to be tough. 

(Possible Olympic Roster assuming no injuries) 5 Mids/5 Forwards/6 Defenders – battling for spots in italics

GK: Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris/Jane Campbell
DF: Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelly O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Casey Krueger -30/Tierna Davidson 22/Midge Purce  25 /Ali Krieger
MF: Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario/Kristie Mewis
FW: Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd/Lynn Williams/Sophia Smith

Overall – I thought Brazil gave the US the most trouble.  They had 5 shots on goal – and just missed on 2 really good opportunities where they should have scored.  Still the US was dominant in a game that was wide open for most of the 90 minutes.  The US took the lead early when Christian Press received a good ball on the right wing and cut back on her left to score a solid goal.  After starting Press on the left, Morgan up top and Williams on the right I thought perhaps this is your starting line-up for the Olympics.  Morgan looked good up top but definitely rusty as she was just a step behind all night on scoring – but her passing was pretty spot on.  Williams was good but again just can’t score and at 31 years old she’s not better than those she’s battling for spots with.  When Rapino, and Lloyd came on – in the 70th minute – Rapinoe took advantage and had a solid goal off a cross where she just outfought the defender for the shot on goal to score in the 85th minute or so.  Again overall the US was better than Brazil – but Brazil should have scored to tie this game mid second half had a couple of shots where they could have scored if they hit the shot right.  The center of the US defense was exposed for its lack of speed as Brazil had some breaks thru the middle.  I thought Crystal Dunn at right back, who saved no fewer than 2 goals on the right side of the field from her right back spot, was perhaps the best player of the field.   Still looking at 1 or 2 more friendlies in April before the Olympics in late July.   

Full She Believes Cup squad:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 4), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 65)

DEFENDERS (8): Kasey Krueger, Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 63/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 27/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 107/24), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 133/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 4/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 179/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 48/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 105/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC;88/20), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 48/13), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnaise, FRA; 2/1), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 18/3), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 70/21) –out injured.

FORWARDS (6): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 296/123), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 170/107), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 139/58), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 170/54), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 31/10). (Tobin Heath out 12 wks)

Soccer on TV News  

So first huge news that CBS All Access (becoming Paramount+) next week has announced they have acquired the rights for Nations League games for CONCACAF which includes Men’s and Women’s US games when they are on the road.  They are also grabbing the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying for the US Men and Womens game and they are adding Brazil and Argentina Soccer League coverage.  So now CBSAA/Paramount will carry all of the US men’s and US ladies games the Nations League and for World Cup Qualifying games on the road.  Not sure how I feel about this – more games behind the firewall – I can only hope that they will at least show the big US road games on CBS or CBS Sports Network rather than just on the very poorly delivered online streaming.  (The streaming is live only until the next day – no pausing, or rewinding or forwarding the game like you can on ESPN+).  Yes it will be nice to have all the away games in one place.  I am still worried – we just have more games behind the paywall and less games on TV. Now even US games – normally picked up by Fox Sports 1 or ESPN or beIN Sport on TV – will now possibly be streaming only.  Not good for the sport in my mind but I guess if you have to pay to get Champions League and NWSL already then what the heck – give us everything.  I will say that CBS has done a good job with pregame and post game shows with Champs League and Europa League and NSWL coverage.  So I do think they will treat the games with respect – but man I hate to see more games not on normal TV.  

Speaking of Soccer on TV – over 600K watched the USA vs Brazil game on FS1 Sunday afternoon – somewhat disappointing in my mind – wonder what it would have done on Fox on Sunday at say 1 pm?   Oh well the 600K was the 3rd largest for a women’s game on FS1 other than World Cups.  I guess we see now why more soccer is not on Network TV – we American’s really don’t watch soccer do we?  Not even our Top Ranked US Ladies can draw 1 million fans to watch a game against a really good Brazil team on a cold Sunday afternoon at 3 pm.  Everyone was watching NASCAR I guess.  I was pleased with the FS1 Coverage with a studio show lead in for both the Brazil game and the Argentina game – and the post game for the past 2 games was solid and pre-empted the hoops games starting after them.  Nice to see respect for the US ladies on Fox Sports for change. 

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Feb 27

7:30 am NBCSN               Man City vs West Ham United

9:30 am ESPN+                Beilfeld vs Dortmund (Reyna)

10:15 am beIN Sport         Sevilla vs Barcelona (Dest)

12:30 pm Peacock             Leeds vs Aston Villa  

12:30 pm ESPN+               RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Borussia Mgladbach

2:45 pm ESPN+                 Hallas Verona vs Juventus (McKinney)

3 pm beIN Sport                Getafe vs Valencia (Mussah)

Sun   Feb 28

6:30 am ESPN2                  Sampdoria vs Atalanta

7:30 ESPN+                         Hoffenheim (Richards) vs Union Berlin

7 am Peacock                     Crystal Palace vs Fulham (Robinson)

9 am NBCSN                     Leicester City vs Arsenal

11:05 am beIN Sport         Lille (Weah) vs Stasbourg

11:30 am NBCSN             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man United

2:15 pm Peacock               Sheffield vs Liverpool

2:45 pm ESPN+                Roma vs Milan  

3 pm beIN Sport                Villareal vs Atletico Madrid

Mon Mar 1

3 pm NBCSN                      Southampton vs Everton

3 pm beIN Sport                Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad

Tues Mar2

3 pm NBCSN                      Man City vs Wolverhampton

Weds Mar 3  

1 pm NBCSN                      Burnley vs Leicester City

2:45pm ESPN+           RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Wolfsburg (Brooks) German Cup
  

3 pm ESPN+                      Barcelona (Dest) vs Sevilla Copa Del Rey

3:15 pm Peacock               Crystal Palace vs Man United

Thurs Mar 4

3 pm NBCSN                      Fulham vs Tottenham

1 pm Peacock                     West Brom vs Everton  

2:45 pm ESPN2                 Parma vs Inter Milan

3 pm Peacock                    Liverpool vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

 Sat,  Mar 6

7:30 am NBCSN               Burnley vs Arsenal  

12:30 pm ESPN+               Bayern Munich vs Dortmund (Reyna)

Sun,  Mar 7

9 am NBCSN                      Liverpool vs Fulham (Robinson)  

10:!5 am beIN Sport       Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid – Madrid Derby!

11:30 am NBCSN             Man City vs Man United

12:30 pm ESPN+               Bayern Munich vs Dortmund (Reyna)

Mon ,Mar 8

3 pm NBCSN                     Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Everton

3 pm ESPN+                       Inter Milan vs Atalanta

Tues Mar 9

Juventus (McKinney) vs Porto, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Borussia Dortmund (Reyna) vs Sevilla, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Weds Mar 10

Liverpool vs RB Leipzig (Adams). 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

PSG vs Barcelona 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Thursday, Mar 18 –
5 pm FS 1                            USA vs Costa Rica (Olympic Qualifying)

US Ladies

USWNT starting to implement Vlatko’s ‘principles’
Alex Morgan Scores First Goal as a Mom
Stand or kneel? How Megan Rapinoe helped US Soccer change its tune
SheBelieves: USA dispatches tired Argentina 6-0
Megan Rapinoe, USWNT dominate Argentina to win SheBelieves Cup

Rapinoe brace opens floodgates as USA rout Argentina to win SheBelieves Cup

USWNT’s win less about perfection and more about passing crucial tests
   Jeff Carlisle eSPN
Megan Rapinoe gives a nod to USWNT teammates Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris with goal celebration
Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe lead U.S. past Brazil in SheBelieves Cup
Crystal Dunn had a ridiculous, goal-saving slide tackle to keep the USWNT ahead in its match against Brazil
Crystal Dunn on USWNT all standing for anthem: ‘Past the protesting phase’
Final Brazil Game Stats

US MEN

Is it time for Pulisic to leave Premier League?
WATCH: Is there any sense in a Christian Pulisic move away from Chelsea

USMNT’s Morris out for season with ACL blow

Tackle-assist from USMNT’s Adams helps Leipzig pull within two of Bayern

Will Efra pick US or Mexico for Olympics? Kreis talks qualifying roster

Herc Gomez: US-Mexico race for “special” Efra is a game-changer

Doyle: Breaking down the US depth chart for Olympic qualifying

Two Years of Berhalter: Tactical Evolution By Adnan Ilyas

Paramount’s new streaming service just became a must-buy for U.S. Soccer fans

2020 Men’s Olympic Qualifying Full Schedule (all times ET)

Group Stage

Group A: Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, and Dominican Republic
Group B: Honduras, Canada, El Salvador and Haiti   (top 2 teams from each group advance to semis – 2 teams in final advance to Olympics.)  

Thursday, March 18 – Jalisco Stadium
USA vs Costa Rica (5 pm)  FS1
Mexico vs Dominican Republic (7:30 pm)
Friday, March 19 – Jalisco Stadium
Honduras vs Haiti (3:30 pm)
Canada vs El Salvador (6 pm) 
Sunday, March 21 – Akron Stadium 
Dominican Republic vs USA (7 pm)  FS1
Costa Rica vs Mexico (9:30 pm)
Wednesday, March 24 – Jalisco Stadium
Costa Rica vs Dominican Republic (7 pm)
Mexico vs USA (9:30 pm) FS1
Thursday, March 25 – Jalisco Stadium
El Salvador vs Haiti (7 pm)
Honduras vs Canada (9:30 pm)
Semifinals

Sunday, March 28 – Jalisco Stadium
1B vs 2A (6 pm)
1A vs 2B (9 pm)
 Final

Tuesday, March 30 – Akron Stadium
Winner Semifinal 1 vs Winner Semifinal 2 (9 pm)  FS1

EPL

Premier League fight for fourth: Liverpool to miss out? Breaking down the battle, key men

Liverpool ‘zombies’ walking through ‘depressing’ season, says Gary Neville

 Man City’s relentless streak and the uncomfortable questions it raises
Premier League talking points

Premier League Power Rankings

 

WORLD
Manchester United face AC Milan in Europa League last 16

Manchester United and AC Milan will face off in the last 16 of the Europa League after being 
Inter on top, Bayern, Atletico and PSG all stumble: Talking points from around Europe

 

MLS
Thierry Henry steps down as Montreal head coach

Cincy: New West End Stadium almost complete, set for May opening

Doyle’s top 5 teams in MLS right now

Doyle: One big question for each East team as preseason begins

Doyle: One big question for every Western team as preseason begins

Paramount’s/CBS All Access- new streaming service just became a must-buy for U.S. Soccer fans

The streaming wars are heating all the way up.B/y Rob Usry@RobUsry    Feb 25, 2021, 5:00am PST

We should probably preface this blog post by saying this isn’t sponsored content, just an honest assessment of the current Soccer streaming landscape that just shifted dramatically for U.S. Soccer fans.The streaming service currently known as CBS All-Access will be rebranded to “Paramount Plus” next week. With its new look comes a massive acquisition of soccer streaming rights that will make it a must-buy for any hardcore soccer fan, especially those that follow the USWNT and USMNT.In addition to having every UEFA Champions League (men’s) and Europa League match and acquiring the rights for the Argentine and Brazilian first divisions, Paramount Plus has signed a deal with Concacaf for some very important rights that will affect you.  Here’s a detailed description of the agreement between the two parties announced by Paramount on Wednesday:

Concacaf – offering more than 200 Concacaf matches, starting with the Concacaf Nations League Finals in June of this year, which will feature the U.S. Men’s National Team. Coverage will feature all 41 national teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean across different competitions, including the qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, which will feature the defending champion U.S. Women’s National Team.The most important thing you need to know is that both the USWNT and USMNT will have World Cup qualifying matches streamed on this new platform in some fashion.  For the men’s side, the rights are split between away matches and home matches (plus Mexico away). During the last World Cup qualifying cycle the rights for away matches belonged to beIN sports, which to put as kindly as possible, did not go well. At least with this model, a modest monthly fee gets you access to every away men’s qualifier. When you consider that just ten years ago every single away qualifier (except against Mexico) was only available through closed-circuit pay-per-view, then this seems like an amazing step in the right direction.  The women’s World Cup qualifying tournament rights are included in the agreement in addition to being the home of NWSL.Paramount will also carry the men’s Nations League Finals this summer and the women’s Nations League beginning in 2023. In addition, they’ll offer plenty of other non-U.S. Soccer related events including the brand new UEFA Europa Conference League (third tier European club competition) beginning this fall.  While all the different streaming platforms that hold soccer rights in this country can be overwhelming, some are better bargains than others. Paramount Plus has jumped up near the top of the list of must-buys, for American soccer fans at least.

The network is expanding its soccer lineup with the addition of Concacaf men’s and women’s World Cup qualifying, the Argentine league and Brazilian league, according to Jonathan Tannenwald from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

CBS has English-language broadcasts rights to both the Concacaf men’s World Cup qualifying final stage games played outside of the U.S. and Mexico leading up to Qatar 2022, as well as the Concacaf women’s qualifying tournament that will send the nations to Australia 2023.CBS and Concacaf concluded their first-ever deal on Wednesday, expanding the network’s soccer portfolio that already has the National Women’s Soccer League, UEFA Champions League and Europa League.The men’s World Cup qualifying eight-team final round is scheduled to begin in September. However, only five nations – the USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras – have qualified to the round, leaving 30 teams divided into six groups to fight for the last three vacant spots during March and June to complete the eight-team final round. The early-round games are not a part of the CBS deal.

USMNT 2022 World Cup qualifying schedule:

  • September 2021: Away game at team TBD, home game vs. team TBD, away game at Honduras
  • October 2021: Away game vs. Jamaica, away game at team TBD, home game vs. Costa Rica
  • November 2021: Home game vs. Mexico, home game vs. Jamaica
  • January 2022: Home game vs. team TBD, away game at team TBD, home game vs. Honduras
  • March 2022: Away game at Mexico, home game vs. team TBD, away game at Costa Rica

All the games CBS acquired the rights to will be available on CBS’s subscription streaming platform currently called CBS All Access. The rebrand to Paramount+ will take place on March 4.On the other hand, the Concacaf 2023 World Cup qualifying will begin in November with a new format. Thirty teams will be divided into six groups of five and the U.S and Canada will go directly into the eight-team-final-round tournament in July 2022. The U.S. and Canada earned the byes by being the top two teams in the region. CBS also acquired the rights to Concacaf’s men’s and women’s Nations League tournaments, starting with the men’s Nations League semifinals and final this summer. The U.S., Honduras, Mexico and Costa Rica are the four sides that will battle for the title at a single site still not determined. The first-ever women’s Nations League will begin in September 2023, after the World Cup. The two teams that qualify for the 2024 Olympics will not take part in the Nations League until the final round, which is scheduled for June 2024.Additionally, Paramount+ will become the new home for English-language coverage of Argentina’s Primera Division and Brazil’s Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A. The service will include over 600 matches from the two leagues. Soccer fans in the U.S. will have a chance to watch the likes of South American giants Boca Juniors, River Plate, Santos, Internacional, Palmeiras and Flamengo.

USWNT lessons from SheBelieves Cup: Team can build on positive momentum

2:11 PM ET      Julie Foudy    Contributor, espnW.com

Few were surprised that the USWNT won its fourth SheBelieves Cup in six years on Wednesday, but the Stars and Stripes certainly made the march to the title more of a slog than anticipated.–  Their opponents — Canada (missing seven key players), Brazil and Argentina (a late replacement for Japan due to COVID-19 concerns) — were not the quality of teams of past SheBelieves Cups, so I thought the tournament would be fairly one sided for the U.S., only that wasn’t the case. Canada looked quite good against the U.S. under their new head coach, Bev Priestman, Brazil was more organized under former USWNT head coach, Pia Sundhage, and Argentina? Well, Argentina was what we predicted… underwhelming. With the Olympics still scheduled to begin less than five months from now, let’s reflect on what we’ve learned from this SheBelieves Cup:

A healthy reminder

For the U.S., not playing their best and still winning the title is always a good thing. Here’s why: These players will return to their clubs knowing that their world domination is not yet complete. In Orlando, they were sometimes exposed at the back, errors that better teams would punish. The U.S. were not clean in front of goal, either — that could be the difference in a tight game against a better opponent. These players know all of this, and that will gently haunt them. They will watch the games back and work on getting things right, understanding that the SheBelieves Cup was a subtle, yet important reminder for them to keep that fire burning bright.

Roster Roulette

Speaking about keeping that fire burning, when USWNT head coach, Vlatko Andonovski, is asked about how many spots on his 18-player Olympic roster remain open, he says 18. Obviously, he has many locked in, but I do think due to the limited games and access to players and training camps, this Olympic roster is understandably going to take longer to decipher.

Roster roulette is a fascinating game to play, so let’s give it a try. Based on the last six games (three in SheBelieves Cup, plus Colombia twice and the Netherlands), and assuming Andonovski and his staff are taking two goalkeepers, six defenders, five midfielders, and five forwards, here are some scenarios (and the player options for that final spot in italics):

GK: Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris/Jane Campbell
DF: Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelly O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Casey Krueger/Tierna Davidson/Midge Purce/Ali Krieger
MF: Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario/Kristie Mewis
FW: Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd/Lynn Williams/Sophia Smith

Questions still needing answers

Where is Carli Lloyd in her comeback after missing most of 2020 because of injury?

Lloyd had a goal and assist against Argentina and looked sharper than in her previous SheBelieves Cup game, but she missed a few excellent chances vs. Canada. Rapinoe’s comeback, after also missing most of 2020, seems clearer. She finished the SheBelieves Cup as the leading scorer and also leads the team with five goals in five games in 2021. Rapinoe has shown she can still impact games quickly and consistently. I think Lloyd will need to show that in the coming months as well.

How has Alex Morgan recovered from missing 2020 due to pregnancy, a knee injury and a COVID-19 diagnosis spilling into 2021?

I thought her performance against Brazil was a plus. Her touches were sharp, her movement good. She also scored a nice goal against Argentina.

Did Lynn Williams help or hurt her case for breaking into the final 18 Olympic roster based on her play in this SheBelieves Cup?

This is a tough question for me to answer because I love so much of what Lynn Williams does with her speed. She gets into great positions and turns defenders, which makes her a consistent threat to the opposition. She also does a ton of work on the defensive side of the ball. All great attributes, yes, but her final pass and her finishing are far too inconsistent, hurting her chances to become a regular starter.  If Williams finished some of those opportunities against Canada and Brazil, the games would have been less of a slog.

How many younger players can Andonovski afford to break in? Will they be ready for the Olympics?

Catarina Macario struggled in midfield vs. Canada, but excelled as a forward in both games against Colombia. Unfortunately, Macario did not get to see a lot of time in this SheBelieves Cup as she went back early to her club in Lyon.

Sophia Smith came into the game in the 65th minute against Brazil and while she didn’t make much of an impact, she played a beautiful ball for the assist on Alex Morgan’s goal vs. Argentina. I think this young player may be on the outside peeking in, but she is going to be fun to watch. She runs at players better than most.Then there’s Kristie Mewis. Not a young player — she’s 30 — but she is new to the mix (or, more aptly, newly back in the mix) and has looked consistently sharp, with a goal and assist against Argentina.

Also to ponder:

– Would Andonovski consider taking five defenders, instead of six, since Julie Ertz can also play center-back?

If he did that and he took Dunn, Sauerbrunn, Dahlkemper, O’Hara and Sonnett, the U.S. would have 3 natural outside-back options in Dunn, O’Hara and Sonnett. That seems thin for that position given the tight Olympic game schedule and how often O’Hara has been injured. That is why I think he takes six defenders and Ertz in midfield.  Since he does have the Ertz option at center-back, I think that sixth defender will have to be a player who can play outside back.

– How about the midfield mix?

If Vlatko felt strongly about both Macario and Kristie Mewis, Macario could go as a forward, but that means other forwards (like Lloyd, Williams and Smith) might not make the roster. I cannot see that happening. I think Lloyd is going. Her work on on both sides of the ball is still one of the best on the team. Add in her strong mentality and finishing ability in big moments, and even at 39 years old at the Olympics, she can help the team.

Their Superpower

With the Olympic rhythm being tighter than the World Cup schedule (two days rest at the Olympics, compared to three at a World Cup) and the Olympic roster being five players lighter than a World Cup roster, you can’t afford to bring players who may help the team or are not 100 percent fit. With only 16 field players and limited rest, EVERY SINGLE PLAYER must contribute, which is why the U.S. are the clear favorites to win the Gold Medal: their squad is much deeper than any team out there.That is their superpower. The U.S. can field two line-ups that are quite different, yet both strong, and we’ve seen Andonovski do this throughout his tenure with the national team. Who else in this Olympics pool could do that without losing much at all in that second group? Maybe Great Britain. For the U.S., it will be less about who is starting and more about managing the rhythm of minutes played per game so that whichever combination is on the field, they are aggressively dictating the tempo.Overall, I think the U.S. will take a big positive from this SheBelieves Cup because they remain undefeated under Andonovski, and let’s not forget: they did not concede a goal in this tournament, the first team to ever do that in the tournament’s history. (It just goes to show you the standard by which we judge this team’s performance, which I still think was far from their best.)Andonovski’s last chance to evaluate players against other international opponents comes in the April FIFA window (by the June window, the team will be set). It’s just the environment needed to make those final judgements and then start rallying the Olympic team of 18 together.Here’s to hoping an Olympics will indeed be played in July. Sending out my best YES-the-Olympics-will-be-played karma into the world right now. Do the same, please!

USWNT worked as a unit to unlock Argentina – Vlatko Andonovski

play Megan Rapinoe’s double vs. Argentina seals a fourth SheBelieves Cup title for the USWNT. (1:47)Feb 24, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Going up against an outmatched and tired opponent, the U.S. put the game away in the first half with a four-goal barrage in a 25-minute span. Megan Rapinoe scored twice during the spell with Carli Lloyd and Kristie Mewis padding the U.S. lead. Christen Press and Alex Morgan tallied in the second half. Morgan’s goal was her first for the U.S. since the 2019 World Cup semifinal against England.

While the result was expected, Andonovski was still assessing his team’s performance with a microscope as he attempts to identify the 18 players he will take to Tokyo for this summer’s Olympics.”It’s always hard to play against a team that sits low, it’s hard to break them down” he said after the match. “And it’s hard to do it quick. So for us, it takes a little bit of time to figure out the angles, to figure out the area, to figure out the positions and how we can do it. So that was one thing that we’re looking at. How quick can we do it? Who can who can figure that out and how we can unlock a team?”So, the understanding of our principles, the implementation of our principles and the execution individually, as a group, as a unit, and also as a team is what we’re looking for. So, overall very happy with how we are performed and how we were able to unlock Argentina early in the game, and how we finished the game as well.”Rose Lavelle was voted the tournament MVP, and while her goal in the 1-0 win over Canada was critical to the U.S. winning the title, she felt that the award should have gone to someone else.”Honestly I don’t know how I won that. I don’t know who picks that,” she said. “I think there were a lot better options … but I guess it’s always it’s always nice to be recognized!”For Morgan, there was relief at scoring for the first time since 2019. Morgan had missed considerable time with the U.S. team after giving birth to her daughter Charlie in May of 2020 and then enduring a bout of COVID-19 earlier this year.”To say it’s been a long time would be an understatement. It’s been over 500 days,” said Morgan via a zoom call afterward. “You guys don’t have to sugarcoat it. But I’m very excited to get my first goal back with the national team.”Morgan added that she feels she’s almost back to full fitness, and expects that to come in time with club side the Orlando Pride.”I feel like I’m getting my legs underneath me,” she said. “Getting 70 or so minutes the other night, it was a transition game, and I felt like at times I was trying to catch my breath. But looking at the numbers, I had a lot of running in that game, and I was happy with kind of the way that I’ve progressed.”I still don’t feel like I’m 100 percent. I feel like I’m 99 or so. I’m getting there, my timing needs to get better, my instincts need to get better, but I think that will come with like a month straight of team training.”

SheBelieves: USA dispatches tired Argentina 6-0

 strong ending to a tournament that has had its rough spots for the USWNT.By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Feb 24, 2021, 7:15pm PST

Starting XI: Jane Campbell, Kelley O’Hara, Tierna Davidson, Becky Sauerbrunn, Casey Krueger, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Kristie Mewis, Christen Press, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe

It was indeed a game of roster rotation as Vlatko Andonovski rolled out his starting lineup against Argentina. Jane Campbell, Kelley O’Hara, and Tierna Davidson all got their first minutes, while Casey Krueger and Kristie Mewis got their first starts. There was also some tinkering with the forward line as Lynn Williams finally got some rest and Andonovski shifted Press to the right side.Right away the team looked much more fluid and mobile, although it can’t be discounted that they were facing a more tired, slower Argentina team at the end of the tournament. The US looked often for the direct ball over the back line or the wide play, staying away from Argentina’s attempts to compact the middle. Early on, there was an attempt by Argentina at defending in an orderly 4-2-4, facing up in compact lines particularly when Julie Ertz had the ball at feet and was looking to distribute. That fell off a bit as the US began to systematically, repeatedly tear the Argentina backline to shreds.Without Lynn Williams in the mix, it was mostly Rose Lavelle who was pulling the game wide on the right, with some crossing from Kelley O’Hara. O’Hara had a planned 30 minutes in the game before getting subbed out in the 32’ for Emily Sonnett.On the left, Casey Krueger had a very good first half, maintaining the high press while picking out Megan Rapinoe and Kristie Mewis in pockets. Rapinoe had the first goal in the 16’. Lavelle own the ball back in midfield and popped it over the back line. It was a nice enough service that Rapinoe didn’t even need to touch it, just got behind it and finished it nicely.The second goal was in the 26’, once again Rapinoe. Christen Press drifted out of her lane to check back and pick up a ball, then turned and cleverly threaded it for Carli Lloyd. Lloyd did the smart thing and dropped it off for Rapinoe to finish. Then Lloyd got her own goal in the 35’, this time finishing off her own quick little pass from Mewis, who did a good job in the first half with her dynamic runs and late timing into the box.The fourth goal was in the 41’, this one for Mewis herself. The Krueger – Mewis connection paid off again as poor Argentina’s back line got cooked by yet another player making the turn and facing up to goal.

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1364739558072532993&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.starsandstripesfc.com%2F2021%2F2%2F24%2F22300052%2Fshebelieves-usa-dispatches-tired-argentina-6-0&siteScreenName=StarsStripesFC&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px The half ended at 4-0.The second half started with a triple sub, as Lavelle, Lloyd, and Krueger came off for Lindsey Horan, Alex Morgan, and Midge Purce. Horan’s presence shifted Mewis to the right side of midfield, while Morgan went in as the 9 and Purce filled in at RB. The chance creation slowed down a little bit with the change. The US still alternated between trying to drop the ball right over the back line, this time for Morgan to peel off her defender(s) with speed, and pulling wide to create chances with crosses. Purce was effective here again, winning a lot of 1-v-1s and sometimes managing to cook two players in a row.

Argentina pushed back a little bit in the middle of the half, surging with some lovely possession ball while switching the point of attack and trying to lure in the US, but the defense was on it and snuffed out attempts to play in their forwards. Davidson looked solid here, working well with Sauerbrunn, tracking players as well as distributing out of the back.The US made another two subs in the 62’ with Ertz and Rapinoe coming out, and Jaelin Howell and Sophia Smith coming in. Press was able to come left and Howell went in at DM, immediately bringing strong physical energy. Press continued to work well tucking into the halfspace to play quick one- and two-touch passing up the left and rotate into crossing and scoring positions.In the 77’ Mewis delivered a lovely cross that suckered the goalkeeper out; she whiffed it, but Morgan couldn’t quite finish it at the back post. Morgan got her goal eventually, though. Sophia Smith picked up the ball deep in midfield, ate up the space, drew in several players, and was able to feed an open Morgan sitting on the back line. Morgan turned and was gone, finishing the ball to make it 5-0.The last goal was in the 88’ Mewis served in a corner. Horan’s header got sent back across goal face, where Press was in good position to finish the second ball and make it 6-0, which was the score at full time.After the game, Andonovski said he was happy with the performance.“Even though they’re tired or we’re a better team, it’s always hard to play against the team that sits low,” he said. “It’s hard to break them down. And it’s hard to do it quick. So for us, it takes a little bit of time to figure out the angles, to figure out the area, to figure out the positions in how we can do it. So that was the one thing that we’re looking at, like, how quick can we do it? Who can figure that out and how we can unlock a team. So the the understanding of our principles, the implementation of our principles, and the execution individually as a group as a unit, and also as a team is what we’re looking for.”He also had praise for two of the defenders he gave starts for the first time this tournament in Casey Krueger and Tierna Davidson. “Early on [Krueger] had a couple of decisions that she made that I felt like she could have done a better job. But again, it was very early in the game. And once she started feeling the game and understanding the movement of the players ahead of her, I thought that she was very good. And on the other side defensively, there was nothing we can say. I mean, she was spot on in every action that she performed. On the other side, or next to her, Tierna, very calm, dictating the pace together with Becky and spraying balls left and right, I thought she did good.” Andonovski said that Krueger was a planned sub after 45 minutes, based on where she’s currently at in her fitness and recovery.When asked about his players rotating well through space, Andonovski said, “We work lots of different rotations, interchanging of positions. We work on players making different runs in different movements. And what we always say is, we give them tools, and they need to use them in different times in different ways.”That’s certainly what we got out of the team tonight. Once again, it’s important to remember this was against a tired team just getting their legs back under them after over a year out of the international game. But let’s not completely discount that this was a positive ending after two games where they struggled to execute, particularly given the player rotation, namely resting Crystal Dunn and Lynn Williams. It was a glimpse of what he clearly wants this team to be, with versatile players able to move quickly and creatively in and out of passing channels. There’s a couple of FIFA windows upcoming that are probably going to be further opportunities to winnow this roster to 18 and get everyone back from the NWSL clubs fitter and sharper. With everyone back in game shape, that should be a really fun, really watchable, really dangerous Olympic team. Now the Olympics just have to actually happen.

USWNT’s win less about perfection and more about passing crucial tests

Feb 21, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Watching the United States women’s national team is an exercise akin to finding flaws in the Sistine Chapel. On most days, there is nary an imperfection to be found. But on the rare occasions when a defect is located in the Americans’ play, there’s a discussion to be had about whether it’s simple nitpicking or whether alarm bells should actually be going off.So what to make then of Sunday’s 2-0 win over Brazil, one that all but clinches the SheBelieves Cup?In many respects, the U.S. did what it normally does. It carried most of the play, and eventually broke through with goals by Christen Press and substitute Megan Rapinoe. The defense bent, but held firm. The result was less about perfection and more about efficiency, especially in both penalty areasThe triumph was the 15th consecutive victory under manager Vlatko Andonovski, who took over from Jill Ellis following the U.S. team’s second consecutive World Cup triumph in 2019. And it can’t be overlooked that the U.S. prevailed against a Brazil side that is currently ranked eighth in FIFA’s latest round of rankingsLooking beyond that metric, Brazil certainly has enough talent to threaten the U.S. There is longtime attacking lynchpin Marta, even as she plays in a wider role for manager Pia Sundhage. Forwards Debinha and Ludmila are skillful enough and mobile enough to threaten any team in the world, and did so on this day. Add in the fact that many of the U.S. players are still in preseason mode, and there’s every reason to think that the Americans’ are in solid shape as this summer’s Olympic Games come more into focus.

– Dunn explains why USWNT stood for national anthem
– Foudy: What the USWNT needs to do to stay on top

“It’s funny because I think every time I’m on this team, wearing this jersey, I feel like everyone expects us to never have a shot on goal against us, or no team to ever create a chance,” said defender Crystal Dunn. “And I can sit here and say I think we played a great game. I think Brazil is a talented group of players.”But part of the reason why the U.S. women have been dominant for so long is precisely because the team is held to high standards, even if at times the expectations border on the ridiculous. And there were enough flaws in Sunday’s match to think that there are some issues to keep an eye on as the departure for Tokyo gets closer.The U.S. delivered a more fluid performance against Brazil than it did in the tournament opener against Canada. That was due in part because Brazil was more adventurous in attack, leading to a more wide-open affair. But in both matches, the U.S. conceded some wide open chances in transition that weren’t converted. In some situations, the U.S. helped itself with some astute covering tackles, like when Dunn slid over in the 13th minute to block Ludmila’s shot, or when Julie Ertz’s recovery run just before halftime spoiled a Brazil counter. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher contributed as well with a first half save from Ludmila.But on other occasions, it was poor finishing by opponents that kept the U.S. net from being breached. Debinha will still be thinking about the opportunity she squandered in the 82nd minute. That is something the U.S. can’t continue to rely on going forward.The play of right back Emily Sonnet was a concern as well, as she came out second best in a number of duels, though Andonovski defended the player given she was up against Marta for much of the day.”A couple of times that I thought she could have done a better job,” he said. “But overall she’s playing against one of the best players in the world right now, and she was able to step in front, deny some of those passes going to her. She was able to get the ball a few times so overall good performance.”To Andonovski’s credit, the transition opportunities that were apparent in the first half were largely kept in check after halftime thanks to a few tactical tweaks. This included dropping Ertz a bit deeper to limit space for Debinha and Ludmila, as well as provide additional cover for center backs Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn. The U.S. also did a better job of getting pressure on the ball in midfield and slowing down Brazil’s attempts to play in transition.”We know that if we give them a lot of space as a unit that they’re going to expose it, and I thought in the first half, we didn’t do a good enough job in closing the space” said Andonovski. “After we adjusted the structure a little bit, I thought we did an incredible job in the defending their transition.”It’s worth mentioning however that in the prior game against Canada some transition opportunities were also conceded. It’s certainly no time to panic in terms of the U.S. defense, but there is reason to be wary of how teams look to exploit weaknesses.There seems to be a bit more patience attached to the team’s attack, with Lindsay Horan’s two assists the highlight, along with Rapinoe’s “Rock the Baby” celebration, an ode to teammates Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris adopting a baby last week. Horan’s performance was a reminder that the Andonovski has options behind the injured Sam Mewis. Press showed her quality as well with a well taken goal.The return of Alex Morgan was alsoplus, given that it was her first national team start since giving birth last year. She put in an active shift over 71 minutes.All of that said, the U.S. team needed to be tested in this tournament, and it has been, which for Andonovski was the point of these matches all along.”We want to play the best competition possible,” he said. “We want to play against different types of opponents, opponents that will present different challenges, for a reason. So we can go back in a room now, back in the office, and study, why is it that they were able to get 10 shots on goal? What is it that we could have done different? And we hopefully we can get better from it.”As for perfection, the U.S. is hoping that happens later this summer.

Herculez Gomez: US-Mexico race for “special” Efrain Alvarez is a game-changer

February 25, 20212:55PM ESTCharles BoehmNational Writer

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets/follow_button.6e189c4f2b6d88c453045806323cdcf3.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&screen_name=cboehm&show_count=false&show_screen_name=true&size=m&time=1614353294045 To borrow a concept from 1980s cinema, the US men’s national team technical staff had a “Say Anything” moment this week.Maybe including Efrain Alvarez on their 48-player preliminary roster for next month’s Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament wasn’t quite as bold or moving as John Cusack hoisting that boombox over his head outside his high-school sweetheart’s house. But it’s not all that often that a national team underlines their appreciation for a young player by including them in such a list all while they’re already on the list of the rival country next door.That’s music to the ears of Herculez Gomez.“With Jonathan Gonzalez and past players this had happened to, it was like, ‘Well, yeah, but what happened? They weren’t very good.’ That always seems to be the mindset, or the excuse,” the ESPN pundit and retired USMNT striker told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday.“For the first time in its history, you’ve had something like this happen, you have two national teams who are openly fighting for [Alvarez]. You have Gregg Berhalter, who has mentioned him more than once, who invited him to camp for the December camp [and] El Salvador game. You have a Mexican national team that is openly recruiting players in your own country, who are very keen on retaining said player and future players like him. So this is a game-changer.”A Mexican-American who played club soccer on both sides of the border but proudly represented the country of his birth at the international level, Gomez is one of the most vocal critics of U.S. Soccer’s approach to Latinos in recent years.But he sees reasons for optimism as Berhalter and US Olympic coach Jason Kreis work to make their program attractive to players like Alvarez and Gonzalez, the California native and CF Monterrey midfielder who sparked recriminations when he switched allegiances to El Tri in 2018. It’s all occurring even if “Efra” remains somewhat unproven at the first-team level, with one goal and five assists in 1,236 MLS minutes over the past two seasons.“Whatever he does, he’s going to let somebody down,” Gomez said of Alvarez. “That’s the reality of things, I’m sure within his own household there are contrasting views. So it’s a difficult choice. That was my immediate reaction.“Now, where can he most likely play? That gets a little murkier,” he added. “You look at the amount of players in the US men’s national team or youth national team pools that are that are emigrating abroad, it’s going to be a little bit tougher for him to maybe get in some of those camps, maybe get noticed more over players who are playing in Europe. And maybe that’s not the same on the Mexico side. Why? Because Mexico quite frankly isn’t exporting as many U-23 players as the States is at this moment.”Alvarez also faces questions about his best positional fit at the international level and his ability to match the physical and defensive demands of the systems preferred by Berhalter and Mexico coach Tata Martino. Former Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto was quite measured with Alvarez’s playing time for similar reasons. But the Los Angeles native possesses rare levels of final-third creativity and Gomez finds the effusive praise of Efra’s former teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic still ringing in his ears.“[Schelotto] was open about it, he needs to be a harder worker, he needs to take more responsibility. Tactically he needs to be more of a team player, all these different things,” said Gomez. “But I go back to Zlatan Ibrahimovic … they asked him about Efra and he blatantly says he’s the only one with the soccer brain. He’s the only one who understands how to play.“He’s talking about a kid who’s 16 years old [at the time]. So it’s got to blow your mind – if Zlatan, one of the greatest footballing talents of certainly my generation, and maybe in the world’s history of the game, has this kind of thought about a player who’s 16 years old, you’ve got to be asking yourself: What can you do to explode this talent? What can you do to make sure he’s on the right track to progress?”

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=cboehm&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1102062961084882944&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F25%2Fherculez-gomez-us-mexico-race-special-efrain-alvarez-game-changer&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px Herc warns that “there are going to be thousands more like Efra,” as both sides scramble to unearth and polish other dual-national gems among the Mexican-American diaspora. It’s the latest installment in a long-running competition, albeit one that may be charged with extra meaning as US-reared prospects become dramatically more attractive, and valuable, to big clubs across Europe.In 2019, the FMF (Mexican federation) hired USMNT icon and former US youth national team coach Hugo Perez to scout for El Tri-eligible talent in the United States. Gomez said they’ve reached out to him, too.“I have received phone calls from FMF asking me what they can do to openly recruit and help their cause within the States. I’ve been contacted by the Mexican federation before the US federation, which blows my mind,” he said.“I think finally both [national teams] are recognizing the importance of a certain type of player.”

2/20/21 USWNT vs Brazil 3 pm Sun FS1, Milan Derby Sun, UCL Tues/Wed

USWNT vs Brazil 3 pm Sun on FS1

She Believe’s Cup action was pretty good on Thursday night as the US ladies were really given a tough game by 8th ranked Canada as almost 1 million tuned in to view – the largest ever for a non World Cup women’s game on FS1 .  While the US had more shots (29-8) and more corners (13-5)  and more possession (65-35) it was honestly Canada who had the best chances at scoring until the US made subs in the 70th minute or so.  US GK Alyssa Naeher who had not faced a legit shot in like 3 games – had to come up with 2 solid saves to protect the US net.  While I thought Lynn Williams at right wing was a monster in the first half – almost scoring on 3 or 4 chances – the rest of the US offense just was not on cue.  Horan was decent – but with only 1 speedy forward in Williams – we just couldn’t break thru and get a good shot on net.  That all changed in the 70th minute when left winger Christen Press came on for Rapino, Alex Morgan came on for Lloyd and perhaps most importantly Rose Lavelle came on for Macario at midfield.  Rose showed her excellence immediately scoring 8 minutes later.  The offense just seemed to open up with the addition of these 3 stars and the US really coasted to the 1-0 win from there.   

Brazil destroyed Argentina 4-0 Thurs so the battle with Brazil on Sunday will probably be our most difficult game overall.  It will be interesting to see who Coach A – rotates in after he was clearly disappointed in the showing by his team vs Canada.  Interesting that Coach Andonovski will look to extend his record best 14-0 start vs the former US Coach Pia Sundhage now Brazil head coach – who of course lead the US to 2 World Cup wins. 

Full She Believes Cup squad:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 4), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 65)

DEFENDERS (8): Kasey Krueger, Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 63/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 27/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 107/24), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 133/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 4/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 179/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 48/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 105/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC;88/20), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 48/13), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnaise, FRA; 2/1), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 18/3), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 70/21) –out injured.

FORWARDS (6): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 296/123), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 170/107), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 139/58), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 170/54), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 31/10). (Tobin Heath out 12 wks)

Updated schedule:  She Believes Cup

Sun Feb. 21 USA vs. Brazil 3 PM ET FS1
Feb. 21 Argentina vs. Canada 6 PM ET FS1
Wed Feb. 24 Canada vs. Brazil 4 PM ET

USA vs Argentina 7 pm ET on FS1

Games to Watch on TV

Christian Pulisic is reportedly unlikely to play due to injury when Chelsea takes the field against Southampton at 7:30a on NBCSN. Antonee Robinson has not started the last couple of matches for Fulham after leading the team in minutes since his introduction. The club face Sheffield United in a battle of relegation threatened teams.  Giovanni Reyna did not make it off the bench for Borussia Dortmund in their 3-2 win over Sevilla in Champions League play on Wednesday. But we look for him to return Sat at 12:30 on ESPN+ when Dormund face Schalke and American forward Hoope.  Reyna has started three straight league games for the club, though the personal and team results in those competitions have been uninspiring. This is the first full season for the young man, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he was running into some issues with fatigue, but the club has a good chance to pick up points when they face last place Schalke.

Sunday’s big games are all behind the firewalls – as ESPN+ has the Milan Derby at battle of 1st vs 2nd as AC Milan and Zlatan (who scored his 500th goal last week) take on Inter Milan Sunday at 9 am. Peacock has all the EPL games Sunday including West Ham hosting Tottenham at 7 am, Aston Villa vs Leicester City at 9 am and Arsenal vs Man City at 11:30 am.  It’s a US v US matchup in the Bundesliga, as Chris Richards and Hoffenheim face Josh Sargent and Werder Bremen on Sunday at noon on ESPN+. The two clubs have worked their way to middle of the table and are tied on 23 points, though they are only five points ahead of the relegation playoff position. Sargent has been a regular start for Bremen, while Richards has not started every match but has worked himself in very quickly since joining Hoffenheim from Bayern Munich.  Timothy Weah picked up the goal in Lille’s 2-1 loss to Ajax in Europa League play. The team will look to hold on to their first place Ligue 1 position when they face Lorient at 11:05am Sunday on beIN Sports  and Fanatiz. Finally 3rd place PSG will host 4th place Monaco at 3 pm on beIN Sport.  Of course Champions League is back Tues/Wed – Chelsea vs Atletico Madrid on Tuesday on CBS Sports Network along with Lazio vs holder’s Bayern Munich both at 3 pm on CBSAA.  While Wed gives us Borussia Monchengladback vs Man City and Italian’s Atalanta vs Real Madrid at 3 pm both on CBSAA.  Tough news for US forward Jordan Morris who was stretchered off his game Sat for Swansea.

 GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Feb 20

7:30 am NBCSN               Southampton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

10:15 am beIN Sport         Atletico vs Levante

12:30 pm NBC                   Liverpool vs Everton  

12:30 pm ESPN+              Schalke (Hoppe)  vs Dortmund (Reyna)

Sun   Feb 21

7 am Peacock                     West Ham vs Tottenham

9 am ESPN+                       AC Milan vs Inter  1 vs 2 Italy

9 am Peacock                    Aston Villa vs Leicester City

11:30 am Peacock             Arsenal vs Man City

12 noon ESPN+                  Hoffenheim (Richards) vs Werder Bremen(Sargent)

3 pm beIn Sport                PSG vs Monaco

3 pm Fox Sports 1        USA Women vs Brazil She Believes Cup

6 pm FS1                             Canada vs Argentina women

Tuesday, Feb. 23

Lazio vs. Bayern Munich, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea (Pulisic), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Wednesday, Feb. 24

Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Manchester City, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Atalanta vs. Real Madrid, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

4 pm FS1                             Canada vs Brazil women

7 pm Fox Sports 1        USA Women vs Argentina She Believes Cup

US Ladies

U.S. women bracing for ‘unpredictable’ Brazil test  Jeff Carlisle ESPN  
U.S. women’s soccer team narrowly defeats Canada in SheBelieves Cup

Rose Lavelle delivers for USA women in SheBelieves Cup win over Canada

Lavelle’s late laser drives USWNT past Canada in SheBelieves Cup 

Black History Month: Christen Press, what did you do?!
Lynn Williams moves forward in quest to make U.S. Olympic team at SheBelieves Cup

Revealed: how the pay gap at US Soccer goes all the way up the ladder
Crystal Dunn looks to do more
US Players Getting Tired overseas?  

 US MEN

US Players on TV this Weekend S&S

Koeman: U.S.’s Dest switched off against Mbappe

American Youngsters Richards and Weah Shine in Europa League Action

Doyle: Current USMNT depth chart for midfielders & forwards

Tuchel: No decision made on Pulisic future  ESPNFC
Transfer news: American striker Hoppe on PL radars

Transfer news: USMNT’s U21 GK CJ Santos to Burnley


Is there reason to be worried about Christian Pulisic at Chelsea? (video)
Tuchel on Pulisic omission: He will be important
Tuchel defends latest Pulisic omission
US Men’s Olympic Qualifying Schedule Starts Mar 18

                                                     

UCL

Mbappe and Haaland show that their time is now

Pirlo’s ‘clueless’ Juve under-fire after Porto flop
Pirlo says lacklustre Juventus handed Porto victory ‘on silver platter’

Juve lay another first-leg egg in the Champions League with loss to Porto
Mbappe leads PSG to statement win as Barca malaise deepens
  Gabriele Marcotti
Mbappe hat-trick stuns Barca to put PSG in sight of quarter-finals

3 Things We Learned PSG Pound Barca 4-1
Liverpool seize control over RB Leipzig in Budapest

‘Salah, Jones 8/10 for superb showing in Liverpool’s win over RB Leipzig

Job only half done’, Henderson warns Liverpool
WORLD
Haaland strikes late as Dortmund and Leverkusen drop points

Serie A: Inter leapfrog AC Milan for top spot; Juventus fail to capitalize

Lukaku ‘firing on all cylinders’ as Inter go top of Serie A
Zlatan Scores 500th Goal

EPL 

MLS

Reports: Thierry Henry to Bournemouth? Here’s the latest
Seltzer: Top 10 Americans in MLS for the 2021 season

 

 .S. women preparing for ‘unpredictable’ Brazil test in SheBelieves Cup – Andonovski

Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States women’s manager Vlatko Andonovski said he is looking forward to playing an “unpredictable” Brazil side in the second match of the SheBelieves Cup for both teams.Brazil currently tops the tournament standings on goal difference over the U.S. following their 4-1 win over Argentina on Thursday and the Americans’ 1-0 win against Canada. With the U.S. facing Argentina in its final game of the tournament, Sunday’s match will likely decide who claims the top spot.– But the tournament is more about preparation for the Tokyo Olympics later this year, and Andonovski feels Brazil will provide a unique challenge for his team.”There is no certain pattern that we can say, ‘Okay, this is what they’re gonna do every time,'” he said on a Zoom call with reporters. “That’s what makes Brazil special, that they’re so unpredictable that we’re gonna have to overcome those challenges or come up with solutions in the split second. I’m actually looking forward to see how our team [will] react.”Marta remains one of Brazil’s main threats, with Andonovski noting that the scouting folder on six-time The Best FIFA Women’s Player award is “pretty thick” given the player’s longevity. She’s joined by North Carolina Courage forward Debinha in leading Brazil’s attack.”She’s an incredible player,” said Andonovski about Debinha. “Her creativity and ability to change and play in between the lines in the middle of the field, but also make runs behind the line and in the side games is incredible. I think she’s one of the best players in the world.”Andonovski had previously spoken of how disappointing the U.S. team’s performance was in its win over Canada on Thursday. That said, he highlighted how the U.S. took 29 shots and had 27 open play crosses. He also noted that many of his players are very much still in preseason mode given that the NWSL season won’t start until April 9 with the Challenge Cup.”They’ve not played, they haven’t had the touches with their teams. They haven’t had regular games on a weekly basis,” he said. “OK, once it all comes in play, I’m not worried about it. As long as we’re creating opportunities, we’re moving in the right direction, because the execution will come.”With the U.S. playing three games in seven days over the course of the tournament, Andonovski will have to juggle his lineup to a degree. One change he hinted at was that Rose Lavelle, scorer of the game-winner against Canada, will see more of the field.Lavelle does have a history of injury, but Andonovski said he’s not worried about the midfielder’s health based on what he’s seen.”We’re not worried at all,” said Andonovski about Lavelle. “She’s playing hard, she’s training hard, so we’re excited to have her here. And I think we’re going to see the best of Rose as we’re going forward.”

U.S. women’s soccer team narrowly defeats Canada in SheBelieves Cup

Kevin BaxterThu, February 18, 2021, 11:13 PM With one loss in the last five years, the women’s national team has grown accustomed to teaching whatever lessons are learned during its games. But Thursday in Orlando, Fla., it got schooled by Canada in a sloppy SheBelieves Cup match the U.S. was fortunate to escape with a 1-0 victory.“We’re going to go back and try to learn from this,” coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “That’s a good learning opportunity for us; that good teams are going to punish us.”The only goal came from second-half substitute Rose Lavelle, who latched onto a loose ball after a Christen Press free kick and pushed a shot through a crowd at the near post in the 79th minute. That spoiled an otherwise spectacular effort by Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé, who took over for injured starter Kailen Sheridan in the 11th minute and made nine saves.At least the U.S. got those shots on target. The Americans took 29 shots, but most of those either went over or around the goal or were deflected by Canadian defenders.“I don’t know if rusty is the right word,” Andonovski said. “When we create 10 opportunities to score and we score one, I’m disappointed.”Canada, ranked No. 8 in the world, hasn’t beaten the U.S. in 20 years, and with several starters unavailable because of injuries and club requirements, that streak seemed safe. But playing its first game under new coach Bev Priestman, Canada was not intimidated by the top-ranked Americans, testing U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher three times.That’s as many saves as Naeher had made in her last three international games combinedThe tournament will continue Sunday with the U.S. playing Brazil, a 4-1 winner over Argentina in Thursday’s first game. Marta, who plays in the NWSL with Orlando, opened the scoring for Brazil with a penalty-kick goal in the 30th minute.Canada will play Argentina in Sunday’s second game. USA vs Brazil: what to watch for Solve that midfield chaos, don’t let Debinha do Debinha things to you. By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Feb 20, 2021, 1:01pm PST So you started off your SheBelieves Cup having the weaknesses of your high press exposed. If you’re Vlatko Andnovoski, that’s a fantastic thing because that’s the whole point of this tournament before the Olympics: figure out the problems, tweak the tactics, test the personnel. Andonovski had this to say in a press call before the game against Brazil: In terms of Canada, something that jumps out is the lack of [our] execution. I mean, lack of finishing. We went through everything that we wanted to do. And I felt like we executed our principles very well, we were able to create 28 shots, 27 crosses in open play. So we created six goalscoring opportunities off of the process, we created the other seven or eight opportunities in open play that we could have scored a shot, but we didn’t. Yes, it was disappointing, maybe at the moment, but we got to know that these players are in the offseason still… They haven’t had touches with their teams. they haven’t had regular games on a weekly basis. And once that all comes into play, I’m not worried about it. As long as we’re creating opportunities, we’re moving in the right direction, because the execution will come pretty soon. And now he’s got Brazil to further break down his plans, and if he wanted someone to put pressure on his midfield in particular, he couldn’t have asked for a better suited team. Brazil is coming into this game with a relatively confident 4-1 win over Argentina. And as one might expect, Marta and Debinha both did plenty of heavy lifting for their country, with Debinha often the architect of their attack. Andonovski: We’re gonna have to solve their free flow in the middle. We know that Marta has an ability to drop in the middle to create overload. Debinha, I said earlier, she has an ability to drop in the middle to create overload. So there’s going to be problems and challenges that they’re going to present that will create for us, that we’ll have to overcome. And there is no certain pattern that we can say, okay, this is what they’re going to do every time. On the US side, Andonovski will be looking for better challenges from his players and better connection with the ball. Perhaps we’ll have some starter rotation; it might be nice to see Christen Press start over Megan Rapinoe, who looked like she ran out of gas after about 30 minutes. Before the game, Press talked about complementing Crystal Dunn on the left and how Dunn winning her 1v1s both offensively and defensively frees Press to go forward, which the team needed against Canada.It might also be nice to see more time for Alex Morgan. Morgan looked like you’d expect for a player who hasn’t had consistent time, a half-step off on her timing. But she looked dangerous nonetheless, and with more minutes to dig in, she could get a real confidence-boosting goal under her belt to get her fully back into the swing of things for the NT.On the other side of the field, Andonvoski said that he wants Midge Purce to get used to right back. “With the national team, with her club team, if she has an opportunity to play there, that’s what she needs,” he said. “We could see in the game against Canada that she did an incredible job when she was in the attacking half or when we were in possession. I thought that she would help us advance forward, came up with some good crosses, combination with Lynn [Williams].” But Andonvoski also pointed out that one big difference in this game is that Purce will likely be pitted against Marta, making her lockdown ability much more crucial and an area in which he will be looking for growth from her.As for that midfield test, Lindsey Horan will absolutely need to bring more of her second-half energy from the game against Canada and crisp up distribution while not getting frustrated and involved in rough fouls. Catarina Macario may also be asked to really help pressure her own left side of the pitch, either bypassing Marta or forcing her out of position to add to Brazil’s numbers there, leaving some space for Purce to operate.Where Canada was slightly chaotic and plenty physical, the US will probably want this game to settle down a bit and rely more on good execution. USWNT vs. Brazil, 2021 SheBelieves Cup: Scouting Brazil Marta and Debinha are in Orlando, but who else makes the engine go?By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Feb 19, 2021, 10:00am PST The United States Women’s National Team will take on Brazil in their second match of the 2021 SheBelieves Cup on Sunday in Orlando. Both teams top the standings with 3 points, with both securing victories Thursday night. In looking at Brazil, they have some of their veteran players back along with some new faces that look to get into the rotation under coach Pia Sundhage. Their roster has had a few changes since it was announced in late January. Last week, Fabiana tested positive for COVID-19, so she was replaced by Kathellen, while Luana and Formiga were denied a release by their club, Paris Saint-Germain, last weekend. They were replaced by Geyse and Valéria. The 25-person roster for Brazil: Goalkeepers (3): Bárbara (Kindermann), Aline Reis (Granadilla), Letícia (Benfica) Defenders (8): Tamires (Corinthians), Camilinha (Palmeiras), Tainara (Palmeiras), Rafaelle (Changchun Zhuoyue), Bruna Benites (Internacional), Jucinara (Levante), Antônia (Madrid CFF), Kathellen (Inter Milan) Midfielders (7): Andressinha (Corinthians), Júlia Bianchi (Palmeiras), Andressa Alves (AS Roma), Marta (Orlando Pride), Adriana (Corinthians), Chú (Palmeiras), Ivana Fuso (Manchester United) Forwards (7): Ludmila (Atlético Madrid), Debinha (North Carolina Courage), Bia Zaneratto (Wuhan Xinjiyuan), Christiane (Santos), Giovana (FC Barcelona), Geyse (Madrid CFF), Valéria (Madrid CFF) A Seleção got off to a great start in the tournament yesterday by defeating archrivals Argentina 4-1. Marta and Debinha opened up the scoring for the Brazilians, while Adriana and Geyse both got their first international goal.  Brazil likes to get out into open space, where their players can create scoring opportunities with pace and agility. Brazil was able to create some chances in what was a physical game, and they tested the Argentine keeper with crosses into the box and trying to free Debinha and Marta on the break.When they do that, they are left open to the counter attack and there are huge holes created by players who move forward. A couple of times during the match, Brazilian goalkeeper Aline Reis came way off her line to clear balls back towards the offensive end because the defense had gaps from so many players moving forward.While they may be testing out some new players to the team (11 players have less than 10 caps), you have some players on their last cycle – like Marta, Christiane, and Tamires – that are looking to make one last Olympics roster. There is quite a bit of depth, but they will be missing Formiga and Luana against the United States. The depth becomes much younger, and it will be a tall task for Brazil to ask them to control the tempo against the best team in the world. Still, they have the pace, creativity, and passing to give any team fits. And, if they can string it together, they will get chances and test the American defense routinely in an effort to steal the win.Brazil takes on the USA Sunday at 3:00pm ET, with coverage on FS1 and TUDN. SheBelieves: USA beats Canada 1-0 in tight-ish game There were some real hold-your-breath moments in this one, but the US came good in the end.  By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Feb 18, 2021, 6:56pm PST  Stars and stripes Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher, Crystal Dunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Margaret Purce, Lindsey Horan, Julie Ertz, Catarina Macario, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Lynn Williams It was a slightly clunky first half from the United States as they took on northern neighbors Canada. If the thought was that Canada would be easy pickings due to a depleted roster, the thought was quickly dispelled due to the US’ own occasionally plodding midfield and loosey-goosey crossing and set pieces.The US started out with their usual high pressing, gaining possession and position very early, looking really galvanized particularly through Crystal Dunn. Canada looked shaky, their goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan clearing a ball directly into Carli Lloyd’s legs, then Desiree Scott giving away an early foul right outside the 18-yard box for tackling Carli Lloyd. Megan Rapinoe’s free kick went into the Canadian wall, though.Midge Purce also got in on the action; she and Dunn put in a real shift trying to execute their wide responsibilities, with Dunn often setting the play from the left touchline looking for targets from the forwards. They certainly attacked with their usual relentlessness, but not with precision, though some of it was also Canada’s determined, physical defending.The US midfield wasn’t quite as mobile or involved in the play, kept at range by Canada, often containing Canada’s own midfield to keep them penned in, but not able to pressure Canada’s center into giving way or coming too far out of position.Canada’s goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was forced to come off early with some kind of non-contact injury, but though her substitute Stephanie Labbé looked shaky in her first few touches, the US wasn’t able to capitalize on a wobbly keeper. The US had a great opportunity in the 20’ as Carli Lloyd cleverly rainbowed the ball over her head to Lynn Williams, who made a near no-look pass knowing that someone would be running into space. That was Catarina Macario arriving late and slipping past the defensive line punched up around Lloyd and Williams, but her showt was high and wide.The game began to descend into chippiness, with Canada physically sticking tight to US players as part of their concentrated defensive efforts. The US earned several set pieces through pressure, not letting Canada out of their third, but wasn’t able to convert any chances. The line of confrontation began shifting towards the midfield, with Lindsey Horan doing more on the defensive side of the ball. But as the US wasn’t able to neatly close down these midfield forays, Canada nearly scored a quick one in the 38’ as no one picked up Janine Beckie on the far post for a cross.The game really devolved near the end of the half, with Williams testing Labbé with shots at range, and a goalmouth scramble in stoppage after a bobbled shot that still didn’t yield a goal. The half ended at 0-0.The US started the second half with no changes. Things immediately got physical again as both sides threw their bodies into ball challenges. Julie Ertz pushed high to try and help press on Canada’s players turtled up in the center, but even when the US was able to slip their playmakers the ball, they were all defended very tightly.The fullbacks, often relied upon to win their 1-v-1 battles to create scoring chances, weren’t winning enough of them. Neither Purce nor Williams was finding much joy against Allysha Chapman. But conversely Lindsey Horan turned up the dial on her own physical intensity, playing ballwinner against all comers, cutting off players or simply tracking them down as they attempted to break away from her at speed. The US had a snafu in the 59’ as a Dunn giveaway let Nichelle Prince run freely at the center backs. Prince managed to angle her run to just about beat Dahlkemper and Sauerbrunn, but fluffed her final ball, making some kind of abortive pass instead of shooting, letting the US off the hook. Then another giveaway, this time with Prince trying to drop the ball off for late-arriving Janine Beckie, whose shot selection was subpar and denied by Alyssa Naeher.In the 63’ the US made a triple sub, pulling Rapinoe, Lloyd, and Macario for Christen Press, Alex Morgan, and Rose Lavelle. All three made a definite impact, Press able to help dominate the wide channel on and off with Dunn, Morgan providing an unpredictable and sometimes untrackable target in front of goal, and Lavelle opening up the midfield with her movement on and off the ball.In the 69’ Dunn toyed with her defender, got around her, and crossed the ball for a Morgan header that was just wide of the post. The game opened up nearing the 75’, the US making mistakes in midfield that allowed Canada to pick up turnovers and push back towards the US defensive end. But then in the 79’ Lavelle broke through with an extremely nice angled shot, picking up a loose ball that wasn’t cleared off of a free kick.It was to be the only goal of the night.In the 82, the US made their last three subs, pulling Dunn, Horan, and Purce for Casey Kreuger (nee Short), Kristie Mewis, and Emily Sonnett. Mewis had some nice pickups in midfield, looking to play direct to Press and Morgan. And why not, when the two of them were fresh and full of running.The game ended at 1-0. Still, there wasn’t necessarily sense that it was as close a game as the tight result might indicate. Yes, Canada had some heartstopping chances, but as Vlatko Andonovski emphasized after the game, these came from US mistakes and not necessarily from Canada tactics.“If you look at the chances that they created, the chances that they had, was after we lost the ball in the middle. It wasn’t because they broke us down, we lost the ball in the middle and they went straight down towards our goal,” said Andonovski after the game.“It’s a great learning opportunity,” he said. “Regardless of how we did, we’re going to go back and try to learn from this because I thought [Canada] were very disciplined, they were very aggressive in the middle of the field in the central channel, and they were able to create turnovers in regards to how we were trying to build. Obviously that’s a great learning opportunity for us to know that good teams are going to punish us or will create opportunity or make mistakes in that.”Next up: USA vs Brazil on February 21 at 3 PM ET. The game will air live on FS1 and TUDN. USMNT’s Morris stretchered off in Swansea match vs. Huddersfield 1:07 PM ETESPNUnited States international forward Jordan Morris was stretchered off with a leg injury in Swansea City‘s 4-1 loss to Huddersfield Town on Saturday.Morris, who came on as a substitute at half-time, left the game in the 66th minute after landing awkwardly.Swansea did not give any official details about the injury.”It does not look good, does it? I don’t know the extent of it but we have our fingers crossed for him,” Swansea manager Steve Cooper said after the match. “We will know more in the days to come, but it did not look a good one, that’s for sure.”He will travel back with us, he is currently in a knee brace and on crutches.”We will get the best attention to him as soon as possible.”Morris, 26, joined Championship club Swansea on loan from the Seattle Sounders in the January transfer window.He made his Swansea debut in a 3-1 win over Rotherham on Jan. 30.In better news for the U.S., American midfielder Duane Holmes scored his first two goals since his return to Huddersfield, helping his side to an important win as they seek to avoid relegation from the Championship. Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel on Christian Pulisic future: ‘No decisions’ made for summer James OlleySenior Writer, ESPN FC Thomas Tuchel has said he wants Christian Pulisic to stay at Chelsea but admitted “no decisions” have yet been taken over the club’s summer plans.The USMNT international has started only in the FA Cup fifth-round win at Barnsley on Feb. 11 during Tuchel’s six-game tenure. Pulisic is a doubt for Saturday’s Premier League trip to Southampton, and although the 22-year-old has also recently missed Chelsea’s victory at Sheffield United due to personal reasons, a lack of game time has fuelled speculation he could leave the club this summer. However, when asked at a news conference whether the forward still had a future at Stamford Bridge, Tuchel replied: “Yes, today, clearly yes, but it is not only my point of view. We have to see. For me, clearly yes because Chelsea bought Christian for a reason, for his quality, for his potential, and it is our job to bring out the best in him.”He proved in many weeks that he has the level to be a Chelsea regular player, to have a big impact in this club. It’s a challenge now to hold this level, to improve and to maintain the level and keep improving.”Pulisic, who has a contract until 2024, has struggled with persistent injury problems since arriving at Chelsea in the summer of 2019 but particularly after a hamstring injury suffered in last August’s FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.Former Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard revealed the club were exploring specific training programmes amid fears Pulisic was struggling to cope with the rigours of regular first-team football.Although Tuchel did not necessarily share that view, he said Pulisic is unlikely to be risked to avoid another “cycle” of fitness problems.”We are not concerned, we are not worried, but the physical, medical department is on that,” he added. “Now we have little issues in the calf. He stopped training yesterday before it becomes an injury.”So I would not say it is an injury; at the moment it is risk management to not be injured. That relies on his history of having injuries, so we do not want to enter the same cycle.”It is sometimes like this, and the main thing for Christian is to stay positive, keep the head up and, like I said before, be ready because he can have a big impact when he starts and he can have a big, big impact when he comes off the bench with his intensity.”There are absolutely no decisions made for the summer. There is simply no time for that at the moment, and this is not the moment now. There is today no need to think about it.”Thiago Silva has not recovered from a thigh problem and will miss the game against Southampton, but Tammy Abraham was expected to train on Friday afternoon despite limping off in Monday’s 2-0 win over Newcastle with an ankle problem. Kai Havertz is also fit after shaking off a knock.   The Unexpected Rise of Another U.S. Teen Abroad Matthew Hoppe was a relative unknown before a scoring binge in the Bundesliga. Now the 19-year-old American finds himself keeping company with a more heralded cast of prospects—all while trying to save his storied club from relegation. BRIAN STRAUS  FEB 16, 2021  SI    No. 43 isn’t really a conventional soccer number. It’s a free safety’s number, a NASCAR number, a number that looks slightly out of place in a sport where jerseys with lower digits predominate.That stems from the sport’s black-and-white days, when the 11 eligible players were numbered 1 to 11 and positions often had numerical designations. The center forward wore No. 9. Consider how far 43 is from 9, and you’ll have a sense of how far Matthew Hoppe once was from leading the line for a big German club—a club that’s counting on him to help deliver a miracle.Hoppe was unexpected, just another young, relatively unknown American toiling at the fringes of a European club. He was a project. But Schalke 04 was a team in crisis, falling to the foot of the Bundesliga and in need of fresh legs and a spark. When Hoppe was called up to the senior side for the first time in late November, having scored just one goal in 15 games for the reserves, he found the No. 43 shirt waiting for him. No one asked what number he preferred. He didn’t think to tell anyone. He was at the bottom of the roster. Expectations were modest.“I was brought up pretty abruptly,” Hoppe says. “I walked into the locker room for the game, and there was No. 43. It was 43. I had a few numbers growing up and I didn’t really care much at that point, because I’d had so many.”He might want to consider keeping this one. It’s been seen around the world and now is part of club lore, thanks to a stunning hat trick in January that helped Schalke avoid German soccer infamy. Hoppe, a 19-year-old from Yorba Linda, Calif., has risen from unheralded reserve to joint top on Schalke’s goal-scoring chart. Two weeks ago, he signed his first professional contract, tying him to the grateful club from Gelsenkirchen until the summer of 2023. Unwanted by his local MLS outfit and overlooked by junior U.S. national sides at every age group, Hoppe has provided his desperate, 116-year-old German team that spark.“I think after I got my first goal, I felt like I was about to cry,” he says. “I think it took me a few days and even a few weeks just to process the whole thing. I still look back and watch all the clips and it gives me a special feeling. … I think it changed my life.”Saturday is the 158th competitive Revierderby, the grudge match between Schalke and its eternal rival, Borussia Dortmund. Berlin is Germany’s capital and Munich hosts its top team, but the industrial Ruhr valley in the west is the spiritual home of German football. And the Ruhr revolves around the Revierderby, the coal (Schalke) vs. steel (Dortmund) turf war between clubs situated just 20 miles apart.There will be an American on each side. Dortmund has Gio Reyna, the son of two former U.S. national teamers. France’s renowned L’Equipe just named him one of the top five U-20 players in the world. Reyna, 18, was a U.S. U-15 international and the star of New York City FC’s academy teams while father, Claudio, a National Soccer Hall of Famer, was the MLS club’s sporting director. Gio made his senior U.S. debut the day before his 18th birthday. He has pedigree to spare and has been pegged for stardom for years.And Schalke has Hoppe, who was cut from the LA Galaxy academy after a single season and who, if not for his successful 2019 tryout in Gelsenkirchen, probably would’ve enrolled at San Diego State. The soccer team there has made a single NCAA tournament appearance in the past decade. Four months ago, only the most dedicated followers of U.S. prospects knew who Hoppe was.The odds that he might share a field with Reyna in 2021, and the odds that he’d catch the eye of U.S. national team coach Gregg Berhalter, were incalculable until recently. But that’s the beauty of the global game. One never knows where the next breakthrough player might be hiding.In Hoppe’s case, after being dismissed from the Galaxy academy, it was with the Irvine Strikers, a competitive youth club in Orange County, Calif. He got his first taste of German soccer during a two-week tour, and then at 16, he earned an invitation to play at Barcelona’s affiliate academy in Casa Grande, Ariz. There, Hoppe switched permanently from attacking midfielder to striker. Tall, aggressive and blessed with an appetite for thankless running, Hoppe developed into an elite target forward, and he was among the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s leading scorers. In the summer of 2019, Hoppe returned to Germany for a couple of trials. Schalke wouldn’t let him leave until he’d signed an academy contract. It was San Diego State’s loss.Gelsenkirchen once was the heart of European coal production. Schalke’s club culture is infused with mining, from the player tunnel at the Veltins-Arena, which is designed to resemble a mine shaft, to the Knappenschmiede academy, which has been one of the country’s most productive. “Knappenschmiede” translates very roughly into “where young miners are forged.” Schalke is accustomed to labor-intensive development. It fits the culture. Players are stars when they leave, not when they enter. Manuel Neuer, Mesut Özil, Leroy Sané, Julian Draxler and U.S. midfielder Weston McKennie are among the graduates.“We are famous for hardworking men,” Schalke technical director Peter Knäbel says. “We love this attitude—the coal miners. Maybe you don’t fulfill every technical criteria when you come, but you invest. You go on. You are positive, natural, direct. We love these people in our region—to be open-minded, to be interested in learning. It really matches with the west part of Germany.”Hoppe fit in. He’s relentless and voracious, motivated by shortcomings rather than intimidated by them. After scoring five goals in 20 appearances for Schalke’s U-19 team, Hoppe was sent back to California at the onset of the pandemic.“I was expecting to be home two to three weeks, and then I ended up staying home for four months,” Hoppe says. “I would train every day, two to three times a day. I’d wake up at six in the morning every day to train with a small group of people. It was so my body would have some time to recover throughout the day. And yeah, I was able to come back [to Schalke] sharper than I’d ever been and fitter than I’d ever been. I don’t think I’ve worked harder in my whole life than those four months.”Upon his return, Hoppe earned a promotion to Schalke II, which plays in Germany’s regionalized fourth division. But there was something in the air over Gelsenkirchen last fall. While Hoppe struggled to score, the senior team nosedived. At the end of November 2019, Schalke was in third place in the Bundesliga. It finished the 2019–20 season in 12th. A year later, in November 2020, it was in 18th—dead last. Head coach David Wagner, a former U.S. national team forward, was fired after two games. His replacement, Manuel Baum, was let go in December. When Christian Gross was appointed two days after Christmas, Schalke was 0-9-4 and already facing the prospect of relegation.Schalke is a big club. It advanced as far as the UEFA Champions League round of 16 five times in the 2010s. On Deloitte’s most recent annual list of the top revenue-generating teams on the planet, Schalke ranked 16th. Relegation typically is an unthinkable impossibility at clubs like that. But circumstances have been unkind at Schalke, which was deep in debt and flirting with bankruptcy following the summer 2020 resignation of longtime chairman Clemens Tönnies and the deep impact of the pandemic, which eradicated match-day revenue. Several players, including McKennie, were sold or loaned out in an effort to boost the books. As the 2020–21 season unraveled, there were disciplinary issues with a few important senior players.It was into this storm that Hoppe was thrust. And it was because of this storm that he got his chance.“If the first team was winning all its games, I think Matthew would’ve never had the chance to go up,” says Schalke II GM Gerald Asamoah, a club icon who played for Germany in the 2002 World Cup final. “He had the chance to move to the first team to train with them, and he performed well. The situation with the first team is not good, so the young guys have a chance to move up when they do their best in my team.“Matthew is a player. You can put him on the field and he just runs,” Asamoah continues. “He’s a fighter. He was a fighter and he’s fast, and I think the position where we are with the first team, we needed such a striker who is fast, who will find space to run inside, and Matthew was the one who did it well. So that’s the reason why he got the chance, opening spaces for the other players.”Nobody expected goals. Schalke needed a player to stretch the field, someone who might make the opposition sweat a bit when the ball turned over, and Schalke looked to create a chance on the counter. That role requires immense fortitude, because a lot of those runs are for naught and because there’s often not a lot of help. It demands fitness and character.“This is a boy who has incredible ambition, a great commitment and clearly only has Schalke on his mind,” Gross said of Hoppe shortly after taking over. “He wants to do everything he can to get us out of this situation, really an exemplary professional. Although he is still young, he doesn’t shy away from doing a huge amount of work.”In a time of crisis, Schalke could live with Hoppe’s lack of experience and professional refinement. The club was impressed with his work rate and level of fitness and commitment, Knäbel said, and at its lowest point, it still could rely on what it had always done well—mining talent, polishing it and preparing it to flourish with the first team.Hoppe made his Bundesliga debut in the No. 43 jersey on Nov. 28 as Schalke lost, 4–1, to Borussia Mönchengladbach. He was on the bench for the next four matches (appearing in three) and then started again at Hertha Berlin on Jan. 2. That 3–0 defeat extended Schalke’s embarrassing Bundesliga winless streak to 30 games (0-20-10), dating back to the point when the wheels started to fall off toward the end of the 2019–20 campaign. The record, set in the mid-1960s, was 31, and it was held by a small club called Tasmania Berlin that now plays in Germany’s fifth tier. TSG Hoffenheim would visit the Veltins-Arena on Jan. 9. Ignominy awaited.“The biggest pressure that I ever had in my 30-year career is to be relegated, to have the knockout match for playing for relegation. There you play also for everybody who’s working in the club. This is the biggest negative pressure that you have. For sure there is a lot of pressure to play the final of a World Cup. But what can you lose? You can only win,” Knäbel explains.“But I never felt a pressure in the middle of the season like this day [against Hoffenheim],” he continues. “The word that I have in my head is ‘shame.’ It would have been the biggest shame [to match the record]. It made it a match where everybody was looking, and you could see it was really a lot of pressure.”Somehow, Hoppe avoided the worst of that pressure. He’d been informed, certainly, but the Bundesliga was new to him. German football was new to him. He hadn’t lived through that history. Had the club’s original plan been followed, he’d still be down with the reserves. Expectations remained modest. He was a Hail Mary. It was the winless streak that opened the door and so in a way, the Hoffenheim game was like a World Cup final. Hoppe could only win.“I think the pressure in our youth team was huge for Matthew, because we expected more from him. But now being in the first team, nobody’s expecting something from Matthew because everybody knows he’s from the second team,” Asamoah says. “Now he doesn’t have any pressure on him. He’s just doing what he loves, and he’s not putting any pressure on himself. He just goes out on the pitch and does his best.”Informed of Asamoah’s assessment, Hoppe said it rang true.“I think that does play a major role in it. When you’re given this opportunity, nobody expects anything out of me and I just do whatever I want to try to impress the fans and the coaches,” he says. “I think when I got the chance, my head was free and, not only that, I was able to just put all my focus and all my energy into training and into the games. And that was able to translate into goals.”They came quickly, before Hoppe or anyone else could really take a breath and assess the magnitude of what was happening. Schalke and Hoffenheim were scoreless in the 42nd minute when Moroccan midfielder Amine Harit, one of the players who’d been suspended in November, slipped a through ball to Hoppe in the left channel. The finish was exquisite—a first-time, left-footed chip over Hoffenheim goalkeeper Oliver Baumann that required immense composure and confidence.Hoppe had ignited. In the 57th minute, Harit and Hoppe connected again, this time on a pass that split Hoffenheim’s center backs. Hoppe timed his curling run perfectly, accelerated and rounded Baumann with ease. Schalke led by two. The best of the lot came six minutes later as Harit, again, found Hoppe, again, running smartly behind the Hoffenheim defense. Hoppe beat Baumann with the outside of his right foot as he raced by, then slid on his knees in celebration while flashing the ‘hang loose’ sign. The Californian had become the coal miners’ hero.The match ended, 4–0, the streak was snapped and Hoppe couldn’t suppress his smile as he conducted a short postgame interview. The Schalke staff played “California Dreamin’” over the stadium speakers.“I don’t know how to feel,” Hoppe said. “I’m excited. I am happy that the team got the win and that I was able to contribute to it.”Hoppe became the third U.S. player to score a hat trick in one of Europe’s big five leagues, following Clint Dempsey (Fulham) and Christian Pulisic (Chelsea). He was the youngest Schalke player to accomplish the feat in Bundesliga play and the third-youngest player ever to notch a hat trick in the top divisions in Germany, England, France, Italy or Spain, according to Diario AS.Hoppe took his uniform home, along with a match ball signed by his teammates. He received congratulatory messages from Berhalter and U.S. compatriots around Europe. In Turin, where he now plays for reigning Italian champ Juventus, McKennie uploaded a video showing him celebrating boisterously in his living room.“That was the day of Matthew Hoppe when he saved our asses, or however you can explain it,” Knäbel says. “He avoided this shame for the whole club.”Hoppe’s momentum continued through the next two games. At Eintracht Frankfurt on Jan. 17, he outran a defender to a looping ball and, from an acute angle, hammered a shot through the goalie’s legs. Three days later against Köln, he beat the goalkeeper to a loose ball in the penalty area and finished with his right foot.Both goals leveled the score. Schalke lost both matches.In under two weeks, Hoppe had surged to an unforeseen and startling level of renown. He was on the cover of kicker, Germany’s leading sports magazine, and was named the Bundesliga’s rookie of the month. Media requests were flooding a last-place club. Two weeks ago, Schalke rewarded him with that first pro contract.“I’m living my dream. It’s actually happening,” Hoppe says.But dreams don’t last, and Hoppe and Schalke have had to wake up to some stark reality. After he scored five goals in three games, opponents knew what was coming. Hoppe’s quick, alert and decisive play had been scouted and planned for. He’s continued to start but now hasn’t found the net in the past five matches. Since the Hoffenheim game, Schalke is 0-4-2 in league play, and it was eliminated from the DFB-Pokal by VfL Wolfsburg. Heading into Saturday’s Revierderby, Schalke is 1-14-6 and nine points out of 16th place and a berth in the season-ending relegation playoff. It needs a miracle. It may be unfair to the 19-year-old, but it’s tough to imagine how that miracle might happen if Hoppe doesn’t find another groove.“Everybody expects more from Matthew, because we now know he can score goals, but I think we still know he’s a young player,” Asamoah says. “He needs his time. We don’t want to put pressure on him. But we now know we’ve found a striker, a young guy, who maybe in the next years can help Schalke 04 to be what we were. We don’t put pressure on him, but we keep hoping he keeps doing what he did.”Knäbel adds, “Now the race has started, because you know the analysis departments of the other clubs, they are really big and they know everything about you. You are calculated. You are analyzed. And then you have to develop your game.”In a way, that will be the real test—to perform when everyone is watching. Hoppe took the world, and his own club, by surprise. But Dortmund and relegation loom, and Schalke has signed veteran center forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, a Dutchman who played for the club during the Champions League years, to mentor and compete with Hoppe.”It’s not a fluke that he scored five goals recently,” Huntelaar told the club’s website. “He makes good runs. His mentality is great. He has a wonderful future ahead of him if he keeps it up.”If he keeps it up.That’s the measuring stick at the highest level. That’s the demand. And it’s what Berhalter is looking for as he plans for a busy 2021, when the U.S. will have Concacaf Nations League, Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying matches on the docket.“We don’t need to get ahead of ourselves,” the U.S. manager said last month. “I think that a player establishes himself by continuing to perform at this level that he is at. So it’s great to see him reach these heights, and now he needs to maintain it. And if he does that, I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity with the national team.”Hoppe said his approach won’t change. His rise was fueled by focus, fitness and humility. He paid attention to what he wanted and not what he didn’t have. With the attention, the exposure and the contract come expectations. Under the shadow of relegation comes pressure. For Hoppe, the changes must remain external.“I notice it but I try not to think about it too much. I just try to stay under it,” he says. “That’s what everyone says: Keep everything the same and don’t do anything different. Don’t try and change anything too much.“There’s obviously that pressure there,” he adds. “But you can’t think about it. You just have to focus on what you have to do and that’s all you can do. If you start thinking too much and overthinking and your head’s not clear, you can’t do what you need to do. That happens sometimes in football. You just have to do your best to keep moving forward and not thinking about it.”In the end, this is what Hoppe wanted. His appetite whet on those tours with Irvine Strikers and the Barcelona academy, he dreamed of playing in Europe—with all the trappings, both positive and pressure-packed. He said he enjoys it when someone recognizes him at the grocery store, and he can’t wait until fans return and he can experience the legendary atmosphere surrounding Schalke’s games. The prospect of relegation is part of the package.“Even though it’s difficult and hard at times, it’s what every player kind of dreams of, you know? To be able to get an opportunity like I had and be able to just play,” Hoppe says.No matter how the season turns out, Hoppe likely will have provided its highlight. He’s not a Schalke legend. That comes with sustained excellence over time. But the club’s most dedicated fans will never forget him. He was the one who saved their asses, who with a bolt from the blue rescued them from suffering an historic indignity. Asamoah and Knäbel both struggled to come up with a coherent explanation for how such a modest player, who’d scored once for the reserves, delivered so spectacularly at that moment.Knäbel decided he was O.K. with that ambiguity. Even during this season of suffering, Hoppe’s outburst was something to savor.”Is it not the thing that makes this game so lovely and so interesting?” Knäbel asks. “It’s not about mathematics. It’s about emotions. We tried to explain it, but leave it like it is. Leave the player, leave the game, its little secrets. We want to analyze everything, to explain everything and how it works. But it works. I’m so happy for him. All members of the academy are so happy for him. We should leave it like this and not over-explain everything.” US men’s national team depth chart for midfielders and forwards | Armchair Analyst February 12, 20213:11PM EST    Matthew DoyleSenior Writer  MLS.com  https://platform.twitter.com/widgets/follow_button.6e189c4f2b6d88c453045806323cdcf3.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&screen_name=MattDoyle76&show_count=false&show_screen_name=true&size=m&time=1613752086999 Here’s Part 2 of the US men’s national team depth chart. As I wrote in Part 1 (defenders and goalkeepers), this is mostly my perception of how head coach Gregg Berhalter sees things, though with a few personal preferences thrown in. And I’ll reiterate this point: It’s my guess that every single player who gets on the field in World Cup qualifying over the next 16 months will come from the below list, because the time for experimentation is over. The door is not entirely shut — nobody would’ve had Matthew Hoppe on any list three months ago — because attackers are different than defenders and defensive midfielders, but it’s shutting. And if you’re going to burst through, it’s going to take something special on the level of what Daryl Dike and Chris Mueller pulled off last year. But even that might not be enough. The US roster is pretty stacked. Ok, enough preamble. Let’s go: Defensive Midfielders Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig)Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)Johnny Cardoso (Internacional) So it’s already complicated. Adams has played exclusively at right back and right wingback for Leipzig in 2021 — you’d have to be some sort of genius to have seen that coming — and has only played in the “quarterback” midfield role sparingly. I think there are obvious reasons for this, with the biggest being that he struggles to receive, turn and play forward, especially when in traffic. That is a crucial part of being a defensive midfielder in a modern, possession-heavy system, and it’s the weakest part of Adams’ game. The other parts of Adams’ game are so strong that he’s the clear No. 1 anyway. His ball-winning is elite, his athleticism is elite, his shielding is very good and his front-foot defending — basically, his defensive IQ and reading of the game — is world class. World Class. That both stops counterattacks and creates turnovers in good spots, and since the US have been more of a pressing team since the start of 2020, and since the US have gone from a 3-2-2-3 attacking shape to a 2-3-2-3, Adams is pretty clearly the choice here. Yueill‘s skillset is the polar opposite. He is brilliant at receiving the ball in traffic, with his back to goal, then turning and spotting the exact pass that the situation calls for. He does, however, lack the range and bite that Adams has, and while he’s improved a ton in terms of shielding the back-line, his front-foot defense is a work in progress: https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6226756860001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The improvement curve is good, though. And it’s worth noting that even against a team as poor as Trinidad & Tobago last month, the US build-up kind of fell apart once he came off. I used to joke that the US needed cloning technology so that we could start Adams at RB, DM and one of the CM positions, but I think now what we need is some sort of genetic fusing tech, because if we could combine Adams and Yueill into one player we’d have the world’s best d-mid. As it is, though, this is a very strong start to the depth chart. It drops off a bit with Cardoso, the 19-year-old Brazilian-American who’s battled injury and illness and has seen his role with Internacional reduced substantially since September. But he’s still very much in the rotation and looked competent as hell in his US debut in November, so I’m not particularly worried. THE NEXT GROUP: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) Bradley looks cooked to me and he removed “US men’s national team” from his social media profiles — which is usually a tell — but it’s not out of the question that he’d play a part in qualifying given the schedule crunch. He can’t really move anymore, but is still a superb distributor of the ball. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: James Sands (NYCFC) If he could stay healthy, I’m pretty sure he’d have a couple of caps by now. Sands might not be Berhalter’s style, though, as he’s an old-fashioned destroyer who shies away from hitting line-breaking passes. If he takes that step this year for NYCFC, he could jump into the top three.Andres Perea (Orlando City SC) Perea struggled in his full international debut last month and might not be a true No. 6, but he’s young and full of upside, and Berhalter recruited him for a reason. I’m curious to see where he plays for Orlando this season.Owen Otasowie (Wolves) I almost included him on the center back depth chart since I think that’s his long-term spot. Otasowie’s reads are fairly slow and his body positioning is straight-up weird for a defensive midfielder, and while he’s not old (he just turned 20) he’s not precisely a kid anymore. He needs to find a spot and start getting minutes.  · Central Midfielders Weston McKennie (Juventus)Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy)Yunus Musah (Valencia)Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg)Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids)Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders) I used to break this list up into “central midfielders” and “attacking midfielders,” delineating between the responsibilities of a No. 8 and a No. 10. But that is pretty useless now, since it’s clear that Berhalter prefers to play with two advanced central midfielders who both attack and defend. How they split responsibilities has more to do with their individual proclivities and strengths, as well as who’s playing winger and fullback on their side of the field, than it does with anything structurally inherent to Berhalter’s system. So I’ve been thinking of them as “free 8s” or “8.5s.” Neither is a true 8, though either can be if the situation calls for it. Neither is a true 10, though both are expected to do No. 10 things when the US are on the front foot. I do have it in my head, though, that certain guys are better as a right-sided free 8 and other guys are better on the left. Lletget, for example, does well when inverted, while Aaronson is a much more linear player who’s at his best on the right side. Either one could play either position, which goes for the rest of the guys on this list as well, but when they’re paired together, it’s pretty clear who would function on which side. From where I sit, that would likely mean McKennie as the right-sided, box-arriving free 8 and Lletget becomes more of a tempo-setting, inverted free 8 on the left in the current first-choice XI. Musah was great for the US last autumn, but man has he struggled in La Liga: https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1359316128896610305&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px He also hasn’t officially committed his future to the US, but I’m pretty certain he will. That will be a good thing no matter how brutal Valencia are to watch this season. Aaronson has hit the ground running for Jesse Marsch in Austria, though I will have questions about his ability to find and control the game until he shows an ability to find and control the game. You can’t be a low-usage player as a free 8 no matter how dynamic you happen to be in other areas. Acosta’s faced the same usage issues through his career, but he’s worked his way back into the picture thanks to a strong 2020 with Colorado. Roldan has looked tentative in his last few US caps and nowhere near as dynamic off the ball as he often does with the Sounders, and I suspect he’ll soon be below some of the other guys I’m about to mention. But it’s worth keeping him on the list here because 1) Berhalter’s kept him in the frame, 2) he can play multiple positions, and 3) he’s a beloved teammate. That matters a lot. THE NEXT GROUP: Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Dusseldorf) I maybe should’ve listed Morales as a d-mid instead, but he plays a more advanced role at the club level and has usually played a more advanced role in his caps under Berhalter. Even though it seems like he’s been around forever, he’s still just 30 years old.Julian Green (Greuther Furth) Speaking of having been around forever, Green is having his finest pro season at the age of 25 playing as a shuttler in the Clovers’ 4-4-2 diamond. He hasn’t been called in since Berhalter’s been in charge and I genuinely don’t think he will be any time soon, but Berhalter name-checked him in a recent press conference as a player they’re monitoring, so here he is. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas) If he can stay healthy, he will push into the depth chart, and eventually push into a starting role. He covers a ton of ground, wins duels at an absurd, Ozzie Alonso-esque clip, is super press-resistant and his passing vision is just… https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-2&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1161845929152045056&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px But the “if” part of staying healthy is huge, and he’s 21 now. He’s got to get healthy, get out there and stay out there. Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas) When Tessman came on against T&T he was in one of the more advanced roles, but he might be better-suited as a Yueill-type regista instead. Either way he has the talent to push up and into the gameday 18.Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids) Bassett is probably the best box-arriving, accent run central midfielder in the pool (other than maybe McKennie). His timing getting into the box is a weapon in Berhalter’s system, but he’s got to show he has the other pieces — comfort on the ball in traffic, availability in build-up, defensive awareness — nailed down before he rises up the ranks.Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers) I was genuinely surprised to see Williamson sent home from camp before the T&T game given how strong a season he had in Portland, and how multi-faceted his game is. He carries the ball exceptionally well, is smooth receiving in traffic, and works hard defensively. I am certain we will see him in a future camp.Bryang Kayo (Wolfsburg II) I have generally avoided putting pure prospects on this list (sorry to all you Moses Nyeman stans) because I don’t think a pure prospect is going to push in over the next year, but I’m making an exception for Kayo. The 18-year-old has now been to two US camps and has been promoted up to Wolfsburg’s second team. He is gifted both technically and athletically, and if he pushes through to the Wolfsburg first team by the end of this season, I won’t be at all shocked to see him earn a role with the full USMNT.Caden Clark (RBNY) This one might be a reach since the 17-year-old Clark has barely figured for the US even at the youth levels, but he was dominant in the USL Championship and outstanding in MLS last year. If his 2021 is reminiscent of Aaronson’s 2020, into the pool he goes. Though it’s perhaps slightly more likely he’d end up going into the pool as an inverted right winger. · Left Wingers Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)Jordan Morris (Swansea City)Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids)Chris Mueller (Orlando City) You’ve probably noticed already that I made the executive decision to only list guys at one spot, even though the reality is they’re in play for at least two (or sometimes more) different positions. Sergino Dest, for example, is my current first choice at both right and left back. But in my prior column, he was only listed at right back. The same is true for Pulisic and Morris, who are Nos. 1 & 2 at both right and left wing. If there were a game tomorrow they would be the starters, and that’s been earned over a number of years via their play for club and country. And that means even during downturns in form — as Pulisic is now experiencing in West London — let’s not kid ourselves about whether he’s written on the team sheet in pen. He is. Morris isn’t, but I still think he’s got the inside track on the other starting winger job (I look forward to the avalanche of Gio Reyna stans in my mentions once this is published). The big surprise of last month’s camp was that Lewis beat out Mueller, who’d been so good over the course of 2020. Lewis scored damn near this exact same goal vs. the Soca Warriors: https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-3&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1284308553507823617&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px He also has pretty close to the same skillset as Morris. Mueller is more well-rounded, and probably more comfortable and effective playing on the right (as he does for Orlando), but he made a compelling pitch as a left-winger vs. El Salvador. THE NEXT GROUP: Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas) Saucedo emerged for Pumas in a big way, but has struggled with injuries over the past six months. The 24-year-old is maybe less of a pure winger than Berhalter likes, but if he plays well in Liga MX he could be a factor.Djordje Mihailovic, CF Montreal) Mihailovic, like Saucedo, is less of a pure winger and more of a wing playmaker. He’s been in and out of US camps over the past two years, and it’s entirely conceivable that he could play a role for the US this cycle. I just think it’s unlikely to be a large one. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Uly Llanez (Heerenveen) It seems as if Llanez, who started and scored vs. Costa Rica last year, is on his way out of an unhappy and unproductive loan at Heerenveen, and due a return to the Wolfsburg reserves. He’s still just 19, but there has been zero professional progress (I think it’s fair to say there’s been professional regression, to be honest) over the past year.Richie Ledezma (PSV) One of my favorite players from that great 2019 US U-20 team, Ledezma was just breaking into the PSV first team and had just earned his first US appearance before doing his ACL. I like him better long-term as a No. 10, but given Berhalter’s system and Ledezma’s lack of defensive presence, it’s more likely that when he returns to fitness, he does so as an inverted winger. · Right Wingers Tim Weah (Lille)Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)Paul Arriola (Swansea City) Weah is finally approaching full health after three hamstring tears over the course of 12 months, and that means he’s approaching the top of the depth chart as well. In all honesty, I think you could make a case for him as the starter at any of the spots* in the front five — he’s that smart and that talented. (*) Including forward, which is where he’s most often been deployed for Ligue 1-leading Lille. That’s right, folks, there’s an actual title race in France this year! But for the sake of this exercise, I’ve got him at the top of the right wing depth chart. I don’t think he’d start over Morris (or maybe even Reyna) if the US had a massive game tomorrow, but it wouldn’t shock me and I certainly wouldn’t hate it if he did. The dude is just so precise and unselfish in his movement: https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-4&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1357077731498995713&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px One thing to understand here is that excellent off-ball movement is additive no matter the team, the scheme or the score. Weah is perhaps the best player in the entire pool off the ball, and he brings a ton of skill on it to boot. Reyna has hit a wall, as have Dortmund. After coming out of the gates with 2g/4a in his first five games, he’s registered just 2g/2a in the subsequent 24 while bouncing between central midfield and left wing, and struggled in his two US appearances in November. Growing pains happen to basically every teenager, so I don’t think folks should sweat it too much. I also don’t think anyone should have him atop any depth charts at the moment, though. Placing Arriola third is rough on him given how he’s performed under Berhalter, but good players get pushed down the ladder when the pool fills with more talent. THE NEXT GROUP: Tyler Boyd (Sivasspor) Remember when it seemed like Boyd would be the big recruiting win of Berhalter’s tenure? Things sure have changed quite a bit, and not really in a good way for Boyd. He moved to Besiktas ahead of the 2019/20 season and while it seemed like a dream move at first… nope. He just could not put the ball in the net, which eventually cost him both his starting job and his spot on the roster. He just started a loan at Sivasspor, and while it seems unlikely he’d work his way back into the US mix, it’s not impossible. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Konrad De La Fuente (FC Barcelona) The 19-year-old has made a trio of appearances for Barca, playing 26 minutes. He’s spending most of his time with Barca B, where he’s not exactly lighting it up — just 1g/0a in about 600 minutes. He seems pretty far away from any first-team role, but kids can level up out of the blue and he is still, in fact, a kid. If that happens and he’s suddenly getting regular Barca minutes, he’ll get regular USMNT minutes, too.Benji Michel (Orlando City SC) Michel is a lot like Morris in that he’s a forward who’s really learning to play winger, and has done so well enough to at least earn a camp. He didn’t get onto the field vs. T&T and he seems pretty far from the first-team, but he’s on the radar at the very least, and stranger things have happened. Center Forward Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC)Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC) You know and I know that if there was a must-win game tomorrow, Gyasi would start as the No. 9. That will bother a lot of people and I have certainly been guilty of some Gyasi slander in the past, but he has evolved: https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-5&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1283956196672712705&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px The man is never going to be Berbatov in his link-up play — hell, he’ll never be Sargent or Altidore, for that matter — but he’s risen to functional levels, and in terms of just knowing the dance steps and timing of Berhalter’s system, no one in the pool is better. Put him out there with those wingers and those central midfielders, and he will score. And if he’s not scoring it’s because he’s making hard runs to drag defenders away from the top of the box which opens space for other guys to score. If Sargent did that — if he knew the steps that well — he’d already be No. 1 on the list. He’s the most naturally talented forward the US has produced since Jozy, but like Jozy he’s not particularly good off the ball. That goes a long way toward explaining his paltry finishing totals in the Bundesliga. How much longer will Jozy have a spot on this list? It’s likely down to fitness. He got the start in the most important game of the Berhalter tenure thus far (the Gold Cup final vs. Mexico) and was the best US player through 45 minutes. But by the hour mark, he was off. That was almost two years ago. He’s 31 now and spent the bulk of last season looking like a guy who’s logged a lot of miles and can’t go 90. Maybe that changes in 2021. THE NEXT GROUP: Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas) Is he a 9 or not? Berhalter clearly thinks so, and in two caps Ferreira’s given ample evidence that Berhalter is correct. I have questions about his athleticism at the international level, but for now the bigger questions will come at the club level. They are “what position does he play?” and “will he even get on the pitch?”Daryl Dike (Barnsley) The big man STRUGGLED in his US debut last month, but I’m giving him a mulligan. Like Sargent and Altidore he’s not particularly dynamic off the ball, which is something he’ll have to work on — be it in England, or in the US.Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers) Ebobisse was pretty obviously beaten out by Ferreira and Dike in the most recent camp. As with Ferreira there are questions about his best position long-term (though unlike the Ferreira situation, I think there’s a pretty clear answer with Ebobisse: He’s a center forward).Nico Gioacchini (SM Caen) Gioacchini’s a true target-man who is both physical and fearless. He hasn’t exactly lit up Ligue 2, but he’s getting regular playing time and looked solid for the US vs. Panama.Aron Johannsson (Lech Poznan [reportedly]) I don’t think there’s any chance Johannsson actually pushes his way into the picture, but as with Green I’m including him on the list since Berhalter name-checked him last month. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC) I wasn’t sure where to list Ayo since “we might lose him to Canada” isn’t a large group. So I’ll list him here since… we might lose him to Canada. I hope we don’t, as Akinola has thus far been the most clever and consistently goal-hungry in his movement of the youngsters (and almost all of these guys on the forward depth chart are really young) thus far.Matthew Hoppe (Schalke 04) Five goals in three games! The first American with a hat-trick in the Bundesliga! Hoppe did the damn thing, but now the challenge is to keep doing it. His goalscoring record for Schalke’s developmental sides was not good, and there is a reasonable amount of concern that his outburst was a flash in the pan. That said, his off-ball movement is sharp and I think it’s generally wise to trust forwards who make good runs.Sebastian Soto (Norwich City U-23s) Berhalter did Soto a solid and got him enough appearances to earn a work permit, which means he’s got a chance to earn his way up to the Norwich first team. Until that happens, I don’t really expect him to figure into Berhalter’s plans again.Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas) Pepi, who just turned 18, might have a higher upside than any other forward in the pool. And that’s why he’s here — there’s a part of the multiverse where he wins the starting job for Dallas, bangs in 20 goals, and pushes his way into the picture. He’s got that type of talent.

Whitley: For Florida soccer coach Becky Burleigh it was more than just about winning David Whitley  Gainesville Sun  

A letter was sent to a search committee at Florida in 1994. The school was starting a women’s soccer program and needed a coach. A longshot candidate wanted to make her case.”I am intrigued with the possibilities involved in creating a new program and would be committed to making the University of Florida one of the top programs in the country,” she wrote.Twenty-seven fast years later, Becky Burleigh can say “Mission accomplished.”Actually, she could have said that 20 years ago. Seemingly in a blink, the Gators were national champs.And seemingly in a blink, it’s about to end.Burleigh, 53, announced her retirement two weeks ago. She’ll step down after the spring season, which begins next week.The announcement was a surprise, but not a shock. After two decades of kicking butt, UF’s program has struggled lately.COVID-19 has split this season into halves, and the Gators went 2-7-1 in the fall. Discontent arose, but the grumbling was awkward. It’s hard to call for a beloved queen to be kicked off the throne she built.  I couldn’t tell you what went wrong or whether it could have been fixed. But Burleigh can tell you what one of the problems was: Emotional energy.”If you feel like you cannot consistently bring that every single day and do it enthusiastically, then it’s time to let somebody else do that,” she said. “That’s what a team deserves, especially at this level.” https://3912d23a357ba500a287f0a9c8da84ba.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html She’s been enthusiastically doing it since she was barely old enough to order a drink. Burleigh was 21 when she became head coach at Berry College.Coaching is all-consuming, especially when you do it the Burleigh Way. She doesn’t just concentrate on the X’s and O’s, she’s a mother, professor, counselor, confidant and cheerleader.”She means a lot more to us than just a coach,” midfielder Syd Kennedy said. That’s the difference between winning and success. Any successful coach has to win games. But winning games does not necessarily equate to success.That comes from making the people not just better players and coaches, but better people. It comes from giving countless Rotary speeches, helping charities and making your city a better community.Burleigh was raised in Tarpon Springs, but had never set foot on Florida’s campus until she showed up at the athletic offices for her interview.”The vibe was young and exciting and people were getting after it,” she said. “And then you see the resources.”Athletic Director Jeremy Foley offered the 26-year-old Burleigh the job. She said yes. He stuck out his hand and said, “Welcome to the Gators.”And the rest is women’s soccer history.In just four years, the Gators were hoisting the NCAA Championship trophy. They went 26-1 and beat North Carolina 1-0, snapping the mighty Tar Heels’ 70-match unbeaten streak.That’s the same North Carolina that pounded Florida 9-0 two years earlier. Burleigh knew the Gators weren’t ready, but they needed to learn from the best.hose early bumps forged relationships that went beyond the soccer pitch. Proof came when players told her they’d ordered her a birthday present.”I was thinking it was like a sweatshirt,” Burleigh said.It was a dog named Copa. He was eventually joined by another yellow Labrador named Cody. Then came Buddy, Rose, Large Marge and Lucy.”All rescues,” Burleigh said. “All mutts.”All loved their owner so much they hated to see her go to work in the morning. A lot of times, they went with her.The sight of a dog wearing goggles and sitting in the sidecar of Burleigh’s scooter became one of Gainesville’s charms.Ah, those scooters.Burleigh figured out early that parking was a problem on campus. She started scooting to work, only to discover there also was no scooter parking.In fact, you’d get a ticket for parking a scooter at a bike rack. Burleigh got her share.”I tried to befriend the parking people,” she said. “Didn’t work. Those people are hardcore.”She eventually ordered a sign she’d hang above her scooter.”Parking for Soccer Coach’s Scooter Only.”It was fake, but it worked for a couple of years. Somehow, it’s hard to imagine Urban Meyer appealing a ticket before the UF parking politburo.”They didn’t rescind any of the tickets,” Burleigh laughed, “but they at least appreciated the effort.”Burleigh’s always had an innate need to expand herself, to try new things. Even if the program was still winning like it’s 1996, the tug to move on would have been hard to ignore.So as she rides her Vespa into the sunset, how do we measure the only coach Florida women’s soccer has ever known? It’s partially by the 14 SEC titles and 22 NCAA tournament berths and 507 wins. But it’s also by the emotional energy Burleigh brought every day.It’s by the life problems she helped players work through. It’s by the bonds she forged. It’s by the smiles she spread.And it’s by all the misty-eyed people who’ve approached her the past couple of weeks.”It’s like you’re going to a funeral, but you’re not dead,” Burleigh said. “They’re going to say a lot of nice things about you.”There are a lot of reasons for that. Perhaps the biggest is that Burleigh wasn’t just a winner at Florida.She was a resounding success.— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun’s sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com.

Crystal Dunn’s time arrives to be one of American soccer’s top stars

Dunn has long been one of the U.S. team’s top players, but she has become especially marquee lately — perhaps because everyone knows she’s not going to move up from left back any time soon. Crystal Dunn on the ball during a U.S. women’s soccer team game against Colombia last month.John Raoux / AP by Jonathan TannenwaldPublished eb 13, 2021 It’s nothing new that Crystal Dunn is one of the U.S. women’s soccer team’s best and most popular players.But something about Dunn’s status right now feels a little more emphatic, a little more intentional. You see it in sponsors’ ads, in the national team’s social media posts, and in the many other ways an athlete is seen as a star these days. Her status will only grow in the coming months, as she gets ready for the Olympics and makes her club debut with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, the league’s biggest team. It’s also nothing new that Dunn is one of the U.S. team’s most forthright players. But she hasn’t always been forthright on a subject she cares about a lot: her distaste for playing left back with the national team. Those who know her well, from her club coaches to teammates and media members, have long been aware of it. (That group includes this reporter, to whom Dunn called left back “my secondary position” in an interview after the 2019 World Cup.) Only recently has Dunn been willing to really put it out there — and the biggest breakthrough came just last month. In an interview with Forbes, she said she wants to be a midfield playmaker for her country “because it is a position that not a lot of Black women play.”“Playing at a 10 [creative role] means that I am now combating the stereotypes of being fast, physical, and strong,” Dunn said. “I am passionate about wanting the world to see more Black women, especially in the roles that don’t fit the stereotypes that have been placed on us.”Why did Dunn decide to finally let loose now? She reflected on that in a news conference Saturday ahead of Thursday’s SheBelieves Cup opener against Canada (7 p.m., FS1, TUDN) “I think I’ve always given the very soft answer of, ‘Yeah, I don’t like playing left back, you knw, but I’m a team player,’ and all of that is so true,” she said. “But I think it’s also important people realize what I deal with on a daily basis is very much different than most players, you know.”Dunn played an attacking midfield role for her former club, the North Carolina Courage. She is expected to have a similar job in Portland. She said she feels “more myself” in that position, “playing freely, getting involved in the attack, and just, you know, expressing myself in the way that I’ve always thought was the ay I should be expressing myself.”But she also wants to make sure she’s a role model as a team player.“As much as I am proud to represent my country, be on this team, you know — right now considering myself a starter, but always competing to stay on the field and remain a starter, I think people need to know that, you know, I’ll do what it takes to be on the field, even if that means that I am not particularly happy inside,” Dunn said. “But I do think of the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is winning an Olympic gold medal, wanting to be a part, and being impactful on the field. And if that’s at left back, then that’s at left back.” Crystal Dunn, center, on the ball during a U.S. game against England last March.John Raoux / AP She also knows the bigger picture includes the fact that attacking midfield is the national team’s most stacked position. Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan and now Catarina Macario are vying for starting jobs in the center; Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Christen Press are the leading wing creators.Then comes the biggest roadblock of all. Dunn is the best left back in the national team pool, and it’s not close. In fact, the competition is so far behind that there isn’t a clear No. 2.Casey Krueger (née Short and recently married) has come close to the status, but has never seized it. Emily Sonnett, a longtime centerback and right back, played some left back against Colombia last month. And while Emily Fox has a bright future, the No. 1 pick in this year’s NWSL draft hasn’t played a pro club game yet. Meanwhile, Dunn keeps excelling. In fact she has gotten even better in the role under current U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski, whose playbook gives her considerable latitude to join the attack. She even got to play left wing some last month, which got plenty of attention. (Andonovski said afterward he knew how happy she’d be.) Crystal Dunn (19) celebrates with Lindsay Horan (9) and Julie Ertz (8) after Horan scored a goal against Colombia on Jan. 22.Alex Menendez / Getty Images / TNS “I think he really understands that a lot of us do play slightly different roles sometimes in club [teams] and with the national team, and I think he’s allowed people to feel as free as possible in that role,” Dunn said. “For me, obviously being an outside back, I’m like, yeah, I get it, gotta defend, but I’m also like, I’m trying to get involved in that attack, like, you know? And I think he understands that.”However Dunn’s role evolves in the future, this much is certain: Her role as one of the U.S. national team’s most prominent players is only going to grow. And she will continue to not hold anything back.“I think I am the one to push those boundaries and say, you know, we need to change the narrative of only white women play this sport, only white people play this sport,” she said. “I want to be very clear that whether it is me who is ever considered a face of women’s soccer, that really isn’t my goal, but my goal is for the Black women coming after me to feel like they even have a chance to be the face of this sport.”