It has certainly been an interesting 2 months without soccer – sorry but with no games to preview and being swamped at work – I gave the Ole Ballcoach a break. Good to be back though ! Of course lots has happened from the cancelation of seasons – see the French and Dutch leagues, to postponements (everyone else) things have been interesting. Here in the US MLS, the NWSL and USL have all gone on hold like all sports in the country. Interesting to see MLS might return with some sort of tourney set up in mid June from Disney perhaps – possibly making them the first pro league to return to play. While I do want them to do this safely – I do think if MLS could get a 1 or 2 week headstart on everyone else – it could do the league good being the only games on TV could certainly help – although not having fans in the stands might not properly display the pageantry and beauty of MLS soccer – especially in places like Seattle, Portland, LA, and Atlanta. I for one am hopeful our Indy 11 can return in some form – good to see they plan to play games out at the Luke somehow. Interest US news as the USWNT is appealing the their unequal pay ruling and both Alex Morgan and Hope Solo had kids this month. (See full US update below)
German Soccer Returns
Ok soccer fans so Soccer/futbol is back, at least partially, with the return of the German Bundesliga this weekend. Of course Germany has the most US players on rosters of any other overseas league so now is a good time to pick your favorite German team based on which ones have American’s of course 😊. Long time US favorite Dortmund – currently 2nd in the table – is probably the one team that many US Soccer fans may recognize (other than the powerhouse NY Yankees of German soccer Bayern Munich). Dortmund of course had US Starlet midfielderChristian Pulisic make his debut a few seasons back as a 16 year-old star in the making. Now Gio Reyna has taken that slot and at just a little younger age has made his way into games off the bench in the midfield as well. Contributing the assist on a goal that helped Dortmund win a Champions League game a couple months back. Dortmund will host Schalke in their derby this Saturday at 9:30 am on Fox Sport 1 and they face US mid Aaron McKinney. Set up 2 TVs as RB Leipzig and US Tyler Adams who sit 3rd in the table will be on hosting Freiburg on Fox Sports 2 and TUDN. Sunday gives us German teams with no American’s playing – Koln vs Mainz at 9:30 am on FS1, and Union Berlin- the little team that could vs Bayern Munich at 12:30 on FS1. Monday we get Werder Bremen and hopefully American forward Josh Stewart at least as a sub vs Bayern Leverkusen on FS2 and Fox Desportes at 2:30 pm.
Interesting Things During our Downtime
Here’s Arlo White in this great Global Isolation Sensation from Early April, Arlo White calling a header training at home. Here’s Arlo’s Call as Leicester City became the biggest underdawg Champion back on May 2, 2016
GAMES ON TV
Sat, May 16 (Americans in Parathensis)
9:30 am Fox Sport1 Dortmund (Gio Reyna) vs Schalke (Aaron Mckinney)
9:30 am FS 2, TUDN, FuboTV RB Leipzig (Tyler Adams) vs Freiburg
12:30 p.m. ET: FS1 Frankfurt (Timmy Chandler) vs Borrusia M’gladbach (Johnson)
Sun, May 17
9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Koln vs Mainz 05
12:30 pm FS1 Union Berlin vs Bayern Munich
Sun, May 17
2:30 pm FS 2, Fox Desp Werder Bremen (Josh Stewart) vs Bayern Leverkusen
Sat, May 23
9:30 am Fox Sport1 Wolfsburg (John Brooks) vs Dortmund (Gio Reyna)
12:30 FS1 Bayer Munich vs Frankfurt (Timmy Chandler)
Sun, May 24
7:30 am Fox Sport 1 Schalke (Aaron Mckinney) vs Ausburg
9:30 am FS 1, FuboTV, Fox desp Mainz vs RB Leipzig (Tyler Adams)
12:30 pm FS1 Koln vs Fortuna Dusseldorf
Mon, May 25
2:30 pm FS 2 Dortmund (Gio Reyna) vs Bayern Munich
2:30 pm FS 2, TUDN, FuboTV RB Leipzig (Tyler Adams) vs Hertha
Saturday, May 16
9:30 a.m.: Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke 04 (FS1, Fox Deportes); RB Leipzig vs Freiburg (FS2, TUDN); Augsburg vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Fox Soccer Plus); Fortuna Düsseldorf vs. Paderborn; TSG Hoffenheim vs. Hertha Berlin (Fox Deportes tape-delayed at 11:30 a.m.)
12:30 p.m.: Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (FS1, TUDN)
Sunday, May 17
9:30 a.m.: Köln vs. Mainz (FS1, Fox Deportes)
Noon: Union Berlin vs. Bayern Munich (FS1, UniMás, TUDN)
Monday, May 18
2:30 p.m.: Werder Bremen vs. Bayer Leverkusen (FS2, Fox Deportes)
MLS + Indy 11
Indy 11 plan to play in Lucas Oil – with or without fans – Indy Star
MLS Could Return Sooner than other US Sports with Orlando Based Tourney in June – LA Times
MLS proposing all 26 teams come to Orlando to resume season this summer
MLS, NWSL resisting short-term benefits of making soccer first American sport to restart
Indy 11 Cam Lindley and Carleton at same Career Stage
ELEVEN & THE SHOP INDY LAUNCH T-SHIRT BENEFITING COMMUNITY HEALTH NETWORK CAREGIVERS
German Bundelisga First to Return to Live Play
How to Watch Bundesliga Return, American players to watch and what you need to know – Jonathan Tannewald Philly Inquirer
Bundesliga’s return is exciting, but it also stands upon the edge of a knife Leander Schaerlaeckens
Which American’s to Root For at German Bundelisga Starts Up – s&S
US Players in Promotion/Relegation Battles at German Clubs -SS
Bundesliga Games This Weekend
German Bundesliga returns: Bayern’s title fight, must-see matches and players to watch ESPNFC
Lewandowski urges Haaland to stay in Bundesliga amid Real Madrid rumours
The Bundesliga is back, so can Dortmund catch Bayern?
Chelsea chance too good for Pulisic to turn down as USMNT star Goal.com
Morris is managing his diabetes in the face of coronavirus pandemic
USMNT’s road to World Cup: The players who should join Berhalter’s core
US Youngster Uly Llanez is the bright spot 2020 needs
ESPN Top Soccer Moments – ESPNFC
Times For US Ladies to Get the Respect and Equal Pay they Deserve – SocTakes
World Cup winner Ellis perfect for England – ‘and pay her same as Southgate’
CORONAVIRUS CRISIS IN FOOTBALL
From Empty Stadiums to Red Cards for Spitting – New Rules in the Game
Rule change allows five substitutions per team; VAR can be stopped
Five substitutions are now allowed to be made by each team during a game, as IFAB ratifies temporary rule change to help with coronavirus pandemic impact.
Soccer-Inter director says Serie A risks not finishing due to coronavirus
A letter from Quarantine – Rather Touching
GK Training Sessions during Quarantine
Goalkeepers: 3 Tips for Young Goalkeepers
GKs – GK At-home activities
With or without fans, Indy Eleven still plan for season at Lucas Oil Stadium
David Woods -Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS – Despite the pandemic, the Indy Eleven plan to keep their training base at Grand Park and home games at Lucas Oil Stadium. But when the United Soccer League season begins, there is no certainty fans will be allowed into the 67,000-seat football stadium.Greg Stremlaw, president and CEO of Indy Eleven, declined an IndyStar interview request but agreed to reply to submitted questions. One question was about financial ramifications of playing without fans.“While our preference is always to have our full fan base in attendance, as mentioned, different formats and scenarios are being modeled out, all of which we will be prepared to facilitate for our matches,” Stremlaw said in a statement.Last year the USL and ESPN agreed to a three-year deal paying the league about $1 million a year. But USL clubs rely more on attendance than those in Major League Soccer. According to The Athletic, top USL clubs can make more than $200,000 per game across 17 home matches, representing their largest revenue source.Stremlaw said there are no plans to move games to IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium, where the Eleven played from their inaugural 2014 season through 2017.USL clubs were allowed to resume non-contact training in small groups this week. Such groups are limited to up to four players, with no more than one athletic trainer and one coach allowed on each field during a session.Protocols and clearances for full training are not available yet, Stremlaw said. According to the governor’s reopening policies, Grand Park will be available May 24. The 400-acre sports park is in Westfield.USL is still aiming for a complete season.“While a complete season remains the preferred outcome of any return to play scenario, a variety of alternative competitive formats are also being explored as the USL and Indy Eleven continue to prioritize the health and wellness of everyone involved,” Stremlaw said.Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.
USMNT weekend viewing guide: It’s good to be back
At least we hope it is. By jcksnftsn May 15, 2020, 9:02am PDT
Welcome back! After an extended layoff due to obvious reasons, the Bundesliga is back this weekend with games Saturday through Monday, including a number of games that could feature United States internationals in action. After a full two month layoff, it’s difficult at best to get a good handle on how all the players stand with their clubs, but the good news is that everyone playing in Germany should be healthy and ready to participate.
Borussia Dortmund v Schalke 04 – 9:30a on FS1 (as always, all times listed are Eastern – do the math)
The Revierderby could once again feature Americans on each side, as Weston McKennie and Schalke take on Giovanni Reyna’s Borussia Dortmund. McKennie’s Schalke side were struggling prior to the break, going winless in their past seven matches. They currently sit in 6th place, one point ahead of Wolfsburg and Freiburg for the Europa League qualifying spot. McKennie has been a regular starter for Schalke when healthy, and he is in line for a full slate Saturday as well.
It’s a rivalry match, but it’s one without momentum, so certainly expect the unexpected. Still, Schalke will have their work cut out for them as they face a second place Dortmund side. Giovanni Reyna was consistently had seen minutes in every match since joining the senior side and that seems likely to continue, particularly now that teams will have five subs at their disposal and a compressed calendar that could lead to the young man’s first start before too long.
RB Leipzig v Freiburg – 9:30a on FS2
Get your second screen ready as well Saturday morning as Tyler Adams and third place RB Leipzig will be facing SC Freiburg, kicking off at the same time. Adams had been having a bit of trouble working himself back into the team after a long layoff, so it’s possible the two month break has actually helped him. Third place Leipzig currently sit five points behind first place Bayern Munich and just three points ahead of fifth place Bayer Leverkusen and a slip down the stretch of this resumed season would see them miss out on the Champions League.
Back in March, we might have made some sort of wisecrack about Timothy Chandler and Fabian Johnson. But at this point, we’re so happy to have any soccer back, we’ll take anything and everything we can get our grubby little hands on. It’s quite possible that neither player will appear, but we better watch every second just to make sure. Fabian Johnson and ‘Gladbach are currently in fourth place, two points ahead of Leverkusen, while Timothy Chandler and Frankfurt have just 28 points (though one fewer match played) which has them all the way down in 12th place, just six points clear of the relegation scrum.
Feel free to catch both of the Bundesliga games on Sunday, but neither one features USMNT representation so we’ll be moving right along to…
Werder Bremen v Bayer Leverkusen – 2:30p on FS2
Josh Sargent’s usage by Werder Bremen was a bit all over the place prior to the unplanned break, but he did manage to pick up a goal in the team’s last game, a 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin. Bremen is going to need more from Sargent, and more positive results down the stretch if they’re to avoid relegation. Currently the team has just 18 points through 24 games and sit four points behind Zach Steffen’s Fortuna Düsseldorf for the relegation playoff spot, which would give them a bit of hope. In order to truly reach safety, they would have to catch Mainz 05, who currently have an eight point advantage.
So what are you watching this weekend, other than everything? Let us know in the comments below and welcome back everyone.
Which Americans can you watch in the Bundesliga?
A guide for the new, and a refresher for the veterans.By Donald Wine II@blazindw May 8, 2020, 6:02am PDT
The Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 season will resume from May 16th. In both leagues, the season will continue with the 26th matchday. The other matchdays will follow in the order originally scheduled.Because the leagues are coming back at a time where most major sports are still sidelined, there is renewed interest in the league among diehard soccer fans, and new fans are beginning to research the league to find a team to latch onto for the next couple of months.As many diehard fans know, the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga have several American players that call it home, including quite a few of the young core of the United States Men’s National Team. Whether you’re looking for a team to call your own or you’re just excited to see live soccer once again, checking out the matches involving teams with American players is always a great idea.So, which American play in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga? Here’s the running tally of players that are on a German first team or youth team:
Borussia Dortmund – Gio Reyna
RB Leipzig – Tyler Adams
Bayern Munich – Chris Richards (youth team)
Schalke – Weston McKennie, Nick Taitague (youth team)
Werder Bremen – Josh Sargent
Wolfsburg – John Brooks, Ulysses Llanez, Michael Edwards (youth team)
Fortuna Düsseldorf – Zack Steffen, Alfredo Morales
Borussia Mönchengladbach – Fabian Johnson
Eintracht Frankfurt – Timothy Chandler
Union Berlin – Malick Sanogo (youth team)
1.FC Köln – Brady Scott
Hoffenheim – Royal-Dominique Fennell (reserve team)
Hamburg – Bobby Wood
Greuther Fürth – Julian Green, Timothy Tillman
Jahn Regensburg – Jann-Christopher George
St. Pauli – Kevin Lankford
Osnabrück – Marc Heider
Hannover – Sebastian Soto
At least 18 teams in Germany have at least 1 American player that you can root for when the leagues resume Saturday. You have a week to figure it out. Which teams (and players) will you keep your eye on when the leagues resume? Hit the comments and let us know which teams have drawn your interest!
Inside Giovanni Reyna’s life at Dortmund: Son of Captain America on wild goals, hanging with Haaland and shrinking his laundry
10:43 AM ETTom HamiltonSenior Writer
Giovanni Reyna has a pile of match jerseys neatly stacked in one of the unpacked cardboard boxes in his new apartment, located roughly 15 minutes from Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park home in Germany.”There have been a lot of firsts for me,” he says. He has the Borussia Dortmund jersey from the first time he was included in a matchday squad, then another from his debut. There’s a shirt to mark his first goal and another from his first Champions League game.”There have been cool little milestones I’ve hit so far.” He swapped another jersey for Kylian Mbappe’s shirt when Dortmund took on PSG in the Champions League round of 16. “That was pretty amazing.”
All of these events took place in the past four months, but it’s no fluke. He arrived at Dortmund as a young, promising American forward in July 2019. It came with echoes of the past. His dad, Claudio Reyna, won 112 caps for the U.S. and played in the Bundesliga from 1994-99. Dortmund had just bid farewell to their beloved American Christian Pulisic. Their narratives are intertwined, but Gio is forging his own path.
Pulisic scored his first Dortmund goal at 17 years and 212 days old. Gio was 17 years and 83 days when he opened his account for Dortmund. It was no ordinary goal. Having made three appearances for Dortmund in the Bundesliga from the bench, he was thrown into their DFB Cup game against Werder Bremen on Feb. 4 as a 66th minute substitution for Dan-Axel Zagadou. Twelve minutes later he received a pass from Julian Brandt 20 yards from goal, took the ball through two Werder defenders, cut inside the third, opened his body and curled it into the top right-hand corner. It was outrageous.
“Gio Reyna is officially here” announced Borussia’s Twitter account. But there was no chance of the young American getting carried away. “My first thoughts were, ‘We have to get the ball’ and go score another as we were 3-2 down. The goal was great, and people say to me, I may not score a goal like that in the rest of my career … but it was just instinct.”The last few months have been a lot for a 17-year-old to process. “I’m learning a lot,” Gio told ESPN via Zoom.After all, being away from home and his family, living through a unique time with the coronavirus pandemic changing our routines and rituals, trying to improve as a young player at one of Europe’s most demanding clubs in one of soccer’s most challenging leagues: Gio is taking things in stride.”There have been some difficult times, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But all I need to do is keep my head looking forward, eyes on the future and hopefully I can do some more pretty cool stuff.”At the time of Reyna’s Bundesliga debut on Jan. 18, the noise around Dortmund concerned another new arrival. Erling Haaland, a highly sought after striker, had signed for Dortmund that January from Red Bull Salzburg, scoring nine goals in eight games to open his Bundesliga career, and the two became close friends.ogether with Jadon Sancho, they’re arguably the most exciting trio of attackers on the same team in world soccer. The partnership has already paid dividends against PSG where Reyna teed up Haaland for the winner in their first-leg victory in the Champions League last 16.”I look up to him because he’s done so many things in a young career, and he’s a great guy,” Gio says of Haaland. “He’s encouraged me, as he sees something in me.” Gio talks of how in training, if they’re playing 11 vs 11, or five-a-side, if he sees Haaland with the ball in the box, he starts to head back for the restart as he will inevitably score.aaland has become Gio’s chauffeur as the U.S. midfielder is too young to drive. He smiles a lot as he talks about Haaland, and then about Sancho — this triumvirate of promising young attacking players, with Gio the youngest of the group.Sancho, now 20, broke through into Dortmund’s first team almost immediately after arriving from Manchester City in 2017.”I think the biggest thing for any young player is to be confident. … I’m here because I belong,” Gio says of the advice Sancho gave him. “Those guys told me mistakes happen, even Messi and Ronaldo make mistakes. You make it, then put it behind you and move on. Jadon knows how I felt. He’s been there for me and I could always go to him with stuff if I needed help off the field.”Claudio Reyna, now sporting director at Austin FC — which will join Major League Soccer as an expansion club in 2021 — was at an MLS meeting at a ranch 90 minutes outside of Kansas City, Missouri, when Gio came off the bench against Werder Bremen. He remembers watching his son’s goal on his phone.”I kind of picked up more in the second half to start watching when there was an opportunity he could come on. It was obviously a great moment … it was great,” Claudio told ESPN.Claudio and his wife, Danielle, had planned to travel to watch Gio in the second leg of Dortmund’s Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain back in March. But they cancelled their trip as the match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.The cooking lessons Gio had been hoping would be conducted in person are now done via WhatsApp with his mom. “I haven’t yet got a speciality,” Gio says. “I mean my eggs are pretty decent, but I’m sure everybody’s eggs are decent.”His mom has also tried to talk him through the complexities of a washing machine in German — the first few attempts spat out shrunken hoodies and T-shirts. “She tells me what soaps to use, how to do the dishes and stuff,” Gio says. “… It’s a process right now moving into my own apartment for the first time, but I’m learning a lot. It’s cool.” He catches up with his younger brother and sister, Joah-Mikel and Carolina, over Fortnite and FaceTime.”It’s been challenging for sure for both of us because, you know, not being able to be around him and he’s still young,” Claudio says. He laughs as he hears about Gio shrinking his hoodies. And then, as he talks through Gio’s goal, there are memories of the nerves he feels whenever he watches his son play.
Claudio won 112 caps for the USMNT and enjoyed a 13-year career with Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, Rangers, Sunderland, Manchester City and New York Red Bulls. But those nerves …
“It’s the worst by far now, it’s not even close to when I played,” Claudio says. “In management you have the nerves, absolutely … but as a dad … man! That’s a whole other … it’s crazy. I’ve talked to other parents of kids who are professional footballers and we’ve asked them, I said ‘Is this how it always is?’ They said, ‘Yeah … no, actually it gets worse.'”It’s exciting to feel that excitement and tension again, but it’s bad … it’s tough!”Football runs in the family — Danielle (she was Danielle Egan then) played six times for the U.S. women’s national team. While Gio says he feels it was predestined that he was always going to be a professional footballer — “it’s in my genes”, he says — it was more chance than design, from Claudio’s perspective.”We never set out to make that happen, but you know, he loved kicking a ball from the moment he could walk around the house,” Claudio says. “From the beginning, something I remember is when he was younger, he would sit there at 3, 4, 5 years old and watch football matches live and kind of understand the movement of players and where they’re going. He was trying to figure it all out.”I remember when he was younger and he played he would cry, he would scream, he would yell if he lost … he loved competing.”Gio talks football with Claudio every day, his dad offering him feedback in an understated, interpretative way. “He knows how it works,” Gio says. “Football is such a big part of his life; I don’t think he really has ever left it. I love talking about it and he finds a way to tell me [feedback] in Dad mode, but also in a football mode where he understands what it takes. It’s all very relaxed but putting no pressure on at the same time.”Claudio’s advice to Gio revolves around pacing himself. Though Gio is versatile as a player, Claudio reckons he will end up being a box-to-box attacking midfielder. “He can interpret that area well in space, but you know …” Here comes the fatherly qualification: “I do think that area on the defensive side, tactically with experience, from watching some of his teammates he will continue to improve. But his strengths are being able to create, finding teammates and being able to roam in different areas.”If Claudio is good cop, then mom, Danielle, has played bad cop in the past. “She’s more about effort,” Gio says. “If I had a bad training and she saw me slacking off … I definitely would get an earful in the car ride home. But she’s very focused on my sleeping and eating habits and the way I take care of myself. I’ve certainly learned from her, and so thankful to have her.”Claudio hears this account of Danielle offering the tough love. “I’m glad you’re bringing this up,” he says as he laughs. “She was harder on him than me! But mom knows best with all this stuff and he’s certainly taken a lot of her attributes as well.””He’s on his way,” Claudio continues. “I’m proud of that because he eats well and takes care of his body. Some players struggle with that, but he has good habits and is in a good place with a good foundation.”That family unit means the world to Gio. “We are very close,” he says. “They’ve done a lot for me to help me reach where I am now. I try to stay as close as possible.” Tattooed on his right arm is “Love Jack,” in memory of his late older brother who died from complications of cancer in July 2012.When it’s breakfast in the Reyna household in the U.S. Gio is propped on the end of the family table via FaceTime. It’s their way of negotiating the six-hour time difference.When he’s in and around the club, he loves hearing stories from the club’s staff about when they played against his dad. “A few of my coaches like [15-year Dortmund veteran] Sebastian Kehl played against my dad and said he was a great player. It’s kind of all hitting me now that he was obviously a very seasoned pro and did a lot throughout his career.” But there was no fatherly influence behind Gio’s similar start to his career.”The decision to go to Dortmund was Gio’s,” Claudio says. “But I just told him the good thing about the Bundesliga are the habits you learn in the locker room, it’s very disciplined and it’s physically demanding. It’s a great league in itself.”This is his path; this is what he wanted to do. He wanted this life challenge and he’s on his way. He’s so happy, he’s learning, and we’re excited for him. We just want him to be happy and he is there.”
The Reyna family planned to be in Eindhoven in March for what looked to be Gio’s USMNT debut against the Netherlands. Despite being qualified to play for England, Portugal and Argentina, he was always going to declare for the U.S. In his own polite way, he said no thanks to other overtures and is now an active member of the USMNT’s WhatsApp group.”I want to play for the national team and kind of also carry on my dad’s legacy there, so that’s really cool,” Gio says.Claudio laughs at that talk of legacy in a here-we-go-again way.”I just want to be in the background, just be his dad at any of those games and be his father throughout this journey,” Claudio says. “We just crack jokes now about how I used to play. He doesn’t feel any pressure, which is great. There’s no … he’s trying to live up to Dad or do anything like that or achieve more. He’s well on his way, way further than I was at the same age.”Everyone has their own path. It’s been obviously so much fun as a dad seeing him grow and develop and become the player he is up and until now, because he’s got a long way to go. For all of us in the family, we’re rooting him on, and we just wish we could see him soon.”
Pulisic: Nobody at Chelsea noticed me when I joined
5:07 AM ETESPN
Christian Pulisic has said “nobody even noticed me” at the start of his career at Chelsea and that he has had to earn the respect of the dressing room during his first season in English football.
The United States international made his move to Chelsea official last summer, after they agreed a £57.6 million deal with Borussia Dortmund in January 2019 before loaning him back for the rest of the 2018-19 campaign.
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Pulisic’s first season in the Premier League has been disrupted by injury, with six goals in 23 appearances before the coronavirus pandemic halted sport across the world.He told the 13&ME podcast of his experiences at Chelsea: “It was all pretty crazy what happened. I had to fly straight from my summer break right after the Gold Cup. I had one week off and I didn’t really get a summer.”The team had already started preseason in Japan so I flew straight there and I had to literally fly by myself and then meet the team who had flown from London.”I had to go straight to the hotel and the next thing on the schedule was to go straight to training. I was tired, nervous and didn’t know what to think but: ‘I’m at Chelsea and this is insane.'”I got on the bus, they had just arrived as well. Everyone is half asleep, I go and sit on the bus and nobody even noticed me. Nobody said anything. There were maybe one or two guys who said: ‘Hey, hello’ and I was like: ‘What’s going on here?'”Those first couple of days of training I was nervous. You know how it’s like when you move to a new team.”The 21-year-old, who features in ESPN’s list of the best players aged 21 or under, said he needed to win over his new teammates following his move from the Bundesliga.”They’re nice guys off the field but to earn that respect you have to show on the field you have that ability, that’s just how it is,” he added.”I had to go in on day three when I had a really good training, scored some goals, had some nice plays and assists and then I felt the guys coming and talking to me and getting their respect.”It’s interesting how it works but they’ve been great guys and I’ve enjoyed it.”
Chelsea chance too good for Pulisic to turn down as USMNT star picks favourite position
Goal.comMay 14, 2020, 4:11 AM
Christian Pulisic admits the opportunity to link up with Chelsea in 2019 was too good to turn down, with the United States international having always wanted to test himself in the Premier League.The 21-year-old saw a transfer door open after proving his worth at Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund.
Having broken through in Germany under Jurgen Klopp, impressive progress has been made for club and country over recent years.Chelsea were happy to buy into that potential, with a £58 million ($71m) deal put in place.Pulisic would likely have found plenty of other options to consider had he delayed the decision to leave Dortmund, but he jumped at the chance to head for Stamford Bridge.Discussing his career path with BT Sport, the USMNT star said: “I always wanted to play in Europe.“Going to Dortmund was definitely a perfect first step for me. It was awesome, and I learned so much. I grew up there – I went over there when I was 15.“Now, to be here and come to the Premier League when I was 20, I think it all worked out very well so I’m really happy with the path.“I was confident and felt like I had a good couple of years in the Bundesliga, and obviously with the opportunity to come to a club like Chelsea – it was just something I couldn’t turn down.“I just felt like the timing was perfect and I’m really happy that I made that choice.”Pulisic endured a slow start to his time with Chelsea, but he now feels fully adjusted to the demands of life in English football.He added on the challenges that he has faced: “The intensity, especially the schedule when you get to that winter period where you are playing games all the time.“Every couple of days it’s about recovery it’s about tough games where you’re fighting for everything. It’s something I wasn’t 100% used to.”After finding his feet, Pulisic has recorded six goals and as many assists across his debut season in west London.That is a decent return, with the youngster hoping that Frank Lampard will continue to give hum regular game time in one of his favoured positions.“I do really like playing on the left wing and also in that 10 spot centrally behind the forward,” said Pulisic.“I’d say those are my two favourite positions.”
Which Americans are in Bundesliga promotion and relegation battles?
Some are pushing to move up, while others are fighting to avoid the drop.
By Brendan Joseph May 15, 2020, 6:00am PDT Stars and Stripes
The German Bundesliga is set to return to action following a long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the first and second divisions plan to complete their 34-match seasons over the next six weeks, with a very ambitious schedule that includes regular testing and quarantines. While most eyes will be on the stars and super clubs at the top of the table, there is plenty of drama and excitement to be found elsewhere. With fewer than ten matches remaining, six American players and one manager find themselves in tightly contested promotion and relegation battles in Germany’s top two divisions.
Josh Sargent — Werder Bremen
Things are not looking good for the Northern German club, which is currently in 17th place and eight points away from safety. After finishing in eighth place last season, Werder has managed a dismal four wins, including one in the last 11 matches. Josh Sargent has three goals and two assists in 18 appearances, but his output will have to increase for his club to avoid the drop. Should Werder be relegated, it’s probably not the end of the world for the young American. The 20-year-old striker would likely receive several transfer offers or a substantial increase in playing time in the second division.
Key matches: at SC Paderborn (June 13th), at Mainz 05 (June 20th)
Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales — Fortuna Düsseldorf
Currently in 16th place, Düsseldorf is in a dangerous position, but all is not completely lost. If the season were to end today, the club would head to the relegation playoffs against the third-highest finisher in the 2. Bundesliga. It will be tough sledding, as four of their nine remaining matches are against Schalke 04, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and RB Leipzig. They’ll also likely be without their top choice goalkeeper. Zack Steffen, having only recently recuperated from a knee injury, “sustained another injury during training” two weeks ago. Alfredo Morales has been a regular presence in the starting lineup, which propelled him back into the national team picture.
Key matches: vs. SC Paderborn (May 16th), at FC Augsburg (June 20th)
Bobby Wood — Hamburger SV
In 2018, Hamburg experienced its first ever relegation. Two years later, the club could jump back into the top flight and is currently one point out of an automatic promotion spot. The remaining schedule is difficult, but the upcoming six-point matches against the second, fourth, and sixth place clubs present the opportunity to rise up the table and build some distance. Bobby Wood is decidedly and, most likely permanently, out of favor at the Volksparkstadion. He’s made a mere six appearances this season and none since November. The 27-year-old striker was connected to MLS clubs FC Cincinnati and D.C. United, but neither move was completed. Despite not playing for Hamburg, he has consistently been on the match day roster. Due to fixture congestion brought on by the rush to finish the season, it is possible Wood plays a role in the promotion hunt.
Key matches: at Greuther Fürth (May 17th), at VfB Stuttgart (May 28th), at FC Heidenheim (June 21st)
Julian Green — SpVgg Greuther Fürth
Promotion to the top flight may be a little out of reach for Greuther Fürth, as they currently sit eight points behind Hamburg. Julian Green has enjoyed a strong run of form since joining the Cloverleaves in 2017. This season, he was struck by the injury bug, dealing with a ruptured knee ligament and an ankle issue. With four goals in 13 appearances, Green was on track for a career season. His contract is up in June, but it might be in the 24-year-old’s best interests to stick around at a club at which he can thrive and lead back to the Bundesliga for the first time since 2013.
Key matches: vs. Hamburg (May 17th), vs. FC Heidenheim (June 16th)
Marc Heider — VfL Osnabrück
Osnabrück earned promotion last season after winning the 3. Liga. This year, the Lilac-Whites’ position in the 2. Bundesliga should be safe, but a four-point gap could evaporate very quickly. Captain Marc Heider has five assists in 23 appearances. The 33-year-old midfielder was born in Sacramento, California and played for Werder Bremen II and Holstein Kiel. He was a starter during the first half of the season, but dropped into a substitute role following the winter break.
Key matches: vs. VfL Bochum (June 14th), at Dynamo Dresden (June 28th)
Pellegrino Matarazzo — VfB Stuttgart
Die Roten made a managerial change in December, firing Tim Walter and hiring American Pellegrino Matarazzo. He’s led them into second place and an automatic promotion spot. The 42-year-old New Jersey native played ten years in the lower divisions of Germany before coaching in the FC Nurnberg and Hoffenheim systems. He described himself to American Soccer Now as a coach with “a very pragmatic approach to the game” who believes that his teams “need to have a sense of variability… based on clear principles regarding creation of space… and changing speed.” Matarazzo, who has a degree in mathematics from Columbia University, has primarily utilized a 3-4-2-1 formation during his eight matches in charge. With five of the nine remaining fixtures against the league’s worst teams, Stuttgart should coast to promotion.
Key matches: vs. Hamburg (May 28th), vs. SV Darmstadt (June 28th)
German Bundesliga returns: Bayern’s title fight, must-see matches and players to watch
may 14, 2020Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer
After a two-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Bundesliga will become the first major European soccer league to return to action, resuming the 2019-20 season this Saturday. There’s still a lot of anxiety and uncertainty with the proceedings — not every player loves the idea, and second-division team Dynamo Dresden had to enter a two-week quarantine last weekend following a couple of positive tests — but thus far, the first division’s tentative schedule for completing its final nine matchdays remains a go for launch.
– Stream new episodes of ESPN FC Monday-Friday on ESPN+
– Stream every episode of 30 for 30: Soccer Stories on ESPN+
While the eyes of the sports world will be monitoring whether the league’s safeguards and safety measures are effective, the most open and enjoyable big soccer league in Europe is now basically the only soccer show in town. Here’s everything you need to know about the league’s 2019-20 season, what’s at stake, and who you absolutely need to watch between now and the end of June.
Jump to: What makes Bundesliga fun | Breaking down title race | Teams ready to resume | Must-see matches | Americans in Bundesliga | Young stars you need to know
People always talk about how fun this league is. What do they mean? How is it different?
First thing’s first: If this is your first dip into the Bundesliga pool, you’re not going to get an entirely adequate impression. The league is generally considered one of the more fan-friendly in the world, eschewing at least a couple of layers of corporate influence, keeping ticket prices down as much as possible and crafting a reputation for great crowds. You aren’t going to get any sense of that because fans won’t be allowed to attend.
While it’s always a big match when Bayern Munich travels to Borussia Dortmund, it won’t be quite the same with an empty Yellow Wall. And while it will still be a big deal when Union Berlin, a first-division team for the first time, hosts Bayern this weekend, it is deeply unfortunate that Union fans won’t be there to see it. Still, the amount of television revenue on the line — and the potentially crippling financial impact cancellation of the season might create — ensured that games would be played one way or another if at all possible.
So far, it’s possible, and the unique conditions will at least create some enjoyably odd circumstances: Borussia Mönchengladbach is placing cardboard cutouts of fans in seats, for instance. And with high-fives and any excess contact between players banned, there’s a chance for some creative — and hopefully choreographed — goal celebrations. (If someone from Bayern scores a goal and somehow doesn’t attempt to dance like forward Robert Lewandowski in his TikTok videos, I will be extremely disappointed.)
It will be different, but it will also still be the Bundesliga, and as far as what makes this league’s play so enjoyable, allow me to refer you to a league styles piece I wrote in December.
What remains at stake in the title race?
The top four teams in the league qualify for the 2020-21 Champions League, while fifth and sixth head to the Europa League. And the top five teams are still close enough that a really good team is going to end up out of the Champions League running.
When the coronavirus stopped play in March, the Bundesliga table was a little bit more cluttered at the top than usual. Things had begun to sort themselves out: After falling behind early for the second straight year, 29-time champions (and winners of seven straight titles) Bayern Munich (55 points) had eased ahead of both Borussia Dortmund (51) and RB Leipzig (50) at the top. But Bayern still has to play not only Dortmund, but also fourth-place Borussia Mönchengladbach (49) and fifth-place Bayer Leverkusen (47). Put simply: We’re one upset result from a dogfight.
Gladbach led the league for much of the fall, but Leverkusen were hot on the trail before stoppage. The race to avoid fifth place should be heated: FiveThirtyEight’s club ratings trust the top three to secure bids and deem the fourth-place battle a toss-up between Gladbach and Leverkusen.
Which teams are ready to resume?
Bayern Munich: Finally they catch a break, right? Before the stoppage, it appeared as if forward and league-leading scorer Robert Lewandowski was going to miss an early-April trip to Dortmund, the match probably most vital to maintaining a true league title race, with a groin injury. But it appears he should be ready to roll when action resumes. (Dortmund’s Marco Reus could also have returned from injury by then.) The same goes for winger Ivan Perisic, who was playing brilliant ball before suffering an ankle injury in early February. Bayern continued to roll without them, of course, but manager Hansi Flick now has quite the choice of lineup options.
aria-label=”Kevin Baxter” style=’box-sizing: border-box;touch-action: manipulation; color:inherit’ class=” imageLoaded lazyloaded” data-image-container=.inline-photo v:shapes=”_x0000_i1026″>Bayern have won seven straight Bundesliga titles and appear on course for No. 8 if they can keep their cool. Boris Streubel/Bongarts/Getty Images
RB Leipzig: Julian Nagelsmann’s side were the story of the Hinrunde (the first half of the season), leading a crowded field into winter break and reaching the knockout rounds of the Champions League. (And yet, they’re arguably the least-liked team in Germany.) Their form didn’t hit a major wall or anything — they lost only once in eight league games after the break, allowed only six goals in the process and torched Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League round of 16 — but they were leaking points. They suffered four draws in those eight matches, and their offense had scored a pedestrian 14 goals (seventh in the league in that span). For a team that has never been in this kind of high-pressure situation before, the rest probably did them some good.
Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and a host of other guests every day as football plots a path through the coronavirus crisis. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only).
Schalke 04: Once near the top of the table, Schalke was heading quickly in the wrong direction in March. They had won just once in their past eight matches, scoring a league-low four goals. Forwards Michael Gregoritsch and Benito Raman had lost their finishing touch, combining for 6.3 Expected Goals (xG) but only two actual goals on 35 shots. Regression to the mean should lift them up a bit, though a little bit of extra rest would be ideal, especially if it means getting defenders Salif Sane and/or Benjamin Stambouli back. They both went down in November, and the defense was more scattershot as well.
FC Augsburg: Augsburg has been the league’s moodiest team this year. The Fuggerstädter began the season by losing to fourth-division SC Verl in the German Cup and pulling just seven points from their first 10 league matches. They allowed at least three goals in five of those 10. They suddenly outscored opponents 15-4 in a six-match unbeaten stretch … then won only once between Dec. 21 and the stoppage. From relegation-threatened to contender-for-Europe and back. They are in 14th place, five points out of the relegation playoff; we’ll see if the pause turned their mood back around.
What are the biggest remaining matches?
There are 34 matchdays in the Bundesliga schedule, and we’ve got nine remaining — the league is adamant on getting them all finished before June 30. With that in mind, here’s the biggest match from each round.
– Find all Bundesliga scores and fixtures here
Matchday 26 (May 16-18): Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke 04
This is one of the biggest rivalries in Germany and the biggest this weekend by far. Borussia can’t afford to drop many, if any, more points in the title race, and with a loss, Schalke will likely drop out of sixth place, aka the final Europa slot.
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Matchday 27: Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen
The race for the final Champions League position is nearly a dead heat between these two, and obviously the odds shift significantly if one of these teams secures three points against the other. The aesthetics of this match are pretty lovely, too: Gladbach might be the most creative passing team in the league, especially on the attacking end, while Leverkusen, led by 20-year-old future/present star Kai Havertz, have been a goal-scoring machine since winter break.
Schoenfeld: Havertz is destined for big things beyond Germany
Matchday 28: Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich
This has been the biggest battle in the Bundesliga for a while now: These clubs have taken 10 straight league titles and 22 of the past 26. And as mentioned above, both teams could be awfully close to full strength. If you watch only one league match the rest of the year, this is the one you need to catch. (But seriously, watch as many as possible. Satisfaction is guaranteed.)
Matchday 29: 1. FC Köln vs. RB Leipzig
With Bayern and BVB both playing relegation teams (Düsseldorf and Paderborn, respectively), the biggest matchup is either this or Freiburg vs. Leverkusen. I chose this one because it offers an opportunity to both catch a delightfully volatile Köln squad and take a sustained look at RBL. For each team’s remaining goals — Köln to Europa, RB Leipzig winning the title — taking three points here is a must.
Matchdays 30 and 31: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Bayern Munich; Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach
On Nov. 30, two Leon Bailey goals gave Leverkusen an upset win over Bayern in Munich; a week later, Gladbach held onto first place with a stoppage-time goal from Ramy Bensebaini and a spirited 2-1 win over Bayern. Bayern hasn’t lost a single game in any competition since that day. If either team takes more points off of the league leader, that would provide a huge Champions League lifeline. But Bayern revenge attempts are often pretty cruel and relentless.
Matchday 32: RB Leipzig vs. Fortuna Düsseldorf
With all three primary title contenders playing relegation-threatened opponents, take this time to get to know RBL. Leipzig has a real “corporation bought its soul” issue, and German fans have rebelled against both the club and their success with relish. But Nagelsmann’s team is also intense and fun, loaded with players who could fetch a hefty sum on the transfer market in coming years: forward Timo Werner, attacking midfielders Christopher Nkunku and Marcel Sabitzer, defenders Dayot Upamecano and Lukas Klostermann, and so on.
Matchday 33: RB Leipzig vs. Borussia Dortmund
The stakes could have changed pretty drastically by this point, but the odds are decent that this is either a title-elimination match or a battle to secure second place in the league. Either way, the first battle between these two teams was a raucous 3-3 draw. This could be similarly fun whatever the stakes.
Matchday 34: Wolfsburg vs. Bayern Munich
The title will likely have been decided by now (with Bayern the likely champion, of course), but if it’s not, this is a “who blinks first” final set of matches. The three title favorites all face tricky opponents (Bayern vs. Wolfsburg, Dortmund vs. Hoffenheim, Leipzig vs. Augsburg), and the odds are decent that one of them will drop a couple of points.
Aren’t there a lot of Americans in this league?
Indeed! Some of the USMNT’s most exciting young players — and a few steely old veterans — are, when healthy, Bundesliga stalwarts.
Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig (21)
Adams has dealt with a series of groin/adductor issues over the past couple of years, but the former New York Red Bulls star was quickly slotted into RBL’s rotation once healthy. He’s versatile and perfect for Germany: a defensive midfielder capable of creating danger in attack.
Weston McKennie, Schalke 04 (21)
McKennie is an aggressive and integral part of the Schalke attack. He’s not the best finisher in the world (you could say that about a lot of Americans), but he pushes the ball up the pitch offensively and pressures well on defense.
Zack Steffen, Fortuna Düsseldorf (25)
The first-choice keeper for both the USMNT and Düsseldorf, Steffen’s 2019-20 campaign was wrecked by injury. He suffered a patella injury in mid-January, and while the stoppage could have helped him get back on the pitch, he instead strained his MCL in late April and could miss the rest of the season.
Ale Moreno likens Borussia Dortmund and USMNT’s Gio Reyna’s style of play to his father, Claudio.
Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (17)
The son of USMNT great Claudio, Reyna debuted for BVB early in 2020 and immediately fit in. Like Nkunku, he’s dangerous from both the wings and more central areas and scored a gorgeous goal against Werder Bremen in the DFB Pokal. The US boasts a lot of fun attacking midfielders, but Reyna could quickly move up the priority list.
Hamilton: Inside U.S. phenom Reyna’s life at Dortmund
John Brooks, Wolfsburg (27)
Another USMNT mainstay with a lengthy injury history, Brooks missed time in September but has still logged 16 starts for the team in bright green. And if you haven’t seen him play in a while, breaking news: He’s still tall. He still wins most aerials and plays standard, sturdy central D.
Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Düsseldorf (29)
A Bundesliga veteran who has also played for Hertha Berlin and Ingolstadt 04, Morales has put in over 1,400 minutes for Fortuna this season, scoring once and logging two assists. He remains one of the better ball-pressure guys in the USMNT player pool.
Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt (30)
Chandler’s USMNT days are probably done, but he worked his way back into the Frankfurt rotation after missing all but 17 minutes of the 2018-19 campaign to a knee injury. And in 14 matches, he has scored four goals and logged one assist for the enigmatic Eagles.
Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach (32)
The longtime fullback was capped 57 times for the U.S. in the 2010s but dealt with roughly 57 back injuries as well. He played in 18 matches for Gladbach in 2018-19 but has seen action only six times this season.
Ulysses Llanez, Wolfsburg (19)
Llanez scored in his first USMNT appearance but hasn’t logged any minutes for the senior team — at least not yet. He put in 11 goals in 15 matches with the under-19 team, though. This is more of a “file away for next season” name.
Chris Richards, Bayern Munich (20)
Another name to file away for later. The 6-foot-2 center back moved up from Bayern’s U-19 team and put in nearly 2,000 minutes for Bayern II this season. He might need to get loaned out to see Bundesliga time soon, but it’s quite possible that’s exactly what happens.
Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen (20)
Already a feature player for the USMNT, Sargent has made 22 cup and league appearances for Bremen, scoring three times and dishing three assists. He had two goals in 10 appearances last season as well.
If this is a fun, young league, who are the fun, young players I should get to know?
Obviously the top teams feature some established names that you might recognize — Lewandowski, Reus, Bayern’s Thomas Müller, etc. — and if you followed the Champions League this year, then you likely became very familiar with 24-year-old stars like RBL’s Werner and Bayern’s Serge Gnabry. (Tottenham Hotspur definitely remembers Gnabry, anyway.)
This league gives young players more of a run than any major league.play
Alphonso Davies, Bayern Munich
In barely three years, 19-year-old Davies went from Vancouver Whitecaps prospect to a starter for a Champions League favorite. He’s quite possibly the fastest player in Europe’s big five leagues, but even more impressively, he’s a sponge. His knowledge and his game have developed at a nuclear rate, and he could soon be one of the best left-backs or left wingers in the world … if he’s not already. Barring injury, he will almost certainly end up the best Canadian player of all time … if he’s not already.
Denis Zakaria, Borussia Mönchengladbach
Already a stalwart on the Swiss national team, Zakaria, 23, is one of the biggest pests in the league: He’s one of four players to have combined 170+ ball recoveries with a duel success rate of 57% or higher. (The other three: Upamecano and two established stars, Bayern’s Thiago and Dortmund’s Mats Hummels.) He challenges you constantly and usually wins.
Christopher Nkunku, RB Leipzig
Somehow acquired for just $14.3 million from PSG last summer, Nkunku is a standout creator — from the center or the wings — in a league full of them. His 65 chances created lead the Bundesliga, and his 4.03 chances per 90 minutes are second in all of the Big Five leagues, behind only Marseille‘s Dimitri Payet (4.04). Kevin “damn” De Bruyne is only at 4.01. Nkunku, still only 22, is astounding.
Kai Havertz, Bayer Leverkusen
Havertz is a unicorn: He’s a great, agile attacking midfielder — only he and Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho have combined 20+ goals with 200+ ball recoveries over the past two seasons — but at 6-foot-2 and 183 pounds, the 20-year-old playmaker is also bigger than a lot of defenders. He’s a matchup nightmare, and it’s probably no surprise that transfer rumors have linked him to Bayern and basically every big Premier League club over the past 12 months.
Jadon Sancho, Borussia Dortmund, and Erling Haaland, Borussia Dortmund
From Lewandowski (Bayern) to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) to Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona) and many others, BVB has earned a reputation as basically the finishing school for future stars. Lewandowski led them to a Champions League final before departing for Bayern. They deploy a young roster, flash significant upside, finish second or third in the league, sell players for a hefty profit, bring in some new youngsters and do it all over again, year after year. This guarantees financial health, but it also creates a nonstop set of what-ifs. They haven’t advanced past the Champions League quarterfinals since 2013, and there’s always a feeling of “if they could have just kept [insert young star(s) here] for one more year …”
We’re about to enter one of the stranger transfer windows in recent memory. Because of the money lost during the coronavirus stoppage, no one can tell how many clubs will be in position to buy megastar talent this offseason (whenever the season is officially “off”). And it’s easy to secretly hope that, despite nonstop transfer rumors regarding both January acquisition Haaland and, especially, Sancho, BVB keeps the band together for one full season, just to see what this group can do.
Sancho, 20, has already succeeded at an unfathomable level. I mentioned that he and Havertz are the only league players with 20+ goals and 200+ ball recoveries in two years; Well, Sancho also has 20+ assists. He, Leo Messi and PSG’s Angel Di Maria are the only to hit 20 and 20 in that span. This year alone, Sancho is leading the league with 29 combined assists and goals (Lewandowski and Werner both have 28). He is a good defender, a great scorer and an elite passer. And he’s 20. Whenever he does leave, be it this summer or next, he will likely command an incomprehensible transfer fee.
The 6-foot-4, Thor-esque (sans the beard) Haaland, meanwhile, went from hipster favorite to world-renowned in a heartbeat. That’s what happens when you not only score a first-half hat trick in your first Champions League appearance and become the first teenager to score in your first five Champions League matches — he had eight goals in total for Red Bull Salzburg during the UCL group stage — but also then join BVB and score 12 goals in your first 11 appearances in black and yellow. In just two years, the 19-year-old has gone from playing in the Norwegian Eliteserien to becoming the Next Karim Benzema at worst. He’s a world-class poacher and finisher, and he’s got one of the best passing teams in the world feeding him the ball.
How to watch the Bundesliga return, American players to know, the best and worst teams, and whom to root for
by Jonathan Tannenwald, Updated: May 15, 2020- 8:08 AM
This weekend, Germany’s Bundesliga becomes the first major soccer league in Europe to return to action after stopping because of the coronavirus pandemic.Here’s a viewer’s guide to the players to know about, how to watch the games, and picking a favorite team.
If you’re new to this
Let’s get the simple stuff out of the way first. The Bundesliga has long been one of the world’s best soccer leagues. There are star-studded powerhouses like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, and many other teams sign top players from everywhere. There’s also the vast domestic talent pool that has fueled Germany’s four men’s World Cups and three European championships. Few countries anywhere are better at the sport.
The Bundesliga is also one of the world’s most entertaining soccer leagues, routinely leading Europe in average goals per game. Before the season was stopped on March 13, the Bundesliga was averaging 3.20 goals per game — not only topping the continent for the third straight year, but also beating its own average from the last two campaigns.
Along with entertainment on the field, there’s a great tradition of entertainment off the field. The Bundesliga has some of Europe’s top attendances, including the highest per-game average among the continent’s leagues in the last two full seasons. And fans don’t just show up, they brings flags and scarves and unveil giant displays of banners that sometimes cover entire stands. Dortmund’s “Yellow Wall,” a 25,000-capacity end of their stadium, is the most famous example.
Unfortunately, you won’t see any of that right now, or for a while. All games will be played behind closed doors for the foreseeable future.
Dortmund’s “Yellow Wall,” a 25,000-capacity end of their stadium.
How can you watch games?
Fox and Univision have U.S. broadcast rights. Games generally air on FS1 and FS2 in English, and on TUDN, UniMás and Fox Deportes in Spanish. The TV schedule for this weekend is at the bottom of this article. (Hopefully you’ll read the rest of it first.)
» READ MORE: Betting on the Bundesliga has local sportsbooks’ attention
Why can the Bundesliga play when other leagues aren’t?
Germany’s government has been a world leader in moving on lockdowns and widespread testing for COVID-19. As such, the country has been able to move back toward normal life faster than others. The Bundesliga’s testing needs would take up just 0.4% of the nation’s capacity.
But it’s still a gamble. When tests were run on the 36 teams across Germany’s top two leagues, there were 10 positive cases. Two players from second-division team Dynamo Dresden tested positive, sending the entire team into quarantine and postponing their first game back.
Public opinion on playing games is far from unanimous — in fact, recent polling by German news organizations found nearly a 50-50 split.“Everyone has to be clear: we’re playing on probation,” Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert said when the green light was given to resume. “I expect everyone to live up to this responsibility.”Seifert has spoken with U.S. sports leagues about how Germany has handled the pandemic.“That we’re allowed to play again boils down to German politics for managing this crisis, and the health system in Germany,” he said. “If I were to name the number of tests that I was asked about in teleconferences with other professional leagues, with American professional leagues, with clubs from the NFL, the NHL, Major League Baseball and others, and I tell them how many tests are possible in Germany, they generally check, or there’s silence, because it’s just unimaginable in the situation over there.”
Which teams should you know about?
Bayern are Germany’s Yankees. They make the most money, sign the biggest players, and have won the most trophies by a mile: 29 league titles (including the last seven straight) and five European Cups. They’re in first place this season, too.Current stars include prolific Polish forward Robert Lewandowski, who’s one goal away from his fifth straight 40-goal season; 19-year-old Canadian left back phenom Alphonso Davies; and veteran German forward Thomas Müller.
Dortmund are the country’s No. 2 club, and No. 1 in many hearts. In addition to their colorful fan base, they excel at turning young players into stars and selling them for huge profits.The most famous to Americans, of course, is Hershey native Christian Pulisic. He made his pro debut there as a teenager, and last year was sold to English club Chelsea for $73 million. Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ($70 million) and Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé ($137.5 million) are also alumni.
The current team has a new crop of stars, led by Norwegian sensation Erling Braut Håland and American Giovanni Reyna. Håland, age 19, has 12 goals in 11 games since joining the team in January — including a hat trick in his Bundesliga debut. Reyna, the son of U.S. legend Claudio Reyna, is already a regular at 17.
RB Leipzig are another big team, and they’re entertaining. But they aren’t very popular, because they’re bankrolled by the Red Bull corporate conglomerate. (The same company owns MLS’ New York Red Bulls and Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg).
Bayern (55 points), Dortmund (51), Leipzig (50), Borussia Mönchengladbach (49) and Bayer Leverkusen (47) are all in the title race.
Schalke 04 are Dortmund’s big rivals, 20 miles across the Ruhr Valley in Gelsenkirchen. The Revierderby is one of German soccer’s biggest games — and the latest edition is Saturday at Dortmund. Schalke have a long history of signing Americans, from Thomas Dooley in the 1990s to Jermaine Jones in the 2000s to Weston McKennie today.
Mönchengladbach made headlines when more than 16,000 fans signed up to buy cardboard cutouts of themselves to put in the closed stands. On the field, forward Marcus Thuram is the son of French World Cup legend Lilian Thuram.
Borussia Mönchengladbach has been filling the empty stands of their stadium with cardboard cutouts of fans.
The Bundesliga has long been a top destination for American players, and right now is a golden era. Not only are there lots of big time U.S. national team players in Germany these days, they’re almost all getting regular playing time. Here are some names to know.
Zack Steffen: Goalkeeper, Fortuna Düsseldorf, age 23, Coatesville, Pa. (Unfortunately, he’s out injured.)
» READ MORE: Zack Steffen enjoying Germany’s Fortuna Düsseldorf, latest chapter of soccer career
Ulysses Llanez: Forward, VfL Wolfsburg, 19, Lynwood, Calif.
Josh Sargent: Forward, Werder Bremen, 20, O’Fallon, Mo.
Tyler Adams: Midfielder, RB Leipzig, 21, Wappingers Falls, N.Y.
Fabian Johnson: Midfielder, Borussia Mönchengladbach, 32, Munich, Germany (One of many Americans born in the country to U.S. servicemen.)
Weston McKennie: Midfielder, Schalke 04, 21, Little Elm, Texas
Alfredo Morales: Midfielder, Fortuna Düsseldorf, 30, Berlin, Germany
Giovanni Reyna: Midfielder, Borussia Dortmund, 17, Sunderland, England (He was born when Claudio played for Sunderland.)
John Brooks: Defender, VfL Wolfsburg, 27, Berlin, Germany
Timothy Chandler: Defender, Eintracht Frankfurt, 30, Frankfurt, Germany
Which team should you root for?
Here are a few suggestions.
If you like teams that win all the time: Of course you’d pick Bayern.
If you’re a Union fan: Sporting director Ernst Tanner used to be in charge of TSG Hoffenheim, where he developed current RB Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann. Former Union assistant coach Dick Schreuder is currently on Hoffenhem’s staff. Tanner also has ties to the Red Bull organization, and brought their high-pressing playbook to Chester.
If you’re looking for Philadelphia ties: Frankfurt is Philly’s sister city, so Eintracht Frankfurt fits the bill. Or Fortuna Düsseldorf because of Steffen. Or Hoffenheim, and not just because of Tanner. Bucks County native Zach Pfeffer, the Union’s first homegrown player, went on loan there in 2013. (And their sponsor, SAP, has a headquarters in Newtown Square.)
If you’re a hipster: Dortmund have been cool for so long that they’re almost establishment now. If you really want to buck the trend, go for Union Berlin. This is their first ever season in the top flight.
If you’re a win-at-all-costs type: Leipzig.
If you only watch English soccer: National team winger Jadon Sancho plays for Dortmund. Bayern has ex-Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho (though he’s injured) and ex-Arsenal regular Serge Gnabry.
If you enjoy suffering: The teams currently in the relegation places are Düsseldorf, Werder Bremen and Paderborn. But really, pick Hertha Berlin. The biggest team in Germany’s biggest city hasn’t won the Bundesliga since 1931 and has never won the German Cup. They haven’t even made the final since 1993.
If you want the real answer: A lot of American fans will tell you Dortmund, and they’re right. There’s no team in Germany — or anywhere — quite like them. If you used to watch when Pulisic played there, it’s time to tune back in. Reyna is a rising star with must-see creative talent.
Soccer newsletter: MLS could be back sooner than most other sports
By KEVIN BAXTERSTAFF WRITER MAY 12, 2020 Hello, and welcome to another edition of the L.A. Times soccer newsletter. I’m Kevin Baxter, The Times’ soccer writer, and we start today with MLS where, in the last six days, 11 of the 26 teams saw players return to their training centers for individual workouts under strict social-distancing rules.What are they training for? Well the Washington Post’s Steve Goff, sourcing multiple people familiar with the plan, reported late Monday that the league has proposed bringing all of its teams to Orlando, Fla., to resume the season early this summer at the Disney sports complex and other locations in the area.The players, coaches and support staff for the teams, numbering more than 1,000, would be quarantined at a resort near Disney World for an undetermined amount of time. Disney owns ESPN and ABC, MLS rightsholders who would broadcast the games played behind closed doors.
The plan apparently has come together rapidly because the league was also considering another proposal that would see teams go to as many as three sites – Dallas and Kansas City, Kan., in addition to Orlando – to stage competitive games in late June or early July. That plan has not been totally abandoned.All three states were among the first to reopen after brief coronavirus lockouts with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis going so far as to declare sports as essential business, clearing the way for Jacksonville to play host to a televised UFC card in an empty arena last weekend. A formal announcement of the new plan could be made before the end of the month, which would probably make MLS the first major professional sports league in North America to resume games since the COVID-19 pandemic suspended competition in early March.Under the proposal players and staff members would be tested regularly, the Post reported, but several other hurdles remain including approval from the players. And Galaxy defender Daniel Steres appeared to speaking for many when he said he’s not sure the idea of a team-wide — much less a league-wide — quarantine can work.“You have to go to a single location and wherever that may be, there can’t be more spread of the virus there,” he said. “Then you have to put us in a hotel that’s got to be essentially locked down. You can’t have any touch with the outside world. That’s nearly impossible.”Many players are also likely to balk at the prospect of being separated from their families for an extended period. However the league may have a substantial card to play to win their approval. ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, who has been closely following the financial ramifications of COVID-19, reported Monday that the league has made a formal proposal to the union that calls for 20% pay cuts across the board, in addition to other financial reductions that could run into the tens of millions of dollars.MLS executives, including commissioner Don Garber, agreed to 25% pay cuts of their own last month. Might Garber retract the request for player salary reductions if the union signs off on the Orlando plan?In an interview with Nashville SC’s website last week – one the league has been sharing widely – Garber said he was “more optimistic about what a return-to-play plan would look like. A month ago, we were very pessimistic.”Eventually MLS would like to see teams return to their home markets to play in front of their fans; the league’s two largest sources of revenue are sponsorships and ticket sales so a season without fans would be a severe blow to the bottom line. The slow reopening of training facilities may be something of a test balloon to see how feasible that might be as well.MLS has teams in 17 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces and each jurisdiction has its own guidelines regarding the novel coronavirus. So while staging games in Florida, home to two MLS teams, might go forward without a problem, more than half the 26 teams play in states still observing COVID-19 restrictions.In California, home to three MLS teams, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he could not promise the state would be able to hold Major League Baseball games, even behind closed doors, by July. That was optimistic compared to the opinion of Dr. Jeff Smith, executive officer for Santa Clara County, where the San Jose Earthquakes play.“Sorry to say, I don’t expect that we’ll have any sports games until at least Thanksgiving,” he said last month. “And we’ll be lucky to have them by Thanksgiving.”Pushing forward is a gamble for MLS, whose teams suspended play March 12 after just two of 34 games. But if Garber can make it work and make MLS the first league to restart play, it’s a gamble that could pay off handsomely. The league would gain long term in terms of attention and prestige while in the short term it would gain in terms TV ratings and sponsorship dollars while the rest of the U.S. sports landscape remains vacant.
A question of timing
A hint at just how fast the Orlando plan came together can probably be found in the league’s rush to reopen team training facilities for individual workouts last week.MLS put a moratorium on team practice sessions on March 13 – a ban it has extended five times.But then, before the last ban expired, it announced clubs could reopen training complexes last Wednesday for voluntary, closely supervised workouts. Four teams — Atlanta United, Inter Miami, Orlando City and Sporting Kansas City — had players on the field that first day. Five others, including LAFC, began a day later.Four more teams, including the Galaxy and Colorado Rapids, were scheduled to have players work out Monday but both teams failed to receive clearance from local health officials. A Galaxy spokesman said the team will try again on Wednesday. LAFC also hopes to resume individual workouts at its Performance Center later this week after being asked by the county to temporarily postpone them.To open their training centers, teams must follow a detailed protocol that includes standardized screening and temperature checks; staggered arrivals and departures for players and staff to assure safe-distancing in the parking lot; and the use of personal protective equipment, including facemasks, on the way to and from the field.Only four players can train at a time and they must stay in their own clearly-marked quadrant on an outdoor field. Teammates are not allowed to interact with one another while training and players are banned from using locker rooms, weight rooms and most other indoor facilities.Teams must also adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines, but the sessions are a clear first step toward the resumpton the small-group training sessions that would be needed to prepare teams for the resumption of games in June or July – in Orlando or wherever.
Daniel Guzman, the head performance coach for LAFC, estimated teams would probably need a three- to four-week training camp. The sessions teams have held in the last week consisted mainly of agility drills, some running and limiting ball-handling. But for both the players and staff, just getting inside the training facility and seeing one another in person for the first time in two months was a sign of progress.“It’s obviously a great feeling,” LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye said, who has been biking to keep fit. “Just that team aura again felt good. It’s a lot of fitness-based things now. You can’t really pass. We just did a lot of running to get that base back together.”Added coach Bob Bradley: “Everybody’s being smart about it but yes, just in a general way, I prefer to have some interaction. I’ll find out how they’re doing, ask how their families are. See them have a chance to get on the field and run around, all those things are positive.“The return to play in all sports, that’s different. So all of use are adapting. We all understand the importance of following the guidelines for each phase.”
The English Premier League moved a big step closer to resuming when the government on Monday gave the go-ahead to a June 1 restart behind closed doors, providing certain criteria including no new spikes in COVID-19 cases have been met.
It is up to the league how and when the season would resume, with one option calling for the use of neutral sites.
The EPL, which suspended its season March 13, is the second of Europe’s five major soccer leagues to be given government approval to return. Germany’s Bundesliga and the second-tier Bundesliga 2 are scheduled to resume their seasons in empty stadiums this weekend while Spain’s La Liga has set a tentative restart date of June 12, although Spain’s health minister said recently no final decision has been made and it may be later in the summer before games resume.
Teams in Italy’s Serie A have been cleared to resume training May 18 but the league has no date to begin play. The rest of the soccer season in France, meanwhile, was canceled by the government two weeks ago, days after the Dutch Eredivisie canceled its season.
The EPL has 92 games left on its schedule and Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that restoring some sports “could provide a much-needed boost to national morale.” Yet clubs remain divided over the use of neutral sites and the possibility of abandoning the season was discussed on a league conference call Monday night.
The U.K.’s COVID-19 death toll topped 32,000 on Monday, trailing only the United States. Only the U.S. and Spain have had more cases.EPL teams have already returned to their respective training grounds while observing government-mandated social-distancing guidelines. Once-beaten Liverpool (27-1-1) leads second-place Manchester City (18-7-3) by 25 points atop the table, meaning it needs just six points in nine games to clinch its first-ever EPL title.
Let’s make a deal
As expected, lawyers representing the two-time reigning World Cup champion women’s national team have filed an appeal of a ruling they lost in their gender discrimination suit against U.S. Soccer.That may be a bad idea.Earlier this month district court Judge R. Gary Klausner rejected the players’ arguments that they were paid less than the men’s national team for performing the same work, pointing to a collective-bargaining agreement the team negotiated with the federation that guarantees the women a base salary of $100,000 a year, plus another $72,500 for playing in the National Women’s Soccer League, the domestic league U.S. Soccer subsidizes.The federation pays players on the men’s national team only game-day bonuses that max out at $17,625. That’s nearly double what the women can earn for playing one UWSNT game but the women’s bonuses are paid in addition to the salary and benefits they get from their CBA.
“The argument that women gave up a right to equal pay by accepting the best collective-bargaining agreement possible in response to the federation’s refusal to put equal pay on the table is not a legitimate reason for continuing to discriminate against them,” Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the USWNT, said in a statement announcing an immediate appeal to the Ninth Circuit court of appeals.Lawyers for the players requested a June 8 hearing on the matter and also asked for a postponement in the main trial, scheduled to begin June 16 in Los Angeles. The trial has already been delayed once by the COVID-19 pandemic.Yet despite the flurry of legal activity, momentum seems to be building toward a settlement that will fall far short of the $66 million in damages and back pay the women were seeking. And as we discussed here last week, that may be the best remedy given that the appeals process could take as long as two years with no guarantee of success. (And it would almost certainly end with the federation and many other sports organizations, including the NWSL, dealing with dire financial circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic.)
“I think that we’ve been very transparent about our openness to a settlement,” world player of the year Megan Rapinoe said last week on “CBS This Morning.” “Ultimately what we want to get to is something that’s fair and equal. And if that comes in the form of a settlement, we are definitely open to that.“I don’t think anybody is dying to go into litigation or go to trial or go through a lawsuit. This has been a very arduous process as players. We’re always open to that.”Federation president Cindy Parlow Cone understands and sympathizes with the arguments the current national team is making in court. But her time in office may be limited; a special election to fill the remainder of former president Carlos Cordeiro’s term will be held in February and Cone does not seem eager to run.That leaves the USWNT with less than nine months to negotiate an agreement with a favorable president or roll the dice and bet on the longshot chance that they win their appeal.If the USWNT is serious about wanting lasting change and not just more money for the players on the current roster, the opportunity to make a deal is there. But with the clock ticking down to February’s election, it may not be there for long.
Speaking of the U.S. women’s national team, Alex Morgan, long the face of that team, and her husband, former Galaxy midfielder Servando Carrasco, welcomed their first child last week.
Daughter Charlie Elena Carrasco was born May 7 at 11:30 a.m.
Morgan, who was working out deep into her pregnancy, was expected to give birth in April and had hoped to be back on the field in time for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, where the soccer competition was scheduled to begin in late July. With the Olympics now delayed a year by the COVID-19 outbreak Morgan, 30, has an additional 12 months to prepare.
Here’s one place Morgan’s daughter won’t be able to play
The abrupt closure of the Galaxy’s five-team elite girls’ academy last month has caused substantial ripples in a local development community already bruised by U.S. Soccer’s April 15 decision to end support of a nationwide development academy program that had been home to several dozen girls’ programs, including the one run by the Galaxy.
Yet in the period between U.S. Soccer’s decision and the shuttering of the Galaxy’s groundbreaking program – the first girls academy fully funded by an MLS team – two weeks later, players and parents say the team kept them in the dark. So while girls on other DA-affiliated teams quickly moved to ones belonging to the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL), the Galaxy players stayed put. And when the Galaxy academy also closed its doors, many of its 80-plus players were left stranded.
Most members of the academy coaching staff were also let go. Kevin Hartman, the two-time MLS Cup champion goalkeeper who was director of the 3½-year-old academy, will remain with the Galaxy as part of the soccer operations department.
The father of one player affected took issue with the team’s statement that it made an immediate effort to help girls find place with other clubs.
“This is simply not true,” said the father, who did not want his named to be used. “The LAG team failed to communicate with the girls for three weeks [following] the announcement by U.S. Soccer. This left players scrambling to find spots on teams throughout Southern California.”
Other players, who had put themselves in position to be recruited by top colleges, suddenly found themselves having to wait to try out for a new team or being forced to drop a level or more in play, potentially hurting their college opportunities.
“The staff treated my daughter very well overall and created a great training environment,” the father added. “She had a good coach and really liked the staff.”
Donovan’s World Cup heroics, Leicester’s long-shot title, Man United’s UCL miracle: The best moment I have seen
Apr 2, 2020 ESPN
Over the years, our writers have been present for some of the game’s greatest occasions. In the latest installment of a multi-part series, they tell the story of the best moments they have seen in person, which include Landon Donovan‘s late World Cup winner, Leicester winning the unlikeliest of titles and Man United turning around the 1999 Champions League final.
Jeff Carlisle’s pick: Donovan sparks World Cup delirium
The match: United States 1-0 Algeria (2010)
The place: Pretoria
When the draw for the 2010 World Cup was made, followers of the U.S. men’s national team let out a sigh of relief; their group, featuring England, Slovenia and Algeria, was easier — relatively speaking — than anyone dared to expect.
At which point the goal was laid out in stark terms for Bob Bradley and his side. Advance to the knockout round, and the tournament would be hailed as a success. Fail, and questions would be asked about the direction of the program.
Heading into the final day of group stage matches, and after draws with England and Slovenia, the U.S. was in control of its fate. A win against Algeria in Pretoria would be enough to advance. Anything less, however, and the Americans would exit the tournament.
The U.S. created better chances against Algeria and thought it had a first-half goal from Clint Dempsey, only for it to be ruled out by a questionable offside call. Dempsey hit the post 12 minutes into the second half, before Edson Buddle had a point-blank header saved by Algerian keeper Rais M’Bolhi.
And so it was that, as the match went into stoppage time, stories of monumental failure were being written in the press tribune, with recriminations at the ready. If the U.S. could not advance from this group, how could it expect to do so in the future? Moreover, it seemed unlikely that Bradley would survive a first-round exit.
Landon Donovan scored one of the most memorable goals in U.S. men’s team history against Algeria. AP Photo/Michael Sohn
Then everything changed in an instant. Goalkeeper Tim Howard released Landon Donovan with a pinpoint, long throw into space. Donovan played in Jozy Altidore down the right wing. Altidore’s centering feed found Dempsey inside the penalty area. Dempsey’s close-range shot was denied by M’Bolhi. But the goalkeeper could not hold the ball …
Donovan reacted quickest and slotted home the rebound. As the entire U.S. squad raced to mob their No. 10 in the corner of Loftus Versfeld, ESPN’s Ian Darke uttered the now-immortal line “Go, go, USA!” in the commentary box and a nation erupted in a mix of joy and relief. In the press tribune, one colleague was so overcome that he hugged me and — gently — hit me in the gut.
The goal not only turned obits into plaudits, but also amounted to redemption for the U.S. — and Donovan especially — after a disappointing 2006 World Cup. The ensuing years brought plenty more criticism and accusations of underachievement, but that one, never-to-be-forgotten moment turned his career trajectory again.
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Mark Ogden’s pick: Leicester win the league
The match: Leicester 3-1 Everton (2016)
The place: Leicester, England
This is not one moment, but being there to witness Leicester City’s Premier League title triumph was as good as it gets. From December onward, it was clear that something remarkable — and unthinkable — was going to happen. The biggest clubs usually win, but it was all so unexpected with Leicester — rated 5000-1 at the start of the season — and everyone at the club approached it with so much joy and excitement. The abiding memory is manager Claudio Ranieri laughing and smiling his way to the title.
Leicester’s title win was arguably the biggest shock in Premier League history. AP Images
Tom Marshall’s pick: Mexico upset Germany
The match: Germany 0-1 Mexico (2018)
The place: Moscow
Not every nation or club can, has or will win a major trophy, but that does not mean the emotions provoked by this sport are any less volatile or real. When the final whistle blew against Germany after a 1-0 group stage win at the 2018 World Cup, tears of joy were shed by Mexico fans inside the Estadio Luzhniki as they celebrated Hirving Lozano’s winner. Personally, after four years covering the team, El Tri had recorded its best-ever win and one that, at the time, felt like a game-changer. Alas, they were unable to go beyond the round of 16… again.
Tim Vickery’s pick: Koeman wins Barcelona’s first European Cup
The match: Sampdoria 0-1 Barcelona (1992)
The place: London
I had gone to Wembley for the European Cup final in a Barcelona scarf, hoping they could win the big trophy for the first time, while London had turned into the Mediterranean, thanks to a glorious late-May heat wave. The game was terrific, full of ebbs and flows with two fine sides battling for supremacy, and there could have been plenty of goals, but it was still 0-0 in the second period of extra time. I really did not want penalties; I wanted a winner for either side, but preferably Barca. Cue Koeman’s magnificent free kick!
Nick Miller’s pick: Forest make a father and son happy
The match: Derby County 1-2 Nottingham Forest (2015)
The place: Derby, England
Of the games I have attended as a fan over 31 years, only a handful have been without my dad. He had a heart attack five months before this match in January 2015 but was well enough to attend and we suffered together as Forest, our team, were terrible for most of it, only for academy graduate Ben Osborn to score a 92nd-minute winner. Given the circumstances, it was the perfect moment and we should have agreed never to go to another game: not much was going to top that.
Tom Williams’ pick: Robson-Kanu extends Wales’ fairy-tale run
The match: Wales 3-1 Belgium (2016)
The place: Lille, France
I have been fortunate to witness some incredible moments — Champions League finals, a World Cup final and Leicester winning the Premier League — but from a personal perspective, Robson-Kanu’s goal against Belgium in the Euro 2016 quarterfinals meant the most. The Cruyff turn, the pinpoint finish, the roar of the Welsh fans. I never thought I would see Wales qualify for a major tournament, let alone reach the semifinals.
Rob Dawson’s pick: Solskjaer caps Man United’s Champions League final comeback
The match: Man United 2-1 Bayern Munich (1999)
The place: Barcelona, Spain
Seconds after Teddy Sheringham had equalised, United won a corner and the roar from the crowd just before David Beckham’s delivery gave you goosebumps. When the ball hit the roof of the net off the foot of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to see a stadium the size of Camp Nou erupt is something no one there will ever forget. A truly incredible moment in the last seconds to become the first — and only — English club to win a treble.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s injury-time winner in 1999 completed the greatest Champions League turnaround in history. Photo by Matthew Ashton – EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images
Graham Hunter’s pick: Casillas denies Robben
The match: Netherlands 0-1 Spain (2010)
The place: Johannesburg, South Africa
I traveled with Spain throughout the 2010 World Cup, stayed in their hotels, watched them work, interviewed them and shared sleepless plane journeys. During the final, I was pitchside — yards from La Roja’s bench — hoping fervently they would win as Netherlands attempted to kick them off the pitch. All of a sudden, with the score 0-0, Arjen Robben went through on goal and I felt like my heart would stop. Iker Casillas’ save, off his outstretched little toe while diving the wrong way, still seems like a miracle and was a critical moment as Spain went on to lift their first and only World Cup trophy.
Gab Marcotti’s pick: Italy beat hosts Germany
The match: Germany 0-2 Italy (2006)
The place: Dortmund, Germany
Beating the Germans in Germany at the enormous — and raucous — Westfalenstadion for a spot in the World Cup final … football fandom does not get any better. Andrea Pirlo’s reverse pass for Fabio Grosso is what everyone remembers about a game in which the Italians scored twice late in extra time, but my favourite memory is Germany keeper Jens Lehmann losing his temper after Alessandro Del Piero’s goal. Priceless.
Colin Udoh: Nigeria finally overcome Cameroon
The match: Cameroon 1-2 Nigeria (2004)
The place: Monastir, Tunisia
Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and a host of other guests every day as football plots a path through the coronavirus crisis. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only).
The long Nigeria-Cameroon rivalry is full of painful memories for the Super Eagles, so when the countries were pitched against each other in the 2004 African Cup of Nations quarterfinal, many fans had already given up. In fact, media in Tunisia were already packing their bags to leave the next day! Sure enough, Samuel Eto’o opened the scoring for Cameroon and it looked as though Nigeria’s woes were set to continue, until a goal from Jay-Jay Okocha turned things around and John Utaka delivered the win. Breathtaking.
Tor-Kristian Karlsen: Placente helps Leverkusen stun Man United
The match: Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Man United (2002)
The place: Leverkusen, Germany
There were three minutes left of the Champions League semifinal second leg and the aggregate score was 3-3 when Leverkusen’s Diego Placente cleared Diego Forlan’s goal-bound shot off the line. I was working for the German club and sitting next to a stoic Sven-Goran Eriksson during the game. Rather unprofessionally, I kept jumping up and down throughout the nerve-wracking encounter as Leverkusen, who never led throughout the tie, went through on away goals.
Julien Laurens: Mbappe delivers World Cup for France
The match: France 4-2 Croatia (2018)
The place: Moscow
It is one thing to experience watching your country lift the World Cup as a fan, but to cover the team throughout a tournament and be present as they are crowned champions is very special. There were doubts on the road to Moscow — France won by one goal only once before the final — but Didier Deschamps’ men turned up when it counted and Kylian Mbappe‘s coming-of-age display saw him score against Croatia to seal glory. It was a fantastic adventure.
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