3/16/19  Indy 11 tonite 7 pm, Champions League Final 8, US games 3/21 & 3/25, Full TV Game Schedule,

Champions League

So this is why its Champions League – wow. Ronaldo, a three time defending UCL winner with Real Madrid has taken his winning ways and goal scoring to Juventus and continues the unbelievable run as he scored all 3 of Juve’s goals in a come from behind win at home vs Atletico Madrid to advance 3-2 on aggregate. This is why Juventus spent $110 million to bring him to Italy for nights like Tuesday.  His 8th Hat-Trick in Champions League play ties him in first with Messi and his 124 total UCL goals is by far the most in history.  The biggest thing is he does it in the knockout rounds – he comes up big when his team needs him most.  If he can help take Juve – to the league title – he might just go down as the best ever in Champions League.  Of course as a long time Juve fan – I am not sure how I feel as legendary Goalkeeper Gigi Buffon is why I followed Juve.  I would love to see them win it all but without Buffon – man that would be heartbreaking.  I just wish Buffon had an offense when he manned the pipes for so long in Turin.

In other action Liverpool came roaring into Bayern Munich and took the game to the Germans with an impressive 2-0 victory as Mane scored the brace, while Man City and Barcelona both destroyed their opponents.  We are down to the Elite 8 now with an impressive 4 EPL teams in.

Liverpool vs Porto

Man City vs Tottenham

Barcelona vs Man United

Ajax vs Juventus  

USA

Interesting Roster in this 2nd gathering of US players for new coach Gregg Burhalter as the US will host Ecuador on March 21 at 8 pm ESPN2 and Chile on March 26 FS1 at 8 pm.   Basically the US returned much of the MLS based roster from January while adding top level internationals – Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKinney, John Brooks, Tim Ream and DeAndre Yedlin.  Missing from this line-up are young forwards Josh Sargeant, and Tim Weah among others.  It will be interesting to see how they play and how they line up the mid-field and forward line.  The US ladies sued the US Soccer Federation last weekend claiming Gender Inequality between the men’s and women’s teams with regards to pay among a ton of other things.  Interesting as the Women are 2 time World Cup Winners and are heading into this summer’s World Cup as the #1 Ranked team while the men didn’t even qualify last year.  That and the Women actually generated more revenue the last 2 years than the men.

US Men Roster

GOALKEEPERS: Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge, BEL; 3/0), Sean Johnson(New York City FC; 6/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 8/0)

DEFENDERS: John Brooks (Wolfsburg, GER; 36/3), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas, MEX; 48/3), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 2/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 4/0), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact; 2/0), Matt Miazga (Reading, ENG; 11/1), Tim Ream (Fulham, ENG; 26/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United, ENG; 57/0)

MIDFIELDERS: Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, GER; 9/1), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC, CAN; 143/17), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 7/2), Weston McKennie (Schalke, GER; 7/1), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund, GER; 23/9), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 7/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 13/0)

FORWARDS: Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 19/3), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 2/0), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC; 2/0), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 25/5), Christian Ramirez (LAFC; 2/1), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 42/6)

Indy 11

Our Indy 11 dominated possession in their first game of the 2019 season on the road at St. Louis and even outshot the home team – but a late goal saw them lose a heartbreaker 2-1 on the afternoon as a sizable contingent of Brick Yard Battalion fans looked on.  The 11 are back on the road tonight at 7 pm as they travel to Charlotte on ESPN+.  Get your season ticket package today by visiting IndyEleven.com/season-tickets or by calling 317-685-1100. First home game is Sat, March 30th vs Hartford Athletic at 7 pm at the Luke!

Big Games on TV this Week

Not a lot of great games this weekend, our Indy 11 face Charlotte tonight/Fri at 7 pm on ESPN+.  Sat gives us a battle of 2 Americans in Germany as Schalke’s McKinney will face RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams on Fox Sports 2 at 10:30 am. Dortmund and Pulisic who scored 1 and assisted on 1 last weekend, play on FS2 at 1:30 pm vs Hertha. The Milan Derby – Inter vs AC Milan is 3:30 pm on ESPN+ Saturday.  FA Cup games are on ESPN+ Sat at 8:15 am as Watford faces Crystal Palace, and Wolverhampton hosting Man United at 4 pm on the plus.  Burnley hosts Leicester Sat at 11 am on NBSCN, while Sun gives us Fulham vs Liverpool at 10:15 am and Everton vs Chelsea at 12:30 on NBC.  MLS has Cincy hosting their first game vs Portland at 5 pm on FS1 Sunday while NYCFC and LAFC battle at 3 pm on FS1.  Of course the international break hits this week and next weekend as the US will play 2 games at home Thurs at 8 pm on ESPN2 vs Ecuador and Tues 3/26 at 8 pm vs Chile on ESPN2.  While European qualifications will be on ESPN+ and ESPN3.

Champions League

Zidanes Return Signals Big Changes at Real Madrid are Coming – Jonathan Wilson SI

A rested Zidane ready to Return to Madrid refreshed – SI

Crazy happenings in Champions League – SI

Messi Matches Renaldo’s Magic

Champions League belongs to Ronaldo – ESPNFC

Ronaldo’s Hat Trick Sends Juve Thru on Magical Night in Italy

Juve Advances Wow

Bayern’s humiliation vs Liverpool must lead to Changes –

– Ronaldo: Hat trick why Juventus signed me
– Guardiola: Ronaldo hat trick a warning to Man City

– Ogden: Van Dijk the player Liverpool need on quest for double
– Liverpool player ratings: Van Dijk, Mane both 9/10 as Reds advance

Champions League Power Rankings Final 8 – NBCSports

USA

What Does US Ladies Lawsuit for US Soccer Mean?  Graham Hayes ESPNW

US Ladies Will Make their Marks on and Off the Field – SI – Grant Wahl

Berhalter Excited about Flexibility Adams & Pulisic can offer US men – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Arrialo Says MLS Veterans of Camp will help US Internationals Adjust to new Coach

Pulisic comes on Late for Assist and Goal to save Dortmund

USMNT Team youngster Zelalem leaves Arsenal for Sporting KC

USWNT suing U.S. Soccer for discrimination

Foudy: USWNT union changes are step in the right direction

Carli Lloyd: USWNT negotiations will set global standard

USSF asks EEOC to dismiss USWNT wage suit

USWNT: Federation disputes equal-pay claim

Women’s filing vs. U.S. Soccer: Men paid more

EPL

Who’s got the Edge Liverpool or Man City Down the Stretch?

Slumping Spurs opens door for Arsenal/Man U and Chelsea

4 Things Learned Arsenal vs Man United

Indy 11

Indy 11 vs Charlotte – Preview

Josh Penn shows Pedigree in Indy 11 Debut – Kevin Johnston  soctakes.com

Indy 11 Sign Columbus Crew Defender Alex Crognale on loan

Eastern Conference Preview – soctakes.com John Lenard

Indy 11 TV Schedule

Full Schedule Released

Flex 8 Pack Ticket is Back

Season Tickets Just over $100

BYB Away Game Watch Parties Around Town

GAMES ON TV

Fri, March 15

3:30 pm FS2                            Borussia M’Gladbach vs Frieburg

7 pm ESPN+                                           USL- Charlotte vs Indy 11

Sat, March 16 

8:15 am ESPN+                                     Watford vs Crystal Palace FA Cup

10:30 am FS2                                         Schalke (McKinney) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

9:30 am FS2                                            Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Stuttgart

11 am NBCSN                                        Burnley vs Leicester City

11:15 am beIN Sport                             Real Madrid vs Celta de Vigo

1 pm ESPN+                                            Chicago Fire vs Seattle Sounders

1:20 pm ESPN+                                    Swansea City vs Man City (FA Cup)

1:30 pm Fox Sport 2                             Hertha vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

2 pm ESPN+                                            Columbus Crew vs Dallas (Matt Hedges)

4 pm ESPN+                                            Woverhampton vs Man United (FA Cup)

Sun, March 17 

8:30 am Fox Sports 1                       Bayer Leverkusen vs Werder Bremen

10:15 am NBCSN                                 Fulham vs Liverpool

10 am ESPN2                                         Lazio vs Parma (Italy)

12:30 pm NBC                                      Everton vs Chelsea

1 pm Fox Sport 2                                Bayern Munich vs Mainz

3:30 pm ESPN+                                    Milan vs Inter 

3 pm Fox Sport 1                                NYCFC vs LAFC

3:45 pm beIN Sport                             Real Betis vs Barcelona

5 pm Fox Sport 1                                Cincinnati vs Portland (1st Cincy home MLS Game)

Thurs, Mar 21

3:45 pm ESPN3                                    Belgium vs Russia (Euro Qualifying)

8 pm ESPN 2                                          USA vs Ecuador

Fri, Mar 22

3:45 pm Watch ESPN                       England vs Czech Rep (Euro Qualifying)

3:45 pm ESPN+                                    Portugal vs Ukraine  (Euro Qualifying)

4:20 pm beIN Sport                                                  Argentina vs Venezuela

10:15 pm                                                                         Mexico vs Chile

Sat, Mar 23

3:45 pm Watch ESPN                          Spain vs Norway (Euro Qualifying)

3:45 pm ESPN+                                    Italy vs Finland (Euro Qualifying)

7:30 pm ESPN+                                    Philly vs Columbus Crew

Sun, Mar 24

3:45 pm ESPN+                                    Netherlands vs Germany  (Euro Qualifying)

4 pm ESPN+                                            New England vs Cincy

Mon, Mar 25

2:45 pm ESPN+                                    Montenegro vs England (Euro Qualifying)

2:45 pm ESPN+                                     France vs Iceland (Euro Qualifying)

Tues, Mar 26

2:45 pm ESPN3                                    Czech Republic vs Brazil

2:45 pm ESPN3                                     Norway vs Sweden

8 pm ESPN 2                                          USA vs Chile

 USWNT Puts Equal Pay Discussion Back in Spotlight With New Lawsuit vs. U.S. Soccer

By GRANT WAHL March 08, 2019 SI

The players of the U.S. women’s national team got tired of waiting, and so on Friday, International Women’s Day and less than three months before the start of the World Cup, they sued U.S. Soccer in search of pay and treatment that are equal to the U.S. men’s team.In many ways, the lawsuit is simply a furtherance of the complaint that USWNT players filed three years ago against the federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—a complaint that has essentially sat in purgatory ever since. But make no mistake, this lawsuit reignites the issue and will be a dominant topic of discussion as the team plays games before and during the Women’s World Cup.It marks a grander version of the case brought forward by former U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo in August of last year, with the player accusing U.S. Soccer of committing the same violations in her own personal federal lawsuit that remains pending in California. “I’d always hoped my former teammates would follow suit and join me in the battle in Federal Court against the United States Soccer Federation,” Solo said in a statement on Friday. “It was clear that U.S. Soccer was never going to acquiesce or negotiate to provide us equal pay or agree to treat us fairly. The filing today by the entire United States women’s national team demonstrates that they no longer fear the Federation by forcefully and publicly acknowledging U.S. Soccer’s violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII.”In the days since Abby Wambach retired from soccer, she has said regularly that she wished she had done more during her career to fight for better treatment of women’s players. The 28 USWNT players who brought Friday’s lawsuit clearly don’t want to have those regrets, and they know that the three-decade history of the USWNT has shown that real gains have only come when the players have decided to go toe-to-toe with U.S. Soccer.Will that make things uncomfortable between the players and the federation over the coming months with more eyes than ever on women’s soccer? You’d better believe it. But that’s precisely why the players chose this timing of their lawsuit. Given the circumstances, we shouldn’t expect any major changes on the field as a result of their action. U.S. Soccer isn’t going to do anything that would jeopardize the chances of winning a fourth Women’s World Cup this summer in France. And the players, who are pros and are unified, won’t either.There’s no threat of a work stoppage here. But get ready for a lot of discussion—on equal pay, on revenues produced, on investment in the women’s game. And look for that discussion to ripple out into the wider world as other women’s national teams take their cues from the USWNT, which is what we’ve been seeing in recent years.This fight won’t be settled soon. But it’s one that these USWNT players are viewing as part of their legacy—and every bit as important as what they accomplish on the field itself.

Alex Morgan on USWNT equal pay lawsuit: ‘This is about women in all industries’

ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris just shakes her head in disbelief that civilization has advanced to the year 2019 — an inclusive and enlightened time when her recent engagement to teammate Ali Krieger was celebrated among fans and athletes throughout the soccer world — and yet, Harris and her colleagues on the U.S. women’s national team are still treated as second-class citizens compared to their male counterparts.A marriage between two women is legally and socially acceptable, as it should be, but sadly, so too is unequal compensation among American men and women soccer players. Even when the women are much better at their jobs than the men.Which is why Harris, her superstar Pride teammate Alex Morgan and the 26 other members of our world champion national women’s soccer team just filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer — the federation that governs the sport in this country. Our women want equal pay, equal perks, equal working conditions, equal resources, equal per diems, equal travel arrangements, equal everything.And not only do these amazing women deserve the same treatment as their male counterparts; they probably deserve more. Our men’s national team has never won diddly poo and couldn’t even get to the World Cup last year; our dominant, dynamic women’s team is the  premier power on the planet with three World Cups and four Olympic gold medals.Memo to U.S. Soccer: Check your bleeping calendar! This is 2019; not 1919. Believe it or not, women are actually allowed to vote now and, yes, even own land.Why is this even a topic of discussion?  Why doesn’t U.S. Soccer just do what any decent parent would do: Treat your daughters with the same respect as you treat your sons?

“We’re wondering the same thing,” Harris told me Thursday during Pride media day. “This has to change and we’re trying to create that change. It shouldn’t be up for debate whether I make the same amount as a man if I’m doing the same damn job and I’m putting in the same work, the same hours and I’m getting better results and bringing in more money. This shouldn’t be a conversation; it should be a freaking right.”This is not only a fight for the U.S. women’s national team, it’s a fight for women athletes everywhere. Correction, it’s a fight for women in every profession in every country across the globe.“As female athletes, they (the U.S. women’s national team) are pioneers. They are fighting the good fight for the rest of us,” said Pride defender Alanna Kennedy, a member of the Australian national team.Said Morgan: “This isn’t just about us; It’s about women in all industries. Women fight for equality every single day. Our hope is that we not only set up ourselves, we set up the next generation as well.”U.S. Soccer should be ashamed of itself. The organization will tell you that this is a complicated compensation issue because the U.S. women’s national team and the U.S. men’s national team have separate collective bargaining agreements with different pay structures. U.S. Soccer will also tell you that they are at the mercy of FIFA, the world soccer governing body that doles out $400 million in bonuses to the 32 men’s teams participating in the World  Cup whereas the 24 women’s teams get only $30 million in bonuses.This argument is lame. The U.S. men’s national team, riding the coattails of Brazil, Argentina, France, Germany, etc., has little to do with the financial success of the  World Cup. The U.S. men are sort of like Vanderbilt cashing that $50 million TV check from the SEC every year just because the Commodores are lucky enough to be in the same conference as Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Florida.Meanwhile, the U.S. women’s national team is Alabama;  they are THE reason for the financial success of their World Cup. Not only that, but an argument could also be made that the U.S. women have had 10  times the impact of their male counterparts in growing the game of soccer in this country. The U.S. women are national heroes. The U.S. men are national nobodies.Without question, if you were judging and compensating them on merit, then the U.S. women should actually get more, not less, than the U.S. men. But this should not be based on merit; it should be based on fairness.U.S. Soccer isn’t some independent, privately-owned sports league like the NBA. Nobody has an issue with NBA players making significantly more money than WNBA players because the NBA makes billions of dollars every year whereas the WNBA doesn’t even break even.But U.S. Soccer is a nonprofit organization that funds the United States men’s national team and the United States women’s national team.The two key words here are, “United States.” And in the United States, all men and women are created equal.Iconic Orlando Pride forward Marta, commonly recognized as the greatest women’s soccer player of all-time, is a Brazilian goodwill ambassador to the United Nations who says women’s inequality around the world  is a major issue on her agenda.“You shouldn’t have to win anything to be treated equally,” Marta said. “Women should be treated equally to men because it’s the right thing to do.”

Watch: Christian Pulisic’s goal, assist help Borussia Dortmund keep pace with Bayern Munich

Doug McIntyre,Yahoo Sports Sat, Mar 9 12:27 PM EST

Christian Pulisic’s goal and assist off the bench on Saturday might just have saved Borussia Dortmund’s season, with the American’s 15-minute cameo in a crucial 3-1 win over Stuttgart keeping BVB even on points — if not goal difference — with Bayern Munich atop the Bundesliga table.The 20-year-old U.S. national team star has struggled with nagging leg injuries and form for most of the season. But he was the difference-maker in a match that Dortmund, which has seen its huge lead in Germany’s top division evaporate over the last number of weeks, simply had to have.With the score knotted at one and just 12 minutes of the 90 remaining, BVB manager Lucien Favre summoned Pulisic. It marked just his third appearance, all as a substitute, since Feb. 13 as he continues to gain match fitness after returning from a muscle injury. And Pulisic made the most of the opportunity, his clever footwork inside the box setting up Paco Alcacer’s all-important go-ahead goal in short order:

Then Pulisic, who will move to Chelsea this summer after agreeing to a $73 million transfer in January, got onto the scoresheet himself deep into stoppage time. The first-time finish with his left foot off a pass by Mario Gotze easily beat Stuttgart keeper Ron-Robert Zieler to the far post:The goal sealed the vital three points for the hosts. It could also help Pulisic earn more playing time as his tenure in Germany winds down. Pulisic’s last two starts came in the German Cup and the Champions League, competitions Dortmund is no longer involved in. The Pennsylvania native has not made Favre’s lineup for a Bundesliga match since late last year, before his looming move to Chelsea was announced.Maybe this is why BVB insisted on Pulisic sticking around until the end of the season, with the club bent on ending Bayern’s string of six Bundesliga titles this spring. Dortmund has not won the domestic championship since 2012. The two clubs both have 57 points after Bayern crushed Wolfsburg 6-0 on Saturday, and Bayern’s plus-2 goal differential give it the top spot. If Dortmund does manage to reclaim the lead and break its chief rival’s stranglehold on the trophy between now and May, the impact Pulisic made on Saturday will be a big reason why.Doug McIntyre

 covers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

Berhalter excited about ‘flexibility’ Pulisic, Adams can offer United States men’s national team

Mar 12, 2019 Jeff Carlisle  U.S. soccer correspondent

For Gregg Berhalter, the U.S. men’s national team is akin to a jigsaw puzzle at the moment. He has a fair idea of where certain pieces go, while others are still scattered. Then there are those who might not end up fitting in. The pieces can also change shape depending on circumstances. Such is the way of things in the early days of a national team tenure.At least in this instance, with upcoming friendlies against Ecuador on March 21 in Orlando, Florida, and a second match against Chile five days later in Houston, Berhalter has more of his preferred pieces available, particularly in midfield. Christian PulisicWeston McKennie and Tyler Adams are all available, and Berhalter has some ideas on where each would be positioned. Pulisic will be deployed as “the No. 10 slanted to the left.” It looks as if Adams could play the right back/holding midfielder hybrid position occupied by Nick Lima during the January camp, though a more central role wasn’t ruled out. That would leave McKennie to either occupy the right-sided No. 10 slot or play in more of a holding role.Most of the attention will be focused on Pulisic. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder — for a few more months anyway — has invited plenty of debate as to where he should be positioned at the international level. With Dortmund, he’s usually deployed out wide, but given the relative dearth of creativity in the U.S. team, there have been calls for him to be stationed more centrally, the better to impact the game. But Berhalter isn’t so rigid in terms of where Pulisic finds space once the whistle blows.”When you look at last camp, there’s times where the wingers go inside and the 10s go wide,” Berhalter said. “We just want to see how that looks. We want Christian to be flexible, we want him to take advantage of his one-v-one [abilities], but we also want to get him in front of goal.”That versatility isn’t limited to Pulisic. He wants the likes of McKennie and Adams to show the same trait.”If I’m thinking about Weston who as a No. 10 but then defends as a No. 8, Christian as a No. 10 who also moves wide, or Tyler is a right back who can come inside and can also overlap or inner-lap; those are the things that are exciting to me,” the U.S. coach said. “It gives a lot of flexibility in the team.”As with most rosters, the players who were left off generated as many questions as those on it. In particular, forwards Josh Sargent and Tim Weah were, at least on the surface, surprise omissions. But Berhalter has chosen this moment to reconstitute the U.S. U23 team that, it is hoped, will qualify for the 2020 Olympics. With playing time not guaranteed for either player — and with clubs usually directing some stink-eye at national teams that make players travel and then don’t play them — Berhalter has hit upon a reasonable compromise. A pair of U23 games are being planned and it seems likely that both players will take part if the plans come to fruition. A U.S. Soccer spokesperson also said that the USSF is “deep into the hiring process” for the U23 manager.”When we looked at players that were U23 eligible, and weren’t necessarily going to be in our starting group, we had to weigh is it more beneficial for them to try to play full international games at a level where they can gain confidence and potentially bring that back to their club and then get a boost in performance with their clubs,” Berhalter said.Another interesting takeaway from Berhalter’s second roster is the notion that age isn’t as much of a barrier to a player being part of the 2022 World Cup team as was once thought. In addition to Michael Bradley, center backs Tim Reamand Omar Gonzalez are back in the fold. Fabian Johnson, while he didn’t make this roster, is still in contention. Berhalter has long valued veteran leadership, and in a young team that makes sense. The extent to which that will impact 2022 — should the U.S. qualify — is still to be determined, though Berhalter isn’t eliminating any possibilities at the moment.”This roster is [composed of] guys that we think can potentially play in 2022,” he said. “Some of them will be pushing the limit, and some of them may not make it to there because of the physicality of it. When we’re projecting this, we’re saying, ‘It can’t be all young players. It could be three guys on the roster in 2022 who are in their mid-30s. It can happen, especially when you’re trying to balance a young team.”At present, Berhalter isn’t looking that far out into the future. Rather his focus remains on getting the most out of what will be a short window. The Ecuador game falls on a Thursday, and for some players that will take place just four days after their last club match. That’s why Berhalter is calling this camp, “the most challenging two games we’ll have together as a group,” especially given that the 10 players will be taking in his tactical approach for the first time. The U.S. coach has attempted to mitigate this by doing video conferences with players in a bid to transfer the tactical know-how ahead of time.Berhalter acknowledges there is no substitute for practicing on the field. That will put a premium on “the players openness to learn, take information in. We know it’s not going to be perfect, but how much of that information is absorbed and executed upon, that’s what we’re going to be looking for.”If that takes place, then perhaps more puzzle pieces will snap into place.

Pulisic, McKennie and Adams called up to U.S. squad for March friendlies

Mar 12, 2019Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

The European-based contingent of Christian PulisicWeston McKennie and Tyler Adams headlines the roster for the United States ahead of friendlies against Ecuador on March 21 and Chile five days later.  The 24-man roster is the second put together by manager Gregg Berhalter since taking over the U.S. team back in December. But whereas his first camp in January was comprised entirely of domestic players, this get-together sees nine performers playing abroad while the remainder are with MLS clubs. Of the 15 MLS players that were invited, 14 took part in the January camp.”We thought it was important to tie some of the themes of last camp into this next camp and to have some consistency in the personnel made a lot of sense,” said Berhalter. “We still think we’re able to evaluate a new group of players, and we think that is going to be valuable as we move into the Gold Cup.”That said, the roster assembled is closer to what will look like a full-strength side, though there are some notable absences. Toronto striker Jozy Altidore is still not fully recovered from a recent knee injury. Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan was not included, nor was Hannover 96 striker Bobby Wood.A USSF spokesman said that the U.S. U23 team — the side that will attempt to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since the 2008 games in Beijing — is also planning to play a pair of matches during the upcoming international window. Berhalter indicated that the scheduling of those games played a role in determining who was called up to the full team and who will play for the U23s. It’s likely that this is why Werder Bremen forward Josh Sargent and Celtic winger Tim Weah were excluded from the full team.  “We had to make decisions for this camp and we looked at the players in a number of different buckets,” said Berhalter. “For example, we have some younger guys that aren’t getting the game time that they would have expected and they’re still age-eligible for the Olympics, so we think it’s a great opportunity for them to play two international games with the Olympic team.”We have other players that we have evaluated thoroughly in the January camp and we’re going to bring back in the future, but not in this camp. That’s another group. Then we have some guys that are returning from injury and we thought now is not the right time to subject them to the intensity of international soccer and the national team.”The squad is a bit older than some those in other recent camps, with an average age of 25 years, 261 days. It also average 21 caps. Among the more experienced call-ups are Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley (143) and Newcastle United defender DeAndre Yedlin (57).Berhalter also took the opportunity to pick some players who have been out of the U.S. mix for extended periods. Defenders Tim Ream of Fulham and Atlas center-back Omar Gonzalez were called in for the first time since 2017.”We have been saying all along that we thought it was important to have a veteran presence in the national team,” he said. “I think it’s really important when you talk about the history, the heritage and culture of what it means to play for the national team.”In Omar and Tim’s case, they’re both playing at a high level, they’re both playing every week and we thought this would be a good camp to evaluate their performance.”Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris was called up for the first time since tearing the ACL in his right knee early last year. He scored two goals for the Sounders in the season-opening 4-1 win over FC Cincinnati.”We’re excited for Jordan,” said Berhalter. “He’s a player that we had contact with in January Camp and it will be great to see him live and in person on the field.”Most of all, Berhalter will be looking to build on the concepts that he established in his inaugural camp last month.”Our goal is to keep making progress. Building on the themes of last camp, building on the style of play of last camp, but also now evaluating a new group of players,” Berhalter said.”We made progress in the first camp and it’s now asking if we can take it to another level. When we are done with this camp, it’s important that we have a good idea of our strongest group of players heading into the Gold Cup.”

FULL U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals)

GOALKEEPERS: Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge, BEL; 3/0), Sean Johnson(New York City FC; 6/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 8/0)

DEFENDERS: John Brooks (Wolfsburg, GER; 36/3), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas, MEX; 48/3), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 2/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 4/0), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact; 2/0), Matt Miazga (Reading, ENG; 11/1), Tim Ream (Fulham, ENG; 26/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United, ENG; 57/0)

MIDFIELDERS: Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, GER; 9/1), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC, CAN; 143/17), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 7/2), Weston McKennie (Schalke, GER; 7/1), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund, GER; 23/9), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 7/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 13/0)

FORWARDS: Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 19/3), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 2/0), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC; 2/0), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 25/5), Christian Ramirez (LAFC; 2/1), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 42/6)

What Josh Sargent and Tim Weah being off the USMNT means for “The Process”

If there is such a thingBy Parker Cleveland  Mar 14, 2019, 7:00am PDT Stars and Stripes

The second wave of friendlies under new USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter has some shape now that the roster has been announced. The team that he’s called in seems… underwhelming. There’s Michael Bradley poised to continue his steady march toward breaking the USMNT record for caps, the anonymous college graduate at left back, an entire forward line filled with MLS players with only one that scored double digit goals last season, and a center back that scored an own goal in World Cup qualifying. What is this?Where are the kids? Where are the players that are testing themselves at the highest level? WHERE ARE TIM WEAH AND JOSH SARGENT? Is this what fans want to overpay to see? Is this the best that Gregg Berhalter can do? A roster that looks like 15/24 of a January camp with Tyler AdamsChristian Pulisic and Weston McKennie mixed in? Is everyone who says SUM controls USSF right and is this roster the shooter on the grassy knoll in the flesh?At the very least it’s disappointing and at the worst it seems like a step back in terms of the work that American Manager Dave Sarachan did at expanding the player pool in his year as interim manager. So what are we supposed to make of this?

The good: this is “The Process”

Let’s give the US Soccer Federation more credit than it deserves and think that it’s making decisions with the “long game” in mind. Suspend your belief in reality for just a minute and step back and look at how the roster fits into “The Process.”Obviously, Sargent and Weah aren’t on the team sheet. Addressing their omission the coach noted, “We’re looking at this from the big picture standpoint. The big picture is Tim and Josh have the opportunity to play at the U-23 level and gain experience. I see them very much as part of the group moving forward, this is a way for them to keep playing and get on the field.”That’s nice; they’re in the group going forward and are with the U-23s for this camp. On its face, it would appear that US Soccer is prioritizing getting back into the Olympics on the men’s side. If so, the thinking that the youngsters would have time to get some experience under a new U-23s coach, which the article linked above also mentions will be hired shortly, makes sense. It is still three years and then some between now and the 2022 World Cup kicking off and there’s a lot that needs to happen in that time. One thing that will come up is the 2020 Olympics, a tournament the US men have only qualified for once in the past four times it’s been held.Concacaf U-23 qualifying has not been scheduled (for 2016 it occurred in October 2015), but holding Weah, Sargent, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Antonee Robinson and other promising players out of the senior squad for now would give them time to gel under a new coach. That time will be more valuable to prep for Olympic qualifying than playing a pair of friendlies that will let Berhalter assess the player pool ahead of the Gold Cup.The 2020 Olympics are also a way to turn the page for the USMNT. The failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup was in some ways the end of a chapter that began with failing to qualify for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Those teams were full of players who took a different track and focused their development and careers in MLS. The current crop of U-23s, at least its brightest members, are choosing to challenge themselves at the highest level in Europe and not repeat the mistakes of the “lost generation” that had its ultimate failure in Trinidad & Tobago.If the goal is a successful run in the 2022 World Cup, this is the right roster for Berhalter to call in, “The Process” is working, and everything is fine. Of course, that’s only if it means that the players who will make the biggest impact in that tournament are taking the field in Tokyo next summer.

The bad: there is no “The Process”

There’s no way that Sargent and Weah should be behind Corey Baird, Jonathan Lewis, and Christian Ramirez in the depth chart and no way that they don’t have a higher upside for 2022 than Gyasi Zardes. There is room on the roster for them. On top of that, their clubs are under no obligation to release them for a U-23 camp. Plus, if the goal was to have them playing meaningful soccer against tough competition, friendlies against senior players for two tough South American teams would be just that.In its recent decisions, such as extending Jurgen Klinsmann with a massive contract before ever coaching a World Cup game, hiring Bruce Arena to try and pick up the pieces after Klinsmann’s early qualifying losses, alienating a top dual-national prospect, creating a general manager position that seemed to be aimless that few candidates were interested in, and seemingly pre-selecting the USMNT manager without a competitive hiring process (you know, again), USSF has exercised foresight like it was planning a music festival on Pablo Escobar’s island in the Bahamas. Is that changing?A good sign is that there are exciting young players in Europe who could make a big difference with the Stars and Stripes ahead of 2022, but does that mean there’s a “Process” that the federation set in motion to make that happen? The crop of players choosing to play in Europe and not MLS it might make it seem like US Soccer is thinking more strategically. Another way to look at it is that the young talented players that are choosing to go abroad over MLS are making the case for long-term planning easier for the federation to take credit for.Whatever Berhalter says, we don’t know why Sargent and Weah are being sent to the U-23s. If this is not “The Process,” then Weah and Sargent not being called in to the senior team is quite simply just another in a long line of bad decisions.

Premier League title race: Who has the best fixtures in the run-in? Manchester City or Liverpool?

Mark CritchleyThe IndependentMar 10, 2019, 10:19 AM  photos

Premier League title race: Who has the best fixtures in the run-in? Manchester City or Liverpool?

Eight games remain in the Premier League season, with champions Manchester City and challengers Liverpool the only teams left in contention to win the Premier League title.The two clubs are currently separated by just one point, after their respective wins over Watford and Burnley this weekend.The competitive standard they have both set has simply been too difficult for the rest of the pack to keep up with.At this rate, one of Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola will end in second place having managed one of the Premier League’s best-ever runners-up.And whether City defend their crown or Liverpool end their 29-year wait for a domestic title will depend in part on how their fixtures fall in these final weeks and months.By calculating the average points-per-game home and away of each top-flight club, we can weigh up the difficulty of their run-ins and see where the title may be won and lost.

Manchester City

Current position: 1st

Points: 74

Average home/away points of opponents: 1.33

Remaining fixtures

30/03 Fulham (A)

06/04 Cardiff (H) *

14/04 Crystal Palace (A)

20/04 Tottenham (H)

24/04 Manchester United (A)

28/04 Burnley (A)

04/05 Leicester (H)

12/05 Brighton (A)

* Subject to change due to FA Cup

City’s schedule comes with two reminders of the last time they contested a Premier League title race with Liverpool five years ago.The champions travel to Crystal Palace on the same afternoon that Liverpool host Chelsea, just as they did on a pivotal April day of the 2013-14 campaign.And if that was not eerie enough, Brendan Rodgers will be given the chance to enact revenge when Leicester City visit the Etihad on the penultimate weekend.But the key game in the remainder of this title race is likely to be City’s trip to Old Trafford on 24 April.The Manchester derby will be City’s most difficult test. It will also be a game in hand over Liverpool, who play Fulham next weekend while their rivals are in FA Cup action.It comes at a challenging time too. City host Tottenham four days before playing United, then face a tough trip to Burnley four days later.Six points away to Fulham and at home against Cardiff will be expected.The champions will also hope that Brighton are all but on the beach rather than fighting to stay up on the final day. Chris Hughton’s side can be a tough nut to crack at the Amex.

Liverpool

Current position: 2nd

Points: 73

Average home/away points of opponents: 1.32

Remaining fixtures

17/03 Fulham (A)

31/03 Tottenham (H)

05/04 Southampton (A)

14/04 Chelsea (H)

21/04 Cardiff (A)

26/04 Huddersfield (H)

04/05 Newcastle (A)

12/05 Wolves (H)

When comparing the home and away points-per-game totals of Liverpool and City’s remaining opponents, the difference is 0.01 of a point in Liverpool’s favour.In other words, there is no meaningful difference in difficulty when comparing the remaining schedules of the two title contenders.Liverpool’s remaining away days are against bottom-half clubs, which can be a double-edged sword at this time of the season.Fulham, Southampton and Cardiff are all currently fighting for the points they require to retain their top-flight status, even if some look more doomed than others.Newcastle, meanwhile, are in excellent form and will be no pushovers at St James’ Park on the penultimate weekend of the campaign.Two ‘top six’ clubs visit Anfield before the end of the season. Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham arrive at the end of the month and have struggled of late.Chelsea have not travelled particularly well under Maurizio Sarri but have already won at Anfield this season in the EFL Cup.Huddersfield’s form on the road is woeful and Jan Siewert’s men may well be relegated by the time they turn up on Merseyside.But Wolverhampton Wanderers are not ideal final day opponents and Anfield itself could be a gift or a curse if it does come down to the very last game.

Verdict

It remains very close to call though, with a point advantage and a relatively even schedule, City must be considered favourites.How Guardiola’s side negotiate their commitments in other competitions next month is likely to be the deciding factor.Their league sequence of Palace away, Tottenham at home, United away and Burnley away comes at a key moment in their season as a whole.A probable Champions League quarter-final second leg falls in the middle of that spell and a possible semi-final comes right after it, the midweek before Leicester’s visit.Add in a likely FA Cup semi-final, which would force the Cardiff game to be rearranged, and City’s April suddenly appears quite hectic.  Liverpool could be involved in European action as well, of course, though there is a sense at Anfield that domestic success is their priority.

Four things we learned: Arsenal v. Man United

Joe Prince-Wright

NBC Sports•Mar 10, 2019, 5:45 PM

LONDON — It was a case of unlucky 13 for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as he lost for the first time as Manchester United manager in the Premier League at Arsenal on Sunday.

The Gunners scored in each half through Granit Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyangto push themselves into the driving seat in the top four battle as they won a ninth-straight home game. United missed numerous glorious chances and hit the woodwork twice as their heroic midweek win at PSG seemed to catch up with them.

Here’s a look at what we learned from a gripping encounter in north London.

EMERY HAS INSTILLED STEEL

It wasn’t pretty from Arsenal, but they got the job done and kept a clean sheet, and it is clear that Unai Emery has instilled a steely resolve into this Gunners team. In recent weeks they’ve held firm against the rampant attacks of Tottenham and Man United in the Premier League, and on Sunday it took a lot of courage to dig deep and fight back after their disappointing midweek defeat at Rennes in the Europa League. By the end of Arsene Wenger‘s Arsenal reign, they had become a weak-minded, fragile bunch of players. There is now a fighting spirit and grit to their play which complements their free-flowing attacking prowess. Despite various setbacks along the way this season, one thing that has improved drastically under Emery is their defensive organization. And despite that improved defensive solidity, helped mainly by Sokratis’ arrival, they have also scored more goals (63) than they had at this point last season. With three goals conceded in their last five PL games, if Arsenal’s defense keeps this up it will get them into the top four. Coupled with turning the Emirates into a fortress, the Gunners have finally added some steel to their silky attack.

UNITED’S MIDFIELD MUDDLE COSTS SOLSKJAER

25 minutes into the game Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had seen enough from his midfield. He switched the formation from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 because Fred and Nemanja Matic were left woefully exposed to Arsenal’s fluid attacks. Young shifted to center back, Diogo Dalotwent to right wing-back and all of a sudden United had more control. Pogba was drifting around aimlessly early on, not sure if he was playing in the center or on the left of midfield, and it was all a bit of a muddle. Ander Herrera and Scott McTominay were badly missed alongside Matic, and although Fred gave away a penalty kick, he didn’t play too badly. United’s failure to finish chances was their biggest downfall on Sunday, as Solskjaer’s fine unbeaten run is over. Injuries, constant personnel changes and the PSG win in midweek caught up with them, but there is still plenty of life left in their top four quest.

LUKAKU GOES COLD IN FRONT OF GOAL

After scoring twice in each of his last three outings, Romelu Lukaku was bang on form heading into this game. Moments before Arsenal took the lead he somehow hit the crossbar from close range, and before half time he gave Bernd Leno just enough time to claw the ball away after he rounded him. In the second half Lukaku was clean through again but was denied and it just wasn’t his day in front of goal. The Belgian striker still caused problems with his runs and combination play with Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba, but he had an off-day in front of goal. Lukaku going stone cold in front of goal was the main reason why Man United failed to get anything from this game. And the fact that only 14 percent of Lukaku’s 113 Premier League goals have come against “big six” opposition (16 in 75 appearances) will add fuel to the fire of those saying Anthony Martialmust replace him in the starting lineup.

TOP 4 BATTLE BLOWN WIDE OPEN

The race to finish in the top four of the Premier League got real this weekend. Tottenham lost at Southampton. Chelsea drew at home against Wolves. And Arsenal beat Man United. Arsenal now sit in fourth on 60 points (just one point short of third-place Spurs), Man United are in fifth on 58 points and Chelsea are in sixth on 57 points with a game in hand.In the matchday programme Arsenal skipper Laurent Koscielny said that this was a “crucial game” for the Gunners and their season. It’s cliche, but every game between now and May 12 is huge for Emery’s Arsenal project. And the same can be said for Pochettino, Sarri and Solskjaer at their respective clubs.

PREVIEW | INDY DEPART FOR QUEEN CITY CLASH AGAINST CHARLOTTE INDEPENDENCE

By IndyEleven.com, 03/13/19, 8:00PM EDT  Boys in Blue gear up for second consecutive road match of the season

Indy Eleven at Charlotte Independence – #CLTvIND
Friday, March 15, 2019 – 7:00 P.M. EST

Sportsplex at Matthews Stadium – Matthews, NC

Watch/Listen Live:Streaming Video: ESPN+ ($)
WEEK 2 | SHOOTING FOR THE FIRST THREE POINTS

Indy Eleven aim to capture the first three points of the season against Charlotte Independence in the team’s second road game in as many weeks. The Boys in Blue look to improve their all-time record against Charlotte, which currently stands at 1W-1D-0L.Indiana’s Team fell in their first match of the 2019 USL Championship season 2-1 on the road against Saint Louis FC. Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie’s side featured several new faces during the matchup, some of which included defender Neveal Hackshaw and forward Josh Penn. Hackshaw excelled in his Boys in Blue debut as he completed nearly 90 percent of his passes, acted as a stiff presence in the back third, and scored Indy’s only goal of the match in the 61st minute. Youngster Penn also caused havoc down the flanks for Saint Louis, as the 18-year-old nearly scored a goal in the 19th minute and almost assisted forward Dane Kelly in the 48th minute. Despite his best effort, the USL Championship all-time leading goal scorer watched his header clang off the post. Even though Indy dominated possession and created seven chances, the side fell 2-1 on the road. The focus is now claiming points in Charlotte.“For us, we’ve played a competitive game now and we’ve learned things from that game that we could improve on in practice,” said Rennie. “The start of the season is tricky for us. There’s a lot of away games that’ll be quite tricky, so we need to really dig in and truly get results to set us up for the rest of the season.”Charlotte Independence begin their 2019 USL Championship season against Indy Eleven on Friday night after having a bye week in league’s opening weekend. The side will play its first competitive match after a preseason loss to 2018 Major League Soccer champs Atlanta United on March 2, finishing the preseason with a 3W-1D-1L record. Charlotte, now with first-year head coach Jim McGuiness leading the charge, will look to bounce back from a 2018 USL Championship season that saw the side finish 11th in the Eastern Conference standings. Charlotte’s defense could prove to a soft spot in the side after allowing 57 goals in the 2018 season, the fourth most goals conceded in the Eastern Conference. The Independence were able to move the efficiently in the midfield last season, completing 80 percent of passes played throughout the game.

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: MF TYLER GIBSON

Midfielder Tyler Gibson was one of four FC Cincinnati players signed in the offseason by Coach Rennie. Gibson’s presence in the midfield can be felt most with his quality of play. The 28-year-old navigates the ball with precise accuracy through passing channels, helping to facilitate counter attacks and control the pace of the game.During the match against Saint Louis, Gibson completed 91 percent of the passes he played. He also completed 88 percent of the long balls he played through the midfield. Accurate passing isn’t a new concept to the midfielder, who averaged 84-percent passing accuracy last season.

CHARLOTTE INDEPENDENCE PLAYER TO WATCH: MF JORGE HERRERA

The man that will martial the midfield of Charlotte Independence is veteran Jorge Herrera, something the midfielder has been doing since 2015. His 106 appearances for Charlotte have led to the Columbian finding the back of the net a total of 36 times.The 38-year-old led Charlotte in goal scoring last season, scoring 13 goals in 30 appearances. He also moved the ball well through the midfield, averaging just under 80-percent passing accuracy and creating four assists for his teammates. The Boys in Blue midfield will need to keep a close mark on the midfielder in order to keep the first clean sheet of the season.

MATCHUP TO MARK: INDY FW DANE KELLY VS CHARLOTTE FW DOMINIC ODURO

Friday night’s matchup will feature two prolific strikers in Indy Eleven’s Dane Kelly and Charlotte Independence’s Dominic Oduro. Both forwards have impressive resumes in regards to scoring goals, as Kelly is the USL Championship all-time leading goal scorer and Oduro spent 16 years in MLS.Kelly looks to open his goal scoring account with Indy Eleven on Friday after nearly getting things going against Saint Louis. The forward, who signed with the Boys in Blue in mid-January, struck the post against Saint Louis after youngster Josh Penn played him a cross. Then a dozen minutes later, the Jamaican saw his well-placed penalty kick saved by Saints goalkeeper Jake Fenlason. With a mind for the back of the net, Kelly will be eager to capitalize on any goal scoring opportunity that comes his way.Kelly’s opposite will be 16-year MLS veteran, forward Dominic Oduro. One of the paciest forwards ever to play in MLS, the 33-year-old has featured for sides like FC Dallas, Columbus Crew, New York Red Bulls, Chicago Fire, Toronto FC and Montreal Impact. He’s used his searing speed to score 63 goals in 346 appearances. In addition to scoring the goals, the native of Ghana can create them as well. The Charlotte forward has assisted on 32 goals during his extensive career. Each forward will look to put their mark on Friday’s fixture as the two players look to score their first goals for their clubs. Indy’s backline will need to work hard to keep tabs on the pacey Oduro, and Charlotte will need to mark the Kelly in the 18-yard box in order to keep a clean sheet against an Indy Eleven side they have yet to defeat.Don’t miss a second of the Boys in Blue on the road. All home and away USL Championship matches are available at your fingertips with ESPN+. New users can click here or visit plus.espn.com to start a seven-day free trial.

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3/8/19  Champions League Stunners, Indy 11 Season opener Sat, MLS Wk2, Full TV Game Schedule

Ok I simply have to start with Champions League this week as there were unbelievable upsets and hard to figure VAR reffing decisions that dominated this week as favorites Real Madrid, PSG and AS Roma all lost. The biggest collapse was Real Madrid – the holders, 3 time Defending UCL Champions, losing AT HOME 3-1 to Ajax.  The Dutch squad with a roster full of players on the A and B team that make less per month than Real Madrid’s Garreth Bale makes.  Yes the entire squad.  Wow !!  In Paris – PSG made their annual exit at the Sweet 16 level complete as they gave up their 2-0 lead by losing 3-3 (away goal difference) to Man United.  PSG outplayed, outpossessed and outshot the EPL miracle workers but it was VAR that laid the final nail in the coffin – as a 91st minute call for hand ball on a defender turning and jumping on a shot sailing over the goal was called hand-ball and Man U won on the last second PK to send PSG and GK Buffon packing.  See below to see the call and decide for yourselves.  As a ref – I would not have called it a hand ball?  Fellow refs out there thoughts?   Either way the Champions League the top level of club soccer in the world continues to show why it is must see TV – even if we can’t see all the games because TNT/BR live stinks!  Enjoy this week’s games remember kickoffs are 4 pm this week not 3 pm because of daylight savings.

Tues Mar 12                                    Champions League

4 pm BR Live/Uni Desp               Man City 3 vs Schalke 2  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

4 pm    TNT                                     Juventus 0  vs   Atletico Madrid 2 

10 pm Yahoo SportsOL                  Santos Laguna vs NY Red Bulls CCL

12 am Yahoo Sports                        Houston Dynamo vs Tigres

Weds, Mar 13                                CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

4 pm TNT                                         Bayern Munich vs Liverpool 

4 pm BR Live                                  Barcelona 0 vs Lyonnais  0

9 pm ET Yahoo Sports OL            Atlanta United   vs Monterrey  CCL

INDY 11

Finally our Indy 11 get underway on their 2nd season in USL on the road this Saturday afternoon in St. Louis at 2 pm on ESPN+.  An improved roster helps the 11 kick off the new season as they will have many more Saturday night home games at Lucas Oil Stadium this season.  Meanwhile – its not too late to get your season tickets for just $99 for the season. Check out season reviews below on the OBC and the USL as the Eleven are being picked as high as #4 in the league and some have us favored to represent the Eastern Division in the playoffs with the newly revamped roster that the Boys in Blue have added.   Get your season ticket package today by visiting IndyEleven.com/season-tickets or by calling 317-685-1100. First home game is Sat, March 30th vs Hartford Athletic at 7 pm at the Luke!  Season kicks off tonight at 10 pm on ESPN+ with Seattle Sounders 2 vs Rio Grande Valley.

Big Games on TV this Week

Fifth place EPL squad Arsenal hosts 4th place Man United on Sunday at 12;30 pm on NBC as the battle for the top 4 comes to a head.  Champions League Tues/Wed 3 pm on TNT.  Atlanta United hosts Cincy FC at 5 pm on ESPN Sunday, while LAFC hosts Portland after at 7 pm on FS1.

Carmel FC and Carmel Dad’s Club – Dick’s Shopping Days are this Weekend 3/9-3/10 Sat/Sun at Clay Terrace 20% off

Indy 11

Indy 11 Add New Fire Power – Indy Star Kevin Johnson

Indy 11 Tips Hand in Eleven Pre-season Final – Kevin Johnson – SocTakes.com

Indy 11 Sign former West Brom Midfielder Do Heon Kim –

Indy 11 sign New Defender & Forward

Indy 11 Draw Nashville SC in Final Preseason Game

Indy 11 Stadium Proposal Passes the Senate – Indy Star

Full Schedule Released

Flex 8 Pack Ticket is Back

Season Tickets Just over $100

USL Western Conference Preview – Soctakes.com

USL Power Rankings – Indy 11 4th

USL Picks-

Sellouts Welcome New teams in the league

USL Champions Campaign

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE  

Zidanes Return Signals Big Changes at Real Madrid are Coming – Jonathan Wilson SI

A rested Zidane ready to Return to Madrid refreshed – SI

Crazy happenings in Champions League – SI

PSG is Robbed by Ref, Var & Man United

UEFA backs Ref over Man U bad call vs PSG

PSG proves again they are Europe’s Biggest Losers – ESPNFC

Player ratings PSG

Why Real Madrid suffered their darkest night in UCL History – Marcotti ESPNFC

Bale Was Supposed to Replace Ronaldo – Why He’s Soon Out Too-  Sid Lowe

POLL: Who stays and who goes from Real Madrid?
Carvajal: Read Madrid’s ‘s— season’ is already over
Real Madrid Player Ratings: Kroos, Nacho worst of a bad a bunch

Spurs plan to play UCL quarters at home

Roma fires coach after loss

De Rossi Saddened to lose via Var

Real Madrid Coach to Be out Soon – Mourino the Target

Top Ten Teams World Wide Rankings – ESPNFC Shaka Hislop

MLS

MLS Week 2 What to Watch For – Arch Bell – ESPNFC

MLS predictions: Atlanta United favored to repeat

MLS Statues – who Deserves the Next Statue

MLS story lines: Will Zlatan dominate?

FC Cincy’s First Ever Goal in MLS at Seattle last weekend

Ibra out vs FC Dallas with Injury – New MF Joe Corona could play

EPL

Klopp defends Salah Goal Record this month

As Liverpool Stumbles Klopp says he prefers to chase Title from behind-NBCSN

Chelsea’s Higuain Seems to Have Hit Stride

GAMES ON TV

Fri, March 8  

10 pm ESPN+                                        USL Seattle Sounders 2 vs Rio Grande Valley

Sat, March 9 

9:30 am FS1                                            Bayern Munich vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)

9:30 am FS2                                            Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Stuttgart

9:30 am Fox Soccer +                                              RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Ausburg

10 am NBCSN                                        South Hampton vs Tottenham

10:15 am beIN Sport                                               Atletico vs Leganes

12:30 pm NBCSN                                Man City vs Watford

1 pm ESPN+                                            Chicago Fire vs Orlando City SC

2 pm ESPN+                                           USL- St Louis vs Indy 11

3:30 pm Univision                              Dallas vs LA Galaxy

Sun, March 10 

8 am NBCSN                                           Liverpool vs Burnley

10 am NBCSN                                        Chelsea vs Wolverhampton

10 am ESPN2                                         Inter vs SPAL  (Italy)

12:30 pm NBC                                      Arsenal vs Man United

3 pm ESPN+                                            NYCFC vs DC United (Rooney)

5 pm ESPN                                               Atlanta United vs FC Cincy

7:30 pm FS1                                           LAFC vs Portland Timbers

Tues Mar 12                                           Champions League

4 pm  BR Live/Uni Desp                     Man City 3 vs Schalke  2 

4 pm  TNT                                              Juventus 0  vs  Atletico 2 

10 pm Yahoo SportsOL                   Santos Laguna vs NY Red Bulls CCL

12 am Yahoo Sports                          Houston Dynamo vs Tigres

Weds, Mar 13  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

4 pm TNT                                             Bayern Munich 0 vs Liverpool 0 

4 pm BR Live                                       Barcelona 0  vs Lyonnais  0

9 pm ET Yahoo Sports OL            Atlanta United   vs Monterrey  CCL

Fri, March 15

3:30 pm FS2                                         Borussia M’Gladbach vs Frieburg

Sat, March 16 

10:30 am FS1                                         Schalke (McKinney) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

9:30 am FS2                                            Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Stuttgart

9:30 am Fox Soccer +                                              RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Ausburg

11 am NBCSN                                        Bournmouth vs New Castle United

1 pm ESPN+                                            Chicago Fire vs Seattle Sounders

1:30 pm Fox Sport 2                                                 Hertha vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

2 pm ESPN+                                            Columbus Crew vs Dallas (Matt Hedges)

2 pm ESPN+                                           USL- St Louis vs Indy 11

3:30 pm Univision                              Dallas vs LA Galaxy

Sun, March 17 

8:30 am Fox Sports 1                                               Bayer Leverkusen vs Werder Bremen

10:15 am NBCSN                                 Fulham vs Liverpool

10 am ESPN2                                         Lazio vs Parma (Italy)

12:30 pm NBC                                      Everton vs Chelsea

1 pm Fox Sport 2                                Bayern Munich vs Mainz

3:30 pm ESPN+                                    Milan vs Inter

3 pm Fox Sport 1                                NYCFC vs LAFC

3:45 pm beIN Sport                                                  Real Betis vs Barcelona

5 pm Fox Sport 1                                Cincinnati vs Portland (1st Cincy home MLS Game)

Plenty of new faces, added firepower up the ante for Indy Eleven in 2019

Kevin Johnston, Special for IndyStarPublished 9:33 a.m. ET March 8, 2019

There are plenty of new faces on the Indy Eleven’s roster this season as the club pushes for a USL Championship title. Matthew Glenesk, Wochit

After the Indy Eleven sputtered out 4-1 in the first round of the 2018 United Soccer League playoffs to rival and eventual-champion Louisville City FC — Indy’s first year in the USL Championship — expectations are elevated this year.With the breadth of talent coach Martin Rennie assembled in the offseason, the 2019 Eleven are looking more like a team expected to contend for a title alongside Louisville as opposed to last year’s iteration that finished seventh in the Eastern Conference and looked overmatched when it mattered most.“I think that there are opportunities for everybody, and I think that guys will get time and get chances to play,” Rennie said of his roster depth. “It’s nice to have those options. I think we’ve got a lot more pace, a lot more danger going forward than we maybe had before, so I think that’s going to help us during the season.”Indy bulked up its roster by tapping into the FC Cincinnati well and by bringing in some of the most accomplished Division 2 attackers available.

More: Eleven owner talks about stadium, MLS and ‘good bill’ from lawmakers

More: Eleven stadium deal now would require team cash and MLS buy-in up front

NEW FACES

Four notable new guys — defender Paddy Barrett, goalkeeper Evan Newton and midfielders Kenney Walker and Tyler Gibson — all come from FC Cincinnati, the team with the best record in the USL last season that has since moved on to Major League Soccer. All four have a solid chance to start in the Eleven’s opener Saturday at St. Louis.Indy also signed USL all-time leading scorer Dane Kelly, forward Ilija Ilic from Louisville City and striker Thomas Enevoldsen from Orange County SC. Kelly captured the league’s Golden Boot award with 18 goals in 2017, Ilic was a key offensive component of Louisville’s title run and Enevoldsen bagged 20 goals and 10 assists last year.We have a lot of talented players, so anyone can make that break to score or set up that goal,” Kelly said of the team’s attacking options. “So hopefully once the league starts, we can get a lot of goals.”Other newcomers include: goalkeeper Mario Perez, defenders Neveal Hackshaw, Lucas Farias, Mitchell Osmond and Macauley King, midfielder Do-Heon Kim, forwards Joshua Penn and Alioune Diakhate.Brad Ring, the former IU standout who had played with the Eleven since their inaugural season, announced his retirement this offseason.

WHO’S BACK

Left wingback Ayoze and center back Karl Ouimette return this season. Both are likely to remain starters when healthy.The only other familiar faces from the 2018 roster are captain Matt Watson, midfielder Nico Matern, winger Tyler Pasher, forward Eugene Starikov and backup goalkeeper Jordan Farr.

PROJECTED STARTING XI (3-4-3)

In what looked like a regular-season dress rehearsal Saturday against Nashville SC in the team’s final preseason match, here’s essentially what Rennie rolled out:

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The only thing to note is that the lineup played more like a 3-4-2-1, with Pasher and Ilic clearly playing deeper than Kelly, who was constantly staying even with the last defender in search of a dangerous run in behind the defense. Pasher and Ilic also regularly swapped sides, so look for plenty of interchange between them.Rennie utilized a few different formations last season, so it’s entirely possible he diverts from this setup. But that’s how it appears Indy is set to begin its 2019 campaign if Saturday was any indication.

SEASON OPENER AND 2019 GOALS

The Eleven will visit St. Louis FC for their season opener 2 p.m. Saturday with their focus squarely on one game and one game only, according to Rennie. But the undercurrent of unfinished playoff business will surely flow underneath Indy’s subconscious throughout the season — especially with raised expectations.“The main thing I’m thinking about is just the first game of the season,” Rennie said. “And get on with that. That’s our first goal, you know. Win that game, and we’ll go from there.”“I’m trying to score as many goals as I can,” Kelly added. “But definitely we’re trying to get a championship in Indy, for sure.”Indy Eleven season prediction: a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference table, a win in their first home playoff match and a loss in the conference semifinals.

 

Opinion: Rennie tips hand in Eleven’s preseason finale

March 7, 2019by Kevin Johnston

Photo credit: Robbie Mehling/Soc Takes

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Indy Eleven manager Martin Rennie somewhat prides himself on being cryptic about his lineups and tactics, especially during the preseason.

The first time I interviewed him and inquired about his coaching philosophy shortly after he took the job, he told me he didn’t want to give away too much before the regular season started, which was many weeks away. He’s also a stickler at times when it comes to formations. It doesn’t matter what the USLsoccer.com match center shows nor what the bird’s-eye view from the press box leads you to believe. If you try to pin him down with a question about a specific formation, he generally deflects it with something like, “No, that was just our usual, 4-4-2, 4-3-3.”

In a sense, I get it. It’s quite common for lineups to completely change from offense to defense, and even more common to tinker with everything as a match wears on. For example, Gregg Berhalter religiously played a 4-2-3-1 while at the helm of Columbus Crew SC, but when his side transitioned from offense to defense it essentially morphed into a 4-2-2-2. Again, I get it from the coaching side of things. That said, after observing Indy’s 0-0 draw against Nashville SC with a keen eye Saturday afternoon at Arad McCutchan Stadium, I’m ready to face the “2019 Martin Rennie Challenge” head on. If Saturday truly was a regular-season dress rehearsal of sorts, which Indy’s gaffer hinted at, it was crystal clear how he intends to set up his squad.“I think more so than other preseason games, this was more of like kind of putting our team together a little bit with an eye towards next week,” Rennie said after the match. “So, I think we certainly learned some good things and see some things we need to work on, but overall it was a performance I was happy with and I think there’s a lot more to come.”Spoiler alert: his lineup involves an influx of central defensive midfielders. Pics or it didn’t happen, right?The most accurate and pedantic way to label it is a 3-4-2-1. For the sake of not being a pedantic dimwit, let’s call it a 3-4-3. A 3-6-1 might also suffice, but — OK, I’ll stop, 3-4-3 it is. Here’s exactly how the Eleven took the pitch Saturday, which I have every reason to believe is precisely — or very close to — how they’ll line up this Saturday against St. Louis FC in the regular-season opener:

One thing to note is that there was quite a bit of side swapping between Tyler Pasher and Ilija Ilic, as the arrow indicates. Rennie has either deliberately asked them to switch flanks often to constantly give the defense a different look, or given them the green light to roam about the attack more so than other players and it’s happening naturally as a result of that extra freedom.

Up front, Dane Kelly was consistently central on the last defender, ever a threat with his finishing ability and pace. Pasher and Ilic were clearly playing a little deeper.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of this particular setup was central midfielder Matt Watson essentially playing as a right wingback. Rennie vaguely indicated that he’s pleased with what he’s seen from his captain in the role.

“I think he looks good in that position and we’ve got other guys who can do it as well,” he said.

Photo credit: Robbie Mehling/Soc Takes

With extra bodies in the midfield, Indy mostly controlled the middle of the park against Nashville SC, but it’ll be interesting to see how this group does defensively on a faster surface with more pressure coming their way. Saturday’s preseason match featured a patchy pitch and 40-degree temperatures, so neither side appeared too comfortable nor sharp in the final third.

Of course, none of this is top-secret intel. The Indy Eleven Live Twitter account put the starting XI out there for public consumption, it was simply a matter of observing and connecting the dots. But the sometimes-guarded Rennie finally provided a glimpse Saturday — after mixing in several trialists in all his prior preseason lineups — as to what we might see from Indy early in the season.

Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KJboxing.

 

Major League Soccer 2019 predictions: Atlanta United favored to repeat; SKC, LAFC in hunt

USA TODAYPublished 10:00 a.m. ET March 1, 2019 | Updated 7:38 p.m. ET March 4, 2019

MLS commissioner Don Garber, sees the future of the league as one that continues to grow and serve the “soccer nation” he sees developing. Autumn Allison, Nashville Tennessean

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With the 2019 Major League Soccer season kicking off this weekend, we surveyed the USA TODAY Sports team of writers for their predictions on how the new season will shake out.

Can Atlanta United become the first repeat MLS Cup winner since the LA Galaxy did it in 2011-12? Which players will define the season? Which teams win trophies?

Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer
(@PBrennanENQ)

MLS Cup winner: Atlanta United

MLS Cup finalists: Atlanta United vs. Sporting Kansas City

Supporters’ Shield: Atlanta United

U.S. Open Cup winner: Atlanta United

MVP: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy)

Golden Boot: Josef Martinez (Atlanta United)

Jim Reineking, USA TODAY Sports
(@jimreineking)

MLS Cup winner: Atlanta United

MLS Cup finalists: Atlanta United vs. Seattle Sounders

Supporters’ Shield: Sporting Kansas City

U.S. Open Cup winner: Philadelphia Union

MVP: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy)

Golden Boot: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Martin Rogers, USA TODAY Sports
(@RogersJourno)

MLS Cup winner: LAFC

MLS Cup finalists: LAFC vs. Atlanta United

Supporters Shield: Sporting Kansas City

U.S. Open Cup: Seattle Sounders

MVP: Pity Martinez (Atlanta United)

Golden Boot: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy)

Nate Scott, For the Win
(@aNateScott)

MLS Cup winner: Atlanta United

MLS Cup finalists: Atlanta United vs. Sporting Kansas City

Supporters’ Shield: New York Red Bulls

U.S. Open Cup winner: Sporting Kansas City

MVP: Josef Martinez (Atlanta United)

Golden Boot: Josef Martinez

2019 STORYLINES: Can Atlanta United repeat? Will Zlatan dominate?

ESPN’S CHAMPION: MLS’s ‘potential is limitless’

ONLY THE BEGINNING? Major League Soccer reaching new heights

JOZY ALTIDORE: Minorities should be inspired by riches of MLS

DAILY SPORTS, DELIVERED: Get the best sports news in your inbox!

 

MLS Statues: Who else deserves the David Beckham treatment?

Mar 4, 2019Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Saturday marked the unveiling of David Beckham’s statue outside the LA Galaxy stadium, a testament to the remarkable era in Major League Soccer that began with his arrival in 2007. (It’s also an era that will continue when Beckham’s franchise, Inter Miami CF, begin league play in 2020.)

Beckham moved to the U.S. over a decade ago following an illustrious career at Man United and Real Madrid. The league’s designated player rule — known as the Beckham rule — has allowed MLS clubs to attract high-profile players such as Thierry Henry, David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the years since. Beckham was a force on the field, with 18 goals and 40 assists in 98 appearances over five seasons, helping the Galaxy win back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.

This recognition got us thinking: Who else will merit the bronzed treatment when they retire given their services to the beautiful game in the USA? We present five such choices, players who impacted the league in their own way and would be seriously statue-worthy.

Landon Donovan: The American

 

Why he’s worthy: When it comes to leading lights in the modern MLS era, few come close to matching Donovan’s impact.The Galaxy have no shortage of candidates to have their likeness put up in front of Dignity Health Sports Park. There were Mauricio Cienfuegos and Cobi Jones from the team’s early years. Robbie Keane was arguably the league’s best player for much of his time with LA, too, which is why the decision to put a David Beckham statue in front sparked a considerable debate in Galaxy circles.But Donovan wasn’t just the face of the team; he was the face of an entire league when MLS was at one of its lower points and the term “designated player” was still a few years away. In that moment, there were no Beckhams or Henrys to share the media spotlight.Donovan delivered on the field as well. The Galaxy won four MLS Cups, two Supporters’ Shields and a U.S. Open Cup crown during Donovan’s time in Los Angeles, with the California kid making a massive contribution. He finished his career with the most goals (145) and assists (136) in MLS history and proved remarkably durable despite being a marked man for the entirety of his career.There will always be those who think Donovan’s career would have been better served by his spending more time in Europe — and he’s still playing, having switched to indoor soccer in 2019 — but there’s no doubting his contributions to the Galaxy and MLS.

What the players think

— “[Donovan] for everything he’s done for U.S. Soccer, and LA and San Jose.” — Nick Besler, MF, Real Salt Lake

David Villa: The icon

 

Why he’s worthy: Villa will be the prevailing face of NYCFC for as long as it operates. No small feat for someone who was here just four years.

Not every designated player delivers. In New York City FC’s inaugural season back in 2015, it had two such performers in Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo who fell well short of expectations. Lucky for NYCFC that it struck gold with David Villa.The sprightly Spanish striker’s contributions came at a critical time in the club’s admittedly brief history. He was the first player signed by the organization in 2014 and he gave the fledgling club some instant street cred. He was the proverbial face of the franchise in the league’s biggest media market and his performances on the field also helped NYCFC establish a foothold in New York.Villa scored at least 15 goals in each of his four league seasons. He won the league’s MVP award in 2016 and was a Best XI selection in 2016 and 2017. Unfortunately for NYCFC fans, Villa’s heroics weren’t enough to lead his team to a trophy, but he’ll be remembered for laying a foundation in a manner that oozed class and professionalism.

What the players think

— “If New York wants to do that, they can definitely do that. [Villa] had a great impact there.” — Matt Hedges, DF, FC Dallas

Chris Wondolowski: The eternal scorer

 

Why he’s worthy: Mr. Consistency has scored goals against everyone, even keeping up his pace over time.

Sometime in the not-so-distant future, Chris Wondolowski will have the career MLS scoring record all to himself. All but four of those 144 goals will have come in the colors of the San Jose Earthquakes, too, but it isn’t just goals for which the Danville, California, native will be remembered. He’ll also be hailed for the way he went about getting there.His Quakes teams have enjoyed scant success, with just four playoff appearances in his 11 seasons, but it’s never stopped the veteran striker from going about his business with seemingly superhuman levels of consistency. He has hit double figures in goals nine seasons in a row, with his professionalism beyond reproach. That was never more evident than in the darkest moment of his career, when he missed a glorious opportunity for the U.S. against Belgium that could have put the Americans in the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup. He could have gone into a funk, but Wondolowski did what he’s always done: He put his head down, kept working and has continued to excel for his club.The Quakes had a glorious spell at the beginning of this century and boasted some fantastic players, including Landon Donovan, whose eventual move to rivals the LA Galaxy made him persona non grata to some. But in terms of Wondolowski’s level of performance and longevity, he towers over them all.

What the players think

— “He should have one whether he breaks the record or not.” — Jeff Attinella, GK, Portland Timbers

Sebastian Giovinco: The playmaker

 

Why he’s worthy: Giovinco wasn’t the only star brought to Toronto FC, but he almost single-handedly delivered a treble in 2017.

MLS teams have made big signings for the past decade, but Sebastian Giovinco’s arrival before the 2015 season, was different. At age 28, he was a little younger than the typical European star who came to the league, and from the get-go, he was utterly dominant. He won MVP honors in 2015 with 22 goals and 16 assists, and scored at least 18 goals across all competitions in each of his four seasons.Giovinco’s effect on the entire Toronto FC team was immense. While he wasn’t the only big-ticket arrival during that period — Jozy Altidore also joined that season, while Michael Bradley arrived the year before — his efforts sparked a revival at BMO Field. The Reds qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 2015 and Toronto later reached the peak of MLS, capping off its ascent with a domestic treble in 2017.

The abrupt manner of Giovinco’s departure, in which he joined Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal before the 2019 season, was far from ideal, but the heights Toronto reached in recent years are due in large part to the Italian’s influence.

What the players think

— “As a former player I’d give it to Giovinco … He did a lot for this league, he was an unbelievable player. He changed Toronto, changed that whole team, got them a championship. So yeah, I think he deserves it.” — Alejandro Bedoya, MF, Philadelphia Union

Bradley Wright-Phillips: The scorer

 

Why he’s worthy: Wright-Phillips has a remarkable century of goals in MLS, but he has some way to go to match his famous father, Ian Wright, who managed a record 179 for Arsenal.

When the New York Bulls signed Bradley Wright-Phillips in 2013, it seemed like an afterthought. He’d been toiling away in England’s third tier for the previous two seasons and arrived in MLS during the days when the likes of Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Dax McCarty called Red Bull Arena home. As it turned out, Wright-Phillips has not only outlasted them all, he’s become the biggest legend in the club’s history. Yes, even bigger than the massive presence that was Henry.

Wright-Phillips has amassed 106 goals in 171 league matches, good for eighth on the all-time MLS list. Health permitting, he’ll crack the top five by season’s end. His longevity is even more impressive given the willingness of the Red Bulls to part with other beloved players. Both McCarty and Sacha Kljestan have been traded away but Wright-Phillips proved adaptable to these changes, having bought into the higher-tempo pressing style that was instituted by Jesse Marsch in 2015 and continued by his successor Chris Armas.When it comes time to put a player’s bronzed likeness in front of RBA, it will be Wright-Phillips who gets the nod.

What the players think

–“[Deserves one for his] loyalty to the club, amount of years he’s been here. He’s broken records. Absolutely adored by the club and the fans.” — Aaron Long, DF, New York Red Bulls

— “I think he’s just been instrumental for the league; he’s a good example for everyone to follow. Stayed with the same team, very loyal, scores a bunch of goals. Carries himself the right way with the media, with his teammates, with everything. He’s just a good example of what we need to strive for.” — Paxton Pomykal, MF, FC Dallas

Other players worthy of a statue

Who else would make the cut? We asked some MLS players for their picks in preseason.

— “Michael Bradley. That guy is a leader upon leaders, man. Even on the national team that guy’s had such an illustrious career. That guy leads at every given possibility. Even at meals. That guy is a legend.” — Reggie Cannon, DF, FC Dallas

— “I’d like to see someone who’s been in the league longer, so I’d go with Dax McCarty and give him some nice ginger flow and maybe a red rocket, it would be pretty epic.” — Jonathan Campbell, DF, Seattle Sounders

— “Someone who has changed the sport for MLS … I can talk about Zack Scotthere with the Sounders, what a wonderful guy. Came up from the USL and made a name for himself.” — Cristian Roldan, MF, Seattle Sounders

— “First one that comes to mind is Landon [Donovan], obviously. Just what he’s done in this sport and this country. I guess I’d be remiss though if I didn’t say someone like Preki. A Wizards legend. He’s one of the better players that this league’s seen.” — Graham Zusi, DF, Sporting Kansas City

— “They should build a Nick Rimando and a Kyle Beckerman statue simultaneously and they should go up together for a huge unveiling in Salt Lake.” — Jeff Attinella, GK, Portland Timbers

— “I think Jimmy Conrad. He’s a guy that I think is a very historical figure for this league, you know even after his playing career. He’s still kind of been at the forefront of allowing us to bring a little humor and be a little chill and off-the-cuff a little with MLS.” — C.J. Sapong, FW, Chicago Fire

— “Kyle Beckerman, because he’s been in the league 20 years now. He’s an iron man and a good representative for MLS.” — Justen Glad, DF, Real Salt Lake

 

Why Real Madrid suffered their darkest night in Champions League history

Mar 5, 2019Gabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC

The poison of blame, recrimination and scapegoating was already flowing through the veins of Madridismo — the collective noun encompassing the hefty slice of humanity that swears loyalty to that other White House, on La Castellana avenue in the Spanish capital — before they even stepped on the pitch for what would be Real Madrid’s darkest night in Champions League history.Two defeats — at home in the past week — to archrival Barcelona, the yin to their yang, had meant Real Madrid were out of the Spanish Cup and, barring divine intervention, out of the race for the Spanish title. The Champions League was all they had left. It is the biggest prize in the club game and a competition they had won four times in the past five years. Making it five out of six seemed unthinkable, but then, so did winning three straight, and they had managed that feat the year before. In a season when there is no dominant European club, Real Madrid had reason to hope despite their struggles elsewhere.Real’s European dreams were bolstered by the unlikeliest of opponents in this round of 16. Ajax is a historical giant of football — only five teams have won more European Cups — albeit in the way General Electric is a historical giant of industry: the game has evolved, the revenues that grease the machines flow to the big clubs in the big leagues.Ajax hadn’t even qualified for the Champions League for the past four seasons, and the last time they even reached the round of 16 of the competition was 13 years ago, when more than half of their starting lineup was in elementary school. More importantly, the first leg, in Amsterdam, had finished with a 2-1 Real Madrid victory — they hadn’t played well, but they had won because, well, that’s what winners do — and that meant that Madrid could win, draw or even lose the game 1-0 and still advance to the quarterfinals.

– POLL: Who stays and who goes from Real Madrid?
– Carvajal: Read Madrid’s ‘s— season’ is already over
– Real Madrid Player Ratings: Kroos, Nacho worst of a bad a bunch

Instead the bottom fell out. The game kicked off and within 20 minutes Ajax were 2-0 up. By the 62nd minute, Real Madrid trailed by three goals, meaning (because of the away goals rule) they would have to score three to advance. When they pulled one back to narrow the deficit, Ajax immediately hit back with an improbable looping free kick to make it 4-1. Which is how it ended, though by that point much of Europe’s largest stadium had emptied, expelling sullen, white-clad Madridistas into the night.

As upsets go, this wasn’t Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson in Tokyo. This was more like the quiet, scrawny young buck challenging the Alpha Male and forcing him out of the pack. Partly through his fresh legs and fearlessness, partly because his opponent doesn’t realize he’s a little less quick and less fierce and a little too arrogant.

Real Madrid are out of the Champions League before the semifinal stage for the first time since 2009-10. Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Exhibit A in the arrogance file is captain Sergio Ramos. He picked up a yellow card in the first leg — his third of the tournament, meaning he was suspended for this game — and later boasted that he had done it intentionally. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t force [them to give me a yellow],” Ramos said, knowing he’d serve his suspension in the second leg against Ajax and therefore be available for the quarterfinal. Ramos later retracted his comments, but UEFA, the game’s governing body, wasn’t impressed and slapped him with an additional one-game suspension.

That sort of attitude — from your longtime club captain no less — percolates throughout a side. But it’s only a small part of the picture.

The stock explanation is that Real Madrid’s early exit — the first time they’ve failed to reach the quarterfinals in nine years — is partly due to the summer departures of coach Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo, who decamped to Juventus. But that’s simplistic. Ronaldo is staring down the barrel of an early Champions League exit, too, with Juve trailing Atletico Madrid by two goals. As for Zidane, the reality is that last season’s Champions League crown was a smoke-and-mirrors affair.

Real Madrid finished the 2017-18 season third in La Liga, a whopping 17 points off the pace. In the Champions League, they suffered through the knockout stage, particularly at home, at the Bernabeu, a place where the crowd are quick to turn. “They are like the crowd at the Opera. They have very high standards, and they will gladly boo if you don’t meet them … regardless of whether you win, draw or lose” said Carlo Ancelotti, who won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2013-14, kicking off this cycle of success.Real Madrid were outplayed for long stretches at home by Paris Saint-Germain, they lost 3-1 to Juventus (and only advanced thanks to a last-ditch penalty) and in the semifinals against Bayern, they were the beneficiaries of major a goalkeeping blunder. In fact, they have now lost three of their last 10 home games in the Champions League and the last four straight in all competitions. You wonder if, for all the experience out there, performance anxiety played a part too.

Truth be told, the club did realize that a rebuild was necessary after last season. It’s just that, as so often happens in every sport, if you do it cautiously, try to reload instead and put your faith in the wrong players, you pay a price. Julen Lopetegui, the “system” manager chosen to replace the more orthodox Zidane, had a poor start to the season and was fired after 14 games. Rising stars like Isco, Marco Asensio and Dani Ceballos did not immediately go to the next level, for a variety of reasons. Veterans like Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, who were meant to blossom now that they were out of Ronaldo’s shadow, wilted instead, particularly the Welshman: Once the most expensive player in the world, now Bale is a figure of scorn at the Bernabeu.

This is the end of a cycle that, probably, should have ended a year ago but was extended thanks to the unique combination of talent and experience, spit and gravel. With nothing left to play for, Real Madrid now embark on their longest offseason in 42 years. That’s the last time they were out of the running in every competition in early March. As defender Dani Carvajal said after the match, Real’s “s— season” is over.

Bale was supposed to be Real Madrid’s hero after Ronaldo left. Instead, he’s headed for the exit too

Mar 7, 2019Sid LoweSpain writer

They were never going to kiss Gareth Bale‘s feet, even less so after his agent said they should, but they might have offered a little encouragement. As it turned out, even that was too much to ask for.On Wednesday night, Real Madrid were two goals down after half an hour against Ajax, losing 3-2 on aggregate, when Bale appeared on the touchline ready to replace Lucas Vazquez. The unthinkable was happening: the European Champions were on their way out unless someone could change this and come to their rescue. Madrid had to score. They needed someone; they needed him.

Real’s fans might not have chosen him, even with Lucas limping off. Marco Asensio was on the bench — he’d be forced to join them six minutes later when Vinicius departed as well, with ruptured knee ligaments — and Isco was in the stands. But he was the man they were getting: the man with the best goals-per-minute record of anyone in the squad, second top-scorer for the club this season, the man who came on in the final in Kiev and did that.

This was supposed to be Gareth Bale’s year, with Cristiano Ronaldo leaving in the summer for Juventus. It sounds a bit silly — it is a bit silly, perhaps — when in all those previous years he won four European Cups, a Copa del Rey and the league, scored in two European Cup finals and got a penalty in the shootout in the third, when he’s the scorer of arguably the greatest cup final goal ever and the greatest European Cup final goal, too. But there is something in it.

Bale is a man equipped to be Real’s saviour, hero of another hour but still, on Tuesday at the Bernabeu, there was still no huge roar, no shout, no “come on!” There wasn’t even a: “go on, then: prove us wrong.”Instead, there were whistles.So, this is it. Over. Something has broken between fans and a player when they don’t even cheer you out of convenience, need or some shared objective. Even if it wasn’t over and even if there was some way back in this match, which, as it turned out, there wasn’t. Not long before half-time, Bale hit the post, but Ajax scored two more to defeat the European champions and eliminate them three years after — 1012 days on — from the last time it happened.”Here lies a team that made history,” the front cover of the sports daily Marca said. The team that had won four of the past five Champions League were out, an era ended.Perhaps it already had ended, and this defeat was just confirmation. It was a “s— season” according to Dani Carvajal, one that ended early with Madrid winning nothing, knocked out of all three competitions — the Copa del Rey, the league (more or less) and the Champions League — in the space of seven days. The first season post-Ronaldo was over in March, ending in disaster. The first Gareth Bale Season — and maybe the last.The reaction to Bale’s introduction suggested that there is no way back for him at the club. It’s hard to avoid the feeling that this has no solution now. At least not an easy one. Had he rescued them, perhaps there would have been hope, some chance of a rapprochement. But it didn’t happen, and it can’t really happen now: there is nothing left to win, no grand stage remaining for a huge, redemptive performance.Real Madrid will not play a truly meaningful game for almost six months.As the media and the fans reacted, one question was repeated: whose fault is it? Some have looked higher, to the president: there were chants of “Florentino resign!” after the game. Some to the manager, and there were a few chants for Jose Mourinho, although most recognise that this is not a mess entirely of manager Santi Solari’s making and didn’t expect him to carry on anyway. His position is almost irrelevant in all of this.Some have looked to players, collectively and individually. Marcelo, already gone and left out once more, has not been blamed this time because he was absent, although he has been blamed in the past. Toni Kroos, who admitted that they have “all been below our level, myself included,” has been criticised. So too has Sergio Ramos, watching the disaster unfold from inside a glass-fronted box where he sat serving a suspension he admitted he’d sought.So too has Bale, although perhaps less so in the immediate aftermath of the disaster than in the build-up to it.Post-defeat, the classic reaction from fans — as it always is with supporters everywhere — has been to demand more commitment and to demand signings. In Bale’s case, those demands intersect. Polls have drawn up long lists of players they want in and even longer lists of players they want out. Bale is near the top. In truth, he already was, even before Wednesday.The difficulty is finding an exit strategy that works for everyone or a solution that allows him to stay. A Madrid manager that likes him, plays him and backs him is the ideal scenario from his point of view, giving him that freedom up front. But it feels like the tide is turning and that some in power have turned too, given the manner in which this has become entrenched. A way out is harder than it looks: his age, price and salary guarantee that.After last season’s European Cup final, when he came on and scored twice, he said he could not spend another season like it, namely sitting on the bench. He was reassured that he wouldn’t. More than that, he was reassured that he would play a central role, especially as he wasn’t the only one threatening to go that night. Ronaldo did too, and Ronaldo did go.The opportunity was there to step from the shadows — but he couldn’t. Marcelo admitted that he couldn’t really converse with Bale. Thibaut Courtois said that he didn’t join the team for meals because it was too late. He said they called Bale “the golfer.” TV cameras caught him watching a golf competition on his mobile as he walked into the ground away at Levante.The criticism was fierce. It was absurd, too. On a basic level, he was being accused of … liking golf and going to bed early.As accusations go, they’re not the most heinous crimes. Nor is his limited ability to speak Spanish, although that too was a recurring theme and an increasingly bitter one; at times, it was presented as the ultimate evidence that he should be booted out. You don’t need to be able to ask the way to the train station in order to win the European Cup.But it is true that it ran deeper, that those accusations came together to offer up a portrait of a player who was a little separate from his dressing room, a man who had not fully integrated and of a dressing room that wasn’t particularly pleased about that. He had always been quiet, except with Wales; he’d always been a little different. And it is unfair that his timidity was taken to be dismissiveness, but it was understandable too. Just as it was understandable that Bale should be annoyed that teammates should say so publicly and effectively expose him like that, throwing him to the wolves.ESPN FC’s Gab Marcotti predicts Real Madrid’s disastrous UCL exit to Ajax will be the catalyst for major changes at the Bernabeu.Speaking of understandable, the feeling grew that he and they just didn’t understand each other, although it wasn’t just about language. The fact that Bale’s teammates said that was concerning. The fans grew irritated, some whistles followed — not so unusual at Madrid and not so unanimous, but they were there. Some sections of the media, so protective of Spanish players for whom they often campaigned, went for him. Often viciously so. You’d think he was responsible for everything.

While Bale has been hugely successful and boasts a superb goal-scoring record — he has 101 goals at the club — it has not always felt enough. It is strange in a way that doubts surround a player who has done what he has done, but they do. He was the world’s most expensive player and for all the goals he got, there were all the goals he didn’t, the games he missed through injury. He has played only 50 percent of Madrid’s minutes since he arrived.Instead of sympathy, at times those injuries were presented almost as if they were his fault. There was this sense that while he was decisive, he did not always dominate. The goals he scored on the biggest stage almost came to be used against him: the fans wanted them every week.Especially this season, his season. This year, Madrid have collapsed; it’s a collective malaise but it singles out individual players, fingers pointing their way. Much has been made of Madrid’s failure to replace Ronaldo and his goals — rather less has been made of their defensive disasters, curiously enough — and that means Bale, among others. Modric suggested that some players could have stepped up this season. Again, many took that to mean Bale. He has 13 goals and has found Vinicius and Lucas playing ahead of him.Last year, in Kiev, he came on as a sub and did that, ending in another European Cup win. In Madrid on Tuesday night, he came on as a sub and hit the post, ending in defeat.As Bale stood there on the touchline, there was an opportunity, maybe a last chance to rescue Madrid and rescue himself, his relationship with them, but it wasn’t to be. Maybe it never was.

3/5/19  Champions League Tues/Wed, Indy 11 Season opener Sat, USA Wed 7 pm FS1, MLS Wk2, Full TV Game Schedule

Sorry Soccer fans – had a crazy week last week so couldn’t properly preview the MLS season which got off to a roaring start in week 1.  New comer Cincy FC scored its first goal on the road at Seattle before being trampled 4-1 – a good return to form for US and Seattle winger/forward Jordan Morris coming off last season’s early ACL injury as he started and scored in 80+ minutes of play.  More on MLS week 2 on Friday.

We quickly move to Champions League this week and next as Tottenham carries a commanding lead to Dortmund on Tuesday on TNT at 3 pm – where US Christian Pulisic will probably not play. Real Madrid return home with 2-1 lead over Ajax Tues at 3 pm but will not have superstar defender Sergio Ramos on suspension for a Red Card.

Wed Paris St. Germain take a 2-1 lead and a 2 away goal lead back to Paris vs Man United at 3 pm on TNT while Porto will look to sneak pass AS Roma as they have the 1-1 lead heading back home at 3 pm.  CCL action returns as 4 MLS teams are still alive in the competition Tues/Wed of this week and next games at 8 & 10 pm on Yahoo Sports online.

Tuesday

3  pm TNT  —                                          Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Tottenham
3 pm Univsion Desportes             Real Madrid 2-1 Ajax

Wednesday

3  pm TNT  —                                     Paris Saint-Germain (2)  Man United (1)
3 pm Univsion Desportes             FC Porto 1-1 AS Roma

USA

The USA Ladies have had their hands full in 2 draws at home in the She Believes Cup vs Japan then England.  They can regain their footing with a win over Brazil on Wed night on Fox Sports 1.

INDY 11

Finally our Indy 11 get underway on their 2nd season in USL on the road this Saturday afternoon in St. Louis at 2 pm on ESPN+.  An improved roster helps the 11 kick off the new season as they will have many more Saturday night home games at Lucas Oil Stadium this season.  I will have a more intense season preview on Friday.  Meanwhile – its not too late to get your season tickets for just $99 for the season.  Get your season ticket package today by visiting IndyEleven.com/season-tickets or by calling 317-685-1100. First home game is Sat, March 30th vs Hartford Athletic at 7 pm at the Luke!

Carmel FC and Carmel Dad’s Club – Dick’s Shopping Days are this Weekend Sat/Sun at Clay Terrace 20% off

 Champions League

UCL Predictions this week

Tottenham are good enough to win UCL –goal.com

Spurs can end it with 3-0 lead on the road

Spurs looks to finish off Dortmund – NBCSports.ocm

Sancho of Dortmund Still has Lots to Learn –

Missing Ramos will hurt Madrid vs Ajax

Ramos to be Suspended 2 games not just 1?

Will Cavani Return for Man United Game?

United Injury Crisis won’t be Better for PSG Game

Neymar to Real Madrid?

USA

US Ladies look to regain footing for Brazil

U.S. women’s tie with England is entertaining but ‘frustrating’

U.S. women settle for draw in SheBelieves Cup opener with Japan

USWNT has plenty to prove in SheBelieves Cup

Indy 11

Indy 11 Draw Nashville SC in Final Preseason Game

Indy 11 Stadium Proposal Passes the Senate – Indy Star

Indy 11 Announces Ownership Group of from Around Indiana

Full Schedule Released

Indy 11 Signs USL Championship All time Leading Scorer DC United’s Dane Kelly

Flex 8 Pack Ticket is Back

Season Tickets Just over $100

GAMES ON TV

Tues Mar 5                            Champions League

3 pm TNT                              Ajax 1 vs Real Madrid 2 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm BR Live/Uni Desp       Dortmund (Pulisic) 1 vs Tottenham 3 

7 pm Fox Sports 1               USA Ladies vs Brazil – She Believes Cup

8 p.m. ET   Yahoo Sports OL   Independiente vs Sporting KC

10 p.m. ET  Yahoo Sports —     Houston Dynamo vs Tigres

Weds, Mar 6  

3 pm TNT                               PSG vs Man United  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm BR Live                        FC Porto vs AS Roma

8 pmET Yahoo Sports online  Independiente vs Sporting KC  CCL

10 pm ET Yahoo Sports OL      Monterrey vs Atlanta United  CCL

Fri, March 8  

2:30 pm FS2                          Werder Breman (Stewart) vs Schalke (McKinney) 

10 pm ESPN+                          USL Seattle Sounders 2 vs Rio Grande Valley

Sat, March 9 

9:30 am FS1                        Bayern Munich vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)

9:30 am FS2                        Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Stuttgart

9:30 am Fox Soccer +      RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Ausburg

10 am NBCSN                     South Hampton vs Tottenham

10:15 am beIN Sport       Atletico vs Leganes

12:30 pm NBCSN              Man City vs Watford

1 pm ESPN+                        Chicago Fire vs Orlando City SC

2 pm ESPN+                        USL- St Louis vs Indy 11

3:30 pm Univision            Dallas vs LA Galaxy

2 pm ESPN+                        USL- St Louis vs Indy 11

Champions League state of play: how will the last-16 ties be decided?

Adam Hurrey,The Telegraph 34 minutes ago

Some are seemingly done and dusted, others nicely poised, one or two simply too close to call: the Champions League’s last-16 business will be concluded over the next two midweeks. Four English sides, to varying degrees of confidence, are still in the mix – but will that still be the case when the quarter-final draw is made on March 15?Here is the state of play for all eight ties, and how each of them might be decided in the second leg…

Borussia Dortmund vs Tottenham

State of play

Tottenham lead 3-0 on aggregate

Mauricio Pochettino’s half-time adjustments at Wembley helped turn the tie overwhelmingly in Spurs’ favour, with Jan Vertonghen and substitute Fernando Llorente turning a slender 1-0 lead into a handsome three-goal advantage to take to north-west Germany.

How can Spurs absorb the likely Dortmund cavalry charge?

Lessons have surely been learned from last season’s careless Champions League exit to the rather more canny Juventus, and Spurs are now largely a rock-solid proposition even without a three-goal cushion. Sitting back and defending needn’t be an option for Pochettino – Spurs have the firepower to finish the job in clinical style.

Where do the dangers lie for Pochettino?

The first 20 minutes or so at a raucous, hopeful Westfalenstadion. Spurs conceded early against PSV at Wembley and then home and away against Barcelona in the group stages, while Hugo Lloris will need to avoid the rushes of blood previously seen away to PSV, among others.

The good news? It isn’t a terrible time to be playing Dortmund: they’ve won just once in their last seven games, let a 3-0 lead slip against Hoffenheim in the last 15 minutes, went out of their domestic cup on penalties to Werder Bremen and, on Friday, lost 2-1 at lowly Augsburg.

Prediction: Tottenham to keep Dortmund at arm’s length for long enough to prevent any second-leg jitters.

Real Madrid vs Ajax

State of play

Real Madrid lead 2-1 on aggregate

Despite a first-half, eleven-shot onslaught in Amsterdam, Real Madrid somehow emerged – with the sort of luck earned only by winning the Champions League three years in a row – with two away goals and a lead to take back to the Bernabeu.

What hope do Ajax have in Madrid?

Well, their chances have been improved slightly by 1) the Dutch FA postponing their Eredivisie game against PEC Zwolle, which was due to be played three days before the second leg against Real, and 2) Sergio Ramos getting himself suspended for the return match (and another on top) by picking up an “intentional” yellow card in Amsterdam.

Sergio Ramos will be suspended for Real after his first-leg yellow card –A fluid front three caused the Real defence plenty of problems in the first leg and, with Ramos sidelined, an upset shouldn’t be ruled out.Recent form certainly gives Ajax hope: before their nine-day rest, they put 10 goals past NAC Breda and Den Haag, while Real have lost three of their last four, including a double dose of Clasico misery at Barcelona’s hands.

Prediction: Ajax to pose plenty of questions at the Bernabeu…and then Real to find an answer, as always.

Paris Saint-Germain vs Manchester United

State of play

PSG lead 2-0 on aggregate

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first – and only – setback as Manchester United’s caretaker manager means they have it all to do at the Parc des Princes on March 6th. Even without Neymar and Edinson Cavani by his side, Kylian Mbappe looked a class apart, and his goal at Old Trafford put PSG firmly in the driving seat for the home leg.

How can United turn things around?

Paul Pogba’s suspension, after his late sending-off at Old Trafford, could be a terminal blow to their chances: he has scored or created 16 goals in his last 15 games as United clambered back into the top four reckoning and swept past Chelsea in the FA Cup. In his absence, Solskjaer will need other players to step up and – with an injury crisis taking hold – that means Romelu Lukaku taking responsibility.Lukaku ended a nine-game goul drought with a brace apiece against Crystal Palace and Southampton and it will be his penalty-area presence in pursuit of the two-goal deficit that will make or break United’s slender Champions League hopes in the return leg.

Will Neymar be back for PSG?

Absolutely not – he has returned home to Brazil to continue rehab on his fractured metatarsal – but PSG will likely have Cavani and Thomas Meunier available again for the second leg, just in case United’s task wasn’t hard enough.

Prediction: United to struggle to land a significant early blow, and PSG to safely progress.

Porto vs Roma

State of play

Roma lead 2-1 on aggregate

Textbook Champions League scenario: Roma were sitting pretty after 19-year-old Nicolo Zaniolo scored twice in the space of six minutes at the Stadio Olimpico, only for Porto to snatch a late away goal. It’s all set up for a fascinating return leg in Portugal.

Who would the English sides prefer to avoid in the quarter-finals?

With memories of Roma’s stirring near-comeback against Liverpool in last year’s semi-final still fresh, no trip to the Italian capital would be ideal for any of the Premier League quartet if they make it through to this season’s quarterPorto’s solid-looking record this season (32 wins from 42 games) belies a relatively weak Champions League group, while title rivals Benfica came from a goal down to beat them on Saturday and move top of the table.

Prediction: Roma to sneak through, but they might have to score an away goal of their own.

Manchester City vs Schalke

State of play

Manchester City lead 3-2 on aggregate

A VAR-tastic first leg in Gelsenkirchen went City’s way, then Schalke’s, then City’s again – Pep Guardiola has a one-goal lead to play with at the Etihad on March 12th.

So, are City home and dry now?

Guardiola – while delighted with the result in Germany – couldn’t hide his despair at City’s sloppiness. “We’re not ready to fight for the Champions League,” he said afterwards. “We gifted the goals. If that happens in another stage… We are a nice team to watch, but we don’t know how far we’ll get.”File that one under Kicks Up the Backside. Manchester City at the Etihad, though, are a rather more clinical and merciless prospect and – even with the early-spring distractions that come with fighting on all four fronts – they will surely not make life too hard for themselves in the second leg. But they do have a habit of it. They have spent 150 minutes (nearly a quarter of the time) trailing in the Champions League this season, which – given the less than stellar opposition – has to be a worry for Guardiola as his side tackle the business end of a competition on which his City reign will ultimately be judged.

Prediction:City to take a small step closer to the quadruple, but with bigger domestic and European tests to come.

Juventus vs Atletico Madrid

State of play

Atletico Madrid lead 2-0 on aggregate

Perennial Champions League business-enders Juventus have it all to do after being well and truly Diego Simeone-d by the crotch-grabbing Diego Simeone and his Atletico side.

Just how lively is the second leg going to be?

2-0, “they” say, is the most dangerous scoreline in football. Not if you’re Atletico Madrid. They have been a welcome anti-hero in the Champions League over the last six years or so – scrapping for every goal, every point, every tie they can find – and they’ll be no different in Turin. That will only turn the screw for Juventus, who are yearning for their first Champions League triumph in 23 years, after losing two finals in the last four seasons. They will have to bring the fight to Atletico in the second leg but, unfortunately, that’s precisely Atletico’s bag, even without the suspended Diego Costa.In his place, they have Alvaro Morata, dripping with footballing narrative, ready to score a crucial goal against a former employer in the Champions League once again. Have we forgotten anyone? Ah, yes…

Is this Ronaldo’s final stand in the Champions League?

“I have five Champions Leagues,” Cristiano Ronaldo sneered in the mixed zone of the Wanda Metropolitano after the first leg. “You have none.”It’s a fact, but not one that is going to come in handy on March 12th. Ronaldo knows only the last hurdles of the Champions League race – he has reached the semi-finals every year since 2010 – but even his steam is surely running out, and he has just one goal in his six European games this season.”For sure we will have to suffer in Turin,” Simeone signed off in Madrid, but it looks rather more like Ronaldo who will be feeling the pain when this tie is done. Schadenfreude will never lift a European Cup, but it can still cut you deep.

Prediction: An Atletico Madrid defence with a two-goal lead in their pocket? You do the math(s).

Bayern Munich vs Liverpool

State of play

0-0 after the first leg

“Not a dream result but a good one”. Jurgen Klopp declared himself satisfied with a clean sheet at Anfield, but this is certainly the most finely-poised tie of the round.

Will Liverpool rue drawing a blank at home?

Perhaps, but the away-goal anxiety now switches to the Allianz Arena, where Bayern will not be inclined to defend as deep as they did at Anfield. A formidable Champions League home record – they have won 22 of their last 26 there – is one thing, the latent threat of a Liverpool sucker-punch quite another.With Virgil van Dijk returning from suspension to shore up the defence, Liverpool will be confident of sucking up the Germans’ pressure and then hitting them on the counter. This is different territory to last season, when Liverpool racked up 13 goals in their first legs against Porto, Manchester City and Roma, but they are certainly better equipped to handle cagey chess matches this year.Is there a but? There is. Liverpool have drawn a blank in their last three crunch games – Bayern at home, Manchester United and Everton away – and there is no longer a sense that Mohamed Salah just needs to turn up in order to guarantee himself a goal. If, when and how Liverpool score will say a great deal about how this second leg unfolds.

Prediction: A coin-toss of a knockout tie, but a Liverpool away goal could be decisive.

Barcelona vs Lyon

State of play

0-0 after the first leg

After a first half in Lyon in which either side could have been out of sight, the hosts eventually settled for a goalless draw to take to Barcelona on March 13th.

Do Lyon really have it in them to resist Barcelona at the Nou Camp?

The first leg showed some ominous signs of things to come: Barcelona attempted 25 shots, eight of which were blocked and only five found the target. Lionel Messi alone had nine efforts at breaking the deadlock, and it would take a brave punter to bet on Lyon keeping a clean sheet where so few others have. The Nou Camp swarm is ready to go.

Prediction: Barcelona 3 (Messi 14, pen 34, 67) Lyon 0.

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN, NASHVILLE SC DRAW IN PRESEASON FINALE

By IndyEleven.com, 03/02/19, 10:15PM EST

Boys in Blue’s preseason concludes with a split result

ndy Eleven’s preseason series comes to a close following a nil-nil draw to USL Championship Eastern Conference rivals Nashville SC. Saturday’s result sees Indy with a 1W-2D-2L overall record through the preseason before heading into the regular season with a clean slate.“I thought today was a good performance against one of the stronger teams in our league,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “We were trying to get guys through the full 90 minutes, just like we would in a proper game…But we defended well and handled the game well. I’m happy with that. Just looking forward to the season now.”Indy Eleven goalkeeper Evan Newton was forced to make an early save four minutes into the match. Boys in Blue midfielder Tyler Gibson was quick to return the favor two minutes later with a header on frame off a corner kick, but the nodded hit was caught by Nashville goalkeeper Connor Sparrow.Much of the first half was played in the midfield as both sides battled for attacking opportunities. Nashville had numerous free kicks from long distance that failed to materialize into dangerous plays. Indy Eleven midfielder Tyler Pasher had two shots in the 23rd and 28th minutes that were deemed offside and ended over the crossbar, respectively.Boys in Blue forward Ilija Ilic came close to finding the afternoon’s opening goal in the 44th minute after a play into Nashville’s box from forward Josh Penn, but his headed effort was blocked by defender Liam Doyle before crossing the goal line.
Indy continued its offensive push with a trio of on-target shots, all of which were saved by Nashville’s keepers. Half-time substitute forward Thomas Enevoldsen played a cheeky backheel pass through to defender Karl Ouimette deep into Nashville’s 18-yard box for a near-post shot in the 56th minute. Penn followed up with a shot nearly 10 yards out toward the lower left corner of the goal two minutes later.Forward Dane Kelly forced a lateral-dive save from Nashville goalie Matt Pickens in the 68th minute, seven minutes after the keeper subbed in, with a heavy hit near the top of the penalty box.The Music City side asked the final question in the 84th minute with a shot within Indy’s 18-yard box. Newton stood his ground and firmly contained the ball, keeping it a comfortable distance from goal.Coach Rennie will seek continued improvement from his squad as his sights turn to the team’s first fixture of the regular season a week from today against Eastern Conference newcomers Saint Louis FC.“The whole preseason, even in the beginning before preseason started, was about getting fit; about learning what we want to do and improving our play,” Rennie said. “We’ve done that well. Obviously, things count now that points are at stake every game. We need to really keep working on the way that we play. We need to keep improving and get ready for what will be a big game next week.”

Don’t miss your chance to see the Boys in Blue this season. Season Ticket packages for the 2019 USL Championship season are on sale now for a low as $99. Get your season ticket package today by visiting IndyEleven.com/season-tickets or by calling 317-685-1100.

USL Championship Preseason
Indy Eleven 0:0 Nashville SC
Saturday, March 2, 2019 – 3:00 p.m. EST
Arad McCutchan Stadium – Evansville, IN

Scoring Summary:
N/A

Disciplinary Summary:

IND – Paddy Barrett (Yellow card) 55’
Indy Eleven lineup (L–>R): Evan Newton (GK); Ayoze Garcia (Josh Penn 18’), Karl Ouimette, Neveal Hackshaw, Paddy Barrett, Matt Watson, Tyler Gibson, Kenney Walker (Trialist 76’), Tyler Pasher (Thomas Enevoldsen 46’), Ilija Ilic (Trialist 66’), Dane Kelly

U.S. women’s national team out to find footing against Brazil (again)

By Graham Hays | Mar 4, 2019espnW.com

It is overwrought to suggest that the United States women’s national team needs to take long hard looks in the mirror just yet. But if some measure of self-reflection is in order, the team faces the right opponent in the final game of the SheBelieves Cup. For better or worse, Brazil has often held up that mirror for the Americans.It is entirely possible that Tuesday’s game between the U.S. and Brazil will be an afterthought in the outcome of the tournament. England and Japan are tied atop the standings, each two points ahead of the U.S. Either can clinch the title with a win in Tuesday’s first game in Tampa. ADVERTISEMENT

After draws in its first two games, the only scenario by which the U.S. retains the title in the four-year-old event is if England and Japan play to a draw and the U.S. beats Brazil by at least two goals while erasing Japan’s advantage in total goals scored (5-4). Even England manager Phil Neville painted Tuesday’s opening act as the main attraction, albeit with a noticeably rosy prediction for the Americans in the nightcap.”It is a final. It’s the final of the competition,” Neville said of the impetus on both England and Japan to play for a win. “I think if we draw on Tuesday, then USA will win the SheBelieves Cup because I think they’ll score goals past Brazil. … I could see USA scoring three or four goals there.”

If so, and whether or not it means the hosts finish the night with a trophy, it might be one more instance of the U.S. approaching a pivot point and finding Brazil waiting.Take a quick look back.

Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

With the Women’s World Cup just around the corner, USA coach Jill Ellis could use a commanding performance from her team.

Sept. 27, 2007: In a strong contender for the all-time low ebb of the women’s national team, the U.S. lost to Brazil 4-0 in a World Cup semifinal in China. Equally remembered for Hope Solo’s comments afterward about being replaced as starter, more went wrong than one lineup change. The U.S. won the subsequent third-place game, but the tournament marked the end of Greg Ryan’s run as coach and the nadir of an era when attendance dwindled and influence waned.

Aug. 21, 2008: Back in China the next year for the Olympics under new coach Pia Sundhage, the U.S. lost its opening game but then went on a run that culminated with a 1-0 win against Brazil in the gold-medal game. Hinting at drama to come from the team, Carli Lloyd scored what proved to be the winner in extra time. Suddenly, the U.S. could counter back-to-back World Cup disappointments with back-to-back Olympic gold medals and new energy.

July 10, 2011: How might history be different if not for the added minutes at the end of extra time in a World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil? For all the positive Olympic momentum from 2008, it would have meant little had the U.S. endured its earliest exit from a major tournament. That was possible after Brazil took the lead early in extra time. Then Brazil wasted time, Megan Rapinoe picked out Abby Wambach’s head, and a second golden era was well and truly born.

July 30, 2017: It needn’t be a major tournament to matter. Staging the Tournament of Nations for the first time, the U.S. lost its opening game against Australia — its first loss to the Matildas. In the midst of a revolving door of player auditions after Olympic disappointment, the U.S. was a team in search of continuity and perhaps identity. It was also down 3-1 and heading for a second loss in a row with 12 minutes to play. The epic rally culminated in Julie Ertz’s 89th-minute winner, fitting for a game in which she found her new home in midfield.

Aug. 2, 2018: Another year, another Tournament of Nations. The U.S. capped a title run with a 4-1 demolition of Brazil. Although it included a draw against Australia, the U.S. vastly outplayed all three opponents in the event last year. With the roster largely settled, the three performances were the embodiment of the attacking, almost marauding style that coach Jill Ellis wanted to develop.

That Brazil was often the opponent in consequential games is both a coincidence and selective. There are, of course, other meaningful games in the team’s recent history. It would be possible to make a list with Sweden. But Brazil’s presence isn’t random. Forever dependent on themselves more than, say, institutional or infrastructure support back home, the Brazilians play. Any game will be physical, and it will be about your soccer beating their soccer. The way they play gives opponents the opportunity to magnify their own strengths — or weaknesses.

More from espnW.com

U.S. women’s tie with England is entertaining but ‘frustrating’

U.S. women settle for draw in SheBelieves Cup opener with Japan

USWNT has plenty to prove in SheBelieves Cup

Tuesday night might not be a pivot point in the long-term course of the program, but it could go a long way to defining the momentum, not to mention the tenor of the conversation, this spring.

By themselves or in tandem, the games against England and Japan were disappointing in the results but not without positives in the play. On its own, a 3-1 loss to France in January was explicable — an American lineup at less than full strength at the end of the team’s preseason losing to a French team whose players are in the middle of their league seasons. Wins at Scotland and Portugal to close out 2018 were workmanlike but achieved the desired results.

However, when all of those factors start to accumulate in short order, from difficulty scoring goals abroad to a penchant for costly mistakes at home, June 11 begins to feel uncomfortably soon.

“They’re a team that can look at you, and they’re good enough tactically to be able to try and exploit or implement things to make you have challenges,” Ellis said of England after the 2-2 draw. “That’s exactly what we need. Are we doing enough to imprint our game on our opponent? Those are things, good takeaways, in terms of this and our confidence in staying with the things we believe, being true to who we are.”

What the U.S. could use right about now is a commanding performance without caveats.

Asked after the draw against the U.S. what separated his team from other contenders, Neville eventually settled on the idea that England was enjoying itself.

“It’s probably slightly different for the USA because when you’re on the top, you’re there to be shot at,” Neville said. “We’re actually a team that’s actually enjoying the moment.”

The U.S. has enjoyed a lot of memorable games against Brazil. It wouldn’t hurt to enjoy Tuesday night.

Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

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Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite


					

2/18/19 Champions League Tues/Wed, Help Indy 11 Park, MLS in CCL, Full TV Game Schedule

Swamped at Work so not much time this week.  Champions League is off to an interesting start as my Dortmund with US Youngster Pulisic starting was in the game until the 80th minute mark.  That’s when Tottenham scored again on a set play and added 1 more to give them a commanding 3-0 victory at home.  Disappointing as Dortmund with injuries to Rues, and both center backs managed to break down again.  That’s the 2nd straight game my band of yellow has given up 3 goals 2 of them in the last 15 minutes.  Good to see Pulisic get the start and go 80 minutes as he had several good runs and a shot that almost scored in the first 15 minutes.  Of course Real Madrid was the first test of VAR – and of course VAR ruled in the Defending Champs favor on an offside goal by Ajax.  It was the right call however – and the Galaticos take a 2-1 lead back to the Bernabéu for the 2nd leg in early March.

Great games this week as EPL League leaders and 2nd place finishers last year Liverpool host Bayern Munich Tuesday on TNT and Juventus and Ronaldo travel to Atletico Madrid on Wed 2:45 pm on TNT.  Schalke and US star McKinney will host Man City Wed at 2:45 pm on BR Live and Univision Desportes.  Lyonnais will of course host Barcelona and Messi Tues on BR Live and Univision Desportes.  Tons of stories below on Champions League!

Tues, Feb 19 

3 pm TNT                    Liverpool vs Bayern Munich 

3 pm Uni Desportes      Lyonnais vs Barcelona 

Wed, Feb 20 

3 pm  BR Live/Uni Des   Schalke (McKinney) vs Man City

3 pm  TNT                    Athletico Madrid vs Juventus 

The 2019 CONCACAF Champions League is set to kick off on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and you can watch live streams with Yahoo Sports.The matches will be available through the Yahoo Sports app on Google Play, as well as on desktop at Yahoo Soccer’s home page. The 11th edition of the CCL, will include 16 teams from across North and Central America and the Caribbean, including reigning MLS Cup champion Atlanta United, Liga MX Apertura champion Tigres UANL, Liga MX Clausura champion Santos Laguna, and other marquee clubs like CF Monterrey, New York Red Bulls, Sporting KC and Toronto FC. Fans will get to see big names from both the United States and Mexican national teams in action, including Jozy Altidore, Hugo Ayala, Michael Bradley and Miguel Layun, as well as 2018 MLS MVP Josef Martinez for Atlanta United.

CCL Champions League – MLS & Mexico and others

Tues,  Feb. 19 at 8 p.m.    Yahoo Sports Online    Toronto FC At Independiente (Panama),

Tues Feb. 19 at 10 p.m. ET  Yahoo Sports — Houston Dynamo At Guastatoya (Guatemala),

Wed Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. ET   Yahoo Sports NY Red Bulls At Atletico Pantoja (Dom Rep),

Thurs Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. ET    Yahoo Sports        Sporting KC  Vs. Toluca (Mexico),

Thurs Feb. 21 at 10 p.m. ET    Yahoo Sports    Atlanta United at Herediano (costa Rica)

Tues Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. ET    Yahoo Sports —     Houston Dynamo hosts  Guastatoya

Tues Feb. 26 at 8 p.m.  yahoo sports                    Toronto  FC  Vs. Independiente,

Wed Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. ET  Yahoo Sports –           NY Red Bulls at Atletico Pantoja

Thurs Feb. 28 at 10 p.m. ET   Yahoo Sports         Sporting KC At Toluca

Indy 11 Needs our Help 

Please show your support for Professional Soccer in Indiana by contacting your legislator TODAY!  Please visit www.eleven-park.com and help us with this important effort.We are asking you to send your state legislators a message thru the website www.eleven-park.com to ask your legislative leaders to strongly support Senate Bill 543.The bill will allow the construction of Eleven Park, a new transformational neighborhood development in Indianapolis that would include apartments, office space, retail and a hotel – all anchored by a new, world-class multi-purpose soccer stadium.The Eleven Park proposal creates NO new taxes and does not call for any existing money from city or state governments.  Eleven Park is a win for Indy Eleven, a win for Indianapolis, and a win for Indiana, a state that is full of soccer players and fans.  It is time to fully capture a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure the future of soccer in Indiana.  Please join us in supporting Senate Bill 543.   www.eleven-park.com

Champions League

Bayern Braced for Klopp Reunion at Liverpool & Champ League Predictions

German Giants Represent Everything Klopp isn’t in Champions League Clash

Liverpool Mustn’t Look Ahead to United Clash as Bayern Comes to Town

Robben picks Anfield as his ‘worst stadium’

PSG’s Neymar targeting UCL quarterfinal return

Are we heading for a generation without elite scorers?

Dortmund made to pay for inexperience by ruthless Spurs

Pulisic blames Dortmund ‘mentality’ for loss

Spurs ‘mean business’ after huge win – Winks

Vertonghen a perfect 10 as Spurs brush aside Dortmund

Ramos could face extra ban for deliberate yellow

Real Madrid suffered then hit Ajax back – Solari

‘Stop selling fear’ – how PSG’s calmness overcame United

PSG’s Di Maria: I expected Man Utd fans’ abuse

Solskjaer has much to prove after being outsmarted by Tuchel

Verratti 9/10, Di Maria 8/10 as PSG seize first leg vs. Utd

Zaniolo’s brace clinches Roma win over Porto

CONCACAF Champions League kicks off on Yahoo sports – Can MLS win?

WORLD

Joint Celebration shows growing Rapport of Ronaldo and Dybala

FA Cup Round-Up

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should be Named United Boss says Giggs

Klopp needs to think smart, focus on the Premier League

Indy 11

Help Soccer in Indy today –  www.eleven-park.com

Indy 11 Announces Ownership Group of from Around Indiana

Full Schedule Released

Indy 11 Signs USL Leading Scorer Thomas Enevoldsen

Indy 11 Signs USL Championship All time Leading Scorer DC United’s Dane Kelly

Flex 8 Pack Ticket is Back

Season Tickets Just over $100

GAMES ON TV

Mon, Feb 18  

2:30 pm ESPN+           Chelsea vs Man United FA Cup

Tues, Feb 19  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm TNT                    Liverpool vs Bayern Munich

3 pm Uni Desportes      Lyonnais vs Barcelona

8 p.m.    Yahoo Sports Online    Toronto FC At Independiente (Panama),

10 p.m. ET  Yahoo Sports — Houston Dynamo At Guastatoya (Guatemala),

Wed, Feb 20  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm  BR Live/Uni Des  Schalke (McKinney) vs Man City

3 pm  TNT                     Athletico Madrid vs Juventus 

8 p.m. ET   Yahoo Sports NY Red Bulls At Atletico Pantoja (Dom Rep),

Sun, Feb 24  

9 am NBCSN              Man United vs Liverpool

9:30 am FS1                  Hannover vs Frankfurt

10:15 am beIN sport    Athletico Madrid vs Villarreal

11:30 am ESPN+         Chelsea vs Manchester City – League Cup

12 noon FS2                 Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Bayer Leverkusen

2:45 pm beIn Sport      Levante vs Real Madrid

Mon, Feb 25  

2:30 pm FS2                 RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Hoffenheim

Wed, Feb 27  

2:45 pm NBCSN        Chelsea vs Tottenham

3 pm  beIN Sport                     Real Madrid vs Barcelona – Copa Del Rey El Classico’   

7 pm Fox Sport 1                     USA Ladies vs Japan  – She Believes Cup

Sat, Mar 2

7:30 am NBCSN                     Tottenham vs Arsenal

9;30 am FS2                            Schalke (McKinney) vs Dusseldorf

10 am NBCSN                        Man United vs Southampton

12:30 pm NBCSN                  West Ham vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

12:30 pm FS2                         Borussia Mgladbach (Johnson) vs Bayern Munchen

2:45 pm beIN Sport            Real Madrid vs Barcelona El Classico

4 pm Fox                             USA Ladies vs England – She Believes Cup

8 pm Fox Sports 1                  La Galaxy vs Chicago Fire  MLS

10 pm Fox Sports 1               Seattle Sounders vs FC Cincy MLS

Sun, Mar 3

7:30 am NBCSN                     Watford vs Leicester City

9 am FS2                 Schalke (McKinney) vs Dusseldorf

9 am NBCSN                          Fulham (Ream) vs Chelsea

11:15 am NBCSN                                 Everton vs Liverpool 

12:30 pm FS2                         Wolfsburg vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

2:30 pm ESPN+                      Napoli vs Juve

6 pm Fox Sports 1                 DC United (Rooney) vs Atlanta United (Martinez) MLS

8:30 pm ESPN                       Los Angeles FC vs Sporting KC 

TuesMar 5                             Champions League

3 pm TNT                              Ajax 1 vs Real Madrid 2 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm BR Live/Uni Desp       Dortmund (Pulisic) 1 vs Tottenham 3 

7 pm Fox Sports 1               USA Ladies vs Brazil – She Believes Cup

Weds, Mar 6  

3 pm TNT                               PSG vs Man United  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm BR Live                        FC Porto vs AS Roma

Fri, March 8  

2:30 pm FS2                          Werder Breman (Stewart) vs Schalke (McKinney) 

10 pm ESPN+                          USL Seattle Sounders 2 vs Rio Grande Valley

Bayern braced for Klopp reunion at Liverpool

CIARAN FAHEY  Associated Press  Feb 17, 2019, 7:48 PM

MoreBERLIN (AP) — Bayern Munich knows all too well how tough an opponent Juergen Klopp can be.Now in his fourth season at Anfield, the former Borussia Dortmund coach is facing Bayern for the first time while leading Liverpool.Bayern visits Liverpool for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 game on Tuesday, mindful that it didn’t always come out on top against Klopp during his time at Dortmund.While Bayern defeated Klopp’s Dortmund side in the 2013 Champions League final, Klopp had the upper hand in the 2012 German Cup final, which Dortmund won 5-2. Klopp also led Dortmund to successive league titles at Bayern’s expense in 2011 and 2012.Personally I like Juergen Klopp a lot,” said Bayern president Uli Hoeness, who revealed that he almost signed Klopp to take over before the club decided on Jurgen Klinsmann in 2008.Also Tuesday, Lyon hosts Barcelona.On Wednesday, Atletico Madrid welcomes Juventus, and Schalke hosts Manchester City.Liverpool has not lost a European match at Anfield since the 3-0 group stage defeat to Real Madrid in 2014 and Bayern has questions over its defense ahead of its trip.The Bavarian powerhouse conceded twice to relegation-threatened Augsburg in the Bundesliga on Friday, when Leon Goretzka scored an own-goal after just 13 seconds – the quickest own-goal in 56 years of the league. Bayern won 3-2.”We’ll have to deliver a whole other performance on the day, especially in defense,” Bayern coach Niko Kovac said, warning of the danger posed by “the three up front,” referring to Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.Liverpool also had the luxury of a week without a game before Bayern’s visit, due to its early FA Cup exit. The team spent four days at a training camp in Marbella, Spain.

“Our little preparation for the rest of the season,” Liverpool defender Andy Robertson said.Bayern winger Kingsley Coman is an option for Kovac after fears of an injury sustained in Augsburg proved unfounded. Coman scored twice, set up David Alaba’s winner and struck the crossbar in Augsburg, while he also underlined his growing importance to the side with the winning goal against Hertha Berlin in the German Cup.Liverpool will have to cope without central defender Virgil van Dijk as he serves a UEFA suspension for the first leg. Klopp faces the prospect of having to deploy midfielder Fabinho alongside Joel Matip with Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren both injured.While Liverpool is accustomed to deep runs in Europe – winning the Champions League in 2005 and reaching the final in 2007 and last season – the club has not won the English league since 1990.Although a chance to pull away from Manchester City at the top of the Premier League was squandered with two recent draws, Liverpool is still only behind City on goal difference and has a game in hand.Here’s a look at the other Champions League games this week:

LYON VS. BARCELONA

Barcelona is back in good spirits after ending a three-game winless streak and extending its comfortable lead in the Spanish league at the weekend.But it heads into the game against Lyon showing signs it still hasn’t recovered its best form despite having a whole week to prepare before a hard-fought 1-0 home win against Valladolid in the league on Saturday.Lionel Messi and most of his teammates struggled, and the team looked off both in attack and in defense.Arthur’s absence in midfield has become a problem for coach Ernesto Valverde, as the young Brazilian was the main player controlling the team’s pace. Arthur needs a few more weeks to recover from a hamstring injury.The game could go a long way to deciding Lyon coach Bruno Genesio’s chances of keeping his job.Although Genesio guided Lyon to the last 16 without losing a group game, long-serving club president Jean-Michel Aulas has yet to say whether Genesio will stay on next season.Genesio will have to find a way to beat Barca without Nabil Fekir, the main provider and scorer in Lyon’s attack, who is suspended.With Fekir absent, Netherlands forward Memphis Depay has the chance to put in the kind of performance to help him fulfill his wish of joining a bigger club next season.

ATLETICO MADRID VS. JUVENTUS

Cristiano Ronaldo is returning to Madrid with his Juventus side hitting its stride at just the right time and Atletico should be worried – the former Real Madrid forward has scored 22 goals in 31 matches against Atletico.The Bianconeri are on a seemingly unstoppable march to a record-extending eighth successive league title in Italy and could be forgiven for relaxing slightly.While the 3-0 defeat at Atalanta in the Italian Cup ended its chances of a treble, followed by a 3-3 draw against Parma, it appears to have been just a blip with Juve then beating Sassuolo and Frosinone, 3-0 each time.”Yes, we are in a good condition,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “Apart from the setback against Parma we are doing well, and we are at a particularly important moment.”Ronaldo scored again against Frosinone on Friday to take his tally to 19 in Serie A. He also showed as good an understanding with Paulo Dybala as he has had with Mario Mandzukic, who joined Juventus from Atletico in 2015.Allegri was able to rest several players for Friday’s match while also giving a run to key defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, back from injury.Atletico has not looked convincing in the Spanish league, scraping a 1-0 win at relegation-threatened Rayo Vallecano on Saturday after two defeats.

SCHALKE VS. MANCHESTER CITY

Man City was given a kind draw against a Schalke side clearly struggling in its second season under coach Domenico Tedesco.Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home against Freiburg was indicative of the Gelsenkirchen-based team’s season to date – an unattractive game of few chances with midfielder Suat Serdar sent off before the break for a studs-up challenge.Schalke has won only six of its 22 league games so far and languishes in 14th place in the 18-team standings. It could yet be drawn into a relegation fight before the season is out.The contrast could hardly be greater.City, in its Premier League title defense, is ahead of Liverpool at the top on goal difference.Coach Pep Guardiola had the luxury of resting some leading players on Saturday for the FA Cup win over fourth-tier side Newport. Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva were not summoned from the bench and Sergio Aguero had the afternoon off entirely.The team was back in training on Sunday ahead of the trip to Germany.A European trophy has eluded City since the Abu Dhabi takeover 11 years ago, with the semifinals the furthest the team has progressed in the Champions League.

Liverpool vs Bayern: German giants represent everything Jurgen Klopp isn’t in Champions League clash

Simon Hughes  The IndependentFeb 18, 2019, 2:26 AM

It was the small hours in Kiev and though he had lost the Champions League final to Real MadridJurgen Klopp

was wearing his cap back to front and singing along with a man in a Liverpool shirt whose nickname might make you think first of cabaret.Andreas Frege – or Campino as he is known – was born in Dusseldorf but his mother was English. He had fallen in love with the club Klopp now managed after Borussia Monchengladbach were beaten in the Uefa Cup final of 1973. Football was Campino’s passion but his talent was in music and Klopp became a fan of his group, Die Toten Hosen – translated directly as ‘The Dead Pants.’Campino believed in punk rather than floorshows. His band did not exist solely to promote causes but were prepared go that way. Though not associated with any political party, The Dead Pants have made stands against xenophobia and racism, they supported Greenpeace in a campaign to end nuclear testing and had once posed without clothes in the name of animal rights group, PETA.Amongst their later initiatives related to Bayern Munich’s domination of German football, releasing a song in 2000 spiked with antipathy. In ‘Bayern’, Campino would yell: “Many things can happen/Many things can come to pass/One thing I know for sure. Never in my life would I go to Bayern! (Never go to the f**king Bayern!).”A reaction was projected and a rebuke, perhaps, intercepted because in the closing stages of that video, a portly figure in club blazer loomed into view. It was supposed to be Uli Hoeness – the president of Bayern – who looked into a television screen, and after hearing the lyrics muttered instantly to himself: “This is the kind of filth that will choke our society at some point.”It has been said that Bavaria has the wealth of Hertfordshire and the attitude of Yorkshire. It annoys those outside the region that it seems to consider itself as a moral base, where intentions, standards and achievements cannot be seriously questioned, certainly not without a ferocious response.Klopp, of course, faces the institution he went up against when he was coach of Borussia Dortmund for the first time in a competitive match since taking over at Anfield, not just on just sporting terms but on a spiritual level as well. While it is assumed outside Germany that Klopp will eventually find his way to Munich as a coach, see who he associates with and understand his history by listening to those that know him well and it appears less likely, though not impossible.The story about Klopp being considered by Bayern eleven years ago is well known. It was Hoeness, in fact, who wanted Klopp the most, telling the other board members: “I’ve got a good feeling about this guy.” It was Hoeness too who called Klopp first, a manager who in his seven seasons at Mainz had achieved promotion and European football as well as relegation. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern’s chairman, feared that at 40 years old, he was not experienced or high-profile enough. Instead, Bayern went for Jurgen Klinsmann – a national hero and a Bayern legend – who was sacked nine months later, with Philipp Lahm revealing that players felt unsure what to do under Klinsmann and often met to discuss tactical strategy because so little information was forthcoming from their coach.In Raphael Honigstein’s book, Bring the Noise, it was Hoeness who called Klopp again, two days after their initial conversation with the news, “We’ve gone for the other Jurgen.” Klopp, according to Mainz’s sporting director Christian Heidel, “was a little hurt” by the suggestion that Klinsmann was similar to him when Klopp was clearly the more experienced club coach and later that day, the local reporter in the town could remember him taking training in a bad mood. That the approach became public knowledge through Hoeness was a good thing for Klopp, however, because everyone now knew how highly he was regarded.Hoeness admitted, “We signed the wrong Jurgen,” when three years later Klopp led Dortmund to the first of successive Bundesliga titles. In 2011, Bayern finished third – ten points behind, though perhaps the bigger achievement was the defence of their title twelve months on when a more competitive Bayern came back at them but still finished eight adrift.The atmosphere between Klopp and Bayern changed when Bayern signed some of Dortmund’s best players and wrestled back the initiative. Klopp would then compare them to a James Bond villain hell-bent on global domination, saying they were “like the Chinese – they see what other people are doing and copy it – just with more money,” he said after losing the German Cup final to Bayern in 2013.

This argument was engulfed two years later when Matthias Sammer – a former Dortmund player and manager and now in his position of technical director at Bayern, indicated that he believed other clubs were not working hard enough to compete with his new employer. Klopp pounced: “If I were him, I’d thank God that someone had the idea of hiring me every time I walk into the Bayern training ground,” he fired back. “I don’t know if Bayern would have got one less point without Sammer.”When asked to recall the period, Jorg Jakub, the editor of Kicker magazine, described Klopp as being “like a new boxer in the ring, though he was not just about words – he’d already backed it up.”Few managers, presidents and certainly players had the courage to criticise Bayern publically with such provocation before, knowing what follows whenever this happens: with Bayern hitting back ten times harder.An example of this only came last week when Dietmar Hamann told Sky TV in Germany that Robert Lewandowski had lost his edge. The striker’s agent was the first to respond with Maik Barthel questioning Hamann’s “tactical understanding”, before Lewandowski called Hamann’s comments “flat-out stupid.” It was only after he scored in a 3-1 victory over Schalke that Hasan Salihamidzic weighed in to the debate, with the club’s latest sporting director claiming Hamann was waging a campaign against the player, describing the former Liverpool midfielder as “a problem” for the television company.In 2014, Lewandowksi became one of the players Klopp lost to Bayern, though it was the transfer of Mario Gotze that hurt him the most. “It was not just the manner, it was the mere fact it could actually happen,” one source told the Independent, who spoke about Klopp’s reaction to the news, comparing it to the unexpected death of a young family member. “Klopp thought Bayern’s tentacles stretched far but not that far.”In Building the Yellow Wall, Uli Hesse remembered the press conference ahead of Dortmund’s match with Mainz in 2013 when Klopp knew Gotze was going to leave but nobody else in the room did. It was one of the occasions Klopp showed restraint. Bayern’s timing had been devastating and it had the potential to undo much of Klopp’s fine work in the last weeks of a season where they would reach the club’s first Champions League final in sixteen years.When Klopp was asked what he thought about Hoeness’ suggestion that the Bundesliga was in danger of creating “Spanish conditions” as Bayern and Dortmund were seemingly capable of pulling away from the rest of the competition in the same way as Barcelona and Real Madrid, Klopp could have fired up discussion but instead, he spoke about his fears for “Scottish conditions” where Celtic – following the demise of Rangers – had been able to become so much better than everyone else, hoovering up all of the talent and reducing the level of threat from elsewhere.“I think that when the new Bayern squad is announced in the summer, we will find what Hoeness has said isn’t altogether supported by the team that has been assembled,” Klopp responded, with reporters believing he was referring to Bayern’s recruitment of Pep Guardiola as coach. By then, it was well known that they also wanted to sign Lewandowski. Though that would happen twelve months later, Klopp was, in fact, referring to Gotze’s decision to leave him, a twenty-year-old who’d been with Dortmund since he was nine: someone he’d given a professional debut at seventeen. Above everything – and Klopp told Gotze this – he believed he was making a mistake by joining Bayern and Guardiola, and this was proven to be right.“Klopp could only drop vague hints during the Mainz press conference,” Hesse wrote. “With the Real Madrid game coming up [in the Champions League semi-final], he couldn’t afford to break the stunning news and cause a commotion. So, it was somebody else who did it.”Nobody is quite sure who leaked the story about Gotze’s departure – triggered by a clause in his contract – but it surely could not have been anyone with a healthy interest in Dortmund because it landed in the tabloid Bild less than 24 hours before the first leg with Real. “They tried to destroy us,” Hans-Joachim Watzke, Dortmund’s CEO, claimed of the club they would lose to in the European showdown that followed at Wembley a month later.Klopp still thinks Franck Ribery should have been sent off in that final when the score was deadlocked at 1-1. He was also furious (understandably) when a headed goal which should have stood against Bayern in another German Cup final was ruled out.Since moving to England it is said Bayern have faded from Klopp’s thoughts simply because they are not the competition any more. “The rivalry for him now is Everton, Manchester United and City,” was the message last week. The feeling was, when Klopp eventually leaves Liverpool, he’d sooner manage the German national team. “Jurgen is a strong character and he likes working around other strong characters,” said another source. “Where he draws the line is interference and at Bayern, maybe there is a bit too much of that.”

How to watch the 2019 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League with Yahoo Sports

The 2019 CONCACAF Champions League kicks off this week right here at Yahoo Sports, the official English-language broadcaster of the region’s top club competition.For the five MLS teams involved in the tournament, the goal is clear: to break Mexico’s stranglehold on the silverware and become the first squad from the top league in the United States and Canada to hoist the trophy. No MLS team has won the competition since it switched to its current format over a decade ago. In fact, only two MLS teams have ever reached the summit in North and Central America and the Caribbean: D.C. United in 1998, and the LA Galaxy three years later.  Meantime, Liga MX teams have won all 10 Champions League titles. Just three of those victories came against MLS teams, no surprise considering how much deeper Mexican sides are than their salary-capped counterparts from north of the border. When Club America beat the Montreal Impact in 2015, it did so with a payroll that was 10 times higher than the MLS side.  Still, there is evidence that American and Canadian entries are getting closer. Real Salt Lake narrowly lost to Pachuca in 2011, and in 2018 Toronto beat America and Tigres in consecutive knockout stage home-and-home series before falling to C.D. Guadalajara on penalty kicks.Could this be the year that an MLS team finally wins the title (and clinches the FIFA Club World Cup berth that comes with it?) Here’s how the league’s five reps stack up.

Atlanta United 

Why they can win it:

Barely two months removed from winning MLS Cup, the Five Stripes were arguably the best team in league history last season. Sure, they lost coach Tata Martino (to Mexico’s national team), playmaker Miguel Almiron (Newcastle United) and experienced left back Greg Garza (expansion Cincinnati FC) this winter. But Atlanta added the reigning South American player of the year in 25-year-old Argentine national teamer Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez, and also re-upped Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez, whose 31 regular season goals in 2018 set a league record.

Why they can’t:

The club’s new manager, Dutchman Frank de Boer, has never coached outside Europe and therefore can’t possibly be prepared for the unique challenges playing on the road in Latin America: bumpy fields, difficult travel, constant gamesmanship on and off the pitch. Scheduling conflicts will force Atlanta, which averaged an MLS-record 53,000-plus fans last season, to play its Feb. 28 match versus Costa Rica’s Herediano at a 10,000-seat venue in suburban Kennesaw instead of downtown at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And while the Martinez-Martinez combination looks great on paper, it might take time for the sort of telepathic understanding that Almiron and Josef Martinez enjoyed to develop.

Round of 16 matchup (winner decided by aggregate goals):

At Herediano (Costa Rica), Feb. 21 at 10 p.m. ET
Vs. Herediano, Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. ET

Houston Dynamo

Why they can win it: Funny things happen in tournament play. Guadalajara was terrible in Liga MX last season but somehow found a way to win it all. (The club didn’t even qualify for the CCL this year.) Montreal was 45 minutes away from beating mighty America in the 2015 finale, just a few months after finishing the 2014 MLS season last overall. So who cares if the Dynamo missed the playoffs last season? Tomas Martinez can pass and Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas can score. Besides, Elis’ fellow Hondurans Boniek Garcia, Maynor Figueroa and Romell Quioto, as well as four-time U.S. World Cup rep DaMarcus Beasley, give Wilmer Cabrera’s team a ton of experience in CONCACAF.

Why they can’t: Depth, or rather the lack of it. Houston had the lowest payroll of any MLS team in 2018, and it wasn’t particularly close. With one of its three designated player slots unused, there just isn’t much offense on the roster after Elis, Martinez, Monotas and Quioto. And while Beasley, Garcia and Figueroa are grizzled veterans, they’re also 36, 35 and 34 years old, respectively.

Round of 16 two-leg matchup:

At Guastatoya (Guatemala), Feb. 19 at 10 p.m. ET
Vs. Guastatoya, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. ET

New York Red Bulls

Why they can win it: The Red Bulls know the tournament inside out, having participated in it every year since 2014. After reaching the semifinals a year ago, they went on to win the MLS Supporters’ Shield as the regular season champ. And with the exception of Tyler Adams, who left this winter for the German Bundesliga, coach Chris Armas’ first-choice starting lineup returns intact.

Why they can’t: There’s no reason they can’t. Of the five MLS teams involved this year, it feels like New York might have the best chance. Then again, the departure of Adams leaves a huge hole in the midfield and in the dressing room. Star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips is also about to turn 34.

Round of 16 two-leg matchup:

At Atletico Pantoja (Dominican Republic), Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. ET
Vs. Atletico Pantoja, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. ET

Sporting Kansas City 

Why they can win it: Free-agent signing Rodney Wallace, a Costa Rican World Cup vet, adds even more CONCACAF experience to a roster full of it. (SKC has played in the CCL three times since 2014.) And with Peter Vermes at the helm, there’s no doubt that Sporting will be one of the best-drilled teams in the competition.

Why they can’t: It remains to be seen if center back mainstay Matt Besler can immediately replicate the chemistry he and the since-traded Ike Opa had with new Hungarian center back Botond Barath. And while Vermes gets more value out of his roster than any GM/technical director in MLS, the truth is that small-market Kansas City isn’t in the same financial ballpark as some of the clubs it will face.

Round of 16 two-leg matchup:

Vs. Toluca (Mexico), Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. ET
At Toluca, Feb. 28 at 10 p.m. ET

Toronto FC

Why they can win it: No MLS team has come closer than TFC did last year. The Reds have plenty to prove after missing the playoffs last season, and while Sebastian Giovinco is gone, you can be sure that the remaining nucleus of the roster, led by captain Michael Bradley, will be bent on making another deep run.

Why they can’t: Striker Jozy Altidore is coming off ankle surgery and can’t be expected to duplicate his scoring exploits of a year ago. And TFC isn’t scaring anyone without keychain-sized dynamo Giovinco, who looked like the best player in CONCACAF in almost single-footedly leading Toronto to the 2018 finale.

Round of 16 two-leg matchup:

At Independiente (Panama), Feb. 19 at 8 p.m.
Vs. Independiente, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m.

The 2019 CONCACAF Champions League is set to kick off on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and you can watch live English-language streams with Yahoo Sports.The matches will be available through the Yahoo Sports app on iOS

and Google Play, as well as on desktop at Yahoo Soccer’s home page. The 11th edition of the CCL, sponsored by Scotiabank, will include 16 teams from across North and Central America and the Caribbean, including reigning MLS Cup champion Atlanta United, Liga MX Apertura champion Tigres UANL, Liga MX Clausura champion Santos Laguna, and other marquee clubs like CF Monterrey, New York Red Bulls, Sporting KC and Toronto FC.Fans will get to see big names from both the United States and Mexican national teams in action, including Jozy Altidore, Hugo Ayala, Michael Bradley and Miguel Layun, as well as 2018 MLS Doug McIntyre covers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

MVP Josef Martinez.For more information, see the CONCACAF Champions League’s official press release.

Indy 11 Needs our Help 

Please show your support for Professional Soccer in Indiana by contacting your legislator TODAY!  Please visit www.eleven-park.com and help us with this important effort.We are asking you to send your state legislators a message thru the website www.eleven-park.com to ask your legislative leaders to strongly support Senate Bill 543.The bill will allow the construction of Eleven Park, a new transformational neighborhood development in Indianapolis that would include apartments, office space, retail and a hotel – all anchored by a new, world-class multi-purpose soccer stadium.The Eleven Park proposal creates NO new taxes and does not call for any existing money from city or state governments.  Eleven Park is a win for Indy Eleven, a win for Indianapolis, and a win for Indiana, a state that is full of soccer players and fans.  It is time to fully capture a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure the future of soccer in Indiana.  Please join us in supporting Senate Bill 543.   www.eleven-park.com

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Earn your Degree While You Watch Your Kids Soccer Practice – ½ the time and cost of Traditional Schools

Great 2,000 SF place in La Porte, IN just 20 min from both Notre Dame and the lakeshore. 3 Br/2 Ba Place 4 beds on Stone Lake – check it out: https://abnb.me/EVmg/KjWULabehK

Proud Member of Indy’s Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.com

Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

 

2/08/19 US Wins 2-0, Champions League Sweet 16, EPL Race Tightens, Madrid Derby Sat, Indy 11 Pre-Season Starts, Full TV Game Schedule

Our US National Team is now 2-0 under new manager Gregg Berhalter as the US scored a 2-0 home win over Costa Rica.  The US again had good build up – though not the complete control they had last week – still they won the battle of possession again both outshooting and outplaying the TICOS on the night and both goals again scored in the flow of play not on set pieces.  Ltetget was fantastic with an early assist and a late goal as he trumpeted his return to the national team after his injury last year.  I also loved that the US changed tactics some in the 2nd half after a 1st half with no goals – they spread out more – used the wingers more and found a way to score 2 goals with the improved wing play.  Overall it was nice to see the US actually look like a coached team again.

Games this weekend for US Players overseas.  We’ll see if Christian Pulisic gets time after scoring a beautiful goal in a German Cup game this week – Dortmund faces Hoffenheim at home at 9:30 Sat on FS2 as they try to hold onto 1st place in the Bundesliga.  Of course Dortmund travel to Tottenham on Wed for Champions League play as well at 3 pm on BR Live – we’ll see if he gets a start in 1 of comes off the bench?  Fulhman and defender Tim Ream host a red hot Man United at 7:30 am on NBCSN before Liverpool faces Bournemouth at 10 am on NBCSN.  Weston McKennie continues to start and star for Schalke as they face Bayern Munich at 12:30 pm on Sat on FS2, while they face Man City on the 20th in Champions League play.  For those who have Fox Desportes – new RB Leipzig American sensation Tyler Adams a starter of 3 straight wins for the Red Bulls will host US Defender John Brooks and Frankfurt at 9;30 am on Sat as well.  Sunday gives us American Youngster Forward Josh Stewart, who has come off the bench for 6 of the last 7 games for Werder Bremen hosting Ausburg at 9:30 am on FS1.  On NBCSN Sunday Tottenham will host Leicester City at 9 am, while Man City hosts Chelsea for the big EPL game of the weekend at 11 am on NBCSN.  Finally Monday we get Deandre Yedlin and New Castle traveling to Wolverhampton at 3 pm on NBCSN.

EL CLASSICO, MADRID DERBY, CHAMP LEAGUE

El Classico 1 was well – just a Copa Del Rey game and you could tell.  Barcelona left a slightly injured Messi on the bench until the 70th minute, Bale came on too as both teams threw their stars in to try to steal a win but the 1-1 start stayed even as Real Madrid tried to steal the lead on the road while the Barca fans were disappointed.  Both teams used back-up keepers (by the way I don’t know how Kaylar Navas is not the starter – he had like 3 spectacular saves and the goal was not his fault).  Either way anytime we get extra Classico’s its good – the return leg at the Bernabeau on Feb 27th.   Meanwhile Real Madrid must ready for the Madrid Derby vs 2nd in the La Liga Table Atletico Madrid this Sat at 10:15 am on beIN Sport. Which by the way I must say – god bless beIN Sport and their coverage of both La Liga and the Spanish Cup games – its so nice to be able to watch the games on TV and not have to pay an extra fee to get it.  (I know I pay the $10 sports fee package which gives me beIN Sport and 15 other sports channels – but with BR LIVE taking Champions League and ESPN+ stealing the FA Cup, Italian League, and German Cup games – on a pay for watch only formats not on TV – well it SUCKS!  And the new word is the New CONCACAF Nations League games featuring the US Men’s National Team has been sold to some online group I have never heard of.  I will NOT pay money to watch the US Men play online only.  Honestly I can’t express how much I miss Fox Sports TV Coverage of Champions League over the past few years.  Sometimes as many as 4 games on 4 different channels, the games replayed over and over all night.  I know many fans don’t like Big Red Alexi Lalas, and who can forget or forgive FOX for trying to force FOX lead announcer Gus Johnson on us that season trying to call Real Madrid vs Juventus –but man it beats the hell out of what is happening now.  I have no idea how or where I am watching next week’s big Champions League Games. Top 16 teams in the World and we get to miss 8 of them each week on Live TV – really TICKS ME OFF!!  If they don’t show Liverpool or Dortmund I am going to really be upset.  Anyway we get a revitalized and suddenly competitive Man United hosting Paris St Germain on Tuesday at 3 pm on TNT as PSG is Neymar-less for this first game.  Then Wed we get hopefully Tottenham (- an injured Harry Kane) vs Dortmund and hopefully a substituting American Christian Pulisic at 3 pm on TNT.  But probably it will be that exciting new group from Ajax hosting Defending Champions Real Madrid on TNT and I will be scrambling online to find Univision Desportes so I can watch Dortmund for Free – Man this Stinks!!

Tues, Feb 19  

3 pm TNT                    Liverpool vs Bayern Munich CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm Uni Desportes      Lyonnais vs Barcelona

Wed, Feb 20  

3 pm TNT                   Schalke (McKinney) vs Man City CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm BR Live/Uni Des     Athletico Madrid vs Juventus

 INDY 11

The Indy 11 bounce back onto the scene next week with their first pre-season game at Grand Park this weekend and an offer to Join the Indy 11 as they show the City’s Love for Soccer to the Indiana Legislature on Thurs at 11 am -1 pm downtown at the Statehouse with Free Lunch for fans wishing to attend.  The 11 have signed some exciting new players including some standout’s from last season’s USL Champion FC Cincinnati who didn’t make the cut for the team joining the MLS this season.  Also learn about the new ownership group and huge plans for a new stadium complex below.  Of course the Indy 11 season opener is Saturday night, March 30th – make your plans now to be there!!

Indy11Statehouse

Free Lunch for fans at the State House

USA

Lessons from Berhalter’s 1st Month as US Manager – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Berhalter wanted more Aggressive US vs Costa Rica – Jeff C – ESPNFC

Player Rankings vs Costa Rica – Jason Davis ESPNFC

Lletget Goal and Assist in Win vs Costa Rica

Lletget Vanquishes Demons in US Win over Costa Rica – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US vs Costa Rica – What We learned – Stars and Stripes

Five thoughts on USA vs Costa Rica – Stars and Stripes

USA vs. Costa Rica, 2019 friendly: SSFC Player Rating s Man of the Match

Tim Weah scores, assists in Celtic win

WORLD & Champions League  

Champions League Predictions – Mark Odgen ESPNFC

Improved Real Madrid pushes Barca to Draw in 1st Leg of Copa Classico – SI

Has Neymar Fulfilled Potential ?  Gab Marcotti ESPNFC

Why Abolishing the Away Goal Rule is the Way to Go – SI Jon Wilson

Big Clubs Lack Respect over VAR Talks as VAR Sets in for Final 16 of UCL

PSG Must Recover from Jan before Clash with Man United

PSG Thoughts on United Ahead of Big Clash

Manual Neuer Still Unsure as Bayern Ready for Liverpool

Champions League Needs to Change Format – ESPNFC old story

EPL

What to Watch For EPL – Weekend – EPSNFC

Liverpool Lack of Depth Starting to hurt their EPL Bid mark Odgen EPSNFC

Klopp on Title Pressure – We are Fine

Man City Need Aguero to Keep Scoring to catch Liverpool

Man City’s Ability to Score Makes Them Legit for Title Race – Michael Cox ESPNFC

Hazard Says He’s Made a Decision Where He Will Play Next Year – Won’t Tell

Black Cat Wanders the Pitch at Everton Game

Indy 11

 Date And Time

Thu, February 14, 2019

11:00 AM – 1:00 PM EST

Please join us for a lunch with legislative leaders, Indy Eleven players, and the Indiana soccer community.By joining us – and helping us spread the word, we can show Indiana leaders that soccer is the globe’s most popular sport and the world’s game needs a permanent home in our state.Please RSVP today so that we can adequately track attendees and be able to plan for a fun event.Complimentary lunch will be provided by Indy Eleven 

Click Here to Register to Come and Enjoy Free Lunch Provided by Indy 11

Indy 11 Pre-Season Schedule at Grand Park

Indy 11 Announces Ownership Group of from Around Indiana

Indy 11 Proposes $550 Million Development that Includes 20K Seat Stadium – IBJ

Full Schedule Released

Indy 11 Signs USL Leading Scorer Thomas Enevoldsen

Indy 11 Signs USL Championship All time Leading Scorer DC United’s Dane Kelly

Flex 8 Pack Ticket is Back

Season Tickets Just over $100

MLS

Columbus Saved the Crew from Moving – Now What

Toronto Signs US Striker Terrence Boyd from Germany

MLS Spoiling Start of IU Defender Andrew Gutman’s  Pro Career with Celtic

GAMES ON TV

Sat, Feb 9

7:30 am NBCSN                     Fulham (Ream) vs Man United

9;30 am FS2                            Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Hoffenheim

10 am NBCSN                        Liverpool vs Bournemouth

10:15 am beIN Sport          Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid (Madrid Derby) 

Sun, Feb 10  

9 am NBCSN              Tottenhan vs Leicester City

9:30 am FS2                  Werder Bremen (Stewart) vs FC Ausburg

11 am NBCSN            Man City vs Chelsea

12 noon ESPN2            Sassuolo vs Juventus

2:45 pm beIn Sport      Athletic Club vs Barcelona

Mon, Feb 11  

3 pm NBCSN              Wolverhampton vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

Tues, Feb 12  

3 pm TNT                   Man United vs PSG  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm BR Live                AS Roma vs FC Porto

Wed, Feb 13  

3 pm TNT                   Ajax vs Real Madrid  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm BR Live??           Tottenham vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

Tues, Feb 19  

3 pm TNT                    Liverpool vs Bayern Munich CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm Uni Desportes      Lyonnais vs Barcelona

Wed, Feb 20  

3 pm TNT                   Schalke (McKinney) vs Man City CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm BR Live/Uni Des     Athletico Madrid vs Juventus

Sun, Feb 24  

9 am NBCSN              Man United vs Liverpool

9:30 am FS1                  Hannover vs Frankfurt

10:15 am beIN sport    Athletico Madrid vs Villarreal

11:30 am ESPN+         Chelsea vs Manchester City – League Cup

12 noon FS2                 Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Bayer Leverkusen

2:45 pm beIn Sport      Levante vs Real Madrid

Mon, Feb 25  

2:30 pm FS2                 RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Hoffenheim

Wed, Feb 27  

2:45 pm NBCSN         Chelsea vs Tottenham

3 pm  beIN Sport        Real Madrid vs Barcelona – Copa Del Rey El Classico’   

7 pm Fox Sport 1         USA Ladies vs Japan  – She Believes Cup

Sat, Mar 2

7:30 am NBCSN                     Tottenham vs Arsenal

9;30 am FS2                            Schalke (McKinney) vs Dusseldorf

10 am NBCSN                        Man United vs Southampton

12:30 pm NBCSN                  West Ham vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

12:30 pm FS2                         Borussia Mgladbach (Johnson) vs Bayern Munchen

2:45 pm beIN Sport            Real Madrid vs Barcelona El Classico

4 pm Fox                                USA Ladies vs England – She Believes Cup

8 pm Fox Sports 1                  La Galaxy vs Chicago Fire  MLS

10 pm Fox Sports 1               Seattle Sounders vs FC Cincy MLS

Sun, Mar 3

7:30 am NBCSN                     Watford vs Leicester City

9 am FS2                                 Schalke (McKinney) vs Dusseldorf

9 am NBCSN                          Fulham (Ream) vs Chelsea

11:15 am NBCSN                  Everton vs Liverpool  

12:30 pm FS2                         Wolfsburg vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

2:30 pm ESPN+                      Napoli vs Juve

6 pm Fox Sports 1                 DC United (Rooney) vs Atlanta United (Martinez) MLS

8:30 pm ESPN                       Los Angeles FC vs Sporting KC  

TuesMar 5                             Champions League

3 pm TNT                              Ajax 1 vs Real Madrid 2 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm BR Live/Uni Desp       Dortmund (Pulisic) 1 vs Tottenham 3  

7 pm Fox Sports 1                USA Ladies vs Brazil – She Believes Cup

Weds, Mar 6  

3 pm TNT                               PSG vs Man United  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm BR Live                        FC Porto vs AS Roma

Fri, March 8  

2:30 pm FS2                          Werder Breman (Stewart) vs Schalke (McKinney)  

10 pm ESPN+                          USL Seattle Sounders 2 vs Rio Grande Valley

Champions League predictions: Manchester United to beat PSG? Liverpool lose?

4:00 AM ETMark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

The path to the 2019 Champions League final in Madrid has become clear following the draw for the round of 16, which has thrown together some of Europe’s biggest clubs.Heavyweight clashes between Liverpool and Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid and Juventus, and Ajax and Real Madrid ensure that some of the most successful clubs in the game will be facing elimination at the first knockout stage.The draw has been kinder to leading contenders such as Manchester City and Barcelona, but who will come out on top when the Champions League resumes?

SCHALKE vs. MANCHESTER CITY

It might lack glamour, but Manchester City’s pairing with Schalke is a dream draw for the Premier League champions.Schalke, who qualified as runners-up behind Porto in Group D, are languishing in the bottom half of the Bundesliga, having won just six league games all season. Coach Domenico Tedesco has a squad low on the quality needed to worry City, so this tie should be a formality for Pep Guardiola’s team.Leroy Sane will return to Germany to face his former club, and it really should be a happy homecoming for the City winger in what is likely to be a mismatch. As for omens, City’s only European title — the 1970 Cup Winners’ Cup — came after beating Schalke en route to the final.

Who will go through? Manchester City

ATLETICO MADRID vs. JUVENTUS

Arguably the tie of the round sees two of the Champions League’s unluckiest clubs collide. Atletico and Juventus have each reached, and lost, two finals during the past decade and both have pushed the boat out financially to ensure that 2019 is their year.Atletico, who host the final at their own Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, brought in Diego Costa, though he has suffered from poor form and injury, as well as Thomas Lemar and Alvaro Morata. They also retained the services of Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godin. Juventus gambled heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo and also brough Leonardo Bonucci back to the club after a year in Milan.This tie is very close to call. Both possess outstanding defences, terrific work rate and quality forwards, but Atletico’s determination to play in their own final might just swing things in their favour.

Who will go through? Atletico Madrid

MANCHESTER UNITED vs. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

When the draw was made in mid-December, this tie threatened to be the biggest mismatch of the round, with Manchester United in crisis and PSG cruising at the top of Ligue 1, having won their qualification group ahead of Liverpool and Napoli.But within 24 hours of the pairing being made, Jose Mourinho was sacked by United, whose subsequent revival under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given them real hope of success against the French champions. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have been two of the big beneficiaries.PSG, meanwhile, have been beset with problems. Neymar will miss both legs because of injury, as might Edinson Cavani, Adrien Rabiot continues to be overlooked because of a contract dispute and there are fitness concerns over Marco Verratti. A 2-1 Ligue 1 defeat at Lyon on Feb. 3 also dented confidence.

Who will go through? Manchester United

TOTTENHAM vs. BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Tottenham made it into the knockout stages only after a final-day draw against Barcelona in the Camp Nou earned second spot in Group B for Mauricio Pochettino’s team and the subsequent pairing with Dortmund, who they beat twice in last season’s group stage, looked give them a route to the quarterfinals.Despite Lucien Favre’s team topping the Bundesliga, the Premier League side appeared to have the edge, but injuries to Harry Kane and Dele Alli will rule the England pair out of the first leg and could also see them miss the return game in Germany. Dortmund, meanwhile, boast attacking quality that includes Jadon Sancho.This tie is now a tough one to call, but although Spurs appear slight favourites on current form, will it be enough?

Who will go through? Tottenham

LYON vs. BARCELONA

Barcelona still regard last season’s Champions League as a missed opportunity after being humiliated by Roma in the quarterfinals, crashing out after a 3-0 defeat in the Stadio Olimpico. But their mission to make amends by winning this season’s competition in Madrid has been boosted by the pairing with Lyon, who will see qualification for this stage as success in itself.Lyon beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium and drew with the English champions in France during the group stage, but they will be heavy underdogs against Lionel Messi & Co.Barcelona’s biggest danger will not be the unpredictable talents of Lyon’s Memphis Depay; it will be the threat of complacency. But after the defeat in Rome last season, don’t expect them to fall short again.

Who will go through? Barcelona

AJAX vs. REAL MADRID

A real clash of European heavyweights, with the reigning champions Real coming up against Erik ten Hag’s resurgent Ajax team.Ajax emerged as runners-up behind Bayern Munich in Group E and did so with an unbeaten record, despite the inexperience of their team. Matthijs de Ligt (19) and Frenkie de Jong (21) are the young stars driving Ajax back to prominence, with the experienced Dusan Tadic netting eight goals in 12 European games this season.Real, meanwhile, have been poor in defence of their trophy, with managerial upheaval and the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo hitting them hard. They qualified as group winners, despite losing twice to CSKA Moscow, and should have the pedigree to beat this young Ajax team, but don’t rule out the Dutch outfit.

Who will go through? Real Madrid

LIVERPOOL vs. BAYERN MUNICH

A tie worthy of the final, with both clubs possessing the pedigree to target success in Madrid.Bayern have been inconsistent under Niko Kovac, however, with the perennial German champions five points adrift of leaders Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. They will be without Thomas Muller for the first leg at Anfield following his red card against Ajax, although Liverpool will also miss the suspended Virgil van Dijk in that game.Liverpool top of the Premier League and will be favourites on current form, with former Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp relishing a return to Germany. But it is a tough draw for both teams and the pendulum could swing back toward Bayern, who are unlikely to be fazed by the Anfield atmosphere in the first leg.

Who will go through? Bayern Munich

ROMA vs. PORTO

Roma are struggling in sixth position in Serie A, but have great experience throughout their squad and memories of last season’s run to the last four should make them slight favourites in this tie.Porto are difficult to gauge, having qualified as winners of the weakest group ahead of Schalke, Galatasaray and Lokomotiv Moscow, but they top their domestic league and are still unbeaten in Europe this season. In Moussa Marega, they have a forward in Champions League form, with five goals in six games.

Who will go through? Roma

Indy Eleven proposes $550 million development that includes stadium

January 10, 2019   Mickey Shuey

IBJ Podcast: Will a $550M, mixed-use development help Indy Eleven win funding for a stadium?

January 21, 2019

Ideas abound on where to put Indy Eleven soccer stadium

January 18, 2019

Eleven Park would include a 20,000-seat stadium, a boutique hotel, retail and office space and about 600 apartments. (Rendering courtesy of Indy Eleven)

The Indy Eleven on Thursday unveiled a proposal for a $550 million mixed-use real estate district that would include a 20,000-seat outdoor soccer stadium as the team continues its quest to join Major League Soccer.The project includes a financing plan that would require action from the City-County Council and the Legislature. Team owner Ersal Ozdemir told IBJ that the club is working with the city of Indianapolis and the Capital Improvement Board to create detailed plans for the public-private development.Ozdemir said he envisions the development, called Eleven Park, as a “transformational urban project” within the city. Plans for the district include lodging, office and retail space, public spaces, an underground parking structure and apartments. The focus, Ozdemir said, is to create a long-term, sustainable home for soccer in Indianapolis.“We wanted to make a major impact, not just a stadium,” he said. “Whether you like sports or not, it’s hard to argue with this project because of (what it involves).”Ozdemir said discussions with city and state officials have included where the development would best be located, noting there are “several sites in downtown Indianapolis” and one elsewhere that are viewed as good fits for the team. He declined to share the locations but said the team hopes to finalize the selection soon.The proposed stadium, slated to be ready for the 2022 season opener, would be surrounded by multiple apartment and office buildings, offering tenants views of the field from their windows.  The development is expected to include 600 apartments, more than 100,000 square feet of retail space, 150,000 square feet of office space and a 200-room boutique hotel. The office space would be geared toward technology-driven companies and already has received interest from undisclosed multiple parties, according to Ozdemir.  Ozdemir, who owns the Indianapolis construction and development firm Keystone Group, said the stadium design allows for future expansion if the team’s fan base continues to grow or if MLS increases its minimum stadium capacity, which currently is 20,000.He said the stadium would include a section specifically for team fan club Brickyard Battalion, designed for fans who generally spend the entire game on their feet.  Melina Kennedy, president of the CIB, said her group “generally supports” the Eleven Park concept.“The CIB applauds Indy Eleven for looking ahead to future needs and taking a developer-led approach to protect taxpayers and support their vision to integrate the sports experience into the overall community development efforts for the state,” she said in a written statement.

Funding the project

Kennedy wasn’t available to discuss the proposed financial structure of the project, which differs from those used to build Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse, largely because the Eleven plan includes adjacent development that could generate tax revenue to help pay for the project. Like both of those stadiums, the Eleven proposal would redirect tax revenue to fund construction. The Eleven Park proposal calls for enactment of new Professional Sports Development Area, or PSDA, and tax-increment financing district overlays limited to the park’s boundaries, as well as a 10 percent ticket tax.The overlays would capture all tax revenue generated within the district for the purpose of funding construction of the stadium.Developer-backed bonds would be issued to pay for the stadium, which is estimated to cost $150 million. Tax overlays on revenue generated by the rest of the development, which would be funded with $400 million in private investment, would be expected to cover payments on the bonds..The city would issue the bonds for the stadium and other public parts of the development (including parking and the plaza area) with the understanding that the team would cover any shortfalls. Developer-backed bonds have become a favored tool of Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration to help pay for major real estate projects.In a written statement, Taylor Schaffer, Hogsett’s deputy chief of staff, said: “Indy Eleven has continued to update the city on their work to construct a permanent home for their team, and we are encouraged by their current focus on a taxpayer-friendly strategy that is backed by private development.”She said the city remains “interested in the prospects and possibilities presented by a top-tier, financially sustainable professional soccer team in Indianapolis.”Under Ozdemir’s proposal, while much of the other development at Eleven Park would remain under the control of investors in the project, the stadium would be owned by the CIB and leased to the team. It also would be made available to high school, college and other professional soccer games.Ozdemir said the team is prepared to sign a long-term lease for the stadium and remain in Indianapolis, as well as commit to cover all operating costs for the stadium. The team’s headquarters and operations would move from its downtown and Westfield Grand Park offices to the new facility.The Eleven played its 2018 season in Lucas Oil Stadium on a rent-free basis. But Ozdemir said the stadium is too large to be a long-term solution. He pointed to difficulty in scheduling games and the desire for the team to have “a permanent home” in Indianapolis.

Approval process

Team representatives said they are working with legislative leaders on the Eleven Park project. It is unclear, however, which lawmakers are working on a bill.Ozdemir said public-input sessions would be held for the TIF district overlay, which would require approval by the Indianapolis City-County Council.State lawmakers would have to approve the creation of the PSDA for the district.State Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, said he’s interested in seeing the proposal but would be cautious about moving forward without having a specific site determined. He suggested having experts analyze potential locations to determine which could generate the biggest economic impact.“I think when you have a project of this size, we should make sure that we make an educated decision on where that’s going to go,” Moed said.But he doesn’t think that would delay lawmakers from voting on a bill this legislative session, which is scheduled to wrap up in April.A bill authorizing the Indy Eleven PSDA is expected to be filed in the Senate, but the issue could get folded into other legislation that would provide more funding for the Capital Improvement Board.Moed said his other concern is making sure most—if not all—of the investment risk is on the team, rather than taxpayers.“We need to make sure the deal is done right, so taxpayers are protected,” Moed said.

New approach

The Eleven Park proposal differs greatly from an unsuccessful pitch for a new stadium that the team rolled out in 2015, both in its funding and overall design. The previous proposal called for a publicly funded, $82 million freestanding stadium with few additional elements.The push, backed by several lawmakers and then-Mayor Greg Ballard, died in the General Assembly. An alternative proposal to renovate the Eleven’s home at the time—the Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium on the IUPUI campus—was shot down by the team.Sports business expert and consultant Mark Rosentraub said the Eleven’s new proposal, including its scope and funding mechanisms, is generally a good fit for the city, even if it doesn’t result in scoring an MLS franchise. The team moved to the Division 2 United Soccer League in 2018 after spending its first four years in the North American Soccer League. Its long-term goal is to play in the top-tier MLS.Rosentraub said one strength of the plan is that it doesn’t rely on much public funding, outside of what’s generated within the district itself.“This could fit well with the (city’s) plans,” said Rosentraub, a professor of sports business at the University of Michigan and a former professor at IUPUI. “That’s what you try to encourage; what you don’t want is to throw down a stadium that has nothing happening around it. … This project seems to do a lot more than that.”Professional soccer teams generally play 15 to 18 home games per season, meaning the stadium wouldn’t be a year-round traffic driver for the area, he said. The inclusion of apartments, retail and office space makes it a more viable project because the area wouldn’t be solely reliant upon soccer for revenue.However, Rosentraub expressed skepticism about Indianapolis’ ability to absorb another major sports franchise should a future MLS bid be successful.“I don’t know if the market can sustain three teams at the (highest) level,” he said. “The Indy Eleven right now is in a very sweet spot in the economy, when you think about … what the market can support.”Rosentraub said he would say the same thing if a proposal were made to replace the AAA Indianapolis Indians with a Major League Baseball team.He said that even if the Eleven remain indefinitely in the USL, the stadium project would be a boon for the team as it seeks to grow its fan base. The Eleven’s ticket sales have been on the rise, with crowds averaging more than 12,000 last year.

MLS hopes

Ozdemir has long said he doesn’t think the addition of another high-level sports franchise would hinder growth for other local teams. He also is confident there are enough soccer fans in central Indiana to make an MLS squad here viable.As part of his quest to land an MLS franchise, Ozdemir has sought to bring in other investors. An announcement is expected within months on a new investor group for both the team and the Eleven Park development. (Nate Feltman, a shareholder in IBJ Corp., which owns Indianapolis Business Journal, is an adviser to Ozdemir but does not have a direct financial stake in the team.)The buy-in fee for an MLS franchise is around $200 million—a price Ozdemir has said he and investors in the team would be willing to pay. A bid by the team in 2017 fell short, and future bids are likely to face stiff competition, so it’s unclear how long the Eleven will have to wait to get another shot at the league.Before it missed out on landing a franchise two years ago, the Eleven announced a handful of new investors, though those commitments were never formalized. The announced backers included auto dealer Andy Mohr; Elwood Staffing President Mark Elwood; Heritage Environmental Services President Jeff Laborsky; and Mickey Maurer, a shareholder in The National Bank of Indianapolis and IBJ Corp.IBJ reporter Lindsey Erdody contributed to this story.

BREAKING NEWS | INDY ELEVEN ANNOUNCES OWNERSHIP GROUP

By IndyEleven.com, 01/24/19, 1:15PM EST

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Ownership group includes several successful state business, civic leaders

Indy Eleven Professional Soccer today announced it would expand its ownership structure from current sole owner; Ersal Ozdemir, to include business and civic leaders from across Indiana.  New investors will acquire shares in the Indianapolis-based United Soccer League Championship franchise. The additional owners will expand the team’s statewide profile. “To us, ‘World’s Game, Indiana’s Team’ is more than a motto, it is our mission,” said Ersal Ozdemir, owner and chairman of Indy Eleven. “By welcoming this successful group of business and civic leaders from across our great state to our team, we send a strong signal that Indy Eleven is a true Indiana success story that is poised for the next level.”
The ownership group additions include:

  • Brian Bauer, President, IU Health Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, Ind.
  • Don Gottwald, CEO and Chief Strategy Officer, KAR Auction Services, Inc., Carmel, Ind.
  • Shane Hageman, President, Hageman Group, Carmel, Ind., Indianapolis, Ind., Remington, Ind.
  • Jeffrey A. Laborsky, President and CEO, Heritage Environmental Services, Indianapolis, Ind.
  • Fred Merritt, President, LFM Investments, Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind., Carmel, Ind.
  • Quinn Ricker, President and CEO, Ricker Oil Company, Anderson, Ind.
  • Chris Traylor, Co-President, Traylor Bros., Inc & Representative of Traylor Family Capital, Evansville, Ind.

The ownership group announcement closely follows the appointment of top sports executive Greg Stremlaw as the team’s chief executive officer and the unveiling of Eleven Park, a transformative neighborhood development proposed to include office space, apartments, retail, a boutique hotel and public areas – all anchored by a 20,000 seat multi-purpose soccer stadium, of which Indy Eleven will be the primary tenant. Indy Eleven emphasized the value that the new investors will bring to the club.“Thanks to our dedicated fans, Indy Eleven grew out of its first facility and has set attendance records since moving to our current home at Lucas Oil Stadium,” said Stremlaw. “With these new investors, we will continue to strive toward offering a best-in-class experience for our fans, both in the stands and on the field.  We are lucky to have such distinguished business and civic leaders joining our team.” For one new member of the ownership group, the future is bright.I am excited to join the Indy Eleven family,” said Merritt. “Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and I am extremely proud to be able to be part of the team that will secure the future of soccer in Indiana for generations to come.” “I look forward to being a part of Indy Eleven and seeing the Eleven Park project grow,” said Laborsky. “It’s a project that will not only help cement soccer in the state of Indiana, but also create employment opportunities and improve quality of place in Indianapolis for families and businesses alike.”Those individuals and organizations being added to the ownership group are being given the opportunity to invest in the proposed Eleven Park development alongside Keystone Group, an Indianapolis-based real estate development, construction and investment company.  Additional investors are expected to be announced in the coming months.  The first match of Indy Eleven’s 2019 USL Championship season is scheduled for March 9 with the home opener scheduled for March 30 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Tickets are available by visiting IndyEleven.com.

Good Riddance: Why UCL Abolishing the Away-Goal Rule is the Way to Go

By JONATHAN WILSON February 08, 2019  SI

Friday, perhaps, a great unfairness will be removed from at least some of the sport’s premier competitions. There are no guarantees, and UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin was denying Thursday that it would happen, but there are indications that UEFA will vote to stop using the away-goals rule to settle two-legged ties that finish level on aggregate. If it does, it will mark the end of 55 years of an arbitrary rule that never made sense and never achieved what it set out to do, while repeatedly finishing ties prematurely.There are countless examples of games being destroyed by the away goals rule. Take, for sake of choosing a high-profile example, the Champions League semifinal between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in 2012. Bayern led 2-1 after the first leg. At the Bernabeu, Madrid attacked furiously from the start and scored twice in the opening 14 minutes. Bayern was then forced to attack and made it 3-3 on aggregate from a 27th-minute penalty–at which point, the game died. Bayern, as the away side, settled back to absorb pressure, and Madrid, terrified of conceding another away goal that would have meant it had to score twice, went into its shell. And so was laid bare the danger of a rule that means not all goals count equally.”I believe the tactical weight of the away goal has become too important,” Arsène Wenger said at a conference in 2008. “Teams get a 0-0 draw at home and they’re happy. Instead of having a positive effect, it has been pushed too far tactically in the modern game. It has the opposite effect than it was supposed to have at the start. It favors defending well when you play at home.”

WILSON: The Determining Factors for Eden Hazard’s Big Decision

It was true then and remains so now. Or take the example of a team that goes away from home and, in difficult circumstances, defends brilliantly before, with 30 seconds remaining, conceding a sloppy goal. Why is that side better off than one that does exactly the same but makes its mistake 30 seconds into the second leg? Why does drawing 0-0 at home at 1-1 away take you through when drawing 1-1 at home and 0-0 away puts you out? It’s entirely irrational.Ah, the apologists for the away-goals rule will say, but fewer goals are scored away, so you’re rewarding something that’s harder to do.

There are also fewer goals scored in the first half than the second: does anybody think we should decide drawn ties on first-half goals? (Which would, after all, encourage attacking play from the start.)Abolish the away-goals rule, its defenders say, and away teams will simply look to shut games down.

To which the only possible response is to ask whether they have actually watched a game in the past decade. Nobody can defend anymore. In part that’s because of the structure inequalities within the game that have meant elite sides rarely have to bother defending in domestic competition, but it’s also due to a series of enlightened law changes. The evolution of the offside law and the increasingly robust stance taken against intimidatory behavior and tactical fouling have made it almost impossible simply to shut games down. The problem has been addressed by looking at its causes, rather than cosmetically addressing the symptom, which was all the away-goals rule ever did.

WILSON: What’s Behind Neymar’s Series of Poorly Timed Injuries?

The away-goals rule was first introduced by UEFA in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965, primarily to do away with the need for match replays, which were costly and difficult to arrange. Given the penalty shootout had not yet been invented and the only alternative was tossing a coin, it probably seemed the least of the available evils. And back then, it made a certain sense. At the time, away teams won only 16% of European matches–around half the figure today. Travel was gruelling, conditions far less homogenous and often hostile for the away side. Damage limitation became the obvious strategy. In the European Cup in 1964-65, for instance, three of the 30 ties featured a first-leg advantage of two goals or more being overturned in the second leg. Trying to persuade an away team that it was better to lose 3-1 than 2-0 was probably a justifiable aim.It didn’t work. The away-goals rule was introduced over a three-year period in the European Cup, initially only for the early rounds, suggesting even those who first adopted the rule felt it was somehow a little disreputable. In the five seasons before the change, away teams averaged 1.20 goals per game in the European Cup; in the five seasons after, they averaged 1.05 goals.The away-goals rule isn’t merely anachronistic and arbitrary. It doesn’t merely randomize and spoil football. It not only has no relevance to the modern game–it never worked in the first place. Let it go.

Lessons from Berhalter’s first month as U.S. manager: Wing play will be key, Lima stands out

Feb 4, 2019Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

As January camps go, the 2019 edition invited significantly more scrutiny than any other in recent memory. It was elevated even when you compare it to two years ago, when Bruce Arena was returning for his second go-round and attempting to kick-start what would ultimately be a failed effort to qualify for the World Cup.This year, you had a manager (Gregg Berhalter) making his first foray into the international game. With that, there were questions about how he would go about implementing his style, the extent to which he would duplicate what he did when he was managing the Columbus Crew, and what players would emerge from the camp with their reputations enhanced. (After all, there are always a few.)More than anything, Berhalter and the players assembled were there to learn, and suffice to say, plenty of data points were on display for observers of the U.S. men’s team over the past month.Here’s what stood out.

  1. Berhalter’s tactical plan is taking root

Throughout January, Berhalter indicated that when it came to his tactical approach, there would be some familiar elements from his time at Columbus but some new wrinkles as well. Berhalter proved true to his word in friendlies against Panama and Costa Rica.There was an emphasis on flank play and against Costa Rica on Saturday, the likes of Paul Arriola and Jonathan Lewis excelled. But there was an added wrinkle of having right-back Nick Lima tuck inside next to whatever holding midfielder happened to be on the field that day. What ensued was a 4-4-2 when the U.S. was defending in its own half, and almost a 3-2-4-1 when possession was gained.Lima’s positioning when the U.S. had the ball also provided an extra body in midfield to help win possession back when the ball turned over. It also allowed Lima to jump into the attack when the opportunity presented itself. He had a highlight-reel sequence against Panama that saw him win the ball with a perfectly timed tackle and then deliver a pinpoint cross for Walker Zimmerman to head home. Against Costa Rica, Lima nearly bgged a goal when he hit the post with blast from outside the box.Defensively, there was nothing fancy as the U.S. looked rock-solid in both outings.Given that the U.S. appeared to be in stasis during the second half of 2018, the sight of Berhalter throwing out some tactical nuances is a welcome development. It will be interesting to see how things progress against tougher opponents.

  1. New candidates for the first XI

The January camp didn’t disappoint in terms of players emerging who could go on to play bigger roles in 2019. Lima, with his aggressive defending and sharp play in the attacking half, was arguably the month’s biggest winner but he wasn’t alone. The central defensive tandem of Aaron Long and Zimmerman was dependable throughout and while Matt Miazga is back getting playing time overseas — this time with Reading — the two put themselves in position to apply some pressure on the players in front of them.

On the wings, Lewis, Arriola and Corey Baird all had bright moments over the two games. In the center of midfield, Cristian Roldan was a positive two-way presence in both matches.

At the moment, it seems unlikely that these performances will result in a seismic change to the U.S. starting XI when the March friendlies roll around. But progress at international level is usually made in incremental steps, not quantum leaps. At least now there is some depth that Berhalter will feel more comfortable calling on should the need arise.

  1. There is creativity but it needs careful development

One of the concerns at the end of last year was the lack of creativity in the U.S. attack. While the quality of the opposition in the past two weeks wasn’t as formidable as what the U.S. faced last year, Djordje Mihailovic and Sebastian Lletget showed flashes of the kind of skill that this team needs if they are to compete.

Mihailovic performed well against Panama, suffered through a brutal first half against Costa Rica and then, like the rest of his teammates, rebounded in the second before being subbed off in the 63rd minute. Mihailovic made way for Lletget, who was an absolute difference-maker against the Ticos, getting a goal and an assist. Whether these players can push on to make bigger contributions will in large part depend on how they fare with their clubs. Mihailovic is still in the process of getting back to full strength following the torn ACL he sustained at the end of 2017. If he’s given the keys to the Chicago Fire attack in 2019, he’ll gain the kind of experience that can allow him to avoid the poor stretch he had in the first 45 against Costa Rica.Lletget has long been a player in search of a dedicated position, and one would think his skill on the ball would land him an attack-minded role. But the LA Galaxy midfield remains crowded. If he can find a way to stay on the field in 2019, he may yet play a bigger role under Berhalter.Meanwhile, Lewis showed how effective he could be coming off the bench but is another player who needs to earn more consistent playing time with this club. He only recorded 219 minutes last year with New York City FC; that will need to increase in order for him to make more headway with the national team.

  1. U.S. needs to better handle the press

While Panama were fairly easy to play against in terms of moving the ball out from the back, Costa Rica troubled the U.S. plenty with some aggressive midfield play.

The U.S. midfield, Wil Trapp in particular, wasn’t winning many midfield duels against the Ticos in the opening half. The good news is that the U.S. dealt with matters better after halftime. Whether that was due to Costa Rica getting tired, better play from the U.S., or some combination of the two is open to debate, but ultimately the home side carried much more of the play in the second half and were well worth the two goals scored. playWould the U.S. have played better against Costa Rica had Michael Bradley been on from the start? He certainly acquitted himself well against Panama though given the opponent, that should have been expected. Trapp, it must be said, was among those who upped his game in the second half vs. Costa Rica on Saturday, stretching the field with his long-range passing. Either way, how the U.S. fares against teams inclined to press will bear watching going forward.

  1. There’s reason for cautious optimism

Results of games at the conclusion of a January camp can invite false positives. In this case, the two opponents were far from full strength, but the same can be said of the U.S. team, and imagine the hue and cry if they had failed to prevail in both games.It’s also worth noting that the Berhalter era is still in its opening stages. As it should, the January camp served its purpose in terms of laying down a foundation regarding style, the environment and identifying some players who may have a future at the national team level.Most important of all, there is now an eagerness to see how quickly Berhalter is able to impart his philosophy when most of the full team convenes in March for games against Ecuador and Chile.

Paul Arriola a menace in 7/10 showing as U.S. beats Costa Rica

Feb 2, 2019Jason DavisU.S. soccer writer

Following a shaky first half against a quick, physical Costa Rican team, the United States improved in the second period, found a pair of late goals and closed out Gregg Berhalter’s first camp with a 2-0 victory over the Ticos at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California, on Saturday.

Positives

Although the Americans were not as dominant against Costa Rica as they were against Panama on Tuesday night, Berhalter’s team stayed the course, stuck to its tactics and eventually earned a deserved victory. The hosts handled themselves well enough defensively to ensure they could continue creating chances on the attacking end of the field.

Negatives

Whether it was the higher quality of opponent or the unshaken rust on players still working back to full sharpness, the U.S. did not play well in the first half. Neither of the advanced midfielders, Djordje Mihailovic nor Cristian Roldan, shined in the opening 45 minutes. It required the introduction of a pair of substitutes to push the Americans forward and help secure a win.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — Two victories in two games is an excellent way for Berhalter to start his U.S. head-coaching tenure, regardless of how they came. His tactical approach wasn’t as obviously successful in this match as it was against Panama, but the continued entrenchment of his ideas in a victory can be chalked up as a positive. Again, his substitutes made a significant difference, a credit to his plan.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating.)

GK Zack Steffen, 6 — Not much to do on the day. Provided strong distribution from the back and stayed calm under high pressure from Costa Rica.

DF Nick Lima, 6 — Helped the Americans take over the game in the second half. Hit the post with shot in the 54th minute. Less involved centrally than against Panama.

DF Walker Zimmerman, 6 — Played simple defensively; was aggressive with his passing from the back. Failed to connect longer passes at a high rate. Had several important clearances.

DF Aaron Long, 5 — Shaky with the ball. Stepped into midfield to both good and bad effect, putting pressure on Costa Rica with the Ticos in possession.

DF Daniel Lovitz, 4 — Slow and indecisive in possession under pressure, with a pair of poor turnovers. Struggled to commit a necessary tactical foul after Costa Rica moved to counter.

MF Wil Trapp, 6 — Drastically improved after halftime, particularly with distribution. Sprayed the ball into space to help set up chances for the U.S. Key in the buildup to the goal.

MF Djordje Mihailovic, 5 — Improved in the second half after struggling in the first 45 to make space matter under the forward line. Played an excellent ball wasted in the end, provided decent set-piece service.

MF Cristian Roldan, 5 — Quiet and uninvolved for most of the first half. Improved with the rest of team in the second half. Missed an excellent chance in the 51st minute and hit the post with a good shot 14 minutes later.

FW Paul Arriola, 7 — A menace on the wing with stretches on both sides of the field. Consistently the most dangerous American until Sebastian Lletget’s entry, rewarded with a goal in the 88th minute.

FW Corey Baird, 5 — Relatively limited playing high up the field on the right side. Lacked the touch to turn a couple of good passes from teammates into chances.

FW Gyasi Zardes, 5 — Showed plenty of industry and provided a decent holdup option through 78 minutes. Lacked the necessary technique to turn touches into danger. Good on the defensive side of the ball.

Substitutes

MF Sebastian Lletget, N/R —Man of the match for the U.S., pressing space and providing creative play after coming on in the 63rd minute. Crashed the back post for the opening goal in the 80th minute; assisted on the second eight minutes later.

FW Jonathan Lewis, N/R — Athleticism and crossing ability changed the attacking outlook. Hit the long cross to Lletget for the first goal.

FW Christian Ramirez, N/R — A few missed passes, had a few good touches. Flicked the ball on for Lletget that resulted in Arriola’s goal. A strong, 12-minute appearance.

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2/1/19 US Men Win Berhalter’s First Game, US vs Costa Rica Sat 3:30 Fox,

So new US coach Gregg Berhalter got off to a fine start as the US Men throttled an overmatched Panama squad 3-0 last weekend.  I thought the possession game of the US was solid with close to 70% possession and I thought the boys did a nice job of breaking down the settled in Panama defense with good movement and the 2 #10’s behind Zardes up front.  20 year old Chicago Fire player Djordje Mihailovic and Seattle’s Cristian Roldan played solid in the middle with Djordje Mihailovic scoring in his first ever US game and Roldan offering an assist and solid link-up play in the middle all game.  Old steady Michael Bradley playing as a true #6 was solid protecting the back 4 – who had few issues on the day.  Now this was a 3rd string Panama group but honestly this is 2nd or 3rd string US as well.  I thought both center backs Aaron Long and LAFCs Walker Zimmerman (goal scorer) played well.  Aaron Long, the surprise captain on this day, was especially strong in the back and played some solid balls forward.  While right back Nick Lima was just fantastic and deserved the man of the match award with an assist and stellar play.  This Sat 3 pm on FOX should give us a little better look as the Ticos of Costa Rica are bringing a little better team to the match.  The good news is the US under Berhalter seem’s to to have a plan and players who are trying to play out that plan.  Not something the US has done a lot of lately.  Got my finger’s crossed that continues.  Either way – we may have found some new young players in MLS to keep an eye on.

Sure was great to see Tyler Adams play so well for RB Leipzig last week and now we have another good young American to watch in Germany on Fox – especially since Pulisic is on the outs with Dortmund now.  Of course Pulisic will hopefully get some time against fellow American John Brooks of Frankfurt on Saturday at 9:30 am on Fox Sports 2, followed by Weston McKinney of Schalke facing Mgladback and Johnson at 12:30 on FS2.  The EPL gives us Tottenham hosting New Castle United and Yedlin at 7:30 am on Sat.  While Sunday gives us Man United at Leicester City on NBCSN at 9 am  and Man City vs Arsenal at 11:30 am on the same.  Liverpool travels to West Ham on Mon at 3 pm on NBCSN.  Of course the Madrid Derby featuring Atletico and Real Madrid is next Sat, Feb 3 at 10:15 am on beIN Sport and Champions League is back Feb 12/13.

USA

Highlights: New-look USA give Berhalter 1st win

US Might Now Make Drastic Changes for Sat Game vs Costa Rica – Geoff Lepper MLS.com

Envisioning USMNT European Players in Berhalters System – Avi Creditor SI

Why Bradley Remains a Top Option for Gregg Berhalter – Bobby Warsaw MLS

US Young Trio Ensures Behalter Era Starts off Right – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Berhalter Not Only US Man to Debut Well – Avi Creditor SI

US Player Ratings – Jason Davis- ESPNFC

US Player Ratings – Greg Seltzer MLS.com

Armchair Analyst – Initial Look at Berhalter’s Unusual Tactical System – Matt Doyle MLS

US Had a Plan under Berhalter – Charles Boehm -MLS

MLS Defender of Year – Aaron Long Named Captain in Game Sunday

Bradley Not Fazed by Captaincy Snub – Jeff Carlisle

Why Can’t US Pick its Best Players – Stars & Stripes

WORLD

Neymar out 10 Weeks to Miss Champions League

Neymar’s Pattern of Poorly Timed Injuries and the Star’s Level of Culpability – Jonathan Wilson SI

MLS

Toronto’s former League MVP Sebastian Giovinco forced out

Newcastle Signs Atlanta’s Almiron for 20 million

US Defender Matt Polster Joins Gerrard’s Rangers from Chicago Fire

FC Cincinatti Ties First Pre-Season Match

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Feb 1 

2:30 pm Fox Sport2             Hertha vs RB Leipzig (Tyler Adams)

Sat, Feb 2

9:30 am FS1                    Frankfurt (Brooks) vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

12:30 pm FS2?                Schalke (Mckinney) vs Borrusia MGladbach (Johnson)

12:30 beIn Sport             Barcelona vs Valencia

2:30 pm ESPN+                Juventus vs Parma

3:30 pm Fox    USA Men vs Costa Rica

Sun, Feb 3  

9 am NBCSN               Leicester City vs Man United  

11:30 am NBCSN        Man City vs Arsenal  

2 pm ESPN+                 Roma vs Milan

3 pm beIN Sport         Lyonnais vs PSG  

Mon, Feb 4 

3 pm NBCSN                 West Ham vs Liverpool

Sat, Feb 9

7:30 am NBCSN                     Fulham (Ream) vs Man United

9;30 am FS2                            Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Hoffenheim

10 am NBCSN                        Liverpool vs Bournemouth

10:15 am beIN Sport          Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid (Madrid Derby) 

Sun, Feb 10  

9 am NBCSN              Tottenhan vs Leicester City

11 am NBCSN            Man City vs Chelsea

2:45 pm beIn Sport      Athletic Club vs Barcelona

Mon, Feb 11  

3 pm NBCSN              Wolverhampton vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

Tues, Feb 12  

3 pm TNT                   Man United vs PSG  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Wed, Feb 13  

3 pm TNT                   Ajax vs Real Madrid  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

3 pm ???                     Tottenham vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

Gregg Berhalter may not make drastic squad changes for USMNT on Saturday

January 29, 20197:07PM ESTGeoff LepperContributor

SAN JOSE, Calif. – If you tune into Gregg Berhalter’s second game as the US men’s national teamcoach expecting a drastically changed squad from the side that posted a 3-0 victory over Panama on Sunday, you may be in for a shock.As Berhalter finishes a near month-long stint with a group of young players lacking international experience, the former Columbus Crew SC boss does not feel a pressing need to get everyone some playing time against Costa Rica on Saturday afternoon at Avaya Stadium (3:30 pm ET | FS1).“We’ll mix guys in where appropriate,” Berhalter said Tuesday after his squad finished its first training session at the San Jose Earthquakes’ home. “I think our job is to continue to fine tune and continue to work on and develop our style of play. We may make some changes; we’ll see where everyone is physically.”To some extent, given that only four players came into camp with more than a half-dozen caps, anybody Berhalter puts on the field will be gaining invaluable experience. He gave action to seven debutants against Panama, starting five to match a modern era US record in previously set in 1992. That leaves D.C. United midfielder Russell CanouseColorado Rapids right back Keegan Rosenberry and Philadelphia Union defenders Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty still in search of their first caps.The aim is greater, however, than simply working in new blood in the wake of a disastrously failed 2018 World Cup qualification campaign. Berhalter is trying to lay the tactical groundwork the USMNT for years to come – which involves plenty of change for players coming into the system cold.“He’s definitely asking a lot, and there’s a lot of new things, new components [to] the way he wants us playing,” said US midfielder Corey Baird, one of the newcomers versus Panama. “I think everyone’s starting to understand the system more and more as we go.”That style included a new role given to right back Nick Lima, who pushed into central midfield when the US was on the attack, along with high-and-wide posts for wingers, to name two examples cited by Baird.“Those little tweaks that [Berhalter] has to try to open up space and open up gaps for different players in different areas of the field,” Baird said. “I think when everyone’s on the same page there, it can come off and work really well. It’s just about understanding your role and movements off the other guys behind you.”For Berhalter, growing that knowledge base is possibly the best thing he’s getting out of his first camp.“What we needed to see was progress,” Berhalter said. “We talked before the game. We said, ‘You’re not going to see a finished product from this game. But you should be able to see ideas. You should be able to see the beginning.’ That’s all we’ve asked from the players, the whole time. . . . And guys have been so open, the guys have progressed virtually every day. We’ve gotten better, and that’s been good to see.”

Warshaw: Why Michael Bradley remains a top option for Gregg Berhalter

January 29, 20191:47PM ESTBobby Warshaw

In case you missed it, Michael Bradley started an played 84 minutes for the US men’s national team in the first game of the Gregg Berhalter era on Sunday night. I thought he played well.As per usual with Bradley, though, his performance led to polarized opinions.

“Djordje Mihailovic looked amazing!” – “I know, he could be the 10 we need!”

“And how about Nick Lima? He could push Yedlin for the right back spot.” – “Absolutely!”

“And Michael Bradley was class!” – “SETTLE DOWN, it was Panama’s C team!”

’m not here to discuss whether Michael Bradley is good at soccer. I’m not here to discuss whether Michael Bradley should be held accountable for any sins. Those conversations make me want to send tweets that would get me fired. I’m here to say that Michael Bradley’s skill set fits with how Berhalter wants to play, and it/he will – and should – be an important part of Berhalter’s plan going forward.Bradley offers something that nobody else in the player pool can provide. Bradley has the most chill on the ball. The game moves slower for him. When he has a defender on his back or the midfield is crowded, he doesn’t panic.A refreshing and frustrating thing about soccer is that there’s almost always an option out of trouble. When players review film to (hopefully) improve upon their mistakes, they can generally find the pass they should have made. They didn’t notice the option in the moment, usually because they got frazzled. A defender nipping at your heels will do that to you.It’s not about having the first touch ability to make the move or pass, it’s about having the awareness; staying calm enough to evaluate the situation.

Michael Bradley in #USAvPAN:

84 minutes
83 touches
73/76 (96%) passes
1 key pass
5 recoveries
2 tackles
2 clearances
1 interception

Unsurprisingly excellent performance. Clean and precise passing, dictated possession, timely defensive interventions when needed.#USMNT #MB90

st touch. But it all molds into one general concept: Staying chill under pressure. At which Bradley is still king in our player pool.And if you want to play a possession style and build from the back, you have to have that player.Possession allows a team to pull the defense to a certain area of the field, then hit them in the spaces they vacated. To do that, you have to make the opposition think they can win the ball. You have to put your own players in tough situations. Otherwise, the defenders won’t pressure the ball and leave their zones. You have to be willing to play passes that you might lose.Michael Bradley is still the best at not losing those balls.He’s better at it than Wil Trapp, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Russell Canouse or any other top defensive midfielder in the pool. Bradley is the most calm with the ball under pressure.You could argue about other parts of Bradley’s game. He doesn’t transition to his defensive duties particularly well anymore (though Sunday’s game against Panama was a renaissance for him at it) and he doesn’t win duels as effectively as he used to. He might have lost a step, as well.But he still offers the superior characteristic at one of the most vital components of Berhalter’s playing style. If you want Berhalter to play a possession style, involving courage and moxie and keeping the ball on the ground through pressure, you should want Michael Bradley in the team.

Young trio’s performances ensure Gregg Berhalter era starts off right

Jan 28, 2019   Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. — For the past two-and-a-half weeks, manager Gregg Berhalter has been building a foundation with the U.S. men’s national team. It’s a process that is 100 percent necessary, though it doesn’t always make for compelling viewing. It’s a process that at times consists of missed passes and blown assignments.Yet on Sunday, the U.S. managed to not only begin the Berhalter era on a winning note, defeating Panama, 3-0, but it also had some bright moments. There were strong performances over much of the field, but of note were a trio of players making their international debuts. Djordje Mihailovic looked bright in a free attacking role, and scoring the first of the evening. Corey Bairddelivered the assist on Mihailovic’s goal, and was a consistent threat on the right wing. Defender Nick Lima was sharp throughout on both sides of the ball.The role of Lima was the most interesting. His defensive duties were that of a standard right back. But when the U.S. transitioned into attack he played as an auxiliary midfielder, moving up and tucking inside to provide support to Michael Bradley. Lima’s position allowed him to pounce on loose balls, and keep plenty of plays alive. It also allowed him to play-make a bit. It was Lima’s pass that found Zardes in the 40th minute, and while the forward appeared to be bowled over by a Panama defender, the ball fell to Baird whose perfectly timed pass allowed Mihailovic to fire home with the help of a deflection. Lima then topped off his night with a stellar sequence, winning the ball to stifle a possible Panamanian counter, and then delivering a stellar cross for Walker Zimmerman to head home for the home side’s second goal.

When asked to describe his role, Lima laughed and said, “Different,” given how his responsibilities were much broader than those of a typical right back.”There were times when I felt really comfortable with it,” he said. “But there were also times where I’m sliding across, getting into the middle, getting deep. We’re looking to switch point of attack and get out the other way, find our [No.] 10s, find our wingers. It’s different, it takes a lot of learning, getting used to. Clearly I’m not used to it. It’s still new, but it’s a learning process. I think for going out in our first test in a real game, we found some things we definitely need to work on, and things that can work and we can build on going forward.”Lima was one of five players making their international debuts, and he admitted that there was the usual amount of nerves beforehand. But a phone call with San Jose Earthquakes teammate Chris Wondolowski helped him focus.”[Wondolowski] said, ‘When you hear that national anthem for the first time, think of all the hard work, the trainings, everything that got you here, then soak it in, and just do you,'” Lima said. “Hearing that from a guy whose done it at the highest level, multiple times, it gave me a sense of calm. And I think that’s what I’ve been trying to here, just be myself. I’m not going to make it being someone I’m not. If I want to be here, I’ll play the best as being Nick Lima.”Lima was by no means alone in acquitting himself well on his debut. Mihailovic, who is just 15 months removed from a torn ACL in his right knee, has dazzled the coaching staff in training camp, and excelled in a formation in which both he and Cristian Roldan — who also sharp on the night — acted as dual attacking midfielders.”I think it was a [testament] to all my hard work,” said Mihailovic about this goal. “And I think Gregg and [GM Earnie Stewart’s] belief in me helped get to where I am now.”

It’s worth noting that the U.S. was up against a Panama side that was even more inexperienced than the home side. The combined number of caps on the Canaleros‘ roster amounted to just 81. Only two players from the roster that competed in last summer’s World Cup played on Sunday, that being defender Fidel Escobar and forward Abdiel Arroyo.But the U.S. had to start somewhere, and it delivered the kind of performance one might have expected from a Berhalter-coached group. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the U.S. dominated possession to the tune of 64.8 percent to 35.2 percent. The midfield, with Bradley looking composed in a holding role, was in control for the vast majority of the match. The home side created most of the chances, though it needed a superb save from Zack Steffen in the 56th minute to preserve the U.S. lead. Along the way, the U.S. threw out some tactical wrinkles — Lima’s role in particular that reveal Berhalter is putting his stamp on things in a way that is different from his time in Columbus.In the big picture, what does the result mean? The reality is not much. Lima isn’t going to supplant, say, a DeAndre Yedlin when the full squad gets together. Nor is Mihailovic going to take Christian Pulisic’s place anytime soon. But building a foundation isn’t just about tactics, or the culture around the team. It’s about establishing some depth, and creating a level of understanding in Berhalter’s methods. When those players might emerge — or be needed — to take on bigger roles is difficult to predict. Some will never get there. All the more reason to provide opportunities now. And for some of those on the field, Sunday’s match was the first of what will could be many more steps forward.

Berhalter’s Just One of USMNT’s Successful Debuts in Manager’s Opening Act

By AVI CREDITOR January 27, 2019  SI

Gregg Berhalter enjoyed a successful debut as manager, with the U.S. men’s national team handling Panama 3-0 with relative ease in their friendly Sunday night, officially kicking off a new era that has been over a year in the making.Djordje Mihailovic scored in the 40th minute, while Walker Zimmerman (80th) and Christian Ramirez (89th) put it away late in a match that just over 9,000 saw live at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Some of that atrocious attendance figure in a cavernous NFL stadium likely has to do with it being a January friendly, which isn’t typically played with any true stakes. There’s still surely a large segment of the U.S. soccer-watching population turned off by the events of the last couple of years, and that group is not going to be eager to shell out money to watch a friendly that doesn’t feature all of the program’s top options. The match also happened to fall on the same night in the Phoenix area as the WWE’s Royal Rumble, for whatever that’s worth.But winning is the greatest elixir for a fan base desperate for direction, success and a team it’s proud to watch, and so far it’s one win in one match for Berhalter as new leader of the USMNT.  Here are three thoughts on the game:

A DAY OF SOLID DEBUTS

Berhalter’s debut as manager was the most notable introduction of the night, of course, but he gave five U.S. players their international debuts from the start and two more off the bench. Of the newbies, Nick Lima was fantastic as a versatile right back and assisted on the USA’s second goal, while Mihailovic opened the scoring five minutes before halftime–on an assist from another debuting player, Real Salt Lake’s Corey Baird. Jonathan Lewis and Ramirez combined for the USA’s third, with the NYCFC winger torching his defender before crossing for the LAFC striker, who tapped home from six yards out five minutes after making his long-awaited international debut.”It’s just nice,” Berhalter said after the game of all the successful player debuts. “It’s nice to put in the work over an extended period of time and get a reward like that.”The two that were most eye-opening were Mihailovic and Lima. Mihailovic, a 20-year-old Chicago Fire midfielder who tore his ACL in October 2017, was seen as a bit of a surprise call-up, but Berhalter was effusive in his praise of Mihailovic’s performance in camp, and he rewarded him with a start as one of two attacking, central midfielders (Cristian Roldan, who was also excellent on the night, being the other). “He’s been one of the players that his line has just been going upwards,” Berhalter said. “If you look at some of the small things he does, you can tell how intelligent of a soccer player he is.”Lima was dynamite in a role that required a lot of energy, focus and attention to detail, and you get the sense that he’ll get another chance to play it under Berhalter’s watch. His tackle, recovery and assist to Zimmerman was somewhat reminiscent of Wayne Rooney’s highlight reel tackle-to-assist play in MLS last season (albeit without the lengthy tracking back element), and he also had a vital role in setting up the opener. He completed 32 of 39 passes (82%), was positionally sound in defense and transitioned well into the attack when called upon. The 24-year-old San Jose Earthquakes star was a clear winner on the night and takes that momentum into his home stadium for next weekend’s friendly vs. Costa Rica.

PLAYING WITH A PURPOSE

Berhalter has spoken since he took over about establishing a culture and a style of play that permeates throughout the program. The seeds of that were very clearly planted over the last few weeks in California and started to sprout vs. Panama.The U.S. enjoyed two-thirds of the possession, passed at an 87% clip and nearly doubled Panama in total passes (601-314). There was a very clear intent to press high and to press after losing possession, and it translated into a largely dominant match. There were two, maybe three pockets of time in which Panama seemed comfortable, one being in the opening minutes before any semblance of control was able to be taken, and the U.S. otherwise enjoyed a rare night on the front foot. This all comes with the massive caveat of it being a January friendly against a highly experimental Panama squad. Nobody is going to extrapolate the result from this match and conclude with the USA lifting a trophy in Qatar. But the early signs are promising.In terms of tactics, Berhalter’s squad transitioned back and forth between a 4-3-3 and a 3-2-2-3, with Lima pushing into central midfield next to Bradley when the U.S. was on the attack. Not all of the decisions were perfect, and not all of the execution was pinpoint, but that’s unrealistic considering it’s a squad of players in the midst of their club preseasons and trying to adapt to a new manager and style. The overall takeaway, though, was a match that presented some very legitimate building blocks. “What we’re trying to do is put players in positions that play to their strengths,” Berhalter said in his post-match remarks.It’s amazing how how often that statement went unheeded during the previous regime, and it’s not all that surprising that it can be an uplifting element for the players.

THERE’S NO CAPTAIN CONTROVERSY

The meaning and matchday influence of the captain’s armband is debatable. Sometimes, it’s a nominal honor. Other times it’s symbolic or used as a tribute. Other times it’s a true reflection of the leader of the unit. Being officially dubbed captain by the manager for the long haul is ultimately the biggest statement that can be made, but in terms of it being a game-to-game call while the new national team comes together, there’s not a ton that should be read into it.So in a vacuum, Aaron Long wearing the captain’s armband for a January camp friendly vs. a Panama B team isn’t that huge of a deal when it comes to the national team power structure (from a personal standpoint for Long, however, it’s another notch on his belt on his rise from afterthought to quality defender). But him doing so on a night when Michael Bradley, the former captain, was also in the starting lineup was cause to raise more than one eyebrow.If anything, it’s a sign from Berhalter that past status means little. He left his former captain in Columbus, Wil Trapp, on the bench until the 84th minute, for instance. As it relates to the big picture, Long donning the armband instead of Bradley is not going to be a takeaway that resonates throughout the national team for months to come, nor was it anything more than a footnote on the night, but it is another reminder that Berhalter is out to truly start from scratch by doing things his way. Berhalter, in his comments after the match, said that he discussed the decision with Bradley and didn’t “look at it as a knock against anyone else” who did not wear the armband. Instead, he saw it as a reward for the competitiveness he witnessed from Long throughout camp.Oh, and as for Bradley, he was pretty strong in his 83 minutes on the night, even without an extra piece of cloth around his bicep. He was 72 for 75 passing (96%), played in a pair of incisive balls to Roldan that put the U.S. in scoring positions and looked quite comfortable doing what Berhalter asked of him.

Envisioning USMNT’s European-Based Players in Gregg Berhalter’s System

By AVI CREDITOR January 28, 2019  SI

Gregg Berhalter lifted the lid on his plans for the U.S. men’s national team Sunday night during his debut as manager. He displayed a true tactical plan and a foundation for what to expect from the USMNT going forward. Naturally, the plan will shift based on opponent and circumstance, but the basic tenets figure to remain the same.Berhalter hasn’t been coy about his approach. He’s spoken repeatedly about trying to disorganize the opponent and press to win the ball back when it’s lost while also playing through and behind the opposition’s lines, none of which makes for particularly revolutionary steps that a team should take. But just how he planned for his team to do that came to light in a 3-0 win vs. Panama, an overmatched, experimental opponent that won’t go down as one of the tougher foes the U.S. faces during this World Cup cycle.The U.S. carried out Berhalter’s plan, operating in a 4-3-3 when trying to win possession and shifting shape into more of a 3-2-2-3 when on the attack to push numbers forward and overload the attacking zones. The result was a match in which the U.S. dominated possession and carved out a good number of quality chances. Not everything was carried out with precision, but the bright spots were clear.”It was a good baseline,” Berhalter said following the match. “It gave us enough content to work with. Some of the movements we’re working with on the wings are very complicated movements. It involves three players interchanging and still with the intention to disorganize the defense and get behind their lines. At some times we were a bit tentative with that and then there were other times where it came off and it was really nice. … The wing combinations I liked. We’re playing with two 10s to purposely find them between lines. I think that’s very important, and we did that very effectively at times.”  Watching the likes of Djordje Mihailovic, Nick Lima, Corey Baird, Jeremy Ebobisse and other lesser-experienced and heralded players carry out Berhalter’s vision was one thing, but while viewing the match you couldn’t help but wonder what it would look like with the players expected to feature more regularly in competitive matches going forward.”We had that in mind also when we’re envisioning the structure of the team,” Berhalter said. “We’re projecting some guys in what positions they can play and how we’re going to teach them, how we’re going to train them, what the sessions need to be. Right now the focus is working on this group of players.”Berhalter will have just one brief camp and two matches before the pre-Gold Cup friendlies hit to integrate the European-based players into his system and feel good enough about things to trot them out into a tournament environment. So just how might the likes of Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Tim Weah, DeAndre Yedlin, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams fit into how the U.S. played Sunday? Let’s take a look:

Sargent in the Zardes role

Josh Sargent continues to get minutes for Werder Bremen, and it’s not hard to envision him in the striker’s place atop the formation. Zardes did well in holding up the ball and linking up with others in the attack, and he likely should have had assists in consecutive sequences after his lay-off passes for Baird and Lima resulted in quality chances that went wide. Even though Zardes was wasteful with his own chances on goal, Berhalter praised the forward’s process and seemed happy with the end result.”For forwards, you’re not always going to hit the back of the net, but his work rate was excellent,” Berhalter said. “He got in enough spots to score a goal. That’s what we’re looking at, because I know with Gyasi it’s eventually going to go in.”Given Sargent’s savvy, finishing proficiency, ability to hold up the ball and pick out the right pass, you’d expect him to have a direct line to that starting role, and it’s one he can seize with a strong March camp–presuming he’s healthy and called in, of course.

Weah in the Ebobisse role

While Ebobisse works hard and did deliver a nice ball for the USA’s first chance of the night, he’s not naturally a winger. Enter Weah, who, despite playing in more of a No. 9 role on his loan with Celtic thus far, has the speed and dribbling ability to take defenders on and act as more of a threat from that spot on either side of the field. Berhalter will demand a strong pressing and defensive work ethic and an understanding of the intricate combinations he wants to see, and that will all have to be learned. But from a pure fit on the wing, Weah has the goods to deliver there.

Pulisic and McKennie in the Mihailovic-Roldan roles

Mihailovic was largely fantastic on his debut and earned extreme praise from Berhalter for his work in camp. It looks like he’ll be given more opportunities beyond this camp, but if the U.S. is going to put its best potential No. 10 on the field, then Pulisic will be the one stepping into that role. Mihailovic had a wonderful game and excelled alongside Cristian Roldan. Both enjoyed freedom going forward and testing the defense, and plugging the likes of Pulisic and McKennie–who have a strong friendship and a baseline for midfield chemistry–into those spots should give U.S. fans cause for excitement. McKennie can play a more forward-pushing role and has for Schalke, and hearing Berhalter describe what he saw from Roldan, it’s not crazy to think the same of McKennie. “Cristian Roldan we think is technical but also really good in transition, so he’s in a spot now where when we lose the ball he can press right away. … What we’re trying to do is put players in position that plays to their strengths.”

Adams in the Bradley or Lima role

Adams started and went the distance for RB Leipzig in a right-sided midfield role over the weekend, and he’s one of the more versatile midfielders in the U.S. pool. Picturing him directing traffic in the midfield, looking for the occasional incisive pass and remaining a shield for the back line isn’t unreasonable at all, and if Bradley were to make way from the starting lineup, it would figure to be Adams or fellow Germany-based midfielder McKennie stepping into that spot. That’s no given, as Berhalter held high praise for Bradley’s performance.”He’s a very smart soccer player. You don’t get 143 caps unless you have real quality, and I think that’s what’s undervalued in him,” Berhalter said, “Getting to work with him up close and see training and see his game intelligence and technical ability, it’s impressive.”So if Bradley remains in a defensive, facilitating midfield role, then where would that leave Adams, who surely has a big role to play going forward? On ESPN2’s broadcast, Taylor Twellman speculated about Adams in the right back role, especially considering it’s one that gives freedom for the player to push forward and help out in the center of the field. Adams certainly has the engine, intelligence and field-awareness to carry out such an important role, and the more looks he’s exposed to in Germany, the further along his education will be in case he’s called upon to feature for the national team in a way he really hasn’t before.”It’s not easy to ask your right back to get the ball with his back to goal at times, it’s not easy to ask him to pivot in midfield and create space for other people,” Berhalter said, upon delivering his praise for Lima’s play and describing the duties of a right back in his system.As for Yedlin, is he capable of fulfilling the duties required of a Berhalter right back? You’d expect him to be given the opportunity to at least prove he can be, even after his subpar play in his most recent caps under Dave Sarachan. Given how well Yedlin gets forward and with the attacking qualities he possesses, though, it wouldn’t be too out of the realm of possibility to see him in more of an attack-minded role along the lines of the one Baird played vs. Panama.

Veteran Michael Bradley, youngster Nick Lima earn top marks as U.S. start 2019 with a victory

Jan 27, 2019  Jason DavisU.S. soccer writer

With an young, experimental team at his disposal, new United States head coach Gregg Berhalter started off his tenure with an encouraging 3-0 victory over Panama at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Positives

It was nearly all positive for Berhalter and his charges. Five Americans made their national team debuts, the most in a USMNT game since 1992. Despite inexperience throughout the squad, the team executed Berhalter’s plan and leveraged their possession advantage to a 3-0 win. Improvement over the course of the game is encouraging for a future that will feature some of the players on the field in Arizona.

Negatives

Only the lack of quality from Panama could be tapped as a negative in the U.S. win. The Canaleros showed little attacking teeth and were complicit in turning the ball over to the Americans all evening. The visitor’s lack of aggression just makes properly analyzing the win more difficult.

Manager rating out of 10

8 — The night was a near perfect debut for Berhalter, considering the circumstances. His team won going away after being dominant for 90 minutes. His players executed his system and grew into the game. With the low stakes and young squad, he was able to get seven players their first caps and the full complement of 17 players possible on the field.

Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Zack Steffen, 7 — Not asked to do much, but was required to make one excellent save in the second half with the United States holding onto a 1-0 lead.

DF Daniel Lovitz, 5 — Looked nervous at the outset but settled into the game. Misplaced a handful of passes out of the back but provided a strong tackle with the Americans seeing out the game in the final 10 minutes.

DF Walker Zimmerman, 7 — Rarely tested on the defensive end, Zimmerman distributed the ball well, stepping up to help exploit passing lanes. Scored a towering header to put the match away.

DF Aaron Long, 7 — Exceedingly quiet night for the side’s captain. Misplaced a few long passes but was otherwise competent playing out of the back. Chalked up five recoveries.

DF Nick Lima, 8 — Thrived in the unique right-back/midfield dual role and provided the cross for Zimmerman’s goal. Popped up near the box on occasion, flexing from his defensive role. Played an excellent pass to aid in the buildup for the opener.

MF Djordje Mihailovic, 7 — Smooth on the ball and understood the role in Berhalter’s system. Provided the finish that put the Americans out in front. Excellent debut for the 20-year-old.

MF Michael Bradley, 8 — Played a vintage game, misplacing just three passes all night from a deep-lying role in midfield. Showed a tactical understanding and work rate that centered the U.S. across 84 minutes.

MF Cristian Roldan, 7 — Played smart soccer in a 90-minute shift. Used the space available to good effect and played creator in Berhalter’s setup. Missed a few passes that might have led to chances.

FW Corey Baird, 6 — Direct and dangerous on the right side in a system that demands a lot from wing players. Provided the pass that set up Mihailovic for the American’s opening goal.

FW Jeremy Ebobisse, 5 — Most effective on the defensive side of the ball, tracking back to help recover possession. His impact waned after a clash of heads midway through the first half.

FW Gyasi Zardes, 6 — Good with his hold-up play, but missed three good chances to score. Active and willing to track back defensively.

Substitutes

MF Sebastian Lletget, N/R — Lacked sharpness after coming on for Mihailovic. Connected more than once with Jonathan Lewis on the left side.

MF Jonathan Lewis, N/R — Nearly created a goal on his debut, then set up Ramirez for the final tally of the night for the Americans. Dynamic, athletic, dangerous.

GK Sean Johnson, N/R — Made a save immediately upon entry. Struggled in terms of playing the ball out of the back under pressure after coming in cold.

MF Paul Arriola, N/R — Found space effectively after coming on a substitute. Needed to be more aggressive in one-on-one situations.

FW Christian Ramirez, N/R — Scored on his USMNT debut, unmarked 5 yards from goal.

MF Wil Trapp, N/R — Connected on a handful of passes, missing just one in a late cameo.

USMNT Player Ratings: Lima, Zimmerman, Bradley lead the way in 2019 opener

January 27, 201911:56PM ESTGreg Seltzer  MLS.com Contributor

The US national team‘s Gregg Berhalter era got off to a promising start as his green first selection calmly ruled play on its way to a 3-0 friendly victory over Panama on Sunday night.As a periodic reminder, all marks are handed out on a scale with “6” as the average grade. The ratings are also relative to time spent on the field, meaning that a “7” earned over the full shift is more impressive than one earned for a 15-minute appearance.

Zack Steffen (7) – The US netminder could have kicked back with his feet up for most of the game, but came up with a dandy save when pressed into urgent duty 10 minutes after halftime. Steffen also played out of the back well on the few occasions when Panama pressed high.

Nick Lima (8) – It was a standout showing for the San Jose right back, who essentially worked two positions in this one. Lima helped the Nats crowd central park and quickly pushed the ball into attack any time Panama turned it over in midfield. He also found his way back into defense when necessary, but his best takeaway of the night occurred in the away end. Not satisfied with a terrific tackle to stop a potentially dangerous counter in its tracks, he quickly followed that swipe by delivering a pinpoint cross for the first insurance tally.

Walker Zimmerman (7.5) – Though his passing out of the back occasionally left something to be desired, the LAFC man was the busier and more forbidding of the two US center backs. Of course, Zimmerman capped the performance by burying a late header to double the US lead.

Aaron Long (5.5) – Despite having little to do, the reigning MLS Defender of the Year was a tad sloppy on the night, both in passing the ball and defending against it.

Daniel Lovitz (7) – The debutant left back also had a couple of shaky moments at the back, but still did much more to help his team than he did to trouble it. Lovitz contributed a few timely stops in his own end and some positive ball movement (including a nice early cross that deserved a better finish) across midfield.

Michael Bradley (7.5) – A considerable portion of the USMNT fandom probably could be heard shrieking over the bald eagle’s inclusion from the moon, but they were in for a pleasantly rude awakening as the veteran barely put a foot wrong. When Bradley wasn’t controlling tempo or passing through lines, he was rushing into the face of Panama dribblers to stem counter advances.

Cristian Roldan (7.5) – He didn’t end up on the score sheet, but make no mistake, Roldan’s late runs into attack constantly unnerved the Panama defense. All night long, he was reliably available to force turnovers and help the US set up in the final third.

Djordje Mihailovic (7.5) – Forget for a moment that the kid’s deflected drive found the net to open the scoring, and while you’re at it, forget that he serves mighty tempting corner kicks. The real beauty of Mihailovic’s debut outing was that he repeatedly found the right soft spot to show for the ball before sending the team forward. Not everything he tried in attack came off, but the Chicago Fire playmaker put on a composed display bereft of shyness.

Corey Baird (7) – Direct to a fault, the Real Salt Lake attacker put Panama under duress even when his final-third forays didn’t pan out. After narrowly missing the net with his own shot from the top of the box, Baird just kept coming until he was able to tee one up for Mihailovic’s opener.

Jeremy Ebobisse (6.5) – One fine cross notwithstanding, Ebobisse was the least clinical US starter in Panama’s half. Still, the Portland youngster did help soften up the Panama defense by routinely getting loose down the left.

Gyasi Zardes (7) – The Columbus striker pitched in with plenty of blue-collar No. 9 work. Zardes had probably his best hold-up game in a US shirt and fed the flank well. About the only thing he failed to do was put away a couple of excellent header chances.

Coach Gregg Berhalter (7.5) – The best thing one can say about the boss’ first match was that a group still making introductions all over the field truly looked like a team out there. Berhalter’s boys were always on the same page, even with a rather unique wrinkle that left the right back spot empty for much of the contest.

Subs

Sebastian Lletget (6.5) – The LA Galaxy midfielder was able to keep the home side pushing forward during his 28 minutes of work.

Jonathan Lewis (7) – The NYCFC winger capped his 24-minute debut with an explosive move past a defender to cross for the US third.

Sean Johnson (6) – The substitute ‘keeper made a comfy lone save in his 16 minutes of action. Johnson also had one nervy distribution episode and one splendid long boot, so we’ll call it even.

Paul Arriola (6.5) – Entering with the USMNT only up one, Arriola did his sturdy best to keep the ball down in Panama’s corner.

Christian Ramirez (7) – It would have been a mere cameo had Ramirez not bagged the US capper to go with a few positive link touches.

Wil Trapp (6.5) – The Crew SC skipper only worked six minutes, yet managed to cram in a few nice lead passes.

Boehm: A man, a plan, a process – Berhalter gives us all a USMNT “baseline”

January 28, 201912:57AM ES  Charles BoehmContributor

It’s been a strange few years for the US men’s national team, to put it mildly, and that’s left Gregg Berhalter with almost nowhere to go but up as he opens his tenure as head coach.With all that in mind, Sunday’s win over Panama was undoubtedly a good first step, however modest, and in a forward direction. And if that sounds like damning the USMNT with faint praise, hark the new boss himself: “When I addressed the group after the game, I said it was a good baseline,” said Berhalter postgame. “It gave us enough content to work with.”This was a January-camp friendly, and all the usual disclaimers apply. But the 3-0 win in suburban Phoenix served up enough promise and intrigue to give even the most skeptical and hard-boiled among the fanbase some things to think about. And that little tidbit from the coach – consciously or not, he tossed the press pack a few tasty breadcrumbs to chew on in his press conference – should not be overlooked too quickly: “It gave us enough content to work with.”Berhalter is a system guy, and a process guy, and a friend to quants and performance analysts and similar types of data-crunchers, and he’s already carved out some striking signposts for this latest project.I’ll leave it to the illustrious Matthew Doyle to Armchair Analyze Berhalter’s tactical outlook in full – check for that on this site tomorrow. But safe to say that the USMNT tried out some unconventional looks in this one, considering that this group is well short of what would generally be considered a “full-strength” squad and has only had a couple of weeks together.This was, on paper, a straight 4-3-3 XI. On grass it was that and several other things entirely, usually defending in the traditional two banks of four but morphing into a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 look in possession. Berhalter said he envisioned “two 10s,” with Chicago Fire young’un Djordje Mihailovicsharing the creative duties alongside Seattle linchpin Cristian Roldan (who’s usually a No. 8 for the Sounders and duly brought a workmanlike edge to Sunday’s assignment).Nick Lima – a fullback and nothing else during his professional career to date – often pinching into the middle to do some pretty unexpected stuff in addition to flashing his usual skillset, all of which led up to his shining moment in the leadup to Walker Zimmerman’s goal to make it 2-0:“Some of the movements we’re working with is on the wings, and very complicated movements, it involves three players interchanging and still with the intention to disorganize the defense and get behind their lines,” explained Berhalter, who was refreshingly open and expressive in his remarks to the media. “You could see that sometimes we were a bit tentative with that, and then there were other times where it came off and it was really nice. So I think there were elements.”Look, this is just not the sort of USMNT conversation we’re usually having at this time of year. We’ve witnessed some truly dreary matches during January camps past, many with little flair, inspiration or execution in attack even with top front-line talent available to the coaches. These dour outings are invariably written off as par for the course, with players in the midst of their offseason thrown together with limited time to gel.Sunday was different. When players like Lima and Mihailovic and Jonathan Lewis (and even Michael Bradley, the scapegoat of 2017 who suddenly looks like a first-class deep-lying midfielder again just 90 minutes into this new era) catch the eye in new ways like this, something is up. Berhalter’s clearly got plans, and his players performed as if they’ve been pretty well inculcated in them already. If they show signs of another week’s worth of understanding and repetition in Saturday’s duel with Costa Rica out in Northern California, then US supporters will finally have reason to smile a bit as 2019 begins to unfold in earnest.

Armchair Analyst: An initial look at Berhalter’s unusual tactical system

January 28, 201911:06AM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer see the everything with the videos included click thru here: https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2019/01/28/armchair-analyst-initial-look-berhalters-unusual-tactical-system  To

The US men’s national team played their first game under new head coach Gregg Berhalter on Sunday night, and they won convincingly. They didn’t exactly blow a young Panama team off the field, but they got on the ball early, stayed on it often, and used it throughout to both set the tempo of the game and dictate where it would be played.In Berhalter’s words, the game provided “a good baseline,” and “enough content to work with” going forward. My colleague Charlie Boehm wrote a bunch about that after the game. It was Step 1 in taking a collection of mostly young, mostly unproven talent and weaving their collective skillsets together into a coherent whole. Nothing about what we saw was or is a finished product.But still, let’s tease apart what we did see:

1. A Visit to the Church of Pep

EPL junkies caught onto this wrinkle almost immediately. There are many, many many professional coaches who don’t like to talk about formations because they feel like it’s too simplistic and too ripe for misinterpretation. There are many, many many fans who mistake “formations” for “tactics.” The two work in tandem, but are not the same thing.What coaches – especially those with a tactical bent, like Berhalter – really like to talk about are shape and function. And the shape of the US on Sunday was a 4-4-2 defensively that morphed into kind of a 3-3-4, or maybe a 3-2-4-1 when they had the ball.This is unusual in the world of soccer, but is not unique. Here is the US on Sunday night:

Credit to @finalthird for these screenshots and the observation. Go give him a follow.As he pointed out and as I’ll emphasize here: There is a difference between doing this against Panama’s B team and doing it against Liverpool, and taking one part of Man City’s structure does not mean that the US played like Man City in terms of either quality or every aspect of their tactical approach. But a big foundational piece is very, very similar, and that’s useful if we’re going to really understand what Berhalter’s trying to build.Anyway, it’s fair to assume that Berhalter’s pulling his influences from more than just what he saw in MLS, and more than what he learned while playing in the Netherlands and Germany back in the day. By all accounts he has a voracious appetite for film and was never shy about experimenting with top-end stuff when coaching the Columbus Crew. Yes, those teams primarily played a specific way out of a specific formation (4-2-3-1), but there were some 3-6-1s and some 3-4-3s and some 5-4-1s thrown in at times.  And they were thrown in with purpose. As was Sunday’s tactical wrinkle.

2. Balance, but not Symmetry

Functionally speaking, the idea is to get on the ball a lot, and to do so in dangerous positions without compromising defensive shape. That largely worked – the US had 66 percent possession and generated 17 shots. After a tentative start (they had only two shots in the first 20 minutes), the US found their feet and started to dominate.How they did that is what was interesting, and it goes back to the above observations re: Man City. We all know what a “modern, attacking fullback” is supposed to be, functionally speaking. It’s basically “get down the line, provide width and penetration, maybe a little bit of service and combo play, and try to draw defenders away from the actual attackers.”That was not right back Nick Lima‘s function. Instead of overlapping, Lima would tuck inside next to defensive midfielder Michael Bradley, providing numbers and a little bit of forward thrust in central midfield. To wit:That’s Lima busting up the gut, looking off the defenders and making the play that led to the game’s opening goal.Notice that neither Bradley nor the three other defenders (Daniel LovitzAaron LongWalker Zimmerman) are going anywhere. Notice that Cristian Roldan – who won the ball at the start of the play – has a free midfield central midfield role that functioned more defensively, while Djordje Mihailovic nominally had the same midfield role, but functioned more as a pure attacker. Notice that Corey Baird, the right winger, is getting chalk on his boots, while Jeremy Ebobisse, the left winger, spent much of his time on the field tucked in much tighter.This is a shape the US have never used before, and it creates interesting potential for combination play. It specifically asked a lot of Lima, who certainly never had anything close to that function while playing for the San Jose Earthquakes.”It was because of the complication of what we asked him to do and how he dealt with it,” Berhalter said of calling Lima the Coach’s Man of the Match. “It’s not easy to ask your right back to get the ball with his back to goal or to ask him to create space in the midfield, but he did a good job of it.”The only other team I can think of that does something similar is Man City, who often uses Delph as a LB in the 442 when defending and then a center mid when they are in possession.He really did. Panama didn’t really generate much going down the US right-hand side, and that’s at least one useful data point to suggest something worked. The US also always had numbers around the ball in central midfield, which is a pleasant change – remember how badly Trinidad & Tobago overran the US midfield when Bradley was left to play 1-v-4 in that spot? Yeah. Not gonna see the numbers game get lost there too often anymore.

3. Break Lines via the Pass

If there was one area in which the US struggled – particularly for the first 25 minutes – it was with the timing and daring of their passing. Basically only Bradley and Zimmerman were hitting third-line passes that split defenders and advanced the ball into meaningful spots.This isn’t necessarily because the US don’t have good passers of the ball, but because it takes more than just one person to complete a pass. Not only do you need the guy receiving the ball to check into space between the lines at the right time, you need a teammate to run into space behind the backline at the right time. This game at the highest level is, to a good degree, choreographed.“Some of the movements we’re working with is on the wings, and very complicated movements, it involves three players interchanging and still with the intention to disorganize the defense and get behind their lines,” Berhalter explained. “You could see that sometimes we were a bit tentative with that, and then there were other times where it came off and it was really nice. So I think there were elements.”More than anything else, I’m really excited to see how this aspect of Berhalter’s USMNT grows from game-to-game, camp-to-camp.

4. Get Players into their Comfort Zones

Seventeen players got on the field for the US, and only one – Ebobisse, who’s a center forward that was miscast as a left winger – was played out of position. Something as simple as that can make a world of difference in terms of both individual performance (remember when Wil Trapp got his USMNT debut as a left wingback in a 3-5-2?) and overall team performance. It also makes data points more meaningful when trying to spin forward and figure out what the team can or should look like when the games count.Two subs took particular advantage of this: Sebastian Lletget, who came on at attacking midfield for Mihailovic, and Jonathan Lewis, who came on at left wing for Ebobisse. Both guys added an element of on-the-ball verve that had been missing from the starters, and none of the original attacking quartet are effective dribblers.Lletget and Lewis are. Moments after coming on, Lletget dribbled two Panamanian defenders and set up a good chance for Gyasi Zardes. Lewis, meanwhile, did this:

That’s not exactly Lionel Messi-type stuff, but it’s also not exactly what US fans have seen from US wingers – aside from Christian Pulisic – much at all.Part of being in a comfort zone is understanding “hey, when I have a defender out in isolation, I can go at him.” Lewis was put in a position to leave his mark on the game, and he did so.Almost everyone else can say the same, to one degree or another.

A few more things to ponder…

  • There were fewer big switches from the defensive midfielder to the flanks than we were used to seeing of Berhalter’s Crew teams. This is probably because of the shape change – with Lovitz not pushing high early in the play, and with Lima tucking in, the US were more about using width in the attacking third rather than in the midfield.
  • Mihailovic is reallysmart off the ball, but still struggles to complete the game-breaking passes I’d expect of a No. 10.
  • Zimmerman got over-aggressive once with his distribution and put the US in a bad spot. But man, his growth in that aspect of the game has been massive over the past three years. He was a legitimate weapon.
  • Just for the record: This is the biggest US win in a January camp game since a 5-0 win over Norway back in 2006. It’s only the third time they’ve won by multiple goals this decade, out of 14 games.
  • Here’s a question: If the US keep this system, where do Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Tim Weah and Josh Sargent all play? I have some theories on that myself – as does Taylor Twellman, who talked about Adams specifically on the broadcast – but am interested in seeing what you all come up with.Have a shout in the comments below. I’ll peek in from time to time.

U.S. beats Panama as Gregg Berhalter wins debut match as manager

Jan 27, 2019

The U.S. men’s national team’s Gregg Berhalte era began with a 3-0 defeat of Panama in a friendly on Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.Berhalter, the former coach of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew, was named to the U.S. position on Dec. 4. He replaced interim coach Dave Sarachan, who took over in November 2017 after Jurgen Klinsmann ad Bruce Arena failed to qualify the U.S. for the 2018 World Cup.Midfielder Djordje Mihailovic (40th minute) and forward Christian Ramirez(89th) became the 52nd and 53rd U.S. players to score in their debuts.Also, defender Walker Zimmerman scored his second goal in five matches in the 80th minute, with a header from 8 yards off a cross by defender Nick Lima, another debutant.Berhalter, a former U.S. defender, is tasked with revitalizing the program. Others to play their first U.S. matches were defender Daniel Lovitz and midfielders Corey Baird and Jeremy Ebobisse.Before the breakthrough goal by Mihailovic, the Americans had a flurry of near-goals.Gyasi Zardes, who had his career resurrected in Columbus last season by Berhalter, had layoffs that Corey Baird in the 25th minute and Lima in the 27th sent wide of the right post.A minute later, Baird had a flick from Aaron Long, in his first match as captain, go over the goal.Zardes was involved in the first goal, putting a pass to Baird on the right flank. Baird’s service to Mihailovic was slotted from 15 yards.Zack Steffen, the 2018 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year for the Crew, made a left-handed stop of Edson Samms in the 56th minute.

Steffen made three saves before being relieved by Sean Johnson (one save) in the 74th minute.

The U.S. next plays Costa Rica on Saturday at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California.

Aaron Long’s rapid ascension continues with USMNT captaincy Sunday

January 28, 201912:14PM ESTTom BogertContributor

By now, most are aware of Aaron Long‘s incredible journey. But that doesn’t make it any less remarkable. Selected in the second round of the 2014 SuperDraft by the Portland Timbers, Long didn’t make his MLS debut until 2017 with the New York Red Bulls, his third MLS club after making appearances for four USL teams. In that year, he immediately became an integral member of the Red Bulls back line before taking another jump last season by being named 2018 MLS Defender of the Year.The calendar has flipped once more, but Long’s ascension has yet to lose steam. The 26-year-old was given the captain’s armband for the US men’s national team in a 3-0 win over Panama Sunday, in what was just his third cap. “I tried not to think about it too much, but it’s really an honor,” Long admitted after the match.Interestingly, in his debut as UsMNT coach Gregg Berhalter opted to entrust Long with the honor rather than stalwart Michael Bradley, who joined Long in the starting XI and had accrued more caps than the rest of the January camp members combined.“I was in a similar situation one time, and no one spoke to me,” Berhalter said of his decision. “I said to Michael, I was very clear to him. I said ‘listen, you look at the roster and you’d be the logical choice for captain, but we’re not going with you, we’re going with Aaron and here’s why we’re going with Aaron.’”Long partnered with Walker Zimmerman at the heart of the defense with Nick Lima to their right and Daniel Lovitz to the left. The fullbacks were making their international debuts, while Long and Zimmerman previously had a combined six caps, though the quartet earned a shutout against a young Panamanian squad. “If you look at it (in terms of appearances) … it’s almost scary in a way,” Long said. “It’s a new back line and I don’t have many caps, but we’ve been together for three weeks. The team is getting closer and really confident with each other. … I felt really confident with the group.”Long and the USMNT close out the January camp on Saturday against Costa Rica (3:30 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN) from Avaya Stadium.

Michael Bradley: ‘No disappointment whatsoever’ with Berhalter’s U.S. captaincy snub

28, 2019Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Michael Bradley insisted there was “no disappointment whatsoever” at not being named captain for United States’ 3-0 win over Panama on Sunday.Bradley earned his 143rd cap in the match, giving him more international appearances than the rest of the gameday roster combined. But Gregg Berhalter, making his debut as U.S. manager, opted to give the captain’s armband to defender Aaron Long instead, a player who earned just his third cap.”Whether am the captain, I’m not the captain, I wear the armband, I don’t wear the armband, these things aren’t important,” he said after the match. “It’s about the team, it’s about having a group of guys who understand what it’s like to all be in something together. It’s about having as many guys as possible who are able to look around and pay attention to their teammates, to think outside themselves, to make sure that they’re able to play well and take care of their own performance and find the right ways to challenge others. I’ll always do that.”Berhalter said that he made sure to talk to Bradley about the decision.”I was in a similar situation one time [as a player] and no one spoke to me,” Berhalter said. “I said to Michael — I was very clear with him — ‘You would look at this roster and you’d be the logical choice for captain. But we’re not going with you, we’re going with Aaron, and here’s why we’re going with Aaron. I just wanted to communicate that to you.’ I told him that he’ll still be a leader when he’s on the field by his performance. The armband is maybe just authority, but you can lead through your actions, and Michael has certainly done that.”The result represented something of a payoff for the players, who have been in camp since Jan. 7. They were the aggressors for much of the match against an inexperienced Panama side containing just two World Cup players.The U.S. jumped on top in the 40th minute when Djordje Mihailovic — one of five U.S. debutants — fired home from Corey Baird’s cross. Nick Lima’s tackle and pinpoint delivery enabled Walker Zimmerman to head home in the 80th minute. Substitute Christian Ramirez scored on a tap-in eight minutes later after good work on the left wing from another to come off the bench, Jonathan Lewis.Berhalter was quick to point out that Sunday’s match was just a beginning, and that there was plenty of room for improvement.”When I addressed the group after the game, I said it was a good baseline,” he said. “It gave us enough content to work with. Some of the movements we were working with on the wings are very complicated movements, it involves three players interchanging, and still with the intention of disorganizing their defense and getting behind the lines. You could see it. Sometimes we were a bit tentative with that, and there were other times when it came off and it was really nice.”

Why has the USMNT struggled? Start with how it selects players

Breaking down the demographics of the USMNT can help explain how it failed, and how it might piece itself back together for a new era.

By Alicia Rodriguez  Jan 29, 2019, 1:00pm EST Stars and Stripes

With a bright new coach and a promising generation of young players — like Christian PulisicTyler Adams, and Josh Sargent — the USMNT may be on the brink of a renaissance. SB Nation takes a look at the players and ideas refueling American soccer.

One of the biggest debates after the U.S. men’s national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup concerned how the players were selected.The team clearly had a problem with talent identification based on the results, and many felt that certain populations were being neglected or overemphasized by U.S. Soccer scouts and coaches beginning at the youth level. Now that Gregg Berhalter has taken over as the new, foreseeable head coach of the men’s national team, it’s worth looking at the profile of players called up over the years in the program.Why? Because the challenges posed by a large country, with a large population, where soccer remains an emerging sport for the mainstream, makes the United States a unique case in international soccer. The U.S. is estimated to have the third largest population in the world, but soccer isn’t the top sport here. While the infrastructure continues to develop, many of the country’s elite athletes default to sports like football and basketball.As a result, the U.S. can’t simply imitate what countries like EnglandGermanyMexico, and Brazil do to produce pros. Other countries can offer lessons, but their effects might be limited.American exceptionalism should also be examined. Does the senior USMNT avoid immigrants? Does the player pool seem skewed one way or another? These questions came to a head in 2018 when American-born teenager Jonathan Gonzalez opted to represent Mexico after reportedly not being contacted at length by the USMNT. While U.S. Soccer may not have definite answers, they can be informed by data.I focused specifically on the period of 2008-18 for the senior men’s national team, a period that featured four head coaches, three World Cup cycles (two “successful” in which the U.S. qualified, one not), and 175 players who appeared in at least one USMNT game. Where do players who reach the pinnacle of the USMNT come from? What are their backgrounds? Where are they produced? My intention is to fill in some of the gaps between what is often said about the player pool, and what is the truth.

A paradigm shift … slowly

In 2008, Major League Soccer (MLS) introduced the homegrown player rule, which incentivized teams to take their academy programs seriously and produce professionals themselves. In 2008, no MLS homegrown players played on the USMNT. By 2018, there had been eight players who had come through MLS academies to sign pro contracts before playing for the USMNT — 4.6 percent of the players on the USMNT in that period, not including an additional handful of homegrown signings who also attended college.In 2008, 68.8 percent of USMNT players had played college soccer. By 2018, the number was down to 39.6 percent.That trend may seem minor, but it illustrates a larger developmental trend. In virtually every other country in the world, the best players turn pro either before or during their college-age years. Many American pros, however, don’t turn pro until they are 22 years old, having spent the previous four or five years pouring a large portion of their time and attention into things other than their future profession. And college soccer, with its short competitive seasons and unlimited substitutions, can’t provide the sheer amount of in-game experience to top players that pro clubs can.

During the 2008-18 period, a full 59 percent of players on the national team played college soccer. But a shift is taking place, stoked in part by MLS academies building out their programs and signing more homegrown players. In 2008, 68.8 percent of USMNT players had played college soccer. By 2018, the number was down to 39.6 percent. In other words, by 2018 the USMNT selected about 20 percent more players who came from youth programs, in the U.S. or abroad, than colleges compared to a decade prior.Perhaps related: More Americans are playing abroad before signing pro contracts. In 2008, only four of the 48 players who played at least one game for the USMNT had come through a youth academy abroad — two in England and two in Mexico. In 2018, 20 of the 53 players who played at least one game for the USMNT had done apprenticeships outside the United States. They had played in 10 different countries, with England (six players) and Germany (five players) leading the way.

The sport of immigrants?

Immigration has played a significant role in American soccer, from immigrants who established ethnic leagues around the country, to ex-pats who coach at all levels, to fans who bring soccer traditions from their homelands.Just as in the current national political moment, immigration has been a flashpoint at various times throughout USMNT history. The national team has fielded naturalized citizens, dual citizens, and refugees. Those who have never left the United States and those who have seldom stepped into the country alike have represented the Stars and Stripes.When Jurgen Klinsmann coached the USMNT, from 2011-2016, he made an effort to recruit German-Americans. That trend did not begin with him, but increased in his tenure. Many of those players were born and raised in Germany and were eligible for the squad through a parent who was an American citizen. German-American recruitment was a reasonable way to expand the American player pool — other countries do it all the time — and players who had been primarily raised through the German soccer system, considered vastly superior to the American process, were expected to strengthen the team.

Klinsmann called up eight players in 2015 (16 percent of call-ups that year) who were either born in Germany, or had at least one German parent. His successor, Bruce Arena, fielded just four (7.2 percent of the cohort) in 2017, his one full year in charge. In 2014, he criticized the selection of dual nationals while talking to USA Today.The sample size isn’t huge, but while Arena didn’t shut out German-American players, he certainly didn’t use them to the same extent as Klinsmann.Players holding immigrant ties of any nationality, Germany and beyond, have been significant to the player pool for the past decade. Defining “immigrant ties” in this context means players who were either born or raised abroad, had at least one immigrant parent, or had access to a foreign passport through family ties (more on that in a moment). Forty-eight percent of players who made appearances for the USMNT between 2008-18 fall under this umbrella.To put that number in perspective, the total number of foreign-born people in the U.S. was roughly 40 million, or 12.9 percent of the total population, according the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010. There were just more than 75 million people under the age of 18 in the United States then, and the census bureau estimated that approximately 25 percent of children in the United States — and 6.1 percent of the total population — had at least one foreign-born parent.The overwhelming proportion of players with immigrant ties are either immigrants themselves, or have at least one parent who is foreign-born. Only five players (5.9 percent of those with immigrant ties) on the USMNT between 2008-18 held a foreign passport through a grandparent. Four of those players — Paul ArriolaJay DeMerit, Christian Pulisic, and Emerson Hyndman — used those passports to play abroad. Wil Trapp holds a foreign passport through a grandparent, but has yet to play professionally anywhere other than MLS.  There does not appear to be a correlation between USMNT players with immigrant ties having played abroad more often before signing their first pro deals. In fact, about 56 percent of USMNT players with immigrant ties played in the U.S. before turning pro. Those numbers help dispel one myth about American players: those with immigrant ties are more likely to play in professional leagues abroad due to more flexible immigration statuses, whether in a particular country or in a multi-state system like the European Union.

Why aren’t there more Asian and Latinx players on the USMNT?

There is one trend in the USMNT player pool that does not line up with population trends.Since immigration regulations were overhauled by the United States government in 1965, immigrants largely come from two regions: Asia and Latin America. Yet of the 84 players with immigrant ties who played for the U.S. between 2008-18, just two (2.3 percent of players with immigrant ties) were from Asian countries, while one (1.2 percent) had Pacific Islander roots. Asians made up roughly 32 percent of the foreign-born population of the United States in 2010, and all people of Asian descent, regardless of place of birth, were 4.8 percent of the total U.S. population.

Latinx players made up just 12.6 percent of the player pool from 2008-18, regardless if they had immigrant ties. For comparison, Latinx people made up 16.3 percent of the U.S. population in 2010.Latin Americans, the largest group of U.S. immigrants since 1965, perhaps should have been expected to make up a significant proportion of USMNT players. Soccer is extremely popular in Latin America. There are players from the region in every league in the world, and rooting interest in club and national teams “back home” remains strong among Latinx people in the United States today. Over the last decade, 27.3 percent of USMNT players with immigrant ties were connected to Latin America.However, as a whole, Latinx players made up just 12.6 percent of the player pool from 2008-18, regardless if they had immigrant ties. For comparison, Latinx people made up 16.3 percent of the U.S. population in 2010 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Note: the U.S. Census Bureau uses the term “Hispanic or Latino” the same way I’m using “Latinx,” meaning “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”) For a demographic that is growing in the United States and has a healthy culture of soccer throughout its countries of origin, the proportion of Latinx players in the USMNT player pool arguably should have been larger than the national population, not smaller.These figures point to longstanding critiques of the U.S. development system regarding American Latinx players. After Gonzalez switched from a U.S. youth international to join the Mexican senior team, SB Nation’s Kim McCauley spoke to U.S. soccer development expertsabout the nation’s systemic breakdowns when it comes to recruiting Latinx talent:

“I always say that I’m a lucky guy,” said former USMNT player and former U.S. Under-14 and Under-15 head coach Hugo Perez. “I wasn’t born here, but I came here when I was young, played in the national team. I’ve had the opportunity to learn different cultures. And for me personally, you have to understand that each culture is different. You have to deal with their cultures, their parents, their families differently. You can’t just say we’re going to do it one way, it doesn’t work like that.”If USMNT players with immigrant ties over the last decade are no proportionally coming from Asia or Latin America, where are they coming from? Though European immigrants make up a relatively small portion of the overall U.S. population — just 11 percent of immigrants living in the United States in 2010 — 42.8 percent of USMNT players with immigrant ties were connected to Europe.Multiple factors account for this discrepancy, but one could be the European Union and the fact that most of the best club teams in the world are based in Europe. If a player can use a passport that is accepted in the European Union, he can bypass stringent regulations, including work permit rules in England, which often inhibit professionals who come from outside Europe. Those with Latinx ties, on the other hand, are relatively closed off to Europe, and have fewer good developmental opportunities in Latin America. The same can be said of American players without immigrant ties and access to a second passport.

While the sample size isn’t huge, we can also conclude that the proportion of Latinx, Asian, and white players on the USMNT from 2008-18 is smaller than the general population totals during a similar period, while the proportion of African-American and multiracial players (any combination of racial backgrounds) is larger than the general population over that 10-year period.

USMNT roster by race/ethnicity percentage (2008-2018)

Race/Ethnicity USMNT, 2008-18 U.S. Census data, 2010
White 50.3 72.4
Black/African American 21.7 12.6
Latinx 12.6 16.3
Asian 0.6 4.8
Multiracial 15 2.9

We have to be careful to not read too far into what is still relatively small-sample data, but criticism that some populations — particularly Latinx players, based on the sheer number of Latinx pros in the sport, including in the United States — seem to be underrepresented in the overall player pool are backed up by the numbers.Among the reasons? Elite soccer remains a sport for the wealthy in the United States. While players can earn scholarships to pay-to-play clubs and MLS academy teams are mostly free these days, youth club soccer is still tied to a system that often costs thousands of dollars per year just to be part of the team, in addition to thousands more each year to travel around the country to play in tournaments.As a result, players from high-income backgrounds have a much better opportunity to get into the youth club system in the United States, which can in turn lead to a college scholarship or pro contract down the road. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the national poverty rate was 12.3 percent in 2017, compared to 18.3 percent for just Hispanics (note again: the bureau’s definition of “Hispanic” may include people from non-Spanish speaking countries). Programs like Alianza

de Futbol

, which specifically targets Latinx players and offers showcases for pro scouts to find overlooked players, have stepped up where U.S. Soccer and the elite youth clubs have fallen short, but overall, the USMNT seems to be struggling to get everything it can out of its population.

Where in the U.S. are players from?

Whether players have immigrant ties doesn’t tell the complete story.

Breaking down U.S. geographic data, the runaway leader is California, with 22.3 percent of all USMNT players from 2008-18 — the vast majority of them (18.3 percent of all players) hailing from Southern California. California is the most populous state in the country (it has a larger population than Canada and Australia, for example), and much of it has mild weather, allowing for year-round play. In addition, soccer is a popular sport there, perhaps because of a multicultural population, including those with Latin American backgrounds, fueling interest in the sport.After California are several well known soccer hotbeds: Texas (9.1 percent of players), New York/New Jersey (8 percent), the area around Washington, D.C. (6.3 percent), Florida (4.6 percent), and Missouri/Kansas (4.6 percent). All told, 29 states were represented on the USMNT, as well as six countries. Germany (6.3 percent) is far and away the most common non-U.S. country where players grew up, with only England (1.7 percent) being the home region of more than one player abroad.

Percentage of USMNT players by state/country of origin (2008-2018)

State/country Percentage of players
California 22.3
Texas 9.1
Germany 6.3
New York 4.6
Florida 4.6
Missouri 4
New Jersey 3.4
Maryland 3.4
Pennsylvania 3.4
Virginia 2.8
Georgia 2.8
Arizona 2.8
Colorado 2.3
Illinois 2.3
Washington 2.3
20 states/countries Under 2 percent each

This brings up a chicken or egg question: Do players hail from the same areas generally because that’s where the best players tend to be, or because those are the places scouts and coaches look?Take the case of Christian Pulisic, the “kid from Hershey, Pennsylvania,” as announcers like to call him. Pennsylvania currently has multiple men’s professional teams, including the first-tier Philadelphia Union, and there have been several players from Pennsylvania in the USMNT player pool over the past decade. But Hershey, which had a population of just more than 14,000 people in 2010 and isn’t particularly close to a major city, wouldn’t be a projected hometown for a superstar.All told, 29 states were represented on the USMNT, as well as six countries. Germany is far and away the most common non-U.S. country where players grew up.Of course, that doesn’t tell the whole story with Pulisic. His hometown is Hershey, yes, but he also lived in England, Michigan, and eventually Germany before he turned 18. His parents played college soccer, and his father was a pro in indoor soccer before becoming a coach.Without parents as familiar with the game as his were, would Pulisic have fallen through the cracks? That’s impossible to say for certain, but his route to the pros may have been more circuitous. Instead of getting a Croatian passport through his grandfather, which allowed him to join Borussia Dortmund’s academy before he turned 18 without running afoul of FIFA regulations intended to protect minors, he might have played NCAA soccer before turning pro. He might not have been called up to the USMNT until he was in his 20s. In turn, he might not have ever transferred to Chelsea for $73 million at any point in his career, even if he turned out to be a talented and successful professional.While U.S. Soccer has a healthy budget, its resources are finite, and it may not make sense for scouts to scour every city, town, and hamlet for an undiscovered Pulisic. Players who live in little towns and who do not have robust support systems around them like Pulisic are more likely to be overlooked.Still, other oddities exist. To take one recent example, the roster for the U-17 World Cup in 2017 featured just one player whose hometown was west of Texas. No players from the Southwest or West Coast were called up to the final roster, despite those regions being regarded as fonts of American soccer talent.Was this because those players from traditional soccer hotbeds out west weren’t good enough that year? Possibly, and time will tell who of that particular age cohort pans out and eventually reaches the senior national team. But the example shows how difficult it is to keep tabs on an enormous country, and make sure the most suitable players get their chances on the big stages.It’s one thing to turn over every stone to identify potential USMNT pros early from a large national pool, and find that your resources aren’t quite sufficient. It’s another thing to establish a pattern of under-representing a particular group.Despite that challenge, U.S. Soccer still has its vocal critics. Brad Rothenberg, son of a former U.S. Soccer president who co-founded Alianza de Futbol, did not mince words in a 2017 interview with Soccer America, in which he said that U.S. Soccer actively avoided Alianza events, seemingly for political or commercial reasons.“The Federation has told us not to promote their brand to the 250,000 Latinos who attend our events and [U.S. Soccer director of talent identification] Tony Lepore actually notified us in 2016 that they weren’t interested in participating in Alianza since they haven’t found any elite players. On more than one occasion, U.S. Soccer scouts and coaches have secretly watched games hiding behind bleachers or our event inflatables but, when I asked, were unwilling to address our Alianza players directly for fear of endorsing an ‘unsanctioned’ event.”It’s one thing to turn over every stone to identify potential USMNT pros early from a arge national pool, and find that your resources aren’t quite sufficient. It’s another thing to establish a pattern of under-representing a particular group, like Latinx players, and then effectively turn your back on a program that has found inroads to exactly that same group.We’ve seen in the last decade that the establishment of MLS acdemies and homegrown signings have helped players turn pro earlier, ad opened new paths for USMNT players in the United States. The increase in players coming through academies abroad has likewise given the USMNT a diversified profile that is no longer primarily dependent on college players.The next step has to be consciously looking at the profiles of players in the system and finding ways to be more equitable at talent identification. No one would advocate for a quota system based on race or hometown, but more can be done, beginning with changes at U.S. Soccer, grassroots work on the local level, and enabling entities outside the official power structure modeled after programs like Alianza de Futbol.Missing the 2018 World Cup was a wake-up call for the USMNT, but it can fix the mistakes of the past, starting by fixing its blind spots in the player pool.

 

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1/25/19 US Men Play this Sun 8 pm ESPN2, US Ladies go 1-1, EPL FA Cup Game weekend

So interesting to see the US Ladies lose to France over the weekend – of course we were missing  4 of our best players.  I thought GK Alyssa Naeher honestly kept the US in it – making multiple saves in the 1st half and many in the 2nd as well.  France simply outplayed a shorthanded US team and really exposed the defense (especially on the right side in the 1st half) with their lightening fast counter attack.  Hopefully this will wake up the US who was undefeated in 2018.  Of course with our full roster back (Rapino, Heath, Johnson-Ertz) the US handled Spain at Spain 1-0.  Now we get to see how the US Men look under new US Manager Greg Berhalter.  Of course this is just the MLS version of the US player as this is not an international window so the oversea’s guys (Pulisic, Adams, Yedlin, Brooks, Sargent, etc) won’t be on hand.  Still it will be fun to see how this new look team of MLS’ers plays vs Panama on Sunday evening at 8 pm on ESPN2.  Interesting seeing Tim Howard announced his Go Home Tour as he announced he is retiring at the end of the MLS season.  Howard has certainly been one of the top US keepers with his time at Everton in his prime and 8 full years of starting in US World Cup Games for the most part.  I am sure we’ll have that conversation at some point as to where he stands in the US GK pecking order all time.  In the Top 3 for sure.

Along with the US Men on Sun Eve at 8 pm on ESPN, we also get FA Cup games this weekend mostly on ESPN+ (has anyone bought this yet?) big games include Arsenal hosting a super hot Man United today at 3 pm on ESPN+, and Crystal Palace hosting Tottenham (without Harry Kane) on Sunday at 11 am on ESPN+.

USA

What to Watch for TV for US Players Oversea’s – Stars and Stripes

US What to Watch for This Weekend – Warshaw

Berhalter – Tactics

Tim Howard to Retire at End of 2019 MLS Season

USMNT Camp is Competitive Everywhere – Jeff Carlisle – ESPNFC

Josh Wolff Joins US Soccer Staff

US to Play Chile in Houston on March 26

Full Strength US Ladies Beat Spain 1-0

3 Thoughts US shorthanded 3-1 loss at France – Graham Hays ESPNW

US Ladies Lose to France 3-1 AP

US Chelsea Defender Matt Miazga loaned to 2nd tier Reading from Nantes

Tab Ramos at Odds with MLS Teams on U-20 World Cup Roster Release

Landon Donovan to Join Indoor Team

US 18 Year Old Center Back Chris Richards of FC Dallas signs with Bayern Munich

EPL

Will Higuain save Chelsea’s Season and Revive His Career ?   Gab Marcotti ESPNFC

5 Things We Learned in the EPL this weekend

Man United Ready for Top 4 Chase – goal.com

Sarri has Himself to Blame over Chelsea Issues – Marcotti’s Mussings ESPNFC

Liverpool Proves its Worth it to Pay for Top Class Defender these Days –

Mourino shows why he’s out of Touch and Out of a Job at United – Mark Odgen ESPNFC

UEFA Report European Football Profitable but Game Remains between Superclubs and Rest – Gab Marcotti ESPNFC

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Jan 25  

2:3o pm FS2                   Hertha vs Schalke (McKinney)

2:55 pm ESPN+             Arsenal vs Man United  – FA CUP

Sat, Jan 26

9:30 am FS1                    Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Hannover

9:30 am FS2                    Borussia Mgladbach (Johnson)  vs Ausburg

10:15 am beIN Sport     Atletico Madrid vs Getafe

10 am                                 FA Cup Weekend on ESPN +

Sun, Jan 27

9:30 am FS1                    Bayern Munich vs Stuttgart

10:15 am beIN Sport     Atletico Madrid vs Getafe

11 am ESPN +                Crystal Palace vs Tottenham FA Cup Weekend

8 pm ESPN 2    USA Men vs Panama

Wed, Jan 30 

2;45 pm NBCSN                  Bournmouth vs Chelsea

2:45 pm NBCS Gold           Liverpool vs Leicester City

2:45 pm ESPN+                   Atalanta vs Juventus (Coppa Italia)

3:30 pm beIN sport             Barcelona vs Sevilla (Copa del Rey)

Fri, Feb 1 

2:30 pm Fox Sport2             Hertha vs RB Leipzig (Tyler Adams)

Sat, Feb 2

9:30 am FS1                    Frankfurt (Brooks) vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

12:30 pm FS2?                Schalke (Mckinney) vs Borrusia MGladbach (Johnson)

12:30 beIn Sport             Barcelona vs Valencia

2:30 pm ESPN+                Juventus vs Parma

3:30 pm Fox    USA Men vs Costa Rica

Sun, Feb 3  

9 am NBCSN               Leicester City vs Man United  

11:30 am NBCSN        Man City vs Arsenal  

2 pm ESPN+                 Roma vs Milan

3 pm beIN Sport         Lyonnais vs PSG  

Mon, Feb 4 

3 pm NBCSN                 West Ham vs Liverpool

Sat, Feb 9

10:15 am beIN Sport   Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid (Madrid Derby) 

USMNT Jan 25-27 viewing guide and open thread

The sneakily important editionBy jcksnftsn  Jan 25, 2019, 10:00am PST

There will be several games this weekend including two potential head-to-head match-ups, with one that could give us some insight to Christian Pulisic’s usage for the rest of the 2018-19 season.

Friday

Hertha Berlin v Schalke 04 – 2:30p on FS2

The weekend starts off right with some Schalke action Friday afternoon as Weston McKennie and company take the field against Hertha Berlin. McKennie, who has been a regular presence, albeit all over the field, for Schalke this season started, played 90 minutes, and assisted on the game winning goal against Wolfsburg last weekend. The win was Schalke’s second straight and the club now sits in 12th place in the Bundesliga, seven points behind Wolfsburg for 6th place, the final spot in the Bundesliga that would qualify the club for European competition next season. Haji Wright also made an appearance last weekend coming in as a late substitute, unfortunately he missed what should have been an easy opportunity to put the game away, hopefully that won’t have a lingering impact on his mentality moving forward.Hertha Berlin are currently in 7th place in the Bundesliga and are coming off a win over Nurnberg. With the exception of Jonathan Klinsmann who has made the bench just once for Hertha this season, there are no American representatives on this side of the ball.

*** Update: Weston McKennie picked up a yellow card last weekend and is suspended for this afternoon’s game due to yellow card accumulation. Which means the weekend will not be starting off right… or Wright either, since Haji is on the bench…***

Other Notes:

  • Atlas and Lobos BUAP play at 10p on Univision Deportes with Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco likely to represent their clubs.

Saturday

Borussia Dortmund v Hannover 96 – 9:30a on FS1

Christian Pulisic played roughly 15 minutes last weekend in a substitute appearance for Borussia Dortmund in his first game since finalizing his transfer to Chelsea and immediate loan back to Borussia Dortmund. This Saturday’s game may give us some insight into whether Manager Lucien Favre plans to continue using Pulisic in a rotational role or if he’ll see his playing time reduced over the next several months. For all the hand-wringing about Pulisic’s play time in the Fall he essentially started every other match for the club, with most of those appearances coming in Champions League play. One possibility is that Pulisic will continue in regular rotation, getting the start this week. A second possibility is that Favre will only rotate on weeks where the club is playing more than once a week, such as when the club has Cup or Champions League play. Of course a third distinct possibility, which USMNT fans may not like to hear, is that Pulisic will be reduced to a substitute role for the remainder of the season regardless of injury. This weekend could give us some clues, particularly if Pulisic gets the start, though we may have to wait until next weekend when Dortmund start a stretch of four games in less than two weeks to fully understand what role he might play.

As for the action on the field, last weekend Dortmund defeated RB Leipzig 1-0 to maintain a 6 point lead atop the Bundesliga standings. This weekend they’ll be facing Bobby Wood and 17th place Hannover. Wood has been starting pretty regularly for Hannover though he has failed to produce many results with just 3 goals on the season. He was pulled in the 63rd minute last weekend in a 1-0 loss to Werder Bremen. Hannover have 11 points on the season which pouts them 5 points back of safety.

Werder Bremen v Entracht Frankfurt – 12:30p on FS2

Josh Sargent has appeared as a substitute in four of five games since joining the first team squad and has nearly matched Wood’s goal scoring total already with two goals in just 55 minutes. One would suspect that he will continue to make appearances from the bench on a regular basis with that production until he is able to break into the starting eleven. Werder Bremens win last weekend brings them to 9th place in the Bundesliga, just three points back of Wolfsburg for that 6th position.Timothy Chandler continues in recovery for fifth place Eintracht Frankfurt and will not be available for the club this weekend. Frankfurt are coming off a 3-1 win over Frieburg in their return from the winter break.

Other Notes:

  • Fabian Johnson was left out of the matchday squad for 3rd place Borussia Monchengladbach last weekend. The team plays Augsburg at 9:30a on FS2.
  • Joe Corona has been seeing substitute appearances for Tijuana so far this winter, they face Cruz Azul at 6p on ESPN Deportes.
  • Captain Ventura Alvarado leads Necaxa against Morelia Saturday at 10p on Univision Deportes. Necaxa have won their first two of the Winter season.

Sunday

A second chance for Tyler Adams to take the field in a head to head matchup against a fellow American this weekend as his RB Leipzig team will take on Alfredo Morales and Fortuna Dusseldorf. Last weekend Adams made the matchday squad but failed to see playing time in Leipzig’s loss to Borussia Dortmund, though given how long he’s been with the team it should be no surprise and in fact it should probably be considered an encouraging sign that he was able to make the eighteen so quickly. RB Leipzig are in fourth place in the Bundesliga, just a point ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt for that final Champions League spot.Alfredo Morales and Fortuna Dusseldorf have won four straight league games, though Morales only appeared in the most recent victory. The run has the team in 14th place with 21 points, over half their points coming in that four game stretch. Morales played well last weekend and had a lovely assist that included a nice tackle and a long pas that perfectly hit his man in stride for the game winning goal in the 89th minute.

Tim Howard to retire at end of ’19 MLS season

2:02 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Tim Howard has announced that he will retire from professional soccer at the end of the 2019 MLS season.Howard, 39, will go down in U.S. soccer history as one of the country’s all-time greats, a considerable feat given the regularity with which the country has produced top-class goalkeepers.”It’s been one heck of a ride,” Howard told reporters on Tuesday. “This is something that’s been on my radar for a number of years now, probably since I signed with Colorado. I knew that the length of the contract would take me to being 40, and it seemed like the right time. I’ve always had my sights set on this, and there are other things I want to do.”For a lot of those reasons I wanted to make sure that this would be the end. The timing just makes a lot of sense to do it now before the season to get that out of the way so that it’s not a distraction. That’s what’s most important to me. I feel great. It’s not something I thought about last night. It’s a decision I’ve been very comfortable with for quite a long time in my own head and heart. I feel good.”The North Brunswick, New Jersey, native began his professional career in 1997 with the North Jersey Imperials of what is now the United Soccer League. He moved to the New York/New Jersey MetroStars of MLS the next year, spending parts of six seasons with the club before securing a transfer to Manchester United in 2003.Howard endured an up-and-down tenure during his three seasons with the Red Devils. He was initially the starter, and was the hero in United’s Charity Shield triumph over Arsenal. But a series of uneven performances, including an error that resulted in United being eliminated from the UEFA Champions League against Porto, saw him lose his starting spot to Roy Carroll. Howard rebounded, and won a winner’s medal later that season in the 2004 FA Cup final against Millwall. He was also named in the Professional Footballers’ Association Best XI that year.Howard eventually lost his spot to Carroll and later Edwin van der Sar. As a result, Howard went on loan to Everton for the 2006-07 season, with the loan made permanent in February 2007. He went on to become a mainstay for the Toffees, making more than 400 league and cup appearances over 10 seasons. In 2016, he returned to MLS, where he has spent the past three campaigns with the Rapids, making 57 league and playoff appearances.Howard excelled at the international level as well. He made 121 appearances for the U.S. national team and was part of three World Cup sides. At the 2014 World Cup, Howard delivered a stellar performance in the 2-1 round of 16 defeat to Belgium, making 15 saves. He was also part of two Gold Cup-winning sides in 2007 and 2017. Howard was part of the team that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but he remains one of the top players the U.S. has produced.”I think overall, from a football purist standpoint, if you broke that [Belgium] game down, it’s probably the greatest game I’ve played in,” Howard said. “Not only my own performance but Julian Green taking his goal, [Chris Wondolowski] got a great chance at the end. When you talk about the game of all games, it was colossal.”Howard, who has ownership stakes in USL Championship side Memphis 901 FC and English fifth-tier outfit Dagenham & Redbridge, was adament that his post-playing plays will not involve a coaching career.”I can tell you this wholeheartedly. If someone got me to coach a bunch of professional athletes, they’d have to pay me probably more money than is in the U.S. Treasury because it’s not a job that I would enjoy in any way, shape or form,” Howard said. “It’s difficult, it’s time consuming, you get very little of the glory, and all of the pain. It’s not something I even think about. I would never go near coaching.”

Warshaw: Watch the process begin as Berhalter era kicks off for USMNT

January 25, 20193:52PM EST  Bobby Warshaw

A lot happens in a soccer game, but how much of it matters?  Hundreds of actions take place — passes, dribbles, shots, duels, plus every movement that happens off the ball. Some go well, some go poorly. You can’t expect all of it go right. You can’t even really ask for all of it to be right. You have to decide what matters on that day and hone in on it. Picking priorities is even more important in a friendly, and even more paramount for a coach taking over a new team. And it’s the thing I’m most intrigued to see in Gregg Berhalter’s first game in charge of the US men’s national team, on Sunday against Panama (8 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMás, UDN).Not who starts, or what formation the team plays, or how they play (although I’m also very interested in those). It’s what Berhalter prioritizes.In his first game in charge, he’s setting the building blocks on which everything else will come. He’s putting the most core principles to the front.We know how Berhalter had his Columbus Crew team play — passing from the back, fairly quick to goal in the final third, and a middle block in the defensive phase. But we haven’t gotten decisive answers on how he will have the USMNT play. Do we have the talent to possess as much as he wants? Will he adjust to his most talented players and use a more high pressure style?  What type of team will we have for the next X number of years?We won’t get all of the answers in the two upcoming friendlies, but we should get a clear glimpse. And it won’t be obvious, but there will be moments that will show what Berhalter’s looking for. Namely, when the mistakes happen.In the first step of establishing a style, the ideas matters more than the execution. You want to build the right mental habits and decisions. You’re used to playing the ball in the striker? Let’s get you to play it to the center mid. With that, mistakes happen. In a normal setting, you might expect a player to do something different after a mistake. I suspect in these upcoming games, we will see the same mistakes over and over. And that’s a good thing.  The biggest thing the team needs is an identity. Christian Pulisic has said it, you’ve said it, even your great aunt who only watches soccer once a year has said it. They need a clear philosophy that binds the players together. Identities aren’t fleeting, they are ingrained.  Berhalter demonstrated at Columbus that he knows how to build an identity. It’s piece by piece, one element on top of the next. We get to see the first piece he’s putting down on Sunday. It might not stare us in the face, but it’ll be there … in the repeated errors. In those errors, we should get to see what Berhalter’s cooking for the rest of the cycle.

A 10 letter word to describe the competitive spirit of the USMNT camp? Crosswords

5:20 PM ET  Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — For his first camp as manager of the U.S. men’s national team, Gregg Berhalter instituted a rule: no cell phones in the dining area. The idea was he wanted the 28 players in attendance to talk with one another and bond over meals rather than have their heads buried in their phones. Little did Berhalter know that the players would find a low-tech way to put their own twist on meal time: crossword puzzles.”They’ve kind of blown up over the past two weeks here,” said midfielder Wil Trapp. “But we’re all competitors, right? It’s something where you wouldn’t think that crossword puzzles would get a bunch of professional athletes jazzed up. We’re sitting, we’re talking and now it’s something where it’s a little bit of competition and fun tension you have at the meals. And the guys enjoy the fact that at first, it’s a daunting task. It’s easy to give up on it.It’s enough to leave Berhalter to joke, “we banned phones from the meal room, but now everyone is doing crossword puzzles, so now we might have to ban crossword puzzles to get guys talking to each other again.”Team administrator Jon Fleishman will provide the USA Today crossword at lunchtime, and then another one at dinner. Some players work in pairs. For others, it’s a solo endeavor. And while Trapp is widely viewed as the top dog when it comes to both speed and precision, the likes of Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long are putting up a fight.”I’ve picked up more crosswords here than I have in my entire life,” said defender, and first-time U.S. call-up, Mark McKenzie. “It helps us, especially off the field, getting to know the guys, getting to know each other with some banter in between as well as working together.”McKenzie says he’s made progress over the last two weeks, gradually filling up more of the page and picking up some tricks along the way.”Crosswords will make you feel smart sometimes but a lot of times, you’ll try to go with the complex answer, and it will just be the simple words that work,” he said.This echoes the approach the U.S. is taking on the field at camp. The January camp remains a rarity in international soccer. Because of the vagaries of the calendar at both international and club level, there just aren’t many opportunities for national teams to get together, uninterrupted, for four weeks.Looking back over the history of the January camp, the stakes are much the same as they’ve always been: it’s an opportunity for players to get noticed. Coaches get to accumulate an immense amount of data. How does a player train? How does he take care of himself? How does he bounce back after a bad day?While it’s easy to dismiss the camp given that many of the players will never be national team mainstays, it seems that every year, a player or two breaks through to become a more consistent contributor, whether it was Pablo Mastroeni back in the day, or in more recent times a Geoff Cameron or a Graham Zusi. Last year it was Trapp who emerged to take on a bigger role, though the circumstances this time around are a bit unique compared to the camps in the last few years.Two years ago, it was about getting ready for a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March. Last year it was about moving on, in any way possible from the World Cup qualifying failure. Now it’s about Berhalter and the new staff representing a fresh beginning both on and off the field. Games over the next two weekends aganst Panama and Costa Rica will comprise the initial tests. Everyone in camp, from coaches to players, stress the games will not be perfect. Progress will have to suffice.”We’re finally building something,” said Trapp. “The new staff is here, the new model is being implemented. For all of us, it’s adapting to that and then seeing how we shake out when the games come around.”

A new year, a new manager, a new USMNT base

It started with Berhalter’s choice of location. The Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center is a facility that Berhalter was familiar with as a player. And while it’s not quite boot camp, it’s not the posh digs that have characterized previous camps either. Four players are placed in each suite, which is comprised of two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living room. The facility has the advantage of having everything on site from the fields to the dining area, the apartments and a gymnasium.”You think about the number of Olympic athletes that have trained here,” said Berhalter. “The Paralympic teams are here training… it’s inspiration all around.”Berhalter used the word “isolated” to describe the set-up; the facility is about a 30-minute drive from downtown San Diego.”It’s great because you don’t have to drive to training. You just walk to where you have to go,” said forward Gyasi Zardes. “Simplifying things for the players really allowed them to focus more on their sport.”For the U.S. men’s national team, that focus starts at around 7:30 a.m. every day with breakfast, followed by a weigh-in and a questionnaire detailing how the players are feeling after the previous day’s workout. There is a practice session at 10:30, followed by lunch. A break in the early afternoon precedes an afternoon practice or gym session, though there is the occasional afternoon off. Dinner is at 7 p.m. and the rest of the evening is left to the players, though the focus is on gearing up for the next day. Many players use the opportunity to review film from the day’s practices on their iPad or laptop. It gives them a better feel for what was done well or what can be improved.”I’m a visual learner, so when you see it and get a different angle from a drone, or you see what specific areas are being worked on, it’s a huge plus,” said forward Christian Ramirez.More than anything, Berhalter and his staff are attempting to get to know the players, and vice versa. He is also trying to lay the foundation for what he expects will be an identifiable system of play. That is a tricky task, especially down the road when the camps will be shorter in duration and the European-based players have to be incorporated.The idea is to eventually get everyone on the same page,” said Berhalter. “But you have to start somewhere and for us, what we’ve noticed as a coaching staff, we’re fine-tuning the exercises, the instruction, the content, the programming… we’re fine-tuning all of that in terms of how we can we most effectively teach in a short amount of time.”The competitive aspect extends to a system whereby points are awarded for “mini-games” during practice. It helps keep the players sharp for the duration of the session.”It’s a mini-competition within the team and more than not, you’ll see one guy winning for the day and you’ll see him climbing up the leaderboard. It makes other guys think ‘Man I’ve got to catch up,'” said midfielder Cristian Roldan.”Just like this crossword puzzle, in practice it’s the same thing. We’re trying to compete against each other and beat each other.”

Josh Wolff among U.S. Soccer key appointments to Gregg Berhalter’s set-up

Jan 16, 2019ESPN

U.S. Soccer announced key appointments to the national team on Wednesday, with former U.S. international Josh Wolff among those joining Gregg Berhalter’s set-up.Wolff has been appointed an assistant coach, B.J. Callaghan as strategy analyst and assistant coach, Steve Tashjian as head performance expert and Darcy Norman as movement and conditioning coach.”In putting together the staff, we looked for coaches with considerable backgrounds in four different areas: World Cups, CONCACAF, MLS and Europe,” Berhalter said.”This group checks those boxes, and we are confident their wealth of experiences will be beneficial to the players and for the development of our program.”Wolff and Tashjian previously worked under Berhalter in the same roles with Columbus Crew SC. Norman, meanwhile, joins after working as performance data analyst and fitness coach with Germany.”From the outset, we searched for coaches that have complimentary skillsets and varied career paths,” USMNT general manager Earnie Stewart said.”Starting with Gregg and with these additions to the staff, we have assembled a strong group that can now begin to implement the culture, style of play and identity we envision for the national team moving forward.”Wolff returns to the U.S. national team having worked for the past five years under Berhalter at Columbus Crew SC. He helped the club to the 2015 MLS Cup Final and playoff berths in four out of five seasons.Norman brings a wealth of experience to Berhalter’s team. He worked for the Germany national team between 2012-18, and was part of the victorious World Cup 2014 winning side, as well as a third-place finish at Euro 2016. He also worked as director of performance at Serie A side Roma, helping them to the Champions League semifinals last season.Berhalter was named USMNT coach in December last year

, ending a search for a permanent coach that started in October 2017.His first matches in charge will be a pair of friendlies against Panama on Jan. 27 and a Feb. 2 match against CONCACAF rival Costa Rica.Nico Estevez, who worked closely with Berhalter at Columbus will join the USMNT staff as an assistant coach, pending approval of his U.S. work permit.

Hays: 3 observations after USWNT’s loss to France

By Graham Hays | Jan 19, 2019

The U.S. has never gone undefeated in a World Cup year. That streak, at least, continues.Opening its 2019 schedule in Le Havre, where it will also play a World Cup group game against Sweden in June, the U.S. lost 3-1 against host France on Saturday.Settling into her role as a running mate for superstar Eugenie Le Sommer, 23-year-old Kadidiatou Diani scored the first two goals for France, and substitute Marie-Antoinette Katoto had a third. Mallory Pugh scored the only U.S. goal with the game already settled.The result in Le Havre ended a 28-game unbeaten streak for the U.S., dating to a 2017 loss against Australia in Seattle. It also marked the second win in the past three meetings in the series for France, which begins its most important year ranked third in the world.The French have outscored the U.S. 7-2 in three meetings in the past three years. The minus-five goal differential for the U.S. matches the same differential in a three-game stretch against Norway in the early 1990s as the worst ever against any European rival.As rare as losses have been for the U.S. of late, the result continued a streak of nearly two decades that has seen the U.S. start slowly. The loss was the third in a row in the opening game of a World Cup year. The U.S. hasn’t won its calendar opener in a World Cup year since 1999.The French looked like a team that successfully navigated a transfer of generations and is fully capable of winning its first major title. The U.S. looked like a team just out of preseason.Here are three observations from the game.

The U.S. was far from full strength

The U.S. looked like half a team. Without likely World Cup starters Julie Ertz, Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle, Kelley O’Hara and Megan Rapinoe because of what were described as injuries and illnesses (only Lavelle was among the available substitutes on the bench), it kind of was.

Saturday’s game was never going to look like a CONCACAF qualifier, with the U.S. running rampant in possession against overmatched opponents. That was part of the reason for going on the road to play one of the best teams in the world in front of a full stadium of its fans. But after looking so good in high-profile games against Australia, Brazil and Japan last summer in the Tournament of Nations, the short-handed U.S. looked distinctly second best Saturday.That underscored how much those missing players fuel the aggressive style the U.S. wants to play (and after watching Alex Morgan look too isolated Saturday, how much of a role they play in what happens with possession). It also isn’t a surprise. It shouldn’t be cause for panic.Not only were U.S. players coming off their offseason, compared to French players in the middle of club seasons, but the Americans didn’t tailor their preseason to the first two games. Instead of tapering activity to be freshest for France, they pushed through the duration of the preseason camp in Portugal — coach Jill Ellis even used the phrase “boot camp” to describe the mentality. It isn’t a surprise that some veterans would feel the effects to the extent that it made sense to rest them in a friendly on a cold night in France.Injuries are cause for concern this year — it isn’t a bold prediction to say the U.S. won’t win the World Cup without half it starting lineup. That part of Saturday does have long-term significance. The result? That will have much less significance moving forward.

Outside back remains a problem

The U.S. has unknowns all over the field. That isn’t an indictment most of the time. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher is an unknown as a starter in a major tournament. But she earned the role over the past two years — and played like it Saturday. The durability of Heath and Rapinoe on the experienced side of 30 is an unknown. But while the front line struggled without them against the French, Pugh would start for almost any other team in the world, and Christen Press has a better résumé than most any other insurance plan.The same is true in the midfield, even if Sam Mewis didn’t get much time off the bench to show it Saturday. It’s true at center back with the return of Tierna Davidson alongside Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn.There are quality alternatives if one or two (not five) injuries demand them.Outside back, on the other hand, remains an unknown that should terrify the U.S. And Saturday exposed a lack of depth behind expected World Cup starters O’Hara and Crystal Dunn.None of that is Emily Fox’s fault, though she obviously suffered through a difficult first half against France’s Delphine Cascarino, including the sequence that led to the first goal. Still just halfway through her college career at North Carolina, Fox is a promising name for the future. She is also the latest in a long line of experiments that don’t appear to have uncovered a viable option for competing against the likes of Cascarino and France in the present.

The trip isn’t over

It doesn’t get much easier for the U.S. when it travels to play Spain in Alicante on Tuesday.The France game was always the centerpiece of the trip, the reason to start the year abroad. But the second game is far more than an afterthought. It’s the first meeting between the two teams, and it comes with Spain making a rapid ascent in the women’s game. Dominant at the youth level, winning last year’s U-17 World Cup and finishing second in the U-20 World Cup, the senior team breezed through World Cup qualifying without a blemish.Bouncing back from Saturday with a blowout against a nobody wouldn’t show much. How the U.S. responds against a team looking to prove itself a World Cup contender will be telling.Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

Press goal leads USA to 1-0 win over Spain

In a clash of styles, the US managed to edge Spain through an imPressive effort on the ball.

By Stephanie Y@thrace  Jan 22, 2019, 2:04pm PST

tarting XI: Naeher, Dunn, Sauerbrunn, Dahlkemper, Sonnett, Horan, Ertz, Lavelle, Rapinoe, Morgan, Heath

The struggle continued for the United States women’s national team as they played their second away friendly following January camp, this time against Spain. The previous game against Francewas marked by a sense of playing catch-up, and much of that was in effect here once again on a chilly night in Alicante.Spain swept out of the gate looking comfortable on the ball, playing a smooth possession game that nevertheless fizzled around the 18-yard box. The US dropped, absorbed, although perhaps for too long without any critical pressure, and then looked to break out quickly. They created some chances on the run, Crystal Dunn pushing up along the left flank and overlapping Megan Rapinoe to make for a far more active and effective wide space than against France, but several balls targeting Alex Morgan or a drifting-central Rose Lavelle went begging.The US began building again about halfway through the first half, mostly looking to catch Morgan in front of goal, but with some spirited attempts at range as well. Still, Spain surged once again, compacting the US back into defensive shape, limiting Heath’s ability to get forward on the right as she dropped to help cut off that pocket in front of Emily Sonnett.The half was an interesting but frustrating back-and-forth no matter which side you were rooting for, as Spain would frequently end 15-pass chains with no attempt at goal and the US took too long to close down Spain’s possession and move the danger down the field.Jill Ellis made three changes to start the second half, bringing on Tierna Davidson, Mal Pugh, and Christen Press for Sonnett, Horan, and Rapinoe. Davidson went to left back and the ever-versatile Dunn shifted to the right.Press was an immediate spark of energy. The US weren’t exactly playing lackadaisical until then, but neither were they going at full speed, which is understandable given where they are in terms of their preparations for the World Cup. Press went at the ball like it was a much more high-stakes game, and given her recent on- and off-the bench playing time, she may be doing her best to remind Ellis why she should be a first choice pick.Press made a quick impression with her intensity of play, galloping into the box off a ball from Lavelle out of the midfield and scoring to make it 1-0 in the 54’. The US as a whole turned up the intensity, taking advantage of mostly-fresh legs. Jess McDonald subbed on in the 60’ for Tobin Heath, adding another option to get behind and maybe open up a space for Morgan.Spain had their moments though, finally trying to put the ball on frame. Alyssa Naeher had to make a direct stop in the 63’ as a through ball split Dahlkemper and Sauerbrunn, who honestly looked a little bit caught off guard in the moment.But Press took it back to Spain’s net again, owning the ball and not getting shut down by three surrounding players, which allowed her to pick out a gap for Morgan. Morgan’s shot ended up getting saved, but the US kept surging. Julie Ertz made some drives through the center, although this forced Lavelle to drop each time. Ertz ended up getting subbed in the 69’ for McCall Zerboni and Lavelle went off in the 76’ for Sam Mewis; that Zerboni-Mewis combo turned up the physicality a little in the center, although there were certainly scraps between Horan, Ertz, and Lavelle and the Spanish midfield as well. Zerboni also kept looking to put the forwards into space with forward ball movement, but the runs weren’t as frequent as they might have been earlier in the match.Spain’s pace dropped off through the last 10 minutes of the game, although they forced a big midair grab out of Naeher in a corner in the 85’. The US still drove directly at goal to the last whistle, with Mewis curving a ball directly into McDonald’s path in the 88’. With a couple more yards of space McDonald might have snapped a shot off, but Spain’s goalkeeper Paños came out to collect.The game ended at 1-0 with Press’ goal the difference maker. It was a slightly better game than the one against France; Rapinoe and Dunn showed some early verve prying open opportunities from the left side and Press was clearly not messing around. But it was also a subdued game in some ways from the USWNT, giving Spain a little too much space to possess, not always getting as numbers-up in the final third as they could have. Perhaps the time to really start worrying is during SheBelieves; if the team still looks like they’re at 75% in March, then we can give in to our sports anxieties. For now, toes have been dipped back into match fit waters after the last long rest these players were likely to get before the World Cup whirlwind takes them. As long as no one got injured (crossing fingers for Zerboni, who took a hard hit and looked to be clutching her shoulder near the end of the game), this was not the worst possible outcome for January.

U.S. defender Matt Miazga recalled from Nantes, loaned to second-tier Reading

10:55 AM ETAssociated Press

United States defender Matt Miazga has been recalled by Chelsea from his unsuccessful loan spell at French club Nantes and loaned to relegation-threatened English Championship side Reading for the rest of the season.Chelsea acquired Miazga from Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bullsin January 2016, but he made just two appearances during the remainder of that season and was loaned to Vitesse in the Netherlandsfor the remainder of 2016-17 and last season.Miazga was sent to Nantes in the summer for what had been intended to be a season-long loan.The 23-year-old started six Ligue 1 matches under coach Miguel Cordoso, but played only one more match after Cordoso was replaced by Vahid Halilhodic. He has made 11 international appearances.Reading are 22nd of 24 teams in the Championship, three points from safety.

Five things we learned from the Premier League weekend

Kieran CANNINGAFPJan 20, 2019, 7:55 PM

London (AFP) – Liverpool are one step closer to a long-awaited Premier League title, but only just after a seven-goal thriller against Crystal Palace at Anfield, while Chelsea imploded in losing 2-0 at Arsenal.Manchester United and Tottenham were also victorious as the race for a top-four finish tightened and Manchester Citywere routine 3-0 winners at Huddersfield to remain just four points adrift of Liverpool.Here, AFP Sport looks at five things we learned from the Premier League weekend:

Liverpool get luck champions need

For the second consecutive week Liverpool got the job done by a solitary goal, but in stark contrast to a dogged 1-0 victory at Brighton last weekend, Jurgen Klopp’s men needed their forwards to come to the party and a touch of fortune to see off Crystal Palace 4-3.

Trailing 1-0 at half-time, the Reds turned the game around in the space of eight minutes at the start of the second period thanks to deflections that favoured Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.Palace hit back to level again at 2-2, but the leaders biggest break came when 39-year-old goalkeeper Julian Speroni, playing for the first time in 13 months due to injuries to Wayne Hennessey and Vicente Guaita, fumbled a simple James Milner cross towards his own goal and Salah slammed into an empty net.Another hurdle cleared, Liverpool are now 15 games from a first title in 29 years.

Will Sarri be short-lived?

With a post-match thrashing of his players a former Chelsea manager in Jose Mourinho would have been proud of, Maurizio Sarri left no one in any doubt where he placed the blame for an insipid performance at the Emirates.The Italian lambasted his players’ desire and commitment, labelling them “difficult to motivate”.Sarri must also, though, accept his measure of responsibility with Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante again struggling in unfamiliar positions.Not many Chelsea managers have taken on the dressing room and succeeded in Roman Abramovich’s reign.Sarri is just six months into a three-year contract, but they have tended to matter for little under Abramovich and he may be the latest in a string of illustrious coaches that does not last long at Stamford Bridge.

Solskjaer reaps Rashford reward

Arsenal’s victory closed the Gunners to within three points of Chelsea in the fight for a top-four finish, but it is a rejuvenated United who look even more likely to beat Sarri’s men to Champions League qualification.Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has now masterminded a magnificent seven straight wins since taking charge as caretaker boss.An 11-point gap to the top four when Mourinho was sacked little over a month ago is down to three and United will have the chance to erase it when Chelsea visit Old Trafford towards the end of the season.A 2-1 win over Brighton was not the Red Devils’ best display under the Norwegian, but his influence was still decisive as Marcus Rashford’s stunning solo goal proved the difference between the sides.Finally afforded a run of games in a central role up front, Rashford has now scored in four straight Premier League games for the first time in his career.

Winks rallies Spurs’ walking wounded

Shorn of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min, Spurs needed Harry Winks’ first goal since 2016 to see off struggling Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage.Winks’ header with virtually the last action of 93 pulsating minutes ensures Spurs maintain a seven-point cushion over Arsenal and United.

And they might need it as Alli joined a worrying list of injury casualties.

The England international had scored Tottenham’s equaliser before pulling up with a hamstring injury.With Kane out until March with ankle ligament damage and Son on duty for South Korea at the Asian Cup for the rest of the month, Spurs are desperately short of firepower as they try to maintain a challenge in four competitions.

Little Silva lining for Everton

Unlike Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs who didn’t spend a penny on transfers in the summer, Marco Silva was handed £90 million worth of new arrivals to begin the challenge of taking on the top six at Everton.  Instead, the Toffees are just three points better off and two places lower in the table than they were at this stage last season under Sam Allardyce.Of Everton’s big summer signings, Colombia’s World Cup hero Yerry Mina was left on the bench, while Andre Gomes, Richarlison and Bernard were all substituted by Silva in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Southampton.At the very least, Everton’s majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri would expect to be the best of the rest in seventh come the end of the season.But a run of just two wins in 10 league games since November leaves Everton trailing Watford, Wolves, Leicester and West Ham down in 11th.

UEFA report: European football profitable but gap between super-clubs and rest remains

18 Jan, 2019Gabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC

Each year, for the past decade, UEFA have released their “Benchmarking Report,” a sort of “State of the Game” across the top flights of every European league. As ever, it’s filled with interesting nuggets and takes time to sift through.Here’s a Q&A to help make sense of it.

Q: So what’s the top-line, major takeaway?

A: Well, for the first time in the report’s history — and probably the first time ever — European top-flight clubs were profitable last year, to the tune of some $700 million. When you consider that last year they had a loss of $400m, it’s quite a turnaround. And if you go a little further back? Well, in 2011 it was a whopping $1.9 billion.What’s more, it’s not as if it’s just the very richest clubs in the richest leagues who are profitable (although they obviously make the most). Of the 98 clubs in Europe’s Big Five leagues, 77 turned a profit. As a whole, midtier leagues like Portugal, Holland, Belgium and Austria were also profitable.

Q: That’s good, right?

A: Sure. The old maxim whereby owning a club was like owning a racehorse — a vanity pursuit where you had to bankroll losses every year — is out the window. Of course, that part was also something of a myth: it’s not that owners of yesteryear were all altruistic or romantic uber-fans. Plenty made money out of football in other ways, whether it was free advertising for themselves or their other businesses, gaining local political clout and standing or funnelling money out of the club to themselves.But now the game has become a real business, where you can get real returns and where real investors can put their money. Because, with some exceptions, to lose money at a top-flight club, you have to be either incompetent, extremely unlucky or hugely irresponsible.

Q: What caused this turnaround then?

A: UEFA would say it’s financial fair play, and no doubt that has been a big contributor in keeping costs down. Those $1.9bn in losses? They occurred in the final year before FFP was introduced. Limiting spending obviously drives down costs, and by making owners cover losses by putting in equity, it staves off the sort of “chain reaction” losses we used to see in the past.But that’s only part of the story. Revenue from media rights has skyrocketed too; so too has commercial income, driven in part by globalization. That has nothing to do with FFP but simply due to more media companies and sponsors willing to pay more money in more parts of the world.It’s not surprising, then, that virtually every club out there is a big fan of FFP. That said, it has also had negative side effects. It unquestionably contributed to the polarization in the game, which is also chronicled in the report. Manchester United, for example, make more than Zenit, Atletico Madrid and Schalke combined. Real Madrid’s wage bill ($462m) was almost as high as that of Tottenham Hotspur, Roma and AC Milan combined.  That’s why Aleksander Ceferin, the UEFA President, has vowed to address this. He hasn’t ruled out luxury caps and limits on squad sizes, as well as relaxing financial fair play rules. Previously, it would have been difficult. But now that football has become a profitable business, there’s scope to go further and allow more in the way of losses to help build a team.

Q: So things are going great, and it’s a golden age of football, right?

A: Yes and no. For a start, the broadcast rights income won’t keep growing forever. The other aspect is that those bottom-line profit numbers are boosted by player trading like never before. In fact, the value of transfer activities has doubled in the past three years, which is helping to boost bottom-line profits at many clubs.

Q: How does that work? One club sells, the other club buys — shouldn’t things net out?

A: Nope, and that has to do with accounting practices.

When you buy a player, you spread out the fee over the length of the contract, but when you sell, you book the entire fee immediately. So if you buy a player for £10m, give him a five-year deal and sell him after two years for £10m, you’ve actually made an accounting profit of £4m (£10m, minus the £6m residual value on your books). Alhough in cash terms, you simply got your money back. It can catch up to you eventually, but as long as transfer spending continues to increase, you’re fine. But some clubs are increasingly relying on this to show a profit, and that has to be a concern in the long term.

Q: So overall, are we doing OK?

A: More than OK, I’d say. Attendance is as high as it’s been in the past 10 years, and while as a proportion of revenue, gate receipts make up an increasingly small percentage, that’s mostly because other revenue streams have grown faster. Across Europe, the highest yield per match attendee (a very rough way of saying average ticket price) was just under $30. The highest was Paris Saint-Germain ($99), followed closely by Chelsea ($98) and Arsenal ($97). But the average of the Big Five leagues was $39: not cheap, but judging by attendances, it’s in line with what folks are willing to pay.As I mentioned, football is now a real, investible business that ought to bring more stability, which is ultimately what most fans care about: that they continue to have a club to support. And it might also mean that FFP is loosened — we’ve already seen the first steps with the introduction of “voluntary agreements,” whereby clubs can get permission to exceed FFP requirements if they present a credible business plan and comply down the line — since there are plenty of wealthy investors queuing up to put in money.That could help broaden the base of “super-clubs,” but further down the food chain, polarization continues to be an issue. And, of course, the vast sums circulating will also attract speculators and, well, crooks. That’s why transparency and oversight not just from UEFA and other regulators, but supporters’ groups too, has to be part of the plan going forward.

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