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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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

 

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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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1/18/19 US Ladies Face France 2:30 pm Sat on FS1, US Christian Pulisic Traded to Chelsea for $73 Million, EPL Race Tightens as Man U surges

So I am finally back from the extended holiday break – I thought I would follow the German Bundesliga schedule as they return to play this weekend as well.  Of course a tight race at the top as Dortmund and US starlet Christian Pulisic (who has been traded to Chelsea but won’t leave until this summer) tries to hold off perennial top rated Bayern Munich who are 3 points back in the table. Dortmund hosts 4th place RB Leipzig and American newcomer Tyler Adams on Saturday at 11:30 am on FS2.  Of course the tightest race in the World is still the EPL where Liverpool has a 4 pt lead on Man City who have lost their last 2 matches.  Tottenham is of course trying to figure out how they get thru the next 6 weeks without their talisman Harry Kane (who’s out with a knee), Chelsea remains in 4th but travels to Arsenal this Saturday for the 12:30 pm NBC featured match.  Man United the winner of 6 in a row since they fired the Special one Mourino and brought back an old favorite player/manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer should add to their win total as they host Brigton Hove Albion on CNBC at 10 Sat.  (I am just happy I can again root for the Red Devils – since the evil one left and a Sir Alex Protégé is back in at manager).  The race for the top 4 in the EPL is seriously going to be the toughest is the world again this year as Man U and Arsenal are just 6 pts back just past the midway point in the season.  It’s a 6 team race for sure!

PULISIC BECOMES HIGHEST EVER US TRADE AT 73 MILLION FROM DORTMUND TO CHELSEA

So while I was gone – the American Starlet young 20 year old Christian Pulisic commanded by far the highest ever price paid for an American player when he was traded from Dortmund to Chelsea for $73 Million dollars.  That’s like 3 times more than any other us player.  Now he won’t come to Chelsea until this summer – so hopefully he can battle his way back into the starting line-up for Dortmund this spring.  Meanwhile – while I was begging for him to end up at Liverpool for obvious reasons – the truth is Chelsea is probably the 1 English club that plays a style that Pulisic would thrive in.  Especially if Hazard is traded as has been rumored.  It should be interesting to see how it works out – I would say Chelsea overpaid but if Pulisic can grab a starting role – a bunch of American’s will buy jerseys and Chelsea could just become the new Fulham America.  (see stories below).

US LADIES FACE FRANCE IN WORLD CUP PREVIEW

The Top Ranked US Ladies travel to France to play the #2 or 3 ranked team in the World this Saturday afternoon at 2:30 on Fox Sports 1 in the stadium they will be playing the world cup in before traveling to Spain for a 2:30 pm match Tuesday on ESPN2.  As the #1 Ranked Team and Former World Cup Champion – all the pressure will be in the US.

WORLD

Marcotti Around the World – Man U Surges, Spurs Trouble?, Messi Magic – Gab Marcotti ESPNFC

Impact Transfers around the World

EPL

What to Watch For this Weekend EPL

De Gea 11 Great Saves vs Spurs

5 Things we learned as Man United wins at the Spurs

Liverpool Sacrifice Style for Results

USA

Pulisic’s Talents lend themselves well to Chelsea says Tim Howard – Gus Elvin ESPNFC

US Pulisic Traded to Chelsea is Huge – Grant Wahl SI

US Have Massive Job Ahead but Greg Behalter is the Right Hire – Says Tim Howard –  Gus Elvin ESPNFC

US Mid Weston McKennie – Not on Liverpool’s Radar afterall

Neymar says US Tim Weah will be A Star Someday

USMNT Camp – Which MLS Players Have the Most to Gain this Month?  MLS.com

How US Prodigy Ben Lederman was Ruined at Barcelona – ESPNFC Feature

US Ladies to Play France in Potential Preview of World Cup to Come – Stars and Stripes

GAMES ON TV

Sat, Jan 19

7:30 am NBCSN            Wolverhampton vs Leicester City

9:30 am FS1                    Bayer Leverkusen vs Borussia Mgladbach (Johnson)

10 am NBCSN              Liverpool vs Crystal Palace

10 am CNBC                   Man United vs Brighton Hove Albion

10:15 am beIN Sport Real Madrid vs Sevilla

12:30 pm NBC            Arsenal vs Chelesa

12:30  Fox Sp 1         RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

2:30 pm FS1         US Ladies vs France –  Friendly

Sun, Jan 20  

8;30 am NBCSN           Hudersfield vs Man City

11 am NBCSN            Fulham (Ream) vs Tottenham

12 noon  FS                     Schalke (Mckinney) vs Wolfsburg

2:45 pm beIN Sport      Barcelona vs Leganes

Tues, Jan 22  

2:30 pm ESPN2    US Ladies @ Spain –  Friendly

Thurs, Jan 24  

2:45 pm ESPN+            Chelsea vs Tottenham – League Cup

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

Sat, Feb 2

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

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

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  

Match preview and how to watch: what to look for in France-USA

Two favorites face off in a potential preview of the World Cup quarterfinal. Here’s what you should watch for.

By Charles Olney@olneyce  Jan 18, 2019, 11:30am PST

The United States Women’s National Team take on their French counterparts tomorrow in Le Havre, just 45 minutes from the beaches of Normandy. They arrive in France as the #1 team in the world, and clear favorites to take home the World Cup this summer. But to do so, they’ll have to get past a French team fighting on home soil.If everything goes according to plan, the US and France are likely to face off in the quarterfinal this summer. Everyone is understandably circumspect about the chance, since no one wants to predict winning their group and thereby tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing. But they certainly know what’s at stake.So as these two teams face off tomorrow, here are three big things to watch for:

More of the Same from the US

The US motto at the moment seems to be: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For Ellis, the past year has been spent on developing and locking down a system, which is all about “how your players understand their roles and their positions within their roles—having a clear idea of how do we want to score goals, how are we going to defend.” But now, she says, the period for big picture adjustments is over, and the focus is mostly on “fine-tuning the pieces in terms of training.hat means the team will almost certainly play their now-standard 4-3-3 cum 3-4-3, with Crystal Dunn as an aggressive attacking fullback, with a more defensively-minded companion at right back. They’ll continue to emphasize width in the attack, and will work hard to build from the back. They’ll rely on their attackers to harass the dangerous French attack through aggressive pressing, and hope to avoid the sort of defensive blunders that have been the only real downside over the last 18 months of dominance.That doesn’t mean everything is settled. According to her, the January camp is still essentially a preseason, where the team can lay foundation for the rest of the year. So it’s still not so late that we shouldn’t expect a few more twists and turns. But for the most part, the team is settled, the style is set, and the major roster questions have been answered. What questions remain are primarily on the margins.

A Big Crowd

The stadium at Le Havre is usually 2/3 empty when their men’s club side plays here. But tomorrow it should be a packed crowd.French coach Corinne Diacre says she’s thrilled to be playing for a full crowd, and thinks it’s a great sign that excitement is building around the team. But, she adds, “it’s also a pity we had to wait until 2019 for full stadiums.”That’s a reminder that France hasn’t always drawn big for their home matches, but the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming World Cup—and the opportunity to see them play the US—seems to have done the trick. It’s a great sign for this summer, and a demonstration that big ticket sales aren’t entirely a feature of Americans buying up packages.This should be a rollicking crowd, and it will be a great test of how both teams play in front of a passionate French audience.

A Friendly That Really Matters

Friendlies usually aren’t that important. This one is a big exception.For France, this could be a crucial chance to demonstrate that they really belong in the conversation as a tournament favorite. According to Diacre, this game is an important test—a high profile game against the toughest competition, which can provide a real benchmark for what this France team should expect to accomplish. She spoke to the media at a pre-game press conference and said, “Playing against the USA is a great opportunity. It’s always very exciting to play against a nation that’s so dominant in women’s football. It’s also a great opportunity for us to check where we are standing. We’ll see tomorrow how it goes and what we can learn.”It’s also a critical moment in which they can try to capitalize on the growing buzz around the team. A famous victory in Le Havre tomorrow could provide some real momentum to help them build toward a crescendo this summer. That sort of psychological edge is particularly important given where the tournament will be played. It also has escaped precisely no one that the French men won their first World Cup as hosts in 1998, before winning against last summer. For many, it would provide the perfect symmetry if the women take their own first title on home soil and in the process unite the crowns for the first time.In Diacre’s comments, you can read a delicate balancing act. She both wants to recognize the symbolic importance of the match and communicate just how seriously they will take the event, while still tamping down expectations a bit. As she noted, the team “isn’t at their top level of physicality yet,” so even while they’ll want to show a lot tomorrow, they also don’t want this to treated as a literal prequel to the eventual World Cup showdown.On the other side, the US is currently riding high and will want to retain that sense of earned arrogance. Asked at the presser whether she might play things cagey, holding back some key cards lest she reveal too much to a future opponent, Ellis was gently dismissive. “We’re going to go out and play and from there, we’re going to take good lessons and good experiences to help us continue to get better. And there’s no better experience than this. This is one of the favorites, home team. It’s everything as a coach you want.” In her view, playing top teams is the most important way to prepare for a successful World Cup, and there’s no better place to get it started than here, facing off against their top competition and seeing who emerges on top.And the players seem to agree. You can see it in the insouciance with which they approach the challenge. Asked who is the better team, for example, Megan Rapinoe gave a sly grin and said, “Well, the rankings would say it’s us,” before retreating to a more diplomatic statement that France is a top team and they’ll never take anything for granted.What becomes clear in all this is the reality of two huge teams facing off less than six months before the upcoming World Cup final. Both can picture themselves holding that trophy aloft, and both know that they’ll very likely have to go through the other to do so.

Schedule, TV, and livestream info

USA vs France
Saturday, January 19
2:30 PM ET / 11:30 AM PT
Le Havre, France
FS1, UDN

Solskjaer shows he can be more than Man United’s caretaker. PLUS: trouble ahead for Spurs, praise for Messi

10:42 AM ETGabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC

So it’s now six wins out of six games for Manchester United under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. And while the first five were eminently winnable, Tottenham away was meant to be the Norwegian’s first real test. He passed, again, with flying colors.  He didn’t pass because United won — though, that too is important in the hunt for a top four spot — but because, frankly, it could have been very different if not for David De Gea‘s string of saves. (Indeed, the xG shows that Tottenham were firmly in front). Rather, the test was passed for the way they played in the first half: the positivity shown, the maturity and cohesion… aspects that were largely missing under the previous manager.That they they gave up loads of chances after the break is something to work on and you have to accept that Tottenham are simply a better side right now. But the way United played is evidence that they have bought into Solskjaer, that the viruses, stiffs and malcontents supposedly populating the dressing room during the Jose Mourinho Era may well have been figments of his imagination.The fact that Solskjaer’s start is better than that of any manager in Manchester United history (he eclipsed Sir Matt Busby on Sunday) is more of a statistical quirk. The popular notion whereby he simply “released the handbrake” is equally simplistic.Against Spurs his set-up was sophisticated, starting with the way Jesse Lingarddropped from a “false nine” position to press Harry Winks off the ball, the way Ander Herrera regularly got help in dealing with Christian Eriksen. In other words, Solskjaer is not just a “plug-and-play” alumnus who smiles a lot, waves his players forward, makes sure to praise individuals by name and generally succeeds by simply not being Mourinho.Whether this can last, and whether this is something on which United can build, remains to be seen. But their next two home games, against Brighton and Burnley, are eminently winnable, so expect the bandwagon to roll on. Heck, some are already suggesting that maybe United have found their next manager. Why embark on some tortuous and acrimonious pursuit of a Mauricio Pochettino or a Max Allegri if you can simply hire a director of football and appoint Solskjaer on the cheap?We’re not yet at the point where that’s a serious proposition but Solskjaer certainly isn’t hurting his case.

Trouble ahead up front for Tottenham

Pochettino said the second half on Sunday was the best 45 minutes of football Spurs have played this season. I wouldn’t quite go that far, while the cynic in me suggests that quotes like that are designed to deflect from the other issues of the day: the United job, Eriksen’s contract, Kane’s injury and so on. But there’s no question they played some dazzling stuff after the break and repeatedly carved up United, creating plenty of chances.Were the many missed opportunities down to De Gea’s brilliance or should they count as spurned chances? I’m hesitant to weigh in on this — in my experience, only keepers can really judge each other as most of us (including coaches and ex-pros) have little sense of what they actually do — but there’s no question he was in the right place at the right time over and over again. Equally, you’d imagine Spurs would love to have some of those finishes back.We’ll know more about Kane’s injury soon but it’s obvious that any prolonged absence would be a major blow, particularly with Heung-Min Son leaving for the Asian Cup. Not so much because Fernando Llorente isn’t a good player (for all the stick he gets, he’s a solid target man) but simply because when he’s in the side, Spurs have to come up with a whole new game plan since he’s an entirely different sort of player.

Coutinho proves his worth vs. Eibar

Barcelona downed Eibar 3-0 on Sunday as Lionel Messi scored his 400th Liga goal amid much pomp and fanfare. We’ll get to that in a minute but first, it’s worth noting Philippe Coutinho‘s performance.The Brazilian playmaker has spent a lot of time on the bench this season, partly because of Ousmane

Dembele’s re-emergence, partly because Ernesto Valverde skews towards more conservative football and finds it hard to fit him in a midfield three and partly because despite his billing, he really isn’t the “new Andres Iniesta.” It’s pretty evident though that given the fee paid for him, and his wage packet, he needs to be part of Barca’s present and future. I know it’s only Eibar, but a productive Coutinho can make all the difference down the stretch.

Putting Messi’s mark into context

Four-hundred top-flight league goals is a huge amount and because Messi (and Cristiano Ronaldo) so regularly provide freakish numbers, you inevitably end up comparing them to others. Now, because you are cutting across different eras and different standards, it really does become a case of comparing apples and aardvarks when it comes to Europe’s best league goalscorers. But because we can’t help ourselves, here’s some context with a little help from UEFA.As you can see, there are still folks in front of him though you’d imagine he’ll likely blow past Stjepan Bobek (403), Jimmy McGrory (410), Gyula Zsengeller (411) and maybe even Imre Schlosser (417) by the end of the season. In terms of historical goalscorers, at that point he’ll be chasing Josef Bican (518) and Ferenc Puskas (517). Messi may also be chasing Cristiano Ronaldo, the only other active goalscorer on the list, who currently is on 411.What’s pretty evident looking at these numbers, though, is that the game has changed. Every guy with at least 400 goals retired at least 50 years ago. Everybody, that is, bar Messi and Ronaldo. These guys aren’t just G.O.A.T. candidates; they might as well be time travellers or extra-terrestrials.

Emery has a genuine Ozil problem

The first time Unai Emery seemed to downplay Mesut Ozil, when he said he wouldn’t face Bournemouth because of their style of play, you may, like me, have chalked it up to miscommunication. But after leaving him out for the trip to West Ham and explaining his absence by saying “for me he is like any other player” and adding “sometimes he is not helping us because maybe the match is not for him,” it’s pretty obvious he’s making a point.Ozil is not “like any other player.” He is a player who signed a long-term deal less than a year ago, a player who earns some $23 million a year and a player who is one of the two highest-paid in the entire league.I realize Emery wasn’t in charge when Ozil signed his deal but I’d imagine that when he interviewed for his job somebody at Arsenal said: “OK, Unai, we’ve tied up a huge chunk of our wage bill in this guy… how are you going to use him and how will you get the best out of him?” And I assume (perhaps wrongly) that whatever Emery replied, it wasn’t: “To me he is like any other player, he’s basically Carl Jenkinson, only shorter and with one more World Cup.”Ozil’s absence wasn’t the reason Arsenal lost to West Ham but right now, Emery needs an “Ozil issue” like he needs a hole in the head.

Will PSG’s midfield issues doom their season?

We were looking for Paris Saint-Germain to bounce back after the League Cup elimination in midweek and they did, winning 3-0 away to Amiens. But take a closer look and you’ll note that it was the third straight game in which they failed to score in the first half.What’s more, again, they had to make do with a makeshift midfield, with square pegs (Julian Draxler, Dani Alves) in round holes next to Marco Verratti. With Adrien Rabiot distracted by his future and Lassana Diarra fading out of the picture, they are severely short-handed in the middle of the park.Thomas Tuchel has asked for reinforcements and Julian Weigl has been heavily linked. If he’s fit, he’d make a lot of sense. They simply need an extra body in there. PSG have to deal with Financial Fair Play, of course, which is part of the reason their squad is so small, but it’s mad to think that this could cause their season to become unstuck in the Champions League.

Solari, Real stick with the kids

As a general rule, it’s not really a good sign when an under-fire manager chucks in the youngsters. Fans tend to be supportive of kids, it gives him an alibi and it sometimes can show he ran out of ideas.Santiago Solari left Marcelo and Isco on the bench away to Betis (Toni Kroosand Marco Asensio were already unavailable, as was Gareth Bale) and over the course of the game, he relied instead on Sergio Reguilon, Federico Valverdeand, later, Cristo, all in the course of a newfangled 3-5-2.For a half or so it worked as Luka Modric gave them the lead, though perhaps it was more down to Betis’ inefficiency with the ball. But after Karim Benzemacame off at half-time with a broken finger, Real Madrid really struggled to come to terms with Betis as Quique Setien kicked it up several notches. Sergio Canales equalised before a wonder-strike from Dani Ceballos gave Real Madrid the three points.Three points are critical right now, of course, but if Solari was looking for answers with this set-up, all he got was more questions.

Liverpool show their title credentials at Brighton

If Liverpool do go on to win the Premier League this season, victories like the 1-0 one in Brighton on Saturday will be the building blocks. Away from home, Fabinho as an emergency central defender, some chances not converted, the risk of conceding on the counter… but no, they gut it out and take all three points thank to Mohamed Salah’s penalty.Liverpool have played 15 games against teams outside the top six and have won every single one of them. Conversely, in the seven games against top six opponents, they have won three (Arsenal and Manchester United at home, Tottenham away), drawn two (Chelsea and Arsenal away, Manchester City at home) and lost one (City away). This is Klopp winning the games he’s supposed to win and getting as much as he can in those he’s not. That’s why the title is Liverpool’s to lose right now.

Cutrone should be the answer at Milan, not Higuain

Patrick Cutrone came on as a substitute, scored two gorgeous goals and helped Milan dispatch Sampdoria in the Coppa Italia. The kid is 21 and has nine goals in all competitions this season, which is actually more than Gonzalo Higuain’s eight despite more limited playing time.Higuain, of course, is surrounded by transfer talk, most of it fomented by his brother. Manager Gennaro Gattuso insists the striker is going nowhere and that he’s critical to Milan’s seasonal objective of a top four finish. That matters, of course, because they have all sorts of FFP issues and Champions League revenue would help alleviate that.I get all that but equally, Milan are set to pay Higuain a whopping €8.5m (nearly $10m) in wages through the end of the season. Plus, they’re on the hook to Juventus for another €9m ($10.5m) in loan fees through June 30. That’s a ton of money.Personally, I’m not sure anybody will take Higuain given his wages: those who can afford him likely don’t need him. But this idea that he’s the be-all and end-all, at that price, isn’t helpful. Maybe putting your faith in Cutrone and getting a short-term, serviceable striker to back him up wouldn’t be such a bad thing instead.

Liverpool again show they will sacrifice style in favour of results on the road to the Premier League title

Jan 12, 2019Nick AmesESPN.com writer

BRIGHTON, England — In any title-winning season there are games that end up being almost forgotten: staging posts along the road that offer essential nourishment but nothing in the way of vivid scenery.Should Liverpool see the job through in May, this laborious win over an excellently drilled Brighton side will only merit a few seconds of the highlight reel. It will not matter one bit, because these may prove to be their most important three points of the entire campaign.Make no mistake, there were question marks over Jurgen Klopp’s side before this one; the smallest of signs that their narrow defeat at Manchester City had opened up wider wounds would have been seized upon. If that sounds harsh, it is just the way things work these days when you are in the throes of a title race with a margin for error that appears smaller than ever.”From a maturity point of view, I would say it was the most mature of the season,” Klopp said of a slow-burning affair that was decided three minutes after half-time by a Mohamed Salah penalty. At full-time Klopp allowed himself an understated fist pump, and it was a reaction in character with the previous 90 minutes. There was not a lot to warm the blood — not even when Brighton, who had fulfilled one of Chris Hughton’s primary objectives by still being in the game with 10 minutes to go, sent the cavalry up at the end. But there was a coolness, a shared purpose, a diligence to Liverpool that has been the hallmark of their current campaign as much as the full-throttle approach that characterised the previous two.”We are not the Harlem Globetrotters,” Klopp said. “We have to deliver a result, and that’s difficult.” It was a revealing statement, because it reiterated that Liverpool are absolutely content to be mean and grim-faced when it suits them. Last season they won this fixture 5-1, blowing Brighton away either side of half-time. That never looked on the cards this time but nor, really, did any kind of mishap once they were ahead. With six minutes to play Roberto Firmino could be seen tracking back 30 yards to dispossess Anthony Knockaert, thwarting a promising counter for the hosts. in the time that remained there were big defensive interventions from Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk, and those were the moments that satisfied Klopp as much as any.”It was obviously a big challenge for everyone to stay calm and concentrated because each little situation can be a massive threat on the counter or whatever,” he continued. “And not to make any fouls because Brighton are unbelievably strong on set pieces. That level of concentration is difficult to keep, but they did it.”It was a particular relief that Fabinho, whose increasing prominence in midfield had been a big factor in Liverpool’s recent form, stayed firm at the back. He faced a gnarled, wily customer in Glenn Murray, and when he let the striker go in the 15th minute, watching in relief as the resulting header looped over, their shortage of centre-back bodies seemed at risk of being laid bare. Fabinho took an arm in the face from Murray shortly afterwards but would respond later with one of his own; after that rocky start he looked well attuned to the physical battle and excelled just before the hour, too, with a vital block from Pascal Gross’s goal-bound shot.Fabinho has a “defending brain”, Klopp said, and it is testament to Liverpool that this can now be said of the entire side. They did not function as effectively going forward: Salah’s first sight of goal had come only a minute before his winner, which came after Gross had clumsily halted his run into the box from the right. He missed a gilt-edged chance to wrap things up near the end, and Sadio Mane saw an effort deflected wide, too; Klopp said Liverpool’s finishing was a bigger issue than their creativity but, in practice, their clear openings could comfortably be counted on one hand.That might remain the case if future opponents follow the lead of Brighton, who were happy to sit in and avoid a repeat of their thrashing from 2017-18. “If you play an open and expansive game against them and go two or three down then generally there’s no way back,” Hughton said.Perhaps a carefree, “heavy metal” Liverpool performance might have blown their resistance away far earlier, andd it may yet be, if the league leaders continue to find assignments like this slow going, that a more forceful approach is required to ensure the wins keep coming. A better balance might yet be struck to dispose of palpably weaker foes more comfortably. But this felt, for all its turgidness, like a return to business.”If you fall from the horse, you can go back on it,” Klopp said. Liverpool did that here, even if how they managed it becomes a footnote in history four months from now.

Premier League W2W4: Arsenal meet Chelsea with both teams suffering identity crises

2:40 AM ETNick MillerESPN.com writerW2W4 previews the weekend’s Premier League action by highlighting its most compelling storylines …

Arsenal-Chelsea fascinating for unusual reasons

There was a time when you could pretty much guarantee at least one of Chelsea or Arsenal would be challenging for the Premier League title. But the two teams meet each other Saturday evening a long way from the top of the table and with both in some vague form of existential woe.Arsenal’s brave new world of holistic decision-making appears to be stalling, at best. Sven Mislintat is on his way out of the club, the new regime having signed a few potential gems but made significant messes of the Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey situations. Then of course there’s the minor detail of results: Last week’s defeat to West Ham left them probably needing to beat Chelsea, or at least avoid defeat, to make Champions League qualification something other than a monumental struggle.

Meanwhile, Maurizio Sarri’s prediction after his arrival that it would take his Chelsea players three months to get used to his methods now looks optimistic. This might be in part down to the decline in performance of his conductor, Jorginho, who Sarri declared has looked exhausted in recent weeks. But with Cesc Fabregas gone, he purports to have no alternative. Whether you believe that or not is another matter; there are a few internal options who could fill in for a few games, but either way Chelsea’s performances have not quite been what their manager wants.These teams meet each other in the middle of transitional seasons, both trying to figure out their respective new worlds. This game might not mean much in the title race, but it will still be fascinating given the state of affairs at each club.

Will Spurs use their ‘Plan C’?

Convincing a striker to move to Tottenham must be a tough job. “How do you fancy sitting on the bench for most league games because we’ve got probably the best centre-forward in the world? You might get some League Cup run-outs, or 20 minutes as a sub here and there. Oh, and everyone loves the first choice’s backup, too, so don’t even count being ‘Plan B.'”The man in that position at the moment is Fernando Llorente, scorer of one league goal for Tottenham in two seasons. In fairness, he’s started only one game in that time, and has a few more in assorted cup competitions, but he’s quite a step down from Harry Kane. A step down from the usual second choice, Son Heung-min, too.So much so that, even with Kane injured and Son at the Asian Cup, you wonder if Llorente will start against Fulham on Sunday. Might Mauricio Pochettino improvise, asking Lucas Moura or Erik Lamela to be a pseudo-Son? Could he turn Dele Alli into a centre-forward which, when you think about his attributes, isn’t the craziest plan? Might the man who somehow turned Moussa Sissoko into one of this season’s most effective midfielders conjure another magic trick from somewhere?

How will Wan-Bissaka cope with Liverpool?

One of the Premier League’s most impressive young players this season has been Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The Crystal Palace youngster was a winger until relatively recently, thrown into the first team as a defender after marking Wilfried Zaha out of a practice game when there was nobody else to fill in. Since then he’s firmly established himself in the Palace team and performed superbly against some of the best the Premier League has to offer.Perhaps his biggest test will come this weekend, though, as Palace face Liverpool. Wan-Bissaka was excellent in the first game between these two sides, in the early weeks of the season, even though he spoiled things slightly by getting sent off in the latter stages. Most people have now noticed this smart and lithe right-back, but another strong showing against the league leaders will convince even more that he’s the real thing.

Will Harvey Barnes get a chance for Leicester?

Harvey Barnes was recalled by Leicester from a loan last January, too. Claude Puel decided that he would be better off at his parent club than Barnsley, but in the end he barely played for the first team. This year, after his return from West Brom, you’d imagine things will be a little different.”He has been brought back for many reasons, but the primary reason is because he can help us,” Puel said.Not only is Barnes a highly promising young player, but he fills a need for Leicester: This season, their wide options have been wildly inconsistent, the task of replacing Riyad Mahrez proving predictably tricky. It would be too much pressure to expect Barnes to manage that, but he can certainly have an impact and could easily slot straight into their team against Wolves on Saturday.

And the least appealing game of the weekend is …

When Fulham faced Huddersfield a few weeks ago, there was a loose sense that the game might be so bad as to actually be quite good fun. Thanks to Aboubakar Kamara stealing a penalty from Aleksandar Mitrovic then missing it, that’s broadly how it turned out, but there’s no such feeling for Newcastle’s visit from Cardiff this weekend. This is going to be grim, the sort of game that, to paraphrase Bill Shankly, you’d pull the curtains closed if it was played in your back garden.

Rafa Benitez and Neil Warnock could hardly be more different characters, but watching their respective sides has proved, shall we say, equally challenging this season. And given this is a game that both sides will be desperate not to lose, rather than necessarily keen to win, it’s probably one to avoid for even the most committed Premier League completist.

RB Leipzig’s Adams eyes ‘dream’ Bundesliga debut vs. Pulisic and Dortmund

4:43 AM ETStephan UersfeldGermany correspondent

RB Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams is hoping for a dream debut against his fellow United States international Christian Pulisic as the club host Borussia Dortmund when the Bundesliga resumes after its winter break this weekend.Adams, 19, is the latest United States youngster to try and make his mark in Germany, having joined RB Leipzig from New York Red Bulls this winter, and is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Pulisic, Schalke’s Weston McKennie and Bremen attacker Josh Sargent.”It would be a dream scenario to be on the pitch for my new club from the very first minute,” Adams told German outlet Sport Bild this week. “But I know that maybe I also have to be patient.”Should Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick give Adams his debut this weekend, the youngster could line up against Pulisic, who returned to Dortmund on loan for the rest of the season following his €64m transfer to Chelsea earlier this month.”It’s crazy that my first match in Germany might be against him [Pulisic],” Adams said. “If you see the development Christian has taken, I want to be the next one to go down that path.”For Christian, Germany has become a home away from home. He was able to give me several tips. The most important thing he told me was ‘love the league, relish and use every minute you play. Show a lot of respect for your colleagues and trust the coach. They are good in Germany and want you to develop.'”Dortmund and Leipzig are big teams and play a good season. But I want to have those three points and Christian knows that.”

Inside the Timing, Reasoning and Potential of Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea Transfer

By GRANT WAHL January 02, 2019  SI — 

It’s official: U.S. men’s national team star Christian Pulisic has been sold to Chelsea by Borussia Dortmund for €64 million ($73.1 million), shattering the record transfer fee for a U.S. soccer player. The 20-year-old Pulisic, a native of Hershey, Pa., will stay on loan for the rest of the season with Dortmund, which is leading the German Bundesliga, and will join Chelsea in the summer.You’ve got questions. I’ll try to provide some answers and context. Let’s go:

HOW BIG IS THIS NEWS IN AMERICAN SOCCER?

Massive. Pulisic has served as the U.S. captain, has been a regular for Dortmund for the past three seasons and has been the best player on the USMNT for almost two years. He’s not there yet, but he has a real chance to become the first global U.S. men’s soccer superstar. Pulisic’s transfer fee obliterates the previous records for a USMNT player—John Brooks for €20 million ($22.4 million) to Wolfsburg in 2017—and a U.S.-born player—Jozy Altidore for $10 million to Sunderland in 2013.Pulisic now has the third-highest transfer fee ever for a player 20 years old or younger, behind Frenchmen Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé. Most of that fee is due to what Pulisic can bring on the field. But the price no doubt got a bump as well from Pulisic’s young age and his status as an American; like so many European clubs, Chelsea wants to get bigger in the U.S., and buying the best U.S. player can only help.A number of top clubs showed interest in Pulisic, including Bayern Munich, Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. But Chelsea made the offer that was closest to Dortmund’s asking price of €70 million ($79.8 million). From Chelsea’s perspective, the club was looking for a young wide midfielder. Eden Hazard may leave for Real Madrid (or somewhere else) in the summer, and Willian (30 years old) and Pedro (31) are on the wrong side of their primes.From Pulisic’s perspective, he wanted to move to the Premier League, which he grew up watching. (His family even spent a year in England when he was a child.) Though Chelsea does have a history of making regular coaching changes, Pulisic will be managed by the Italian Maurizio Sarri, who’s well known for his tactical nous. The American will get every opportunity to earn a starting spot—and become a focal point of the attack—next summer. Otherwise Chelsea wouldn’t have paid so much money for him.  There will be surprise in some quarters that Pulisic did not go to Liverpool and manager Jürgen Klopp, who has a relationship with Pulisic that goes back to the days Klopp coached Dortmund and Pulisic was on the youth team. But Liverpool didn’t approach Chelsea’s bid, and Pulisic will likely have a better opportunity for playing time at Chelsea.

MORE: How Sarri Can Help Pulisic Flourish at Chelsea

WHY MAKE THE PULISIC DEAL NOW?

Pulisic was never going to play out the entirety of his contract with Dortmund through the summer of 2020, and by going to England this summer he would move at a time that was good for him (when he could integrate with Chelsea in preseason and not have to make the difficult midseason transition) and good for Dortmund (which could still earn a big transfer fee for him). BVB had said publicly that it did not want to move Pulisic in the middle of the season, because he can still be a significant part of the club’s chase for trophies.Even though Pulisic is effectively a lame duck at Dortmund, the club knows him well enough to believe that he’ll give 100 percent the rest of the season. What’s more, Pulisic and Dortmund avoided the messy public exit that accompanied the Dortmund departures of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Dembélé.From Chelsea’s side of things, locking up Pulisic now provides some security. That’s especially important because Chelsea currently has a case before FIFA involving allegations of the transfer of underaged players. It’s possible that Chelsea could face a transfer ban beginning this summer, and acquiring Pulisic now is a hedge against that possibility.

WAHL: Pulisic Explains the Craft of the Attacking Midfielder

WILL PULISIC MAKE A MAJOR IMPACT IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE?

For better and for worse, the young American will now become associated with a pricetag—$73.1 million—that means you are expected to become a real star who helps lead his team to the trophies that matter the most in world soccer. That’s what Pulisic has always dreamed of, and now he’ll have that chance. The ingredients in his game are there: The ability to break down players one-on-one, to set up goals, to score goals.But even Pulisic would tell you that he is not yet the finished product. From a personal perspective, this season has often been a frustrating one for him at Dortmund. Pulisic has dealt with three different muscle injuries, and he has lost playing time at BVB to the emerging 18-year-old English phenomenon Jadon Sancho. The highest levels of European soccer are a cutthroat business, and Pulisic has learned well by now that you have to earn everything on the field.At Chelsea he’ll have the opportunity to become the first global American men’s soccer superstar. But he has to make the most of it.

Christian Pulisic’s ‘talents will lend themselves very well to the way Chelsea play football’ – Tim Howard

Jan 4, 2019  Gus ElvinESPN.com

United States goalkeeper Tim Howard has tabbed Christian Pulisic for success following the 20-year-old’s much-publicized €64 million ($73 million) transfer to Premier League giants Chelsea earlier this week.”It is a massive club, but he’s played for a massive club already,” said Howard when asked about Pulisic’s move during an exclusive interview with ESPN FC.”Dortmund is no slouch, and he went there under Jurgen Klopp and he’s grown up there and learned a lot of his trade in the Bundesliga. He’s played a big part for the U.S. national team, so as much as the price tag is massive, which it is, he’s ready to perform.”Pulisic, who first broke into the senior team at Dortmund in January 2016, will finish out the remainder of this season on loan with the Black and Yellows, who currently hold a six-point lead atop the Bundesliga.While there has been much media discussion about Chelsea’s history with young players and whether or not the move is best for Pulisic, Howard is confident the American can handle the demands of the Premier League.”The Premier League presents its own trials and tribulations, it’s a rough-and-tumble league, it’s up and down, but he’s shown to be pretty strong even though he’s not the biggest guy in the world,” the United States’ most-capped goalkeeper said.”I think his talents will lend themselves very well to the way Chelsea play football.”Howard also spoke highly about new U.S. No. 1 goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who will join Premier League champions Manchester City in July.”I think he has the physical tools, he’s shown that, he’s still very young, and he’s growing and only going to get better.”When you go over to Europe, and we all dream of doing that and playing in the Premier League and all that, but you have to be careful what you wish for because there are some dark days. Myself and Kasey [Keller] and Brad [Friedel] and Brad [Guzan] all lived those and we came out the other side better for it.”The question for him will be can he handle the mental side of that. From all accounts, and from people around him that I know, he’s in a really good place and he’s ready to tackle the challenge.”Steffen will be part of new U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter’s first training camp, which opens Sunday, while Pulisic will remain in Germany with title hopefuls Dortmund, who return to action Jan. 19 at RB Leipzig.

U.S., Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie not on Liverpool’s radar – source

1:48 PM ETGlenn PriceLiverpool correspondent

Liverpool do not hold an interest in United States international Weston McKennie, a source has told ESPN FC.Can a 44-year-old man cut it in the Premier League? Our writer suffers — and suffers some more — through a medical at Everton.Reports in Europe had linked Jurgen Klopp with a move for Schalke’s versatile midfielder, who was born in Little Elm, Texas.However, the source said he is not a player on the radar of the Premier League leaders at this present moment.Richard Motzkin, an agent for McKennie, declined to comment on the links with Liverpool and said the 20-year-old was focussing on the restart of the Bundesliga season after the winter break.McKennie turned professional at FC Dallas before making the switch to Schalke, where has made 45 senior appearances, in July 2016.He has been capped seven times by the U.S. and scored on his international debut against Portugal in November 2017.

PSG’s Neymar: U.S. starlet Timothy Weah can be one of Europe’s top attackers

Jan 14, 2019Jonathan JohnsonPSG correspondent

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar has backed new Celtic signing Tim Weah to develop into “one of the top attacking players in Europe” after he joined the Scottish giants on loan earlier this month.Weah, 18, joined Celtic on an initial six-month loan deal last week and extended his PSG contract until 2021 just before leaving Parc des Princes but the senior American international has struggled for minutes this season since Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting‘s arrival as backup to Edinson Cavani.

Weah did shine during preseason, managing two goals from three competitive appearances for PSG at the start of this campaign, and Neymar has already seen enough to be convinced of the New York City native’s potential.”It is a very exciting move for Timothy,” the Brazil international told Record Sport. “From what I have seen of his talent, he has everything to go and become one of the top attacking players in Europe.”It is a good move for Timothy. Celtic too, as they are getting such a big talent, as well as PSG because Timothy has a chance to get experience and games before returning to us as a more complete player.”Timothy did have options but he chose the right one. Celtic are a big club, they attack a lot and score a lot of goals in their league and also they are still in Europe, so they offer him plenty.”Neymar emphasised Weah’s ability and character, but the former Barcelona man has been most impressed by his teammate’s ability to handle the pressure that comes with being 1995 Ballon d’Or winner George Weah’s son, and the Brazilian also sees a bit of himself in the American.”Timothy has the talent, we already knew that, but also he also has a great attitude,” said Neymar. “From the first day that I met him, he has wanted to learn from the players who have already won the major trophies — the players here who have already achieved big things in the game.””Timothy is a fun guy to be around but he is also very humble and that is what you want to see from a younger player. It is what a coach wants to see as it means they want to learn.”Timothy’s father was one of the greatest strikers ever but he does not feel the pressure of having the name — I respect that. He just has confidence in his own ability and in his own game, which is how I was at his age.”Neymar is currently in Qatar with PSG for a lucrative midseason training camp loaded with commercial obligations and in an interview with beIN Sports while there. The €222 million reflected on his improving relationship with strike partner Edinson Cavani after a bumpy start to life together.”We are getting along better with each match,” the Brazilian said. “We are very happy. We know and understand each other better and better. Our aim is to make everybody happy with assists and goals. As well as winning games, being happy is the most important thing.”Once back from Qatar, Neymar and his PSG teammates will be back in domestic action against Guingamp in Ligue 1 on Saturday and will be aiming to avoid a repeat of their 2-1 Coupe de la Ligue quarterfinal defeat in exactly the same fixture last week when a rare Neymar header was not enough for Thomas Tuchel’s men.

U.S. have ‘massive job’ ahead but Gregg Berhalter ‘without question the right hire’ – Tim Howard

Jan 7, 2019Gus ElvinESPN.com

In an exclusive interview with ESPN FC Friday, longtime United States goalkeeper Tim Howard said he “loves the youth that we have in our country [the United States]” but admitted new manager Gregg Berhalter still “has a massive job” on his hands to get the USMNT back on track.Howard added that he is “interested” in the future of U.S. Soccer, but said “figuring out who are the best players” and “cutting down to your best 23 players is a monumental task.””As much as we’ve done over the last year in evaluating all this talent from around the world and we talk about this youth movement, from what I’ve seen, I’m not sure they are not all cut out to play for the national team, and that is part of the evaluation process,” Howard said. “But I do love the youth that we have in our country and the amount of players playing around the world, playing big roles, playing Champions League roles and playing at big clubs, and that will bode well for us.”The 39-year-old also spoke strongly in support of the hiring of Berhalter, his former teammate on the national team, who was officially announced as the new U.S. manager Dec. 2.”He’s without question the right hire,” Howard said. “He’s a guy, who as much as he has this calm demeanor, he’s no-nonsense and that’s how he was as a defender. If you watch his Columbus Crew teams, they play very well out of the back, they possess the ball, they press well and that’s football now in 2019. I think he’s a breath of fresh air.”After a 2018 full of transition and experimentation, the United States open their first training camp under Berhalter on Jan. 7. The team will play friendlies with Panama and Costa Rica in the coming weeks to begin 2019.Howard identified “time” as Berhlater’s biggest challenge in taking over a new-look national team, one that has undergone a real makeover in the last 12-14 months.”We have lost an entire year, and that Gold Cup 2019 is looming large, and I believe very quickly after that, World Cup qualifying starts, so there is not a lot of time to prepare the team,” Howard said. “As much as we talk about how much time that is in months, the ability for him to actually get his hands on this team, you are talking maybe a camp in March and maybe a camp at the end of May somewhere. So not a lot of time.”Shrinking the player pool and zeroing in on the core group for the next qualifying cycle will be another big challenge for Berhalter, according to Howard.”With any national team, particularly one in transition, you have to figure out who the old guard is, which of the players who used to be features in the team are now willing to accept less of a role,” Howard said. “If they can do that, they should be on the team, and if not, you probably should part ways.”Howard himself did not rule out a national team return, saying he would be “ready, willing and able” if called upon.All 28 players participating in Berhalter’s January camp are currently based in the MLS, with the U.S. scheduled to open 2019 against Panama on Jan. 27 in Glendale, Arizona.

USMNT January camp: Which 5 players stand to gain this month?

January 8, 201911:32AM ESTTom BogertContributor

Lest we forget through the MLS SuperDraft furor and frenzy surrounding the 2019 schedule release, Gregg Berhalter’s first US national team camp is underway right now in Chula Vista, California. Here are five players from the all-MLS group that have room to gain this month:

Russell Canouse

The internet doesn’t agree on much, but one issue almost universally drew the ire of the World Wide Web was Russell Canouse being left out of the USMNT’s roster for November friendlies. Nearly as integral to D.C. United‘s second-half surge to Wayne RooneyLucho Acosta and Audi Field, Canouse forced his way onto the national team landscape one interception and successful tackle at a time. Questions have been raised about whether or not Wil Trapp has the athleticism to succeed against the top opposition; there are no such queries about Canouse. If he can prove to Berhalter that he can do all the good work Trapp does in possession, and excel in the system that Trapp did for so many years under Berhalter in Columbus, he may well force his way into the discussion for the Gold Cup.

Michael Bradley

Does Michael Bradley count? For a player that has made 142 caps who has been in the team essentially since after the 2006 World Cup, it’d be more conventional to say he has something to lose. Except he doesn’t, because he’s already been generally taken out of the national rotation as the program fought to get younger in 2018 without any competitive games to prepare for. Now, with the Gold Cup on the horizon, Bradley has to prove he still has the legs for the international game.

Greg Garza

The last time Greg Garza made an appearance for the US national team, it was January 2017. He started and went 69 minutes in a goalless draw against Serbia. It was Bruce Arena’s first game (back) in charge of the national team and the possibility of the USMNT missing out on the World Cup was still as farfetched the idea of hovering cars. h, how naive. Garza is back for the 2019 January camp. Looking around, left back could be his with a strong month in front of new boss Berhalter. His competition is Portland’s Jorge Villafana, 29, who featured during much of 2018 but wasn’t called in by Berhalter, Antonee Robinson, 21-year-old Wigan loanee, George Bello, 16-year-old Atlanta United starlet, Ben Sweat, NYCFC’s 27-year-old stalwart who wasn’t called in for the camp, and others. The position is wide open.

Djordje Mihailovic

On the same thread of Garza, Djordje Mihailovic features at a position in flux for the national pool. The organization is short on No. 10s, with Christian Pulisic regular filtering through the middle to try and find the answer. A natural winger, Pulisic may be best used through the middle while on international duty. But, an emergence from Mihailovic could ease that headache. The Chicago Fire Homegrown was a surprise inclusion to the roster, if only because he returned from a torn ACL in August. While looking fully up to speed to the untrained eye, he told MLSsoccer.com that he was still shaking the rust off.

Auston Trusty

A highly-regarded prospect that played every single minute for the Philadelphia Union in 2018, Auston Trusty has earned his shot with the senior national team. The only issue is how deep the squad is at the position. So deep, in fact, Tim Parker didn’t get added to the January camp while the likes of Jonathan Brooks, Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers are unavailable for selection while continuing their seasons in Europe. Regardless of what happens in January, Trusty will have more opportunities. But he has the chance to keep himself in the team when healthy for the next decade with a strong performance.

Before World Cup, U.S. women spend rare time alone in Portugal

By Graham Hays | Jan 17, 2019espnW.com

It wasn’t a coincidence that a team that will absorb as much attention as almost any in American sports this year opened its calendar far from the public eye.It made sense for the United States women’s national team to hold its annual January training camp in Portugal this year. It was familiar territory from years of past participation in the Algarve Cup. The area offered a smaller footprint than greater Los Angeles, where the team typically holds its January camp. Saving 30 minutes or more going to and leaving practice in Southern California traffic, without sacrificing climate, is no small boon for tired bodies. And with its opening games of 2019 in Europe — first against host France on Saturday in Le Havre’s World Cup venue and then back on the Iberian Peninsula to play Spain for the first time (ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. ET Tuesday) — it was practical to be able to adjust to time and surroundings ahead of those matches.But in a year in which the Women’s World Cup will bring a surplus of attention, Portugal offered the U.S. women something otherwise in short supply regardless of how the next six months unfold: time to themselves.”I actually said to them it’s about the work we do on the field, but it’s also investing in each other,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said of her message to players as training camp began the second week of January. “Ultimately, if you can have a very cohesive and tight unit, it obviously will pay dividends down the line. It’s tranquil here. It’s only us. It’s allowed us to not only interact with each other, but the players can get some relaxing time on their own if they want to.”

More from espnW.com

With eye on Women’s World Cup, Tierna Davidson leaves Stanford

U.S. women could face nightmarish knockout rounds in World Cup

Women’s World Cup: What you need to know

U.S. women’s national team sets ’19 schedule

Women’s World Cup: U.S. draw favorable

With no shortage of goals, U.S. women qualify for World Cup

Against France, the U.S. women will face a fellow World Cup contender on Saturday. Like pushing off at the top of a ski jump, there is no longer any slowing the momentum that propels them forward to June. After returning home following these games, players will gather in February for the SheBelieves Cup, begin preseason with their respective NWSL teams and navigate the early weeks of that season and the five remaining U.S. friendlies in April and May.The tranquility will presumably be left behind on the beaches in Portugal. And yet, perhaps they can carry some of that feeling forward. As the defending World Cup champions and the current No. 1 team in the world, the U.S. women have legitimate reason to believe that they, more than any other team, control what comes next. This year is about them.Training camp was the starting point.”This is probably the longest period of time we’ll have together, in terms of in training,” Ellis said toward the end of the camp. “So we’re just really trying to get a lot covered, get a lot reviewed and build their physical base on top of the work that they’ve done coming into here.”Ellis stopped short of saying the final World Cup roster will come exclusively from among the 27 players who were in Portugal. That included defenders Kelley O’Hara, who had knee surgery in October at the conclusion of World Cup qualifying, and Tierna Davidson and midfielder McCall Zerboni, who missed qualifying with ankle and elbow injuries, respectively. For young players like Hailie Mace and Savannah McCaskill, or veterans like Allie Long and Amy Rodriguez, none of whom were in Portugal after playing 2018 minutes, the bubble hasn’t sealed. But it might be close.”The players that are in here have proven themselves to be very deserving to be here,” Ellis allowed. “They have the qualities we feel we need to be successful.”That means that what we see on the field against France and Spain should look familiar. Crystal Dunn is the left back, albeit with a heat map that at times looks more like a wide forward. Alyssa Naeher is the No. 1 goalkeeper. Carli Lloyd continues as a No. 9. And on and on.We know what the U.S. women are, what they will look like. The time remaining is about repetition.

It’s a great test for us. It’s a great challenge to see where we are, where do we need to get better.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis on the upcoming games with France and Spain

The past two years, for instance, gave us Julie Ertz as a defensive midfielder, Lindsey Horan as a mature box-to-box presence and Rose Lavelle as a needed attacking and creative spark. The U.S. women have their preferred midfield, by all appearances. Now they rehearse.”We’ve got a nice blend in there, in terms of the profile of our midfielders,” Ellis said. “We’ve got three players in there that have had good time together, in terms of minutes on the pitch, and seeing how they start to blend and mesh is going to be part of this next period.”Ideally, much of the remaining preparation time in midfield would be spent together as a trio. But if any lingering injuries or ailments from training camp make that infeasible, that, too, is useful in its own way. It is unlikely the United States or any country will be fully healthy when the World Cup arrives. It is even more unlikely a team will stay healthy through seven games.For that matter, it’s good to play these games on the other side of the ocean. Even if, as was the case in wins last fall against Scotland and Portugal, it isn’t always a pleasure to watch.”Part of what’s important for me is for our players to play on the road,” Ellis said. “That’s why I went to Scotland and Portugal. Having four games in Europe is going to be critical before we go over for the World Cup. Because it’s about us, I think it’s fantastic that we’re playing these teams. We’re gaining and learning more about ourselves every time we come off the pitch.”The World Cup draw left the U.S. women with as comfortable a group assignment as they could have hoped for, long shots Chile and Thailand alongside familiar nemesis Sweden. But the likelihood of success in the group could be its own trap, given some of the potential scenarios that come with finishing first. The United States could face Spain in a potential round of 16 game and a potential quarterfinal against France in Paris.

The upcoming January games against those two countries were in the works before the draw last month, but Ellis saw no downside to these rehearsals — even though the rosters for France and Spain are dominated by club giants Lyon and Barcelona, respectively, and stocked with players in the middle of their domestic league seasons.”There’s going to be growth, and there’s going to be changes,” Ellis said. “Would I want to play an opponent a month out? No, because then you’re in your final prep and teams are really fine-tuned. Right now, it’s a great test for us. It’s a great challenge to see where we are, where do we need to get better. We’re playing against players who are in season. We need this.”Not because they need to beat France and Spain right now in order to beat them in June. Because these games are the best mirror available, the best opportunity to see themselves.Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

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12/21/18 Carmel FC team headed to Disney Tourney, Man United Fire Mourinho, Champ League Games Sweet 16 Games Set, Happy Holidays TV Game Schedule

As we head into the Holiday Season I want wish each of you a very Happy Holiday and thank you for being part of soccer nation with me.  Its been an interesting year – and circumstances this year have reminded me just how precious life is and how lucky we are to get to coach, and ref  and play and enjoy this beautiful game of soccer.  Click thru to the Ole Ballcoach and read the beautiful story about former US National Team star Claudia Reyna and his family story of life, loss and soccer.  2018 was an interesting year as we had to watch a World Cup without our US men’s team in it for the first time since 1990 (that’s 28 years), we got to see our own Indy 11 move into a new league and into the friendly confines of Lucas Oil, and we got to enjoy a State Championship for the Carmel Girls Soccer team and 8 former Carmel FC players.

CFC05Goldboys

Huge congrats to our Carmel FC 05 Boys Gold Team coached by Doug Latham (right) and Commish Jeremy Slivinski (left).  They went 5-2-1 to claim first in the Premier Division becoming the first ever Carmel FC boys team to do so.  They also were Grand Park Festival Champs this fall and finished 3-0 in the top flight of the Indianapolis College Men’s Showcase in early December.  Up next a move up to the National League (old MRL) in the Spring and a trip to Disney over the holidays for the famous Disney Soccer Showcase arguably one of the best youth soccer tourney’s in the country held at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.  (see full story below) Best of luck boys !!

CHSGirls_state_champs2018

What A Season for the Carmel High Girls Soccer Team as they Won their 10th IHSAA State title with legendary Coach Frank Dixon and 8 former Carmel FC players (All-State Keeper Erin Baker, Emma Antoine, Brooke Bailey, Olivia Fray, Carly Jessup, Riley Pennington, Anna Springer, Emily Roper and former Carmel FC Coach coach Carla Baker.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Wow some juicy games in the Sweet 16 as Atletico Madrid will face last season’s semi-finalist Juventus, Tottenham will face Borussia Dortmund and US star Christian Pulisic (assuming he can get that starting spot back-he started and went the full 90 this past weekend), Man United (post Jose) vs PSG, Schalke and US Weston McKinney against Man City, and perhaps the toughest draw defending finalist Liverpool and Bayern Munich.

Here’s The Full draw:

Schalke vs. Manchester City

Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund

Lyon vs. Barcelona

Roma vs. Porto

Ajax vs. Real Madrid

Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich

MLS

I was excited to see MLS is adjusting the Playoff Schedule starting next year – reducing the season length by 3 weeks which will allow the season to end in mid Nov.  Part of the change will include reducing all of the playoff series to 1 game knockout games instead of 2 game Champion League like series.  I love both changes !!

Indy 11

Conference Alignment Set for 2019 USL Season as new teams Memphis FC, Birmingham Legion FC, Hartford Athletic and Loundon Uited will join the Easter Conference with the Indy 11 with 18 teams, 36 total across the Eastern and Western Divisions.  The Season will start March 9 with the 11 traveling to St. Louis.  Our Indy 11 are busy selling the best deal in town with Season Tickets for as low as $99 just in time for Christmas.  Check out the new jersey for the 2019 Season on sale now just in time for the Holidays! I kind of like the collar look for the first time ever in the club’s history.  All Season ticket holders get Exclusive Meet the Team Events, More Games on Saturdays less on Weds, Ticket Exchange Program (mix and match your games if you miss a game get double seats for another game of choice, 20% off team merchandise.  Click here for more info or Call 317-685-1100 for more details and tell them the Ole Ballcoach Sent you !  Oh I forgot think your good enough to play for the Eleven? Open Try-outs start Jan 12, 10-2 pm at Grand Park.

2019 Carmel FC Winter Players League

Location:  Off the Wall Sports

Address:  1423 Chase Ct., Carmel, IN 46032

Offered to:  Carmel FC Academy Players, Travel Players & Select Players from 8U-14U

Dates:  January 10th – March 15th (2019)

Days:  Thursdays & Fridays

Cost:  $125 per player

Thursday evenings:  Games will be played from 5pm-8pm.  Games will be 50 minutes in length, Fields 1 & 2 Age group: U8 Coed – U10 Coed.

Friday evenings:  Games will be played from 5pm – 8:45pm.  Games will be 50 minutes in length, Fields 1 & 2 Age group: 11U/ U12 Girls & U11/U12 Boys; U13/U14 Girls & U13/U14 Boys.

Space is limited and spots are filling up so sign up soon.  Payment is confirmation of

registration.Please note that this is an optional activity we are offering our players.  It is not required.To register:http://carmeldadsclub2016.org/form.php?id=39fcc6879909ac1f108c128c49f721d8

If you have any questions please contact Juergen Sommer, Director of Soccer Operations.

Email: jsommer@carmeldadsclub.org

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Dec 21  

2:30 pm FS1          Dormunt (Pulisic) vs M’gladbach (Johnson)

2:45 pm NBCSN    Wolverhampton vs Liverpool

Sat, Dec 22   

7:30 am NBCSN          Arsenal vs Burnely

9:30 am FS1                RB Leipzig vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

10 am NBCSN             Chelsea vs Leicester City

11:30 am FS1             FIFA WORLD CLUB CUP FINAL Real Madrid? vs ??

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Cardiff vs Man United

12:30  Fox Sp 2           Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich

2:30 pm EPSN+           Juventus vs Roma

3 pm beiN sport        PSG vs Nantes

Sun, Dec23  

11 am NBCSN            Everton vs Tottenham

 Wed, Dec 26  -Boxing Day

7:30 am NBCSN          Fulham vs Wolverhampton

10 am NBCSN             Leicester City vs Man United

10 am NBCSN              Liverpool vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

12:15 NBCSN              Brighton vs Arsenal

2:30 pm NBCSN?      Watford vs Chelsea

Sat, Dec 29  

10 am NBCSN             Tottenham vs Wolverhampton

10 am NBCSN             Leicester City vs Man United

12:15 NBCSN              Liverpool vs Arsenal

Sun, Dec 30  

7 am NBCSN             Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

9 am NBCSN                Southampton vs Man city

11:30 am NBCSN        Man United vs Bournemouth

Tue, Jan 1  

7 am NBCSN             Everton vs Leiscester City 

10 am NBCSN              Arsenal vs Fulham

12:30  NBCSN             Cardiff vs Tottenham

Wed, Jan 2  

3pm  NBCSN                New Castle United (Yedlin) vs Man United

Thur, Jan 3  

3 pm  NBCSN              Man City vs Liverpool

 EPL

Manchester United Runs Out of Reasons to Stay Course With Mourinho– SI Avi Creditor

Sam Borden: Jose Mourinho’s Last Stand

Mourinho’s sacking overdue

Inside Story of how Man United and Mourinho Broke Down

Mourinho finally speaks

Why Man U’s Decision to appoint former player Solskjaer is so Surprising Michael Cox ESPN.com

Top Priorities for New Manager Solskajaer At Man United

Who is this New Manager for Man United – Sam Wallace the Telegraph

Spurs must Show Pochettino what he would miss if he left for United or Real Madrid- Mark Odgen ESPNFC

Liverpool’s Lovren says they can match Arsenal’s Invicibles

Liverpool Fans Ridicule Shows how Far Jose Mourino has Fallen- Mark Odgen ESPNFC

Shaqiri, Liverpool Add to Man Uniteds Woe – Mark Ogden ESPNFC

Mo Salah goes GQ

 WORLD

What do the  Big Teams Need in the Jan Transfer Window?

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Here’s The Full draw:

Schalke vs. Manchester City

Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund

Lyon vs. Barcelona

Roma vs. Porto

Ajax vs. Real Madrid

Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich

UCL draw: United face PSG, Liverpool vs. Bayern

Manchester United will face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round of 16, while Liverpool have been drawn against Bayern Munich. ESPN

 Klopp meets the team he turned down

Gab Marcotti digs into each of the round of 16 matchups in the UEFA Champions League as the draw put together some heavyweight teams.

Spurs will face different Dortmund in UCL – Vertonghen

Vertonghen is expecting a tougher test when the north Londoners meet Lucien Favre’s side, who are leading the Bundesliga by nine, in February. Ben Pierce – ESPNFC

Less of the ball is more: Praise for football’s minimalists

While the likes of Pep Guardiola have made control of the ball a central part of how their teams play, two notables are thriving without it.

Man United drew PSG, and social media loved it

“Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani against that Man Utd defence …” pretty much sums up the reaction to the Red Devils drawing PSG in the round of 16. Chris Wright ESPNFC

USA

USMNT player of the year Zack Steffen reflects on superb 2018

Zack Steffen talks to ESPN FC about his move to Manchester City, the future of the U.S. national team and ignoring all the haters.  Noah Davis ESPNFC

 The Reynas’ Story of Loss and Legacy

Claudio and Danielle Reyna experienced tragedy upon the death of their son, Jack, but his memory and legacy endure and are carried on in part by another son and U.S. youth national team standout, Giovanni.by Grant Wahl  SI

Keep Sargent expectations realistic – Bremen boss

Josh Sargent scored less than two minutes into his Bundesliga debut as Bremen beat Fortuna Dusseldorf 3-1.

Bill Simmons on US Youth Soccer’s and MLS’s ‘Pro’s and Cons   SI

MLS

MLS shortens playoffs, goes to single elimination

The format’s implementation will see the number of playoff qualifiers increase from 12 to 14 teams.

Zlatan signs Designated Player deal with Galaxy

The former Sweden international was already under contract for 2019 but had long chafed over a deal that paid him just $1.5 million in 2018.

Why are LA Galaxy, MLS’s most decorated club, such a mess?

No one has more MLS Cups than LA Galaxy, but for the second straight year, they’ve missed the playoffs. What’s plaguing MLS’ original glamour club?

Ibrahimovic has unfinished business with Galaxy, MLS

Ibrahimovic scored plenty of goals in 2018 but his club missed the playoffs. He’ll try to put that right next year.

Atlanta’s MLS Cup hangover just beginning

Right now, Atlanta United is on top of MLS. But with an offseason of change ahead, how will the champions replace their most influential characters?

Indy 11 

Conference Alignment Set for 2019 USL Season

Indy 11 Opening Game March 9 @ St. Louis

Indy 11 Roster Starts to Take Shape

New Players added

Open Tryouts Sat Jan 12

Full Update on the Carmel FC 05 Gold Team headed to the Disney Showcase over the Holidays

CFC05Goldboys

The Disney Soccer Showcase is arguably one of the most coveted showcase and tournament opportunities for youth soccer in the country.  Any travel team can apply but the tournament is known for being invitation centered and bringing in the top teams from around the country.  It is held on two sites, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and additional facilities nearby.  The Carmel FC 05 Boys Gold team was the only Indiana boys team accepted in the 14u age division this year.  There are 48 teams in their age group in the tournament out of 100’s that applied.

Families will be heading to Orlando on December 26th.  Games are scheduled for the 27th, 28th and 29th.  The finals are on the 30th.  The competition looks fierce as they will be playing teams from multiple levels of national league.  This will be a good first test for these boys as they are moving to national league for the 2019 spring season.  They are the first boys team from our club to ascend to this level of play.  They did so by winning ISL 1st Division twice and then ISL Premier Division this past fall season.  They were the Grand Park Soccer Festival champions this fall and also finished 3-0 in the top flight at the Indianapolis Men’s College Showcase at the beginning of December.

Our hope is this 05 Boys team is representative of the great things to come for our club.  This team was not recruited/built.  It was developed.  Of the 16 players on the team 14 have spent their entire travel experience with Carmel FC.  Four of these players come from the original 2005 academy group when they were formed at u9 before the US Soccer age mandate change.  Two come from the original 2006 academy group.  The remainder joined the program the following couple of years.

This opportunity demonstrates the reality of player development that sometimes gets missed.  Over half of the 05 Boys team played on our 2nd (Blue) or 3rd (White) teams at some point when they were younger.  Our club’s and this age group’s focus on technical development over wins at a younger age has led to these players graduating to elite level play.  They developed technically on their respective teams over the years and now physically they are catching up.  John Carter, the past Indiana Soccer Director of ODP who passed away this fall used to say, (paraphrasing) “A player’s real ability and potential isn’t truly known until their teenage years.  At younger ages bad technical ability can be hidden by physical play.  Good technical ability may not be realized simply due to slower development of physical ability.  It all evens out when they get to 11v11 and growth spurts slow down.”  Carmel FC and specifically the 05 Boys team has taken those concepts to heart and is now seeing the results of patience.  At the younger ages they focused on every player on every team in their age group.  We think teams following in their footsteps will realize the same success.   Big thanks to Carmel FC General Manager and coach Jeremy Sklivinski for the full rundown and good luck boys!!

Bill Simmons on U.S. Youth Soccer’s Issues and MLS’s Pros and Cons

  • After getting involved heavily on the Southern California youth soccer scene with his daughter and becoming an LAFC season-ticket holder, The Ringer’s Bill Simmons notes the many flaws in the U.S. youth system and has some ideas for MLS.

By GRANT WAHL December 13, 2018

On the latest episode of the Planet Fútbol Podcast, SI.com interviews HBO’s Bill Simmons, the founder and CEO of The Ringer, about his experience over the last five years getting deep into Southern California youth soccer with his daughter—including being part of starting a new youth club. Simmons shares his thoughts on the youth soccer system in the U.S. and, as an LAFC season-ticket holder, on what MLS is doing and not doing well.You can listen to the full conversation in the podcast console below and subscribe to and download the Planet Fútbol Podcast on iTunes. Recent guests include ESPN’s Katie Nolan, former U.S. women’s national team forward Abby Wambach, former U.S. men’s national team forward Eddie Johnson, broadcasters Bob Ley and Derek Rae and U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

Planet Fútbol with Grant Wahl

Bill Simmons on California Youth Soccer, MLS and US SoccerBill Simmons on California Youth Soccer, MLS and US Soccer

Here some of the highlights of the conversation:

On youth soccer and U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy:

“If you play on a Development Academy team, they say you can’t play for your high school. Right? So now you’re basically turning your kids into professional athletes when they’re 15. There’s no way in hell I wouldn’t want my daughter to play … in high school next year as a ninth-grader. What is better than playing for your high school team? That’s the single most important thing you can do as an athlete until you go to college.”

On what MLS owners need to do:

“It’s crazy to me that rich people just haven’t said, Let’s make the MLS a real thing. Let’s like quintuple the salary cap. Let’s just go for it.”

On being an LAFC season ticket holder:

“They were able to build a tradition in the span of like three weeks. There’s the eagle at the beginning, and they have the whole side behind one of the goals, everyone’s standing and doing chants the whole game and people are holding scarves up. And the logos. It kind of felt like the team had been around for 28 years, and meanwhile they’d been around for, you know, two weeks.”

On the quality of play in MLS:

“Unfortunately, the problem with the MLS is that the soccer is not as good as the experience. I think people love going to soccer games and being fans and emulating what they see in Europe and all these different places, and the soccer just isn’t good enough yet. It’s fine. It’s probably somewhere between double- and triple-A baseball, I would say.

“But the stands are major league. The fans and the experience and the stadiums, and you have all these rich owners now that are frustrated because they can’t get into the NBA or the NFL oh, so this is where they’ve taken their sports ownership juices, basically. But if you actually watch the games? It’s like, I went to this LAFC-New England Revolution game in [September], it was honestly one of the worst sporting events I’ve ever been to. It was so awful. The Revolution had like 20 fouls. They were just being thugs, they just weren’t that talented. And it was just awful. I was like, ‘Oh man, this is not a fun way to spend a Saturday.’ But then you go to other games, and the soccer is close enough that it’s fine. Every team has a couple really good players they can kind of latch onto.”

WAHL: Atlanta Raises the Bar as an MLS Champ–and Soccer City

On why the Krafts are perhaps the best owners in the NFL but maybe the worst in MLS:

“It’s too bad. It’s so easy and simple. They just need to build like a 22,000-seat soccer stadium somewhere in Boston that everyone can get to by an Uber. And put it in Cambridge, put it in the Seaport, wherever the hell you’re going to put it, put it next to Suffolk Downs, whatever. It just needs to be 22,000 people, and they’ll get a lot of college kids. You can’t go to those games in Gillette. It’s the same problem the WNBA has. The WNBA insists on putting their games in these NBA arenas, and then there’s 2,000 people there and it’s the most depressing place in the world. And you look at the Revs, and they’re in the 70,000-seat football stadium, it’s ludicrous. There’s no energy at all. It’s the worst. LAFC is like 28,000. So I would say either sell or try to build that stadium. Honestly, 22,000 is probably not big enough. Maybe 25,000?”

On sexism in youth soccer:

“Everything is geared toward boys’ soccer, especially in Southern California. These big clubs, they just care about the boys teams more. Their boys teams get better practice times, better fields, better everything. Better resources. Better coaching. It’s kind of shocking. I had never considered myself a sports feminist. And it was weird to go through this situation where you’re like, ‘Wow, my daughter is getting the short end of the stick because she’s female.’”

On what U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro should do with the youth soccer system:

“Carlos Cordeiro. Listen, Carlos, if you’re listening, this sucks, what’s going on right now. It’s really bad. We’re in a situation now with this club that we’ve built. We have 130 girls, one-third of them are scholarship. We’re playing the style that everyone wants America to play but we don’t. And we’re on the outside because we’re not one of the Starbucks clubs. I would love to know what the solution is for that. Your system that we’ve created for youth soccer does not allow for outliers.”

On his advice to youth soccer parents:

“To the parents out there, pick a side in the games. Then all get your chairs and stuff, and then you go on that one side. You don’t get to do the things where you’re kind of on both sides, because that’s how fights happen in games. Pick a side.”

THE REYNA’S STORY OF LOSS AND LEGACY

Following the Tragic Loss of their son as they make their way thru life in Soccer

By Grant Wahl  Sports Illustrated  December 12, 2018  

They were American soccer’s royal couple. In the summer of 1994, not long before the U.S. hosted the World Cup, the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams were both staying in Laguna Beach, Calif., at the Holiday Inn. Claudio Reyna, a three-time NCAA champion at Virginia, was an emerging star, a gifted playmaker who had just made the first of his four World Cup squads. Danielle Egan, on her way to winning four NCAA titles at North Carolina with players like Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly, was a speed demon on the wing who had recently scored her first goal for the world champion U.S. women. Their futures had no ceiling: Reyna and Egan were both 20 years old.Reyna was handsome, with thick, dark hair in a bowl cut, the New Jersey-born son of immigrants from Portugal and Argentina. Egan was gorgeous, a blonde tomboy, the pride of an Irish-American family on Long Island. They met in the hotel lobby. Reyna was speaking to some women’s players. Egan was looking for her roommate. He still remembers his pickup line: “Do you like pizza?” She did. They talked that night. They kept talking all summer. In three years they were married.From 1995 to ’99, a time when European soccer seemed exotic and was almost never broadcast on U.S. television, the Reynas lived their own two-person continental adventure. Claudio played in the German Bundesliga for Bayer Leverkusen, and then Wolfsburg. Danielle competed for a period in the German women’s third division, but it wasn’t nearly as serious as her Carolina days. Teammates smoked cigarettes and drank beer at halftime, and the eight-hour bus rides to games were brutal. So she stopped, and whenever Claudio had an off day husband and wife would pick a random spot on a paper map and drive there. Amsterdam, Brugge, Rotterdam. “Even little towns,” says Danielle. “We’ve been to more places in Holland than most Dutch people.”So much was happening. They lived in a modest one-bedroom apartment, drove a Volkswagen Beetle and hosted college friends for visits. Claudio’s career was taking off. Life was simple and pure and thrilling.And it got even better when their son Jack was born in April 1999. Claudio had just transferred to Rangers, a storied club in Glasgow, and the couple’s first months in Scotland were marked by a domestic league title and the joy of being around their newborn.“He was the easiest baby, the perfect firstborn child,” says Danielle. “He was like the first baby of everyone, soccer-wise. I’ve been told so many times: ‘The reason we had our baby was because of Jack.’”In the years ahead, whenever Claudio joined up with the national team, Jack was the unofficial team mascot, running up and down the sideline at practice.“I never saw anyone laugh and smile as much as him,” says Claudio. “He was so enthusiastic about everything.”Ultimately, as Claudio moved from Rangers to Sunderland to Manchester City to the New York Red Bulls, the Reynas would have four children in all, each with their own personalities and interests. Jack, who once recited poetry in UK speaking competitions with a full posh British accent, loved geography and architecture, and he fell for soccer by memorizing the names of famous stadiums.Giovanni (aka Gio), born in 2002, had a Manc accent that he lost, just as Jack did with his once they came to live in the States in 2007. Always more quiet than Jack, Gio is now one of the U.S.’s top soccer prospects, a 16-year-old forward who blends Claudio’s soccer IQ and Danielle’s athleticism, has his own Adidas video ad and just moved to Germany, where he’s expected to join Borussia Dortmund soon. (Former NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira has compared Gio to his French World Cup-winning teammate David Trezeguet.)Joah-Mikel, now 11, likes cooking and soccer, especially the tactical side of the game. And Carolina, the Reynas’ daughter, whip-smart at age 9, plays several sports and makes sure Joah doesn’t forget anything on his way to school.After his playing days, Claudio became the youth technical director for U.S. Soccer and then, in 2013, the sporting director at New York City FC. Don’t get him wrong, he was deeply disappointed when his team lost to Atlanta United in the recent MLS playoffs. But the Reynas also have a perspective on what matters in life that they earned in the most excruciating way possible. In May 2010, shortly after Jack’s team won the New York State Cup for his age group, he complained to his parents of a splitting headache.“At first,” says Danielle, doctors “thought maybe it was meningitis or Lyme disease or a sinus infection. But he had no other symptoms. None.”Then a neurologist noticed an issue with Jack’s peripheral vision in his left eye, and a subsequent CAT scan revealed a golf-ball-sized brain tumor. Surgery came next, followed by an agonizing three-week wait for a diagnosis.The result: Jack had stage IV glioblastoma, the kind of tumor John McCain and Ted Kennedy had—an extremely rare and aggressive condition, one that affects mostly men in their 60s and 70s.Jack Reyna was 11.

Jack (lying on his parents’ bed): Mom, am I going to die?

Danielle: Well, we all die. We just don’t know when. We don’t know if we’re going to be young. We don’t know if we’re going to be old. We don’t know if we’ll be hit by a truck, or get cancer. No one knows. It just kind of comes. When God is ready for you, he will come.

Upstairs, in the boys’ bedroom, the Lego structures are still intact. Intricate and towering, with as many as a thousand pieces each, the creations are a window into the mind of the boy who built them. A four-foot-high Eiffel Tower with the French tricolore on top. A block of three-story townhouses on a British streetscape. An elaborate recreation of the Death Star from Star Wars, replete with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and stormtroopers. Whenever Jack was suffering from his chemotherapy—from the nausea and the pain—he would repair to his room and work with the plastic bricks.“This was like his relaxation after chemo,” says Danielle. “He was very proud of this.”Adds Claudio: Each one “took a couple of weeks. He would go in here and sit. It was like his distraction. His therapy.”It’s a cloudy fall morning. The Reynas’ house in Bedford, N.Y., an hour outside Manhattan, is a monument to their children, to sports, to art and to the warmth of a family that welcomes a steady stream of friends and relatives through an open door. A basketball hoop stands sentry out front, and the backyard opens onto a soccer field, the fencing around its goal having been repaired not long ago after years of pounding by the kids.On the boys’ bedroom walls: a Lionel Messi jersey signed by the Argentine national team; an autographed Thierry Henry Barcelona shirt; jerseys dedicated to Jack by the Dutch national team and by Inter Milan legend Javier Zanetti. There’s also a wall-sized mural of a world map, designed for Jack, with the names of all the countries. Down in the living room, Claudio and Danielle sip coffee and share Jack’s story for three hours, their memories punctuated in nearly equal parts by smiles, laughter and tears.Back in their playing days, Claudio and Danielle shared a similar reputation for setting up teammates with perfectly-weighted passes—just the right speed, touch, direction and placement to give the receiver the best possible opportunity to do something positive with the ball. They do the same with each other when describing their firstborn son.

Danielle: “He was really smart. Super into geography—”

Claudio: “—geography, architecture, capitals. The second I got into the car, wherever we drove, he didn’t stop asking me questions. I couldn’t believe how happy he was with everything, including when we took him out to dinner. Do you remember?”

Danielle: “Especially in Europe. They didn’t always love when kids came. But we knew we could bring him to any restaurant, no matter how fancy. We would show up with this toddler, and they would gasp and say, ‘He’s so well-behaved!’”Claudio: “He always liked trying new kinds of food. The joy he had for life was just incredible. He would amaze us all the time—”

Danielle: “—and he loved chatting with adults. He was kind of like an old soul, talking about his travels and asking people about where they had been. He was super-inquisitive about other people’s lives.”Claudio: “We didn’t even talk about his dancing.”Danielle: “He loved music.”Claudio: “If music was on, he was dancing. Pop. Hip-hop. Everything.”A long pause. Slow, deep breaths. Tears.

Claudio: “He taught us how to love more, to trust more. You could count on him. You knew the love he had for his family.”Danielle: “And he loved how good Gio was t soccer. He [always] let Gio play with him and his friends. He always included him.”From the start, Gio was a freakish natural athlete, a child who could watch golf on TV for a few minutes and then pick up a club for the first time and hit picture-perfect iron shots in the backyard. He could dunk a basketball in the eighth grade. By the time he was 5, he was dominating Under-9 soccer games in the park. Claudio remembers how parents would give him the wink-wink, nudge-nudge look, assuming he was running Gio through countless hours of soccer drills, Marv Marinovich-style, on their backyard field. “What do you do with him?” they asked.“Nothing,” replied Claudio, who’d once helped coach Jack’s youth team but by now did little more than mess around with his boys in the backyard. They had no idea, Claudio thought to himself. Gio’s “training?” He was just playing with Jack and his older friends.“That’s what carried Gio, what launched him,” says Claudio. “He played with Jack. He fought with him. Jack would go in goal and let him shoot—not always let him win, though, that’s for sure. And Gio fought and fought, and that’s why he played. That’s who he wanted to be. He idolized and worshipped Jack. The one who made him what he is today, his talent, was really Jack.”

Jack is a boy. He has curly dark hair and soft brown eyes.

Jack’s smile is everybody’s favorite.

Jack has lots of favorites.

Jack loves food. He likes strawberries and salad and especially Lela’s Milanese.

But sushi is his favorite. His favorite restaurant is Nobu in New York City. He went there for his 13th birthday.

Jack plays lots of sports. He loves basketball and football, especially the Baltimore Ravens.

But his favorite sport is soccer. His favorite soccer team is Man City.

Jack has played on many soccer teams. His favorite coach is his dad, and his favorite player is his mom.

– From Jack’s Favorites, a children’s book written by Liz Johnson, Jack’s fifth-grade teacher at Greenwich Country Day School

Jack fought. Oh, he battled. Chemo started right after the World Cup in 2010: Once every five weeks, for nine months, Jack and his parents would visit New York University’s Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders. It always made Jack sick afterward. So did the radiation treatment he received for another six weeks.“The bravest person I ever met,” says Kristian Shkreli, who played youth soccer with Jack and later with Gio on NYCFC’s U-19 team. “Always, no matter what, he had a smile on his face.”After Jack’s diagnosis, Claudio had taken a leave of absence from his job with U.S. Soccer.“A complete fog,” he says of those days. “I couldn’t even take in information. I would sit with Jack all week. [Danielle and I] would live at the hospital and see the doctors and tag-team sleep.”Then, in April 2011, came what seemed like a reprieve. After nine months of chemo, everyone celebrated Jack’s 12th birthday with fantastic news: His MRIs were clear. No cancer.“The doctors were amazed,” says Danielle. “They said, ‘We’ve never seen a kid bounce back from radiation or chemo like this. He is such a fighter, he is always so positive.’”Tim Gerber, another old friend, remembers meeting Jack for the first time that September, at the start of seventh grade. He heard Jack talking to a teacher about soccer, and he could tell this kid knew his stuff.“I was a big soccer fan, and you don’t find many in our town,” says Gerber. “So I butted into the conversation, and we made a fast connection.” They would spend hours and hours playing FIFA.In December, though, Danielle noticed Jack’s speech was a little off, and so she and Claudio took him back to NYU. The bad news: Doctors said his cancer was back. The worse news: They would treat Jack, but it would only slow down his steady deterioration.“That’s when we knew,” says Claudio. “There was nothing you could do.”Over Jack’s final seven months, whenever he had the energy, he and his family would attack his bucket list. The Reynas traveled to Mexico (where at the hotel swimming pool Gio switched roles, helping Jack when he needed it). They toured the top of the Empire State Building, dined at Nobu, watched the Ravens from field level and met Dirk Nowitzki at a Mavericks-Knicks game. But there were other days when Jack didn’t want to go out at all. Or his parents didn’t.“Days I couldn’t even leave our bed,” says Claudio. “We couldn’t even move. Didn’t want to go anywhere.”For the most part, though, the Reynas kept their front door open, and visitors poured through. Gerber came by on Champions League matchdays or to play FIFA and talk sports and girls.Liz Johnson, Jack’s fifth-grade teacher, always stopped over on Wednesdays to see Jack. When 3-year-old Carolina saw her, she said, “You’re Jack’s favorite teacher!” On her drive home one day, Johnson decided to write a children’s book for Carolina about her brother called Jack’s Favorites. When she read the story to Jack, he flashed one of his brilliant smiles.

Jack likes school and he’s good at it. He solves math problems faster than his friends, and he reads lots of books.

His favorite subject is geography. Jack knows all the countries and all the capitals in the world almost.

One of Jack’s favorite things to do is travel. He likes to fly on airplanes and visit new places. Jack has been to many cities, including Paris, Rome, London, Milan, Amsterdam and Buenos Aires, just to name a few.

Jack loves dancing and music too. His favorite concert was Jay-Z in Carnegie Hall in New York City. He went there with his dad in 2012. He even got to go backstage and meet Jay-Z in person.

P.S. Jack has moves.

At home, Jack was put on a morphine drip to ease the pain. But even as he lost his abilities to walk and eventually to speak, the visitors kept coming. Claudio and Danielle still marvel at the 12- and 13-year-old classmates who would sometimes spoon-feed their dying friend.“I don’t know how we did it,” says Claudio, “but despite all the sadness we had this really happy place. People wanted to be here. It was loud, and he loved it. [We] felt it was important for him to see that everyone was still happy.”The Reynas had resolved that they still had to have joy in their family, Danielle explains, but their emotions were complex.“Nobody should have to watch their child, someone they love, die,” she says. “It’s horrible. You could tell he was fighting it. We had him in the house, and there were almost always at least 20 people around, sometimes more. He got good energy from them. People also needed to see him. And from what friends have said, they needed to see us. And they got strength from us. The day he died, we called the hospice near us. We kind of knew it was coming. She came and said it was. And we sent Gio to two of our best friends here. Then Jack passed. You’re so numb at that point. You don’t want him to go, but you don’t want him to be in pain anymore.”

Jack Reyna passed away on July 19, 2012, at the age of 13, surrounded by people who loved him.

One day after Jack’s funeral, Claudio and Danielle were sitting in their backyard with some friends and family. A recent rain had cleared, and everyone gazed up at the sky to witness an upside-down rainbow shaped like a human smile. Jack.“I had never seen one in my life,” says Claudio. “None of us had. It was perfect.”Six years after Jack’s death, his presence remains palpable in so many ways. A half-dozen friends wrote about him in their college application essays. A few years ago, Gerber penned a 25-page diary entry about Jack (“My Hero”) that he plans to give to Claudio and Danielle. Now a sophomore at Dartmouth, Gerber is studying economic development, dreaming of someday working for a nonprofit or starting a social entrepreneurship company.

“A lot of what I think about my future is because of what Jack taught me about the importance of being kind to others and about the privilege that we have,” Gerber says. “Not just getting to go to great schools and have the chance to travel and have different experiences, but also the ability to wake up every morning and see the people you love and be a good brother, a good teammate, a good family member.”  Claudio and Danielle remember seeing a family therapist when Jack was sick, and their counselor was struck by how they managed to still spend time with their other kids, preventing their home from descending into total gloom, maintaining support for one another. They’d heard stories about couples divorcing after losing a child, and they wanted to make sure it didn’t happen to them.Asked if they have any advice for parents in a similar situation, Claudio and Danielle point out that every case is different. But then Danielle says: “Keep laughter in your family. Respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses and grieving processes, because we’re all different humans, and you’re not always going to be on the same wavelength or in the same mood. Be as happy as you can with the kids. Don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s a cheesy little saying, but it’s really true.”For Claudio, this shared experience brought even more perspective to the idea of what’s important and what isn’t.“You’re living for your children. But this took it to a whole other level,” he says. “You have to be really strong every day, but also understand that I would feel very good one day and she wouldn’t—or vice versa. There are these different waves.”The notion that it gets better with time, though? That’s not true, Claudio says. Every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, every birthday without Jack is still painful. Not long ago, when the family was driving through New York City, their car’s GPS system had them pass by the NYU hospital where they’d spent so much time with Jack.“We didn’t even say a word, but I knew Danielle was thinking about it,” Claudio says. “There are constant reminders.”And those reminders lead frequently to hypotheticals. “Where would he be now?” Danielle asks of Jack, who would be 19, a college sophomore. “Would he be playing college soccer? Would he be at UVA? At Carolina? Because to me he was that kind of player. Would he have a girlfriend? What would he be studying?”

One question they feel comfortable answering: What would Jack think about Gio’s emerging soccer stardom?

Claudio tells a story. In Jack’s final months, just before he started using a wheelchair, he went with his dad to see Gio’s tryout for a basketball team. Jack was slurring his words by then, but 30 minutes into the session he turned to Claudio, with his trademark smile, and said, “Dad, Gio is the best player here by far.” And he was right.

“He wasn’t jealous about anything,” says Claudio. “He absolutely thought Gio was incredible.”The feeling was mutual. Gio was 9 when Jack passed away. And while Danielle says Gio was mostly quiet about it, she could tell it was extremely difficult for him. The evening after Jack died, she says, her voice breaking, Gio told her: “I’m never going to be a good soccer player now, because my big brother taught me everything.”Years later, Jack’s presence is felt every time the Reynas watch Gio play. His rise to the top of the U.S. soccer prospect pool was swift and at times overwhelming for the family. In April 2017, when Gio was 14, his NYCFC team won the Generation Adidas Cup, a tournament for MLS U-17 teams, and Gio was named the event’s best player.The following month, at the Torneo Delle Nazioni in Italy, he had four assists and four goals, including the game-winner in the final against England, as the U.S. U-15 national team won one of the world’s most prestigious youth tournaments.

Europe’s top clubs scouted the event, and afterward Claudio started receiving calls from teams in Germany, the Netherlands, England and Italy.

At 14, Gio hired an agent, and he signed a long-term endorsement deal with Adidas after a bidding war with Nike. He also secured a Portuguese passport (through Claudio’s mother), which allowed him to sign officially with a European club when he recently turned 16—as opposed to having to wait until he turned 18 per FIFA rules if he only had a U.S. passport. In August, Goal.com reported that Gio was set to join the academy of Borussia Dortmund, the club of fellow American Christian Pulisic. (Claudio said he had no comment for now on Gio’s club future.) For the past couple months, Gio has been in Germany acclimatizing to the environment as he waited to turn 16.The decision for Gio to leave for Europe was hardly an easy one. When Pulisic joined Dortmund at 16, he was able to live with his father, Mark, for the first two years. Claudio and Danielle can visit Gio, but they have to stay in the New York area for their two younger kids and for Claudio’s job. Meanwhile, Claudio has received criticism from some quarters of MLS and from NYCFC supporters for not keeping Gio with the team he works for, or even signing him to an MLS pro contract and then selling him for a transfer fee to, say, Dortmund.“I believe 100% in what we’re doing at NYCFC,” says Claudio, “but I have to remove my hat as a sporting director for him. I’m his dad first, second and third, and I’m going to support him” and what Gio decides to do.Danielle, meanwhile, says that, as a mother, part of her desperately wanted Gio to stay at home with NYCFC—at least until he turned 18.“The thought of him leaving at 16 is pretty heart-crushing,” she says. “I’m sure it has something to do with Jack, too, in the sense that I have relied on [Gio] as the big boy. … I cry a little just thinking about it.”

But it’s hard for anyone to argue against the notion that, in soccer terms, Dortmund would be the best possible place for Gio’s career. The club has a proven track record of developing young talent and for giving those players opportunities with the first team, even in Champions League games. And Gio’s potential is tantalizing.“He’s much more of an athlete than I was, much more of a goal scorer,” says Claudio. “He’s very technical and has a good feel for the game. He has a great free kick and can strike a ball well. Danielle was a great runner—and he’s a runner.”It’s no wonder that Gio’s first ad campaign with Adidas focused on creativity, presenting him as part of the solution in reviving U.S. soccer after the World Cup 2018 qualifying failure. And while Gio has his own distinct identity, the influence of Claudio, Danielle and Jack is unmistakable.

Never was that more clear for Claudio and Danielle than on April 8, 2016, one day before Jack would have turned 17. Gio, then 13, was playing against Uruguay in his first international appearance for the U.S. U-15 team. The game was in Rosario, Argentina, the birth country of Claudio’s father, Miguel, who had traveled with his wife, Maria, to watch alongside Claudio and Danielle.Gio was magical that day in a 2-0 U.S. victory, and in the 38th minute he scored a truly remarkable goal. Running at speed onto a pass down the right side, Gio was tripped by a lunging Uruguayan defender and fell to the ground in a somersault, then somehow vaulted back up to his feet without missing a step. The assistant referee raised his flag for a foul, but the referee played the advantage, and Gio beat two more defenders before coolly slotting his shot past the goalkeeper into the net.Claudio can’t tell the story of that day without breaking down in tears.

“It’s hard for us,” he says between sobs. “We do bring up Jack to Gio. We talk about Jack all the time, but we don’t want to push it on him. Sometimes we say, ‘Your brother is with you.’ And that day [in Rosario] there was no doubt. The next day was Jack’s birthday. The whole game Gio was ridiculous. You don’t know how your kid is going to do, and he had such an amazing game.”

That day, the Reynas couldn’t help but imagine Jack turning to Claudio again, flashing his proud smile and saying: “Dad, Gio is the best player here by far.”

Michael Bradley, Zack Steffen included in Gregg Berhalter’s first U.S. squad

erhalter details what he believes the DNA of the U.S. national team should be after being introduced as the team’s next head coach. (1:07)

10:00 AM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

The first squad picked by new U.S. men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter features a 27-man roster comprised entirely of Major League Soccer players. Among those set to attend the annual January training camp are Michael Bradley, the most-capped player in the squad with 142 international appearances, and U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year Zack Steffen.Also included are MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long, Rookie of the Year Corey Baird and Comeback Player of the Year Gyasi Zardes. One notable omission from the initial list is Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, who underwent ankle surgery in October.The team will meet in Chula Vista, Calif. starting Jan. 6, and the camp will conclude with friendlies against Panama in Glendale, Ariz. on Jan. 27 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and against Costa Rica in San Jose, Calif. six days later. A 28th player is expected to be added some time prior to the start of camp.”In putting together this domestic-based roster, we started with a number of players who we think can be a core part of the group moving forward,” Berhalter said. “We then looked at players that excelled this year in Major League Soccer, and finally chose players that can play a specific role in our game model.”We are very excited to start to implement our ideas about the style of play and the culture we want to develop in the national team.”The average age of the team is 24 years, 230 days, with the average number of U.S. appearances standing at 10.The roster also includes 12 uncapped players, seven of whom — Baird, Russell Canouse, Jeremy Ebobisse, Daniel Lovitz, Mark McKenzie, Djordje Mihailovic, Tyler Miller and Auston Trusty — have been invited to a U.S. camp for the first time at senior level.The camp has usually been held at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., but Berhalter opted to hold the gathering at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center, formerly the Olympic Training Center.”Being in Chula Vista will help us create a team environment as we start to establish our culture and really be able to work on the details of our style of play,” he said. “The facilities are outstanding and provide everything we need to accomplish our goals both on and off the field. They are accustomed to hosting elite athletes, so we believe this will be a great place for this group to get started.”

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

GOALKEEPERS (4): Alex Bono (Toronto FC/CAN; 1/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 5/0), Tyler Miller (LAFC; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 6/0)

DEFENDERS (10): Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 2/0), Greg Garza (FC Cincinnati; 10/0), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 2/0), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 0/0), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 4/1)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 23/2), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 17/2), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 142/17), Russell Canouse (D.C. United; 0/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 6/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 5/1), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 5/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 11/0)

FORWARDS (3): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; 0/0), Christian Ramirez (LAFC; 0/0), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 40/6)

USMNT player of the year Zack Steffen reflects on superb 2018, is ready for Man City

12:06 PM ETNoah DavisU.S. soccer writer

At the beginning of 2018, Zack Steffen hadn’t played a minute for the United States men’s national team. At the club level, he had been a starter with the Columbus Crew for just a single season, and the team’s future in Ohio was very much in doubt.Twelve months later, the Crew are saved, Steffen is the U.S. No. 1 goalkeeper and he has just completed a multimillion-dollar transfer to Manchester Citythat will see him head back to Europe in July. That’s enough to get a player named U.S. Soccer’s Men’s National Team Player of the Year, which was confirmed for Steffen on Tuesday.On the eve of the announcement, Steffen chatted with ESPN FC about #SaveTheCrew, his former club manager Gregg Berhalter taking over the U.S. job and whether he will ever get between the posts for Manchester City.

ESPN FC: This year was a whirlwind for you. Can you put the experience into words?

Zack Steffen: I think you’ve put it in the best of terms. It’s a testament to hard work, dedication to your craft, being humble and using your support system when you need it to keep going through the ups and downs. You need to persist.

ESPN FC: What’s the best save you made this year?

Steffen: I would have to go with the double save against France in that game in Lyon. That knuckling ball, and then having to go low and get just a touch to keep it out.

ESPN FC: You got your first national team minutes in January against Bosnia and Herzegovina. What do you remember from that match?

Steffen: I remember that I wasn’t nervous. I remember just telling myself to go out and play the game. Have fun. Don’t do anything that I didn’t normally do. Just try to reach back and be calm. That’s exactly what I did.

Zack Steffen was named U.S. Soccer’s Men’s National Team Player of the Year for 2018. USA Today Images

ESPN FC: Do you feel like the U.S. No. 1?

Steffen: I mean, I know all the spots are up for grabs. We have a whole new coach and a whole new staff. It’s going to be a brand-new year. So, I do not. I think that’s the way I’ve been raised, to be humble, stay down in it and always train like it’s your spot to take and your spot to lose. I’m going to go into training with the attitude of building off this year, trying to get better, trying to push my teammates and become a leader.

ESPN FC: Can you take that spot?

Steffen: Yeah. I think it’s anybody’s spot to take. It’s open. Right now, every position is wide open. But I feel confident in what I’ve done. Those games and the camps have given me a good foundation to keep working hard and hopefully do well in the coming games.

ESPN FC: Gregg Berhalter was coach at Columbus and now he’s the U.S. national team coach. How does that change your relationship with him?

Steffen: Gregg’s great. I think it’ll change our relationship a little bit just because I don’t see him every day and joke around with him every day. He’s not out there pushing me every day. But at the same time, it’s going to be great. He has great respect for me and great respect for soccer in this nation. He’s a demanding coach, and I can see him being even more demanding with me than he was with the Crew. I’m ready for it. He’s going to bring in a plan and give us a character as a team and as a nation. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes and what exactly he’s going to be like.

ESPN FC: Have you talked to him about this at all?

Steffen: Nah. We’ve only texted here and there, congratulations for each other and happy holidays.

ESPN FC: How good can this U.S. team be?

Steffen: There’s a lot of young talent. We’re very explosive, quick and powerful. I think we can use that to our advantage. I think Gregg will use that to our advantage. This year, we really needed a plan going into games, a style going into games. Personality. That was obviously tough when we had so many guys debuting for the national team. It’s nice to get this year as a foundation for the youth.

Shaka Hislop explains why Zack Steffen chose Man City

While Shaka Hislop doesn’t see Zack Steffen dislodging Ederson as Manchester City’s No. 1, he still sees benefits from the move for the American.

ESPN FC: Who’s your closest friend on the team?

Steffen: I have a lot of close friends. It helps that Wil [Trapp] and I are on the Crew together. We go to national team games together, and that’s great. Gyasi [Zardes] is a great guy, as well. Then we have Shaq Moore, Tim Weah, Kellyn Acosta. There are a lot. Ethan Horvath and Alex Bono. I could keep going. Tim [Howard]. Tyler [Adams]. That’s the good thing about this group: There aren’t really any big egos. Everybody is coming into work hard, and everybody is coming in to get better.

ESPN FC: A big story off the field was the “Save the Crew” movement. Where were you when you found out that the team was going to stay?

Steffen: I was in my hotel room in Tampa Bay when the U.S. was playing Colombia. I think I got a call from somebody or saw a tweet. I started making calls and checking Twitter. It was an awesome day. Before that, there were some times where you were caught thinking about what was going to happen next year. Gregg and the coaching staff did a pretty good job in helping us focus on soccer and the season because they are very detailed. But when that day came and the news broke, it was definitely a feeling of relief and happiness, for ourselves, but also for the fans of Columbus and the community. It was a testament to their dedication to us, the team and the community. They are the ones who did it in the end.

ESPN FC: What most excites you about moving to City?

Steffen: It’s a new opportunity and new challenges. I can look forward to that. Getting back over to Europe and playing at a little bit higher level, then hopefully becoming a leader for the national team.

ESPN FC: When did you first know they were interested in signing you?

Steffen: I knew in mid-August. That’s when it all started. David Rouse, a goalkeeping scout for Manchester City, came over for maybe a week in October. He was an awesome guy. He showed me what kind of club they were like. We talked about Manchester City. He watched me and watched a game.

ESPN FC: What’s that like, knowing that there’s a scout from one of the biggest teams in the world watching you play live? Were you thinking about him in the stands?

Steffen: Yeah, that was in the back of my mind. But at the same time, you just have to go out, play your game and not do anything that you’re not used to or uncomfortable with. They’ve scouted you. They wouldn’t be watching you if they didn’t like you and didn’t trust you. You have to keep playing and not think about it. Think about it afterwards. It worked out.

ESPN FC: You went to Freiburg in 2014. What did you learn about playing in Europe during that stint that will help you at City?

Steffen: When I was over there, I learned a lot about the style of soccer and the lifestyle. Off the field, I learned a lot about myself. I wasn’t ready at that time. I wasn’t happy. Coming back was a smart call. Now, I’m much more mature. I’ve had my stint at Columbus. My family has been right by my side throughout, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I found my happiness. I’m ready to head back over and take on the challenges. I don’t think it’ll be as hectic and hard this time.

ESPN FC: Have you spoken with Pep Guardiola?

Steffen: I have not. When I went over for meetings, I met a bunch of the coaches. I went out to dinner with the goalie coach and some of the other higher-ups. They are all great people, welcoming and caring. It’s great.

ESPN FC: The British press can be brutal. One recent headline was, “Zack Steffen is unlikely to ever play for Man City. So why did he join them?” What’s your reaction to that?

Steffen: Negative press is always going to come out. There are always going to be your supporters, and then there are going to be haters. I kind of laugh at them. I’m confident in my abilities and what I can do if I continue to work hard and focus. I don’t really care what other people think.

ESPN FC: City Football Group has clubs all over the world, and there has been some talk that you’ll get loaned out. Are you going there to play for Man City?

Steffen: Of course. I want to get there as soon as possible and compete. Or whenever that happens, I think I’ll be ready. And they know I’m ready to compete.

ESPN FC: Would you be disappointed if you weren’t on a Premier League roster next August when the season starts?

Steffen: I trust in Man City and what plans they have for me. So no, no, I won’t be.

ESPN FC: Can you be their No. 1?

Steffen: If everything works out and everything falls into place, anything can happen.

ESPN FC: Best-case scenario for you in 2019?

Steffen: I would love to be in Manchester on the roster. We’ll start with that.

Major League Soccer changes playoff format, increases number of teams

Dec 17, 2018Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Major League Soccer announced its new playoff structure on Monday, introducing a new single-elimination format to be used in the 2019 season.The format’s implementation will see the number of playoff qualifiers increase from 12 to 14 teams, and will also see the playoffs take place entirely between the October and November FIFA international windows. The playoffs will begin on Oct. 19, while MLS Cup will be held on Nov. 10.The changes address several criticisms of the format that has been used for the last several seasons. The most recent format was comprised of an initial, single-elimination knockout round followed by conference semifinals and finals that were contested over two legs. The MLS Cup final was then held at the home field of whichever team had the better regular season record.But there had been complaints that the format didn’t do enough to reward teams for regular season excellence. In single-elimination games the higher seed advanced 67.3 percent of the time, while in 78 examples of two-game series over the years, the higher seed advanced just 55.1 percent of the time. Now the higher seed will host every match, with the top seed in each conference receiving a first-round bye.The schedule also reduces the impact that the two FIFA windows had on the competition. The November window was especially problematic given that the playoffs essentially went on hiatus for two weeks, disrupting the rhythm of the postseason. Now that break has been eliminated, while the October window can be used by teams as a recovery period ahead of the playoffs.The earlier finish to the season will increase the odds of better weather for the season’s most important games. The calendar will also allow for more compatibility with the 2022 World Cup, which is set to begin on Nov. 21 of that year.The upcoming MLS season begins on March 2 and will consist of 34 matches. The regular season will end on Oct. 6.

Transfer window: Man United, Arsenal, Real Madrid need defenders; Man City, PSG to wait?

3:01 AM ETESPN

The transfer window is nearly upon us, but clubs across Europe are already planning for their January business. Who will come in? Who will depart?ESPN FC’s club correspondents delve into the deals which may be on the cards.

Premier League

MAN CITY: In need of a holding midfielder

TRANSFERS

What does the team need in January?

Manchester City have two quality players for every position, with the exception of defensive midfield and left-back. The holding role in the centre of midfield is a crucial position within Pep Guardiola’s setup — acting as a pivot going forward and crucial defensively — and while Fernandinho plays the role perfectly, at the age of 33 he can’t be overplayed and any injury would be a serious setback.Benjamin Mendy is the only left-back at the club and is ruled out until February, although Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko have done a good job as replacements.

Who are the major targets?

Guardiola has ruled out any major new signings in the January transfer window. The City boss is aware that his squad is short in the centre of midfield and wanted Italy international Jorginho in the summer — before he opted to follow Maurizio Sarri from Napoli to Chelsea. Netherlands international Frenkie de Jong is now a leading target for the position, but with Ajax reaching the Champions League knockout stages and battling PSV for the Eredivisie title, the 21-year-old wants to wait until the summer before considering a move. City are prepared to be patient.

Who will be leaving?

Highly-rated young forward Brahim Diaz has turned down a new contract, and with his deal running out in the summer, he looks set to leave in the January transfer window. Sources have told ESPN that Real Madrid are leading the chase for the Spain under-21 international and are prepared to spend around £10m to show their commitment, rather than waiting until the end of the season and picking him up for free.Centre-back Eliaquim Mangala has not played this season and could leave, while fringe players Philippe Sandler and Yangel Herrera could also go out on loan.

Any new contracts?

City have already been busy tying up some of their most exciting young talent to new deals over the past 12 months. Guardiola has revealed that the club have opened talks with Leroy Sane over an improved contract, although the Germany winger’s current deal doesn’t run out until the summer of 2021. John Stones is also seen as part of the long-term future but is signed up until 2022.City have three players out of contract at the end of the season: Diaz turned down a new offer, and Mangala will be allowed to leave for free, which leaves captain Vincent Kompany. The 32-year-old has had injury problems in recent years, but has played his part this season. After a decade in Manchester, he wants to stay. — Jonathan Smith

LIVERPOOL: Will injuries force them to spend?

What does the team need in January?

Liverpool’s position up until to the past few weeks has been that there would be no January incomings. Injuries, however, may force Klopp, who has been reluctant to make additions midway through a season, to reassess his thinking. Liverpool currently have just two centre-backs fit and available.Will that mean Liverpool make a move for a centre-back next month? It remains unlikely given that Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are expected to return shortly after the New Year, but Liverpool will be open to activity in January.

Who are the major targets?

The links to Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic, whom Liverpool have tried to sign in the past, will not go away. Sources have told ESPN FC that the U.S. star is keen on a new opportunity, with his Dortmund contract expiring in 2020 and no sign of a new deal forthcoming. However Dortmund’s stance, both publicly and privately, remains that no “essential” player will be sold in the winter as they sit atop of the Bundesliga.World Cup-winning right-back Benjamin Pavard has been linked with a move recently, although there are suggestions that the €35m release clause in his Stuttgart contract only comes into force in the summer.

Who will be leaving?

There should not be any high-profile departures this January. This time 12 months ago, Philippe Coutinho was gearing up towards his £142m move to Barcelona. But Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have all signed long-term contracts at Anfield in recent months.

An agent for Simon Mignolet told ESPN FC that his client is seeking a move next month but appreciates that it will be difficult for Liverpool to grant that wish. Elsewhere, a number of teams desperate for a striker may take a punt on Divock Origi, and Dominic Solanke could leave on loan, having not made a single appearance this season.

Any new contracts?

Liverpool have been proactive in locking down top players to new contracts, but it’s a different story for Daniel Sturridge and Alberto Moreno. Both of their contracts expire in the summer, and Moreno is expected to leave on a free transfer, with sources telling ESPN FC that his former club Sevilla are monitoring the left-back.Meanwhile, teams will be keeping close tabs on Sturridge’s betting case with the English Football Association. Sturridge has been given until February to respond his charges from the FA of allegedly breaching rules on betting. That could rumble on. — Glenn Price

 

MAN UNITED: Quiet January ahead at Old Trafford?

What does the team need in January?

In terms of personnel, Manchester United need a centre-back and a right winger but more importantly, they need to find some inspiration from a new manager after the sacking of Jose Mourinho. There’s a chance that bolstering the squad may offer some of that, but the problems at Old Trafford extend beyond the players and former manager. A new signing might lift the mood ahead of the second half of the season, but it’s difficult to know what position is most important because United are struggling at both ends of the pitch.

Who are the major targets?

Sources have told ESPN FC that despite Mourinho’s exit, the club are still happy to spend in January if long-term targets become available. There is, though, an acknowledgement that it is not an easy window in which to do business, and they will not panic-buy just for the sake of it. If defenders like Kalidou Koulibaly, Milan Skriniar or Nikola Milenkovic were made available for a reasonable price, United would be interested.

Who will be leaving?

There is discontent among the players who are not featuring regularly, although Mourinho went on record to say no one has asked to leave. Andreas Pereira, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian will consider their options if offers are made in January, but the bulk of the squad should stay together unless individuals push to leave.Sources have told ESPN FC that United will reject offers for Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez, but they are braced for their resolve to be tested with cut-price offers — particularly from Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Any new contracts?

Sources have told ESPN FC that United are in talks with Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Ashley Young, who could all be free agents in the summer. David De Gea and Anthony Martial are also priorities but they have deals until 2020 and United have time on their side. — Rob Dawson

ARSENAL: Defensive help is a priority

What does the team need in January?

A defender, preferably two. A proper winger would be nice as well, but shoring up the injury-ravaged back four must be the priority for Arsenal. They currently only have three fit centre-backs in the squad, with Laurent Koscielny only just coming back from a seven-month layoff, while all four of their full-backs have had injury problems this season.Arsenal’s unbalanced attack also needs a natural wide player, but those are expensive and the club might be reluctant to ruin the prospects of starlet Reiss Nelson when he comes back from his loan at Hoffenheim next season.

Who are the major targets?

Sources have told ESPN FC that both Chelsea’s Gary Cahill and Manchester United’s Eric Bailly are on Arsenal’s radar, but that would require either club being willing to sell to a direct rival. Real Valladolid’s Fernando Calero has also been linked and could be a more realistic target. Then there’s always the possibility that recruitment head Sven Mislintat will take everyone by surprise by unearthing some relatively unknown talent. In terms of attackers, Lille’s Nicolas Pepe, Roma’s Cengiz Under and Boca Juniors’ Cristian Pavon have all been frequently linked, but it’s unclear whether Arsenal can afford a deal for them at this point in time.

Who will be leaving?

It’s unlikely we’ll see any major departures unless other clubs come in with good offers for players that are surplus to requirements. Arsenal would probably entertain bids for Mohamed Elneny, for instance, but the Egyptian has shown an unwillingness to move in the past. Aaron Ramsey’s contract is up in 2019, but he is expected to stay in order to collect a major signing bonus when he leaves as a free agent in the summer, although Arsenal would want to cash in on the player while they can.

Any new contracts?

The possibilities of Ramsey’s contract talks being resurrected seem slim to none, while Danny Welbeck isn’t expected to get a new deal either. Goalkeeper Petr Cech’s contract also expires in the summer and Arsenal might consider giving the 36-year-old a one-year extension — if he’s willing to remain a backup to Bernd Leno. A few mistakes have crept into Leno’s game lately, so the club might be wise to keep Cech around a bit longer. — Mattias Karen

CHELSEA: Can they get a top striker?

What does your team need in January?

Chelsea clearly need an elite goal scorer, as Maurizio Sarri’s faith in Alvaro Morata fades with every passing game and Eden Hazard required to be as much of a creator as he is a goal threat. Strikers of such proven calibre are rare, though, and none appear to be available in January.Sarri’s reluctance to look to the transfer market for solutions, coupled with his insistence that his current first-team squad is too big, will likely dull Marina Granovskaia’s sense of urgency. Only the threat of an imminent FIFA transfer ban could significantly alter the landscape.

Who are the major targets?

Borussia Dortmund starlet Pulisic fits the profile of a Chelsea signing perfectly, particularly since both Willian and Pedro Rodriguez are getting older and Hazard could leave next summer. But there is little sense in Granovskaia making a concerted push in January unless FIFA action or the threat of a Premier League rival — Liverpool have also been heavily linked with Pulisic — forces the club to bring forward their plans, particularly since Dortmund sound determined to charge a hefty premium for any midseason squad disruption.

Who will be leaving?

Chelsea will drive Danny Drinkwater to Fulham if Claudio Ranieri decides he wants a Leicester City reunion at Craven Cottage, while Sarri has made it clear that club captain Gary Cahill and Victor Moses are not in his planCesc Fabregas seems to be linked with a move to Serie A in every window these days, but Sarri would require a replacement if the man he regards as his only cover for Jorginho is confirmed as a departure. Denis Suarez, unsettled on the fringes at Barcelona, could be a reasonably priced successor. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Andreas Christensen will stay unless they agitate to leave. There could also be loan moves for Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi — the latter only if he signs a new contract first.

Any new contracts?

Hazard remains adamant that he will keep his options open until the summer, but Chelsea have other decisions to make. David Luiz and Fabregas are both set to be free agents next summer, although there is an option to extend Olivier Giroud’s stay by one more year

Hudson-Odoi’s contract situation is also causing some concern at Stamford Bridge — his current deal expires in 2020, the same year as Hazard. Chelsea regard him as one of the brightest talents their academy has produced, and they are well aware that the example of Jason Sancho’s defection from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund is an enticing one for many youngsters. — Liam Twomey

TOTTENHAM: Midfield depth is thin

What does the team need in January?

Spurs need to increase the proportion of homegrown players in their squad, having been forced to leave three out of their Champions League squad because of rules limiting the number of non “locally trained” players. Their inability to sell unwanted foreign players in the summer was just as big a problem as their failure to sign anyone, so there is every chance that Tottenham’s squad will get smaller in January. But the north Londoners could do with a central midfielder as Mousa Dembele seems to be coming to the end of his time with the club, while the injury-plagued Victor Wanyama cannot be relied upon.

Who are the major targets?

Tottenham tried to sign Jack Grealish in the summer, and he would tick a couple of boxes, but the 23-year-old signed a new five-year contract with Aston Villa in September. Bournemouth centre-back Nathan Ake has also been linked with Spurs amid ongoing uncertainty about Toby Alderweireld’s future.

Who will be leaving?

Striker Vincent Janssen has not made a single appearance this season, while Georges-Kevin Nkoudou is also wasting time at the club having had only one substitute outing this campaign. Dembele and Fernando Llorente are out of contract in the summer and seem unlikely to sign new ones; if Spurs want to get any money for them, they will need to cash in next month. Michel Vorm will also be a free agent in the summer and having lost the No. 2 goalkeeper spot to Paulo Gazzaniga, he’d be allowed to leave if an offer came in.

Any new contracts?

Jan Vertonghen’s deal expires in the summer, but he has stated he expects Spurs to activate a clause that will extend his stay until 2020. Meanwhile, Alderweireld is out of contract in the summer, and although Tottenham can activate a one-year extension, that would also activate a release clause making the Belgian centre-back available for £25m in the summer. Outside of those two, the priority is to get Christian Eriksen to commit his long-term future to the club as he’s entering the last 18 months of his deal, and his status is a growing concern. — Ben Pearce

Transfer Rater: Zidane to Premier League? Morata to Barca?

ESPN FC’s Ale Moreno breaks down the latest transfers surrounding Zinedine Zidane, Alvaro Morata and many more in Transfer Rater.

Europe

BARCELONA: Will they spend big on a centre-back?

 

What does the team need in January?

Barcelona don’t feel they can improve their starting XI in January but may turn to the transfer market to ensure their relatively thin squad doesn’t become a problem in the latter stages of the Champions League. In that sense, they may move for a centre-back on a short-term deal if Samuel Umtiti’s knee injury doesn’t improve. Other plans, though, such as signing a midfielder and a long-term Luis Suarez replacement, are likely to wait until the summer.

Who are the major targets?

The club have been cagey on defenders they could target if Umtiti is going to be out for a long time. Their options will be limited (Diario Sport say Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen is the preference) given they only want a stop-gap to fill in until the summer, when they will go all out for Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt.Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong is also a target for next season, while Adrien Rabiot, who could be available for free in six months, is also on the table.

Who will be leaving?

Barca’s squad size — they have just one senior left-back, for example — means there’s not much room for departures. Midfield is one area where they could potentially subtract, but only if the players themselves are desperate for more minutes elsewhere. Rafinha might have fallen into that category, but an injury has ruled him out until next season. That means Denis Suarez is the only player with an uncertain future next month. There’s plenty of interest from Spain, Italy and England.Another to keep an eye on: B team midfielder and England youth international Marcus McGuane.

Any new contracts?

The Catalan club have the biggest wage bill in the world largely thanks to Lionel Messi’s renewal last year. Sergio Busquets, Luis Suarez and Marc-Andre ter Stegen have all been tied to new terms recently, too. The only player, then, waiting on a pay rise is Jordi Alba. His deal is up in 2020, and talks have begun between the club and his agents, although an agreement is not yet close.Munir and Thomas Vermaelen are out of contract in the summer but both, as things stand, look set to leave for free. — Sam Marsden

REAL MADRID: A January “Galactico” is unlikely

What does the team need in January?

The first six months of the season have shown huge issues in a Madrid squad that suddenly appears to have grown old together. They could really do with a new big name attacker to fill some of the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit, as goal scoring has been a big problem for both Julen Lopetegui and his replacement Santi Solari. Some experience in defence would also be very welcome: ideally someone who could cover both centre-back and left-back.

Who are the major targets?

The most discussed options in the Madrid media continue to be PSG pair Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, two long-term targets of club president Florentino Perez. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is also regularly mentioned, although there is a widespread acceptance that a “Galactico” name is unlikely in January. Instead Madrid look set to continue their policy of snapping up the best available young Spanish talent, with sources confirming to ESPN FC that a move for Man City starlet Brahim Diaz is close.

Who will be leaving?

Sources have told ESPN FC that homegrown midfielder Marcos Llorente will push through an exit in January should he lose his place in the XI when Casemiro returns to fitness. Another youngster, Jesus Vallejo, could leave having barely featured this season. Bigger names like Isco and Keylor Navas are unhappy at a lack of playing time under Solari, but have not yet done enough to force the situation far enough for a January exit.Marcelo has been linked with Juventus — by former teammate Ronaldo himself — but the Brazil left-back has denied the possibility of leaving midseason.

Any new contracts?

A policy of keeping all their players tied down to long-term deals means there are no players out of contract next summer. It had been expected that Luka Modric’s stellar year would lead to a pay rise, but there has been no change yet to the deal that is set to end in 2020. The contracts of Navas and club captain Sergio Ramos are also entering their last 18 months, with both those situations more likely to come to the boil after this season ends. — Dermot Corrigan

JUVENTUS: Marcelo would be great if they could get him

What does the team need in January?

Cristiano Ronaldo summed up Juve’s plans this winter by saying they do not need to add anybody to their already competitive squad, although he would welcome former Real Madrid teammate Marcelo. The Bianconeri already have excellent cover in all departments, with the return to fitness of Emre Can ensuring that the midfield also has great depth. Any new arrival could depend on whether any player asks to leave.

Who are the major targets?

The only players Juve would theoretically target would be ones who could improve the current quality of the squad and add depth. Marcelo would certainly fit in that category, giving coach Massimiliano Allegri another option at full-back or wing-back.Otherwise, Paul Pogba continues to be linked with a return, and while Juve already have many options in midfield, they would not turn down a player of his calibre — who already knows the club inside out and would not need time to settle in — if the price and conditions were right.

Who will be leaving?

Central defenders Medhi Benatia and Daniele Rugani have both expressed agitation at their lack of opportunities, and if Juve were to offload any players this winter, one of their back four would be a prime candidate.Left-back Alex Sandro, who has suitors in the Premier League, has also been tipped to move if a significant offer is received even though he recently extended his contract. Young Moise Kean could also be loaned out (as he was a year ago) since his first-team opportunities have been limited so far this season, although Juve are not keen on letting him leave on a permanent deal.

Any new contracts?

Mario Mandzukic is becoming a fan favourite in Turin and Allegri knows he can rely on the Croatian forward, whose contract is up in 2020. An extension is likely to be signed before next summer, with the 32-year-old seemingly keen to dedicate the final years of his career to the club. Central defenders Andrea Barzagli, whose contract expires in the summer, and captain Giorgio Chiellini, could also extend their stays, with both expected to end their careers at Juve. —Ben Gladwellplay

BAYERN MUNICH: Need a statement signing and depth

What does the team need in January?

Nine points adrift of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund and with a lack of squad depth, Bayern need a statement signing to show they’ve not given up hope of winning a seventh consecutive title. However, lacking full-backs and pace in central defence, they must also add depth if they want a deep run in the Champions League.

Who are the major targets?

Bayern have signed 18-year-old winger Alphonso Davies and have reportedly agreed a summer transfer for France and Stuttgart defender Benjamin Pavard. Ahead of a summer of upheaval at the Allianz Arena in which the Bundesliga record champions will invest big, Munich are yet undecided whether to spend in the winter.

The club have been linked with Ajax midfielder de Jong, along with a host of other clubs (including Man City), and Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, but with Joshua Kimmich getting more playing time in central midfield and right-back Rafinha entering the last six months of his deal, Bayern could look into reinforcing the full-back positions.

Who will be leaving?

James Rodriguez has reportedly contemplated cutting his loan at Bayern from Real Madrid short. But despite the Colombian star’s discontent, the club will not allow him to leave without a suitable backup. Striker Sandro Wagner could depart amid a lack of playing time, yet the 31-year-old remains the sole backup for star attacker Robert Lewandowski. There is also an outside chance that one of Jerome Boateng or Mats Hummels could leave if Bayern bring in Pavard in January.

Any new contracts?

Arjen Robben has already announced he will leave next summer, and 35-year-old Franck Ribery has no future at the club so won’t be offered new terms. Serge Gnabry has been in fine form this season and is set to enter the final 18 months of his contract, so the 23-year-old should land a new deal as Bayern look to the future. — Stefan Uersfeld

DORTMUND: Sales will be the priority in winter window

What does the team need in January?

Borussia Dortmund’s squad depth and the right mix of experience, hunger and youth in all positions make January signings unlikely. The Bundesliga leaders, however, are hoping to offload several players to reduce the size of the squad.

Who are the major targets?

BVB already unveiled Paco Alcacer in November and plan to sign on-loan Real Madrid defender Achraf Hakimi on a permanent basis in the summer; there are no targets for January.

Who will be leaving?

Only a huge bid in the region of €80m could change Dortmund’s mind over a Pulisic transfer amid the club’s first title challenge in seven years. Germany midfielder Julian Weigl, whose stock has dropped under Lucien Favre, might be allowed to leave if the price is right. While the media focus will be on Pulisic, Dortmund will hope to offload several fringe players.Japan international Shinji Kagawa has flirted with La Liga for a while and midfielder Sebastian Rode’s services are also no longer required. Once hailed as the new Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Swedish attacker Alexander Isak, 19, could also leave the Westfalenstadion after two years in which his impact has been limited.

Any new contracts?

Midfielder Mario Gotze and versatile Portugal international Raphael Guerreiro are entering the final 18 months of their deals. Dortmund look in no rush to prolong Gotze’s contract as he’s still finding his feet in his second stint at the club. Although he struggled with injuries last term, Guerreiro has shown his worth with four goals in the Champions League and a return to form in the Bundesliga. — Stefan Uersfeld

PSG: Summer spending is more likely

What does the team need in January?

Thomas Tuchel has been vocal in his desire to have a defensive midfielder added to his ranks by sporting director Antero Henrique. However, financial fair play (FFP) uncertainty could mean that Tuchel has to wait until next summer.

Who are the major targets?

Sources have told ESPN that the club met with the representatives of Ajax’s Frenkie de Jong, although the player himself doesn’t want to leave in January and would cost €75m. Elsewhere, Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele and Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz have been mentioned, while Celta Vigo’s Stanislav Lobotka and Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Weigl have also been regularly linked since Tuchel arrived.If PSG do move for a player in January, only Lobotka looks reasonably within reach. With Marquinhos growing more and more comfortable in midfield, do not be surprised if PSG opt against winter reinforcements and instead focus on contract renewals with the intention of significant transfer activity next summer.

Who will be leaving?

Henrique is desperately trying to move forgotten man Jese Rodriguez on, so there could be movement there if there is a club willing to take a risk on the Spaniard. Otherwise, Lassana Diarra will be allowed to leave if a suitable offer materialises, and U.S. international Timothy Weah is almost certain to leave on loan until the end of the season.

Any new contracts?

Adrien Rabiot and Alphonse Areola are about to enter the final six months of their contracts, and PSG do not want to let them reach the point where they can start discussions with other clubs. Layvin Kurzawa has also been offered a two-year contract extension, and discussions with Marco Verratti over a new deal have been ongoing, but Rabiot and Areola are the two most pressing issues.– Jonathan Johnson

Top priorities for Solskjaer at Man United

Joe Prince-Wright,NBC Sports 21 hours ago

What are the five things Solskjaer must do if he is going to be successful at United?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been appointed Manchester United’s caretaker manager until the end of the season and his remit is clear: restore positivity to the club.

How will the United legend do that?

Below is a look at his top priorities to salvage something from United’s worst-ever start to a Premier League season, as the post Jose Mourinho era begins at Cardiff City on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Reintegrate Pogba
One of the things which has flown under the radar a little is that Solskjaer managed United’s reserve team which included the likes of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard back in the day. At the start of this season Solskjaer told the media he would “build the team around” Pogba, so that is great news for the World Cup winner. Mourinho’s issues with Pogba no doubt played a big factor in the rest of the dressing room turning on the Portuguese coach, but if Solskjaer is respected by the French star then it could well get the best out of him. Whatever you think about some of Pogba’s antics on and off the pitch, there’s no doubting that he is a wonderful midfield player in the right situation. In Mourinho’s last few weeks he spent most of the time on the bench. That will not be the case anymore. Having a coach later in your career who was influential in your formative years often allows a player to feel more comfortable and regain their best form. Maybe hiring Solskjaer was Pogba’s idea…

Forgot defensive solidity
If Jose Mourinho can’t get this team to defend, no coach in the world can. So Solskjaer should forget about it. Seriously. United have already conceded more goals in 17 games this season than they did in the whole of last season. With defensive injuries piling up and the likes of Eric BaillyPhil JonesMarcos Rojo and Victor Lindelof basically told they were not good enough due to Mourinho’s desperation to sign two new center backs in the summer, they all get a fresh start. That could bode well, but Solskjaer needs to focus on scoring goals and getting the best out of United’s strikers.

Get support for Lukaku
Whether it is playing Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial up front alongside him, playing two playmakers underneath him or just chucking more balls into the box from wide areas, whatever it takes you have to get the best out of Romelu Lukaku. The lack of support the Belgian forward has had in recent seasons has been shocking at times, and you almost feel sorry for him when United go away to some big clubs and he hardly has a sniff of the ball and has two center backs to hold off before he even gets a chance to get a shot off. Lukaku’s form has been up and down due to a lack of confidence and he has missed some big chances, but some one-on-one training from one of the best finishers in the game (who just so happens to be the new gaffer) should do him the world of good.

Tap into the knowledge around him
Mourinho basically did everything on his own at United, and that was fair enough. He had won enough trophies at big clips to warrant doing things his way. But Solskjaer has the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson to lean on, Mike Phelan who is returning to assist him and several of his former teammates in Gary Neville, Ryan GiggsPaul Scholes and Co. who can lend him a hand and be sounding boards. All of the aforementioned people are United fans and want the club to do well. Solskjaer would be silly to ignore their advice, while of course sticking to his own playing style and philosophies as a coach.

Involve the fans
The majority of United’s fans tried to stick with Mourinho until the very end but he is a tough guy to like at the best of times and it never felt like he bought into the identity of the club. He lived in a hotel for over two-and-a-half years at United and went back home to London whenever he could. Solskjaer is a Man United fan and his goals delivered some of the greatest moments United’s fans have ever witnessed. Getting them on his side should not be difficult, but keeping them on board for the rest of the season will be key if he’s going to be successful. If United claw back the 11-point deficit and finish in the top four, plus make a deep run in the Champions League, who is to say Solskjaer isn’t the man for the job long-term.

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12/14/18 Atlanta United Wins MLS Cup/Record Crowd, Champ League Sweet 16, Indy 11 New Look, Full TV Schedule thru New Year’s

How refreshing to see the MLS Cup Final in Atlanta with almost 80,000 fans on hand – a standing room only wild and crazy 5 stripes crowd on hand.  And they said soccer wouldn’t work in the South eh?  Atlanta United has been a model soccer expansion team and man have they done it both first class and the right way.  It all started with my favorite US National Team defender Carlos Bocenegra being signed as their GM.  What an amazing team and organization he has helped put together.  This season almost winning the Supporter’s Shield (most wins in Regular Season) and now the MLS Cup in just their 2nd season in the league.  Truly amazing – both the team, how they play and of course a soccer crazy Atlanta filling an NFL Stadium each and every week.  The crowd on TV was impressive Saturday night on Fox as was Atlanta United’s play with the MVP Martinez extending his goals scored in 1 season record with an early goal and an assist on track to MVP for the game honors.  He also had the top selling jersey in the US among all sports this past weekend.  (First time a soccer team in the US has ever done that!!) The MLS Cup coverage on FOX had over 2 million tune-in (on US and Spanish TVs) making it the top rated Final since 1997.     MLS is definitely trending up and with the Columbus Crew staying in town – and now Cincinnati FC coming on board next season – fans in Indy will have lots of options to catch an MLS game within an easy drive of town.  (on a non-Indy 11 game-day of course)

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Champions League has finished about like we expected as we head to the road of 16 drawing on Monday.  Liverpool needed a 1-0 win and got that – just barely as new Goalkeeping Signing Brazilian Alisson made a spectacular extra-time point blank save to secure the win and their place in the Sweet 16.  Dortmund won their game 2-0, and Pulisic played the full 90 to secure the top slot over my Atletico Madrid who tied to finish 2nd.   Also advancing to the Sweet 16 is American Weston McKinney with German side Schalke.

Here’s The Full draw:

Schalke vs. Manchester City

Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund

Lyon vs. Barcelona

Roma vs. Porto

Ajax vs. Real Madrid

Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich

IU

Congrats to Indiana University men for making their record 20th visit to the College Cup.  They dropped a heartbreaking 2-0 game to eventual National Champs Maryland who defeated Akron for the title 1-0.

WTW4

This weekend on TV Liverpool vs Man United leads the way on Sunday at 11 on NBCSN as the Reds look to hold onto the top slot they took over last weekend when Man City lost.  Man City hosts Everton in another top matchup this on Saturday at 7:30 am on NBCSN.  Sunday gives us Barcelona hosting Villarreal on beIN Sport at 12:30 pm.  This week we get English League Cup play Tues/Wed as Leicester City hosts Man City Tues 45 pm on ESPN+ and Wed Arsenal hosts Tottenham at 2:45 pm.  Also Tues we get the World Club Cup at 11:30 am on FS1.

Indy 11

Our Indy 11 are busy selling the best deal in town with Season Tickets for as low as $99 just in time for Christmas.  Now they have Introduced their new jersey for the 2019 Season and its pretty spiffy. I kind of like the collar look for the first time ever in the club’s history.  All Season ticket holders get Exclusive Meet the Team Events, More Games on Saturdays less on Weds, Ticket Exchange Program (mix and match your games if you miss a game get double seats for another game of choice, 20% off team merchandise.  Click here for more info or Call 317-685-1100 for more details and tell them the Ole Ballcoach Sent you !

Indy11NewJersey
New Indy 11 Game Jersey for 2019 Season

2019 Carmel FC Winter Players League

Location:  Off the Wall Sports

Address:  1423 Chase Ct., Carmel, IN 46032

Offered to:  Carmel FC Academy Players, Travel Players & Select Players from 8U-14U

Dates:  January 10th – March 15th (2019)

Days:  Thursdays & Fridays

Cost:  $125 per player

Thursday evenings:  Games will be played from 5pm-8pm.  Games will be 50 minutes in length, Fields 1 & 2 Age group: U8 Coed – U10 Coed.

Friday evenings:  Games will be played from 5pm – 8:45pm.  Games will be 50 minutes in length, Fields 1 & 2 Age group: 11U/ U12 Girls & U11/U12 Boys; U13/U14 Girls & U13/U14 Boys.

Space is limited and spots are filling up so sign up soon.  Payment is confirmation of

registration.Please note that this is an optional activity we are offering our players.  It is not required.To register:http://carmeldadsclub2016.org/form.php?id=39fcc6879909ac1f108c128c49f721d8

If you have any questions please contact Juergen Sommer, Director of Soccer Operations.

Email: jsommer@carmeldadsclub.org

GAMES ON TV

Sat, Dec 15   

7:30 am NBCSN          Man City  vs Everton

10 am NBCSN              Tottenham vs Burnley

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Fulham vs West Ham United

12:30  Fox Sp 2           Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Werder Breman (Stewart)

Sun, Dec 16  

8;30 am NBCSN        Brighton vs Chelsea

9 am FS1                  RB Leipzig vs Mainz

8:30 am CNBC?        Southhampton vs Arsenal

11 am NBCSN      Liverpool vs Man United

12:30 pm beIN Sport Barcelona vs Villarreal

Tue, Dec 18  

11:30 am FS1           River Plate vs Al Ain  *FIFA Club World Cup: Semi Final 1

2:30 pm FS1          Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Dusseldorf

2:45 pm ESPN+     Leicester City vs Man City – League Cup

Wed, Dec 19  

11:30 am  FS2       Kashima vs Real Madrid – World Club Cup

2:30 pm FS1          Bayern Munich vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

2:45 pm ESPN+     Arsenal vs Tottenham – League Cup

Fri, Dec 21  

2:30 pm FS1          Dormunt (Pulisic) vs M’gladbach (Johnson)

2:45 pm NBCSN    Wolverhampton vs Liverpool

Sat, Dec 22   

7:30 am NBCSN          Arsenal vs Burnely

9:30 am FS1                RB Leipzig vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

10 am NBCSN             Chelsea vs Leicester City

11:30 am FS1              FIFA WORLD CLUB CUP FINAL Real Madrid? vs ??

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Cardiff vs Man United

12:30  Fox Sp 2           Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich

2:30 pm EPSN+           Juventus vs Roma

3 pm beiN sport        PSG vs Nantes

Sun, Dec23  

11 am NBCSN            Everton vs Tottenham

 Wed, Dec 26  -Boxing Day

7:30 am NBCSN          Fulham vs Wolverhampton

10 am NBCSN             Leicester City vs Man United

10 am NBCSN              Liverpool vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

12:15 NBCSN              Brighton vs Arsenal

2:30 pm NBCSN?      Watford vs Chelsea

Sat, Dec 29  

10 am NBCSN             Tottenham vs Wolverhampton

10 am NBCSN             Leicester City vs Man United

12:15 NBCSN              Liverpool vs Arsenal

Sun, Dec 30  

7 am NBCSN             Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

9 am NBCSN                Southampton vs Man city

11:30 am NBCSN        Man United vs Bournemouth

Tue, Jan 1  

7 am NBCSN             Everton vs Leiscester City  

10 am NBCSN              Arsenal vs Fulham

12:30  NBCSN             Cardiff vs Tottenham

Wed, Jan 2  

3pm  NBCSN                New Castle United (Yedlin) vs Man United

Thur, Jan 3  

3 pm  NBCSN              Man City vs Liverpool

WORLD

What to Watch For EPL

Alisson’s Big Save Could Define Liverpools Season

Man United Trail Liverpool in more than just the Table – Mark Odgen ESPNFC

World Power Rankings – ESPNFC

MLS

Crew finalizes record Steffen move to Man City

Atlanta’s MLS Cup hangover just beginning

Right now, Atlanta United is on top of MLS. But with an offseason of change ahead, how will the champions replace their most influential characters?  Jeff Carlisle

Atlanta United finally ends city’s championship nightmare

After two plus decades of coming within touching distance of glory but falling short, Atlanta has a champion again in the form of Atlanta United.

Atlanta ends Portland’s road magic to lift MLS Cup

Portland has been an impressive road team throughout the playoffs, but it was beaten by a decidedly stronger Atlanta United at MLS Cup. Jeff Carlisle

Martinez powers Atlanta United to MLS Cup win

Josef Martinez was instrumental as Atlanta United secured the MLS Cup in just its second season on Saturday, defeating the Portland Timbers 2-0.

Savarese criticizes officiating as Portland falls

After losing 2-0 in MLS Cup, Portland Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese lamented the “foul that wasn’t a foul” that led to Atlanta’s second goal.

Galaxy to re-sign Ibra as DP, hire Porter – sources

The former Sweden international was already under contract for 2019 but had long chafed over a deal that paid him just $1.5 million in 2018. Jeff Carlisle

Garber: ‘No doubt’ MLS can expand beyond 28

MLS commissioner Don Garber used his annual State of the League address to raise the possibility that the league could continue to expand.

Cincinnati picks five in draft; trades for Garza

FC Cincinnati added five players to its roster on Tuesday, with its selections in the 2018 expansion draft, while executing two trades. Jeff Carlisle

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SWEET 16

Full draw:

Schalke vs. Manchester City

Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund

Lyon vs. Barcelona

Roma vs. Porto

Ajax vs. Real Madrid

Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich

Don’t call Spurs’ result ‘mission impossible’ – Poch

On Tuesday, an 85th-minute equaliser from Lucas Moura earned a 1-1 draw against Barcelona at the Camp Nou and a place in the round of 16.

Kane, Eriksen put in 9/10 showing in draw at Barca

Tottenham played admirably at Barcelona, with Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen particularly convincing, but they could only manage a late draw.

Cillessen 9/10 as Barca draw vs. Spurs

Jasper Cillessen was absolutely superb between the posts and was unlucky to concede late as a rotated Barca side settled for a 1-1 draw.

Alisson’s big save could define Liverpool’s season

Liverpool needed to beat Napoli to move on in the Champions League, and Alisson’s save ensured they did. Could it prompt a deep European run?

Liverpool’s Alisson a ‘lifesaver’ in goal – Klopp

“The goal Mo scored — what a goal, unbelievable. And the save Ali made — I have no words for that,” Klopp said at his post-match news conference.

Alisson, Salah both earn 8/10s as Liverpool advance

Alisson and Mohamed Salah both turned in inspired performances as Liverpool clung to a 1-0 win over Napoli to move on to the UCL round of 16.

Dortmund take group with win over Monaco

Borussia Dortmund deepened AS Monaco’s misery with a 2-0 win that ensured they finished top of Champions League Group A ahead of Atletico Madrid.

 Atletico draw with Club Brugge to slip behind Dortmund

Atletico Madrid were denied top place in Group A of the Champions League on Tuesday after a goalless draw away at Club Brugge in Belgium.

Inter Milan knocked out after home draw vs. PSV

Inter Milan were knocked out of the Champions League after they could manage only a 1-1 draw at home to Group B’s bottom club PSV Eindhoven.

Spalletti carries the can for Inter’s UCL implosion

Tuesday night at the San Siro could serve as a “how-not-to” manual for clubs attempting to seal a place in the Champions League knockout rounds.

Galatasaray to Europa League after loss to Porto

Porto got a 3-2 away victory over Galatasaray in their final Champions League group match on Tuesday but the Turks stayed third in Group D.

TV Ratings Up Big-time for MLS Final

USA

What is USMNT Getting in New Coach ?  SB Nation

Pulisic Where Should he Transfer and When?

Keep Sargent expectations realistic – Bremen boss

IU

IU Soccer National Title Quest Ends with College Cup loss to Maryland 2-0  Barry Punzal Special to Indy Star

IU Falls to #15 Maryland in College Cup Semifinal 2-0

Maryland Wins National Title with 1-0 Win over Akron

Alisson’s stoppage-time save could come to define Liverpool’s season

Dec 11, 2018Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

They like a defining moment at Anfield, especially when it comes to the Champions League, and they now have one to cling to all the way to Madrid next June, thanks to Alisson.You get what you pay for, and Alisson — who cost a then-world-record-for-a-goalkeeper £67 million when he arrived from AS Roma during the summer — earned his place in Liverpool folklore with the stoppage-time save from Arkadiusz Milik that proved the difference between success and failure in Group C. Had Milik’s effort ended up in the back of the net, Liverpool would have been facing a Europa League campaign in the second half of the season.But thanks to Alisson getting in the way of the shot — Milik directed his effort too close to the Brazil No. 1, but he still had to be in the right place at the right time — Liverpool can look forward to next Monday’s draw for the Champions League round of 16 with hopes still alive of a place in next June’s final at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.”I have no idea how Alisson made a save like this,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said after the game. “It was amazing.”Champions League glory can often be decided by such fine margins, as Liverpool know better than most.This 1-0 victory over Napoli came 14 years to the day after Steven Gerrard’s late goal against Olympiakos at Anfield confirmed a crucial 3-1 winning margin that took Rafael Benitez’s team into the knockout stages on goal difference ahead of the Greek champions. Six months later, Liverpool were lifting the European Cup for a fifth time in Istanbul after their remarkable fight back against AC Milan, and it could all be traced back to Gerrard’s goal against Olympiakos.Will Alisson’s save prove to be as pivotal as Gerrard’s goal? Time will tell, but there was another pivotal moment in last season’s campaign, and that also involved a goalkeeper. On that occasion, Loris Karius’ failure to hold onto Gareth Bale’s long-range strike in the final against Real Madrid in Kiev put the Spanish team 3-1 ahead and out of reach.Big moments decide big games, and Liverpool discovered in Kiev the cost of not having a world-class goalkeeper.Against Napoli, they enjoyed the flip side. They spent big to get their man in the summer, and he repaid a huge chunk of his fee with the save from Milik that took Liverpool into the business end of the Champions League.Mohamed Salah’s first-half goal had given Liverpool a 1-0 lead that they knew would be enough to secure qualification, and it was a sensational goal by the Egyptian. Salah forced Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly into his one mistake of the night by ghosting past the Senegalese international before beating David Ospina with a low, right-footed strike.On its own, that moment of magic would deserve to claim any headlines, but Alisson’s save was the decisive contribution. Milik was unmarked inside the 6-yard box when he received the ball. He shot goalward, but Alisson spread himself to smother the shot and was able to block it with his outstretched right leg.

A year ago, Liverpool were preparing to sell their best player by sanctioning Philippe Coutinho’s £142 million transfer to Barcelona. At the time, it looked as though Liverpool were selling the family silver and surrendering once again when a giant club came along to take their top talent, with Coutinho following the likes of Michael Owen, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling out of the door at Anfield.But instead, Klopp was allowed to reinvest the Coutinho money by signing Virgil van Dijk for £75 million in January and Alisson in the summer. With the money they banked from Coutinho’s sale, Liverpool recruited Van Dijk and Alisson, and they have become a stronger team as a consequence. The two players have given Liverpool a solidity at the back that is borne out by the fact that this 1-0 win was their 15th clean sheet in their past 19 home games.

Van Dijk, who was fortunate to escape a 13th-minute red card for a bad tackle on Dries Mertens, is a totemic figure who has organised the once-leaky back four. The yellow card he received for the Mertens foul will see him suspended for the first leg of the round of 16, and Liverpool will miss him.

With Alisson behind the back four, Liverpool have a last line of defence up there with the best in the world. His save from Milik evoked memories of Peter Schmeichel at his best at Manchester United or Gianluigi Buffon in his pomp for Juventus. It was that good and that important.

Was it a defining moment? It could well be. With Alisson in goal, Liverpool know they can beat anybody.

Can Liverpool complete power shift over Man United? Will strain show for Spurs?

5:37 AM ETNick MillerESPN.com writer

W2W4 previews the week’s Premier League action by highlighting its most compelling storylines

Can Liverpool complete the power shift over Manchester United?

This season has been defined by moments of progression for Liverpool. Every time they keep a clean sheet, every time they close out a game in a calm and mature fashion without conceding two late goals, every time they keep pace with and now overhaul Manchester City, it represents another step forward from the thrilling but flawed team of last season.However, one of the things remaining on their checklist is beating Manchester United, something they haven’t done in the league since a few weeks before David Moyes was sacked in 2014. Liverpool are, this season, an objectively better team than United: they have a a manager still at something like his peak versus one who looks like he should find a job he enjoys more. A team maturing versus one which seemingly refuses to learn. One at the top of the league versus one already 16 points back in sixth.The point of a rivalry as big as Liverpool and Manchester United is not just to be better than the other lot, it’s to let them know you’re better with such emphasis that they can’t forget it. League positions are not immediately, viscerally obvious: a fan of the inferior team can come up with a million ways to write that off, or ignore it, but beating them in a derby, and beating them emphatically, it’s not as easy to forget that.Even if Liverpool lose on Sunday, they will still be the superior team. But if Jurgen Klopp’s side do win, it not only represents another way in which they are streaking ahead, but shouts it in the face of their rivals.

Will any Arsenal defenders make themselves known?

Theoretically, a trip to Southampton shouldn’t be that tricky for Arsenal. This is, after all, a side who haven’t won a league game since September hosting one who haven’t lost one of any kind since August. But Unai Emery will travel to the south coast a little light on defenders. Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi are suspended, Rob Holding is out for the season, Nacho Monreal has only played 42 minutes since the start of October, Konstantinos Mavropanos was last seen being sent off in May, and Laurent Koscielny only returned on Thursday in the Europa League, after seven months out.So Emery will have to gamble significantly on half-fit (at best) players, mix and match with someone like full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner in the middle or a combination of both. Again, theoretically, Southampton are not the most fearsome opponents, but Ralph Hasenhuttl has now had a little time to work with his troops, and they already looked refreshed in defeat to Cardiff last weekend. It could be a trickier afternoon for Arsenal than you might think.

Will Spurs start feeling the strain?

It’s around this point of the season when the thinness of Tottenham’s squad might start to look most apparent. Mauricio Pochettino’s side are in the middle of a run that sees them play 12 games in 38 days, the sort of run that will test any squad to cracking point. Pochettino indicated that this run might be a problem by resting Harry Kane for their last league game against Leicester, and Tuesday’s intense encounter with Barcelona will have taken plenty out of his players.aturday’s contest against Burnley is another fixture in which Pochettino might be tempted to rotate, but the trouble is Spurs don’t really have the players, other than maybe in the attacking trio behind Kane, to chop and change too much. Sean Dyche’s side have shown signs of life recently, the win over Brighton last time out finally rewarding them, so this will be a tricky affair for this weary Spurs.

Palace have to deal without Zaha … again

Roy Hodgson tends to smile thinly and look as if he’d rather be anywhere else when he’s asked about Crystal Palace’s reliance on Wilfried Zaha. Perhaps it’s because he knows very well how serious the problem is, but this week it might have been because the problem presents itself once more: Zaha is suspended for their game against Leicester, meaning they have to try to win without him, something they haven’t managed in the league since September 2016.In fairness, Palace haven’t been winning much with their talisman in the team of late, so perhaps being without him won’t make much difference. But should they lose to the Foxes, they will have collected just five points from 11 games, the sort of record that gets trigger fingers twitchy in boardrooms. Palace need to learn how to win without Zaha, and it needs to be now.

Cardiff need to improve their away record

Things have started to look up in the past few weeks for Cardiff. The team widely tipped to plummet straight back from whence they came by, well, pretty much everybody, have won three of their past five and are inching up the table. One point that should be made, though: they have won all of those three at home, whereas they have only collected a single point on their travels. A rampant away record isn’t necessarily required for survival (Brighton were the worst team on the road last season and survived handily), but it certainly helps, and it also takes some pressure off those home games.They might have a chance this weekend. Watford have been vulnerable lately, only collecting two points from their past six games — the brilliance of their early season form merely a memory. A win for Neil Warnock’s side would really start convincing people they could stay up.

Man United’s lack of team spirit, Mourinho’s negativity explains wide gap to rivals Liverpool

Dec 13, 2018Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

The last time Manchester United went into a league game against Liverpool with a bigger deficit than the 16-point gap between the two clubs, the men from Anfield were just weeks away from clinching their 18th — and last — English league championship.Back in March 1990, when Alex Ferguson’s relegation-threatened team were languishing in 16th position of the old First Division, two points above third-bottom Manchester City, United faced Liverpool at Old Trafford no fewer than 21 points behind their century-old rivals.Liverpool would win that game 2-1 and leave United in even deeper trouble at the foot of the table, so while the picture looks bleak right now under Jose Mourinho, it has been much worse at Old Trafford in living memory. But everything United do or achieve is measured against Liverpool, both in the present and in the past.United have won 20 titles to Liverpool’s 18, while Liverpool have five Europeans Cups compared to the three won by United and both sets of supporters proudly boast about those respective tallies.Right now, though, United are on the downside of the comparison with Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp’s team going into this weekend’s clash at Anfield as the unbeaten Premier League leaders.Liverpool look to be the real deal, with optimism high on Merseyside of a first title since 1990, but United are a club and a team that appears to be drifting dangerously off course under Mourinho.Things were bad for United under David Moyes in 2013-14, but back then, they only trailed Liverpool by 11 points when they met during the closing weeks of the season, so Mourinho’s team are plumbing new depths in the Premier League era.But how has it come to this? Only last season, United finished in second place in the Premier League, six points clear of fourth-placed Liverpool, so the points swing since May has been dramatic and, from a United perspective at least, alarming.The difference, from a football standpoint, is that one team — Liverpool — has become a formidable unit thanks to its sense of the collective under Klopp, whereas United are now limping along with an expensively-assembled squad of individuals that Mourinho has been unable to mould into a cohesive unit.Liverpool’s famed front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have, in the opinion of many observers, so far failed to replicate their goalscoring heroics of last season, yet they go into the United game having scored 20 league goals between them, despite not hitting their best form.United’s front four of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have scored 17 combined Premier League goals in comparison, but it is further back that United really fall short in relation to Liverpool.The tight defensive unit marshalled by Virgil van Dijk has conceded just six goals in the league so far, with only one of those coming at Anfield. United, meanwhile, have no Van Dijk-like figure to knit it all together at the back, which is why they have shipped a remarkable 26 goals in just 16 league games so far.But United’s defenders, who have been publicly dismissed as not being good enough by Mourinho this season, are only part of the problem. In front of them, they are protected — or not, as would seem to the case — by a dysfunctional midfield inhabited by players who are either not good enough or not trusted by Mourinho to do what he asks of them.If the midfield is a team’s engine, United’s would be that of an unreliable old family car with too many miles on the odometer, with Liverpool instead being blessed by a powerful, energetic, if slightly functional, motor driven by the ultra-reliable Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum. Reliability and energy are two crucial qualities that United do not possess in midfield.Paul Pogba, if he plays on Sunday, would be able to stake a claim to being the most talented midfielder on the pitch this weekend, but Mourinho simply cannot get the best out of him. Pogba is careless in possession, he slows the team down and, while he is capable of moments of brilliance, he has become a player this United team cannot accommodate successfully.Nemanja Matic is proving too slow and immobile to make a positive impact, while Ander Herrera is not good enough to affect a game against a top quality opponent like Liverpool. Fred, the £53 million summer signing from Shakhtar Donetsk has become Old Trafford’s “Invisible Man”, and Marouane Fellaini is too often used as a desperate Plan B in the closing stages, when every other avenue has proven to be a dead end.Klopp has been able to build a team at Liverpool that works as a collective unit, with overlapping full-backs complementing the forwards when attacking and midfielders prepared to work at both ends of the pitch. As a team, Liverpool have become greater than the sum of their parts, but United are now a group of underperforming individuals who appear to have forgotten the old maxim that there is no “I” in team.But it all comes back to the men in charge of the team and tactics.Klopp exudes passion and belief in his players and they share a bond with the ex-Borussia Dortmund coach, perhaps best exemplified by his on-pitch celebration with goalkeeper Alisson following the stoppage-time victory against Everton earlier this month.Liverpool’s players want to play for Klopp and are motivated to do so, but that cannot be said for United under Mourinho. Where Klopp is positive and upbeat, Mourinho is critical and dour and there is no warmth shown towards the Portuguese from his players. Liverpool have found themselves with the perfect blend under Klopp, while it is all going sour under Mourinho at United.Back in 1990, there was light at the end of tunnel under Ferguson. At present, Mourinho is taking United deeper into the gloom with his team and the mood around it becoming the direct opposite of Klopp’s at Anfield.That is why United are now so far behind their old rivals.

Man United supporters frustrated at present but can look to past for Anfield inspiration

Andy MittenManchester United writer

Three long-standing Manchester United fans just made the train out of Valencia on Thursday morning, having gone first to the wrong train station. Dave, Graham and Eddie from Knutsford, 20 miles south of Manchester, have been watching United away in Europe for decades. Eddie’s first European away game was at Ajax in 1976, a £19 return coach trip from Manchester to Holland. Graham’s was a preseason trip to Nuremberg in 1980.”We hitched it from Knutsford Services on the M6; it took us a couple of days to get to Germany and few more to get back.”Dave’s debut was a journey to Eindhoven in 1984 on an Interrail ticket which was shared among friends.The trio drove to Budapest in 1993 in a Bedford van. One had access to red diesel and put several five-gallon drums in the back, ensuring they got to Hungary and back for free. They parked the van outside the United team hotel and followed the team bus under police escort to the stadium, where, despite having no tickets, they were escorted to the main stand to sit with the players who weren’t playing.They’ve broken down on Paris’ ring road, seen two Champions League wins and the Cup Winners’ Cup lifted. Between them, they’ve attended over 400 European away games with Manchester United.They still love the buzz, visiting beautiful cities like Valencia where Wednesday saw bright sunshine and temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius — a fine summer day in Manchester. They meet up with friends they’ve known all their lives, but as a flag that is seen at United games states: “If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor.”

It’s United being poor on the pitch which is sorely vexing United fans. The 2,000 Red Devils fans in Valencia didn’t walk around with their heads down. They had a great time, they know they’re fortunate to attend such matches and despite all the club’s problems, their team are still playing top level European games in magnificent cities and stadiums like Mestalla. These fans wouldn’t have such privileges if they supported the vast majority of English football clubs. But they also know that they’re following a team in flux.”My loyalty is to the club, to my mates, to our community,” declares Eddie, whose first season ticket in the Stretford End cost £6 in 1976. “I don’t care that much about the players — we don’t get near them these days. They’re in a bubble.” The actual games can be the low point of European trips — as Wednesday night in Valencia was.”Another [Jose] Mourinho performance,” is Graham’s verdict.”We missed a chance to win the group,” adds Eddie. “I can’t see where this team is going.””The football is dire,” agrees Dave. “I was encouraged when we won two trophies in Mourinho’s first season, that hadn’t been done before by a new United manager and it was a decent achievement, but we haven’t kicked on. We have a minus goal difference. We’ve bought poorly, especially compared to City who buy well. I’m not convinced at all. “”I’ll still stick up for Jose,” Eddie cuts in. “I think he might turn it around, but he’s made some bad buys. What was the logic in signing Fred?”Liverpool await next. The trio have been going to Anfield with United since the 1970s. “Trips there were lively then,” recalls Graham. “We’d get the service train to Lime Street. There would be 400 United on the train and we’d be met by loads of police when we arrived. They were needed because Liverpool were always waiting for us.””I’ve been on the Kop watching Manchester United,” Eddie tells me. “I stood near the bottom and we didn’t last long. The Scousers soon realised who we were. Liverpool were the best team in Europe for much of the 70s and 80s, but United had a real good record there. We’d beat Liverpool but then lose to Middlesbrough. That’s why they won league titles and we went 26 years without winning the league.”With their side clear underdogs for Sunday’s game, they’re hoping for some of that 80s spirit. Liverpool have gone 28 years since being the champions of England, surpassing even United’s title drought.Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United have sailed past Liverpool’s once seemingly insurmountable haul of 18 league titles to 20, an incredible haul. Ferguson knocked the Liver bird so firmly off its perch that it has been struggling to fly back up since, but it’ll soon be six years since United’s last title. Sixteen points behind the Scousers after only 16 games, United have little chance this year. Liverpool, the club’s greatest historical rivals, in contrast, are second favourites. Jurgen Klopp’s side have conceded only six goals, Mourinho’s 26.Dave points out why. “They play with pace, a high tempo — they’re good to watch. They have a buzz at Anfield that we don’t have at the moment. Liverpool are most similar to United in terms of success, history and fan base. Scousers and Mancs are pretty similar — I work with a lot of Scousers and they love their football like we do. But while Klopp has improved them a lot, they still haven’t won a trophy.”

Eddie dares to voice the unthinkable. “It would be a nightmare if Liverpool won the league.” Given a choice between Liverpool and City winning, I’d go for City. Liverpool are United’s greatest rivals. Liverpool have done well to keep their fan base for so long.”|Graham doesn’t feel able to answer the question. “Choosing between whether I’d like City or Liverpool to win the league is like choosing what I want to die of,” he concludes, shaking his head as the train nears Barcelona ahead of a flight back to Manchester. All agree that United need to come out fighting.

Where could Pulisic land in January: Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United or Bayern?

e Christian Pulisic is most likely to go should he leave Borussia Dortmund this campaign. (2:55)

1:56 PM ETRaphael HonigsteinGermany writer

“We will not sell a player in winter who’s essential to us achieving our sporting aims, of course,” Borussia Dortmund’s Michael Zorc told Sport-Bild in relation to Christian Pulisic this week. “I strongly expect Christian to be wearing the BVB shirt in February,” the sporting director added.The league leaders’ overriding concern is to ensure that the squad stays strong and deep for the second half of a campaign that promises to deliver silverware for the first time since 2012. At the same time, the wording of Zorc’s statement reveals an amount of flexibility on two fronts.In purely financial terms, a significant offer for a player unwilling to extend his contract beyond 2020 will be hard to turn down. Secondly, it’s debatable just how “essential” the 20-year-old is actually still regarded by his coach Lucien Favre. Pulisic has played regularly, chipping in with decent numbers (three goals and four assists in 16 games), but he’s neither an automatic starter nor among the club’s most prolific forwards. For the right price, Dortmund could well be tempted to let him leave six months early.But given the choice, where should he go? Here’s a look at the four likeliest contenders for the 20-year-old’s signature.

Chelsea

Why it could work: Maurizio Sarri’s possession football, once fully formed, will provide an ideal environment for Pulisic’s qualities. As an attacking midfielder who’s neither a true No. 10 nor an orthodox winger, he’s arguably best suited to a slightly slower build-up game, where his ability to take up intelligent positions between the lines will come to the fore. Manchester City aside, Chelsea play the most cultured game in the Premier League, and there’s likely to be a real need for his type of services in the wake of Eden Hazard’s expected departure. Transitioning from Favre’s Dortmund, a team employing similar patterns of play in possession, would be pretty a frictionless affair. The pull of London, too, will prove huge.

Why it wouldn’t work: Sarri has been too busy re-imagining the Blues’ approach post-Antonio Conte to spend any significant time honing younger players. Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have only featured marginally, and the pressure to compete in the most competitive league as far as Champions League places are concerned will ensure that patience will remain in short supply. A high transfer fee will mitigate these disadvantages — Sarri would be more or less forced to play him — but Pulisic’s development might be smoother in a team that doesn’t expect goals and assists in every single game. He’s still growing and inconsistent. As Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah can attest, Chelsea haven’t always done well when it comes to giving highly talented younger players enough time to hone their skills.

Liverpool

Why it could work: The success of Xherdan Shaqiri has proven that Jurgen Klopp’s high-octane game can benefit from the addition of a different type of forward. What Pulisic lacks in directness, he makes up for in short diagonal movement and passing. Liverpool are easily the most accomplished Premier League side among the contenders for his signature, and there’s a strong chance that the combination of a functioning team and excellent man-manager will see him vastly improved in a short space of time. The Reds’ U.S. owners will furthermore help him utilise his huge marketing potential.

Why it wouldn’t work: The competition for starting places he has encountered at Signal Iduna Park this season will be just as tough at Anfield, if not tougher. There’s no natural position in Liverpool’s default 4-3-3 formation for him; he will have to rely on Klopp’s nascent transformation into a 4-2-3-1 team in order to become a mainstay. In addition, the strength of his supposed friendship with Klopp has been overstated. Their relationship is good but won’t afford him any special dispensation in a squad bursting with more-incisive and prolific attackers.

Manchester United

Why it could work: American-owned United, like Liverpool, naturally covet Pulisic as one of the emerging superstar brands in the U.S. On the pitch, however, they need him even more than their Merseyside rivals. Jose Mourinho’s team are in desperate need of a player who’s both quick and able to bring coherence to their rather random attacking game. Neither Alexis Sanchez nor his predecessor Henrik Mkhitaryan have been able to find the kind of solutions needed against defensive opposition; Pulisic’s intricacy would make a tremendous contribution and could soon prove invaluable. Continued doubt about Paul Pogba’s future at Old Trafford would strengthen his hand, too.

Why it wouldn’t work: Man United are unlikely to make it into the Champions League next season and don’t look as if they’ll be able to get any closer to City and Liverpool any time soon. Their game plan lacks clarity; attacking midfielders, in particular, routinely find themselves isolated and chasing second balls from deep starting positions. There’s also strong suspicion that Mourinho prefers warriors to artists. Young, technical players don’t necessarily thrive in the Portuguese manager’s dressing room, and few have become significantly better duding his spell at Old Trafford.

Bayern Munich

Why it could work: The impending departure of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery creates an opening for creative players of Pulisic’s ilk. He could also leverage Bayern’s longstanding interest in signing a prominent American player that could further their growth prospects in the U.S.: the rebuilding process at Sabener Strasse affords a real opportunity to become one of the faces of one of Europe’s most successful sides, with all the financial and sporting opportunities that would entail. Bayern’s more measured attacking game provides a very good fit as well.

Why it wouldn’t work: There’s no guarantee that the aforementioned changes at Bayern won’t extend to the coaching staff by the time Pulisic would swap yellow for red, which makes it difficult for any player to properly evaluate their opportunity for personal development in the near future. In either case, the Bavarians face an uphill battle to remain competitive in Europe as the ancient regime of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness looks for successors while the Premier League’s firepower becomes more pronounced. What’s more, a move to England will probably sit better with Pulisic’s personal sponsors.

Verdict

Chelsea look the best fit as things stand, slightly ahead of Liverpool. It’s just as well, too, considering the Blues are considered in pole position, having pushed hardest to secure an agreement with Dortmund.

No. 1 Hoosiers Fall to No. 15 Maryland, 2-0, in College Cup Semifinal

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A historic season for the No. 1-ranked Indiana Hoosiers came to a close on Friday night in Santa Barbara, Calif., as the Hoosiers fell to No. 15 Maryland, 2-0, in the College Cup semifinals.

KEY MOMENTS
• In the 37th minute, the Terrapins (12-6-4) scored off a corner kick, as Matt Di Rosa’s shot took a deflection and found the back of the net.
• Indiana (20-3-1) pressed forward offensively in the second half, out-shooting Maryland, 11-4, in the frame. For the match, IU out-shot UM, 15-10.
• Four players had two shots for the Hoosiers in the match, with both Justin Rennicks and Griffin Dorsey each getting a shot on-goal. Andrew Gutmanalso had a shot on-goal for the Hoosiers.
• Maryland added an insurance goal off a free kick in the 79th minute as Donovan Pines toe-poked it across the line.

NOTABLES
• Indiana finishes the season with an overall record of 20-3-1. IU’s 20 victories on the season were the most for the program since going 21-3 in 1999.
• The Hoosiers won both the Big Ten regular season championship (15th time) and Big Ten Tournament championship (13th time) in the same season for the first time since 2006.
• Indiana advanced to the NCAA Tournament College Cup for the second-straight season and for a NCAA-record 20th time in program history.
• The back-to-back College Cup appearances for IU was the first since 2003-04.
• Indiana was seeded No. 2 overall for the 2018 NCAA Tournament, marking the 14th time in the last 16 years since the current seeding format began in 2003 that IU has earned a top-16 seed.
• The berth for the Hoosiers was the team’s 32nd-straight bid to the NCAA Tournament and the
43rd overall in the program’s history.

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