6/21/18 World Cup Full TV Game Schedule, Indy 11 win 2 in a row, US Ladies Win 2, Summer Soccer Camps

The World Cup has certainly had its Wow Moments.  My Favorites are Renaldo and Portugal tying Spain with the late Free kick, Mexico’s classic win over defending champion Germany, and Iceland’s surprising victory over Argentina and Lionel Messi.  Who would have guessed that favorites Germany, Spain, Brazil, and Argentina would all have ties or losses in the first games?   Of course one big storyline has been the use of VAR – Video Review – I for one love it.  As a referee myself – I would love to be able to go to the monitor and see if I missed seeing a penalty or hand ball or offsides.  I honestly think it has been working fantastically so far.  Also cool to see the US MLS Referees being involved – great story below on the experience of handling VAR for a year leading to more US referees being involved this year.

INDY 11

Our Indy 11 coming off a 2 game winning streak return home next weekend for a Sat night match-up with Penn FC at 7 pm and July 4th at 7 pm vs Ottawa.  Of course discount tickets below $15 are available Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter 2018 INDY as the promo code.  July 4th will be military night with ½ priced tickets for military personnel and of course Indy’s Downtown Spectacular Fireworks Show after the game.  The game on July 7th will be Indiana Youth Soccer Night, as all teams across the state are invited to participate in a post-game photo on the field.  Reach out to Youth Club Coordinator Shawn Burcham at shawn@indyeleven.com.

Local

Congrats to the 2 Indiana Teams (Indy Premier U16 Girls and St Francis U19 Boys) advancing to the Finals of the US Youth Soccer National President’s Cup July 11-15 at Grand Park.

After the ultra successful first camp in early June – Carmel FC has added another camp headed up by Director Juergen Sommer at Shelbourne from July 23rd thru 26th from Click here to Register.

MLS

Here’s the MLS rankings this week as we get a showdown of the top team in the East Atlanta United hosting the hottest team in the West with 8 straight wins or ties in Portland at 4 pm after the World Cup game Sunday on Fox 59.

Indy 11

Indy 11 Defeat Toronto FC 2 on the Road 3-1

Midfielder Juan Guerra shares his Expereince Playing for Venezuela 

WORLD CUP

My Favorite World Cup Commercilal

Argentina’s Meltdown – Who’s Fault Was it?

US & MLS

3 Things We Learned US Win over China – Stars and Stripes

Which Cities will Host the World Cup 2026 – MLS

US Ref Mark Geiger To Work World Cup

MLS Commish Says World Cup will be Rocket Fuel for Soccer in America

Former MLS Coach and current Mexican Coach Juan Carlos Osorio can Do it

US Chief Says World Cup could Make Soccer #1 Sport in America

NY Red Bull Parker Shows Mettle vs France

Tim Ream Named Player of Season for Fulham

US Work towards Gold Cup 2019 – US Soccer players

Top 10 Power Rankings MLS

US Open Cup Quarterfinal Pairings Set

Goalies

Best Saves 1st Round – World Cup 2018

Egypt Keeper Save  Save of the Day WC Day 1

Great Saves Friendlies before the World Cup

Save of the Week – NWSL – Ashlyn Harris

MLS Top Saves of Week

Saves of the Week – USL

 SUMMER CAMPS

CDC Carmel FC Camp – Shelborne Field July 23rd – 26th – Click here to Register

Carmel High Girls Middle School Soccer Camp  Ages middle schoolers – July 16, 17, 18, 19 at Murray 3-5 pm $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Skills Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 8:30-10:30 am $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Tactical Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 11 am till 1 pm $85

Butler Bulldog Soccer Camps – full day $255

 GAMES ON TV This Week

    THURSDAY, JUNE 21
8 a.m. ET FS1 France vs. Peru
11 a.m. ET Fox Denmark vs. Australia
2 p.m. ET Fox Argentina vs. Croatia
    FRIDAY, JUNE 22
8 a.m. ET FS1 Brazil vs. Costa Rica
11 a.m. ET Fox Nigeria vs. Iceland
2 p.m. ET Fox Serbia vs. Switzerland
    SATURDAY, JUNE 23
8 a.m. ET Fox Belgium vs. Tunisia
11 a.m. ET Fox Germany vs. Sweden
2 p.m. ET Fox South Korea vs. Mexico
    SUNDAY, JUNE 24
8 a.m. ET FS1 England vs. Panama
11 a.m. ET Fox Japan vs. Senegal
2 p.m. ET Fox Poland vs. Colombia
    MONDAY, JUNE 25
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Uruguay vs. Russia
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Iran vs. Portugal
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Spain vs. Morocco
    TUESDAY, JUNE 26
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Australia vs. Peru
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Denmark vs. France
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Iceland vs. Croatia
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Nigeria vs. Argentina
    WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 South Korea vs. Germany
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Mexico vs. Sweden
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Switzerland vs. Costa Rica
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Serbia vs. Brazil
    THURSDAY, JUNE 28
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Japan vs. Poland
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Senegal vs. Colombia
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 England vs. Belgium
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Panama vs. Tunisia

Tues , July 3rd

 

Fri, July 6         

10 am FS1                        World Cup Quarter Final W49 vs W50

2 pm  FS1                         World Cup Quarter Final W53 vs W54

Sat, July 7         

10 am                                 World Cup Quarter Final W55 vs W56

2 pm                                    World Cup Quarter Final W51 vs W52

4:30 pm FS1               LAFC vs Orlando City

10:30 ESPN+                  Vancouver vs Chicago Fire

Sun, July 8         

7 pm FS1               NYCFC vs NY Red Bulls –(Hudsen River Darby)

World Cup on Fox TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

militaryindy11

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN SECURE THREE POINTS AGAINST TORONTO FC II, 3-1

By Trey Higdon, 06/17/18, 12:30AM EDT  A brace from Braun sees Indy claim back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018

Indy Eleven pull away in a 1-3 victory against Canadian contenders Toronto FC II. The victory marks the first time the “Boys in Blue” have registered two consecutive wins in the 2018 season, which puts the team in fifth place.The night started strong for both teams. Toronto made the first breakaway run into Indy’s 18-yard box in the fourth minute. Defender Carlyle Mitchell did well to neutralize the early attack, one-on-one, which led Indy forward Justin Braun to make a similar run four minutes later.Indy continued to apply pressure with runs from Braun, forward Soony Saad and defender Kevin Venegas. The constant assault saw Indy take the lead.In the 23rd minute, Venegas rushed up the right edge of the pitch unopposed after he gained the ball near center field. The former Minnesota United FC defender made a sharp turn into the edge of Toronto’s 18-yard box and continued his run through the home side’s defenses. Venegas slotted the ball past Toronto goalkeeper Gianluca Catalano from near post to give “Indiana’s Team” the lead. The goal was Venegas’ first since signing for Indy Eleven earlier this year.Toronto came close to the night’s first goal in the 16th minute after two chances from loose balls in front of Indy’s goal, but Venegas and Mitchell ended the threat. Instead, Toronto settled for an equalizer fve minutes after the “Boys in Blue’s” opening goal.Short passing play by Toronto forward Aidan Daniels saw striking partner Ayo Akinola bag his goal from distancein the 28th minute. The goal, which ended in the upper left of the corner of the net, was Akinola’s third in 2018.The stalemate didn’t extend beyond the first half thanks to Braun. In the only minute of first-half stoppage time, Venegas forced a pass through a group of Toronto defenders in their 6-yard box to Braun, who was quick to shoot and score. The goal was Braun’s first since his return from injury last August.Indy widened its lead five minutes after half time with a headed effort from Braun. Passing play from midfielders Seth Moses and Matt Watson in the 50th minute saw service delivered to Braun inside the 6-yard box. Braun’s header ricocheted off the bottom of the crossbar and over the line. The goal sealed the win for Indy.Toronto almost pulled one back in the 94th minute with a wide strike from substitute midfielder Malik Johnson. The low strike skid toward the right post, which led to Indy Eleven goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams to dive for the save. The Welshman managed to keep the ball out by the tips of his gloves.Though it was the players who scored the goals, Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie credits his coaching staff for their work behind the scenes.“I think a lot of credit goes to my assistant coaches, Phil Dos Santos and Dave Dixon, for the preparation they do to get the players ready for a team where it’s hard to know who’s going to play,” Rennie said. “It’s hard to know what kind of system they’re [Toronto] going to play, but Phil and Dave got it spot on. That helped the players a lot going into the game.”The “Boys in Blue” hit the road again Tuesday, June 26, in a rematch against Nashville SC “Indiana’s Team” will return home on Saturday, June 30 at 7:00 p.m., for Pride Night against Penn FC. Fans can get tickets to the next home match starting at just $15 by visiting IndyEleven.com/Tickets or by calling (317)685-1100. USL Regular Season
Indy Eleven 3:1 Toronto FC II
Saturday, June 16, 2018
Marina Auto Stadium – Rochester, New York

Scoring Summary:

IND – Kevin Venegas 23′
TOR – Ayo Akinola (Aidan Daniels) 28′
IND – Justin Braun (Kevin Venegas) 45+1′
IND – Justin Braun (Matt Watson) 50′
Indy Eleven lineup (4-4-2, L–>R): Owain Fôn Williams (GK); Ayoze, Carlyle Mitchell, Karl Ouimette, Kevin Venegas; Nico Matern (Brad Ring 76′), Matt Watson (C), Juan Guerra, Seth Moses; Soony Saad (Eugene Starikov 74′), Justin Braun (Ben Speas 87′)Indy Eleven bench: Ben Lundgaard (GK);

World Cup 2018 Day 8 winners and losers: How it all went wrong for Argentina and Messi

Henry BushnellFC YahooJun 21, 2018, 5:27 PM

It was as if Lionel Messi knew. As if the mourning had already begun, before the scene that would culminate in the fatal blow even unraveled. The image has already become a meme. But it was more than that. It was pressure. It was expectation. Expectation soon to be unfulfilled.Shortly before 90 of the worst minutes of his prolific career, as millions of Argentineans around the world roared along with their national anthem, Messi shut his eyes and brought a pale right hand to his forehead. His head was slightly bowed.  Over the next two hours, the World Cup that was supposed to be his fell apart. A 3-0 loss to Croatia pushed him and Argentina to the brink. It left the soccer world stunned. And it left a single question on the tips of tongues everywhere: HowHow did Argentina, with arguably the greatest player the sport has ever seen, flounder so calamitously? How did a team with Lionel Messi become a national disgrace?

Back to that image. To Messi’s agonized rubs of his forehead. Because they were telling.Messi seemed acutely aware of the torment approaching. And perhaps we should have been as well. His face told of expectations that didn’t align with the team trying to meet them. So perhaps we should have lowered them.The warning signs were there. They had been present for weeks, months, even years.essi’s brilliance afforded shelter from reality. And reality was that Argentina, over the past two years, was never all that good. It limped through qualifying, bailed out only by a Messi hat trick on the final night.Reality was that throughout Messi’s Argentina career, and especially recently, there have been inherent, structural problems. That Messi had not figured out how to mesh with his Argentinean teammates, nor them with him. Three managers had tried to facilitate that relationship throughout qualifying with tactics both complex and simple. All three had failed. Those incompatible relationships – between Messi and teammates’ skill sets, between Messi and coaches’ systems, between Messi and outsize on-field expectations – are at the heart of Argentina’s 2018 World Cup disaster. And blame for them lies everywhere, including with Messi, but not exclusively with Messi. In fact, far from it.All the bearers of Argentinean blame are the losers of Day 8 in Russia.

Loser: Argentina

It is often known as Messi Dependencia – Messi Dependence. It was as extreme as ever in Argentina’s opener against Iceland. And it’s the result of a years-long vicious cycle, one that turned a team of many talents into a team of one. Or, on Thursday, a team of none.Messi’s gifts are gravitational. Teammates naturally turn to him. The ball invariably finds his feet. And Messi, being the genius that he is, so often has rewarded their faith. Given the keys to the Argentinean car, he has driven it to success.But his individual success feeds into teammates’ willingness to rely on him. They yield to greatness. He makes magic. And positive reinforcement kicks in; the ball finds Messi’s feet more and more often. Teammates turn to him with increasing automation.That’s how the dependence developed, and it became habitual. It became an addiction impossible to break. Managers, consequentially, have understood this and structured teams around Messi. That, too, has facilitated the reliance even more.And the more teammates were made to feel like secondary or tertiary characters, the less responsibility they took; the more they disengaged; the more they underperformed. And the more they became incapable of picking up the slack when Messi misfired.  And when Messi did misfire …

Loser: Lionel Messi

Argentina’s reliance on Messi made his performances binary propositions. Either he succeeded or failed. Against Iceland, his free kicks struck foreheads; his curling 20-yard efforts whizzed by posts; his penalty was palmed away. So he failed.His failure left manager Jorge Sampaoli with a decision, one with which so many coaches have grappled in the past. Was the remedy to increase the effectiveness of Messi? Or empower 10 others at the expense of No. 10?Sampaoli chose the latter. He made three changes and swapped a coherent 4-2-3-1 for an undefined mess of a 3-4-3. And Messi got lost within it, just as he had warned Sampaoli he would months ago. His 49 touches were the fewest of any Argentina outfield player who went 90 minutes. He was borderline invisible.And his teammates were flat-out bad.Some of his invisibility, of course, is on Sampaoli, and on those teammates. But Messi cannot escape blame. He sputtered with responsibility on Matchday 1, then was unable to take it when it wasn’t given to him on Matchday 2. He didn’t do enough to get on the ball. He didn’t do enough with it when he did.Against an opponent intent on suffocating him, rather than rise above, he disappeared.

Losers: Jorge Sampaoli and the Argentinean federation

Until this past week, there was hope that Sampaoli could find a solution. That he could wean Argentina off its Messi Dependencia, or at least find alternative routes to success.He never did, and resorted to lunatic lineup changes for the Croatia game. But did he ever really have sufficient time?His and Argentina’s preparation for the tournament was badly mishandled. Messi missed the first set of warmup friendlies in March due to injury, rendering them useless. Sampaoli then got just one May friendly to experiment before the World Cup. The Argentinean soccer federation scheduled a misguided exhibition match in Israel. It was cancelled over safety concerns. Argentina went to Russia with just 90 minutes against Haiti – an experience far from translatable to Iceland or Croatia – under its belt. It therefore went to Russia still unsure of who it was.And was Sampaoli the right choice in the first place? His insistence on ravenous pressing was an awful match for an old, slow rearguard. It didn’t suit Messi either. Sampaoli was put in position to fail. That’s not on him. It’s on the federation.

Loser: Argentinean randomness

Nonetheless, there are still so many what ifs. What if Icelandic goalkeeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson had guessed the other way? What if Sampaoli had simply started Franco Armani instead of Willy Caballero? What if Caballero’s gaffe had travelled 20 yards in the air instead of 10?

Belief still lingers. Belief in Argentina’s theoretical potential. Belief in Messi. Belief that if only Argentina can luck its way into the knockout round, a solution can be found. And if the answers to any of the above questions had been different, to the knockout round is likely where Argentina would be headed. In addition to all the structural problems and underachieving, a lot of bad luck has left Argentina on the verge of elimination. A lot of unexpected occurrences.But that was no consolation to Sampaoli as he stormed off down the tunnel. That was no consolation to Messi as he wandered off the field, bereft. Thursday was the culmination of countless faults and shortcomings. And under the utmost pressure, Argentina cracked.

Winner: Croatia

Lost in the Argentina furor will be deserved praise for Croatia, which is on to the last 16 of a World Cup for the first time since the 20th century. It is in pole position to win Group D and avoid France. The quarterfinals beckon. The so-called golden generation – an overused term, but it applies here – is, at long last, coming good.

Loser: Argentinean hope

Argentina is still in with a realistic chance of progression. Its hope rests on a victory over Nigeria on Matchday 3, and on Iceland picking up three or fewer points from its final two games. So the Argentines will be rooting for Nigeria in Group D’s other Matchday 2 fixture.

But with Croatia already qualified, manager Zlatko Dalic said after Thursday’s game that he’ll rest players in the group finale. That bolsters Iceland’s shot at a result there, and cuts further into any leftover Argentinean optimism.

Loser: Javier Mascherano

Javier Mascherano has had great moments in an Albiceleste shirt. This, on Croatia’s third goal, was not one of them:

Frankly, it was embarrassing. And it was emblematic of a performance that felt overly emotional and desperate from start to finish. When fortune turned its back, players’ heads sunk. Frustration boiled over. A few quit.That’s why, despite the many scenarios that could still see Argentina through, this felt like the end. And it’s why the inquest is underway.

– – – – – – –Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

 Cordeiro: 2026 World Cup could make soccer top sport in North America

June 13, 201811:41AM EDT

The first FIFA World Cup in the United States in 1994 helped birth Major League Soccer.When the World Cup returns here in 2026, as part of a unique United bid between the United States, Canada and Mexico, U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro believes the event will be a “lightning rod” to make soccer the “preeminent sport in North America.”“We believe that soccer or football will become the preeminent sport in North America,” Cordeiro said. “I’m not just speaking for the U.S., I think I speak for Canada.”In a conference call with reporters just hours after the FIFA vote that awarded 2026 hosting rights to North America’s United bid, Cordeiro said he expects the World Cup to vastly increase participation among kids in the United States.“We believe this event will become a lightning rod, will become transformational for the sport as kids who are now eight, 10, 12 years old can all dream of potentially playing for a national team,” he said. “By in large, we need more kids, boys and girls, in the United States playing soccer inside the umbrella of the Federation, we don’t have enough of them. Three-and-a-half or four million registered kids, we believe there are many more out there who could be playing with us.”As for challenging baseball, basketball and gridiron football, Cordeiro admits there is a lot of competition. The same is true in Canada, with ice hockey considered the national pastime.But serving as a co-host for a “world-class event, the scope of which we haven’t seen in our country,” according to Canada Soccer president Steven Reed, could change things.“Ultimately our focus is to grow our sport or our game and to provide the impetus for that. There’s a strength in numbers in our country where we’ve got over one million registered players in a country that only has over 30 million in total population,” Reed said. “It’s one of the strongest sports, one of the largest sports and I think we can become the preeminent sport in our country. That’s the legacy we would love to see.”

 Osorio’s former MLS players say he can take Mexico to World Cup success

June 14, 20186:03PM EDTDave ZeitlinContributor

They all remember the notebook.Anyone who played under Mexican national team coach Juan Carlos Osorio will tell you how he always used to jot down notes in his little spiral pad, using a red and blue pen to differentiate attacking players from defenders.“You can still see him doing it now,” says New York Red Bulls II head coach John Wolyniec, who played under Osorio with the Red Bulls in 2008 and 2009.“I never quite got a peek inside of it,” adds Calen Carr, who suited up for him in 2007 when Osorio took over a last-place Chicago Fire team midway through the season and led them into the playoffs.But even though it may have been shrouded in mystery, that notebook was symbolic of Osorio’s meticulous nature during his three-year-run as an MLS head coach. And it’s that nature, some of his old MLS players believe, that can perhaps help Mexico snap a streak of six straight Round of 16 exits at the World Cup.El Tri open Sunday vs. defending champs Germany, with both sides looking to win Group F to avoid a potential meeting with Brazil in their first knockout game.“If there is a manager that can get Mexico to finally get over the hurdle,” Carr says, “I think Juan Carlos would be as prepared to get his team as psychologically and physically ready as anybody.”Carr only played under Osorio for a short period of time in Chicago but nevertheless called him “one of my favorite coaches.” And he credits him for coming in right away and changing the mentality of the group because he knows how to “find a way to get people to really buy into what he’s doing.”Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin agrees with that sentiment, although he admits Osorio’s style is “unorthodox” and initially came as a “shock to some players.” Curtin was certainly shocked the first time he saw Osorio sleeping in the Fire’s film room.“His preparation for training sessions was pretty meticulous in terms of setting a cone down to literally the exact inch and being out on the field two hours before a session to make sure everything was up and running and not a minute was wasted,” says Curtin, who was injured during much of that 2007 season in Chicago, allowing him to more closely observe his coach.“To watch what he’s done with Mexico is not a surprise because he did the same thing in the short time I was around him in Chicago. He’s bold. He doesn’t care what people think and he doesn’t care what the media says. He has his way.”Osorio certainly has his share of critics with the Mexican fans and media but Curtin thinks that if you look at his 31-9-8 record with El Tri since taking over in late 2015, “not enough people talk about how good of a job he’s done there.”  He and others also believe the Colombian is uniquely suited to do well in a tournament setting because of how sharp he is at scouting and how unafraid he is to make big adjustments when needed.“It’s no secret the criticism of Juan Carlos is he changes too much — changes formations, changes players,” Wolyniec says. “I think that comes from him coming at the game from a scouting perspective and reacting and adjusting to the opponent.”“If you look at his track record, he hasn’t been a lot of places too long,” Carr adds. “I think part of the reason is he comes in fast and he’s passionate and I think there’s something to that in getting the best out of people in a short format.”Carr also adds that not being Mexican may serve as an advantage because “he’s unburdened by some of the past, and I think he can help the team feel that way as well too.”Perhaps then, after the World Cup, he may also be in the running for the US national team coaching job?“I’d back him for it,” Carr says. “I think he checks a lot of boxes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him considered for that position, which would sort of be an interesting wrinkle in the US-Mexico rivalry.”Wolyniec agrees that Osorio certainly has the pedigree, work ethic, scouting chops, international experience and MLS background to make him a candidate for the USMNT job. But no matter where the 57-year-old ends up, or if he stays with Mexico, the Red Bulls II coach will continue to look to him as an inspiration, just as he has for the past decade.“The first thing you notice about Juan Carlos is his seriousness and his passion for the game,” Wolyniec says. “That comes off right away almost before he introduces himself. And that’s infectious.“He would say players pick up on anything, so if you misplace a cone or say the wrong player’s name, they’re going to pick up on that. So that’s why you have to be detailed and meticulous about what you’re doing.“He’s certainly an example to follow but a model that’s hard to replicate.”

USA vs China friendlies: 3 things we learned

There’s a good midfield somewhere in there, we just know it.

By Stephanie Y@thrace  Jun 13, 2018, 11:30am PDT

The United States put together a pair of close wins over China in June, winning 1-0 and 2-1. Their lone goal in the 1-0 win was an Alex Morgan header off a set piece, but their two goals in the second game came from open play. Perhaps Tobin Heath’s goal needed more than a pinch of luck, but that goal doesn’t happen without the nice buildup and Heath putting herself into position to shoot. But this wasn’t a case of individual brilliance overcoming bad tactics; in fact the tactics, at least in the second game, were fine, with three theoretically excellent midfielders to maintain control while the wings engaged and attacked from the flanks. It was that a good percentage of the team couldn’t execute on the night. Both Allie Long and Julie Ertz watched helplessly as passes rolled by half a step away in game 2, preventing smooth side-to-side transitions, and there were some messes with the defense. So here’s a few things we learned from USA vs China:

Sofia Huerta needs a lot more training at right back and she’ll probably never get it

Huerta did not have a good game 2. Game 1 showed her potential to be a complement to someone like Crystal Dunn, but her defensive work and decision making are not up to par for the USWNT. The problem is she’ll never get the repetitions she needs at right back to truly excel there, playing midfield/forward as she does for Chicago. There’s five games between now and World Cup qualifying. Maybe Tournament of Nations will be a crucible for Huerta, but is she really going to become a reliable enough RB by October that Ellis would risk starting her during qualifying? And then assuming the United States qualifies, will Ellis spend the time between then and June 2019 to make Huerta as complete a fullback as possible? Realistically, Huerta needs to be ready to go by the end of April at the latest. That’s six months after qualification to become a world class right back capable of competing in a World Cup.

One thing Huerta does have going for her is, like Dunn, she can switch around the field on the fly. Ellis might be taking into account her utility in being able to play almost anywhere on the right. The fullback pool is also a little thin on the ground at the moment, and even after Casey Short hopefully makes her triumphant return, that may still leave room for Huerta. There’s only one Crystal Dunn; they can’t just clone her and have her play both right and left fullback and forward.

…can they?

Our central midfield pool is fine

Yes, our midfield did look sloppy in all its iterations. Game 1 was a mix of McCall Zerboni, Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Allie Long, and Sam Mewis. Game 2 used Mewis, Ertz, Horan, Morgan Brian, and Rose Lavelle. Of those players, Ertz, Brian, and Lavelle are all still recuperating. Brian was kind of quiet in the one half she did get, but showed flickers of her healthiest self operating in tight spaces and picking out the developing play.

Ellis rotated through Ertz, Long, and Zerboni as her holding mid; has Mewis, Brian, and Horan for box-to-box work; and Lavelle is once again a potential 10. Zerboni, Horan, Lavelle, and Mewis can all be asked to play higher and attack aggressively out of the midfield. Brian, Horan, and Lavelle can work the half spaces to help maximize our already dangerous flank play. And in a pinch, there’s good old battering ram Carli Lloyd, assuming her shift into central forward is just another piece of her toolkit and not a permanent move. That’s a lot of flexibility and talent! The question is who is going to become a starter and where; flexibility is nice, but stability can often be much better.

Christen Press can play wide

In game 2 of this friendly series, Christen Press was often the joint swinging the punch at China. Yes, China often gave her tons of room out on the right wing, which was odd considering how often she got fed the ball throughout the entire 90 minutes. But Press did a fine job playing the wide attacker, looking for Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe in the box. “Should Press stay central or be forced wide” is a pretty healthy ongoing debate among soccer fans and last night added a tick to the “play her wide” column. Of course, versatility has been the watchword throughout this things-we-learned, and there’s still arguments that Press can play well as lone striker or in a front two. We’ll see what happens once Mal Pugh recovers from injury.

FOR CLUB AND COUNTRY – Indy 11S jUAN gUERRA

By Trey Higdon, 06/13/18, 2:30PM EDT

One of the greatest honors a player can receive is being called up to represent their country’s national team. It’s an opportunity many fight for, but only a handful experience in their playing careers.For Indy Eleven midfielder Juan Guerra, it was a dream come true. He was asked to wear his country’s colors in a series of qualifying rounds for Venezuela in the 2014 World Cup.“My agent called me on the phone and said ‘Listen, you’ll probably want to check the newspaper tomorrow because your name is going to be on the list of 23 players that are going to play the next two World Cup qualifying matches.’” Guerra said.His name first appeared on the Venezuelan National Team roster in the team’s monumental 1-0 win over Argentina, a first in the nation’s history. Though Guerra didn’t feature, the young Venezuelan was floored to be there.“I didn’t get to play that game, but it was the first time that Venezuela beat Argentina in a World Cup qualifying match,” Guerra said. “It was great because I was with the first team.”Soon after Venezuela defeated Argentina, Guerra received two additional call-ups to his country’s World Cup qualifying matches against Columbia and Chile. Guerra made a second-half substitution appearance against Columbia, but didn’t get any play time in the home game against Chile. Regardless, the experience was invaluable.“I did get to play against Columbia and we tied. We were playing away in Barranquilla and it was great being in a full stadium of more than 60,000 people. Playing in a match against people like Falcao, James Rodriguez. It’s an experience that I’m definitely never going to forget.”While growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, Guerra’s father would take him to see the Venezuelan National Team. which is often referred to as La Vinotinto, play in Barcelona, Venezuela, nearly 200 miles from their home.In his youth, Guerra received first hand experience watching his idols play. Idols who would one day become his friends and his mentors. One of who was former New York Cosmos and La Vinotinto teammate Juan Arango.“Juan was a main reference for all of us because he was one of the best players when I was young,” Guerra said. “He was one of the first players to get out of Venezuela and cause an impact in a main league around the world when he was playing in Spain.”Former Venezuelan forward Giovanni Savarese, another idol, would later coach Guerra during his time with the New York Cosmos. A native of Caracas, Venezuela, Savarses played for top clubs around the world, which included stints with Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls and the English Premier League’s Swansea City.“My dad used to take me to the stadium to watch the National Team play and some of the team’s that Gio played for when he was in Venezuela,” Guerra said. “I would’ve never, ever have expected that after so many years we were going to develop such a good relationship.”Guerra found his footing in the United States’ professional system. He spent eight years in the US; four years in high school followed by another four years in college. During his collegiate career with Florida International University, he scored 15 goals in 44 appearances in his four-year stay. Guerra also spent a season with United Soccer League Premier Development League’s Brooklyn Knights, where he scored four goals in 15 appearances.In 2008, Guerra was drafted by MLS’ FC Dallas right after college, but was told after preseason he wouldn’t be signed by the club. Unsure of his future, Guerra decided to return to Venezuela to play professionally. He signed his first professional contract with Primera Division 1. League club Monagas SC.“It was tough at first,” Guerra said. “I had to go to a city with people I didn’t know after being in the US for eight years. At the time, I knew I was doing it for a reason, and the reason was that I wanted to play professionally. I wanted to make it all the way.”Removed from his comfort zone, Guerra made his on-field performance his main focus. Monagas’ manager at the time bestowed Guerra with the Captain’s armband after six months. To Guerra, it was a sign he had made the right decision to return home.“Being 21-years-old and being the team captain was an incredible responsibility and also gave me the confidence to know I could go all the way,” said Guerra.Guerra finished his only season at Monagas with one goal in 21 appearances. While he wasn’t a prolific scorer with the club, Guerra’s performance caught the attention of Venezuela’s most successful club, Caracas FC. He signed for Caracas the following season and helped his hometown club claim another Primera Division 1. League title. His career blossomed from there.“I played one year with Caracas and then got offered a contract to go play in Europe,” said Guerra. “After Europe, the National Team came, and so on, and so on.”In 2012, 24-year-old Guerra had signed a contract for top-flight Spanish club, Las Palmas. He only featured once for Las Palmas, but the minutes he didn’t get with his club was replaced with minutes on the pitch with the Venezuela National Team.“I’m very glad that I made the decision when I didn’t get picked by FC Dallas to go back home and started playing first division in Venezuela,” Guerra said.Venezuela failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which gives 31-year-old Guerra the ability to focus his energy on his first season with Indy Eleven and his son, Santiago. Attending training sessions and games has been the daily routine for Guerra’s small family, ensuring ‘Santi’ is a part Guerra’s journey as a player.“As soon as I got married, me and my wife talked about it.” Guerra said. “I told her that I wanted to have kids while I was still playing, and I wanted to make sure that our kids see me play and share the same passion. I didn’t want to have kids later on and to have to show them newspaper articles and to say ‘This was me. I used to play.’”Guerra’s wish was granted. Guerra and his wife, Maria, often have to keep Santiago from sleeping in his Indy Eleven jersey, and refrain from telling him when games are to keep him from staying up at night out of excitement. It’s become commonplace to see Santiago at the training grounds or on the field after a home match with a ball at his feet, happily dribbling back and forth.Santiago is years away from a professional career, but the world is focused on the next generation of players.In 2017, the Venezuelan National Team U-20 squad were runner-ups in the U-20 World Cup, falling to England’s U-20 side 0-1 in the Final. Though they didn’t win, it was the furthest Venezuela’s U-20 side had advanced in the tournament, having made it to the U-20 World Cup Second Round only once before.In the last 15 years, Venezuela has experienced political, cultural and economic turmoil. Guerra believes the role of a National Team player goes beyond the impact one makes on the pitch.“Understand that being called up for the National Team is not a gift, it’s a huge responsibility,” Guerra said. “Once you put on that jersey, you’re representing your country. You’re representing every single guy, girl and kid that dreams of putting on that jersey. You’re representing people that have to work seven days a week to put food on their table for their kids.”As Guerra and his Venezuelan teammates age out, it’s up to the next generation of athletes to take their places.“My time and my process with the National Team has already passed,” Guerra said. “It’s time for this new generation of kids that are young to get prepared for Qatar 2022.”

militaryindy11

MILITARY APPRECIATION NIGHT

Join us in honoring our military during Military Appreciation Night on July 4th.  Come to watch the Boys in Blue take on the Ottawa Fury and stay for the fireworks downtown.  In honor of our military, we will offering tickets at a 50% discount.  Use the promo-code “military18” and save today

Indiana Youth Soccer Night

Post-Game Photo On The Field

In celebration of Indy Eleven’s official Indiana Youth Soccer Night all youth soccer teams across the state are invited to participate in a post-game photo on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium at the completion of our game. All participants need a game ticket and all teams must register to be eligible for the post-game photo. To register, please sign up here. The deadline to register is Thursday, July 5th. Only one (1) member from each team is required to register for the entire team. For questions, please contact Youth Club Coordinator, Shawn Burcham, at 317-685-1100 or shawn@indyeleven.com.

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

 

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6/14/18  World Cup Starts Today, Spain Fires Coach, Full TV Schedule, Indy 11 travel to Toronto, CFC Coaches Game Thur Night

The US/Canada/Mexico Will Host World Cup 2026

So huge news on Wednesday when The United Bid – consisting of the US/Canada/Mexico will host World Cup 2026.  Finally FIFA with a legit and open vote gave the World Cup to the right bid.  That means in just 8 years we get the World Cup here in the US.  With the Finals in New York and the Semi’s probably in Dallas and Atlanta.  Currently Nashville and Cincinnati are the closest possible World Cup Cities that might have games.  I can only imagine how much tickets will be – but man its going to be in our country – GLORIOUS!

The World Cup is Upon Us

So I understand that many like myself are both heartbroken and disgusted that the United States Men’s National Team did not qualify for the World Cup – for the first time in over 30 years.  But the World Cup is indeed upon us and there are tons of reasons to watch.  But let me start here – the reason I am ordering Telemundo during this month of the World Cup as one Andres Cantor will be doing the Spanish Language coverage.(see story below)  Andres Cantor’s Call of Landon Donovan’s WC Goal vs Algeria.  If that doesn’t get you excited – how about this?  Cantor on Telemundo World Cup Warm Up  or The Official Video and Song of the World Cup 2018.  So sure the US and Italy, the Dutch and Chile are missing – but look at who is in.  Can Lionel Messi finally lift Argentina to World Cup Glory after reaching the finals in the last World Cup and Copa America? Can Germany repeat as champion – a feat that hasn’t been done since Pele in 1958 and 1962 with Brazil?  Can Brazil with a semi-healthy Neymar put the demons of a 7-1 home beatdown to Germany behind them and reach the pinnacle again?  Will Mexico get #5 – that elusive win of game #5 and a visit to the Quarterfinals?  Can Spain with new coach Lopetegi return to glory of 2010 with an aging set of veterans?  Can Belgium and all that talent finally make a run to the finals? Can France with all its youth like Pogba and Mbappe, put things together and reach the Championship?  Will Portugal and superstar Renaldo, just 2 years off a European Championship, find lightning in a bottle once again here in Russia?  There are tons of storylines and even more predictions for this World Wide Phenomenon known as the World Cup which is expected to be watched by more than 4 billion people over 5 weeks from June 14 till the Final on Sun, July 15 at 11 am on Fox 5.  The Games are at interesting times from Russia – with 8 am, 11 am and 2 pm the most popular start times for most of the games.  (Thank God I work from home!)  So tons of previews out there but here are my favorites.  World Cup Predictions – SI Planet Futbol   ESPN FC’s experts make their picks
As for me – I will be rooting for lots of teams of course.  I for one would love to see an underdog say an Iceland, the smallest country to ever make the World Cup, make it to the Elite 8.  I have lots of friends who love Germany or Mexico – and while I don’t mind Germany doing well – I always like to see new teams win it all.  As for Mexico – I should be rooting for our neighbor and CONCACAF Champion and I will certainly thru the Group stages. It will certainly be interesting to see how American sport networks cover this World Cup without the US in it.  A run by Mexico into the Semi-Finals would most certainly energize our Mexican-American friends, neighbors and co-workers and might do a bit to re-unite this somewhat fractured country of ours.  As for my picks – oh it depends on which of my 3 sheets you look at?  For now I am going with a rejuvenated Brazil under Tite to make the finals and win it all vs Spain or Germany.  Maybe Germany since Spain fired their coach Wednesday. Man I would love to see Argentina and Messi find a way however.

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US Ladies Win Both

Had a chance to watch the win on Tues night over China for the US Ladies – a hard fought win over a good China squad – I thought the US Ladies did a fine job of possession and pulled out the victory 2-1 – great to see Tobin Heath back from injury score the game winner.  Look for many of the US Ladies in the NWSL on Lifetime and ESPN News (see TV Schedule below).

Indy 11

Fresh off the big home win last week the Indy 11 will travel this week to Toronto 2 this Sat night at 7 pm on ESPN+ (Join the BYB at Union Jack in Broadripple).   The Eleven will be on the road until they return June 26th for a Sat night match-up with Penn FC at 7 pm and July 4th at 7 pm vs Ottawa.  Of course discount tickets below $15 are available Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter 2018 INDY as the promo code.

Carmel FC Coaches Game @ Shelbourne Fields

Thursday, June 14th 6:30 pm Pizza and Water provided – All CFC Coaches and Managers welcome!

SUMMER CAMPS

Carmel High Girls Middle School Soccer Camp  Ages middle schoolers – June 18, 20, 25, 27 July 16, 17, 18, 19 at Murray 3-5 pm $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Skills Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 8:30-10:30 am $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Tactical Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 11 am till 1 pm $85

Butler Bulldog Soccer Camps – full day $255

 GAMES ON TV This Week

Thur, June 14        World Cup on Fox

10:30 am Fox         OPENNING CEREMONIES

11 am Fox              Russia vs Saudi Arabia

Fri, June 15           World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox Sport1     Egypt (Salah) vs Uruguay

11 am Fox              Morocco vs Iran

1 pm Fox                Portugal (Renaldo) vs Spain

Sat, June 16          World Cup on Fox

6 am FS1                France vs Australia

9 am Fox                Argentina (Messi) vs Iceland

12 noon FS1           Peru vs Denmark

3 pm FS1                Croatia vs Nigeria

8 pm ESPNNews    Chicago Red Stars vs Portland Thorns NWSL

9 pm USSocccer.com Sporting KC vs Dallas (Matt Hedges) US Open Cup

Sun, June 17         World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox 59          Costa Rica vs Serbia

11 am Fox Sp1   Germany vs Mexico 

2 pm FS1               Brazil vs Switzerland

 WORLD CUP

World Cup Video – 2018 – Live It Up  –

World Cup Warm Up Video

Andres Cantor to Call World Cup for Telemundo

Andres Cantor’s Call of Landon Donovan’s WC Goal vs Algeria.

2nd Most Memorable World Cup Goal – Argentina – Hand of God – Fox

3rd most Memorable Goal – Brazil

Pele Meets the World

Which World Cup Team Should You Support?

– Welcome to the Alternative 2018 World Cup Fans’ Guide
– ESPN FC’s experts make their picks
– Marvel’s amazing World Cup spoilers
– Revealed: World Cup 2018 Ultimate XI
– Fixtures, results and full coverage
– Team-by-team previews of all 32 nations

ESPN  – WORLD CUP HOME PAGE

Spanish FA Right to Fire Lopetegui – Gab MArcotti

Argentina Wary of Iceland Height –

 Goalies

Save of the Week – NWSL – Ashlyn Harris

MLS Top Saves of Week

Saves of the Week – USL

 Indy 11

Indy 11 Snap 4 Game Winless Skid with 2-0 downing of Atlanta United 2 – Kevin Johnston indy Star

Indy 11 2 Tough 2 B Bothered by Atlanta United 2 – Bloody Shambles – Rebacca Townsend

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Saturday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Flex Packs: Discount Indy 11 Flex Pack Tickets
Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

GAMES ON TV 

 

Fri, June 15           World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox Sport1     Egypt (Salah) vs Uruguay

11 am Fox              Morocco vs Iran

1 pm Fox                Portugal (Renaldo) vs Spain

Sat, June 16          World Cup on Fox

6 am FS1                France vs Australia

9 am Fox                Argentina (Messi) vs Iceland

12 noon FS1           Peru vs Denmark

3 pm FS1                Croatia vs Nigeria

7 pm ESPN+        Toronto II vs Indy 11

8 pm ESPNNews    Chicago Red Stars vs Portland Thorns NWSL

9 pm USSocccer.com Sporting KC vs Dallas (Matt Hedges) US Open Cup

Sun, June 17         World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox 59          Costa Rica vs Serbia

11 am Fox Sp1   Germany vs Mexico 

2 pm FS1               Brazil vs Switzerland

  MON, JUNE 18
8 a.m. ET FS1 Sweden vs. South Korea
11 a.m. ET FS1 Belgium vs. Panama
2 p.m. ET FS1 Tunisia vs. England
    TUESDAY, JUNE 19
8 a.m. ET FS1 Poland vs. Senegal
11 a.m. ET Fox Colombia vs. Japan
2 p.m. ET Fox Russia vs. Egypt
    WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20
8 a.m. ET FS1 Portugal vs. Morocco
11 a.m. ET Fox Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia
2 p.m. ET Fox Iran vs. Spain
    THURSDAY, JUNE 21
8 a.m. ET FS1 France vs. Peru
11 a.m. ET Fox Denmark vs. Australia
2 p.m. ET Fox Argentina vs. Croatia
    FRIDAY, JUNE 22
8 a.m. ET FS1 Brazil vs. Costa Rica
11 a.m. ET Fox Nigeria vs. Iceland
2 p.m. ET Fox Serbia vs. Switzerland
    SATURDAY, JUNE 23
8 a.m. ET Fox Belgium vs. Tunisia
11 a.m. ET Fox Germany vs. Sweden
2 p.m. ET Fox South Korea vs. Mexico
    SUNDAY, JUNE 24
8 a.m. ET FS1 England vs. Panama
11 a.m. ET Fox Japan vs. Senegal
2 p.m. ET Fox Poland vs. Colombia
    MONDAY, JUNE 25
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Uruguay vs. Russia
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Iran vs. Portugal
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Spain vs. Morocco
    TUESDAY, JUNE 26
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Australia vs. Peru
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Denmark vs. France
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Iceland vs. Croatia
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Nigeria vs. Argentina
    WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 South Korea vs. Germany
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Mexico vs. Sweden
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Switzerland vs. Costa Rica
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Serbia vs. Brazil
    THURSDAY, JUNE 28
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Japan vs. Poland
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Senegal vs. Colombia
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 England vs. Belgium
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Panama vs. Tunisia

World Cup on Fox TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

McCordsville/Ronald McDonald House – Greater Indy 3 vs 3 – June 23

www.3v3live.com  $200 per team up to six players. Each player will receive a t-shirt, top three teams in each division get custom medals, top four qualify for Regionals the road to Disney. Full details and fun details on our tourney https://www.3v3live.com/mcdonalds

The U.S. will co-host the 2026 World Cup: Here’s everything you need to know

5:53 PM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

MOSCOW — The World Cup is coming back to North America.The “United Bid” comprising Canada, Mexico and the United States prevailed in a vote against Morocco here on Wednesday and it represents something familiar and something unfamiliar. Old in that Mexico will be hosting the tournament for a record third time after previously hosting the 1970 and 1986 editions. Meanwhile, the vote marks the second time the U.S. has won the honour of hosting the tournament, and it was the highly successful 1994 World Cup that in part helped the Americans land the tournament this time around. For something new, you have Canada hosting the men’s edition for the first time, though it has hosted other FIFA events, including the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

So what does it all mean? Let’s try to fill in the blanks.

Q: When will the tournament be?

A: In all likelihood, the tournament will run from mid-June to mid-July, though given the increase in teams from 32 to 48 (more on that in a bit), the timeline for the tournament may be stretched out a bit longer. Yes, that falls smack in the middle of summer, and those who recall the 1994 World Cup remember that a few games were played in searing heat. But with more indoor stadiums to pick from, the hope is that will be mitigated to a degree.

Q: How many teams will take part?

A: Barring a change of heart by FIFA as it relates to 2022, this will the first World Cup to feature 48 teams. That decision may have actually aided the United Bid’s cause given that the three nations have a host of World Cup-ready stadiums to pick from, with more sure to be built. Morocco couldn’t say the same.

Q: How will this impact World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF? Will the three hosts get spots automatically?

A: The expanded field will see CONCACAF get allocated six guaranteed slots with the possibility of more via a playoff. As for the question of whether three spots will be set aside for the hosts, that won’t be decided until next year’s FIFA Congress in Paris. But FIFA certainly seems to be leaning towards granting automatic spots to all three countries. Former U.S. Soccer Federation president and current FIFA Council member Sunil Gulati told ESPN FC colleague Sam Borden that he would “fully expect” that all three countries would get automatic bids.

Q: Why didn’t the U.S. bid on its own?

A: Because the odds of winning the bid jointly were greater. Each country could have bid on its own, but a combined bid was viewed as a bid for the entire region as opposed to one that was for individual countries. Had some combination of the U.S., Mexico and Canada bid, it might have fractured the vote within CONCACAF, bolstering the bid from another confederation.

Q: How much did the political climate impact the decision to bid jointly?

A: Even in the best of times, geopolitical considerations have an impact on a World Cup bid. That was true when the U.S. lost out on hosting the 2022 tournament when Barack Obama was president. It’s also true now that Donald Trump is president. Simply put, there is plenty of anti-American sentiment around the world that would have hampered a U.S.-only bid. The inclusion of Canada and Mexico made the bid more palatable to voters.

Q: Has a World Cup ever been co-hosted?

A: Yes. Japan and South Korea co-hosted the 2002 World Cup, and while the tournament generally came off without any major glitches, it was very much a forced marriage. Both countries wanted to host the tournament themselves, but the bids were so even that FIFA was loathe to select one over the other. So FIFA hit upon a compromise, but one that was ultimately unsatisfying, so much so that afterwards FIFA swore it would never go for such an arrangement again. Then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter said that having two host countries required twice as much effort in terms of organizing, which led to twice as much cost with no additional money heading FIFA’s way.

The vibe of the United Bid was different in that from the beginning the decision was made to join forces, and that helped sway voters.

Q: So what’s the breakdown of games by country?

A: The U.S. is hosting the bulk of the games, 60 out of 80 in fact, and every single match from the quarterfinals on.

Q: Are Mexico and Canada okay with this?

A: There is some grumbling for sure. Mexico in particular feels that given it has hosted the tournament twice previously, it should get more games, but at present this is the arrangement the three countries have agreed upon.

Q: What will be the expected crowds be?

A: Big, really big. The 1994 edition of the tournament set records for total (3,587,538 fans) and average attendance (68,991 per match) that still stand to this day. This is despite the fact that it was a 24-team tournament that contained just 52 games as opposed to the 64 that have been played in each edition since. The larger stadiums in all three countries, as well as the additional games should see those records shattered. The United Bid is projecting average crowds of 72,500 over the 80 games.

Q: How much money will the World Cup bring in?

A: The official bid book submitted by the United Bid touted $14 billion in revenues and $11 billion in profits for FIFA. Exactly how much of a cut the host countries would get isn’t known exactly, and there has been some skepticism that the numbers listed in the bid book are inflated. But USSF president Carlos Cordeiro has said that he wants the USSF’s annual budget to increase from $100 million to $500 million and winning the bid was a major part of his plan for getting U.S. Soccer to that level.

Q: Where will the games be played?

A: Ultimately ,there will be 16 host cities. For now, 23 host cities — 17 in the U.S., three in Canada and three in Mexico — have been selected. All three cities in both Canada and Mexico are likely to be chosen which would leave the United States to pick 10 remaining cities from their preliminary list of 17. There appears to be some wiggle room, though. CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani stated that his hometown of Vancouver — which opted to take itself out of the running over concerns about among other things security costs — might have a way back in. We’ll see.

World Cup predictions: ESPN FC’s experts’ picks for champion, Golden Ball and more

  Who will win the Golden Boot (top scorer)?

Gab Marcotti: Luis Suarez, Uruguay

A weak group and the fact that I have Uruguay going far suggest he may hit his peak after a relatively lacklustre — by his standards — club campaign.

Craig Burley: Neymar, Brazil

Neymar is much more prepared to carry his country than he was four years ago. He’s had a good rest after injury, too, so fitness permitting, he has the ability and supporting cast to back his showmanship up.

Mark Ogden: Neymar, Brazil

It usually takes six goals to win the Golden Boot. With Brazil benefiting from a soft group and a good route to the latter stages, it is difficult to see past Neymar in the race for top scorer.

Shaka Hislop: Gabriel Jesus, Brazil

Gabriel Jesus will launch himself into the top tier of players in world football, joining the likes of teammate Neymar.

Stewart Robson: Lionel Messi, Argentina

Given a free role, the best player in the world will finally show it on the world’s biggest stage.

Paul Mariner: Antoine Griezmann, France

Surrounded by top players, he will get the supply and will be on all of France’s dead ball opportunities. Always cool under pressure and a great finisher.

Alejandro Moreno: Timo Werner, Germany

I know this pick may be surprising to some, but Germany will be around for a while in this tournament and were drawn into a favourable group that could provide Werner with more opportunities than most to have very productive matches. Werner is not a popular pick, but I am guessing neither were past Golden Boot winners Salvatore “Toto” Schillaci (1990) or Oleg Salenko (1994).

Raphael Honigstein: Antoine Griezmann, France

One of the favourites, France are destined to go far, and Griezmann is in top form.

After scoring six goals at the Euros, what does Antoine Griezmann have in store for the World Cup. Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

Julien Laurens: Neymar, Brazil

The fact that he didn’t play at all between the end of February and mid-May means that he will be fresher and sharper than other big players. This is a Brazil team that will go far in the competition and will score lots of goals, and Neymar will be at the heart of everything they do going forward.

Which two nations will reach the final?

Gab Marcotti: Spain vs. Uruguay

If last-minute replacement Fernando Hierro can guide a gifted and experienced Spain team to the final, it will be because they can beat you many different ways. Uruguay is more of a long shot, obviously. But that explosive attacking tandem, coupled with the grizzled warriors at the back and some fresh legs in midfield means they may just do it … and even upset favourite Brazil along the way.

Craig Burley: Germany and Brazil

Quite simply, two best teams entering the tournament will be the two best teams at it.

Mark Ogden: Germany and Brazil

Sorry to be predictable, but who can beat either of them?

Shaka Hislop: Germany and Brazil

Both Brazil and Germany looked impeccable in qualifying and will take that form and their tournament experience into the World Cup.

Stewart Robson: Brazil and Spain

Both countries have been brilliant in qualification and have mixed outstanding quality with defensive organisation.

Paul Mariner: France and Spain

There is massive pressure on France’s Didier Deschamps to get it right, and the players will respond. Spain, on the other hand, have quality in all the right areas and are experienced on this stage.

Alejandro Moreno: Brazil and Spain

The two best teams coming into the tournament will not disappoint. They may have a couple of nervous moments in the latter stages of the competition, but experience, character and talent will eventually separate these two from the rest.

Raphael Honigstein: Brazil and Spain

Brazil and Spain should both win their groups and will survive tough semifinals vs. Germany and France, respectively, to set up a mouth-watering final.

Julien Laurens: France and Argentina

France will beat Brazil in one semifinal and Argentina will knock out Germany in the other. Les Bleus will then get a superb 3-2 win thanks to a late Kylian Mbappe goal.

Who will win the World Cup?

Gab Marcotti: Spain

A shutdown goalkeeper, a veteran defense, a midfield that can keep the ball all day … all they need is some directness up front. If they can find it, they will be world champions.

Craig Burley: Germany

I’m swaying on this pick as Brazil in particular do look strong. However, the continuity in terms of coaching with Joachim Low means they can usually sail through rough seas as they did in 2014. They’ve been unconvincing recently in friendlies, but Germany aren’t about friendlies. Personnel changes mean some players are untried at this level, but they still have enough big-game players and game-changers to just sneak it.

Mark Ogden: Brazil

Brazil are stronger than four years ago, and if Neymar stays fit, they should go all the way this time around.

Shaka Hislop: Brazil

Brazil to bury the ghosts of 2014 and avenge that infamous 7-1 defeat to Germany!

Stewart Robson: Spain

This Spain team has many of the qualities of the clubs responsible for recent glories, but also includes a more penetrative attacking element and more athleticism.

Paul Mariner: France

The pressure is on the French, but with talent all over the field and a star like Griezmann, Les Bleus repeat their exploits of 20 years ago.

Alejandro Moreno: Brazil

Assuming Neymar is fully recovered from his foot injury, Brazil has everything you want from a team in a World Cup. Brazil are the total package as they have attacking talent everywhere, balance in midfield and discipline in the defensive half. Brazil’s best is just better than that of every other contending team.

Raphael Honigstein: Brazil

The perfect blend between skill, depth and tactical balance.

Julien Laurens: France

It is France’s destiny, 20 years after their 1998 triumph, to win the World Cup again. This squad is ready for it!

Potential dark horse(s)?

Gab Marcotti: Senegal

Boasting arguably the best defender in the competition in Kalidou Koulibaly and plenty of punch up front, you’re not sure what you’ll get with them, but if they’re in stride, they can spring a few surprises.

Craig Burley: none

Think it’ll be the usual suspects. Don’t see a smaller nation making a huge dent in this World Cup.

Mark Ogden: Uruguay and Egypt

Uruguay are the perennial dangerous outsider, capable of beating any team on their day with a combination of skill, mental toughness, cynicism when required and goal threat. Egypt, meanwhile, are an African powerhouse and could make it to the last eight here if Mohamed Salah is healthy.

Shaka Hislop: Senegal

Africa’s second-highest-ranked team will surprise a few. Given a good draw as well with Poland, Colombia and Japan in Group H.

Stewart Robson: Uruguay

Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin allied with an experienced coach in Oscar Tabarez make the South American team a dangerous opponent.

Paul Mariner: Colombia

The Colombians boast pace on the counterattack and are rock-solid in central defence.

Alejandro Moreno: Colombia

This squad is filled with skill and athleticism all over the field. If they defend well and David Ospina has a solid tournament in goal, Colombia has enough to scare the big teams.

Raphael Honigstein: Colombia

A manageable group followed by a decent shot vs. Belgium or England could see Colombia make it to the quarterfinals.

Julien Laurens: Senegal

I really fancy Senegal to surprise a lot of people. They are back at the World Cup for the first time since 2002, where they were wonderful and reached the quarterfinals. This is a golden generation for Senegal with lots of talented players, and coach Aliou Cisse was the captain of that team that reached the quarters in 2002.

Which country will flop?

Gab Marcotti: Germany

OK, we’re talking “flop” by German standards. And that means failing to make the semifinal for the first time since 1998. But hey, they set the bar very high. Joachim Low has had a tremendous run, but striking the right balance between youth and experience might be a big ask this time.

Craig Burley: Belgium

Belgium are full of talented individuals but have yet to prove themselves a contender on the international stage. Manager Roberto Martinez’s usual defensive carelessness will bite them against the real big boys.

Mark Ogden: Portugal and Mexico

Portugal may be the European champions, but they still rely too heavily on an aging Cristiano Ronaldo. As for Mexico, it will be the same old story of high hopes and early disappointment.

Shaka Hislop: Argentina and England

All eyes are on Messi, including those of his teammates. He can’t do it alone, though. Same old story for England.

Stewart Robson: Portugal

They may be the champions of Europe, but not enough creativity and an ultra-defensive approach will see them crash out early here.

Paul Mariner: Belgium

Loads of talent but with very high expectations around the world, the pressure will be too great.

Alejandro Moreno: Portugal

I don’t know how much is expected of them, but much like Greece years ago, Portugal is an unlikely European champion that will not be able to sustain that level of success in the World Cup.

Raphael Honigstein: Argentina and Portugal

Don’t see Portugal’s defensive approach being rewarded a second time. Argentina won’t flop in the sense of crashing out super early, but they will exit at the quarterfinal stage at the hands of Spain, if not in the round of 16.

Julien Laurens: Portugal

I don’t believe in them. I think they have a tricky group outside of Spain. Spain will beat them in their first game and a talented Morocco team and Iran could give them trouble. I don’t see Cristiano Ronaldo having a good tournament, either.

Who will win the Golden Ball (best player)?

Gab Marcotti: Luis Suarez, Uruguay

So difficult to call this. It’s usually from the World Cup winners, but Spain are so multidimensional that a goal-rich tournament and a run to the final from Suarez might just swing it his way despite Uruguay falling at the final hurdle.

Craig Burley: Neymar, Brazil

This has a chance to be his tournament. He needs to deliver and I think he will.

Mark Ogden: Neymar, Brazil

The guy who scores the most goals usually dominates the individual awards, so Neymar again. But Antoine Griezmann may be an outside bet.

Shaka Hislop: Neymar, Brazil

Neymar in the yellow of Brazil isn’t the arrogant and sometimes selfish player we see in the blue of PSG. He usually responds well to the pressure of his country.

Stewart Robson: Lionel Messi, Argentina

Why would you bet against the best player in the world over the past 10 years? Messi will take home the top individual hardware for the second straight World Cup and become the first player to win the award twice.

Paul Mariner: Antoine Griezmann, France

France is my pick to win it and Griezmann is their best individual. Griezmann was the best player at Euro 2016 and will do it again here, this time on an even bigger stage.

Alejandro Moreno: Neymar, Brazil

This is his moment. There is always pressure when you wear the No. 10 and captain’s armband for Brazil, but under Tite, Neymar seems to have embraced this responsibility. The World Cup stage will provide Neymar with the unique opportunity to take a big leap and put his name alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the very top of the game.

Raphael Honigstein: Antoine Griezmann, France

Griezmann’s goals will power France to the semis while Brazil’s stars, while deserving, are likely to split the vote.

Julien Laurens: Kylian Mbappe, France

He is only 19 and this is his first big tournament, but he is the type of prodigy we see only once every 20 years or so. The PSG youngster will play with freedom, without any pressure and will take the World Cup by storm.

Who will win the Golden Gloves (top goalkeeper)?

Gab Marcotti: Alisson, Brazil

He has all the tools to make this tournament his own defensively … at least until the semifinal.

Craig Burley: Manuel Neuer, Germany

Neuer had a difficult season with injuries, but I think if Germany do go all the way, he’ll have been a busy boy. Not convinced by the German defence, so success could hinge partly on the goalkeeper.

Mark Ogden: Jordan Pickford, England

The new England goalkeeper is confident, good with the ball at his feet and a risk-taker. He has the ability to be spectacular, too.

Shaka Hislop: Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Germany

With the lack of playing time for Neuer this season, I have a sneaky suspicion that Ter Stegen will get the nod. At Barcelona, he has established himself as one of the world’s best. Expect to see just that in Russia.

Stewart Robson: David De Gea, Spain

Not only does De Gea make match-winning saves, but he rarely makes a mistake.

Paul Mariner: David De Gea, Spain

He makes the key saves when called upon and, almost as importantly, is an error-free goalkeeper.

Alejandro Moreno: Thibaut Courtois, Belgium

Belgium is a sexy pick for many in and around the game. If Belgium advance deep into the competition, Courtois may have to come up with a few big saves and maybe even a memorable penalty kick shootout performance.

Raphael Honigstein: Alisson, Brazil

The most gifted of keepers, Alisson is set to have a breakout tournament.

Julien Laurens: Alisson, Brazil

The Brazilian had a superb season with Roma and has proved to be a wonderful shot stopper. In an attacking Brazil side, he will show how good he is in this tournament.

Player most likely to be red carded?

Gab Marcotti: Mats Hummels, Germany

What he lacks in pace he makes up for in reading the game. But you only get away with it for so long. And in a tournament marked by flat-out speed — and on a team that tends to play on the front foot and can get caught on the counter — he’s got to be among the candidates.

Craig Burley: John Stones, England

I like John Stones as he’s a flamboyant centre-half, but I think he takes too many risks and makes some bad decisions, both with and without the ball. Can see him making a daft challenge in desperation and seeing red.

Mark Ogden: Dele Alli, England

The England midfielder has insisted he will not fall foul of the officials in Russia, but opponents will be wise to his short fuse and we have yet to see evidence that Alli can count to 10 before reacting.

Shaka Hislop: Sergio Ramos, Spain

Sergio Ramos is always good for an error in judgement. With VAR he won’t be able to get away with things he often does.

Stewart Robson: Nicolas Otamendi, Argentina

A great season under Pep Guardiola but too many rash challenges from behind in an emotionally charged environment makes Otamendi a prime candidate to see red.

Paul Mariner: Dejan Lovren, Croatia

In Croatia’s group with Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria, the front players are too quick, technical and strong. He will struggle.

Alejandro Moreno: Sergio Ramos, Spain

There will be a lot of people watching Sergio Ramos very closely after the Champions League fallout. With VAR in play in the World Cup, maybe one of the multiple cameras catches Ramos doing something naughty.

Could Sergio Ramos’ temper and reputation get him in trouble in Russia? Photo by Shot for Press/Action Plus via Getty Images

Raphael Honigstein: Luis Suarez, Uruguay

Luis Suarez might just stumble and accidentally bite into someone again.

Julien Laurens: Pepe, Portugal

He is 35 and played only four games with Besiktas between March and May. He will be out of form if he starts for Portugal, and despite his experience, I expect him to get sent off.

Group winners (A-H)

Gab Marcotti: Uruguay, Spain, France, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Senegal

Craig Burley: Uruguay, Spain, France, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Colombia

Mark Ogden: Uruguay, Spain, France, Croatia, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Colombia

Shaka Hislop: Uruguay, Spain, France, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, England, Colombia

Stewart Robson: Uruguay, Spain, France, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, England, Colombia

Paul Mariner: Uruguay, Spain, France, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, England, Colombia

Alejandro Moreno: Uruguay, Spain, France, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Belgium Colombia

Raphael Honigstein: Uruguay, Spain, France, Croatia, Brazil, Germany, England, Colombia

Julien Laurens: Uruguay, Spain, France, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Colombia

Group runners-up (A-H)

Gab Marcotti: Russia, Morocco, Peru, Nigeria, Serbia, Mexico, England, Poland

Craig Burley: Egypt, Portugal, Peru, Nigeria, Serbia, Mexico, England, Poland

Mark Ogden: Egypt, Morocco, Denmark, Argentina, Serbia, South Korea, England, Senegal

Shaka Hislop: Egypt, Portugal, Peru, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Mexico, Belgium, Senegal

Stewart Robson: Russia, Portugal, Denmark, Croatia, Serbia, Mexico, Belgium, Senegal

Paul Mariner: Egypt, Portugal, Denmark, Croatia, Serbia, Mexico, Belgium, Poland

Alejandro Moreno: Russia, Portugal, Denmark, Croatia, Switzerland, Sweden, England, Senegal

Raphael Honigstein: Russia, Portugal, Peru, Argentina, Switzerland, Mexico, Belgium, Senegal

Julien Laurens: Egypt, Morocco, Peru, Croatia, Switzerland, Mexico, England, Senegal

The unbearable hope — and inevitable pain — of supporting England at a World Cup

Jun 8, 2018Nick Hornby

 (Editors’ note: We asked Nick Hornby — novelist and screenwriter who wrote about his obsessive fandom of Arsenal in “Fever Pitch” — to reflect on what it’s like to follow England during a World Cup. This is the first of three pieces he’ll be writing for ESPN while England chases glory in Russia.)

“You’ve got to face the fact there may now be a meltdown. OK?,” said a senior member of the squad this week. “I don’t want anybody to panic during the meltdown. No panic. Pro bono publico, no bloody panic. It’s going to be all right in the end.”Yes, it’s time for another England World Cup campaign, and it doesn’t matter that the senior member of the squad is Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, or that he happened to be talking about the Brexit negotiations, now into what seems like their ninetieth year, and with no end in sight.An English World Cup campaign will almost certainly include a meltdown, and there will be panic, and introspection, and calls for something, anything, to be done to — or by, or for — somebody. But it’s going to be all right in the end. It’s just that as with Brexit, nobody knows when the end will be or whether any of you old enough to be reading this will live long enough to see it.England’s two friendly victories this past week, against a poor Nigeria team and a workmanlike Costa Rica, allowed the nation (or the nation’s football commentators, at least) to accentuate the positive. The thumping header with which Gary Cahill opened the scoring against Nigeria got them excited about set pieces; more ominously, it earned Cahill the man-of-the-match award. The willing, likeable but tortoise-paced centre-back is not the recipient one might have been hoping for in a home game against Nigeria, with Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling all up the other end.In the game against Costa Rica, TV pundit and former England manager Glenn Hoddle enthused about the left-footed full-back Danny Rose putting a left-footed cross into the penalty area from the left side of the pitch. “Lovely to see,” said Hoddle. “Natural.”Nothing came from the cross and if you have a season ticket at Rochdale, you’ve probably seen something similar in every home game this season but keep it to yourself. England need to keep morale high and if that means praising an international footballer for kicking the ball with his stronger foot, then so be it. Pro bono publico, no bloody panic.In previous tournaments, it was possible to feel the disappointment turning to rage and bile even before a ball had been kicked. In 2014, the “Golden Generation” had almost vanished in a fog of under-achievement but Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard were still there. Two goals, two defeats and one goal-less draw later, they were home again, after the group stage, and England could draw a veil over another era of expectancy and failure.This time around, the players are not celebrities, not yet; those with no interest in football would be hard pushed to name a single member of the squad, let alone any of their wives or girlfriends. Several players — Marcus Rashford, Rose, Cahill, Danny Welbeck — can only occasionally push themselves into the first team at their clubs, and one of them, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, can’t force his way into his club at all: he’s spent the year on loan at Crystal Palace instead.So maybe — and this, inevitably, is an undertone in the conversation — that could work in England’s favour, right? A young, hungry and humble squad, nearly all of them belonging to a top four Premier League team; a modest, thoughtful, likeable coach … why couldn’t a team like that win the World Cup? Why couldn’t Dele Alli destroy Spain like he destroyed Real Madrid in the Champions League for Spurs?Then you remember who won the Champions League, and that the Spurs vs. Real Madrid game was a group match that didn’t count for much, and that when it came to the crunch, Spurs (who are providing five of the 23-man squad) conceded two late goals to a battle-hardened Juventus team and went out of the competition. Nobody in this England squad has ever scored a goal in the World Cup finals; then again, the national team have only scored 20-odd goals during the five tournaments that have taken place since Sterling was born.Usually in the build-up to an England World Cup campaign, expectations, both great and grim, come out in precisely the same place: we think we have more than half a chance either way.The second of the two friendlies this week was played at Leeds’ Elland Road ground and the difference between the atmosphere there and the atmosphere at Wembley for the Nigeria game was striking. The Leeds fans got behind the team and sang the National Anthem, giving the players a rousing send-off.The Wembley fans were much more apathetic, as usual, and though there are easy explanations — the rest of the country rarely gets to see the national team play outside the capital — this World Cup, and the whole idea of national identity, is taking place at a very peculiar moment in the nation’s history.There is a schism in the country just as there is in the United States; those who voted to leave the EU and those who voted to stay are snarling at each other with mutual incomprehension. The city of Leeds voted (only just) to stay in the EU but the north of England (and Leeds is very much in the north of England) voted overwhelmingly to leave.Meanwhile, 75 percent of Londoners voted to remain. England’s relationship with Europe is complicated (at least from our side — one suspects gloomily that it’s much more straightforward over the Channel) and it’s not hard to imagine that in the current climate, the England team means different things to different English people. If, as some fear, our far-right nutters clash with the Russian hard-right nutters, then feelings will become even more diffuse.Of course, it would be great if England won the tournament but that “if” is too small to the naked eye to be any use to the editor of this piece. What many of us crave is an England team we can like: one that plays fast, muscular, ambitious English football, beats the teams that are inferior to them and goes out bravely to the one that’s better.It’s not much to ask, but it would help an unhappy country to feel better about itself.

McCordsville/Ronald McDonald House – Greater Indy 3 vs 3 – June 23

www.3v3live.com  $200 per team up to six players. Each player will receive a t-shirt, top three teams in each division get custom medals, top four qualify for Regionals the road to Disney. Full details and fun details on our tourney https://www.3v3live.com/mcdonalds

INDY ELEVEN FRONT OFFICE GROWS WITH ADDITION OF NEW HIRES

By IndyEleven.com, 06/12/18, 8:45AM EDTShare

 Indy Eleven adds Vice President of Sales and Marketing, additional positions

Indy Eleven Professional Soccer announces the hiring of Josh Mason as its Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Mason, who attended Ball State University for his undergraduate degree and Indiana Wesleyan University for his MBA, will start July 1, 2018.“We’re very excited to have Josh join our Front Office staff,” said Indy Eleven presidet Jeff Belskus. “We’re very appreciative of [Indy Eleven owner] Ersal Ozdemir in making the investment to grow our organization.”Mason has spent the last 18 years in various sales and marketing roles with top brands including: Monarch Beverage, Miller Brewing Company and Starbucks Coffee Corporate. Most recently, Mason acted as Central Regional Manager for Enthuse Marketin, a New York based beverage marketing agency. “Josh brings many years of experience as a sales and marketing executive, and as President of the Brickyard Battalion,” Belskus said. In addition to his marketing experience, Mason is one of the founding board members of Indy Eleven’s supporters group, the Brickyard Battalion. Mason has been acting President of the non-profit organization’s board for the last four years. “We want to bring in someone in, like Josh, who is very passionate about this club and connected with our local supporters,” said Belskus. “Our supporters are very important to the organization. We want to continue building a stronger relationship with those who continue to support us.”Indy Eleven has also added Dan Dripps as its new Corporate Partnership Manager, and is in the process of adding two Ticket Account Managers and a new IT Director.

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INDY ELEVEN FRONT OFFICE GROWS WITH ADDITION OF NEW HIRES

By IndyEleven.com, 06/12/18, 8:45AM EDTShare

Indy Eleven adds Vice President of Sales and Marketing, additional positions

Indy Eleven Professional Soccer announces the hiring of Josh Mason as its Vice President of Sales and Marketing.  Mason, a Carmel FC Coach, who attended Ball State University for his undergraduate degree and Indiana Wesleyan University for his MBA, will start July 1, 2018.“ We’re very excited to have Josh join our Front Office staff,” said Indy Eleven presidet Jeff Belskus. “We’re very appreciative of [Indy Eleven owner] Ersal Ozdemir in making the investment to grow our organization.”Mason has spent the last 18 years in various sales and marketing roles with top brands including: Monarch Beverage, Miller Brewing Company and Starbucks Coffee Corporate. Most recently, Mason acted as Central Regional Manager for Enthuse Marketin, a New York based beverage marketing agency. “Josh brings many years of experience as a sales and marketing executive, and as President of the Brickyard Battalion,” Belskus said. In addition to his marketing experience, Mason is one of the founding board members of Indy Eleven’s supporters group, the Brickyard Battalion. Mason has been acting President of the non-profit organization’s board for the last four years. “We want to bring in someone in, like Josh, who is very passionate about this club and connected with our local supporters,” said Belskus. “Our supporters are very important to the organization. We want to continue building a stronger relationship with those who continue to support us.”Indy Eleven has also added Dan Dripps as its new Corporate Partnership Manager, and is in the process of adding two Ticket Account Managers and a new IT Director.

PREVIEW | TORVIND

By IndyEleven.com, 06/14/18, 4:45PM EDT

“Boys in Blue” to face Toronto FC II on mutual ground in New York

Saturday, June 16, 2018 – 7 P.M. EST  Marina Auto Stadium – Rochester, New York  

Watch/Listen Live: Local/National TV: N/A  Streaming Video: N/A

Follow Live: In-game updates: Follow @IndyElevenLive on Twitter  Official stats: USL Match Center

WEEK 14: SIGHTS SET ON ANOTHER WIN

Indy Eleven look to improve their 2W-1L-2D record on the road this weekend against Toronto FC II. The “Boys in Blue” are attempting to win their second game in a row, something the team has not done since the Week Four and Five victories.Indy Eleven (5W-4L-3D) currently sit at 10th in the Eastern Conference with 18 points. The “Boys in Blue” are three points off of third place, chasing Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC with 21 points. In their last outing, “Indiana’s Team” defeated 15th place Atlanta United 2, 2-0, which ended a four game winless skid. Goals from Indy Eleven midfielder Matt Watson and defender Carlyle Mitchel handed Indy the victory. The two goals were also the first of the season for each player. Indy Eleven goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams recorded his sixth clean sheet for “Indiana’s Team”, which ties Fon Williams for most clean sheets in the Eastern Conference.Toronto FC II (0W-11L-2D) currently sit at last place in the Eastern Conference with two points. The home team will attempt to get their first points since its draw with New York Red Bulls II on April 28. Toronto FC II nearly secured a point against Penn FC in their previous match in Week 13. The game was level at two when Toronto defender Robert Boskovic committed a hand ball in the Toronto 18-yard box resulting in a penalty for Penn FC. Penn substitute Jerry Ortiz scored the penalty and dashed hopes of a point for Toronto. The loss is now their seventh in a row and first under newly appointed head coach Michael Rabasca.Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie will aim to continue the attacking performance and defensive dominance displayed last weekend against a Toronto FC II team that has conceded the most goals, and scored the least, in the Eastern Conference. Rennie will rely on captain Matt Watson to keep his squad focused going into the Week 14 fixture.“You don’t underestimate anyone,” Watson said. “If we work hard, as hard as them or harder, then our talent will shine through.”

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: FW EUGENE STARIKOV

Indy Eleven forward Eugene Starikov returned to the pitch in last week’s matchup with Atlanta United. The reappearance of the forward, his first since Week Three, bodes well for Martin Rennie’s lineup. Starikov’s ability to return to action is timed perfectly, as teammate and forward Jack McInerney serves the second of his two-game suspension against Toronto FC II.Starikov adds pace and flexibility to Indy Eleven’s offense, with the ability to bounce between forward and midfield. Last season with NASL’s New York Cosmos, he made 25 appearances for th club and found the back of the net four times.

TORONTO FC II PLAYER TO WATCH: MF LUCCA UCCELLO

What Toronto FC II midfielder Lucca Uccello lacks in size, he makes up for in talent on the ball. The 5-foot-5-inch midfielder has been a positive light in a dark tunnel for Toronto FC II. He has started 9 out of12 games for the Canadian side. Despite his youth, the 20-year old midfielder has moved the ball well this season and averaged just over 80 percent passing accuracy.The Canadian born midfielder has been a threat in front of goal, having found the back of the net twice in 12 appearances. In addition to scoring goals, he can create them for his teammates as well. Uccello has tallied one assist so far this season and created 10 chances.

MATCHUP TO MARK: INDY OFFENSE FACES TORONTO FC II’S DEFENSE

Indy Eleven’s offense seems to be catching stride at the right time. In the last three games the “Boys in Blue” have found the back of the net six times. The team has also found the back of the net using various methods, keeping opposition defenses from being able to contain one aspect of the team’s offense. They’ve found the back of the net once from a penalty, once from a corner kick, twice from direct free kicks and twice from the run of play.Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie’s compact press has led to effective counter attacking play. The aim is to apply pressure in the midfield and attacking third taking away opponents time on the ball and forcing sloppy passes that lead to turnovers and goal scoring chances. The tactics proved fruitful as they led to midfielder Matt Watson’s first goal against Atlanta United 2.“I think we’ve always been better on the front foot as opposed to letting them have good possession around the half way line,” Watson said. “I think we’re always better when we win the ball high.”Toronto FC II will have to be weary of the counter attack deployed by Indy Eleven. During the 2018 season, Toronto has averaged a completion percentage of three-quarters of their passes per game. They also average 86 percent completion in their own half.The high pressure may be amped up against Toronto FC II, as the Canadian side has given up 10 goals in the last three games. Toronto has given up the most goals (30) in the Eastern Conference through the 2018 campaign.The “Boys in Blue” will aim for another three points and a chance at third place as Indy Eleven’s offense continues to pick up steam.

PLEASE NOTE: There will be no local/ESPN+ live stream available for this match. Be sure to follow @IndyEleven and @IndyElevenLive on Twitter for live updates at the “Boys in Blue” kickoff against Toronto FC II at 7:00 p.m. in Rochester, New York.

Catch “Indiana’s Team” when it returns to Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, June 30 at 7:00 p.m. for Pride Night against Penn FC. Fans can get their tickets starting at $15 at IndyEleven.com/Tickets or by calling (317)685-1100.

 

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

 

6/11/18  US Man Tie France 1-1, US Ladies beat China play again Tues Night 7 pm ESPN2, Indy 11 win 2-0, World Cup Starts Thurs.

So I didn’t plan to write today – after this fabulous weekend for the US Men, Ladies and the addition (finally) of New US Men’s General Manager of Soccer- Earnie Stewart – things are really looking up.  Listen I have said this before and I stand by it.  The loss generation of US Soccer has been replaced with the NEW HOPE.  This group of US players most between 18-23 years old – might well be our best group of US players ever.  Have they proved it yet – not necessarily but wins at the U17 and U20 World Cups and advancement to the final 4 of each – (only England did that too) this group of young American’s are showing that they might well be special.  Already 18 year old’s Christian Pulisic and Westin McKinnie are taking the US, and Europe by storm as both are now playing and starting for Champions League teams in Germany.  Now this result a 1-1 tie against a France team that many are picking for a Semi-Final World Cup run – shows just what the US is capable of.  Zack Stephan in goal was as much the difference as anything as he made save after save – 8 on the day- to keep the French at bay.  Now the US still has lots of work to do and that’s where someone like Earnie Stewart comes in.  For those who don’t know – Ernie Stewart has been named our new US General Manager.  I am not sure there is a better candidate for that role than Stewart.  He wore the US Shirt for 2 world cup cycles, he played in Europe and in the MLS – so he understands the commitment and travel involved with playing in Europe and wearing the US jersey. He has managed in both Holland and the United States – recently building a growing Philly Union squad using the youth system that is now starting to show dividends.  I think Earnie Stewart is the perfect man for this role – a dual National player who played as hard as any US player ever.  He will re-instill that love and commitment to country when wearing the red, white, and blue.  I know a World Cup over the next 3 weeks without the US is going to be really tough – but I truly expect the next 8 years to be an incredibly exciting time to be a US Soccer fan.

US Ladies Play China Tues Night, ESPN2

The US ladies eeked out a hard fought 1-0 win over China with a goal by Alex Morgan over the weekend and will look to keep their winning streak alive again tonight on ESPN2 at 7 pm against China as they prepare for the  2018 Tournament of Nations vs the best teams in the World in late July.  Don’t forget the US Ladies will play just 3 hours away in Chicago vs Brazil on Thurs, Aug 2 at 6:30 pm & on FS1.

WORLD CUP

So we’ll know if this week has really been a Great Week for US Soccer – on Wednesday Morning – 6 to 8 am when the World Cup in awarded for 2026.  If the United bid of the US, Canada and Mexico win the bid AS THEY SHOULD- then we have 8 years to get ready to host the greatest sporting event in the World.  Wow – wouldn’t that be fun!  Now as far as watching World Cup action – Fox and Fox Sports 1 will be the go to channels for all of the games and most of the coverage.  It all starts at 10:30 am on Fox and Fox Sports 1 on Thursday, June 14th with the World Cup Opening Ceremonies live from Russia. Don’t forget I have a World Cup Poolclick here to join.  Make yourself a login and play along. With the US out and my 2 other favorites Italy and the Netherland’s out I figured I better do something to give myself more reason’s to watch all the games.  Each day World Cup Tonight will be featured on Fox Sports 1 at 11 pm each night.  Also beIN Sports Soccer Extra will be there every night at 7 pm.  Not sure what the HELL ESPN is doing?  Sportscenter coverage I assume – but not having a 30 minute show each night just because you got outbid – well obviously ESPN is not really interested in soccer anymore.  I will have my full World-Cup Preview on Friday of this week.

Indy 11

Good win for our Indy 11 at home Saturday night with the 2-0 victory over Atlanta United.  (See stories below)  The Eleven will be on the road until they return June 30th for a Sat night match-up with ____ at 7 pm in Lucas Oil.

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Tryouts for Carmel FC – @ Shelbourne Fields

This Monday and Tuesday – June 11 & 12 (U11-U13 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm), (U14-U19 – 7:15 pm – 8:30 pm)

Carmel FC Coaches Game @ Shelbourne Fields

Thursday, June 14th 6:30 pm

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 US Soccer

Earnie Stewart is first USMNT General Manager – SI Brian Straus

US Shows Progress after World Cup Failure – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Should Rely on this Younger Generation – James Tyler – ESPNFC

No Poor Showings for Players vs France – Sarachan says – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Men Close with nice Final Impression vs France – SI Avi Creditor

US Young Squad hangs on for Draw with France – Jason Davis ESPNFC

US Player Ratings Zack Steffan Shines – Jason Davis – ESPNFC

US Players Ratings vs France – NBCSports – Joe Prince Wright –

3 things we learned

US Soccer Team Shows Potential – US Soccer

Mbappe Spares France embarrassment with late Equalizer vs US – Daily Mail UK

How Good Can the US Be – Noah Davis – ESPNFC

Antonee Robinson Looks for Breakout for US – ESPNFC Jeff Carlisle

Tim Weah Credits Mom for Soccer Pursuit – not Chill Best Player Dad

Mexico’s Jon Gonzales – I felt like I turned my back on the US –


Hays: U.S. women still have work to do »

  Zerboni right at home in first start »

  Morgan’s header leads U.S. past China »

  Rankings: USA, Germany, England 1-2-3 »

  Hays: Lloyd joins rare company »

  Lloyd scores 100th international goal 

Hays: Dunn’s versatility a key for USWNT »

 

 Indy 11

Indy 11 Snap 4 Game Winless Skid with 2-0 downing of Atlanta United 2 – Kevin Johnston indy Star

Indy 11 2 Tough 2 B Bothered by Atlanta United 2 – Bloody Shambles – Rebacca Townsend

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Saturday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Flex Packs: Discount Indy 11 Flex Pack Tickets
Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

World Cup

Politics Out of The United Bid’s Control ESPNFC

England Team Preview = NBC Sports

World Cup Predictions – SI Planet Futbol

United States of El Tri – Mexico Owns US World Cup Spotlight – SI Brian Straus

Why America Should Root for Mexico in this World Cup – ESPN MAG

World Cup Rosters Are Announced – ESPNFC

France’s and Man United’s Paul Pogba is ready to Shine – ESPN Mag Feature –

Stay Messi my Friend – ESPN Mag –

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Tryouts for Carmel FC – @ Shelbourne Fields

This Monday and Tuesday – June 11 & 12 (U11-U13 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm), (U14-U19 – 7:15 pm – 8:30 pm)

Carmel FC Coaches Game @ Shelbourne Fields

Thursday, June 14th 6:30 pm

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GAMES ON TV

Tues, June 12

7 pm ESPN2        USA Women vs China

Thur, June 14        World Cup on Fox

10:30 am Fox         OPENNING CEREMONIES

11 am Fox              Russia vs Saudi Arabia

Fri, June 15           World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox Sport1     Egypt (Salah) vs Uruguay

11 am Fox              Morocco vs Iran

1 pm Fox                Portugal (Renaldo) vs Spain

Sat, June 16          World Cup on Fox

6 am FS1                France vs Australia

9 am Fox                Argentina (Messi) vs Iceland

12 noon FS1           Peru vs Denmark

3 pm FS1                Croatia vs Nigeria

7 pm ESPN+        Toronto II vs Indy 11

Sun, June 17         World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox 59          Costa Rica vs Serbia

11 am Fox Sp1   Germany vs Mexico 

2 pm FS1               Brazil vs Switzerland

  MON, JUNE 18
8 a.m. ET FS1 Sweden vs. South Korea
11 a.m. ET FS1 Belgium vs. Panama
2 p.m. ET FS1 Tunisia vs. England
    TUESDAY, JUNE 19
8 a.m. ET FS1 Poland vs. Senegal
11 a.m. ET Fox Colombia vs. Japan
2 p.m. ET Fox Russia vs. Egypt
    WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20
8 a.m. ET FS1 Portugal vs. Morocco
11 a.m. ET Fox Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia
2 p.m. ET Fox Iran vs. Spain
    THURSDAY, JUNE 21
8 a.m. ET FS1 France vs. Peru
11 a.m. ET Fox Denmark vs. Australia
2 p.m. ET Fox Argentina vs. Croatia
    FRIDAY, JUNE 22
8 a.m. ET FS1 Brazil vs. Costa Rica
11 a.m. ET Fox Nigeria vs. Iceland
2 p.m. ET Fox Serbia vs. Switzerland
    SATURDAY, JUNE 23
8 a.m. ET Fox Belgium vs. Tunisia
11 a.m. ET Fox Germany vs. Sweden
2 p.m. ET Fox South Korea vs. Mexico
    SUNDAY, JUNE 24
8 a.m. ET FS1 England vs. Panama
11 a.m. ET Fox Japan vs. Senegal
2 p.m. ET Fox Poland vs. Colombia
    MONDAY, JUNE 25
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Uruguay vs. Russia
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Iran vs. Portugal
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Spain vs. Morocco
    TUESDAY, JUNE 26
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Australia vs. Peru
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Denmark vs. France
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Iceland vs. Croatia
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Nigeria vs. Argentina
    WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 South Korea vs. Germany
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Mexico vs. Sweden
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Switzerland vs. Costa Rica
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Serbia vs. Brazil
    THURSDAY, JUNE 28
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Japan vs. Poland
10 a.m. ET Fox/FS1 Senegal vs. Colombia
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 England vs. Belgium
2 p.m. ET Fox/FS1 Panama vs. Tunisia

World Cup on Fox TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

SUMMER CAMPS

FC Barcelona Camp – Grand Park June 11-15 $499

Carmel High Girls Middle School Soccer Camp  Ages middle schoolers – June 18, 20, 25, 27 July 16, 17, 18, 19 at Murray 3-5 pm $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Skills Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 8:30-10:30 am $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Tactical Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 11 am till 1 pm $85

Butler Bulldog Soccer Camps – full day $255

McCordsville/Ronald McDonald House – Greater Indy 3 vs 3 – June 23

www.3v3live.com  $200 per team up to six players. Each player will receive a t-shirt, top three teams in each division get custom medals, top four qualify for Regionals the road to Disney. Full details and fun details on our tourney https://www.3v3live.com/mcdonalds

U.S. Soccer Hires Earnie Stewart as First USMNT General Manager

By BRIAN STRAUS June 06, 2018

Some uncertainty remains about the ultimate scope of the job, its purview and potential long-term impact. But we now have a face, name and vision to place alongside U.S. Soccer’s new technical title.Earnie Stewart, an influential midfielder in the 1990s-early 2000s who is currently the sporting director at the Philadelphia Union, was named the first U.S. men’s national team general manager on Wednesday. He’ll assume the new position August 1 after moving to Chicago. At that time, he’ll be the point man in the federation’s search for a permanent head coach. And Stewart said during a Wednesday conference call that, although the search will be characterized by “process over speed,” he’s already presented U.S. Soccer with a list of candidates.“Having played for the [USA] and seeing what the capabilities and possibilities were in the United States, this was something where I wanted to jump on board,” Stewart said in a Wednesday statement. On the call, the 49-year-old Netherlands native, who was capped 101 times by his father’s homeland, said he was “extremely proud and honored to be named the general manager of the U.S. men’s national team.”The position was created by the federation’s board in December, a couple months after the USA was eliminated from this summer’s World Cup. The fallout from that historic failure resulted in coach Bruce Arena’s resignation, the election of a new U.S. Soccer president—Carlos Cordeiro—and the search for GMs for the both the men’s and women’s senior teams (the latter is expected to be appointed before the end of 2018). Cordeiro pledged during his presidential campaign to involve additional people in soccer decisions and in April, he announced the creation of a board-level technical committee empowered to weigh in on appropriate matters and lead the search for the new GM. Previously, former president Sunil Gulati and CEO Dan Flynn had almost total de facto control of those processes and appointments.Cordeiro said Stewart’s appointment “is a further step in our commitment to ensure that soccer operations are run by soccer experts.”Stewart now is just one of several “soccer experts” at the federation. He won’t have full control over the governing body’s entire sporting structure, instead focusing on the senior men’s team and its coach, culture, logistics, style of play and player pool. The limits on the GM position’s power, the extent of which still seems somewhat theoretical, reportedly scared off some potential candidates. The GM won’t have the final say over the Olympic and junior national team coaches, for example, or certain development initiatives. But Stewart insisted Wednesday he was satisfied with the conversations that took place during an “extensive interview process” and that he felt he could make an impact.Stewart will report to Flynn, and the board will give the final thumbs up or down on Stewart’s coaching choice. Considering his August start date, which Flynn said was designed to accommodate Stewart’s transition from the Union, that choice won’t be made until well after the World Cup’s conclusion.“I don’t know many organizations where someone can just come in and pick whatever he wants,” Stewart said regarding the federation’s collaborative process. “I will be responsible in making sure I do the recommendation towards the board and Carlos when it comes to the U.S. men’s national team coach. That will be my responsibility, and obviously in that process I’m a person that’s always been known to collaborate, and that’s the way the U.S. Soccer Federation will work. In that search, I’ll make sure to speak to those that are very important in the search process and together, in the end, we’ll come with a recommendation toward our board to make the best decision.”Clearly, in practice, Stewart must have significant latitude and influence in the search process. Otherwise, his position is cosmetic. On Wednesday, Flynn said Stewart’s appointment was for the “long-term,” designed to transcend given coaches and competitions. “At the same time,” Flynn added, “we need to see progress between now and 2022.”Said chief sport development officer Nico Romeijn, “It’s a long-term position. It’s about overseeing the whole program. It’s looking at style of play, the player pool—not only the current player pool, but we’re looking at 2022 and 2026 … [The GM] should be the sounding board and counsel of the men’s national team coach. He will also be involved in the daily environment and the creation of the best conditions for players.”Stewart said in a Q&A published by U.S. Soccer that the most important qualities he’s looking for in a coach are people-management skills, and the ability to communicate and implement tactical principles and a consistent style of play during the short period in which a national team is together. Style of play was a hot topic during Wednesday’s call. Style isn’t about formations or lineup choices, Stewart said, but rather, “the style goes toward the values—what we want to see on the field from our players.”He said establishing a long-term style of play wouldn’t be a hindrance in finding the right coach, who would “have the autonomy within the style of play to play in different formations.”Stewart said, “You’ll get an understanding, and I think it’s great that the coach knows exactly what we want to see on the field. … Everybody wants to work here. I don’t think there will be many coaches that will say, ‘No’, because the United States has values about what they want to see when they step on the field and what they want to see from their players. On the contrary, when you come with a plan, a lot of people will want to jump on board because there’s a plan, a vision, and an identity.”Stewart revealed in the Q&A that he also was preparing to “get to know this whole player pool,” from the senior side to the youth, and hoped to visit U.S. players and their clubs for conversations. Until now, there’s been no one at the federation responsible for keeping track of potential internationals’ long-term progress and eligibility, or with establishing consistent communication protocols. Mexico’s GM was instrumental in the January switch of former U.S. midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez, for example. A coach is worried about the next camp and the next tournament. The GM can peer around corners, keep potential players in the loop and, Stewart said, help them stay apprised of their short- and long-term roles.The GM position may evolve as needs, results or politics dictate. Some have expressed concern that the role won’t have the desired impact at a federation that’s been slow to open up. But Stewart’s hiring is a step, and the spotlight and onus now are on U.S. Soccer as much as the new GM.Stewart’s comfort with the big picture, and among the primary reasons he’s a hire who comes with the benefit of the doubt, is rooted in a lifetime spent in European and American soccer. The son of a U.S. serviceman, Stewart enjoyed a productive 16-year career in the Eredivisie and MLS, and he played 101 times for the USA. He was a member of three World Cup squads and was U.S. Soccer’s player of the year in 2001. After retiring, Stewart returned to the Netherlands and held technical positions at VVV Venlo, NAC Breda and finally AZ Alkmaar, which was a Europa League regular under his watch. He then took over in Philadelphia prior to the 2016 MLS campaign.His performance with the Union can be graded only in context. It’s a budget-conscious club, and although Philly hasn’t won a playoff game with Stewart at the helm, it’s made progress as a talent incubator. He’s also chosen to stick with coach Jim Curtin, whom he didn’t hire, despite the well-liked manager’s failure to finish higher than sixth in the Eastern Conference during this three full seasons on the bench (Philly is 5-6-3 so far this year and in seventh). That suggests Stewart believes in seeing a process through, and that continuity is more important than ego or quick fixes. If that’s true, that’ll serve him well in a much-needed position that’s going to take shape on the fly.

U.S. shows progress vs. France; hope grows for future, post-World Cup woe

Jun 10, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer – ESPNFC

LYON, France — In the aftermath of the United States’ failure to qualify for the World Cup, caretaker manager Dave Sarachan has been in experimental mode as the men’s national team seeks to move on. After six games, it was possible that the result would not pass muster but, instead, the U.S. is finding a mix worth keeping around for a while, albeit one in need of more refining.Saturday’s 1-1 draw with France was the latest confirmation of that progress. Sure, France dominated the ball, but the U.S. hung in there defensively, got an opportunistic goal from Julian Green and then, after conceding an equalizer to Kylian Mbappe, rode Zack Steffen’s goalkeeping late to secure the draw.”It’s wonderful,” midfielder Wil Trapp said. “It’s not always going to be pretty. We understood that. Look, it’s one of the best teams in the world, favorites for the World Cup, and I thought we adjusted really well. We scored the goal first, shocked them a little bit, and then weathered the storm.”Granted, it probably won’t be Sarachan who gets to do the additional tweaking. There is a chance that he hangs around until the next round of friendlies — against Brazil and Mexico in September — but, with general manager Earnie Stewart on board and leading the search for a new manager, it’s also possible that one will have been hired by then.Either way, the team moving forward with more hope than it had in October, or even before Saturday’s game. The concern prior to playing France wasn’t that the U.S. would lose, but rather by how much. Instead, the young side simply went about its business, while Sarachan dug even deeper into his youthful roster as well as his tactical bag of tricks.Neither DeAndre Yedlin nor Jorge Villafana appeared until late in the match, with Antonee Robinson and Shaq Moore getting the starting nod as wing-backs in a 5-3-2 and both held up well.”We have a young group that’s hungry and willing to fight for each other and I think that showed today,” Moore said.The same is true of the central three of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Miazga and Tim Parker. Even when Miazga had to leave the match in the second half with a head laceration, Erik Palmer-Brown entered the game and filled in ably. A stumble by Carter-Vickers contributed to Mbappe’s equalizer, but afterward, Steffen was there to help preserve the result, especially when he dove to his right to deny Nabil Fekir’s free kick. The match proved to be tougher for midfielders Trapp, Tyler Adams and McKennie. A few wayward passes set up some dangerous counterattacks for France but the trio did grow into the match, using its defensive effort as a springboard for the attack.”I think in the first half, we were a little nervy with a different formation and trying to break down plays and find passing angles,” Trapp said. “But I think as Tyler, Weston and I started to rotate more, we started to unsettle them a little bit more and find better spots.’And so the France result sits alongside other confidence-building performances that have taken place in this period. Yes, these games were all about learning lessons and, in the 2-1 defeat to Republic of Ireland, there were a few sharp ones.However, it’s beneficial when the bulk of what’s learned is accompanied by some encouraging results. It validates hard work and a way of doing things, and that is what has happened in this squad.”I think it’s a huge step for us as professionals, and as a group, not listening to outside noise,” Trapp said. “And believing in ourselves and believing in each other in adverse situations, that’s a huge experience for young players, and of melding together and continuing to grow.”These are times of high curiosity and low expectations. The results have little in the way of stakes attached to them and the same will be true later this summer and into fall, with friendlies vs. Argentina, Colombia, England and Italy also in the offing.There will be a desire to see further progress, even if the opposition is of a high caliber. But this young U.S. side has moved forward over the last eight months, at times against difficult opponents. There is excitement to see how much farther it can go.

Next generation has shown the U.S. should trust in youth

4:25 PM ETJames TylerSoccer

For the first time in a while — eight months, at least — the future looks brighter for the U.S. men’s national team. For that reason, the service given by the old guard should remain exactly where it is: in the past. Now is the time for the next generation, several of whom wrestled France’s stars to a creditable 1-1 draw in Lyon on Saturday.If U.S. Soccer is to take a meaningful step forward, following the gut-punching misery of October’s defeat to Trinidad and Tobago and failure to reach the World Cup in Russia, which starts Thursday, it must end the careers of nearly all the players who were part of that debacle in Couva.Granted, France missed enough chances to win several games, but even if you discount the result itself, there was plenty of spirit and optimism to suggest that the U.S. should just move forward from here without the majority players that got them into this strange and uncertain mess. Heck, one of the exceptions to that, Christian Pulisic, wasn’t even playing against the 1998 World Cup winners.Goalkeepers tend to play into their late 30s, but just because Gianluigi Buffon can do it doesn’t mean that the older U.S. shot-stoppers should, at least not at international level. The acrobatic confidence of Zack Steffen against a bleuassault was pleasing to the eye; he’ll surely let in some goals for the national team over the course of his career, but he seems capable of shrugging off a setback.Meanwhile, the defense was battered with 19 shots as France enjoyed 70 percent of possession, but a trio of inexperienced center-backs — Tim Parker, Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers — kept their cool and strained just enough to put France in difficult shooting positions. On the outside, the athleticism of Antonee Robinson and Shaq Moore ably covered up the fact that they’re still learning their responsibilities.The three-man midfield was predictably overrun thanks to a lumpen 5-3-2 formation, but Weston McKennie, Wil Trapp and Tyler Adams atoned by using their stamina and hustle to fill space, deny passing lanes or simply swallow up French attackers to prevent them from clear shots on goal. It wasn’t pretty, and more confidence and calm in possession would also help, but it’s something upon which to build.The U.S. forwards were poor — Bobby Wood tried gamely but strayed offside on what could have been a vital second goal — given the lack of support they received, but Julian Green, back in the fold after a seemingly eternal absence, pounced on his one clear-cut chance and made the hosts pay. That’s all you can really ask for. So who cares if the Americans had only two shots all game and just 30 percent of possession? To frustrate one of the front-runners to win the whole thing in Russia carries its own cultural cachet, and as this group spends more time playing together at the international level (especially when Pulisic returns to the fold), from such green shoots can things truly grow.And therein lies the vital point: Time together is needed before qualifying for the 2022 World Cup begins at the end of next year; the best way to do that is to put the national team’s future at their feet. Arguably the biggest failing of recent years is the attempt to straddle two worlds, balancing the demands of the here-and-now and a CONCACAF trophy or two, with bedding in players to take the team forward.For example, the 2017 Gold Cup was a successful one for the U.S., but the fact that Bruce Arena called for the cavalry — Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and Tim Howard were among those brought in for the knockout rounds — was a grim message. Namely, “Thanks for your help, but we’ll take it from here.” Such shifts should not happen again.Observers have looked at the way Germany rebuilt in the 2000s after its own international humiliation as the template for how the USSF should remake itself. I think that is the wrong approach. Instead, the U.S. should look at how Chile did things.Marcelo Bielsa’s arrival in 2007 was met with skepticism, but he quickly transformed a conservative style of play and trusted in a promising crop of young players — among them Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Gary Medel — who finished third at that year’s Under-20 World Cup. Over time and with consistency, that groundwork yielded success after Bielsa’s exit, including two trips to the World Cup round of 16, back-to-back Copa America titles and a runner-up finish at the 2017 Confederations Cup.The tenets of Bielsa’s coaching went beyond the wacky 3-3-3-1 formation: By drilling his players on their effort, intensity, footballing intelligence and positivity, he created a fearless group — consisting of many largely unheralded players — who took the game to any opponent.”He delivered a message,” author Armando Silva said. “We can play as equals, we can take on the more historically powerful teams and cause them problems, or at least try to, instead of living in constant fear of being thrashed.”The current U.S. squad is experimental and still finding its feet, but the vital thing is that it lacks institutional muscle memory: These players have not carried the weight of a nation by, say, losing to Ghana or missing a chance to beat Belgium at World Cups, or finishing fourth in a Gold Cup that you’re hosting.They have not yet been burdened by the emotional strain of life in the USMNT fishbowl, where a draw against Honduras is used as a bludgeon on social media. As such, there is a blank canvas for the next manager beyond caretaker Dave Sarachan, who deserves credit for leaning on the kids in 2018, to imprint. They’re young, eager, hungry and malleable. Let them fly free.

U.S. get big confidence boost from 1-1 draw vs. star-studded France

Jun 9, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer

, France — The U.S. men’s national team played France to a 1-1 draw in an international friendly on Saturday. Julian Green scored just before half-time, but France dominated possession throughout the match and finally found an equalizer through Kylian Mbappe in the 79th minutes. Here are three thoughts from a credible result for the U.S. overall.

  1. USMNT nearly pulls off a shocker

On paper, the game set up as a total mismatch. The average age of the U.S. starting lineup checked in at 22 years, 183 days, their second-youngest in the modern era (1990-present). Only the U.S. lineup in the recent friendly against Bolivia was younger — by just 23 days. Meanwhile, France featured a lineup littered with stars playing at some of the biggest clubs in the world.Yet the Americans hung tough, and while no one will doubt who the better team is overall, the U.S. by no means embarrassed itself on the night.The U.S. began the match playing in an unfamiliar 5-3-2 formation, and the hosts were soon overloading the wings, looking threatening in possession. Paul Pogba hit the post in the fifth minute and Olivier Giroud had a free header from a set piece that was right at U.S. keeper Zack Steffen.The Americans weren’t helping themselves, with some sloppy play in midfield that sparked some French counterattacks, but the home side couldn’t convert. Antoine Griezmann earned some clear opportunities as the half went on but was unable to find the target. Credit was due to the U.S. defense, which, after looking wobbly early on began to look more organized as the half progressed.The visitors then took a shock lead just before the break. A cross from Shaq Moore was poorly dealt with by Djibril Sidibe and Green was quick to pounce, firing home past Hugo Lloris at the near post. The goal dismayed the crowd who serenaded the home side with whistles and boos as the half ended.The U.S. thought it was two goals up just minutes into the second half as Bobby Wood slotted Moore’s cross home, but he was called offside, a constant problem for him on the night.The Americans looked to have suffered a blow when Matt Miazga, who performed well, was forced off after a clash of heads, but Erik Palmer-Brown entered the match and the U.S. still looked solid.The parade of substitutions didn’t do much to alter the match. France still dominated and the only question was whether the U.S. could hold on. Ultimately it couldn’t. Substitute Benjamin Pavard found space down the right wing, and with Cameron Carter-Vickers losing his footing, his cross found Mbappe who fired home.With the dam finally broken, France went for the winner and nearly found it when Nabil Fekir’s free kick was headed for goal, only for Steffen to deny him with a superb two-handed save. Steffen continued his fine play in the closing stages, delivering a string of superb saves to preserve the result.Given that a blowout seemed likely once the team sheets were released prior to the match, this is a result the U.S. will gladly take. Some of its young players gained valuable experience, and better yet, it’s of the kind that will increase confidence rather than deflate it.

  1. U.S. defense acquits itself well

After playing some version of a 4-1-4-1 for almost the entirety of his tenure, Sarachan trotted out a 5-3-2, with Moore and Antonee Robinson as wing-backs. The U.S. looked overwhelmed early on, and with the midfield slow to provide defensive help out wide, Moore and Robinson looked vulnerable at times. But after about the 15-minute mark, the U.S. was more on the same page, and looked more organized.Granted, they were bound to concede chances against a team of France’s quality, but the U.S. hung tough. Tim Parker and Miazga in particular stood tall, putting out countless fires.For Miazga, this kind of performance has been building for a while. He has spent the last two years at Dutch side Vitesse and has steadily added more composure to his game. Unfortunately for Miazga, his night ended prematurely when a clash of heads with Giroud forced him to be substituted.Parker was something of a surprise given that this was just his second international appearance and first start. But he was everywhere on the night, especially in the opening exchanges when the Americans were looking shaky.oore, Robinson, Palmer-Brown and Carter-Vickers did their collective bit as well. Moore was even one of the better attacking options on the night, continually testing France left-back Benjamin Mendy.Finally, honor is due to Steffen as well. The goalkeeping position looks wide open, but given the way he performed on a reasonably big stage, he has taken the lead in the ongoing U.S. goalkeeper battle.If there was one negative on the night, it was the lack of precision by the U.S. midfield. To be fair, the three-man unit of Wil Trapp, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie defended like demons, but their passing in the middle third was suspect at times, which in turn led to a few counterattacking opportunities for the home side. It’s true that the result is encouraging, but the U.S. will ultimately want to contest such matches on more level terms, and that starts with taking better care of the ball.

  1. Questions for World Cup-bound France to ponder

Les Bleus had been feeling pretty good about themselves thanks to their two previous results, a 3-1 win over Italy and a 2-0 victory over Ireland that wasn’t that close. Have those good vibes evaporated following Saturday night’s draw?On the plus side, France still dominated, and had Griezmann been a bit more clinical on the night, there might have been a few more cheers instead of jeers. But France’s World Cup opponents will take note at how vulnerable Les Bleuslooked at times on the left side of their defense. Bunkering down just might work if that is what is called for.Of course, in a week’s time, when France opens against Australia, this result will largely be forgotten, especially since it managed to get a draw as opposed to a loss. But in the meantime, it’s likely that France’s confidence will have taken a minor hit, though that might not be the worst thing. At the least, there will be no reason for overconfidence.

USMNT Closes Camp, Awkward Period With Nice Lasting Impression vs. France

By AVI CREDITOR June 09, 2018

What most expected to be a one-sided rout wound up being quite the lasting impression. A young and wide-eyed U.S. men’s national team held firm in the face of a world-class France team in Lyon, completing its training camp with a 1-1 draw against Les Bleus on Saturday. France dominated the ball (outpossessed the U.S. 70 percent to 30) and had the lion’s share of chances (outshot the U.S. 19-2), as expected, but the Americans defended with numbers, and goalkeeper Zack Steffen came up big when called upon to ensure all of that amounted to a single goal. Julian Green’s goal out of nowhere–the first U.S. goal ever scored aginst France–opened the scoring just before halftime, but Kylian Mbappe’s equalizer in the 78th minute gave France positive momentum it can take to Russia, while avoiding being sent off with jeers from its own supporters.Here are three thoughts on the surprise result and its possible implications:

A STRONG WAY TO FINISH

This was by no means a perfect game for the U.S., but given the expectations–especially after how things looked against Ireland last week–there was reason to walk away feeling somewhat optimistic. The USA’s 5-3-2 setup–a first deviation from the 4-1-4-1 that has become a staple under interim manager Dave Sarachan–meant the Americans were entering the match ready to concede the ball, and that’s how things played out. Midfielders Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams did yeoman’s work in applying support for the five defenders behind them, and while France whipped in 19 shots, only a handful of them required Steffen to exert himself. We’ve seen this script play out before with U.S. teams in the past. Overmatched in talent, the U.S. defends its heart out and hopes to nick a goal. That came, this time, from Green, who pounced on a terrible Djibril Sidibe touch off a seemingly harmless Shaq Moore cross and beat Hugo Lloris with a first-time finish inside the near post.Was the match a total success? It depends what your hopes were. Intriguing talents Keaton Parks and Andrija Novakovich were healthy scratches, and Tim Weah, who has the most familiarity with France’s stars of anyone, didn’t get off the bench. Only so many can get on the field, but if the point of this camp is seeing what you’ve got, one could argue that some stones were left unturned. The U.S. also did a rather terrible job of relieving the pressure on itself. On a pair of first-half ocassions Matt Miazga attempted to complete passes through the lines and play out of the back, only for unforced errors on the receiving end to cede possession. That’s no way to beat a powerhouse. Every touch has to be crisp, or you risk being ripped apart by a punishing opposition.But Steffen was a rock in the back and has cemented his status as the No. 1 goalkeeper going forward, and the team spirit and fight that U.S. fans have come to recognize (and miss over the course of the last year-plus) were evident again. The end goal, of course, is to be even with or superior to a side like France, not to accept being second-best and absorb its possession and pressure. Perhaps in a few years’ time, this young core will grow to be at that level. In the meantime, it was a strong way to finish a two-week camp.

THE END OF THE TRANSITION PERIOD

Sarachan has steered the U.S. ship in extraordinarily brutal circumstances, and he’s largely, and eventually, done what most in the U.S. supporter peanut gallery wanted. Perhaps not to the full degree, but the list of young players who have received their first caps in the past few months is extensive. He proclaimed that he was setting out to give players a glimpse of what to expect in a national team camp, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean going out and playing all 90 minutes regardless of training performance or opponent, those players have now had a taste.There are few consequences now, of course. It’s widely expected that the U.S. will go in a different direction when it hires a full-time coach, something that now falls under new general manager Earnie Stewart’sumbrella. Without that big unknown answered and without a single competitive match for another year, it’s hard to completely judge just how impactful these last six months were.More tough friendly matches are coming, though, with a fall slate that is expected to include Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Italy and England likely to test this young core even more. Player selection will be up to the new manager, but there’s reason to believe that a lot of the players called in during the March and most recent camps will figure into the picture. Will veterans like Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and others join them? That’s a question for a to-be-hired coach to answer.At last, though, the awkward transition period of purgatory is over. The 2022 cycle begins in a couple of months, and for a program looking forward to getting over its most unthinkable setback, it’s most certainly welcome.

REASON FOR FRENCH WORRY?

France probably expected to steamroll this USA team, and to a large extent it did–everywhere but the scoreboard. Green’s opener right before the halftime whistle brought on the boo birds, though, and the inability to fully break down the U.S. should give reason for pause, given what France can expect in Russia from its group opponents.There’s also the matter of Olivier Giroud, who walked off the field bloodied following a head-to-head collision with Miazga (who reportedly required 15 stitches of his own and has been entered into U.S. Soccer’s concussion protocol). If he’s not ready to go, that takes away an important aspect of Didier Deschamps’s team. Naturally, there are stars in droves waiting in the wings, but none who really play like Giroud. If nothing else, his absence allowed Mbappe to be a more central figure, and he came through with the equalizer.There’s also Lloris, who is a superb shot-stopper but has been prone to the occasional blunder for club and country. While he likely wasn’t expecting Green to win the race to Sidibe’s poor touch and fire away, he has to have his near post covered. That’s a bad goal to concede. The World Cup often comes down to fine margins, and Les Bleus, who will still be among the favorites regardless of the result, have some tidying up to do once they touch down in Russia.

Zack Steffen shines, Julian Green scores as U.S. youngsters earn plucky draw with France

Jun 9, 2018Jason Davis

mistake by France to squeeze out an encouraging 1-1 draw at Groupama Stadium in Lyon.

Positives

With another young lineup put out by caretaker coach Dave Sarachan, the Americans stayed organized and focused for most of the 90 minutes.The French were largely limited to long shots for much of the match, with the trio of center-backs in the 5-3-2 formation doing good work defending deep to prevent chances from inside the box.With the U.S. wilting late in the second half, goalkeeper Zack Steffen came up big with several important saves.

Negatives

Although expected, the lack of possession and real attacking teeth for the Americans will be something of a black mark on the performance. The U.S. finished the match with just over 30 percent possession and managed just two shots. Bobby Wood and Julian Green struggled to get on the ball, with the midfield mostly concerned with defending.

Manager rating out of 10

5 — Sarachan’s defensive setup proved good enough to secure a surprise draw, but with the USMNT in a rebuilding phase, he might have taken the opportunity against one of the best teams in the world to be a bit more aggressive. The experience earned by the litany of young players in the squad will serve them well moving forward, something Sarachan should get some credit for.

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

GK Zack Steffen, 8 — Faced no serious danger in the first half, but came up big with several important saves in the last 45. Hesitant on at least one cross, but was not forced into difficult decisions on many occasions.

DF Shaquell Moore, 5 — Mixed bag over the course of nearly 75 minutes. Provided the cross that led to the U.S. goal, but struggled with 1v1 defending and was occasionally overaggressive.

DF Cameron Carter-Vickers, 5 — Looked composed and relatively comfortable in the first half before fading in the second. Forced to move to the middle of three center-backs with a half-hour to go. Lost Kylian Mbappe on France’s goal.

DF Matt Miazga, 6 — Forced off early in the second half after a clash of heads with Olivier Giroud. Part of a fairly composed group that held the French attack goalless during his period on the pitch.

DF Tim Parker, 7 — Best defender on the field for the United States. Solid positionally and read danger well. Made several important interventions with the U.S, sitting deep.

DF Antonee Robinson, 6 — Grew into the game slowly in just his second appearance for the USMNT. Pushed up into the attack intelligently and provided one excellent cross in the first half.

MF Wil Trapp, 6 — Only Misplaced a few passes on the day while playing the holding midfield role. Found Moore in space leading to a goal that was correctly ruled out for offside early in the second half. Less effective when fatigued in the last 15 minutes.

MF Tyler Adams, 6 — Covered ample ground with the United States playing on the back foot for most of the match. Played confidently and handled defensive work against the likes of Paul Pogba impressively.

MF Weston McKennie, 5 — Only missed two passes, but had limited influence with the ball. Collected three defensive interventions, but was also guilty of turning the ball over on occasion with sloppy play.

FW Julian Green, 7 — Put the United States up just before halftime with an opportunistic strike. Made the most of limited touches and looked to be the most dangerous American on the field, whatever that is worth.

FW Bobby Wood, 4 — Starved of service, but was ineffective when on the ball. Struggled to keep possession with his hold-up play, and made poor decisions off the ball when the Americans attacked. Had the ball in the back of the net early in the second half but was correctly flagged for offside.

Substitutes

DF Erik Palmer-Brown, 5 — Did not look out of place after being forced on with a half-hour to go. Pulled out of position on one occasion and was sloppy with his passing when taking possession in the back.

MF Joe Corona, 5 — Helped with defending by tracking back on multiple occasions, but lost Thomas Lemar on a France chance in added time.

FW Josh Sargent, N/R — Mostly limited to defending in 15 minutes, but again showed his strength with his back to goal. Played a flick on for Adams that almost led to a chance late in the match.

DF DeAndre Yedlin, N/R — Played stay-at-home defense with the Americans trying to close out a narrow win.

DF Jorge Villafana, N/R — Struggled with 1v1 defending. Beaten by Nabil Fekir when one-on-one in the 88th minute.

Player ratings: How did USA fare v. France?

Joe Prince-Wright,NBC Sports Sat, Jun 9 7:28 PM EDT

The U.S. men’s national team were just over 10 minutes away from beating France in Lyon on Saturday, as a virtual USMNT U-23 U.S. side drew 1-1 with one of the favorites to win the World Cup.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Julian Green’s goal right on the stroke of half time put the USMNT ahead (against the run of play), but Les Bleus equalized late on through Kylian Mbappe to deny the U.S. what would have been a shock victory.

Below is a look at the standout performers for Dave Sarachan’s side as they signed off for the summer with a gutsy display.

USA

Zack Steffen: 8 – It seems like the USMNT’s No.1 jersey is now his and the Columbus Crew star looked steady, assured and confident throughout. A late double save from Fekir and Dembele sealed his superb display.

Shaq Moore: 7 – Recovered well after being pinned back early on by Benjamin Mendy‘s marauding runs. Dangerous cross into the box created the chance for the USA’s opener and he crossed for Wood’s offside goal too. Strong display from the Levante right back who gave away a few free kicks cheaply.

Cameron Carter-Vickers: 8 – Led the defense and made some great tackles when covering behind the five-man defensive unit. Kept Olivier Giroud fairly quiet and was calm in possession. Mature, commanding display from the 20-year-old.

Matt Miazga: 6 – Really good in possession with some lovely long passes out of the back and solid enough positionally. Replaced early in the second half after a nasty clash of heads with Olivier Giroud as a corner came in.

Tim Parker: 6 – Caught out of position a few times and one moment of naivety almost let Kylian Mbappe in during the first half, but put his body on the line in a typically committed display.

Antonee Robinson: 6 – Didn’t really get the chance to get forward but solid enough defensively. Did enough to warrant enough chance despite France’s equalizer coming from his side of the pitch.

Will Trapp: 5 – Tidier on the ball than his other midfield partners but the USMNT skipper struggled to impact the tempo of the game.

Tyler Adams: 6 – Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante are tough to lock down and Adams’ duel with Kante in particular was tasty. His engine is incredible and he kept popping up to keep things ticking over nicely.

Weston McKennie: 4 – Struggled to get on the ball and gave Pogba a little too much time to pick his passes. A learning experienced for the youngster who had a few heavy touches.

Bobby Wood: 4 – Strayed offside as he thought he had scored the USA’s second goal and he really should have been able to delay his run. The Hamburg man worked hard, as always, but didn’t get much service.

Julian Green: 5 – Scored a shock opener right on half time with a snapshot at the near post but had one bad giveaway and barely touched the ball in the first half apart from his fourth goal for the USA. Quiet second half.

Subs
Erik Palmer-Brown on for Matt Miazga (60′) – 6 – Sat in alongside Parker and CCV and was solid enough.
Joe Corona on for Julian Green (70′) – 5 – Flashed an effort across goal late on but caught out defensively. DeAndre Yedlin on for Shaq Moore (74′) – 5 – Didn’t get a chance to impact the match.
Josh Sargent on for Bobby Wood (74′) – 6 – Looked lively in his brief cameo and set up Corona for a chance. Jorge Villafana on for Antonee Robinson (82′) – 5 – Didn’t have much time to make an impact.

The U.S. men missed the World Cup. What does the future hold from here?

 explains why focus in squad selection should be players eligible for the Olympics. (4:35)

Jun 9, 2018Noah Davis

When the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off on June 14, it will be the first tournament since 1986 without the United States national team. That’s the bad news: an unmitigated failure at the top of the American men’s program. Soccer, however, goes on.There will be life after the 32 squads leave Russia and another World Cup just four years away. The big question is how good can the U.S. be, assuming the squad qualifies for Qatar? The answer is that there are signs of life and in some ways, missing out on the 2018 event might — I stress might — speed the process along. “You have to qualify for the World Cup. There’s no way to go around it,” said Tab Ramos, U.S. youth technical director. “But I do believe from where I’m sitting at the youth levels, this is going to open opportunities that should have been given already … The fact is that this has opened the door and sped up the process to take advantage.”There’s always a generational switch and a re-evaluation of talent after a World Cup, but the act of not reaching the tournament in Russia forces those decisions to come sooner. It’s given some younger players a chance to play for the national team before they would have otherwise while also prioritizing a look into the current pool, especially after such an epic failure.Two players who fall into the latter category are Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, leaders on the 2018 qualifying campaign that came up short. Determining what (if any) role they will play going forward is one of the first questions the new coach needs to answer.To get a sense of where they might stand, I called up a couple of scouts who work domestically and abroad. (They were offered anonymity in exchange for their unvarnished opinions.)”Realistically in four years, Michael’s 34 and Jozy’s 32,” one scout said. “I think we are going to need them especially through qualifying. But are we going to be able to rely on them like we would have this year? It’s tough to say.”

Another took a more hard-line approach.

“Let’s give Michael all his due for what he’s done in the past, but if we’re going to be moving forward and doing what’s best for the future, I think from day one the new coach is bringing in the young players, and players like Bradley and [Jozy] Altidore should not be involved,” he said. “They had their opportunity.  The truth naturally lies somewhere in the middle. Altidore and Bradley — along with others like Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Jorge Villafana, Graham Zusi, Eric Lichaj, Alejandro Bedoya, Geoff Cameron and Brad Guzan — have small roles to play in the future, especially in the short term, but they shouldn’t be key cogs by the time the U.S. is closing in on Qatar. (The older generation like Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, and DaMarcus Beasley should have played their last meaningful games.)

So, then: Where should the U.S. start building?

That process begins with one person: Christian Pulisic. It might seem obvious but the Borussia Dortmund star is the best and most dynamic player on the American team; he’s the key to the future. He’ll initiate the attack, provide the spark and potentially be the first true American superstar.”The team has to revolve around him and what he does,” Ramos said. That’s a lot to ask of a 19-year-old, and he’s going to need help. Look no further than another teenager, Schalke’s Weston McKennie, to provide some of that support.”A healthy Weston definitely will be involved,” one scout said. “He can be a top-of-the-line starter right now.”Other players with more national team experience who should be a major part of the mix going forward are John Brooks — “I don’t think we are going to turn away a healthy John Brooks,” one scout said — and DeAndre Yedlin, who became just the fourth American field player to start 30 Premier League games in a season. Kellyn Acosta boasts a versatile skill set and a deadly free kick. Matt Miazga has the inside track on a center-back role, but he will face challenges from emerging talents like Cameron Carter-Vickers and Erik Palmer-Brown, both of whom will compete for roles in the middle.”There are a lot of guys who did well with us that have not taken a huge step yet, but I think will,” Ramos said. “For me, Palmer-Brown is a center-back and yet goes to CONCACAF U-20 Championship and gets the Golden Ball playing as a defensive mid. I think that’s pretty significant. He’s been to the last two World Cups. He was a great captain of the last run when we ended in sixth place. I think down the road he’s one that challenges for a spot in two or three years down the road. He has to.”Ramos also cited Keaton Parks, the 20-year-old Benfica midfielder who recently got his first cap, as someone who could make an impact.Nineteen-year-old New York Red Bull dynamo Tyler Adams continues to improve dramatically as well, covering a ridiculous amount of ground in midfield and could form a wrecking crew with McKennie alongside him. Scouts do question his ability to pass in tight situations, noting his struggles against a physical and technical Venezuela team in the U-20 World Cup, and wonder if right-back is ultimately Adams’ best spot. But as another scout said, “It’s very easy to throw him out as a right-back whenever. What separates Adams from a lot of top youth national team players is he has that attitude. He wants to be the best. He wants to be better.”Further down the pecking order, but pushing for spots and certainly in the mix for the future, are players like Josh Sargent — “One of the purest strikers that we have coming up in the system right now,” one scout said — and Tim Weah, who is working with David Hernandez at PSG. They’ve gotten tastes of the highest level but need to keep improving. Andrew Carleton, the bright young thing with Atlanta United, is another player in that category, although he’s further behind.”I like [Carleton], but he’s more show than substance, ultimately, at the high level,” a scout said. “I don’t think over time he will really make it stick.”This year is a big one for all three as they attempt to build some momentum.”Sometimes because you’re a young player, you get put on the first team and your only job on the first team is not to screw up,” Ramos said. “Now you need to step it up. If you’re a player like Carleton, Weah or Sargent, if you’re going to go to the first team, you need to make plays. You need to win the game. You play in positions that require you winning games. Not just passing the ball to the next guy who’s open. So that’s the next step.””The advantage that they are getting now is not going to make a difference if they don’t take advantage at their clubs.”A final factor in the success of the American squad going forward is going to be finding a capable leader, as the group that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup lacked such a figure.”You had guys like Clint [Dempsey] and Tim [Howard] who are exceptional at what they do, but they are not natural leaders and they aren’t really looking to be that,” one of the scouts I talked to said. “You’re looking to take ownership of that, but they don’t, so who are you left with? Bradley, who certainly wants to be that guy, but within the dynamic might not be that guy, and then Jozy, who people know isn’t that guy.”oing forward, Pulisic would be a natural choice because of his impressive talent, but it’s an open question whether he wants to wear the armband. Ramos does believe he has the personality to be a leader.While someone like Wil Trapp might fit the bill — a “23-year old who acts like he’s 30” with a natural disposition to lead — he likely won’t be a sure-thing starter. Elsewhere “there are quite a few guys who don’t need to wear the captain’s band to be a leader: Weston [McKennie], Tyler [Adams], Kellyn [Acosta],” said Ramos. “They all have great leadership qualities, as do Carter-Vickers and Miazga.”The point is that the players and the capabilities are there. It’s just time to realize the potential. The American team can be good, but for that to happen, the younger generation needs their time to come fast.

A few other names to watch

Four years is an eternity in international soccer. (In June 2014, Christian Pulisic was still playing for the PA Classics, eight months removed from joining Borussia Dortmund.) With that in mind, here’s an additional Starting XI of players with a chance to contend for a spot on the 2022 World Cup squad. Some of these players have earned national team calls, while others are barely playing for their club teams, but all got at least one mention from the experts who talked for this story.

Goalkeeper: Alex Bono (Toronto FC)

Defenders: Antonee Robinson (Everton), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Tim Parker (New York Red Bulls), Danilo Acosta (Real Salt Lake)

Midfielders: Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Emerson Hyndman (AFC Bournemouth), Chris Durkin (D.C. United), Luca de la Torre (Fulham)

Forwards: Brandon Vazquez (Atlanta United), Nick Taitague (FC Schalke)

Antonee Robinson was raised in Liverpool, ready to break out for U.S.

Jun 7, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer

LYON, France — When Antonee Robinson was growing up in Liverpool, England, he would overdose on American television, spending his days glued to the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. He counted “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and “Hannah Montana” as his favorites. He couldn’t get enough of Star Wars, either, taking on the nickname “Jedi” when he was 5 years old, one that has stuck to this day.”I don’t remember it but my mum tells me that I watched those shows so much that I used to talk with an American accent. People used to ask if I was American when I was younger,” he told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview. He then grinned: “That’s pretty embarrassing.”Rest assured, Robinson’s accent now is Liverpool through and through, but his American connection remains, and he recently made his first forays with the U.S. men’s national team. The Everton left-back got his first experience with the U.S. during a camp prior to last March’s friendly against Paraguay. Then on Memorial Day he made his international debut, playing the whole 90 minutes in a 3-0 win over Bolivia, a stint that saw him assist on Timothy Weah’s second-half goal.”Obviously, you don’t expect to just turn up and be a member of the team straight away,” said Robinson. “You’ve got to work your way in and then earn the trust of your teammates and the manager. I feel like I’ve done as much as I can to show that I want to be in this team and I want to get a starting place.”obinson’s American ties run deeper than just his affection for the country’s pop culture, though. His father, Marlon, was born in England but spent some of his formative years in White Plains, New York. The elder Robinson later played collegiate soccer at Duke University from 1981 to 1984; it proved to be enough time to acquire U.S. citizenship, which he eventually passed down to Antonee. The younger Robinson even recalls family trips to New York for Christmas and vacations in Florida.I do feel like I have that connection,” he said.It’s one that was almost buried. There are obstacles to be overcome in every international career, but Robinson has had more than his share; he also has the scars to prove it. As he sits down in the lounge of the U.S. team hotel, one can’t help but notice the 5-inch surgical scars running down the front of each knee. The one on his left knee was needed to repair a fractured patella he suffered in 2014. A year later, he was forced to undergo micro-fracture surgery on his right knee, which sidelined him for the entire 2015-16 season.Robinson said it was the support of his father that kept him going. Marlon Robinson had seen his own career ended by a broken ankle and didn’t want to see his son’s career ruined in the same way.”He’d say how he didn’t have the physios that we have, and he didn’t have the attitude,” the younger Robinson said. “He would always say to me, ‘You’re lucky — you’ve got someone to tell you that you need a strong mental attitude and to come back stronger.'”Everton, who signed Robinson as an 11-year-old, stuck by him through all of these travails, and the defender has been able to stay healthy since then. The 2016-17 campaign was spent with Everton’s U-23 team, allowing him to log minutes and prove his fitness. This past season, he spent the year on loan with second-tier Bolton Wanderers, with the club avoiding relegation on the last day of the campaign thanks to a 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest. Survival was achieved thanks to two goals in the last four minutes, plus the fact that both Burton Albion and Barnsley lost.”It was ridiculous,” said Robinson. “When were 1-0 up, we celebrated as if we’d won the World Cup final. Then we dropped back to 2-1 down and you’re just thinking, ‘How has this happened to us?’ Thankfully we stuck in it, we kept our heads up and got the win.”The escape has allowed Robinson to enjoy his most recent involvement with the U.S. team with a clear head, enabling him to sharpen some aspects of his game in the process.”Everything speeds up,” said Robinson about his time with the U.S. squad. “Even though we’ve got a pretty young group, the first thing I noticed when I came into camp was that everyone was quicker, sharper to the ball. There’s a lot of energy, and obviously a different style of play to how we played at Bolton. I think it’s a lot more possession, passing and moving the ball. Everyone is really confident as well, so you know you’ve just got to be yourself out there.”Whether Robinson sees the field in Saturday’s friendly against France is still unknown, though it seems likely that caretaker manager Dave Sarachan will opt for the more experienced head of Jorge Villafana. But Robinson is looking ahead as well. There’s a new manager, Marco Silva, to impress at Everton. Robinson is also age-eligible to take part in the 2020 Olympics.”From a young age, it’s always been a dream to go to the Olympics,” he said. “It’s not really been on my mind in recent years because I’ve never really thought a lot about it, but then coming back to the U.S., and knowing that I’m eligible for the next one — it’s in Tokyo, a place I’d love to go — is really exciting. I hope I go to that.”All in all, he sounds like a player who is more than comfortable to be called an American.

2026 World Cup vote: Politics out of United Bid’s control – U.S.’s Cordeiro

MOSCOW — For months, the leaders of the United States-led North American bid for the 2026 World Cup have been doing everything they can to convince the 200-plus global soccer federations to vote for them instead at Wednesday’s FIFA Congress.”We’ve been working basically nonstop,” U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said here on Sunday night. “But there are some things out of our control, too.”At the top of that uncontrollable list? Politics. Because while Cordeiro reiterated on Sunday that no federation has questioned him directly about the Trump administration or its policies, he conceded that it is impossible to know how the ever-charged atmosphere around President Trump will affect the voters and the countries they represent.In many ways, it is the only significant wild card in this race.”We don’t control a lot of things, including what’s happening in Singapore,” Cordeiro said, referring to President Trump’s scheduled meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un this week. “Geopolitics is outside our terrain. And there’s always risk.”Because Wednesday’s vote is an open ballot, there has always been the concern that how a country feels politically about the United States (or Canada or Mexico or Morocco) could affect how that country’s federation president chooses to vote.And, with President Trump in the news for any number of controversies — including North Korea discussions, intense interactions with G7 countries and even a back-and-forth with the Canadian prime minister — politics provides a never-ending stream of news, much of it potentially awkward for the so-called United Bid.This week’s uncertainty comes after Trump in May questioned why the U.S. should support other countries who might lobby against the North American bid. Cordeiro then had to say Trump’s comment was not a threat.The irony, Cordeiro said, is that the Trump administration has provided “amazing” support to the bid, offering ironclad guarantees about visas, infrastructure and other details that were key to the United Bid receiving such dominant marks in FIFA’s technical evaluation of the two bids.On Monday, Cordeiro and other bid leaders will make a final pitch to each of FIFA’s confederations. Then there will be a bit more hand-shaking and late-night lobbying before Wednesday’s decision, where — assuming all eligible nations cast a vote — the magic number for victory is 104 votes.After several months of campaigning (the United Bid estimated it has met with 150 federations in person), Cordeiro struck a confident tone — “We can’t think about losing” — but is also leery of assuming anything. After all, it was just eight years ago that the United States thought it was going to win the hosting bid for the 2022 World Cup, only to lose to Qatar in a decision that has since led to multiple corruption investigations.”I feel we have a path to victory,” Cordeiro said, adding that he believes there will be “surprises” when the ballots are made public and everyone can see how widespread the United Bid’s support runs.Several small-but-important details about the ballot itself were handled on Sunday, including FIFA’s ratification of both bids as well as whether four American protectorates — American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico — will cast ballots or have to abstain as the official bidders do. According to Cordeiro, it appears that as each of those countries has an independent soccer federation, all will be able to cast a vote.There was also a ceremony to determine the speaking order when the bids address the Congress on Wednesday. After a drawing of lots, the United Bid will go first.

Eleven snap 4-game winless skid behind Watson, Mitchell strikes

Kevin Johnston, Special to IndyStarPublished 10:45 p.m. ET June 9, 2018 | Updated 10:53 p.m. ET June 9, 2018

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INDIANAPOLIS – The Indy Eleven were one of the surprises out of the gates in the USL Eastern Conference this season, racking up road results early on while only losing twice to one of the league’s elite teams in FC Cincinnati.Then came a rough spell. The Eleven went winless over a four-game stretch prior to Saturday’s match against Atlanta United 2, falling out of the all-important top eight — the playoff zone — in their conference.Indy snapped out of its funk Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium with a convincing 2-0 win over Atlanta in front of an announced 10,034 supporters. Eleven captain Matt Watson stepped in front of a lazy pass by a United defender and slotted the ball past opposing goalkeeper Paul Christensen for Indy’s first goal. Defender Carlyle Mitchell added the second on a corner kick by Ayoze.”It feels good,” said Indy coach Martin Rennie of ending the slide. “I thought we played well tonight. It’s probably our best performance together so far this season.”Atlanta saw plenty of the ball, holding a 63 to 37 percent possession advantage in the first half. The visitors’ problem, however, was turning that edge into anything remotely productive. Before the break, United only recorded two shots — zero on goal.Indy was content to allow United to pitter-patter around with the ball in exchange for being the more direct side. Indy’s offense wasn’t dynamic, as its often failed to be this season, but it did generate the more quality chances of the two teams.Atlanta finished with 58 percent of the possession, but only put one shot on target compared to Indy’s seven. United also completed 160 more passes than the hosts, most of which led to aimless position with no end product.Indy midfielder Seth Moses made a rare appearance in the starting 11. He turned in a solid shift at right midfield, contributing on both sides of the ball.”That was uplifting, man,” Moses said of the result. “I hope after tonight we celebrate together, we all laugh and smile together, and we keep going. This is just the beginning.””I thought (Moses) did well,” Rennie added. “He was good in his pressure. He helped us down that right side. We didn’t really give up any chances down there and I thought he created a few opportunities.”Indy (fives wins, three draws, four losses, 18 points) will return to action against cellar-dweller Toronto FC II next Saturday on the road. TFC II, the reserve side of defending MLS champion Toronto FC, has been dreadful this season through 13 games with no wins, two draws and 11 losses.

2018 World Cup team preview: England

Andy Edwards,NBC Sports 16 hours ago

Getting to know England: It’s been 28 years since England last reached the semifinals of the World Cup, but — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — this might just be the year the Three Lions reclaim their place as one of the world’s very best.For the first time this decade, injuries to key players aren’t a problem. For the first time this decade, the stars appear to be held to the exact same standards as everyone else on the roster. For the first time in nearly two decades, the squad is young (average age: 25.6 years old), ambitious, cohesive and full of ideas. For the first time ever, expectations are extremely low and these Three Lions will outperform what is currently thought possible.

What group are they in? Group F, where they’re second favorites to finish first, with an outside shot at beating Belgium to the top spot. That England-Belgium matchup will likely determine first place on the final day of the group.

Monday, June 18: Tunisia vs. England, Volgograd, 2 p.m. ET
Sunday, June 24: England vs. Panama, Nizhny Novgorod, 8 a.m. ET Thursday, June 28: England vs. Belgium, Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET

Projected lineup (3-5-2) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

— Pickford —

— Walker —— Stones —— Cahill —

— Dier —

— Trippier —— Alli ——  Henderson —— Rose —

— Kane —— Sterling —

Star player: Harry Kane – 30 goals in the Premier League, plus another 11 in the Champions League and FA Cup — 2017-18 was the first time Kane surpassed the 40-goal mark in a season, but not the first time he’d come close (35 last season). Since becoming Tottenham Hotspur’s main man in the 2014-15 season — just after the last World Cup — he’s scored 135 goals in 187 appearances across all competitions (105 in 139 in the PL). Arguably the best no. 9 in the world, the next month could be Kane’s arrival to super-duper-stardom.

Manager: Gareth Southgate – The former England defender (57 caps) has been in charge since Roy Hodgson departed post-EURO 2016, and guided the Three Lions to an unbeaten qualifying campaign, with draws away to Slovenia and Scotland. The 47-year-old has been pretty consistent in playing a back-three, affording an extra body in midfield and typically deploying a partnership up top rather than a lone figure.

Secret weapon: Raheem Sterling – It’s a bit rich to call a player who’s coming off of a 18-goal, 11-assist season (in the PL; 23 and 12 in all competitions) a “secret” weapon, but with all the attention Kane’s getting — and rightly so — it feels like Sterling’s something of a forgotten man. His versatility and ability to operate in all different areas of attack — wide right as a winger; wide left as an inside forward; through the center as a second striker off a bigger man in Kane — make him the perfect piece to shift around the field when Southgate looks to change shape.

Prediction: The round of 16 is the bare minimum expectation, and they’ll get there, at which point it’s all about the matchup in the knockout rounds. Finishing second means a likely meeting with Germany in the quarterfinals, while winning the group would likely set up a battle with Brazil for a place in the semifinals.

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6/7/18  Indy 11 home vs Atlanta Sat, US Ladies Thurs 9 pm FS1, USMNT vs France ESPN2 3 pm Sat, World Cup Preview, Carmel FC Tryouts Mon/Tues 6/11-12

INDY 11 Home Sat 7 pm 

Our Indy 11 will return to the field this Saturday, June 9th  at 7 pm with a home match-up with Atlanta United.  Of course discount tickets below $15 are available Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter 2018 INDY as the promo code – It will be the last chance to catch our Indy 11 in person until June 30th.

USMNT loses 2-1, Plays France Sat 3 pm ESPN

WORLD CUP TEAMS ON TV THIS WEEK

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The youthful USMNT got a wake-up call in Ireland over the weekend as the experience of the Irish side came to bear in a 2-1 defeat for the Red, White and Blue.  The US got on the board first late in the 1st half as Bobby Wood poached another goal for country on a corner kick. But in the end – the experience of the Irish squad — including the retiring John O’Shea who left after his _____  cap/game for the Green was too much as 2 second half goals gave them the win.  The young US team struggled – US Goalkeeper Bill Hamid had a forgettable day as his blunders cost the US both goals.  Obviously, at least early on, the move to Europe, where he has yet to break into the starting line-up, has not helped Hamid to this point.  The step-up in competition also showed in the midfield as youngsters McKinnie, Will Trapp, and Tyler Adams were often over run – and in the center of D where Carter-Vickers, and Matt Miazga struggled especially in the 2nd half. Winger Tim Weah looked good again and had a chance or two that could have given the US the win. Overall – a good learning experience for the US  – who honestly played well enough to secure this victory.  Off to France now where a match with a team expected to fight for a Semi-Final berth in the World Cup awaits.  It will be interesting to see how we hold up against some of the best young players in the world like Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Antoine Greizmann and more on Saturday afternoon at 3 pm on ESPN.   Of course the US Ladies have a double with China this Thurs 9 pm on FS1 and next Tues at 7 pm on ESPN2 here are 3 keys to the challenge as they prepare for the She Believes Cup in July.

WORLD CUP TEAMS ON TV THIS WEEK

As the World Cup is just around the corner with a June 14th start on Fox – we get lots of teams playing this week in their last warm up games before the cup.  Thurs we get England vs Costa Rica at 3 pm on FS1, and Portugal vs Algeria at 3:15 on beIN Sport.  Friday gives us Germany vs Saudi Arabia at 1:3o pm on ESPN Desportes and Poland vs Chile at 2:45 pm on beIN Sport.  Sat has the US vs France of course at 3 pm on ESPN, along with Spain vs Tunisia at 2:45 pm on ESPN Desp. Of course the World Cup itself starts next Thursday, June 14th at 11 am on Fox with the home side Russia taking on Saudi Arabia. Friday gives us Egypt and Mo Salah we hope vs Uruguay on FS1 at 8 am, Morroco vs Iran at 11 am on Fox, and the biggest game of the first weekend at 1 pm on FOX as Portugal and Renaldo faces Spain and all of their superstars like De Gea, Sergio Ramos, Gerald Pique and too many more to list.  Big time Big Game!!  Big Games Saturday include Argentina and Messi vs European overachiever Iceland at 9 am on Fox and Croatia vs Nigeria at 3 pm on FS1.  Sunday we get THE OTHER SHOWDOWN in Round 1 – defending Champs Germany vs America’s Team Mexico at 11 am on Fox Sport 1.  See the entire schedule and a boatload of Stories, previews and predictions below.  And of course don’t forget I have a World Cup Poolclick here to join.  Make yourself a login and play along. With the US out and my 2 other favorites Italy and the Netherland’s out I figured I better do something to give myself more reason’s to watch all the games.  J  I will share my favorites to advance, get to the final 4 and win in next week’s edition of the OleBallcoach on Friday.  Until – Enjoy the Biggest Sporting Event in the World – and lets hope like heck we hear on Wednesday at 6 am that the US will host the 2026 edition!

 Carmel FC

So a huge congratulations to my coaching buddy – Jeff Oberndorfer – his U-18/19 boys wrapped up their season last week undefeated in this their last season together. I had the privilege to coach on the same field with Jeff and share many a scrimmage along the way – the ultimate professional he keeps his practices loose but intense and did a heck of job with the 1999/2000’s. This team was our second full group from our second “official season” of travel soccer at Carmel FC starting at then U10 going thru now the U19’s.  Jeff’s team’s many accomplishments included having players on Guerin, Carmel, Park Tudor and Brebeuf High School teams, multiple tournament wins, a run to the Challenge Cup final weekend 2 years back, and President’s Cup Finals last spring. It all culminated with a league title run and undefeated season this spring. at U19. Congrats on a great season  – You Represented Carmel FC Well !!  U19 Team Pictures

Here is the full U19 Group with Head Coach Jeff Oberndorfer (right) Asst Dan Rowe (Lft) U19 Boys Originals

Special congrats to these 5 players (L to R – Chad Oblazney, Eric Banda,  Bennett Lawlor, Wes Watson, and Will Oberndofer GK who started their Carmel FC careers as U10 boys and stayed with us the entire time thru U19. (Our 1st U10 team to play their way all the way thru with Carmel FC).

Carmel FC folks a reminder to please sign up before tryouts on Monday so we can get a feel on #s of players coming out.  Also Coaches – our Annual CFC Coaches Game will be Thursday after Tryouts – Thurs June 14th at 6:30 pm at Shelbourne.  Please RE: if you can play – managers and Asst coaches also welcome and of course your players can come cheer you on!

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Tryouts for Carmel FC – @ Shelbourne Fields

Mon/Tues June 11 & 12 (U11-U13 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm), (U14-U19 – 7:15 pm – 8:30 pm)

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Carmel FC Coaches Game @ Shelbourne Fields

Thursday, June 14th 6:30 pm

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GAMES ON TV

Thur, June 7  

3 pm FS1                   England vs Costa Rica

3:15 pm beIN Spt     Portugal vs Algeria

9 pm FS1                   US Ladies vs China

Fri, June 8  

1:30 pm ESPN3/Des Germany vs Saudi Arabia

2:45 pm beIN Spt     Poland vs Chile

8 pm ESPN+              Philly vs Toronto FC

Sat, June 9  

2:45 pm ESPN3/Dep Spain vs Tunisia

3 pm ESPN           France vs USA Men

5 pm ESPN             Columbus Crew vs NY Red Bulls

7 pm Myindy23  Indy 11 vs Atlanta United (BYB @Union Jack Pub)

Tues, June 12

7 pm ESPN2        USA Women vs China

Thur, June 14        World Cup on Fox

11 am Fox              Russia vs Saudi Arabia

Fri, June 15           World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox Sport1     Egypt (Salah) vs Uruguay

11 am Fox              Morocco vs Iran

1 pm Fox                Portugal (Renaldo) vs Spain

Sat, June 16          World Cup on Fox

6 am FS1                France vs Australia

9 am Fox                Argentina (Messi) vs Iceland

12 noon FS1           Peru vs Denmark

3 pm FS1                Croatia vs Nigeria

7 pm ESPN+        Toronto II vs Indy 11

Sun, June 17         World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox 59          Costa Rica vs Serbia

11 am Fox Sp1   Germany vs Mexico 

2 pm FS1               Brazil vs Switzerland

World Cup on Fox TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

SUMMER CAMPS

Carmel High Girls Middle School Soccer Camp  Ages middle schoolers – June 18, 20, 25, 27 July 16, 17, 18, 19 at Murray 3-5 pm $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Skills Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 8:30-10:30 am $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Tactical Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 @ Murray 11 am-1 pm $85

Butler Bulldog Soccer Camps – full day $255

McCordsville/Ronald McDonald House – Greater Indy 3 vs 3 – June 23

www.3v3live.com  $200 per team up to six players. Each player will receive a t-shirt, top three teams in each division get custom medals, top four qualify for Regionals the road to Disney. Full details and fun details on our tourney https://www.3v3live.com/mcdonalds

Indy 11

3 Keys to the loss vs Charleston Battery

Indy 11 Schedule

USL Standings

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Saturday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Flex Packs: Discount Indy 11 Flex Pack Tickets
Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Don’t forget to catch the BYB Facebook Live prior to every game!  Join us at Gate 10 and be a part of the audience.

Louisville FC dumps NE Revolution out of US Open Cup

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB –Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club

Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate Ten BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate Ten is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate Ten—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games!  Click HERE to purchase your pass today. You Won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing, screaming, singing, dancing, and partying with the BEST SUPPORTERS SECTION in the US – the BYB.

 USA

Who Would have Been on the a US World Cup Team this Summer – yahoo – Doug McIntyre

Own Goal The Inside Story of Why the US Didn’t Make the World Cup – the Ringer

North American Bid – Outscores – High Risk Morocco Bid

USA vs France Preview – Dylan Butler MLS.com

US Shows Inexperience in Late Loss to Ireland – Jeff Carlisle – ESPNFC

Player Ratings – Jason Davis – ESPNFC

Player Ratings – Greg Seltzer – MLS.com

Why Big Clubs covet Chrisian Pulisic’s Potential – ESPNFC Raphael Honiqstein

5 Things to Know – US Ladies vs China Thurs Night

Malory Pugh out with Knee Injury

US Ladies – Rose Lavelle Joins US WMNT Camp Prior to China Game

Hope Solo – calls for More Women to Stand Up for Equal Pay – ESPNW

Youth Technical program with Tom Byer in Seattle Cancelled by US Soccer–Grant Wahl SI

 World Cup

World Cup Predictions – SI Planet Futbol

United States of El Tri – Mexico Owns US World Cup Spotlight – SI Brian Straus

Why America Should Root for Mexico in this World Cup – ESPN MAG

World Cup Rosters Are Announced – ESPNFC

France’s and Man United’s Paul Pogba is ready to Shine – ESPN Mag Feature –

WORLD CUP PREVIEW all 32 Nations – ESPNFC

Team by Team Game Schedules

World Cup Odds CBS Sports

 YAHOO FC Team previews

Group A: Russia | Saudi Arabia | Egypt | Uruguay
Group B: Portugal | Spain | Morocco | Iran
Group C: France | Australia | Peru | Denmark
Group D: Argentina | Iceland | Croatia | Nigeria
Group E: Brazil | Switzerland | Costa Rica | Serbia
Group F: Germany | Mexico | Sweden | South Korea
Group G: Belgium | Panama | Tunisia | England
Group H: Poland | Senegal | Colombia | Japan

Group previews

Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D | Group E | Group F | Group G | Group H

Exploding Heads ESPNFC group previews VIDEOS

Group A: Intimidating crests & Salah’s meteoric rise

Group B: Ronaldo quiz & Carlos Queiroz ‘exclusive’

Group C: French Mourinho & undercover research

Group D: The World Cup’s nice group

Group E: Be very afraid of Brazil’s squad

Group F: The best team with the worst nickname

Group G: Can we just talk about England?

Group H: Poland’s crest, Senegal’s nickname & conundrums

Argentina – Team Guide – The Guardian

Austrailia Team Guide

Denmark Team Guide

Egypt – Team Guide

France – Team Guide – The Guardian

Iceland  Team Guide– The Gaurdian

Morocco Team Tuide

Peru Team Guide

Portugal Team Guide

Russia – Team Guide

Saudia Arabia Team Guide

Serbia Team Guide

Spain – Team Guide – The Guardian

Uruguay Team Guide

Champions League

Top 10 Goals of the Season

Squad of the Season

INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONS CUP SKILLS CHALLENGE

The International Champions Cup Skills Challenge is a FREE event, coming to Chicago at Toyota Park on June 10th! Participants will engage in four challenges, receiving points based upon their performance in dribbling, shooting, juggling and passing. Top participants will be awarded in each of the three age groups (U12, U16 and Open age) in male and female divisions. Winners will receive two match tickets to the International Champions Cup match between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund on 7.20.18 and will be awarded their trophy during halftime! Click Here to Register

FIFA: North American 2026 World Cup bid outscores ‘high-risk’ Morocco

Jun 1, 2018Associated Press

FIFA judged Morocco’s 2026 World Cup proposals to be “high-risk” in three areas and offered significant praise for the North American bid, which outscored its rival by a wide margin in an inspection evaluation report published on Friday.The joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico scored 4 out of 5, while Morocco scored 2.7 following FIFA inspections.Morocco’s risks relate to stadiums, accommodation and transport. No part of the North America bid was flagged a high risk, and FIFA said it “has a clear lead” to advance the governing body’s mission to “push new boundaries in terms of sports-related technology and engagement” since stadiums and hotels already exist.FIFA’s five-man panel could have disqualified Morocco had the North African country scored less than two overall, and less than two on key measures, including stadiums.The FIFA Council has to approve both candidates at a June 10 meeting in Moscow. The final vote of up to 207 member federations is on June 13, and the inspection task force scores can be ignored when making their decision.The 2026 World Cup is the first tournament FIFA has confirmed will expand from 32 to 48 teams — putting increasing demands on the stadiums and facilities required to stage 80 games.While Morocco has said it needs to spend almost $16 billion on infrastructure for the 48-team World Cup, including building or renovating all 14 stadiums, North America does not require any tournament-specific building work.”The amount of new infrastructure required for the Morocco 2026 bid to become reality cannot be overstated,” the bid evaluation task force said. “The Morocco 2026 bid and United 2026 bid represent two almost opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the nature of their bids.”The North Americans scored the only maximum 5 mark for its ticketing and hospitality plans, which helped drive a forecast revenue for the tournament of $14.3 billion, “significantly higher” than Morocco’s $7.2 billion. However, the lowest mark out of 5 for either bid in each of nine categories is 2.0 for the North American bids’ projected organising costs, which were driven up by having 16 stadiums instead of the minimum 12.In 20 categories evaluated for risk, the North American bid had three medium-risk areas — government support, human rights and labor standards, and organizing costs — and 17 low-risk. Morocco had the three high-risk sections, 10 medium-risk — also including human rights and labor standards — and seven low-risk.Guillermo Cantu, general secretary of the Mexican football federation, said FIFA’s ratings reflected well on the United bid.”It’s a candidature with very low risk, practically none,” he said. “It is good for us because it confirms that we have a responsible candidature, with stadiums already constructed, base camps operating and all the communications and lodging ready and operating. In the next eight years, there will be an improvement in infrastructure in stadiums in all North America.”FIFA ordered more-rigorous inspections after criticism of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes in 2010, with a five-man delegation this time paying the countries weeklong visits in April.FIFA sent a second group of officials to Morocco after finding deficiencies in their bid offering, including the stadiums proposed. The Associated Press also revealed that Morocco did not declare its anti-LGBT law to football’s governing body in the human-rights risk assessment included in the bid book.”The documents submitted do not specifically discuss risks to some potentially affected groups, such as representatives of the LGBTI+ community,” the FIFA report said. “Also absent from the documents is a comprehensive methodology to prioritize risks.”The new batch of technical staff being deployed from FIFA headquarters to Morocco did not make a similar follow-up visit to North America after the task force inspected the rival bid’s facilities this month.But the North American campaign has been dogged by questions on the impact of policies from the Trump administration, including attempts to implement a ban on travel by residents of six majority-Muslim countries. The U.S. has offered fresh guarantees to FIFA that there will be no discrimination around entry to the United States at a World Cup in 2026.”Due to new entry regulations that are currently being proposed in the United States in relation to citizens from certain countries, there are significant risks to discrimination-free entry to the country,” FIFA said.Scores out of 5 (the various categories carry a different weighting in the overall score):

Overall score: United bid 4.0, Morocco 2.7

Infrastructure

Stadiums: United bid 4.1, Morocco 2.3
Team facilities: United bid 3.7, Morocco 2.9
Accommodation: United bid 3.9, Morocco 2.6
Transport: United bid 4.3, Morocco 2.1
Telecommunications: United bid 4.0, Morocco 3.5
Fan Festival locations: United bid 3.6, Morocco 3.2

Commercial

Organising costs: United bid 2.0, Morocco 3.0
Media and marketing: United bid 4.9, Morocco 4.6
Ticketing and hospitality: United bid 5.0, Morocco 2.4

Which USMNT players would have been selected for the World Cup?

Doug McIntyre  FC YahooJun 4, 2018, 5:34 PM

Imagine for a moment that the U.S. national team’s fateful loss in Couva, Trinidad, eight months ago never happened. That Bruce Arena’s side had managed just one more stinking goal—or at the very least, that one of the equally unlikely results in Costa Rica and Mexico that conspired against the Americans on that October night had gone slightly differently — and that they instead secured a spot at an eighth consecutive World Cup.What would Arena’s 23-man U.S. roster for Russia 2018 have looked like? Now that FIFA’s deadline for teams to submit their final squads for the tournament has arrived, let’s break down the likely picks using a mix of history, current form and a recent conversation with the former U.S. boss and others involved with or close to the program. (Players with a * next to their name were included in the 2014 World Cup squad.)

Goalkeeper (3)

*Brad Guzan, 33 years old, Atlanta United (MLS) – He backed up Tim Howard for most of Arena’s first year in charge, but the smart money was on Guzan leapfrogging Howard before the main event kicked off. He’s been solid in Atlanta this season even if his save percentage is only middle of the pack in MLS.

*Tim Howard, 39, Colorado Rapids (MLS) – A fan of the saying “father time is undefeated”, there’s no doubt Howard began to show his age late last year. His experience is unmatched, though, and in a pinch the 2010 and 2014 starter still would’ve been more than capable of manning the net in Russia.

*Nick Rimando, 38, Real Salt Lake (MLS) – The consummate pro and locker room favorite would have had no problem accepting the cheerleading assignment that comes with the No. 3. role.

No room for Alex Bono, Bill Hamid, Ethan Horvath, Zack Steffen:

It’s entirely possible that Steffen, the frontrunner (as of today) to backstop the U.S. during the 2022 cycle, would’ve made Arena’s 23 on the strength of his strong start to the MLS season with the Columbus Crew. The 23-year-old certainly would’ve pushed kept Guzan and Howard on their toes. However, Arena went with experience in the No. 3 role twice before; he took Tony Meloa over a young Howard in 2002, while 33-year-old Marcus Hahnemann served as third string in 2006. Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann employed a similar strategy in 2010 and ’14, picking Hahnemann and Rimando respectively.

efenders (8)

Tyler Adams, 19, New York Red Bulls (MLS) – He’s a natural central midfielder, and that’s where Adams’ sky-is the-limit future lies for the national team. But with the U.S. in desperate need of right back depth, the technically sound, tactically aware and mentally tough teenager probably would’ve gotten his Cup chance on the back line.

*Matt Besler, 31, Sporting Kansas City – While Besler would be on the bubble, his play so far in KC (only one MLS team has surrendered fewer goals than Sporting) and his ability to provide emergency cover at left back could’ve helped him survive the cut.

*John Brooks, 25, Wolfsburg (Germany) – A thigh injury cost the country’s most naturally gifted defender most of his first season with Wolfsburg, but the rangy Berlin native returned to the lineup just in time to help the Bundesliga mainstay narrowly avoid relegation.

*Omar Gonzalez, 29, Pachuca (Mexico) – He had a nightmare in Trinidad, and then lost his starting role in Liga MX. But he won it back by season’s end and has been a longtime favorite of Arena’s. The coach is loyal to a fault. You have to think Gonzalez would’ve gotten the benefit of the doubt.

Matt Miazga, 22, Vitesse (Netherlands) – A month after the qualifying failure, Arena went on television and suggested that Miazga would have been a starter alongside Brooks in Russia. It’s hard to see his opinion changing after Miazga helped humble Vitesse reach next season’s Europa League.

Tim Ream, 30, Fulham (England) – Ream rebounded from a poor performance in his last U.S. appearance (the 2-0 home loss to Costa Rica last September) by leading Fulham back to the Premier League. Arena noticed. And like   Besler, Ream’s experience at left back doesn’t hurt.

Jorge Villafana, 28, Santos Laguna (Mexico) – He would be the starting U.S. left back because of a lack of competition as much as anything else. But Villafana is also right in his prime, and he just won a Liga MX title with his club.

*DeAndre Yedlin, 24, Newcastle United (England) – Right back Yedlin is as entrenched at his position as any player in the national team pool. A surprise inclusion four years ago, his experience and all-world wheels would have been vital to the U.S. in Russia.

No room for DaMarcus Beasley, Geoff Cameron, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Timmy Chandler, Eric Lichaj, Walker Zimmerman, Graham Zusi:

Cameron was in Arena’s doghouse before he lost his job with relegated Stoke City, one of the two worst defensive teams in the Premier League last season. Converted winger Zusi never seemed completely comfortable at right back. Lichaj was an unused sub in five of Nottingham Forest’s last seven games. Chandler’s club from has never translated to the national team, plus he didn’t play a minute for the U.S. in 2017. Arena liked Zimmerman, and the LAFC center back could’ve edged out Besler or Gonzalez. But that would’ve been a surprise. Carter-Vickers isn’t ready. And at 36, four-time World Cup vet Beasley’s legs appear to have finally deserted him, at least at the sport’s highest level.

Midfielders (8)

Kellyn Acosta, 22, FC Dallas (MLS) – Acosta has played well for hometown club FCD lately after returning from hernia surgery. He could’ve filled in at fullback if necessary, too.

Paul Arriola, 23, D.C. United (MLS) – As one of the few natural wingers in the U.S. player pool, the speedy San Diegan would’ve been in contention to start on the right side this summer.

*Michael Bradley, 30, Toronto FC (MLS) – The U.S. captain wasn’t great during qualifying but he was lights out for the Reds during last year’s MLS Cup run and this spring against a trio of Mexican foes in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Sebestian Lletget, 25, LA Galaxy (MLS) – Arena fast-tracked his former Galaxy handyman into the U.S. squad in early 2017 only for Lletget to suffer a season ending foot injury in a qualifier against Honduras. But he’s started 11 of 14 games so far this year, including eight of the last nine.

Weston McKennie, 19, Schalke (Germany) – In his first full season in the Bundesliga, the hard-tackling future U.S. captain helped Schalke to a second-place finish (and the Champions League spot that comes with it).

Darlington Nagbe, 27, Atlanta United (MLS) – The silky smooth Nagbe has started all 14 games for the domestic league’s top team following six seasons in Portland.

Christian Pulisic, 19, Borussia Dortmund (Germany) – Obviously.

Kenny Saief, 24, Anderlecht (Belgium) – His age, ball skills, ability to play out wide and easygoing attitude would’ve been enough for Saief to claim a spot on Arena’s roster.

No room for Alejandro Bedoya, Marky Delgado, Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Christian Roldan or Danny Williams:

Arena never seemed to appreciate Bedoya and didn’t start the 2014 vet once during qualifying. Williams still isn’t fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered in March playing for Premier League side Huddersfield. MLS playmakers Kljestan and Feilhaber, at ages 32 and 33, were never serious contenders for Russia, while Delgado and Roldan lacked experience this time around.

Forwards (4)

*Jozy Altidore, 28, Toronto FC (MLS) – Altidore was in some of the best form of his career late last year and early this one despite playing with a broken foot for the better part of eight months. Although he finally underwent surgery to repair it in May, one would think it could’ve waited until after the World Cup.

*Clint Dempsey, 35, Seattle Sounders (MLS) – The joint-top scorer in U.S. history is goalless through six games with the Sounders, but maybe that wouldn’t be the case with a trip to a fourth World Cup up for grabs. Either way, a lack of better options combined with Dempsey’s nose for goal and the way he accepted (if not embraced) a supporting role under Arena would’ve gotten him to Russia.

Bobby Wood, 25, Hamburg (Germany) – After a trying year during which he scored just twice for HSV, joining the national team ahead of his first World Cup would’ve rejuvenated the Hawaiian striker, who has two goals in his last two U.S. games.

Gyasi Zardes, 26, Columbus Crew (MLS) – The top American scorer in MLS this season, Zardes is enjoying a career year after moving from the Galaxy last winter. With 37 caps, he also offers valuable international experience.

No room for Dom Dwyer, Aron Johannsson, Jordan Morris, Josh Sargent:

Morris was a no-brainer before he suffered a season-ending knee tear in February. Dwyer was a long shot even before he missed Orlando’s last three games with an injury. (He’s only played seven matches in 2018.) Johannsson is hurt, too. Sargent, Ar-Jo’s teammate at Werder.Doug McIntyre covers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

France vs. United States | 2018 International Friendly Match Preview

June 6, 201812:44PM EDTDylan ButlerContributor

France vs. United States   Groupama Stadium — Lyon
Saturday, June 9 — 3 pm ET  WATCH: ESPN, UniMás, UDN

After a 2-1 loss to Ireland last Saturday in Dublin (a step up in competition from the 3-0 win over Bolivia on Memorial Day) the young US national team will face the ultimate test Saturday when they take on World Cup contender France in Lyon.The match will be the final for Dave Sarachan’s side until a busy fall, which includes a friendly against Mexico on Sept. 11 in Nashville and reportedly matches against Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, England and Italy.“France is going to be a really good test for us and a very good experience for everyone on this team. We’re all excited,” Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen said. “I think we just go in with our game plan and want to show everybody who’s watching what we’ve got and go in and play as a team, work for each other, have fun and enjoy the experience.”

United States Outlook

A modest four-match unbeaten streak came to an end last Saturday in Dublin when Alan Judge netted the 90th-minute winner to send the US to a 2-1 defeat to Ireland. The Yanks led 1-0 at the break thanks to Bobby Wood’s 12th international goal in first-half stoppage time.Graham Burke leveled for Ireland, which bounced back from a 2-0 loss to France to improve to 6-2-2 all-time vs. the United States.New York Red Bulls defender Tim Parker, Fulham’s Luca de la Torre and Levante’s Shaq Moore each came off the substitute’s bench in the second half to make their USMNT debuts, while midfielders Julian Green (right foot) and Kenny Saief (right knee) were held out of the squad due to injuries.

France Outlook

This match serves as the World Cup sendoff for a France squad that has lofty expectations in Russia later this month. Didier Deschamps’ team ran roughshod over Ireland, winning 2-0, on May 28 with Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir from Lyon striking before halftime.They followed that up with a 3-1 victory over Italy in Nice on Friday with Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann gave France a two-goal lead before the half-hour mark. Leonardo Bonucci pulled the Azzurri within a goal in the 35th minute, but Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele put the game away with a 63rd minute goal, his second for Les Bleus.

History

The United States are 0-3-0 all-time against France and have been outscored, 10-0. Loïc Rémy came off the substitute’s bench to score the 72nd-minute winner in a 1-0 victory for Les Bleus in front of 70,018 fans at Stade de France on Nov. 11, 2011

Players to Watch

United States — Zack Steffen. After a rusty Bill Hamid made some blunders, including one that resulted in Ireland’s equalizer, fans on social media were clamoring for Steffen in net against France. The Crew SC goalkeeper has been outstanding in MLS play, having set a club shutout streak that spans five matches and 505 minutes.

France — Paul Pogba. The midfielder had an uneven first year with Manchester United, butting heads with Jose Mourinho on more than one occasion. While his return to the Reds will be one of the summer’s biggest questions, there is no doubt Pogba can be extremely influential with France. A return to his prior form at Juventus could put France on the podium next month.

United States’ loss to Republic of Ireland proves there’s a lot of work to do

Jun 3, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer

The United States got a bit of a reality check in its 2-1 defeat to the Republic of Ireland. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Granted, there were reasons to be disappointed at the result. The U.S. actually took the lead in first-half stoppage time on a real poacher’s goal from Bobby Wood. That the U.S. failed to build on that advantage, or at least manage the scoreline better is cause for a furrowed brow or two.But in many ways, this match served its purpose, if for no other reason that to temper expectations a bit, and paint a sharper picture of where exactly the players on the current roster stand, even as they gained more experience. Certainly after the 3-0 cakewalk over Bolivia a bit of irrational exuberance ensued, though to be clear it wasn’t coming from caretaker manager Dave Sarachan, nor did it emanate from the players. But in the wake of Saturday’s defeat it’s clear that this group has a ways to go.On this day it was telling that while there were some moments of impressive play, they were only that — moments.There were no real standout individual performances from the match, and there were some critical breakdowns. Bill Hamid will shoulder most of the responsibility for the first goal, having attempted to come out for a cross and not getting anywhere near it. But Alan Judge’s game-winner was more down to the collective. The U.S. found itself outnumbered on the right wing, and no player took charge to address the situation. Tyler Adams was the wrong side of James McClean, and sure enough a teammate found McClean with the ball, allowing the Ireland midfielder the freedom to run at Matt Miazga, who bit on the West Brom player’s feint. With only Hamid to beat, Judge — who also was untracked — intervened and fired home for the winner.Granted, the parade of substitutions that often accompanies a friendly can compromise defensive organization. In this case it certainly didn’t help.”I think the guys will learn,” said midfielder Weston McKennie in the post-match mixed zone. “A lot of the guys play over in Europe anyway so we’re learning tactically.”And the guy’s that are playing in MLS are still learning tactically and knowing how to play in these situations, so I think it’s OK.”But this was as much about focus as anything, and while the stakes were small, the lesson was still harsh, at least in the context of this game.”We were playing against a very experienced Irish team and we’ve just got to learn and stay concentrated for 90 minutes,” said Wood.So this is where this crop of players is right now. Talented? No doubt. Plenty of promise? Yes. That was the case before these last two games, and it’s just as true now. But there will be plenty of mistakes along the way. There may even be a heavy defeat or two.That is what possibly looms next weekend, when the U.S. will take on a France side that is talented enough to win the upcoming World Cup. There will be high-caliber opponents all over the field from Antoine Griezmann to N’Golo Kante to Kylian Mbappe and so on. Staying healthy will be a primary concern for Les Bleus, but there will also be a desire to impress France manager Didier Deschamps.That makes for a daunting task. The U.S. has acquitted itself reasonably enough by playing its kids be it at home or on the road. Without question it should continue to do so. Just be ready for a rollercoaster ride once the next World Cup cycle begins in earnest.

Young U.S. side shows its inexperience, takes a step back in defeat to Ireland

Jun 2, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer  ESPNFC 

Ireland defeated the U.S. men’s national team 2-1 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in an international friendly on Saturday.Bobby Wood put the U.S. ahead just before halftime with an opportunistic goal, but Graeme Burke notched the equalizer for the home side in the 57th minute, touching home Darragh Lenihan’s strike. Substitute Alan Judge then scored the game winner in the 90th minute to give the home side a dramatic victory.Here are three thoughts from the match.

  1. U.S. fades in second half

Saturday’s match was always going to be a tougher encounter than the holiday cruise that was the 3-0 win over Bolivia earlier this week. Ireland was not only playing at home but also fielded a much more experienced side than Bolivia did. Sensing this would be the case, U.S. caretaker manager Dave Sarachan responded in kind, going with a more experienced crew that saw eight changes to Monday’s lineup. International veterans DeAndre Yedlin, Jorge Villafana, and Wood all started the match, as did players like Bill Hamid, Wil Trap and Matt Miazga, who have accumulated plenty of club experience.The first half proved to be a fairly drab encounter, as the U.S. struggled to string many passes together and Ireland carved out an edge in possession. The right side of the U.S. defense looked suspect, with Yedlin struggling with his distribution and Cameron Carter-Vickers seeming a step slow to every ball. The U.S. did create a few chances in the opening 45 minutes. A half-cleared corner was blasted goalward by Tyler Adams in the 23rd minute, only for Rubio Rubin’s deflection to go wide of goal. Yedlin did get involved in a good opportunity two minutes later, touching a loose ball to Wood that saw the Hamburg forward curl his shot just wide.Ireland had some opportunities as well. James McClean had a shot from distance that was parried away by Hamid in the 20th minute. Hamid then failed to collect a cross late in the first half, but Ireland couldn’t capitalize.It was left to the U.S. to jump on top in first-half stoppage time. Trapp’s free kick was headed toward goal by Matt Miazga, and Wood was first to pounce on the loose ball, prodding home from close range.The level of U.S. play eroded in the second half, however, as the Americans struggled to maintain possession. Ireland equalized in the 57th minute from a set piece that was largely down to an error by Hamid. A corner was played back and then served in by Callum O’Dowda. Hamid came out for the cross but was left stranded by a wall of bodies. That allowed Kevin Long to head back to Lenihan whose shot was deflected home by Burke.The U.S. went close a couple of times through Wood and Timothy Weah, but then caught a break when Lenihan had a goal disallowed for offside when replays appeared to show him in an onside position.The home side then bagged a late winner. McClean maneuvered around Miazga, allowing Judge to step in and blast his shot past Hamid and just under the bar.The fact that a young U.S. side accumulated more international experience will go down as a positive, but the match was also short of memorable performances. That is to be expected when dealing with inexperienced players, and may serve to rein in some of the exuberance that was evident following the Bolivia match. The next test will be even tougher, a friendly against powerhouse France in a week’s time.

  1. Wood once again finds comfort with U.S.

There’s no disputing just how brutal a club season Wood had. He managed just three goals in 25 league and cup appearances, one that saw Hamburg get relegated from the Bundesliga for the first time in its history. The fact that he was sent off in the season finale against Borussia Moenchengladbach only added salt to a gaping wound. Yet Wood has usually managed to find some semblance of form with the U.S. no matter how things were going for his club. Back in March he scored the lone goal from the penalty spot in a 1-0 win over Paraguay. Against Ireland Wood came through once again with an opportunistic strike, and went close on a few other occasions. Granted, friendly success doesn’t quite make up for the struggles Wood has experienced with his club, but it at least provides a ray of light as the current campaign comes to a close.Much now remains to be decided about Wood’s future. Is he better off trying to regain his club form with Hamburg in the 2. Bundesliga, or should he move on elsewhere? He’ll have the next few months to decide.

  1. Hamid shows rust

Dublin’s Aviva Stadium will not go down as Hamid’s favorite venue. Back in 2014, Hamid was in goal for a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the Irish. His performance on this day wasn’t quite as bad, but it was by no means a positive performance. Hamid looked particularly suspect in the air. Only some poor finishing let him off the hook for his aforementioned first-half fumble, and his decision to come out to try and claim O’Dowda’s cross left the goal wide open, allowing Ireland to equalize. Hamid steadied himself and improved from that moment onward, but the damage was done.It’s clear, at least so far, that Hamid’s move to Danish side Midtjylland has yet to pay off. He made just three league and cup appearances since making the decision to move away from D.C. United during the winter, and the lack of first-team game action was evident.Prior to the Bolivia match, Hamid stated how he felt the move had helped him by getting him out of his comfort zone and showing him a different style of soccer. That’s all well and good, but without consistent playing time with his club, it’s going to be difficult for Hamid to make a case for playing time at international level, especially with the likes of Zack Steffen showing continued improvement.

Timothy Weah impresses again, Bill Hamid fails to convince in U.S. loss to Ireland

Jun 2, 2018Jason Davis

goal late in the first half through Bobby Wood, the Americans conceded twice in the second half to fall 2-1.

Positives

Another batch of young American players got their chance to step into the senior team as head coach Dave Sarachan continues the process of refreshing the talent pool. Mixing in a few more experienced hands, Sarachan got a chance to see potential partnerships in midfield and defense that might play a role in the squad moving forward.

Negatives

Whether it was the changes made to the lineup or the turnaround from Monday, this version of the USMNT lacked the necessary cohesiveness to control the game. A tendency to play backward colored the proceedings for the Americans and while the midfield trio of Tyler Adams, Weston McKinnie and Wil Trapp all had reasonably good performances individually, they did not combine effectively.

Manager rating out of 10

5 — The choice to start Bill Hamid proved to be a poor one for Sarachan, though the desire to see as many players as possible excuses it somewhat. Could have made changes to encourage more service for Timothy Weah on the wing, where the best U.S. moments originated. Used five of six available subs, finding minutes for a good portion of the roster. If there’s any gripe, it’s that some of those substitutions should have come earlier.

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

GK Bill Hamid, 2 — Culpable on Ireland’s first goal after a poor decision to come off his line. Struggled with balls in the air on multiple occasions and did not distribute well.

DF DeAndre Yedlin, 4 — Made several big mistakes with the ball in the first half. Caught out of position on occasion, putting the U.S. under pressure. Contributed just one cross.

DF Cameron Carter-Vickers, 3 — Poor day all around. Struggled in possession under pressure, especially in the first half. Picked up a yellow from a late challenge. Slow with his decision-making.

DF Matt Miazga, 6 — Solid for most of the match, stepping up and snuffing out danger on multiple occasions. Regressed in the final 10 minutes, including whiffing in the box on Ireland’s winner.

DF Jorge Villafana, 5 — Put in his usual fine defensive performance without offering much going forward. Took the easy route when playing out of the defensive third too often.

MF Wil Trapp, 6 — Solid but not spectacular, especially in the first half. Provided good set-piece service at times, but missed on a few in the second half. Passed well, but without much forward thrust.

MF Timothy Weah, 7 — Should have done better with a late chance, but was positive and dangerous for most of the match.

MF Tyler Adams, 7 — Missed just five passes on the day while playing a smart midfield. Might have pressed higher more often. Lacked a clear understanding with teammates to build moves in the final third.

MF Weston McKennie, 6 — Quiet over 90 minutes playing in front of Trapp higher up the field than on Monday against Bolivia. Pressed sporadically. Good moment late when a positive touch led to a shot on goal.

MF Rubio Rubin, 5 — Active, especially in the first half. Did not make much of an impact in the final third, registering no passes into the penalty box. Took two shots cutting inside on his right foot.

FW Bobby Wood, 5 — Scored to close the first half by capitalizing on a mistake by the keeper off of Miazga’s header. Failed to make his touches count, ineffective as target forward.

Substitutes

DF Tim Parker, 5 — Mostly composed when the game was stretched and the U.S. was under pressure. Not complicit on winning goal. Forced to scramble into emergency defending more than once.

DF Shaq Moore, NR — Showed speed and positivity up the wing, immediately getting into the attack upon introduction. Defended adequately.

FW Josh Sargent, NR — Had more good moments as a target in 20 minutes than Wood in 70.

MF Luca De La Torre, NR — Played positively from the moment he entered the fray.

MF Joe Corona, NR — Limited contributions in 10 minutes on the field.

USMNT Player Ratings: Not much to celebrate in sobering loss at Ireland

June 2, 20188:35PM EDTGreg SeltzerContributor

A green US national team side was brought down to Earth from last week’s win over Bolivia in Saturday’s 2-1 collapse to friendly hosts Ireland.The young Nats had far more trouble running their game plan against the firmer opposition provided by an Ireland side holding a huge experience advantage. Bobby Wood opportunistically put the visitors up on the edge of halftime, but they acquiesced control of play in the second half and were eventually punished for it near full time.With nothing at stake from the result, we can safely consider the contest a lesson for the kids.

Bill Hamid (3.5) – Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he’s mostly watched from the bench since moving to FC Midtjylland in January, but Hamid had some obvious struggles commanding his area. His weak attempt at tracking down a serve into the box effectively teed up Ireland’s equalizer.

DeAndre Yedlin (4.5) – Though he offered some positive attack work in the opening half-hour, Yedlin virtually disappeared on the ball from there. It wasn’t any better on the defensive end, where the Newcastle man had repeated troubles in his corner and gave up a danger free kick while helping in the middle due to wild tackling form.

Cameron Carter-Vickers (5.5) – The young center back was uneasy on the ball throughout his hour of work, but did bring a foreboding presence to his side of the box.

Matt Miazga (5) – It was a tale of two halves for the Chelsea defender, who ably cleared danger at the back and notched a flick-on assist before the break. Miazga was much busier after intermission, and some mistakes followed. Though he worked his way up to 10 clearances, it mattered not when he was skinned alive in the box on Ireland’s winner.

Jorge Villafaña (5) – It was not a great night for the left back. He was either safe (in both the good and bad sense) or loose with the ball and did not have enough impact defensively.

Wil Trapp (5) – The Columbus Crew SC skipper was solid enough on the ball for his role, but it became progressively easier for the home side to knock on the gate to the defense as the game went on. The question of whether Trapp can provide enough steel to play defensive midfield at this level remains wide open.

Tyler Adams (5) – The New York Red Bulls ace had his stray moments of excellence on both sides of the ball, but his influence vanished for long stretches. Aside from a worthy set-up move near the hour, Adams was often invisible after the break.

Weston McKennie (4) – The best of McKennie’s attributes went missing for most of the night. He wasn’t standing Ireland up in midfield, had too many cheap giveaways and wasn’t breaking the lines with his usually incisive passing game.

Timothy Weah (5.5) – The pacy winger ate ground on the rush without truly threatening goal during the opening frame. Weah faded badly after the interval, yet managed to find his best chance of the night – which he promptly missed high. As with all the youngsters listed, there should be better nights ahead.

Rubio Rubin (5) – The Tijuana attacker suffered for the lack of flank push provided by Villafana. That was just part of the recipe for his overly bland showing.

Bobby Wood (6) – Getting straight to the point, Wood’s nice ninja attack tally brought his grade up to average. You’ve heard of scoring against the run of play? Well, this goal was against the run of the performance, which largely lacked his usual defender-disturbing runs.

Coach Dave Sarachan (5.5) – I’m not going to be too hard on the coach for this one. This game was always going to be a challenge for his green side. There shouldn’t be too much griping over his lineup or subs, but it might have been nice to shift tactics when the game was getting away from them during a tough second half.

Subs:
Tim Parker (6) – 
It was not an entirely clean shift from the Red Bulls center back, but he gets a passing grade for his debut. Parker racked up nine total defensive stops in just a half-hour.

Shaq Moore (6) – The Levante right back showed that a) his physical skills are promising & b) plenty of polish is still needed.

Josh Sargent (5.5) – The teen striker certainly didn’t do anything egregious, but he also was unable to find the right runs and receiving spots to unsettle Ireland’s defense.

Luca de la Torre (6) – The debutant pitched in with a few nice link passes and a few defensive actions in 13 minutes of play. It’s too bad he wasn’t getting much help on the left side.

Joe Corona (-) – Only a few game incidents for the midfielder in a 10-minute cameo.

Who Will Win the 2018 World Cup? SI’s Expert Predictions and Knockout Brackets

 

By SI.COM STAFF June 04, 2018

The World Cup kicks off June 14 in Moscow with a meeting between the two lowest-ranked teams in the field, which, in some ways, is quite appropriate. The competition is meant to be a crescendo, one whose drama and defining moments don’t occur until the very end. With the way the draw and schedule worked out, that’s precisely how Russia 2018 is shaping up to play out.Russia vs. Saudi Arabia will be a massive 90 minutes for the host nation, which can set its tone for the tournament in front of its partisan crowd. But once it’s over, the focus will shift to the traditional powers and the individual superstars who figure to have plenty of say in determining the 2018 world champion. At least that’s how we see things going. In anticipation of the 32-team, month-long battle for international supremacy, SI’s Avi Creditor, Luis Miguel Echegaray, Brian Straus, Grant Wahl and Jonathan Wilson size up the tournament field and make their picks for who will get out of each group and how the knockout stage will unfold–from the round of 16 to the moment the trophy is lifted July 15 at the same Luzhniki Stadium where all of the drama will kick off.

AVI CREDITOR

Group Winners: A – Uruguay | B – Spain | C – France | D – Croatia | E – Brazil | F – Germany | G – Belgium | H – Colombia

Group Runners-Up: A – Egypt | B – Portugal | C – Peru | D – Argentina | E – Costa Rica | F – Mexico | G – England | H – Senegal

The World Cup field seems pretty straightforward, with most groups having a clearly defined top two. There’s room for some slight surprises–and juicy storylines–to develop, though. Like how about Argentina finishing secondin its group and going into the same quadrant of the bracket as Portugal for a potential Messi-Ronaldo quarterfinal showdown? And after that, how about the potential for an Argentina-Brazil semifinal, which would be their first World Cup showdown since 1990? And what about a Paolo Guerrero-sparked Peru getting out of its group and making some noise as this year’s Costa Rica, going on an inspiring quarterfinal run?

Ultimately, the bluebloods will decide the winner, and we’re left with an incredible final four. Argentina and Brazil provide an all-South American semifinal on one side, while Spain and Germany make for an all-European one on the other. Ironically and poetically, a more balanced and multi-pronged Brazil will advance due to Argentina’s over-reliance on one star, while Spain has the skill and depth to break down a resolute defending champion in Germany. Neymar makes the difference in the final, lifting Brazil to its record sixth title–60 years after Pelé carried the Seleção to their first.

After Remarkable Rise, Mohamed Salah Shoulders Egypt’s World Cup Hopes

LUIS MIGUEL ECHEGARAY

Group Winners: A – Uruguay | B – Spain | C – France | D – Argentina | E – Brazil | F – Germany | G – Belgium | H – Senegal

Group Runners-Up: A – Egypt | B – Portugal | C – Peru | D – Nigeria | E – Switzerland | F – Mexico | G – England | H – Colombia

There are two World Cup predictions I feel very strongly about: Radamel Falcao will score more goals than anyone in the group stage, and, for the first time since 1958, Brazil will win the World Cup on European soil.With all due respect to Serbia, Switzerland and Costa Rica, the group is Brazil’s for the taking, meaning the Seleção can ease Neymar back into the lineup and get him ready for the knockout stage.Brazil, however, is not just about the PSG star. This is a loaded team in every facet, and thanks to Roberto Firmino and preferred starter Gabriel Jesus, there is serious competition in the No. 9 role, something that has been missing for a long time. Thanks to coach Tite, this squad is as creative as it is disciplined, and the latter will be the deciding factor in the knockout rounds. After beating Mexico in the round of 16 (sorry, El Tri fans), Belgium awaits in the quarters, and this is where I think experience overrules talent, as Brazil beats Roberto Martinez’s side. The harder test will come in the semis when France comes knocking, but this goal-fest will go in favor of the South Americans, and you know what that means? The final presents an opportunity for redemption against Germany and a chance for Brazil to heal the wounds from 2014’s shocking 7-1 semifinal exit on home soil.In the end, Brazil writes a new ending against Joachim Low’s squad and wins its sixth World Cup.

BRIAN STRAUS

Group Winners: A – Uruguay | B – Spain | C – France | D – Croatia | E – Brazil | F – Germany | G – Belgium | H – Poland

Group Runners-Up: A – Egypt | B – Portugal | C – Denmark | D – Argentina | E – Switzerland | F – Mexico | G – England | H – Colombia

Past performance never guarantees future results, but in searching for patterns that might help predict a World Cup, it’s worth looking at what we’ve learned from recent editions.World Cups aren’t won by second-tier countries led by golden generations. They’re won by nations that produce talent far more consistently, without dramatic peaks and valleys. World Cups are won by teams on the rise that have paid their dues, not by sated or aging stars. And they’re won with world-class resilience and depth. Champions evolve during a tournament and have options available as they adapt, and they need talent in reserve in big moments. Germany’s Cup-winning goal in Rio was scored by a sub and set up by a midfielder who relieved the guy playing in place of the injured starter.There will be three teams in Russia with enough talent, depth, fortitude and pedigree to win–Germany, Spain and France. Germany, who’s bringing back less than half its 2014 squad, will edge Spain in one semi. France, whose ‘B’ team might make the final four, will knock out Belgium’s golden generation in the other. In the final, a French team bursting with talent that will have hit its stride—both in the long-term and during a tournament in which it faces a few tactical questions—will triumph. Les Bleus will come in waves, and they have the hunger, quality and flexibility to triumph.

GRANT WAHL

Group Winners: A – Uruguay | B – Spain | C – France | D – Croatia | E – Brazil | F – Germany | G – Belgium | H – Colombia

Group Runners-Up: A – Russia | B – Portugal | C – Denmark | D – Iceland | E – Switzerland | F – Mexico | G – England | H – Senegal

Spain will win its second World Cup in three cycles by relying on an experienced core balancing solid defense (goalkeeper David De Gea; center backs Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué), a masterly midfield (Sergio Busquets, Andrés Iniesta, Thiago) and an emerging front line (Marco Asensio, Isco, Diego Costa).Their ball control will wear out defending champ Germany in the semifinals and then, in the final, Belgium, which will outlast a slew of talented teams in the Red Devils’ half of the draw: Brazil (upset by Mexico), France (which has at least one stinker every five games) and Uruguay.Ultimately, the teamwide strength of Spain will prevail in a tournament of surprises over the individual stardom of Brazil’s Neymar, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi (who will go out in the group stage as Argentina finishes behind Croatia and Iceland).

JONATHAN WILSON

Group Winners: A – Uruguay | B – Spain | C – France | D – Argentina | E – Brazil | F – Germany | G – Belgium | H – Colombia

Group Runners-Up: A – Egypt | B – Portugal | C – Denmark | D – Croatia | E – Switzerland | F – Mexico | G – England | H – Senegal

World Cups are not rational and there is something very strange about the fact that in a competition that even in its expanded form lasts only seven games, there has not been a surprise winner in the mold of a Denmark or Greece in the Euros. The only real shock winner, in fact, was West Germany in 1954, and subsequent history indicates what a shock that was. The World Cup is long overdue for a surprise.Having said that, there are four squads that have quality and depth far in excess of their rivals, and the way the draw has worked, Spain, Brazil, Germany and France can all avoid each other before the semifinal; although Spain, in particular, may fear the quarterfinal where Argentina probably lies in wait (Spain’s recent 6-1 friendly win over Jorge Sampaoli’s side notwithstanding). This is a Spain team rejuvenated under Julen Lopetegui, and given Brazil’s issues at right back in the absence of Dani Alves and the way Spain seems to be coming into form at just the right time, it is my favorite to win in Moscow on July 15.

Paul Pogba -Ready To Shine in World Cup

After a hellish club season, Paul Pogba is determined to reclaim his joy in Russia. And if he happens to disprove his critics — and his coach — in the process? Even better.y Wright Thompson18This is the cover story for ESPN The Magazine’s June 18 World Football issue. Subscribe today!

Paul Pogba stands in his kitchen and mists himself with cologne. The Pogmood is Pogtense. A strong Arabian musk crossed with bright athletic notes might chase away his uneasy feeling. He gives a generous spray on each side of his neck, one spray for each arm, with a torso shot or two for good measure. You can always smell Pogba before you see him. Its work done, the fragrance bottle goes back into his white snakeskin dopp kit, which he can always identify as his because of the enormous gold-plated No. 6 on the side. Like all people who started in obscurity and live in fear of returning to it, his name and image are never far from his line of sight: excessive branding as a sophisticated method of clawing at a crumbling cliff’s edge. It’s a Tuesday between the end of Manchester United’s season and the team’s FA Cup final down in London, and Pogba had been feeling good until he opened a text message from the team. Now he’s thrown off-center, and this creates widening ripples in the Pogforce.

“The club changed all the travel plans,” his manager says. “They unbalanced him.”

The Red Devils are now leaving tomorrow at 7 a.m., the whole trip pushed up a day. Since players are due at pre-World Cup camps, losing a day means losing time to close up houses and carefully pack. Pogba, just 25, lives in a Manchester suburb that’s home to dozens of current and former Premier League stars who whip around the leafy streets in luxury cars. Hanging around his house today are his Parisian boyhood friend and gofer Mamadou, his Bolivian-model girlfriend Maria Zulay Salaues, his Brazilian manager who lives in Monaco and speaks six languages, and, of course, his cook, who hails from Naples and chatters away in Italian as she futzes around the kitchen.

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These four friends, along with his mom and two brothers, protect him from the circling wolves of criticism. He’s in that dangerous career zone in which his immense potential, long the source of his wealth and fame, could become the central exhibit in the case for his failure. Manchester United bought him in 2016 from Juventus for upward of 89 million pounds, the largest transfer fee in history at the time, and he’s worn that scarlet number around his neck. Tabloids compare him to the other biggest busts in football history. Sometimes he doesn’t even start.It’s not all his fault. Most people can see that Pogba’s free-flowing game doesn’t fit with manager Jose Mourinho’s conservative style. He’s a sequined jacket in a hit man’s closet. These could be his final days living in this house and city as he decides whether to run again or stay and fight for his future. Russia is coming at the perfect time for him. No other player on the planet needs the psychic reboot of a World Cup as much as Pogba. “He is at an important crossroads,” says Mamadou’s brother, “Papis” Magassa, who coached Pogba in their neighborhood in Paris.Today’s anxiety over schedules and packing clashes with the boyish spirit of the house, which is a bedroom poster dream of where a footballer might live. Nobody should ever feel sad in such a ridiculous place. Big windows look out onto trees and hedges. The kitchen glows green when the afternoon sun shines through the limbs and branches. Out front rises a towering fir tree just like those in the common area of the French public housing complex where Pogba grew up. The interior is decorated with pictures, trophies, murals and, obviously, his interlocking “PP” logo. He’s got the logo on his pool table and on his custom black-and-gold foosball table and on the four throw pillows fluffed and ready on his giant L-shaped couch. A logo is on the center of his small, caged indoor football pitch — which is where the indoor pool used to be — and there are paintings of him in celebration on the wall. He’s got the logo in his ears, one on each earring, in case he happens upon a mirror. Some people design for comfort or aesthetics. His house is designed for confidence, a place where he can celebrate one of those missile shots he calls a PogBOOM! The white marble floors shine. The lines are cold and modern. The stairs are hard plastic trays filled with fake diamonds, and in the stairwell, a huge taxidermied lion rests its left paw on a soccer ball, as if it might launch a well-timed and kingly cross to a streaking kudu.”I make it the Poghouse,” Pogba says.AS HE SAYS this, Pogba is facing his enormous fish tank. The Pogtank! He’s a Pisces, Mamadou explains, hence the fish. They dart in and out of the tower of coral, hiding in the shadows and zooming through the blue light, oblivious to faces pressed against the glass watching them swim. The new Taurus moon tells all Pisces to trust their inner voice, to let the past go and look toward a clear future. All of which is ridiculous because what kind of lunatic actually believes in hoscopes — and yet the fish tank.This is an odd and important time to drop into Pogba’s world, which is exactly as weird and singular as you’d want it to be. The last Premier League season, which ended two days ago, exposed clearly the conflict that will dominate the rest of his career: Can the joy and whimsy that define his play survive the pressures seeking to harden him into something serious and mathematical? If Pogba succumbs to Mourinho’s system, he might become the best player of his generation. Or he might lose the most important part of himself and his game. “It has to be fun,” Pogba says. “It started like that. It started fun. So why does it have to change?”Friends describe him as one of the happiest people they’ve ever met, a trait he inherited from his mother, who looks on every good thing in her life as a blessing to be celebrated. The people closest to him believe his joy serves as a kind of pilot light for his talent. Two of those people stood in their kitchen two days ago, on the morning of Man United’s final league game, and remembered Pogba saying years ago, “I’ll play football wherever it makes me feel happy.”Paul and Carol Dalby served as Pogba’s host family when he first came to England as a teenager to attend the Man United academy. He spent three years there before joining Juventus in 2012. They remember the drama of his departure, after he fell out of favor with Sir Alex Ferguson and was allowed to leave for nothing. Pogba confided in the Dalbys at the time, “I like them, but they don’t seem to like me.” When he signed with Juventus, they knew before nearly anyone in the world, and when Pogba struggled to deal with the aggressive Italian fans — one time in Turin, a Juve fan got into the passenger seat of his car at a red light to take a selfie — he’d talk to them about it. Once when Juve came to play Man City, Pogba asked the Dalbys to visit him at the team hotel. Sitting in the second-floor restaurant overlooking the river in the old textile mill town, he shared his frustrations.”What are you going to do?” they asked. “You don’t seem too happy at Juventus.”

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When he left Italy, he returned to a feeling as much as a geographical location, something deeper and more personal than chasing dollars and prestige. It seems strange that he should be searching for something most observers think he’s already found. He makes millions a year playing a game — and yet that seems to be the central question. Is it still a game? Grown men have been fighting one another in court and in public over his talent since he was a boy. His second agent and his first engaged in a yearslong dispute over the first contract Pogba signed, a predatory deal in which he relinquished the rights to his own name and likeness. He tries not to let messy international commerce dampen his enthusiasm. That gets harder with each passing season.It’s been especially hard during this season that just ended.On the morning of United’s final league game, the Dalbys thought about the difficulty of watching a young man they consider an adopted son be trashed day after day. They’ve bristled at how easily critics, even former United players who should know better, engage so guiltlessly in a market in which players are characters and not former 16-year-old boys a long way from home, asking Carol and Paul for seconds of pasta.”It’s so cruel, you know?” Carol says. “It’s so cruel. He’s just been battered.”

That day found them writing the obituary and eulogy for Paul Dalby’s brother, who died suddenly while on vacation in Spain. When Pogba heard the news, he reached out. When he scored in a United game a few days later, he sent the Dalbys a note saying that the goal was a gift for their grieving family and that he’d be delivering the shirt he wore while scoring. He stops by whenever he can — not long ago, he and Zulay showed up for a visit wearing matching bright-red Adidas tracksuits. The Dalbys could only smile and shake their heads. That’s the Pogba they’ve always known. They remember him rushing to the fridge in the morning to find the word of the day, which he’d use in conversation. Even when Pogba got a flat in Manchester, he would still spend lots of time with his “second family,” as he’s written on some signed shirts they keep. They made sure he didn’t live on just Chinese takeout.Pogba is family to them. He bounded around their home with the same youthful enthusiasm that he took to the pitch, where he’d bounce before games, smiling and joking with teammates and opponents alike. He found the purest expression of his inner self on the field. At least he once did. “He used to prance around the pitch,” Paul Dalby says. “A little bit of that has left him now.”They can take one look at him and know how he’s doing. Earlier this year, Carol walked through the room where their big television played the United game. Paul grew up watching Bobby Charlton and George Best and loves to see his local club play. Almost accidentally, Carol caught a glimpse of Pogba on the pitch.”He doesn’t look very happy,” she said.”He’s not,” he said.

Own Goal: The Inside Story of How the USMNT Missed the 2018 World Cup

In October, the United States failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in more than 30 years. A loss to Trinidad and Tobago sealed their fate, but according to players, coaches, commentators, and executives across American soccer, the disaster doesn’t come down to just one unfortunate result. No, it was the culmination of nearly a decade of mismanagement that broke the team’s spirit and condemned them to failure.

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The players smelled it. In the locker room at halftime, the stench of impending failure hung as heavily as the humid Caribbean air. Try as he might, U.S. men’s national team head coach Bruce Arena could not keep the desperation from creeping into his voice.If we get one goal, the veteran American coach said to his defeated-looking team, we’re going to get a second. Just keep pushing forward.“You could see him getting agitated,” midfielder Benny Feilhaber recalled. “He would be positive, and all of a sudden, he would level up, and sort of start getting louder. ‘Come on, guys, come on.’ It was definitely his body language, but it was also his tone of voice, going from trying to be calm to being more aggressive, and going back and forth. You could tell that the coaches were kind of on edge. Maybe even more so than the players.”Needing only a draw to advance to the World Cup in Russia, the team had traveled to Trinidad for their final qualification match on October 10, 2017. Success was so assured that only 1,500 spectators even bothered to show up. But after conceding two freak goals in the first half, the U.S. found itself on the brink of disaster. What Arena himself once deemed “unthinkable” was becoming reality: The United States men’s national team was just 45 minutes away from missing the World Cup for the first time in more than 30 years.In one corner of the cramped locker room sat a glowering Geoff Cameron. The veteran Premier League defender was irate from being left on the bench during the past two matches — a decision all the more galling now that his replacement, Omar Gonzalez, had opened the scoring with a horrifying own goal.Cameron’s anger was just one example of tension inside the U.S. locker room. According to several close observers, the environment around the team during the past few years could be “toxic” at times, a lingering aftereffect of the inconsistent and culture-degrading management style of Arena’s predecessor, Jürgen Klinsmann, who had been fired one year before. Arena had labored to rebuild team chemistry, but that had proved to be more challenging than the veteran coach had expected.Michael Bradley had long known that the team’s fragile identity could derail qualification. Moving around the room, the captain and central midfielder tried to rally his teammates, beseeching them to raise their collective games. But he was also one of the most polarizing figures in the fractured dressing room: His massive seven-figure MLS salary and sometimes overbearing leadership style grated on teammates. Although Bradley knew that all of their legacies were on the line, he was an imperfect messenger.Christian Pulisic, only 19 and already the team’s best player, sat in concentrated silence. He’d joined the team at the start of the qualification campaign and was on the verge of single-handedly propelling the group to Russia, notching seven goals and assisting on seven more. As the USMNT took the field for the second half, he tried to once again drag his beleaguered teammates to the World Cup. After just 90 seconds, he sliced through the Trinidad and Tobago defense and scored a goal to pull the U.S. within one.But the second goal that Arena had promised never came. Clint Dempsey’s 77th-minute shot off the post was the closest the team came to equalizing. When the whistle blew, Pulisic sank to the turf, exhausted and angry, having experienced his first major failure as a professional player.“The image that will stay with me was our best player, Christian Pulisic, the kid that had done so much, seeing him in the showers, fully clothed, with his hands in his face just crying,” remembered 31-year-old midfielder Dax McCarty.Back in the United States, the reactions were similarly bleak as fans grappled with not only the qualification failure but also just how badly the U.S. had played in a match that sealed their World Cup fate. Landon Donovan watched events unfold from a friend’s couch in California, feeling as though he’d been punched in the gut. “It was a physical illness,” the U.S. legend said. “I think a lot of people felt the same way. I was sick to my stomach. It was hard to process just how much this would impact U.S. soccer.”

In Charleston, South Carolina, longtime American soccer executive Kevin Payne watched the defeat alone at a bar. “I felt the same way that I felt when I woke up the morning after Election Day,” he said. “Like my world has been unmoored, and how did it happen?”With all of its advantages over its continental competitors, how did the U.S. fail to qualify for the World Cup? The question has divided the American soccer community ever since. Some have blamed the player development system. Others have questioned Arena’s tactics. And some have just said that the U.S. had a bad game on a hot night in Trinidad.“You don’t make wholesale changes based on the ball being 2 inches wide or 2 inches in,” said then–U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati on the night of the collapse, referencing Dempsey’s near equalizer.“That’s when you start feeling sorry for yourself. Then you start thinking, ‘Holy shit, we just let down our entire country.’” —Dax McCarty

Behind the scenes, though, the disaster that unfolded in Trinidad was not the result of one shot hitting off the post or one poor tactical decision. The failure to qualify for the World Cup was the direct result of seven years of mismanagement at the highest levels of U.S. Soccer, which fostered disunion among the team’s players and ultimately doomed them to defeat.“We put Band-Aids on things all the time and hope that they change and that things turn around,” USMNT defender Brad Evans said. “All of these successes were just Band-Aids for a failure that was going to potentially happen, and it did.”This insider’s view of the epic American World Cup collapse — from the boardroom to the locker room — is based on interviews with more than 40 current and former players, coaches, and sources close to U.S. Soccer leadership, conducted in the aftermath of the U.S. defeat. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to describe scenes honestly, expressing fear of negative consequences for their careers if they spoke on the record.Taken together, their accounts reveal that the seeds of the World Cup failure had been planted years earlier, in 2011, when U.S. Soccer president and Columbia University economist Sunil Gulati landed Klinsmann, a former World Cup–winning player with an elite international reputation, to become the new coach of the U.S. team. Yet Klinsmann’s methods — laudable in theory — decimated the team’s culture. Despite hearing about these problems from some men’s national team players and from U.S. Soccer staff members, Gulati and the federation’s leadership failed to react in time.Even with the dysfunction at every level — from the executives down to the coaches and the players — the team was still one game away from qualification. Playing without energy or hunger when both were needed, they lost to a vastly inferior opponent. That result will follow them around for the rest of their playing days. But the failure was far from theirs alone.“The thing that I thought about, selfishly, was that there goes my only chance to represent my country in the World Cup,” said McCarty, who watched the disaster unfold from the bench. “That’s when you start feeling sorry for yourself. Then you start thinking, ‘Holy shit, we just let down our entire country.’”

Act 1: Hope and a Honeymoon With Jürgen

The road to Trinidad began in the summer of 2010. In a hotel in Vancouver, Jürgen Klinsmann laid out his bold vision for the future of American soccer. Around him sat U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn, and then–D.C. United president Kevin Payne, all listening with rapt attention.At the time, Gulati was mulling a coaching change for the U.S. men’s national team. Bob Bradley had just completed a four-year tenure as manager that ended with the U.S. team’s ouster in the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup. Soon afterward, Gulati had flown to Vancouver to meet with Klinsmann, a former German superstar with the same relentless sunniness that characterizes his adopted home of California.“Bob was the head coach,” remembered Payne. “And Sunil asked me to come along and just give him my impressions of Klinsmann.”For Gulati, there was a lot to like about Klinsmann. He had played in World Cups and in the Champions League, and he was viewed as an iconoclastic thinker, willing to challenge convention and make difficult, if unpopular, decisions. He’d earned that reputation managing his home country to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup, a performance that had led to Gulati’s first unsuccessful attempt to make Klinsmann his coach.Among top-level European managers, Klinsmann also had the advantage of understanding the eccentricities of American soccer. Klinsmann had lived in Southern California since 1998 and had embraced his adopted home, learning about the college soccer system, MLS, and the millions of kids running around pristine suburban fields. His son Jonathan, a goalkeeper, competed in U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy, the top American youth league, designed to provide young players with a professional-caliber training environment.Most importantly for Gulati, though, Klinsmann represented something larger: a chance to turn the latent potential of American soccer into actual power.Then in his fifth year as the president of U.S. Soccer, Gulati had done just about every job in the sport. He’d driven buses and bought balls at Kmart during national team camps. As deputy commissioner, he’d designed Major League Soccer’s signature single-entity structure, in which each team is owned by the league’s group of investors. Elected U.S. Soccer president in 2006 after running unopposed, Gulati, along with Flynn, had built the nonprofit organization into a juggernaut with a $100 million annual budget and 140 full-time employees.“You knew your role. You knew exactly what was going to be asked of you. You were going to have to go out there and be a motherfucker.” —Herculez Gomez, on playing for Bob BradleyOn the field, Gulati wanted to push the American team from international soccer’s middle class into the sport’s elite, but he wasn’t convinced that his current coach was up to the job. The father of U.S. midfielder Michael and a well-respected figurehead within American soccer circles, Bradley had followed a well-trod path to the national team gig. Like his national team predecessor Arena, he’d risen through the ranks, from collegiate soccer to MLS and then to the U.S. job. And like Arena’s teams, his squads didn’t always play the flashiest soccer, but they did tend to transcend their lack of elite talent with a collective fighting spirit.“You knew your role. You knew exactly what was going to be asked of you. You were going to have to go out there and be a motherfucker,” said Herculez Gomez, a forward for the national team under Bradley.During his tenure, Bradley led the U.S. team to regional victory at the 2007 Gold Cup and to a second-place finish in a major international tournament, the 2009 Confederations Cup, with a Cinderella run that included a 2–0 victory over the world’s no. 1 team, Spain. But after a World Cup performance that featured plenty of grit and guile but not enough aggressive soccer for Gulati’s taste, the federation president was ready to consider alternatives, which is why he’d flown to Vancouver to hear out Klinsmann.In 2010, the German’s vision for the national team was incredibly ambitious. He wanted the U.S. to play proactive, possession-based soccer and no longer rely on goalkeeping and counterattacks. He wanted both youth teams and the senior national team to build a uniquely American soccer identity, fusing together all the disparate cultures of the country’s melting pot. Above all else, he wanted to rid the U.S. team of its inferiority complex, its self-defeating mind-set that it couldn’t contend with the best teams from Europe and South America.

t was a heady vision, and one that appealed to Gulati’s desire to revolutionize American soccer. “I don’t think it was any secret that [Gulati] did want Jürgen to take the job,” said Mike Edwards, the vice president of U.S. Soccer from 2006 to 2016. “Each president wants to put their own stamp on things.”But Klinsmann’s asking price as well as demands for control were too much for Gulati. Klinsmann wanted the authority to hire not just the senior team’s technical staff and coaches but also the permanent staff of the federation, from the press shop to the trainers and the equipment managers — employees that had traditionally remained in their positions regardless of who ran the men’s team. Moreover, Klinsmann wanted to circumvent the federation’s power structure. “Really, [Klinsmann] didn’t want to report to anybody. He wanted to report to Sunil,” remembered Payne. It was an organizational structure that would have bypassed Flynn, the chief executive of U.S. Soccer. The deal fell apart.Reluctantly, Gulati extended Bradley’s contract in August 2010, and the hiring process revealed a bigger truth about the way decisions have historically been made inside U.S. Soccer. Gulati and Flynn — despite having never played or coached the sport at a high level — had the unilateral authority to hire the national team coach. Even the organization’s vice president at the time, Edwards, was not involved in the decision-making.Over the next year, Gulati’s eye continued to wander toward Klinsmann. And luckily for Gulati, Klinsmann’s job prospects had cooled since his 2006 World Cup triumph. His last head-coaching gig, as the manager of Bayern Munich, had ended in the spring of 2009 after only nine months. At the time of his dismissal, Barcelona had just demolished Bayern in the Champions League quarterfinals, and his team — perennial title contenders — sat in third place in the Bundesliga and were in danger of missing out on European competition. The Bayern leadership pulled the plug with just five matches remaining in the season.“Jürgen really has a magnetism to him that makes people want to get in there and listen to what he has to say. I think he was the right guy at the right time to bring us a shot of enthusiasm.” —Mike Edwards

After failing to ink a deal with U.S. Soccer in 2010, Klinsmann was hired as a consultant to fix MLS club Toronto FC. Acting as a headhunter, Klinsmann recommended that TFC hire Dutch manager Aron Winter and former New England Revolution assistant Paul Mariner. But both of his picks flopped, and the team remained mired at the bottom of the league.By June 2011, Klinsmann was itching to get back into the coaching game but lacked the bargaining power he had once commanded. It was then that he landed an invitation to a state dinner in Washington in honor of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He reached out to D.C. United’s Payne, requesting a meeting while he was in the nation’s capital.Before agreeing to the meeting, Payne called Gulati, wanting to know what to say if Klinsmann brought up the U.S. job. Bradley had a contract that ran through 2014, and his team was slated to play their first match in the Gold Cup the same night as the state dinner. What do you want me to do? Payne asked Gulati. I can just tell him there’s nothing to talk about.“And Sunil said, ‘Tell him if he does want to have a conversation, it’s got to start and end at this number,’” Payne said. “‘Not at his number.’”Payne met Klinsmann for breakfast at the swanky W Hotel, just steps from the White House. Payne relayed Gulati’s message, and Klinsmann agreed to the lower salary figure.

(Klinsmann did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.)

From there, Klinsmann’s agent reached out to U.S. Soccer to express interest in the job, and after Bradley’s team lost the 2011 Gold Cup final to Mexico, Gulati was ready to listen. Over coffee in Frankfurt during the Women’s World Cup, Klinsmann and Gulati met to discuss the terms of a deal. More important than haggling over salary, Klinsmann agreed to operate within the federation’s existing organizational structure, the principle reason negotiations had failed in 2006 and 2010.Just a year after offering his current coach a new four-year contract, firing Bradley and hiring Klinsmann would be a massive decision, the biggest of Gulati’s tenure. It would represent a new start for the men’s team: a shared ambition to break its current identity and to build something newer, stronger, and better in its place. For Gulati, it also meant that its success — and its potential failure — would be his responsibility.On July 28, 2011, one month after Bob Bradley’s team lost to Mexico, Gulati fired the veteran American coach. The next day, Klinsmann was announced as the new manager.At the time, the excitement inside American soccer was palpable. To many, the future in which the U.S. could one day win a World Cup suddenly seemed within reach. “Jürgen really has a magnetism to him that makes people want to get in there and listen to what he has to say,” said Edwards. “I think he was the right guy at the right time to bring us a shot of enthusiasm.”And for a little while, at least, things appeared to be going well. In March 2012, the U.S. beat Italy on Italian soil, which the team had never done. That summer, the Yanks dropped Mexico in Mexico for the first time in 25 tries, breaking a decades-long curse. More than anything, most players involved with the national team program seemed to benefit from the fresh vibe. Where Bradley was strict and taciturn, Klinsmann was warm and bubbly, tanned and full of energy. He had a way of putting players at ease.“It was tough to feel uncomfortable around him,” said Feilhaber.

He cajoled America’s top players to get out of their “comfort zones” and to play in Europe’s top leagues. It was the ethos that had defined his own career as a player — a relentless hunger to achieve, a visceral hatred of inertia — and Klinsmann attempted to implant that mind-set inside his new players. “He said it privately in meetings to a lot of players, he said it in front of the group during team meetings, and he said it publicly,” remembered Donovan. “He never shied away from that message.”Klinsmann was also able to persuade a number of German-based players with American heritage to don the red, white, and blue, and he brought his energy and ideas to how things were run inside U.S. Soccer. He wasn’t afraid to be critical of how the organization made decisions, pushing the leadership on player development initiatives and coaching education just like he pushed the players on the senior team to take their game to the next level.“For a lot of us … we were all really hungry at the time and really wanted to prove that we belonged,” Evans said. “We worked our tits off to be there, and we got results.”At the time, no one could have could imagined that five years later the Klinsmann experiment would end in failure, and its two chief architects would be out of work.

Act 2: How to Lose a Locker Room

The road into Stanford University, lined with Canary Island palm trees, welcomed the U.S. men’s national team to their training camp before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Thirty players arrived on the campus in Palo Alto on May 14 to fight for a spot on Klinsmann’s final roster, but only 23 would board the team’s plane to Brazil.Training was intense. The group was composed mostly of familiar faces — Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Michael Bradley — but there were a few new ones, too. Bayern Munich’s 18-year-old German American Julian Green was a surprise inclusion. Despite his impressive club pedigree, he had made his senior international debut only one month prior and had featured just once as a substitute for his club. To the team’s close-knit veterans, he was an obvious threat to a seat on the flight to the World Cup.“Nobody was prepared for what was coming. If you can prepare yourself for a disaster situation, it’s easier to cope with than things just happening, like a car crash.” —Brad EvansOn May 22, the players were expecting just another typical practice day. Instead, it quickly became an inflection point in Klinsmann’s tenure and a symbol of the larger battle that Klinsmann, who’d recently signed a contract extension, was waging for control of U.S. Soccer.The final roster wasn’t supposed to be announced until a week later, but that day, a few players were pulled aside as they walked off the practice field, about to be culled from the herd in shock. The setting was too informal, and the process too rushed, for Klinsmann to offer anything but a platitude on the side of the pitch for all to see: You know, I’ve just got to go with my gut here. We’re not going to bring you to the World Cup.“Nobody was prepared for what was coming,” said Evans, who was one of the cuts. “If you can prepare yourself for a disaster situation, it’s easier to cope with than things just happening, like a car crash. I think the way it was gone about was wrong.”Defender Clarence Goodson, another of the cuts, asked Klinsmann for an explanation. “I told him very calmly that I didn’t agree and asked for his reasoning. I felt I should be starting, not trying to make the team,” Goodson said in an email. Klinsmann told him that they could speak after the World Cup. “I said to him, ‘Let’s be honest. My U.S. career is over.’ Still, he refused to give me an explanation, which of course is his right as the coach, but I felt in the moment that I deserved better.” Klinsmann and Goodson have not spoken since.The early roster cuts weren’t just a surprise for the players. No one in U.S. Soccer had been briefed, including Gulati and Flynn. As the dejected players walked off the pitch, it slowly dawned on federation staff that Klinsmann wasn’t just dropping a few players from the group of 30; he was announcing the final 23-man roster for Brazil.The manner in which players were informed was not the only point of contention. Veterans like Evans and Goodson were regarded as key locker-room leaders. In their place was a cohort of German Americans including John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, and Green — on paper, talented players, but subject to occasional grumbling about their commitment to the squad. The complaints about German American players could have xenophobic undertones, but over time — rightly or wrongly — Klinsmann’s perceived preferential treatment for this group of players would damage team morale.

The last player to learn that he would not be traveling to Brazil was also the most controversial: Landon Donovan. The forward had stayed after practice to hit a few free kicks, and when Klinsmann called for Donovan, shivers of panic went through U.S. Soccer staff. Most of the cuts so far had been players on the fringe of the roster, but Donovan was the most famous American soccer player alive and the team’s all-time leading goal-scorer. It was his last-second goal in 2010 that had propelled the USMNT into the knockout round. Then on the wrong side of 30, he was no longer quite the player he once was, but few inside the locker room believed the team was better off without him.Donovan and Klinsmann had butted heads for years, dating back to when the coach put his reputation on the line to bring the forward to Bayern Munich. On loan in 2009, Donovan made only six substitute appearances and didn’t score a goal. The episode played a major role in fracturing the club’s faith in Klinsmann’s judgment before his firing.Their personalities didn’t mesh, either. As new-agey as Klinsmann could sound, he was a ruthless competitor. For all of his talents, Donovan just wasn’t built like that. He thrived in MLS, with the national team, and in loan stints with Everton, playing situations in which the introspective forward felt within his comfort zone. He once took a self-imposed sabbatical from the sport to recharge his burnt-out emotional batteries in Cambodia.“The single dumbest thing that Jürgen Klinsmann has ever done. Period. I don’t know anybody that agreed with that decision. No one. And I was furious.” —Richard Groff, on leaving Landon Donovan off the 23-man roster for Brazil

Later on the same day of the cuts, Klinsmann’s son Jonathan taunted Donovan on social media, and though his tweet was quickly deleted, it was clear to many involved that the decision was personal.The team was universally shocked. If it could happen to Landon, it could happen to any one of us. Around American soccer, the outrage was swift and widespread.“The single dumbest thing that Jürgen Klinsmann has ever done. Period,” said Richard Groff, a former member of U.S. Soccer’s board of directors. “I don’t know anybody that agreed with that decision. No one. And I was furious.”Cutting Donovan brought into public view the behind-closed-doors battle for control of U.S. Soccer that was waged during the Klinsmann years. Gulati and Flynn had hired Klinsmann to revolutionize American soccer, but the initial stumbling block over control during his hiring process foreshadowed the fault lines of an eventual conflict. Dropping the team’s highest-profile player before the World Cup wasn’t a random act; it was part of Klinsmann’s plan to assert control over the team’s culture. “Everybody thinks this whole, like, California, blond surfer-dude attitude is Jürgen. [But] he is very German. I mean really German. Really rigid on a lot of things,” said Payne.For those inside U.S. Soccer and for many of the team’s veteran players, the problem was not that Klinsmann wanted to enact change, but that his plans lacked continuity. Many of Klinsmann’s innovations — from motivational speakers to yoga classes, fitness regimens, strict nutrition controls, and constantly evolving tactical schemes — were introduced one day and forgotten the next. It was hard for players to tell whether a Klinsmann decision was calculated “creative disruption” or just the whim of a coach who woke up with a new idea.Klinsmann’s divide-and-conquer tactics had started long before the Donovan decision. In March 2013, he axed veteran defender and captain Carlos Bocanegra, a popular figure who had kept the locker room united during the changeover from Bradley to Klinsmann. It was similar to one of the decisions he made as Germany’s head coach, when he sacked legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn and stripped him of the captaincy.“I saw it firsthand. The training sessions were incongruous. They were muddled. They didn’t make sense, and they didn’t prepare the team for the weekend. The players didn’t know what positions they were playing until the day of the game. I mean, it was a mess.” —Kyle Martino

Klinsmann’s messaging also created tension. Early and often, the manager implored American players to mirror his mind-set: ruthlessly competitive, never satisfied, and always looking to play in bigger and better leagues. His goal was to challenge the symbiotic relationship that had developed between MLS and U.S. Soccer, and the league bristled at any suggestion that it was not an appropriate destination for national team players. Rightly or wrongly, USMNT players in MLS felt devalued.These slights could have been tolerated if the team had played like the one Klinsmann described in public — an attack-minded, progressive force — but by the time he cut Bocanegra in 2013, many of the players had begun to question Klinsmann’s tactical acumen. The group had struggled through the preliminary round of qualifying, not clinching progression until a win against Guatemala in the final game. Then, they lost the opening game of the final qualification round, the Hexagonal or “Hex,” to Honduras in San Pedro Sula. In a blockbuster piece in the Sporting News by Brian Straus published after the Honduras match, multiple U.S. national team players blasted Klinsmann and his assistant Martin Vasquez anonymously, arguing that both lacked the tactical sophistication to lead the team.Their complaints echoed those of Philipp Lahm, a German national team star and fullback for Bayern Munich during Klinsmann’s brief tenure there. In his 2011 autobiography, published after U.S. Soccer had hired Klinsmann, Lahm blasted his coaching methods. “We practiced little more than fitness [at Bayern]. Tactical things were neglected. The players had to get together before [games] to discuss how we wanted to play,” Lahm wrote. “After six or eight weeks, all the players knew it wouldn’t work with Klinsmann. The rest of the season was damage limitation.”NBC Sports’ Kyle Martino had also been hearing complaints from players about Klinsmann and Vasquez’s tactical shortcomings. The week after Straus’s piece came out, Martino traveled to California to watch the team practice. “I saw it firsthand. The training sessions were incongruous. They were muddled. They didn’t make sense, and they didn’t prepare the team for the weekend,” he recalled. “The players didn’t know what positions they were playing until the day of the game. I mean, it was a mess.”

Martino took these reflections to the airwaves, arguing that Vasquez lacked the qualifications to prepare the team, and the next day he got a call from Klinsmann. “Basically, he tried to bully me to get me on board. He started by trying to intimidate me a bit,” said Martino. “And then he did this, ‘Kyle, you’re an important figure in soccer, people listen to you. You can’t say things like that because it’s going to be damaging to the team. Next time, please call me beforehand.’”It didn’t end there. Klinsmann then rescinded Martino’s invitation to a media roundtable, a warning sign to any future critics. Only after NBC responded to U.S. Soccer and said that it supported Martino and would not be sending anyone to cover future U.S. Soccer events was his access returned.

Despite the dispute, Klinsmann heeded Martino’s advice in the run-up to the World Cup. He fired Vasquez, replacing him with national team veteran Tab Ramos and bringing in former German national team coach Berti Vogts as an adviser.“That is a massive window into the psychology of Jürgen Klinsmann and the authority he had been given by [U.S. Soccer],” said Martino. “He was out to control everything. That ordeal was the first time I was truly concerned the emperor had no clothes.”On its face, the 2014 World Cup was a net win for Klinsmann, the group’s collective frustrations taking a backseat as the team competed in the world’s biggest sporting event. Despite having been drawn into what some considered the Group of Death, with Germany, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, and longtime bogeyman Ghana, the U.S. advanced out of the group stage, and was a close-range shank from Chris Wondolowski — a forward who made the roster over Donovan — from reaching the quarterfinals.Yet for all the talk about revolutionizing the team’s style of play, the U.S.’s round of 16 match against Belgium was a step backward. The Belgians dominated from start to finish, firing off a mind-boggling 38 shots, 26 of them on target. If not for Tim Howard recording a tournament-record 16 saves, it would have been a rout rather than a near miss.After the World Cup, Klinsmann continued his plans to disrupt American soccer. He called up Miguel Ibarra from a second-division side, the NASL’s Minnesota United, and Jordan Morris from Stanford — moves that were widely interpreted as shots at MLS. He even went after the big-money MLS homecomings of national team stars like Dempsey, Bradley, and Jozy Altidore, sparking a war of words with powerful MLS commissioner Don Garber in the fall of 2014.“I wouldn’t have done this to your father, and I’m not doing this now. I just want to score goals and go fishing.” —Clint Dempsey to Michael Bradley, according to multiple sources“I think at the beginning, Jürgen did a good job. Jürgen talked a lot about systemic change … [but] he didn’t understand that it works a lot better if you can try to achieve some consensus as opposed to just dictating how to do things,” said Payne.Inside the team, the four-plus years of inconsistent tactics and messages began to take a toll. Players described routinely having to figure out positions in the tunnel on the way onto the pitch. “The thing that got talked about the least in the national team for five years was soccer,” said a source close to the team. When asked about the struggles, players articulated that it wasn’t any one issue but instead a compounding frustration, slowly rising in temperature, like a pot of water about to boil. The question of whether or not Klinsmann should be the coach became a serious discussion point for those on the team.A few weeks before a friendly with Chile in January 2015, veterans Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey had a conversation about the state of the team. Dempsey, a quiet Texan who was the team’s captain, led with his play on the field, not with his words. When Gulati reached out in 2010, asking him to discuss the state of the team under Bob Bradley, he never picked up the phone or returned the calls.

Now, posed with a question about what should happen with Klinsmann, Dempsey wanted no part of it. “I wouldn’t have done this to your father, and I’m not doing this now,” he told Bradley, according to multiple sources within the team. “I just want to score goals and go fishing.”“Throughout the last cycle, there were tough moments that led to hard conversations. As captain, different things came to me. I never shared who was involved or what was said, and I’m not going to start now.” —Michael BradleyThe game in Chile, however, did nothing to quiet the unrest. Despite having hardly so much as practiced the formation, the U.S. came out in a three-defender setup with Jermaine Jones, a midfielder, operating as a center back and attacking midfielder Mix Diskerud deployed in a defensive role. The lack of preparation was obvious in the 3–2 defeat. After training the following day, Bradley, Dempsey, Altidore, and Jones took a few extra laps around the practice field and vented about the nonsensical tactics, the team’s plummeting morale, and Klinsmann’s role in all of it.It was only the start of the 2018 World Cup qualification campaign, but something was amiss inside the group. Over the next year, the team’s veterans would continue to talk; the water was boiling over.Michael Bradley provided the following statement about this period: “Throughout the last cycle, there were tough moments that led to hard conversations. As captain, different things came to me. I never shared who was involved or what was said, and I’m not going to start now. After the game in Trinidad, I answered every question. I took responsibility and said we have nobody to blame but ourselves.”When the results were good, Gulati and the federation had been willing to tolerate the tension Klinsmann created because it had some positive benefits. But as the team trended in the wrong direction, Gulati would be forced to make a choice about his embattled coach.

Act 3: Gulati Can’t Quit Klinsmann

The 2015 Gold Cup had been a struggle from the start. The American team looked disjointed during the group stage, eking out results against regional minnows Honduras and Haiti. A blowout in the quarterfinal over Cuba felt cathartic, but then the U.S. lost its semifinal clash with Jamaica. The defeat was historic: The team had never lost to Jamaica on home soil.In a regional tournament that the United States usually wins or loses in the final to archrival Mexico, Klinsmann’s team placed fourth after losing a consolation match to Panama. In the aftermath, Klinsmann blamed the poor results on referees, and privately told U.S. Soccer officials that he believed some of the matches were rigged.“Sunil keeps very close counsel, and I think that did not serve him well over time.” —Mike Edwards

For those inside the federation, alarm bells were ringing. They’d heard the grumblings about player discontent going back years. Gulati himself had heard much of it firsthand. He had a long history of backchanneling with players to keep a pulse on what was going on inside the locker room, a tactic that some in American soccer circles believed undermined the authority of his coaches. In 2014, women’s national team coach Tom Sermanni had been fired after what some viewed as a players revolt.As 2016 began, the Klinsmann question vexed Gulati. He polled U.S. Soccer’s leadership and players, outside confidantes, and even some journalists about what to do regarding his embattled coach. Gulati had gambled heavily on Klinsmann, and even as reports filtered back to him that Klinsmann wasn’t working out, Gulati was hesitant to make a change.“Sunil keeps very close counsel, and I think that did not serve him well over time,” said Edwards, the former U.S. Soccer vice president. “People have their style, and until now the [U.S. Soccer] membership tended to defer to the president, particularly on the men’s coach.”Just a few years before in 2013, Gulati had doubled down on his bet. At the time, the German’s stock as U.S. coach had never been higher. After the tumult around the Straus story, Klinsmann took a more active role in planning training sessions and rebuilding team morale. That, alongside the potential of missing the World Cup, motivated the group. That summer, a U.S. B team won the Gold Cup. Then, the U.S. rallied from their early stumbles in World Cup qualification, finishing in first place in the “Hex,” the final six-team qualifying stage. It was the best run of results during his five-and-a-half-year tenure.In November 2013, Klinsmann made his power play, asking Gulati for a contract extension that would grant him more money and more power. In addition to coaching the senior team through the 2018 World Cup, Klinsmann wanted the job of technical director. The position would give him more control over the direction of all U.S. youth teams and a wide perch to affect player development. Most importantly, Klinsmann wanted the new deal done before the 2014 World Cup.For advice, Gulati reached out to Payne. Gulati feared that Klinsmann could quit if not given a new deal. At the time, rumors were flooding the tabloid press in England that Klinsmann might land the Tottenham job or take over the Swiss national team after the World Cup.“If we had known that armed with that, he was going to become what he became — that he was going to say ‘Fuck you’ to everybody and leave Landon Donovan off the World Cup team and create the seeds of dissension that plagued him for the remainder of his tenure, then I would have said, ‘Don’t give him the extension yet.’” —Kevin Payne

Payne said he warned Gulati about expanding Klinsmann’s role to technical director, saying, “Just understand that he’s not going to do the work.” But he asked Gulati a simple question: Are you happy with Klinsmann’s performance? “And he said, ‘Yes, I am. The things that we’ve hired him for, he’s done. He’s raised the profile of the program. He’s had a pretty open door, and he’s been open to a lot of different players. He’s gotten us results in places that we’ve never got results before.” Moreover for Gulati, Klinsmann was now the face of U.S. Soccer. To give up on him would be to admit the failure of Gulati’s grand vision.On December 12, Gulati announced Klinsmann’s contract extension. The deal gave Gulati the right to terminate the agreement should the U.S. stumble in the World Cup, but it showed that the federation and U.S. Soccer would continue to be synonymous with Jürgen Klinsmann.Payne now says that he gave Gulati the wrong advice. “If we had known that armed with that, he was going to become what he became — that he was going to say ‘Fuck you’ to everybody and leave Landon Donovan off the World Cup team and create the seeds of dissension that plagued him for the remainder of his tenure, then I would have said, ‘Don’t give him the extension yet. And if he wants to go [after the World Cup], then let him walk away.’”To follow up the failure at the 2015 Gold Cup, the team lost at home to Mexico in the 2015 CONCACAF Cup, costing the United States a spot in the Confederations Cup. Meanwhile, Klinsmann continued his public clash with MLS commissioner Don Garber and repeatedly failed to accept responsibility for his team’s lackluster results.Inside U.S. Soccer, the tensions that Payne had warned Gulati about were growing. Klinsmann clashed with chief operations officer Jay Berhalter, a rising power inside U.S. Soccer, who had assumed the day-to-day duties that many within U.S. Soccer thought Klinsmann was neglecting as technical director. According to sources close to the team, CEO Dan Flynn was growing weary of the drama and ready to fire Klinsmann, but Gulati still wavered, hoping the project could be salvaged.“I think the mind-set of all of us at U.S. Soccer was that we can’t not qualify for the World Cup,” said Edwards. “It clouds your thinking of the immediacy of the need to resolve a problem.”By March 2016, a moment of reckoning had arrived. The senior team lost to Guatemala for the first time in 32 years. The loss put the U.S. in danger of missing out on the “Hex.” Just a few days later, the U.S. under-23 Olympic team, coached by Klinsmann’s hand-picked assistant Andi Herzog, failed to qualify for the Olympics for the second time under Klinsmann’s watch.A month later, Gulati finally made his move — well, almost. As described in detail in Bruce Arena’s forthcoming book, What’s Wrong With US?, the veteran American coach was first approached by Gulati and Flynn soon after the team’s disastrous March. (An advance copy of the book was sent to The Ringer by Arena’s agent, Richard Motzkin.) On April 25, the group met secretly in Chicago, and Gulati and Flynn agreed in principle to fire Klinsmann and bring in Arena.

Arena was the closest thing American soccer had to a Grand Pooh-bah. He had won five MLS Cups, the most in league history. He’d already headed up the national team once, from 1998 to 2006, leading a memorable run to the quarterfinals in 2002, the team’s best showing at a World Cup in the modern era. At the time of his meeting with Gulati and Flynn, his L.A. Galaxy team had won three of the previous five MLS championships and looked like legitimate contenders to make it four out of six.Yet the 64-year-old couldn’t resist giving it one more shot with the national team. He remained upset about his team’s three-and-out performance at the 2006 World Cup and wanted a shot at redemption. Furthermore, answering his country’s distress call in a time of need appealed to his ego. Protecting previous accomplishments wasn’t enough to keep Arena from one final shot at World Cup glory.In Chicago, Arena did not want to sign a contract until his agent and U.S. Soccer power broker Motzkin was looped in, so the trio agreed to regroup the next afternoon. Inside U.S. Soccer, preparations were being made. Federation staff had drafted a press release and were ready to send it out to their media contacts to announce the massive decision once they got the OK from Flynn.Awaiting a phone call the next day, Arena instead received a vague note from Flynn saying that his appointment would have to wait. Flynn, unbeknownst to anybody outside the U.S. Soccer hierarchy, was awaiting a heart transplant that could save his life. Flynn received word of a potential donor the morning after the initial meeting with Arena, and immediately flew to Kansas City for emergency surgery. His recovery timetable was eight weeks, minimum, before he could return to work.The decision to hire or fire Klinsmann now rested solely with Gulati. Klinsmann’s failures in March and subsequent refusal to accept responsibility for the team’s struggles had prepared him to pull the trigger. But with Flynn incapacitated, he began to waver.In his book, Arena describes a phone call with Gulati. Everyone now knew about Flynn’s previously secret heart problems. Sensing Gulati’s hesitations, Arena told him that he would understand if he held off on making such a decisive move until Flynn returned to work. “Listen, Sunil, do you feel uncomfortable about this?” Arena said. “Forget about it. Don’t worry about it.”By the time Gulati was finally ready to fire Klinsmann, the situation would be worse. Instead of taking over for the full Hexagonal cycle, Arena would be given only eight games with a team that lost its first two matches. There was still some margin for error; it just wasn’t big enough.

Act 4: Arena and the Old Guard Come Close

In November 2016, at the end of a practice session ahead of what would be Klinsmann’s final match in charge of the U.S. national team, defender Timmy Chandler gave a younger teammate some telling advice. Forward Bobby Wood was nursing minor knocks suffered from the previous match — a disappointing 2–1 loss to Mexico on home soil — and Chandler told him not to risk aggravating his injuries. Wood was still establishing himself as a regular starter in Germany’s Bundesliga. Why, Chandler posited, risk that by overexerting yourself for your country when your club team was paying most of your bills?Wood ignored Chandler’s advice and started the match, but the exchange symbolizes the state of the team that Arena would inherit. Historically, the USMNT had been known for its grit and fight — a team that exceeded the sum of its parts. But Klinsmann’s tenure had cracked that collective spirit, and it was exposed in ruthless fashion in the match against Costa Rica. It wasn’t just that the team lost 4–0; it was how the side capitulated under pressure. The humiliating defeat exposed the team’s broken culture, and most importantly revealed that most of the group had given up on Klinsmann.One week after the loss to Costa Rica, Gulati fired Klinsmann, in late November, and brought in Arena seven months after he had initially planned to hire him. To announce the decision, the U.S. Soccer press shop had it easy. It merely changed the date on the press release it had prepared in April.

Gulati’s rationale for hiring the former national team coach was simple. Arena was the coaching antithesis of Klinsmann, known for his strong ability to speak bluntly with players. Everyone on an Arena team would know their role. There would be no surprises and no miscommunication. Plus, despite the poor start, the United States was still one of the top three teams in the region and had more than enough individual talent to qualify.However, the decision to go back to a known quantity in Arena revealed Gulati’s insular management style. Having waited so long to replace Klinsmann, Gulati was wary of handing the team over to another high-profile foreign coach, and there wasn’t enough time to entrust an up-and-coming American manager with such a major rescue job. He needed a quick fix to salvage World Cup qualification now that his team was down 2–0, and his only option, according to a source familiar with Gulati’s thinking at the time, was to recall a former U.S. national team manager. It was a shortlist of two: Arena and Bob Bradley. Relations with Bradley, however, were still strained following his unceremonious 2011 dismissal, leaving Gulati — in his mind — with no choice but to hand the job to Arena.The new coach’s plan to get back on track was straightforward. Arena wanted to resurrect the camaraderie that had characterized the group he’d managed in the first decade of the 2000s. Whereas under Klinsmann there were mixed messages, Arena was clear-cut about his demands and expectations. Even at the expense of raw talent, Arena dropped many of the players whose commitment to the team had previously been questioned, including Chandler.For much of the group, the training camp in January 2017 was a breath of fresh air. With Klinsmann gone, it was as if a weight had been lifted; spirits were light. And for the most part, Arena’s strategy worked. The U.S. defeated Honduras and Trinidad at home, and earned tough road draws at Panama and at Mexico’s Azteca. For a while, the Americans looked on a comfortable track toward qualification.Helping power the resurgence was Christian Pulisic. Only 18 years old when he first appeared under Arena, the Hershey, Pennsylvania, native emerged as one of the most promising prospects in U.S. history. As a fast, aggressive dribbler, he’d broken into the starting lineup at Borussia Dortmund, one of the biggest clubs in the world. Still in his late teens, Pulisic had already accomplished more than most American outfielders ever had, and his status on a German Bundesliga powerhouse immediately earned him the respect of his much older peers.“We were pushing the guys in front of us, the older guys. We were going to fight for our positions. I don’t know that there is that right now.” —Brad Evans, on the difference in playing under Klinsmann and ArenaAs a standout youngster, however, Pulisic was very much the exception rather than the rule. According to those familiar with Arena’s thinking at the time, he was reluctant to introduce new faces. With only eight games remaining in qualification, he instead leaned heavily on veterans he believed he could trust.“We were pushing the guys in front of us, the older guys,” Evans said of the early days under Klinsmann. “We were going to fight for our positions. I don’t know that there is that right now. I don’t know that there are those guys pushing the ones in front of them, trying to push them off.

Arena’s delicate balancing act between fixing the team culture and getting the most out of an already shallow talent pool was personified by Geoff Cameron.A standout defender in the Premier League, Cameron had been one of the few top American players to remain in Europe during Klinsmann’s tenure. Bradley, Dempsey, Altidore, Jones, and later Howard and Brad Guzan had all repatriated back to MLS on big-money contracts, but Cameron continued to grind out results with Stoke City. Although Cameron recognized Klinsmann’s limitations as a manager, he’d appreciated how the German had pushed American players to challenge themselves at the international standard, the level he played at week in, week out in the Premier League.

From the start, his relationship with Arena was rocky. Cameron and some other players didn’t respect the level of experience that Arena’s assistants brought to the team. Although coaches Richie Williams, Matt Reis, and Kenny Arena (Bruce’s son) had all played in MLS, none had played in Europe’s top leagues or in a World Cup. As tensions at practice sessions grew, Arena’s staff came to believe that these players were more interested in earning a ticket to the World Cup than in the overall health of the squad, reminding them of the troubles during the Klinsmann years.

As it was before, when the results were good, team chemistry wasn’t as much of a problem. According to one source, Cameron’s attitude was exceptionally positive during the team’s hard-fought draw against Mexico. But when the squad struggled, like in its 2–0 loss at home to Costa Rica in September that again put qualification in doubt, the locker-room problems resurfaced.Tensions with Cameron climaxed during the team’s next qualification match, a must-win against Panama in October. Before the match, rumors around the team swirled that Cameron would get sent home. According to a source close to the team, Cameron himself asked about leaving after hearing from Arena that he would not be starting the match.But Cameron elected to remain with the squad, and in the middle of the resounding 4–0 victory — which put the U.S. within one point of qualification for Russia — Cameron allegedly grumbled to his benchmates about his lack of playing time even as his teammates dominated on the pitch. Word of his complaints reached Arena’s staff, which sealed Cameron’s fate: He would not play in the final match against Trinidad.Reached for comment, Cameron’s agent strongly denied that the player complained about playing time on the bench, and said that Cameron has been universally committed to the national team.With one match to go and needing only a draw to advance, the U.S. coaching staff discussed shuffling the lineup ahead of the fateful game in Trinidad in October 2017. Some suggestions included adding an additional central midfielder to support Bradley in the center of the pitch, or giving some of the starters from Panama a rest in order to let players with fresh legs deal with the sultry Caribbean climate.Ultimately, Arena elected to use the same lineup he had against Panama four days prior. He reasoned that an overly defensive lineup would signal to his team that he was playing only for a draw. Furthermore, all the starters from the Panama game wanted to play again. Instead of shuffling the lineup, and at the risk of fatigue after such a quick turnaround, he would bring out the same team that had won so convincingly in Orlando.From the opening whistle, it was clear that Arena had miscalculated. The U.S. played slowly and without energy. It confounded the coaching staff and players on the bench. “It was clear to me when we took the field that we were playing like we already qualified for a World Cup,” said McCarty, who started the match on the bench. “Trinidad looked like the team that was trying to qualify. I was shocked at the level of passivity.”In the 17th minute, disaster struck. What initially looked like a harmless Trinidad cross ricocheted off defender Omar Gonzalez’s shin and spun over a helpless Howard for an own goal. But instead of being spurred into action, the U.S. slipped deeper into its shared malaise. Twenty minutes later, T&T defender Alvin Jones fired a speculative shot from more than 35 yards out that swerved around a befuddled Howard into the top corner to make it 2–0. A sparse home crowd, filling only a portion of Ato Boldon Stadium, roared its delight.Multiple American players described the sensation as something like sleepwalking through a nightmare. At halftime, Arena tried his best to wake the team up and to keep the rising panic he felt growing in his chest from showing through.

With the unthinkable just 45 minutes away, there remained realistic hope that they would be granted a reprieve thanks to other results. Even if the United States lost, they would be eliminated outright only if Panama and Honduras both won, too. At halftime, Costa Rica led in Panama City and Mexico was up on Honduras. When Pulisic pulled a goal back for the U.S. less than 90 seconds into the second half, there was another collective exhale.But the worst-case scenario unfolded. Panama was mistakenly awarded a game-tying goal that never crossed the line, and Honduras edged in front of Mexico in San Pedro Sula with two quick goals. Those on the field in Trinidad had no idea — only the players on the bench were given updates of what was happening elsewhere. When midfielder Benny Feilhaber entered as a sub in the 83rd minute, the USMNT was still alive. When the final whistle blew, it took only a glance at the faces of his teammates on the sideline to confirm the worst: Panama had scored again.Arena wrote in his book that he experienced a moment of peace as the match ended, “knowing we had given everything for this struggle.” He consoled himself with a note of encouragement sent to him by Garber — a Churchill quote — and a bottle of wine at the hotel bar with Reis, his goalkeeping coach. To this day, Arena is defensive about his decisions, accepting responsibility in word then proceeding to blame others for the result in Trinidad.“It is incumbent upon everybody in U.S. Soccer to make sure no other group of players ever has to feel that way again.” —Dax McCarty

In a sense, he’s not wrong. The failure to qualify for the World Cup was a collective failure of the entire American soccer community. It was a flawed outsider, Klinsmann, and his divisive leadership that clashed with an insular organization — led by Gulati — that was unwilling to loosen its grip on power or admit to its own mistakes. It was Arena’s overreliance on veteran players and his inability to reunite a divided locker room in a short period of time. The centralized power structure, and the small size of the media corps covering it, encouraged an echo chamber where the thought of missing the World Cup was considered impossible until it happened.And, of course, a core group of U.S. national team players failed to get a result when they needed one. The burden of failure has fallen most heavily on their shoulders. For many veterans, the 2018 World Cup would have been their last shot to play in the world’s biggest sporting event. To be the team to have fallen short for the first time in 32 years was devastating for all of them.Asked if there was a single snapshot of that night burned into their memory, multiple players recall the sight of Pulisic, the most blameless person in the entire catastrophe, still in full uniform, weeping in the shower.“You just feel sorry for the kid, because a talent like his deserves to be seen on the world stage this summer,” McCarty said. “It is incumbent upon everybody in U.S. Soccer to make sure no other group of players ever has to feel that way again.”

Act 5: More Hope, but No Change

After the defeat, American soccer’s power brokers fought off widespread calls for institutional reform, reasserting their power in the wake of failure.At first, there were a few superficial fixes. Arena stepped down from his post a few days after the T&T loss, and U.S. Soccer announced that a new position of general manager would be created to oversee the hiring and firing of the national team coach.Gulati, however, attempted to survive the blowback. In November 2017, he began plotting his reelection as U.S. Soccer president, and even started to reach out to potential new men’s national team coaches, including the recently available Martin O’Neill, whose contract with Ireland had just expired.But Gulati misread the roiling anger among fans. A few members of the American Outlaws, the largest American soccer supporters club, with more than 30,000 members and 200 chapters worldwide, were even discussing a plan to protest outside U.S. Soccer headquarters in Chicago if he did declare his candidacy.Gulati ultimately decided against running, opening the field for presidential hopefuls as wide ranging as former women’s national team goalkeeper Hope Solo to reform-minded candidates like former national team members and current broadcasters Kyle Martino and Eric Wynalda.Yet, when the dust settled, Gulati’s former no. 2, Carlos Cordeiro, won the day, with the help of Carlos Bocanegra, the former national team captain whom Klinsmann had axed. On election day, Bocanegra, now an executive with Atlanta United of MLS, steered the decisive votes with the help of MLS commissioner Don Garber.Despite the fanfare about the new general manager job, the position remains vacant. Several MLS executives have interviewed for the job, including current front-runner Earnie Stewart of the Philadelphia Union, Claudio Reyna of New York City FC, and Bocanegra. Press reports indicate that some candidates believe that U.S. Soccer’s leaders have not imbued the position with enough power to make real change, and others see the role more cynically, as an ideal scapegoat should a failure like Trinidad ever happen again. The job could be filled in the coming weeks, and recently U.S. Soccer announced that Bocanegra, rather than continuing his candidacy, would lead the committee responsible for making the pick.The knock-on effects of the USMNT’s elimination continue to reverberate beyond U.S. Soccer HQ. Citing a loss of ad revenue, FourFourTwo, the British magazine, essentially shuttered its U.S. branch, putting several of the country’s top soccer journalists out of work. Soccer bars in places like Seattle will miss out on an estimated $20,000 in revenue on days the U.S. would have played. And many U.S. national team players also suffered multimillion-dollar personal financial hits on endorsement deals that hinged on qualification.Despite the World Cup setback, Gulati, Garber, and others within the soccer bubble have played down the negative consequences of failure, insisting instead that soccer in America is still on the rise. While that remains largely true — investments in player development are churning out more high-quality players than ever, MLS continues to expand, and soccer is increasingly popular among young Americans — missing out on the tournament is a gigantic setback for U.S. Soccer’s quest to convert new fans.Every four years, the World Cup affords the sport a chance to move from a sporting subculture into the mainstream. Players appear on nationally broadcast morning and late-night shows, on billboards in Times Square, and on global advertising campaigns. With a team that would have been led by Pulisic, the most talented player the country has ever produced, it’s easy to imagine that the 2018 World Cup would have been the most successful off-the-field event in American men’s soccer history.Yet, even if the U.S. had managed to earn that measly draw against Trinidad, the team would still have been riven with divisions and competing against the world’s best teams while led by an aging core. Though Arena may have been able to use the prospect of playing in a World Cup to rebuild team morale and reunite the squad, leading this U.S. team through a World Cup would have been one of the biggest challenges of his coaching career.Seven months after the Trinidad game, we now have a more complete picture of what went wrong. But where do we go from here? The answer isn’t much clearer than it was that night.

Andrew Helms is a writer in New York.  Matt Pentz is a Seattle-based writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the GuardianHowler Magazine, and ESPN. He is also the author of The Sound and the Glory, a forthcoming book on the Seattle Sounders to be published by ECW Press in March 2019.

United States of El Tri: Mexico Owns America’s World Cup Spotlight

  • Mexico’s national team regularly outdraws the USMNT on U.S. soil and its national league dominates the U.S. TV ratings race. Their popularity in the USA is nothing new, but El Tri having America’s World Cup spotlight to themselves has taken it to another level.By BRIAN STRAUS May 30, 2018

The man they call El Matador signed autographs and posed for selfies. Luis Hernández greeted fans who could recall every one of his 35 goals for Mexico, and some who hadn’t been born when the forward retired in 2004. It was a Thursday afternoon, and a couple hundred supporters turned out to celebrate a national icon, many wearing green or carrying props—a replica World Cup trophy, an oversized cutout of Hernández’s smiling face…

They waited for El Matador outside a Wells Fargo bank adjacent to a San Jose strip mall, yards from a Ross Dress for Less and 500 miles north of the Mexican border, at the intersection of two nations that often run in parallel, one just as authentic and American as the other.Hernández tried to explain the crowd of Mexican-Americans gathered on a weekday in March, one day before El Tri faced Iceland in a Bay Area friendly.“The passion of the fans here, they live it more,” he said in Spanish. “They feel love for their land and for the Mexican national team.”But the word he used for land, tierra, refers to more than the square mileage enclosed by a border or the prevailing bureaucracy. A nation is just as much about tradition and shared memory. Sports can be incredibly effective at tapping into the reservoir of what Hernández called sentimentalismo. It’s so intuitively obvious, it’s become a marketing cliche. Red Sox Nation and Raider Nation don’t exactly have seats on the U.N. Security Council, but everyone understands what those slogans represent.Because their sentimentalismo is real and undying, and because they number in the millions, Mexico fans show up time and again in the U.S., to stadiums or strip malls, in the cities you’d expect and others—Charlotte, Nashville, Seattle—you might not. That connection between country and nation is only deepening this spring, as their team prepares for a World Cup that its main on-field rival will miss. El Tri, in fact, are an integral part of American soccer—so much so that since the start of 2010, Mexico has played more than twice as many times on U.S. soil as on its own. That’s an astonishing, unique and counterintuitive bit of trivia that speaks to the power of national identity as well as to the raw popularity of the team that binds a diaspora. The Mexican national soccer team may be the most broadly popular sports outfit in the United States.

 

Like so many of his countrymen, Javier Hernández, the star striker for the Mexican squad heading to Russia, has family in the U.S. His aunt lives in San Francisco. The 30-year-old who goes by Chicharito is a footballing icon. He’s prolific, charismatic and cosmopolitan, the leading scorer in El Tri history and a man who’s played for some of the world’s biggest clubs. And he made his national team debut in Dallas, in a 2009 friendly against Colombia. As he sat in a conference room inside his team’s hotel in San Jose—abutting the Plaza de César Chávez—a couple dozen fans gathered in the courtyard below, hoping to glimpse one of their heroes walking across the second-floor skyway.It was common for Mexican players of El Matador’s generation to spend most or all of their pro careers at home; the soccer culture was insular. But Chicharito’s national team is full of players from European leagues or MLS—men who speak English and who are citizens of a shrinking world. For Chicharito, staging national-team matches in the U.S. makes sense.“Why not? We are neighbors. We’ve been close since the beginning of the world,” he said earnestly, tapping on a table for emphasis. “It’s different [playing here]. You can see now people waiting for us, just for a picture, for an autograph. Then, you go to the stadium, and it’s full—completely full.”That leaves an impression. “It makes a sound around the world,” he says.Chicharito claimed he’s had teammates in Europe who saw highlights during an international break ask for clarification about where his game took place.“They ask me, ‘You play in Mexico?’ No. We play in USA.”At the end of that week in San Jose, El Tri defeated Iceland before nearly 69,000 fans at Levi’s Stadium. Chicharito & Co. then left for Dallas, where more than 79,000 attended a loss to Croatia. Combined U.S. TV viewership for those two exhibitions on Fox (which has been paying to broadcast Mexico games in English since 2016) and Univision exceeded 4.5 million. The next two most-watched games that week were Liga MX affairs. A U.S.-Paraguay friendly ranked fifth, at 925,000.“There’s no denying the Hispanic demographic in the United States,” says David Neal, who experienced its heft at Univision before becoming VP of production for Fox Sports in 2012. “It’s the latest growing demo and shows no signs of slowing down. That’s a simple fact. You would be in error to not pay attention to that simple fact, and it coincides with the explosive growth of the game.”The atmosphere and attention surrounding El Tri in the U.S. is such that Mexico’s coach, Juan Carlos Osorio—a Colombian who graduated from Southern Connecticut State and managed the Chicago Fire and the New York Red Bulls—believes these American-soil friendlies help prepare his players for a World Cup. For El Tri exhibition matches in Mexico, he says, “the crowds are very low and there is no football environment.” But an engaged throng of 70,000 can test a player’s nerves.It’s also lucrative. There’s been a cultural and economic awakening in the U.S., where an increasing number of brands have embraced the power of the Latino and Mexican-American markets. El Tri’s 2018 U.S. tour has 15 corporate sponsors, each hoping to reach a greater portion of a country that has the second-largest Spanish-speaking population on the planet. According to Census Bureau data, in 2016 there were more than 36 million U.S. residents who identified as Mexican or Mexican-American. That’s more than 11% of the country—and according to Soccer United Marketing, there are that many, or more, El Tri fans in the U.S.“One of the biggest misconceptions,” though, says SUM senior vice president Camilo Durana, “is that [this Mexican] fan base is only first-generation [immigrants]. In reality, we find that only 28% are first-generation, and 72% are second-generation or higher. A lot of our fans are bilingual, bicultural and, in many cases, English-preferred.”Our fans? Well, yes. Because SUM, which is part and parcel of MLS, is in business with the Mexican federation (FMF). Since 2003, SUM and the FMF have worked together to stage roughly five friendly matches per year across the U.S. (Add in official tournaments such as the Concacaf Gold Cup, which is also promoted by SUM and played in the U.S., and you get that crazy stat about the number of El Tri games north of the border.) SUM pays the Mexican federation an appearance fee and in turn sells sponsorships and tickets. Fans flock in from an average of 30 states and participate in tailgates, parties and promotional events like El Matador’s at the bank. A pregame walk through the parking lots surrounding Levi’s Stadium in March was testament to SUM’s research: They were filled with green jerseys and unaccented English.

“There are not only bigger numbers of die-hard Mexico fans in American than there are [U.S.] fans, but the passion that they have is unlike anything other sports in this country can understand. And you see it every time Mexico plays in the States,” says Landon Donovan, who lived and breathed the USA-Mexico rivalry throughout a record-breaking 14-year international career.

At many Mexico games, Sergio Tristan is one of those fans. His parents arrived from San Luis Potosí during the immigration boom that began in the 1970s. Those families crossed the border, settled in tight-knit communities, maintained native traditions and labored to give their children a better life. Born and raised in Austin, Tristan is now a Texas graduate, a lawyer at a government agency and a U.S. Army veteran—an El Tri fan with a Bronze Star. He’s had his patriotic credentials challenged, he says, but he insists there’s nothing wrong with loving two nations in a world of fluid cultures and permeable walls. In 2013, Tristan founded Pancho Villa’s Army, a supporters club for U.S.-based Mexico fans that has 5,000-plus members. PVA travels the country and the world—there will be roughly 80 of them in Russia—to support El Tri.“We are dipped in both cultures—we eat burgers the same way we eat tacos; our education is in English, and we consume our media in English—but we’re also Mexican,” Tristan says. “Mexico games aren’t just soccer games. [They’re] a moment in time where we can be proud of our culture and surround ourselves with our language, food and music, and hang out with people just like us.”The communities Tristan’s parents and their peers built, he says, have mostly bled into the American fabric. Sundays scheduled around church, barbecues and televised Mexican league matches are now the stuff of wistful memory. But when Mexico plays, there’s a chance to reconnect. For a couple of hours, whenever and wherever El Tri take the field, those Sundays are relived.“It’s really our final link to where we come from,” Tristan says, “and to the identity our parents gave us.”

That’s a powerful thing. By now you’ve heard the stories of dual-national players, often American-born, facing the difficult decision between playing for the U.S. or Mexico. Familiarity and fusion have added unexpected wrinkles to the on-field rivalry.“The world in general is smaller and more connected, but the soccer world especially. What you learn quickly is you end up playing with a lot of different players, or you have friends who’ve played with certain players. The nastiness in that way has changed,” says Donovan, a Southern Californian whose life-long exposure to Mexican culture, and his increasing comfort, helped lead him to return to the field with Club León this year.“The connection is there. Even the rivalry we have against the USA, talking about soccer is like the only thing that can tear us apart,” Chicharito says.The battle for hearts, minds and points now plays out on increasingly equal footing, and sometimes that parity leads to unexpected expressions of unity. In November 2016, three days after the election of an American president who was promising to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall, the two national teams posed together, arms linked, for a photo before their World Cup qualifier in Columbus, Ohio. It was an emotional display of common bonds—“You need to separate that we are human beings,” Chicharito says—sparked by a FaceTime call from U.S. midfielders Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones to Jones’s future L.A. Galaxy teammate, Mexican forward Giovani dos Santos.“Everybody wants to talk about ‘We need a soccer culture,’” says Bradley, the U.S. captain. “Well, guess what? Part of our soccer culture is that there are millions of people across our country who come from other places, and these people have strong ties to other teams. That’s us. That’s unique. And I don’t think that’s anything anyone should be up in arms about.”In other words, cheering for a foreign national team in your own country is quintessentially American. No one expects staunch U.S. fans to don green-and-red lucha libre masks and wave Mexican flags this summer, but those same diehards understand the reason their team hosts qualifiers against Mexico in a small stadium in central Ohio. You may not be a Mexico fan, but you probably have neighbors or coworkers who are. And at the World Cup, El Tri will be something very close to this country’s team.FMF general secretary Guillermo Cantú played in a few of those rough-and-tumble U.S.-Mexico games of the early 1990s. He was born in Torreón, then went to high school in Massachusetts. After trying to lead El Tri to the trophy in Russia, he’ll continue to work on the joint bid to bring the tournament to the U.S., Mexico and Canada in 2026. He said the photogenic moment in Columbus left him in tears.“We’ve come a long way since [I played],” Cantú says. “We’ve learned a lot of things. We respect each other. But that’s what happens when you actually meet people and have a conversation.”This summer, he notes and hopes, presents an opportunity for strengthening the U.S.-Mexico relationship.“Just open the door and start looking for the guys in green. It’s very easy, especially in the World Cup. There will be many, many green shirts,” Cantú says. “Just follow them. If you don’t like the party…”

Why Americans should root for Mexico this World Cup

8:00 AM ETGustavo Arellano, ESPN the Magazine

Read this piece in Spanish here. It appears in ESPN The Magazine’s June 18 World Football issue. Subscribe today!

“Traitor,” my high school sweetheart’s father scoffed when I admitted to rooting for Mexico against the U.S. “Ingrate,” my college boss said. “Fool,” an ex-colleague remarked after some Dos a Cero match.Throughout my life, I’ve had to explain to exasperated U.S. fans why I side with Mexico against their team. You know, Mexico, our fiercest rival in soccer and beyond, whose corrupt government forced my parents to flee 50 years ago to el Norte, where they created better lives for my siblings and me. “You should support the U.S.,” these people whine. “You were born here.””Exactly,” I reply. “That’s why I root for Mexico.”The reasons are simple: Mexicans on both sides of the border like winners (how American of us, right?), and Mexico has historically dominated the U.S. in soccer. And this World Cup, Mexico is in and the U.S. isn’t — for the first time since 1986.Yes, we Mexican fans will blow our vuvuzelas extra loud this year, just to annoy the U.S. that much more. I feel for you, my fellow Americans, the humiliation is real. But I’ve got a simple solution: Join us.Wake up and smell the tacos. With the U.S. out, El Tri are the only team that should matter to anyone who bleeds red, white and blue. So, Americans, be turncoats and repeat after me: ¡Viva México! With those easy words, you took the first step toward the most patriotic thing you’ll do all year.Granted, rooting for Mexico is always political. But the agenda I offer isn’t liberal or conservative. It’s all about making the U.S. better — by helping Mexico when it needs us most. And that means acknowledging some fundamental truths that Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and Americans have long avoided.The most important one: Mexico is by far the most popular soccer team in los Estados Unidos. El Tri get twice as many TV viewers as the USMNT, and Mexican first-division matches whip MLS games by nearly the same margin. Because it often sells out NFL stadiums, the Mexican team has been forced to play four times as many friendlies in el Norte in the past decade as in Mexico, 61 to 15. On the same March day when El Tri played Croatia in front of a sold-out Cowboys stadium, the U.S. was lucky to get 10,000 in a stadium outside Raleigh, North Carolina, against Paraguay.

U.S. companies also desperately want a slice of the Mexican-American quesadilla. El Tri count as official sponsors an airline (Delta), a soda (Coca-Cola) and even a sour cream (Daisy) — and sour cream isn’t even Mexican!Fox Sports, which paid $425 million for the English-language rights to el Mundial, created a #rootforyourroots campaign in an obvious play for Mexican-American viewers like me. Never mind that we’ll all be watching Telemundo just to hear Andres Cantor’s melodious goal call.To support Mexico, then, is to support America’s team. And what a team! Maybe the best Mexican squad ever. With exciting young wingers Hirving “Chucky” Lozano and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, it dominated qualifying: six wins, three draws, one loss.There’s more! A successful Mexico means CONCACAF could finally boast its own World Cup champ, which would improve U.S. soccer culture and create a better squad. The next generation of U.S. players would learn from the El Tri way, not from the plodding side that couldn’t even beat Trinidad and Tobago to qualify.Americans love when chronic underachievers finally win it all, and Mexico offers a particularly good case. It has made every knockout stage since 1994; only powerhouses Germany and Brazil have done the same. But then Mexico goes on to lose in each round of 16, nearly always in heartbreaking fashion: 2-0 to the U.S. in 2002; a 20-yard golazo by Argentina in extra time in 2006; in 2014, two goals by the Dutch in the last six minutes.Anguish doesn’t begin to describe what fans like me have felt all our lives. Our only solace all these decades? Being better than the U.S., but even that’s getting old.Mexico is ready for victory, Americans. It can do without your support, but I’m confident your cheers will push El Tri over the top. And as FIFA officials mull which country will host World Cup 2026, there’s a good chance a joint bid by Mexico, the U.S. and Canada could win. If we get it, we must show the world we can work together (with the Great White North serving as our mutual good-humored friend, as always).And if the bid isn’t successful? Let’s show FIFA what it missed at this World Cup.Maybe soccer isn’t your thing, or my argument didn’t sway you. Perhaps this will? If you join Mexico for the Mundial, you’ll help patch up the most frayed relationship since Drake and Rihanna.And we need to. Latinos are now the largest minority in the U.S., with Mexicans constituting a big chunk of that burrito. It’s not good for Mexicans and Americans to keep viewing each other with skepticism. Only fútbol diplomacy can thaw our eternal cold war; nothing else has worked so far: trade agreements, Señor Frog’s, Guillermo del Toro. Rooting together becomes an exorcism for both parties to forget the past.Americans need to take the first step. They owe it to Mexicans, you know? There’s that whole stole-half-our-country thing, and then there’s Landon Donovan. Some things are unforgivable.Gringos, jump into the fiesta! Enjoy a fantastic Mexican tailgate: the succulent carne asada tacos, the ice-cold caguamas (40-ounce beers), the brass bands we call banda sinaloense. Mexican fans will teach Americans every Spanish insult imaginable, including all the conjugates of madre (mother), the most vulgar word in our arsenal. (In exchange, may gringos teach Mexicans to stop using that homophobic chant during goal kicks, por favor.)I confess: I root for the U.S. against Mexico from time to time. El Tri can get too complacent, and who better to offer a reality check? See how easy it is to cheer for your frenemy? So follow the Mexicans, Americans. The U.S. can only improve with an ascendant Mexico and vice versa. Let’s have a great time together and hope the USMNT returns in 2022.And if it doesn’t? ¡Viva México!

 Top ten goals of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League

1 Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus 0-3 Real Madrid) – quarter-finals, 03/04/2018
UEFA Technical Observers say: An extraordinary display of technique and athleticism.

2 Gareth Bale (Liverpool 1-3 Real Madrid) – final, 26/05/2018
UEFA Technical Observers say: The crucial goal to make it 2-1 in the final, another brilliant acrobatic finish.

3 Gonzalo Higuaín (Juventus 2-2 Tottenham) – round of 16, 13/02/2018
UEFA Technical Observers say: Made the finish to this pre-planned free-kick look easy; it was anything but.

4 Antoine Griezmann (Atlético 2-0 Roma) – group stage, 22/11/2017
UEFA Technical Observers say: Another fabulous bicycle kick.

5 Edin Džeko (Chelsea 3-3 Roma) – group stage, 18/10/2017
UEFA Technical Observers say: A superb lofted through pass and an even better volleyed finish.

6 Gareth Bale (Dortmund 1-3 Real Madrid) – group stage, 26/09/2017
UEFA Technical Observers say: Excellent technical side-footed volleyed effort.

7 Fred (Shakhtar 2-1 Roma) – round of 16, 21/02/2018
UEFA Technical Observers say: Perfectly precise free-kick to complete comeback.

8 Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City 2-0 Shakhtar) – group stage, 26/09/2017
UEFA Technical Observers say: Great long-range shot.

9 Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli 3-0 Shakhtar) – group stage, 21/11/2017
UEFA Technical Observers say: Wonderful finish from distance.

10 Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid 3-2 Dortmund) – group stage, 06/12/2017
UEFA Technical Observers say: Powerful curling shot with little back-lift.

UEFA Technical Observers in Kyiv
Jerzy Engel (POL), Thomas Schaaf (GER), Mixu Paatelainen (FIN), Peter Rudbæk (DEN), Cristian Chivu (ROU), David Moyes (SCO)

THE LEGEND THAT ALMOST WASN’T

By Drew Kamaski, 06/06/18, 3:15PM EDT   A look at Indy original Brad Ring’s journey to 100 games with “Indiana’s Team”

Indy Eleven midfielder Brad Ring stood near midfield with one son in his arms. To his right, Indy Eleven President Jeff Belskus held a framed jersey that read “Ring 100”. On his left, Juli , his wife, held a bouquet of flowers in one hand and their daughter in the other. Their eldest son stood at her side. Belskus presented the jersey to Ring, who then kissed his wife and daughter and hugged his sons.The framed jersey celebrated Ring’s 100th appearance as an Indy Eleven player; A feat only one other player, Don Smart, has reached with the club. Ring’s 100th appearance came against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in Week Nine of Indy Eleven’s inaugural USL season and Ring’s fifth season with the team.“The biggest take away from having 100 appearances with one club is the commitment,” Ring said. “I’ve been committed to the club, the fan base, and the city from day one.”he night of the ceremony would also mark another milestone for the 31-year-old. Ring would make his 102nd appearance for the “Boys in Blue”, as Captain, against Bethlehem Steel FC. The start would earn him the top spot on the list of all-time appearances as an Indy Eleven player, overtaking Smart.“Brad is a legend on and off the field,” Smart said. “I’m very happy and proud to be his teammate for 4 years and want to congratulate him on the accomplishment.”Ring’s journey with Indy Eleven began in 2014. However, his flight to professional soccer, and life in Indiana, began in 2005 at Indiana University in Bloomington.“Indiana University was a huge part of my foundation as a professional soccer player,” Ring said. “That’s where I started to see the game as a career, not just as fun to play.”Ring was a key part of Indiana University Men’s Soccer during his time in Bloomington. The defensive midfielder finished his collegiate career with 78 appearances, 14 goals, and eight assists.The stellar performances during his tenure at Indiana’s oldest university earned him the chance to take his soccer career to the professional level. But fate nearly kept Ring from seizing the opportunity.“My senior year at Indiana University I battled with a lower abdominal injury which ended up keeping me out of the MLS [Major League Soccer] Combine,” Ring said.Luckily, the Rockford, Illinois native was drafted 17th overall by the San Jose Earthquakes in the 2009 MLS Super Draft despite the injury.San Jose’s team doctors determined that Ring wasn’t receiving enough blood flow to his hips and would need potential career-ending surgery to fix the issue. He was left with two options: risk the surgery and his professional career or seek a second opinion.Ring chose the latter of the two and concluded the best path to recovery was to completely deactivate his body. For eight months, Ring swam laps and did yoga.“We choose to opt out of surgery and simply turn everything off,” Ring said. “It was a difficult time because I was putting my dreams on hold and my future was unclear.”

The gamble paid off. The following season, Ring returned to preseason traiing and signed his first professional contract with San Jose, pain free.Soon after, Ring was traded to MLS side Portland Timbers, where he spent the 2013 season. His career with Portland lasted one year, but the short stay with the West coast side resulted in his return to the Hoosier state.Ring’s return to Indiana didn’t land him back in Bloomington, but rather 57 miles north in Indianapolis. The midfielder signed with Indy Eleven in 2014, when he became one the members of the club’s inaugural team.“Joining an expansion team is always a bit of a gamble because you don’t know what to expect,” Ring said. “But everything worked out better than expected and I’m thrilled to call Indy home.” Ring is now the last remaining member of the 2014 inaugural team. He may not be Indy Eleven’s most prolific goal scorer, but his leadership in training and on the pitch makes him a vital squad member.Ring has also adopted a leadership role off the pitch and has become one of the leading community, athlete advocates in Indianapolis. The midfielder dedicates time to Ring’s Reading Program, an initiative he created in 2016.Ring’s goal is to share the benefits of an active lifestyle to children. During the program, he spends time reading books to young students, promoting the importance of exercise, and eating healthy.Perhaps the most special thanks during Ring’s 100th game ceremony came from the supporter group that religiously cheers their “Boys in Blue”, the Brickyard Battalion.Ring has long been a fan favorite of the Brickyard Battalion. So much so, the supporter group lifted a tifo that bore Ring’s 100 appearances during the pre-match ceremony.The tifo wasn’t the Brickyard Battalion’s only show of gratitude for Ring that night. The dedicated group of fans also wanted to display their appreciation of Ring’s willingness to give back to the community.Mike Williams, a supporter of the team since its founding, organized an event labeled Brad Ring Reads 100 Books.“I wanted to do something to support his reading initiative,” Williams said. “I wanted to help him in what he does out in the community, which is read books at elementary schools.”The idea was to donate 100 books to Ring’s Reading Program. Come time for the ceremony, the supporter group surpassed its initial goal, and collected a total of 135.With the all-time appearances record to his name, a strong communal presence, and five years and counting with Indy Eleven, Ring has solidified his nickname as the “Legend”. He will remain just that; a legend, to the fans during, and after, the existence of “Indiana’s Team” and Ring’s career.I would like to finish my career here with Indy Eleven,” Ring said. “Hopefully holding up a trophy with my teammates.”

indy11student

Click here for Discount Tickets for the Indy 11 Game

KEYS TO THE MATCH | #INDVCHS

By Drew Kamaski, 06/01/18, 3:15PM EDTShare

Our three keys from our last home match against Charleston Battery

Set Pieces & Dead Ball Situations

Indy Eleven and Charleston Battery played one of the most exciting USL games in the Eastern Conference this season in last Wednesday’s six-goal thriller. The “Boys in Blue” converted three times, each conversion came from a dead ball situation. “Indiana’s Team” has been potent from set pieces and dead ball situations this season, finding the back of the net six times.In the most recent match against Charleston Battery, the “Boys in Blue” converted one penalty and scored two world class free kicks. The first goal came from forward Soony Saad’s foot from nearly 40 yards out in the 43rd minute. Defender Ayoze followed up Saad’s goal by tucking away a penalty to level the game at 2-2 late in the second half. The Spaniard then converted a beautifully struck free kick to the top left corner, giving Indy a 3-2 lead in the dying moments of the match.“We scored three great goals. Two world class goals,” Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie said. “The goals we scored from the free kicks were literally as good as you’re going to get.”

PUT THEM THROUGH THE RING-ER

The “Legend” had another stellar performance in the Indy Eleven midfield against Charleston Battery in Week 12. Midfielder Brad Ring captained the “Boys in Blue” for the entire 90 minutes against the Battery in a 3-3 draw.Ring was most influential in the passing game. He martialed the ball through the midfield with ease, completing just below 90 percent of his passes. Even more impressive was his passing accuracy in the opposition half, completing 84 percent of his passes and finding two chances.

TWO GAMES, TWO GOALS

Indy Eleven forward Soony Saad struck a free kick from much too far out to be taking shots on goal once again. Similar to his goal against Nashville SC, he let a rip from between 35-40 yards out. Except this time, the Lebanese international found the top right corner of the goal, leaving Charleston Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky flat footed.Saad’s stunning goal is his fourth this season and second in as many games. The former University of Michigan standout appears to be hitting his stride after finishing a close in shot to the top right corner against Red Bulls II in Week 11 and finding the back of the net against Charleston Battery in Week 12. Saad is now tied for most goals on the team (4) with defender Ayoze  .Catch “Indiana’s Team” live and in person on Saturday, June 9 at 7:00 p.m., as they take on fellow USL inaugural side Atlanta United 2. Tickets are available as low as $15 at IndyElevenTickets.com or by calling (317)685-1100.

BYB PRIDE RAISER  – SUPPORT INDY PRIDE WITH EVERY
INDY 11 GOAL IN JUNE

UPDATE:  as of June 5, BYB members have pledged $107 per goal.

The BYB prides itself in fostering an environment that welcomes all individuals to our section. This year, the Brickyard Battalion is participating in PRIDE RAISER to support the LGBTQ community in Indiana. We are hoping you will join the Brickyard Battalion’s Board of Directors in pledging a few dollars for every goal scored by Indy Eleven in the month of June (4 games). All pledges will go to support Indy PrideMake A Pledge Today

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

6/1/18  Indy 11 Ties 3-3, US vs Ireland Sat 3 pm ESPN2, World Cup Teams playing, Zidane Leaves Real Madrid, TV Games

Indy 11 Ties 3-3

It was a 6 goal thriller at Lucas Oil – Wednesday night as our Indy 11 looked to defend the home turf with a last minute goal a screamer on a free kick by Saad for the winner.  Unfortunately Charleston scored in the last seconds to tie the game and hold on to their 3rd place in the USL East.  The Eleven will return to the field next Saturday, July 9th  at 7 pm with a home match-up with Atlanta United.  Of course discount tickets below $15 are available Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter 2018 INDY as the promo code – It will be the last chance to catch our Indy 11 in person until June 30th.

USA Plays Ireland Sat 3 pm ESPN 2

The US team dropped a tired Christian Pulisic and replaced him with experienced but young New Castle defender Deandre Yedlin for the trip to Europe to face Ireland this Saturday at 3 pm on ESPN2 and France next Saturday at 3 pm on Fox Sports 1.  The full roster average age increases from 23 years old to 24 years old for this NEW HOPE US group.  I will repeat what I wrote last week –

The bottom line is after winning at the U17 and U20 World Cup levels under US Coach Tab Ramos – this version of the US National Team is looking a whole lot better than the lost generation.  It’s been since the Landon Donovan generation that the US has had such success at the U20 levels – and this NEW HOPE Generation of players with 75% of our former US National Team U20’s plying their trade in Europe might just bring with them new success never before seen in the US.  Stick around after on ESPN2 for MLS LA Galaxy and Zlatan traveling to Portland at 5 pm.

Zidane Leaves Real Madrid

The news that Zinedine Zidane was stepping down at Real Madrid Coach was certainly shocking – this after becoming the first manager and team to win 3 straight Champions League Titles since Ajax of the 1970s.  That Zidane was able to have this kind of success in just his first 3 years of managing after a World Class career as a player for both France and Real Madrid was surprising enough.  But remember this was the guy that was red carded in the Final of France’s World Cup Winning Year for headbutting a player after a derogatory remark about his mother.  Zidane has always been rapped to his own beat and perhaps stepping down while on top of the game was his best move.  Obviously he’s too young to not manage again – I wam with the all the rumors that next up will be taking over the French National Team after the world cup.  Either way I think as we see Real Madrid implode next season – what Zidane did in his 3 years at Real Madrid will be better appreciated.  Good luck to the guy who steps into that role next. Oh in case you didn’t see it here was  Bale’s Bike in the Champions League finals.

 

 

WORLD CUP TEAMS ON TV THIS WEEK

As the World Cup is just around the corner with a June 14th start on Fox – we get lots of teams playing this week in their last warm up games before the cup.  Also I am thinking of doing a World Cup Pool this summer – anyone interested in playing?  RE and let me know if interested.

CUP GAMES THIS WEEKEND AT GRAND PARK

Certainly want to wish the best of luck to all those teams playing in Cup games this Saturday at Grand Park – especially our 2 Boys and 2 Girls Carmel FC Teams. Looking for something to do on Saturday – head out to Grand Park to see some seriously good soccer.

CARMEL FC Teams in Presidents Cup with a Chance to Advance to Regionals in Cincy 

U13 Gold Boys vs Michiana Echo  Sat 3:45 pm  Field 13

U17 Boys vs Millennium Soccer   Sat 6 pm Field 28

CARMEL FC Teams in Challenge Cup

U13 Blue Girls vs  Center Grove  Sat 3:45 pm Field 12

U14 Gold Girls vs Tigers SC 04G   Sat 2 pm Field 12

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Tryouts for Carmel FC – @ Shelbourne Fields

June 5 – Academy U8-U10 – 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm

June 11 & 12 (U11-U13 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm), (U14-U19 – 7:15 pm – 8:30 pm)

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SUMMER CAMPS

Indy 11 Soccer Camp at Carmel Dad’s Club Badger Fields June 4-7  

FC Barcelona Camp – Grand Park June 11-15 $499

Carmel High Girls Middle School Soccer Camp  Ages middle schoolers – June 18, 20, 25, 27 July 16, 17, 18, 19 at Murray 3-5 pm $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Skills Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 8:30-10:30 am $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Tactical Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 11 am till 1 pm $85

 Indy 11

Indy 11 Draw with Charleston – Indy Star Kevin Johnston

Late Equalized Salvages Tie for Indy 11 vs Charleston – Indy 11

Peter Wilt Talks his Days in Indy In Soccer America –

Indy 11 Schedule

USL Standings

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Saturday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Flex Packs: Discount Indy 11 Flex Pack Tickets
Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Its Official – Cincy FC Joins MLS in 2019

FC Cincy Joins MLS – ESPNFC

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB – Brick Yard Battalion Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club

Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate 10 BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate 10 is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate 10—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games !  Click HERE to purchase your pass today. You Won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing, screaming, singing, dancing, and partying with the BEST SUPPORTERS SECTION in the US – the BYB.

USA

Match Preview USA vs Ireland – Dylan Butler – MLS.com

Villafana Return to USMNT a Wild Spring Wide –

Sarachan: USMNT kids have promise, but be patient

Sarachan opens up about stint as USMNT boss

US – Pulisic dropped, Yedlin returns to USMNT for Europe Trip

MF Keaton Parks Long Winding Road from high School to Portugal to the USMNT

McKennie, at 19, joins Pulisic as Bundesliga Starter – Yahoo Soccer

USA Player Says Bringing in Foreign Players Hurt US Soccer – USA Today

Pulisic Transfer to EPL speculation is Hogwash – Says Pulisic’s Father

US Soccer Federation General Mgr Search Almost Done with Ernie Stewart in Front

Where Did it All Go Wrong for US in World Cup Qualifying – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC Video

US Ladies Name Roster for China Games

Jalene Hinkle says no to USWNT Call Up because of Pride Month

 WORLD

Why Zidane Really Left Real Madrid after Winning 3 Champions League Titles – ESPNFC Gab MArcotti

Zidane’s Exit Shows he’ll Always Surprise US  – Tom Hamilton – ESPNFC

 GK

Top 10 Goalkeeping Mistakes

Liverpool Goalkeeper Loris Karius has nightmare Night

Top Champions League 2018 Saves

Any Goalkeeper’s Nightmare – Bale’s Bike

Best Saves MLS in Week 13

Saves of the Week – USL

MLS

Power Rankings Red Bulls and Columbus On Top

Week 14 Slate – Armchair Analyst – Matt Doyle MLS.com

FC Dallas and Carmel resident Matt Hedges host LAFC with Top Slot in the West on the Line

Preview Portland hosting LA Galaxy on ESPN2 Sat 5 pm

WORLD CUP

World Cup Not as Entertaining as Champions League – Michael Cox ESPNFC

2018 World Cup: Why is the USMNT missing from the 2018 World Cup?

Every World Cup winner: From 1930 Uruguay to 2014 Germany

World Cup power rankings: Rating all 32 teams, from hopeless to hopefuls

World Cup Team Previews: What You Need to Know about all 32 teams – ESPNFC

 GAMES ON TV

Fri, June 1  

2 pm FS 2                         Tunisia vs Turkey

3 pm ESPN Desp          France vs Italy

Sat, June 2  

2:45 pm EPSN3             Belgium vs Portugal

3 pm ESPN2     Ireland vs USMNT

5 pm ESPN2                    Portland Timbers vs LA Galaxy (Zlatan)

8 pm ESPN+                    Dallas (Hedges) vs LAFC

8 pm Fox Sport1         Mexico vs Scotland

Sun, June 3  

10 am beIN sport        Croatia vs Brazil

3 pm ESPN3/Desp       Spain vs Switzerland

8:30 pm FS1                   Sporting KC vs Min United

Mon, June 4  

2:45 pm ESPN3/Dep Italy vs Netherlands

4 pm FS2                           Morocco vs Slovakia

Thur, June 7  

3 pm FS1   England vs Costa Rica

3:15 pm beIN Spt       Portugal vs Algeria

9 pm FS1   US Ladies vs China

Fri, June 8  

1:30 pm ESPN3/Des Germany vs Saudi Arabia

2:45 pm beIN Spt       Poland vs Chile

8 pm ESPN+                    Philly vs Toronto FC

Sat, June 9  

2:45 pm ESPN3/Dep Spain vs Tunisia

3 pm ESPN      France vs USA

5 pm ESPN             Columbus Crew vs NY Red Bulls

7 pm Myindy23           Indy 11 vs Atlanta United

Tues, June 12

7 pm ESPN2     USA Women vs China

Thur, June 14        World Cup on Fox

11 am Fox              Russia vs Saudi Arabia

Fri, June 15           World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox Sport1    Egypt (Salah) vs Uruguay

11 am Fox              Morocco vs Iran

1 pm Fox                Portugal (Renaldo) vs Spain

Sat, June 16          World Cup on Fox

6 am FS1                France vs Australia

9 am Fox                Argentina (Messi) vs Iceland

12 noon FS1          Peru vs Denmark

3 pm FS1                Croatia vs Nigeria

7 pm ESPN+    Toronto II vs Indy 11

Sun, June 17         World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox 59          Costa Rica vs Serbia

11 am Fox Sport1 Germany vs Mexico 

2 pm FS1                Brazil vs Switzerland

World Cup on Fox TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

 Despite a thrilling goal, Indy Eleven settle for a draw 3-3

Kevin Johnston, Special to IndyStar  Published 10:32 p.m. ET May 30, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS – Indy Eleven forward Soony Saad’s appearance on the SportsCenter Top 10 earlier this season must’ve gone to his head. Against Nashville SC on April 14, Saad ripped a free kick from 35 yards out to make the list.In Indy’s thrilling 3-3 draw over the Charleston Battery on Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium, Saad duplicated the feat, hitting another screamer perhaps even nastier than the first. Central midfielder Brad Ring tapped the ball on the indirect free kick, and Saad’s strike had so much swerve that opposing goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky didn’t even budge as the ball soared into the top right corner.”That’s the easiest assist I’ll ever get,” Ring said. “Soony’s hitting the ball well. He hits it good in practice. He’s hit a couple in games. He hits it hard, and when he hits it it dances and it’s tough for goalies to get a read on.”Left back Ayoze scored Indy’s other two goals, the first on a converted penalty and the second via a free kick from the edge of the box in the stoppage time that looked like it would be the winner. Charleston responded a minute later, however, on a clever pass and finish from Ataulla Guerra to Tah Anunga shortly before the final whistle.”It was a really exciting game if you were coming to watch as a neutral fan,” said Eleven head coach Martin Rennie. “A roller coaster of emotions where you’re up and then down, and then up again, and then down.” On the whole, the individual moments of brilliance by Saad and Ayoze somewhat masked what was just an OK performance by the hosts. Saad’s strike was the only shot on target by either team in the first half, as neither side generated much in the way of quality chances earlyCharleston made it 1-1 as midfielder O’Brian Woodbine scored in the 62nd minute on a rebound. Forward Gordon Wild attempted a shot from just outside the box that required a save by Indy goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams, and Woodbine — wisely finishing his run at the far post — slotted the ball into the back of the net.The visitors took a brief 2-1 lead in the 80th when Nicholas Rittmeyer got behind the defense and played a low cross to the near post that Guerra banged home. But moments later, Indy forward Jack McInerney was shoved down in the box and Ayoze tied it 2-2 from the spot.Once stoppage time rolled around, the drama escalated. Ayoze’s second brought the crowd of 8,070 to its feet thinking a win for the hosts was moments away, only for Anunga to play the spoiler with a stunner.”It was just a crazy game,” Rennie said. “Not one you see very often.”The draw moved the Eleven’s winless streak to four matches. They host Atlanta United FC 2 on June 9.

RECAP | LATE EQUALIZER SEES INDY ELEVEN, CHARLESTON BATTERY LEVEL

By IndyEleven.com, 05/31/18, 12:00AM EDT   Six-goal thriller sees the “Boys in Blue” share the points with the visitors

Indy Eleven draw, 3-3, and share a point at home against Charleston Battery. The six-goal thriller marks Indy’s third draw of its inaugural USL season, and the team’s first at Lucas Oil Stadium.The “Boys in Blue” set their sights on an early lead. In the 12th minute, Indy midfielder Nathan Lewis juked around a Battery defender on the edge of the 18-yard box. The Trinidadian international chipped a cross to striker Soony Saad at the top of the 6-yard box. Saad’s header nearly ended on frame, but the ball floated over the crossbar.Charleston retaliated in the 39th minute. Battery midfielder Vincenzo Candela’s free kick from the top-corner of Indy’s 18-yard box almost found the head of defender Skyler Thomas for the first goal of the match. The square pass was ultimately punched out of play by Indy goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams.Indy Eleven found the first goal of the match minutes later from another Saad stunner. In the 43rd minute, midfielder Brad Ring poised himself next to Saad close to 35 yards out for a free kick opportunity. Captain Ring pushed the ball forward as Saad ran up for his kick. The ball took a heavy curve outward before it swerved back to the near post and into the back of the net. Indy closed out the remainder of the first half with the single-goal lead.Indy entered the second half on the hunt for a second goal in the 61st minute from forward Jack McInerney, before Charleston leveled a minute later. Battery forward Chris Wild shot from the top of Indy’s 18-yard box off the counter attack. Eleven defender Brad Rusin attempted to block, which led the ball to take an awkward deflection into the box. Battery defender O’brian Woodbine capitalized on moment and sent the loose ball into the back of Indy’s posts.Charleston surged into the lead in the 82nd minute. Battery midfielder Nico Rittmeyer’s quick one-two play to the top of Indy’s 6-yard box saw forward Ataulla Gurra net his team’s second goal with a single touch.Six minutes later, Indy drew level once again with a penalty kick from defender Ayoze. “Indiana’s Team” was awarded a penalty kick after McInerney was brought down in front of Battery’s goal by Thomas. Ayoze stepped up to the spot and sent his kick to the upper-right corner of Charleston’s net. Ayoze’s penalty kick marks his third from the spot this season.Indy’s goal count didn’t stop there. Ayoze found his second goal of the evening in the 93rd minute from a free kick outside of Battery’s 18-yard box. The former La Liga defender lined up and sent his shot flying past Battery goaltender Joe Kuzminsky. This time into the upper-left corner of the goal.Unfortunately, Indy’s last-minute lead was short lived. In the 94th minute, Battery midfielder Tah Anunga netted the game’s sixth goal and his team’s equalizer after a pass from his teammate, Guerra, was left unattended in the center of Indy’s 18-yard box. The whistle blew shortly after, and left the honors split.“The goals we scored from the free kicks were literally as good as you’re gonna get,” said Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie. “The disappointing thing was losing the late goal, but the other goals too. We need to defend better and were disappointed with that. But it was an exciting game and fun to be a part of where we can take a lot from and build on.”The “Boys in Blue” will return home next Saturday, June 9th, at 7:00 p.m. to take on fellow inaugural USL side Atlanta United 2. Fans can get tickets to the next home match starting at just $15 by visiting IndyElevenTickets.com or by calling (317)685-1100.

Ireland vs. United States | 2018 International Friendly Match Preview

May 31, 201811:00AM EDTDylan ButlerContributor

Following a 3-0 win over Bolivia on Monday, the US national team head to Europe for a pair of international friendlies a week apart, beginning with a match against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.U.S. coach Dave Sarachan shuffled the deck a bit, bringing in 10 new players, while releasing seven others from the 22-man roster for Bolivia.The team is still young — averaging 23 years of age — with veterans DeAndre Yedlin and Bobby Wood joining the fray, along with the New York Red Bulls duo of Tyler Adams and Tim Parker, and Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp from Columbus Crew SC.“We’re excited about the chance to add some of the veterans from Europe as well as younger guys in MLS who have been part of our group since November,” Sarachan said in a statement. “The games against Ireland and France will bring increasingly more difficult challenges, so we felt it was important to bring in some players that offer a bit more experience. These matches provide another big development opportunity for these players who are growing in their international careers.”

With a bolstered roster of 25 players for the two friendlies, it is likely that Sarachan has some roster rotation for the final two matches until September.Six players earned their first cap against Bolivia — Alex Bono, Erik Palmer-Brown, Antonee Robinson, Josh Sargent, Keaton Parks and Matt Olosunde — and three could make their first appearance against Ireland — Parker, Luca de la Torre and Shaq Moore.Adams is seeking a fourth consecutive appearance with the United States after earning a penalty kick Wood converted in a 1-0 win over Paraguay on March 28, while Trapp has worn the U.S. armband in his last two appearances, the 0-0 draw against Bosnia and Herzegovina and the victory against Paraguay.Steffen comes into camp riding a club-record five-match shutout streak that spans 505 minutes.

Ireland Outlook

Ireland will face the United States in their second friendly before meeting Wales in their first match of the newly-formed UEFA Nations League in September. Like the U.S., Martin O’Neil’s side narrowly missed qualification to the FIFA World Cup, losing to Denmark 5-1 on aggregate in a UEFA playoff.On Wednesday, Ireland fell to France, 2-0, at a rain-soaked Stade de France, with Blackburn Rovers’ Derrick Williams and Milwall’s Shaun Williams earning their first international appearances, while Shamrock Rovers striker Graham Burke became the first League of Ireland player to earn an Ireland cap since 2007.Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir struck just before halftime to lift Les Bleus, who will face Italy Friday before taking on the United States in their final World Cup tune-up June 9 in Lyon.Ireland’s squad is largely made up of players from the English Championship.

History

The United States are 2-5-2 all-time against Ireland. The last match was Nov. 18, 2014, a 4-1 loss in Dublin. Mix Diskerud scored the lone United States goal, a 39th-minute leveler, while Robbie Brady struck for a second-half brace to lift Ireland.

Players to Watch

United States — Tim Parker. While we’ve seen what Yedlin and Wood can do on the international level, and even how well Adams has done, it is exciting to see what Parker can bring to the center back position with the United States. At 25, the powerful and deceptively quick Parker could throw his hat in the ring in that position for the future with a strong performance against Ireland or France.

Ireland — James McClean. The 29-year-old midfielder has 10 goals in 57 appearances for Ireland, including the dramatic lone goal at Cardiff City Stadium that sent Ireland past Wales and into the World Cup playoff against Denmark. He reportedly turned down a move to the New York Red Bulls in 2015, and could be in line for a return to the English Premier League despite extending his contract with recently-relegated West Bromwich Albion.

Christian Pulisic rested; DeAndre Yedlin returns among USMNT squad changes

May 29, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer

With Christian Pulisic among seven players to drop out, U.S. caretaker manager Dave Sarachan has made 10 additions to what is now a 25-man roster, ahead of friendlies against Republic on Ireland on June 2 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and France a week later (3 p.m. ET, ESPN).The added players consist of goalkeepers Zack Steffen and William Yarbrough, defenders Shaq Moore, Tim Parker and DeAndre Yedlin, midfielders Tyler Adams, Luca de la Torre, Kenny Saief and Wil Trapp and forward Bobby Wood.Meanwhile, among those released are five players — Pulisic, Alex Bono, Lynden Gooch, Matt Olosunde and Walker Zimmerman — who featured in Monday’s 3-0 win vs. Bolivia, as well as Alejandro Guido and Ethan Horvath,.The moves had been expected, with Sarachan having to juggle the club demands of MLS players along with the need for some European-based performers to get time off following long seasons. The changes have also added some experience to the U.S. squad and resulted in its average age creeping up from 22 years, 286 days to 23 years, 102 days.”We’re excited about the chance to add some of the veterans from Europe as well as the younger guys in MLS who have been part of our group since November,” Sarachan said. “The games against Ireland and France will bring increasingly more difficult challenges, so we felt it was important to bring in some players that offer a bit more experience. These matches will provide another big development opportunity for these players who are growing in their international careers.”Steffen will attempt to move up the goalkeeping depth chart after making his first two international appearances earlier this year. Yarbrough, meanwhile, has been called in for the first time since November 2016.Yedlin is the most-capped player on the roster, having made 50 appearances, but plenty of eyes will be on Adams as well, given that he has been linked with a move to Red Bull Leipzig. Saief returns having finalizing a move to Anderlecht, where he spent the second half of the season on loan.

USA Detailed Roster by Position (Club; Caps/Goals)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 5/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 2/0), William Yarbrough (Club León/MEX; 3/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG; 2/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 15/1), Matt Miazga (Chelsea/ENG; 5/1), Shaq Moore (Levante/ESP; 0/0), Erik Palmer-Brown (Manchester City/ENG; 1/0), Tim Parker (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Antonee Robinson (Everton/ENG; 1/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 17/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 50/0)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 3/0), Joe Corona (Club America/MEX; 21/3), Luca de la Torre (Fulham/ENG; 0/0) Julian Green (Stuttgart/GER; 9/3), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 2/1), Keaton Parks (Benfica/POR; 1/0), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana/MEX; 6/0), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht/BEL; 2/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 4/0), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA; 2/1)

FORWARDS (3): Andrija Novakovich (Reading/ENG; 2/0), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 1/1), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 37/11)

Christian Pulisic’s father calls transfer speculation is ‘hogwash’

May 30, 2018ESPN staff

Christian Pulisic’s father says speculation the young American star could move to the Premier League is “hogwash,” and told Sky Sports his son plans to return to Borussia Dortmund — at least for next season.The 19-year-old has long been linked with a move to either Liverpool or Manchester United in the future, and the Telegraph reported this week that Tottenham are considering adding the U.S. international as well.But his father, Mark Pulisic, told Sky on Tuesday that no “concrete” talks have taken place over any potential transfer.”He was linked to Tottenham. Last week it was Liverpool. The week before Man United. The week before this… it’s hogwash,” Mark Pulisic told Sky Sports.”He’s linked with a different club every week. I have no idea. His agent right now is working and looking, in close relation with me and Christian, and we’re just trying to see what the best phase of his next development will be.”Now is the time that the season has just ended that we’ll sit down with Dortmund, we’ll sit down with, I don’t know whether other clubs are in the mix, [and see what] Dortmund’s idea is and their plans for Christian.”But there’s nothing concrete. Right now, Christian plays for Dortmund and that’s where he is planning on playing again next year.”However, Mark Pulisic acknowledged that his son would like to move to England in the future, and said staying at Dortmund for his entire career would be unlikely.”I think the Premier League is a league he’s always aspired to be in and play in,” the elder Pulisic said. “As a player nowadays, there are so few players staying at one club throughout a career. The chances of him moving to different clubs and different leagues is a high probability.”Christian Pulisic will not turn 20 until December but he has already played in 70 Bundesliga games with Dortmund over the past three seasons, scoring nine league goals.But his father said there’s no easy way to tell if Dortmund is still the best place for his son.”You kind of have to go with the flow and make sure the player feels comfortable, whatever the decision is. There’s no magic formula,” he said. “Is it right to stay at Dortmund? Who knows. Is it right to move to another club? He might think it is, or someone else might think it is, but it might not be in part of his mind.”The only thing we can do is continue to talk with him and make sure he’s always in the loop of what’s going on, present all the facts and the content of what can happen, or will happen. It’s up to the player to make that final call.”After playing in most of the United States’ friendly victory over Bolivia on Monday, Christian Pulisic will remain in the U.S. while the national team goes on to Europe to face Ireland and France in the coming weeks.With the U.S. failing to qualify for the World Cup, he will likely be able to rest until Dortmund resume training ahead of their U.S. tour in late July as part of the International Champions Cup.

HIS WAY: KEATON PARKS’ LONG AND WINDING ROAD FROM HIGH SCHOOL TO THE USMNT

May 25, 2018

As he prepared for graduation day at Liberty High School, Keaton Parks had two vastly different routes available for the future. After three standout seasons with Liberty, Parks had verbally committed to a soccer scholarship at nearby Southern Methodist University. Born in the Dallas suburb of Plano, he’d go to school in his backyard and play for the Mustang team that he grew up watching.Parks had spent his whole life in Dallas, but he ventured overseas for the first time after his sophomore year in 2013. That trip planted the seeds of his second thoughts. He had followed his club coach from team to team since age eight, and that summer, he followed Armando Pelaez to Portugal, where Peleaz had played professionally. Between that summer and the next, Parks trained with several Portuguese clubs. Now, they wanted to bring him to Europe full-time.Parks took the leap, an ocean away from his comfort zone. He hasn’t looked back. His upward trajectory since has brought him to his first-ever camp with the U.S. Men’s National Team.“It was a big jump for me, but I definitely made the right decision,” Parks said. “The options were there. SMU would have been a great option. Portugal was a whole new country. Since I was a kid, I wanted to play in Europe. Just following my dream and everything was definitely the right decision to make, especially looking back at it now. This is what I wanted to do.”A former pro in Portugal and Venezuelan national team member, Peleaz preached possession as Parks came up through the ranks. It’s molded him into a player who, even at 6-4, can glide with the ball at his feet.“Always possession, keep the ball, a lot of touches and stuff,” Parks said. “That’s how I learned to play football. I’m really tall but I think I have really good feet and I’m good on the ball in tight spaces. When I have the ball, just looking at the field I can find good passes all across the field. I think I have good vision in that sense. I can also complete the pass as well.”Parks’ development with Pelaez lead to that first trip abroad in the summer of 2013. While Pelaez initially brought Parks to train with his former teams, an agent took interest in the young American and opened the door for opportunities at other Portuguese clubs.That initial European exposure came before Parks’ growth spurt. Back in Plano, he earned All-State honors and led Liberty on a deep playoff run as he sprouted up. When Parks returned to Portugal the following summer, he had gone from 5-5 to over six feet tall.  He would spend only one more semester at Liberty. Parks graduated early and passed up a final full season of high school soccer for another trip overseas and a taste of the top-tier amateur game. After the fall term, Parks didn’t return to high school, but made his way overseas for another trip of training and trials in Portugal that confirmed his potential to sign professionally.He returned stateside in time for the spring NPSL season. Pelaez coached the Liverpool Warriors , a local Liverpool affiliate, in the budding amateur league. Instead of a final high school campaign, Parks tested himself across Oklahoma and Texas against top amateurs and college talent in their offseason.His time with the Liverpool Warriors also booked him a final short-term spell overseas. Parks had caught the interest of second division side Varzim in his winter trip to Portugal. When the Warriors went to play a tournament hosted in the city of Povoa de Varzim, it cemented the club’s interest. A few weeks after the trip, Parks put pen to paper with the small club.As his friends packed their bags for college, the tall Texan picked up and moved overseas to begin life as a professional athlete in a foreign land. Far from the comforts of any dorm room in Dallas, he started life anew in a country where he could hardly speak the language. Parks had to rely on a bilingual friend to translate between him and his teammates at Varzim.“At first, in training, I would listen to the coach but not catch anything,” Parks said. “I would just watch them do the drill and just copy what they did. I would just speak English really slowly to them and they could catch some things and try to reply.”After a few appearances with Varzim’s B team to kick off the season, Parks spent the rest of 2015-16 with the U-19 squad. While it supplied valuable experience, his transition abroad brought its own challenges. Instead of school and soccer just 25 miles from Plano, he launched a career nearly 5000 miles from home. “There definitely were times that I’d just be in my apartment, lonely,” Parks said. “I had a couple friends, but most of the people didn’t speak English very well. I had SMU as the backup plan, so that was also enticing. I could just stay in my hometown.”But Parks stuck it out. He got more comfortable in coastal Povoa de Varzim, started to learn the language, and a successful season with the U-19s brought him to training with Varzim’s first team by the end of the season. At the launch of the 2016 campaign, Parks immediately integrated into the first team.He made his professional debut on Sept. 4, 2016 in Varzim’s fifth league game as a late substitute. A midseason managerial shift saw him lock down a regular spot in the starting lineup. In his final two games before the winter break, Parks scored his first two professional goals.Just as he began to find his footing with Varzim, a contract dispute derailed the second half of his debut pro season. Parks trained, but couldn’t play in any games that spring. Despite the lack of regular action, he had shown enough the previous fall to earn his first Youth National Team call-up to a pre-World Cup Under-20 MNT camp in London. Over the summer, Parks officially left Varzim to sign with Benfica, historically the most successful club in Portugal.“At first, I just couldn’t really believe it, I was playing for one of the most well-known clubs in the world,” Parks said. “Especially when I started training with the A team, these guys I watch on TV and play with on FIFA, I thought it was really cool.”After half a season in the second division, Parks found himself at one of the biggest clubs in Europe. He started out with Benfica’s B team, star-struck as the first team trained a field over. When his play with the reserves earned him full team training time, the players he idolized became peers. A chip over legendary Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar in training brought the first team down to Earth.“I would see the A team training on the field next to us and I was like ‘Wow, those guys are so good, I know that guy!’” Parks said. “That goal was a really cool moment for me. I started feeling more comfortable in the training sessions. The guys talked to me more and they were teaching me. I started realizing, these are my teammates, I’ve got to stop admiring them so much.”It took until his first game with the senior squad to fully see them as teammates rather than objects of admiration. That came on November 18, when Parks came on as a 71st-minute substitute in a domestic cup match. Back home, Parks would have been a college junior preparing for Thanksgiving break. An entrance in front of tens of thousands of rowdy red-clad fans in Lisbon was a world away.“Walking out of the tunnel was really cool for me,” Parks said. “When they sent me to warm up at the beginning of the second half, I was like ‘Dang, I might go in to this game, it’s crazy. I got my chance.”From then on, Parks trained full time with the full team. Almost two-and-a-half years after his arrival, he’s continued to fully integrate himself in Portugal, both in football and the language. Benfica put him through Portuguese lessons all year in preparation for the potential of interviews in the local tongue next season.Parks still played primarily with Benfica’s B team in 2017-18 and starred as a regular starter, but began to make the first team bench more regularly as the season went on. He made a few more appearances, but with the club locked in a down-to-the-wire battle for Portugal’s second and final Champions League qualification spot, minutes became hard to come by.Still, Parks showed enough in his limited minutes and in his key role with the reserves to draw the attention of the Men’s National Team. A few weeks before the start of camp, assistant coach John Hackworth gave him a call to check in. E-mails from the team administration followed, and Parks officially earned his first MNT invite.
U.S. U-17 MNT head coach and MNT assistant coach John Hackworth helped bring Parks into his first MNT camp.

“I called both my parents, my brother, my sister and Armando too,” Parks said. “He was really excited for me, he was like ‘I told you I’d get you there, thank you for trusting me!’ He was really proud of me.”Back in the USA, Parks’ introduction to the MNT has granted a smoother transition than his move overseas. For one, he can understand when the coaches explain drills. For another, he fits right in among the freshest-faced USA roster in recent memory. Parks checks in just below the average age of 22, as he’ll turn 21 in August. Camp also reunites him with former North Texas Olympic Development Program teammate Weston McKennie as they share the field for the first time in years.Unlike some of his youthful peers, Parks didn’t come through the YNT pipeline. The U-20s scrimmaged against English club teams last April, but Monday’s match against Bolivia will be Parks’ first-ever opportunity to represent the red, white and blue in an international match. With the opportunities now at hand, he couldn’t have made a better decision for his post-high school plans.“I’m really excited,” Parks said. “Hopefully I’ll get my chance in the game and I can show what I’m capable of. I expect it to be the best feeling in the world, the best moment of my life so far. We’ll see what happens.”

McKennie, at 19, joins Pulisic as Bundeliga regular

RONALD BLUM (AP Sports Writer),The Associated Press 5 hours ago

Weston McKennie thought back to last summer, when he was an 18-year-old midfielder trying to impress at his first preseason training camp with Schalke’s first team. Leon Goretzka, one of the club’s leaders, delivered a message.”I made two bad passes in a keep-away and possession game we were playing, and Leon was like, ‘Wes, you’ve got to make those passes. This isn’t the U-19s anymore,”’ McKennie recalled. ”I was like: Oh, no.”Having left the FC Dallas Academy to sign with Schalke in the summer of 2016, McKennie spent a season with the Under-19 team and made his first-team debut on May 20 as a late second-half substitute. He earned a spot on the senior roster and made his first Bundesliga start Sept. 19 at Bayern Munich, then was picked for a new-look U.S national team and showcased ball-control skills when he dribbled into the penalty area and scored in his debut , a 1-1 exhibition tie at Portugal on Nov. 14.McKennie wound up playing in 22 of 34 league matches plus three in the German Cup as Schalke finished second, gaining a Champions League berth with its highest place in the standings since 2009-10. He bounced back quickly from a partially torn meniscus in his right knee which sidelined from from Jan. 21 to March 3.Schalke showed confidence, giving McKennie a five-year contract last September that extends through the 2021-22 season, two years longer than his first deal.”He’s got a personality and he’s got a presence about him, which is important,” U.S. interim coach Dave Sarachan said. ”I think he’s developing a thick skin soccer-wise because he’s in a pressure-cooker at a place like Schalke.”McKennie is on the U.S. roster for Saturday’s exhibition against Ireland in Dublin. Sarachan, who replaced Bruce Arena after the Americans were eliminated in World Cup qualifying last October, said McKennie, 19-year-old midfielder Tyler Adams and 22-year-old defender Matt Miazga put themselves in consideration for a World Cup roster had the American advanced to the tournament in Russia.”We got knocked down, yeah, we didn’t qualify, but we always keep our heads up and try and make the best out of it, and turn a negative into a positive,” McKennie said. ”I think that’s what we’re doing, bringing a lot of the young guys in, the new faces, trying out new things. At least it goes to show that, yeah, we’re making changes. Many people would say it’s better to make changes earlier.”Born in Texas, McKennie lived in Kaiserslautern, Germany, from age 6 to 9 while his father was stationed at Ramstein Air Base, and the young fan met Landon Donovan and Carlos Bocanegra before a U.S. exhibition against Poland at Fritz-Walter-Stadion in 2006. Back in West Elm, McKennie spent seven years in the youth system of FC Dallas, which hoped to sign him to a homegrown player contract. He signed a letter of intent with the University of Virginia, then decided against college and Major League Soccer to sign with Schalke.”It was a hard decision for me, of course, because I’d been at Dallas so long. And you can’t just be like, ‘oh, here comes Schalke. It’s a big club. Let me just throw out Dallas right now,”’ McKennie said. ”I’ve never said anything bad about the MLS, but it’s not at that level yet, obviously, and many people, maybe they’ll be like, oh, he’s bashing the MLS. But it’s the truth. The Bundesliga is one of the top leagues if not the top league of teams in the world.”He lived in a hotel when he first arrived in Gelsenkirchen but stayed much of the time with Nick Taitague, a midfielder from Virginia who signed with Schalke in 2017.”Just chillin’ out there,” McKennie said.McKennie got his own place last October and moved in following the winter break. Adjusting was somewhat easier because he had learned the language when he lived in Germany as a child.”Everything just started to refresh and get familiar again,” he said.Schalke has played the 6-foot-1 McKennie in defensive and playmaking midfield roles, and coach Domenico Tedesco experimented with him at center back in a three-man back line during an exhibition. He joined star 19-year-old midfielder Christian Pulisic, his friend from youth national team training, for the first time on the senior national team in Monday’s 3-0 win over Bolivia in Chester, Pennsylvania.”I think he can be a guy that can play deeper but also has a comfort level of getting forward out of the midfield position and creating,” Sarachan said.Living on his own, 5,000 miles from home, has changed McKennie.”It definitely gave me tough skin. I’ve always been mentally strong. I think that’s one of my strengths. I don’t let a lot of stuff get to me. Not a lot of outside factors can influence my decisions and how I live my life, and how I play the game, as well,” he said. ”You just learn many things and learn quickly, and you have no choice but to learn quick. Otherwise, the train moves on and you’re left behind.”

U.S. Soccer Federation general manager search ‘in final stages’

May 29, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer

CHESTER, Penn. – The U.S. Soccer Federation clarified the responsibilities of the nascent general manager position, stressing that the role is intended to be long term in nature, and that the hiring process is in the “final stages.”The USSF’s Chief Sport Development Officer Nico Romeijn, who oversees all technical areas for the Federation, led the briefing, stating that the a six-person technical committee had interviewed 10 candidates, most of whom are American, with at least one Latino candidate. He added that fluency in Spanish is preferred but not a deal breaker.Romeijn declined to provide any additional details on where things stand in terms of the hiring process. Numerous reports have stated that current Philadelphia Union sporting director Earnie Stewart is the leading candidate and is in negotiations with the USSF about the post.The GM’s remit consists of eight primary areas of responsibility. These include: overseeing the technical side of the senior national team — including specifying the style of play the team will implement — as well as managing the day-to-day operations of the men’s national team, driving the culture of the team, drive the process of hiring/firing the national team coach, building an integrated staff including some national team assistants, incorporating analytics and high performance, monitor the player pool, and increasing and formalizing oversight.A particular aim of the GM position is to provide stability and a long-term pathway so that items such as style of play don’t change simply because there is a change in manager.”The head coach isn’t the Federation, he’s part of the Federation,” said Romeijn.He added: “We don’t want to change everything when you hire a new coach.”In terms of hiring and firing the senior national team manager, Romeijn stated that the GM would research potential candidates, help compile a short list, and be an important part of the interview process, but that the ultimate decision would lie with the USSF Board of Directors.With regard to staff, Romeijn said he expected that the new manager would bring in some of his own people but that it’s not a given that all of the staff from the previous regime would be fired and thus start over from scratch.Romeijn added that the USSF wants the GM to have a strong personality but also be a team player. The candidate must have knowledge of the U.S. soccer landscape as well as the international game. He reiterated that the GM would not have oversight of youth national teams.”We think this is a big job, so asking someone to look at national team but also overseeing all the youth teams, we don’t think he could give the focus that we want,” he said.The approach seems intent on avoiding the situation that took place during Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as head coach of the national team, in which one person amassed considerable power. In Klinsmann’s case that included being named technical director in addition to his duties as manager. Romeijn however denied that the approach was formulated as a reaction to the Klinsmann era. Rather it has been derived more out of a belief that this is the right way to do things going forward.While that approach is understandable to a degree, there does appear to be potential areas of conflict between the GM and head coaching posts given that most managers will prefer to institute their own style of play and hire their own staff, though Romeijn stated there would be some flexibility with regard to both areas.

 US women’s roster announced for exhibitions against China

APPublished 5:22 p.m. ET May 29, 2018 | Updated 6:35 p.m. ET May 29, 2018

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CHICAGO (AP) — Midfielder Tobin Heath is back on the U.S. women’s national team roster after spending the start of the year recovering from surgery.Coach Jill Ellis named a 23-player roster Tuesday for a pair of exhibition matches against China next month.Heath, who turned 30 on Tuesday, hasn’t played with the national team since appearing as a substitute in a friendly against New Zealand last September. She had surgery to remove bone growth on her right ankle in early January.lso returning to the national team is Julie Ertz, who missed a pair of April exhibition matches against Mexico because of a knee injury. Amy Rodriguez, who missed 2016 because of the birth of her son and 2017 with an ACL injury, was also included by Ellis.Christen Press, left off the roster for Mexico because she was not on a club team at the time, also returned to the roster.Press, who was traded to the Houston Dash in the offseason but never joined the National Women’s Soccer League club, is currently playing in Sweden with Goteborg.

The U.S. roster including club team:

Goalkeepers: Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Casey Murphy (Montpellier HSC), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Abby Smith (Utah Royals).

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage), Tierna Davidson (Stanford), Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars), Merritt Mathias (NC Courage), Margaret Purce (Portland Thorns), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC).

Midfielders: Morgan Brian (Olympique Lyon), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Allie Long (Seattle Reign), McCall Zerboni (NC Courage)

Forwards: Crystal Dunn (NC Courage), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Savannah McCaskill (Sky Blue), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Kopparbergs/Goteborg), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign), Amy Rodriguez (Utah Royals).

Why Zinedine Zidane really left Real Madrid after Champions League glory

9:28 AM ETGabriele Marcotti

On Wednesday, Zinedine Zidane said, “No mas.”He walks away from the biggest job in world football and the opportunity to become the first manager to win four straight European Cups. And he does it less than four days after leading Real Madrid to their third consecutive Champions League crown.He used the word “desgaste” — the same choice of terms used by Pep Guardiola when he left the Camp Nou six years ago — and it has a specific meaning. “Worn out, out of gas.” And yet he also said he wasn’t tired: “I’ve been doing this for three years, I’m certainly not out of energy.”

The great French stone face was once again inscrutably Sphinx-like.He echoed the old football maxim whereby if you want to keep winning over time, every few years you either need to change the players or the coach.”The time is right,” he said. “It’s not a decision I’ve taken lightly. I thought about it carefully and it’s the right decision, even though I imagine many may not agree. After three years Real Madrid needs a change, another way of working, another idea, if we are to continue winning. I feel it’s going to be difficult to continue winning. And because I’m a winner, I’m going.”Do we take this at face value? Is he leaving because he knows that victory in Kiev can’t paper over a season that saw Real finish 17 points out of first place in La Liga, and in the Champions League, get outplayed for long stretches by Tottenham, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern?Maybe. But even then, the enormity of walking away while on the verge of further cementing his place in football immortality is staggering — particularly since this is a team that is built to win here and now.The average age of the starting XI is 29, most of the regulars are locked in through 2021 or beyond and most are on the sort of wages that make them difficult to sell. But perhaps that’s not how Real Madrid president Florentino Perez saw it. Perhaps after three summers in which not a single starter was added — the last two, Toni Kroos and Keylor Navas, arrived in 2014 — the plan for 2018 was to blow up the team and rebuild.Maybe the post-match statements from Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale — with both men talking, albeit in different circumstances, about hypothetically moving on — weren’t entirely coincidental. Maybe they knew this would be the summer of upheaval and they wanted to test the waters early. And maybe Zidane simply did not want to be part of a rebuild. It’s a theory, and a popular one. Whether it corresponds to fact will likely be revealed in the coming weeks.So what’s next for the club?If the above theory that we’re on the verge of a massive rebuild is incorrect, you’re tempted to back the candidacy of Guti as the replacement. Like Zidane, he was part of the Galacticos, he spent 24 years at the club as a player and he’s been coaching at the youth level for five years. He’s not going to command the respect Zidane did (nobody will), but he’s the insider and the continuity candidate.If all this group is getting is a tweak, if you still need somebody whose main job is keeping the “panoladas” at bay, the fans happy, the media subdued and the egos in check, then Guti is as close to the ideal candidate as you’re going to get. (The alternative here is Santi Solari, the current coach of Castilla. Similar charisma, similar history as part of the Galacticos, though obviously less of a Bernabeu lifer.)On the other hand, if the squad is to be rebuilt, given a new philosophy and formed with a new identity, you can push the boat out.Mauricio Pochettino? His style of football would represent a fairly strong break from the past — possibly the most jarring change tactically since Benito Floro a quarter of a century ago — and of course, he has just extended his contract with Tottenham, which would mean entering the circle of hell that is a negotiation with Daniel Levy.Maurizio Sarri? He’d arguably be an even more extreme philosophical shift, plus you wonder whether he has the personality to handle superstars at this level.Antonio Conte? His drill-sergeant ways don’t seem to be a great fit for a squad that have won everything. It worked for a while at Juventus because years had passed since they won silverware. It would be different at Real.Arsene Wenger? Florentino did twice pursue him in the past, and he’d be the romantic choice. But still …There will be time for Perez to weigh up the options. What’s clear is that Zidane leaves the way he arrived. He’s not somebody who needs the job or the trophies or the adulation. His silverware — he won nine of the 13 trophies he entered in less than two and a half years — isn’t his way of keeping score, either. Zidane says it’s a hasta luego (see you later) rather than an adios (farewell), and that he won’t be coaching anytime soon. I mean, why would he? He leaves at the very top.And whether it’s out of the ultimate sense of responsibility — Real needs change, some form of “creative destruction” to stay at the top, and by definition, he can’t be a part of it — or because he’s simply had enough of the daily goldfish bowl, Galactico whispering and babysitting that the job entails, the fact remains:Zidane was unlike anybody else as a player, and he’s unlike anybody else as a manager.He’s simply Zizou.

Top 10 goalkeeping mistakes: From Petr Cech, to Oliver Kahn, to Moacir Barbosa

May 27, 2018Nick MillerESPN FC

Liverpool’s Loris Karius is not the first goalkeeper to have a shocker, though he did manage it in one of the most high-profile matches. But who are some of the other keepers from history who have made big mistakes?

  1. Jim Leighton: Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace, 1990 FA Cup final

This is less a tale about the error — or in this case, errors — which were bad but not heinous, and more about the aftermath. United scraped a 3-3 draw in the 1990 FA Cup final after Leighton had lost the flight of two crosses, allowing Gary O’Reilly then Ian Wright to score for Palace. Alex Ferguson ruthlessly dropped Leighton in favour of Les Sealey for the replay, which United won 1-0. It’s a bit much to say Leighton never recovered (he played at the 1998 World Cup for Scotland), but it was a long way back, finding himself dropped by Dundee after moving there in 1993. Sealey gave Leighton his cup winner’s medal, but Leighton returned it, doing the same with a special medal United had made for him.

  1. Rob Green: England vs. USA, 2010 World Cup

Green probably shouldn’t have even been in the England team for their 2010 World Cup opener. Joe Hart, a man with a few high-profile gaffes in his future, was the new, young, in-form keeper, but Fabio Capello opted for Green, and the decision backfired just before half-time against the USA. Clint Dempsey lined up a speculative shot, Green dropped to gather it easily, but the ball, like a bar of soap, slipped through his hands and agonisingly trickled over the line.

  1. Petr Cech: Czech Republic vs. Turkey, Euro 2008

You could make the argument that Cech, previously a towering colossus of goalkeeping, was never quite the same after this mistake in a madcap Euro 2008 group game against Turkey. The Czechs were 2-1 up over Turkey when Cech inexplicably dropped a cross at the feet of Nihat Kahveci, who gladly accepted the easy goal before going on to score a much more difficult one, winning the game 3-2. Cech has since been an excellent keeper, but has he ever been quite as good as he was before this game?

  1. Pat Bonner: Ireland vs. Netherlands, 1994 World Cup

Ireland were already 1-0 down in their second-round game of the 1994 World Cup against Netherlands, but having beaten Italy earlier in the tournament, anything was possible. Anything, that is, until Wim Jonk’s routine shot more or less straight at Bonner simply bounced off the Irish keeper’s palms, and bobbled into the net. “In life, you make mistakes,” said a philosophical Bonner years later. “If you can minimise your mistakes down to one or two, then you’ve done well.”

  1. Oliver Kahn: Germany vs. Brazil, 2002 World Cup

The cruelness of goalkeeping was laid bare by Kahn in the 2002 World Cup final. The German No. 1 had not just been the best goalkeeper, but one of the tournament’s better players full-stop, helping carry his country to a surprise appearance in the final. But once there, his error went a good way to costing them victory, spilling a shot from Rivaldo which Ronaldo swooped in to snaffle, opening the scoring for what would eventually be a 2-0 win.

  1. David Seaman: Arsenal vs. Real Zaragoza, 1995 Cup Winners’ Cup final

You could view Seaman being lobbed once from miles out as a misfortune … but twice starts to look like carelessness. Twice in huge games Seaman was caught out by speculative punts. Nayim’s last-minute effort from the halfway line was intentional and won Zaragoza the game 2-1. “I remember looking at Seaman the whole game and in the last minute I tried it — luckily everything went right,” Nayim, the former Tottenham player, said later. Seaman went on to have a wonderful career, but the lob came back to haunt him when Ronaldinho’s skewed cross for Brazil in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals saw England knocked out.

At the age of 42, Milla became the oldest goalscorer in World Cup history by scoring against Russia. And played for two more years. Allsport

  1. Rene Higuita: Colombia vs. Cameroon, 1990 World Cup

If you drive everywhere at 100 mph, eventually you’re going to have an accident. Higuita would probably think himself a maverick, but in reality he was a goalkeeper who took pointless risks, and sooner or later one would prove extremely costly. Dithering near the halfway line in extra-time of Colombia’s World Cup second-round game against Cameroon, Higuita attempted a dragback but was dispossessed by Roger Milla, who ran through to score. Milla was anticipating the chance, knowing of Higuita’s tendency to wander from playing with Colombia captain Carlos Valderrama at club level.

  1. Nery Pumpido: Argentina vs. Cameroon, 1990 World Cup

Pumpido very nearly lost a finger after his wedding ring got caught on a hook, so his mistake in the 1990 World Cup might not have been the worst thing to ever happen to him. But it was probably close. Argentina’s keeper for their World Cup win in 1986, Pumpido let a weak Francois Omam-Biyik header squirt through his grasp to seal Cameroon’s most remarkable upset in the 1990 World Cup opener. Things got even worse for Pumpido: He broke his leg in the next game, Sergio Goycochea excelled and he never played for Argentina again.

  1. Luis Arconada: Spain vs. France, Euro 84 final

The cruelty of top-level goalkeeping is that, even after a career of excellence, you can be remembered for one single mistake. The 1984 European Championships had been a broiling tournament, France reaching the final after an extraordinary semifinal against Portugal, but they were handed a big advantage in the final against Spain. Luis Arconada, nicknamed “the octopus” and winner of three Zamora trophies in Spain, seemed to have gathered Michel Platini’s weak free-kick from the edge of the penalty area easily, only for it to wriggle from his grasp and into the net. It would become known as “the Arconada goal.”

  1. Moacir Barbosa: Brazil vs. Uruguay, 1950 World Cup

The old adage that a goalkeeper shouldn’t be beaten at his near post is something of a misnomer, but that didn’t stop Moacir Barbosa from getting the blame for the most traumatic single goal in Brazilian football history. Barbosa was expecting Alcides Ghiggia to cross in the closing stages of the 1950 World Cup’s final game, but instead he shot, the ball creeping in and winning the tournament for Uruguay. Barbosa was blamed for years, treated as a bad-luck charm, and went to his grave in 2000 aggrieved — quite justifiably — at being made the scapegoat of all scapegoats.

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5/30/18  Discount tix for Indy 11 Wed 7 pm game at Lucas Oil, Real Madrid wins 3rd Straight Champions League Title, US Men Win 3-0, Cincy joins MLS, World Cup Starts June 14

Our Indy 11 will host the Charleston Battery on Wednesday night at Lucas Oil Stadium at 7 pm.  Charleston sits in 3rd place overall and will be a tough match-up for the now 9th place Indy 11.  Of course we have discount tickets here — Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter 2018 INDY as the promo code.  Also huge congrats to Cincy FC as they will be joining MLS next season.  I will be sad to see us lose a new rivalry in USL – but look forward to making my way for MLS games in Cincy next year.

USA

The US Men got the youth movement started in earnest on Sunday evening as a team with an average age of just over 22 years old lined up against Bolivia.  The 3-0 win matters less than how the youngsters played.  Werder Bremen Forward Josh Sergent, and PSG winger Tim Weah became the 3rd and 4th youngest players ever to score for the full national team after an excellent header goal and stunning defensive play from LAFC 25 year old Walker Zimmerman in the middle. Playing as a #6 defending the back 4 was easy for Schalke starter Weston McKinnie who seriously showed he might just be better than Pulisic as he’ll join him in Champions League competition next season.  Newcomer Bolton’s Antonee Robinson at just 17 may have just claimed the left back spot or at least a go at it after his stalwart performance, while Toronto GK Alex Bono was as cool as the other side of the pillow on his few saves.  What may have stood out most was Christian Pulisic was NOT obviously the best player on the field – as he looked tired after a failed run at the world cup and a long Bundisliga season with Dortmund.  The bottom line is after winning at the U17 and U20 World Cup levels under US Coach Tab Ramos – this version of the US National Team is looking a whole lot better than the lost generation.  It’s been since the Landon Donovan generation that the US has had such success at the U20 levels – and this NEW HOPE Generation of players with 75% of our former US National Team U20’s plying their trade in Europe might just bring with them new success never before seen in the US.  Of course as this US Group of players this time averaging just under 24 years old  heads to Europe this weekend to face Ireland on Sat 3 pm on ESPN2 and France next Friday at 3 pm on Fox Sport 1 we’ll get a chance to see if the youngster’s can stand up against true competition.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Wow let me start with congrats to Real Madrid – the Madradista’s become the first team to win 3 Champions League Titles in a row since the mid 1970s and their 4 Championships in 5 years is only matched by the great Real Madrid teams of the early 1950s.  Simply Amazing.  And what about Zidane – somehow he’s still questioned as a manager despite winning 3 straight UCL Finals.  Sure he has won La Liga only 1 ime – and the Spanish Cup just once – but seriously he has captained this squad to the THE BIGGEST TITLE in the World for 3 straight years – he should be able to write his ticket at Real Madrid forever.  Same goes for Renaldo – his 5th title makes him just 1 title short of having the most European Trophies of all time – its why no matter what anyone says – I don’t see Renaldo leaving Real Madrid before he gets that sixth title.  Now I realize Real Madrid has not dominated games and at times (see Juve game or Salah’s injury) they have been fortunate to win – but honestly 3 UCL Titles in a Row is not luck. Its miraculous in this time of World Football – what Zidane has done in keeping the egos in check, lining his team up, keeping them fresh – has been truly magisterial to quote the legendary announcer Rockin Ray Hudson!

Now as for the game with Liverpool – this game was over when Mo Salah went out injured in the 30th minute.  Was it a dirty play – sure Ramos has always been a rough player – but this was not a red card offense – should have been a yellow – but no rougher than the average play in the park on Sunday’s against a good defender.  I certainly feel sorry for Goalkeeper Karius – as a former Goalie – I can’t imagine how bad he feels.  Normally its not the GK’s fault – this time however – the game truly came down to the two “HOWLER’S” by Karius.

WORLD CUP STARTS JUNE 14 

Lots of World Cup warm-up games dotting the TV schedule (below) as teams prepare for the kickoff of the World Cup from Russia on Thursday, June 14th.  All the games will be live (some as early as 6 am) on Fox or Fox Sports 1 – with solid pre/post and late night coverage.  Even be on the look-out for a World Cup Pool from yours truly (next week) along with full out world cup previews.

CUP GAMES THIS WEEKEND 

Certainly want to wish the best of luck to all those teams playing in Cup games this Saturday at Grand Park – especially our 2 Boys and 2 Girls Carmel FC Teams.  Of course Carmel FC’ers our last GK Training of the season will be this Thurs 5:30-7:30 at Shelbourne with coaches Juergen Sumner and former Indy Indy GK Kristian Nicht and Tryouts for Carmel FC start June 5th Academy and June 11&12 U11-U-19.

CARMEL FC Teams in Presidents Cup at Grand Park with a Chance to Advance to Regionals in Cincy with a Win

U13 Gold Boys vs Michiana Echo  Sat 3:45 pm  Field 13

U17 Boys vs Millennium Soccer   Sat 6 pm Field 28

CARMEL FC Teams in Challenge Cup at Grand Park

U13 Blue Girls vs  Center Grove  Sat 3:45 pm Field 12

U14 Gold Girls vs Tigers SC 04G   Sat 2 pm Field 12

Indy 11 May 30th game

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Wed Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

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Tryouts for Carmel FC – @ Shelbourne Fields

June 5 – Academy U8-U10 – 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm

June 11 & 12 (U11-U13 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm), (U14-U19 – 7:15 pm – 8:30 pm)

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2018 Alumni/College Age Soccer Carmel Dad’s Club  

Players age 18-30 are eligible to participate. Game schedule to be announced shortly. The fee is 95.00 (no annual fee or volunteer fee apply to this league). Begins in early June games on Tues or Wed Eves at Shelbourne Field.

Please click here  to register for this league. If you prefer to fill out a form please call the office for one to be emailed to you. 317-846-1663.  Registration is open May 9- June 5   Commissioner:  Alex Scott  scottaf2@gmail.com

GAMES ON TV

Wed, May 30h 

2”45 pm ESPN3/Desp Austria vs Russia

7 pm Myindy23           Indy 11 vs Charleston Battery  

Thur, May 31   

2 pm FS2                           Morocco vs Ukraine

Fri, June 1   

2 pm FS 2                         Tunisia vs Turkey

3 pm ESPN Desp          France vs Italy

Sat, June 2   

2:45 pm EPSN3             Belgium vs Portugal

3 pm ESPN2     Ireland vs USMNT

5 pm ESPN2                    Portland Timbers vs LA Galaxy (Zlatan)

8 pm ESPN+                    Dallas (Hedges) vs LAFC

8 pm Fox Sport1         Mexico vs Scotland

Sun, June 3   

10 am beIN sport        Croatia vs Brazil

3 pm ESPN3/Desp       Spain vs Switzerland

8:30 pm FS1                   Sporting KC vs Min United

Mon, June 4   

2:45 pm ESPN3/Dep Italy vs Netherlands

4 pm FS2                           Morocco vs Slovakia

Thur, June 7   

3 pm FS1   England vs Costa Rica

3:15 pm beIN Spt       Portugal vs Algeria

9 pm FS1   US Ladies vs China

Fri, June 8   

1:30 pm ESPN3/Des Germany vs Saudi Arabia

2:45 pm beIN Spt       Poland vs Chile

8 pm ESPN+                    Philly vs Toronto FC

Sat, June 9   

2:45 pm ESPN3/Dep Spain vs Tunisia

3 pm ESPN      France vs USA

5 pm ESPN             Columbus Crew vs NY Red Bulls

7 pm Myindy23           Indy 11 vs Atlanta United

Tues, June 12

7 pm ESPN2     USA Women vs China

Thur, June 14        World Cup on Fox

11 am Fox              Russia vs Saudi Arabia

Fri, June 15           World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox Sport1    Egypt (Salah) vs Uruguay

11 am Fox              Morocco vs Iran

1 pm Fox                Portugal (Renaldo) vs Spain

Sat, June 16          World Cup on Fox

6 am FS1                France vs Australia

9 am Fox                Argentina (Messi) vs Iceland

12 noon FS1          Peru vs Denmark

3 pm FS1                Croatia vs Nigeria

7 pm ESPN+    Toronto II vs Indy 11

Sun, June 17         World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox 59          Costa Rica vs Serbia

11 am Fox Sport1 Germany vs Mexico  

2 pm FS1                Brazil vs Switzerland

World Cup on Fox TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

 SUMMER CAMPS

Indy 11 Soccer Camp at Carmel Dad’s Club Badger Fields June 4-7

Carmel High Girls Middle School Soccer Camp  Ages middle schoolers – June 18, 20, 25, 27 July 16, 17, 18, 19 at Murray 3-5 pm $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Skills Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 8:30-10:30 am $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Tactical Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 11 am till 1pm $85

indy11cdccamp

Indy 11 May 30th game

Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter 2018 INDY as the promo code

Indy 11

Preview of Charleston Game Wed Night

Indy 11 Falls 4-1 to NY Red Bulls II

Indy 11 Wrecks Hard during 500 – Review of NY Red Bulls Loss – Bloody Shambles Blog – James Cormack

Red Bulls II Hand Eleven First Road Setback – Kevin Johnston Soctakes.com

Indy 11 Schedule

USL Standings

Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter 2018 INDY as the promo code

Flex Packs: Discount Indy 11 Flex Pack Tickets
Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Watch the Away Games for the Indy 11 and All USL Games on YouTube

Its Official – Cincy FC Joins MLS in 2019

FC Cincy Joins MLS – ESPNFC

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB –Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club

Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate 10 BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate 10 is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate 10—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games!  Click HERE to purchase your pass today. You Won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing, screaming, singing, dancing, and partying with the BEST SUPPORTERS SECTION in the US – the BYB.

 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINALS

Real Madrid’s Historic Champions League Title obscured by Online Outrage – Graham Hunter ESPNFC –

Real’s UCL Triumph Defined by Bales Heroics and Salah’s Injuy – SI

Zidane Shuts up Critics with 3rd straight Title – SI –

Real Madrid Shows No Signs of Slowing Down in UCL – ESPNFC

Renaldo beats Bale to UCL Goal of the Season – ESPNFC

Only 1 Player in history has more European Cup Titles than Renaldo SI

Liverpool need a dose of pragmatism and a new GK after UCL Woe ESPNFC

Liverpool Showing Progress under Klopp but needs a Trophy to Show It – Mark Odgen – ESPNFC

Liverpool must Learn from Loss – Glenn Price – ESPFNFC

Player Rankings Liverpool = steve Kelly ESPNFC

Liverpools Karius Hard to Console after UCL Final – says Mignolet – Glenn Price ESPNFC

How Liverpool’s Karius Nightmare demonstrates need for Villans and Hero’s in Sports – SI

Final World Power Rankings – EPSNFC

 USA

US Team Going to Europe Announced – US Soccer

US Win over Bolivia Has Caveats but Weah and Sargent Show Potential – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Has Lots of Room for Improvement says Coach – ESPFNC

Hope and Change Generation Inspire – USMNT – Armchair Analyst – Matt Doyle MLS.com

Josh Sargent, Tim Weah become 3rd and 4th youngest USMNT Scorers – USA Today

LAFC’s Zimmerman Scores 1st for US

Antonee Robinson Excells in Debut at Left Back for US– Full player Ratings ESPNFC

US Player Ratings – Greg Seltzer MLS.com

HIGHLIGHTS: USMNT vs. Bolivia

• Notes, quotes and takeaways from U.S. 3, Bolivia 0
• Sources: Stewart finalizing deal to become USMNT’s first GM
• Julian Green: Enigma? Or ‘just a normal guy’?
• USMNT’s next generation is sprouting before our eyes

Max and Herc Podcast – Future of US Soccer ESPNFC 1 hr 

 GK –

Best Sames MLS in Week 13

Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
Indy Eleven vs. Charleston Battery – #INDvCHS  Wednesday 7 pm Lucas Oil Stadium –

Watch/Listen Live:

  • Local/National TV: MyINDY-TV23 Streaming Video:  ESPN+ ($)

ENTERING WEEK 12

Indy Eleven seek three points at home against Charleston Battery on Wednesday, May 30 at 7:00 p.m. The “Boys in Blue” look to bounce back after suffering their first loss on the road against New York Red Bulls II.“Indiana’s Team” currently sit at ninth in the Eastern Conference with a 4W-4L-2D record after falling 1-4 against New York Red Bulls II. The loss to Red Bulls II in Week 11 is the first loss on the road for Indy Eleven under first-year head coach Martin Rennie. The “Boys in Blue” controlled much of the first half. The visiting Eleven went into half time with a 1-0 lead thanks to a Soony Saad strike that found the top right corner in the 21st minute. Despite the strong first half, the second half proved to be in favor of Red Bulls II. The New York based team found the back of the net four times as the game finished 1-4.Charleston Battery enter Week 12 placed third in the Eastern Conference with a 5W-2L-4D record after drawing with Nashville SC, 1-1, last Saturday. Charleston forward Ataulla Guerra leveled the game against Nashville in the 50th minute. Battery midfielder Jay Bolt played a square pass into the box that Guerra tucked into the bottom left corner. The Battery have won three and drawn two in their last five matches and conceded only two goals in the span. The South Carolina based team has also scored six times in the last five matches.The “Boys in Blue” look to bounce back after a string of tough outings and a slew of absences that have kept key pieces of Rennie’s squad sidelined. The motto continues to be next man up as “Indiana’s Team” attempts to snag three points against visiting Charleston Battery.

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: MF JUAN GUERRA

Indy Eleven midfielder Juan Guerra continues an already-decorated career in 2018, joining “Indiana’s Team” for its inaugural USL season. Guerra has made five appearances for “Boys in Blue”, one of which came against New York Red Bulls II in Week 11. In his half hour on the pitch, Guerra moved the ball well, completing nearly 90 percent of his passes. With the squad rotating for various reasons, expect the experienced midfielder to continuing getting minutes.Guerra played collegiately for Florida International University and has since gained experience with Venezuelan clubs Monagas SC and Caracas FC, the most successful club in Venezuelan history. The midfielder has four caps with the Venezuelan national team, including two call-ups for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. He was an integral part of the New York Cosmos midfield in 2017, scoring five goals and adding one assist in 27 starts.

CHARLESTON BATTERY PLAYER TO WATCH: MF TAH ANUNGA

Running an effective 3-4-3 usually entails a coach relying on a strong holding midfielder to control the tempo in the middle of the pitch. For Charleston Battery gaffer Mike Anhaeuser, this man is Tah Anunga. The Cameroonian regulates the Battery midfield, disrupting opposition charges and leading counter attacks off turnovers.The 21-year old midfielder showed his defensive prowess against Nashville SC in Week 11. Anunga recorded six tackles and two interceptions bringing his season total to 45 and 22, respectively. The 21-year-old midfielder also moves the ball from the back third, through the middle, and into the front third. Nearly one third of the passes Anunga’s played this season have been in a forward direction.Expect Anunga’s name to appear on the team sheet again against Indy Eleven, as he’s started and played every minute of the Battery’s first 11 games.

MATCHUP TO MARK: GK OWAIN FON WILLIAMS VS. GK JOE KUZMINSKY

Indy Eleven and Charleston Battery both boast stingy defenses. The two teams are tied for second most clean sheets in the Eastern Conference with five. A big reason for their defensive presence has been the men between the posts.Owain Fon Williams has manned the sticks for the “Boys in Blue” this season. The Welshman has conceded 11 goals in 10 games. Of those ten games, Fon Williams has conceded more than one goal only three times. His large frame has led him to 24 saves on the season, six of which came against Red Bulls II last Sunday. His performances have earned him multiple USL Save of the Week nominations, and one Save of the Week award for his victory securing a massive penalty save on the road against North Carolina FC. Look for Fon Williams to continue being big between the sticks on Wednesday.Charleston Battery’s goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky’s path to the starting goalkeeping position differs some from Fon Williams. Kuzminsky took over the starting role in Week Seven against Atlanta United 2. His first outing showed promise as the 24-year old shut out Atlanta in a 3-0 victory. His three saves in his first appearance this season has now grown to 14 in six appearances since the switch. He’s accounted for four of the five Battery clean sheets and has only conceded two goals. His performances have been even more impressive considering his backline consists of only three defenders.With two impressive goalkeepers manning each team’s 18-yard box, the match-up between Indy Eleven and Charleston Battery may be a low scoring affair. Look for each keeper to come up big and make saves for their sides.You won’t want to miss a second of the action at Lucas Oil Stadium. Fans can still grab tickets to the mid-week fixture, kicking off at 7:00 p.m., starting at just $15 at

Red Bulls II hands Eleven first road setback

May 29, 2018by Kevin Johnston  SocTakes.com

The Indy Eleven had escaped with a result in all four of their road matches entering Sunday afternoon’s duel with New York Red Bulls II in Harrison, N.J. The streak is over.Indy built an early lead, but squandered it in the second half thanks to a furious Red Bulls II rally that started well before a Nico Mattern red card. The end result was a 4-1 drubbing and a crucial three points for NYRB II in the USL Eastern Conference standings.Soony Saad put the visitors up 1-0 in the 21st minute when Nathan Lewis backheeled a long pass out of the air to a streaking Saad, who finished top shelf. NYRB II couldn’t equalize before the break, but showed promise by winning the possession battle and getting off a barrage of shots.The hosts continued applying pressure in the second half and the floodgates soon opened. Forwards Brian White and Carlos Rivas struck within three minutes of one another to quickly give Red Bulls II its first lead of the day at 2-1.A short bit later in the 73rd minute, Matern — already sitting on a yellow — went in late and recklessly to a challenge. After head referee Mark Allatin conferred with his colleagues, Matern was booked for a second time and sent on his way. Things only got uglier from there.

Up a man, NYRB II manager John Wolyniec implored his team to keep attacking rather than sit back and milk the lead. Amando Moreno added a third in the 83rd on a ball from Jared Stroud. And with about a minute left in stoppage time, Cristian Casseres Jr. found Tom Barlow for the fourth and final harpoon.Things began to unravel for the Eleven even before Matern’s red. They generally lacked efficiency in the opponent’s side of the pitch, which has been a reoccurring problem this season, with only a 58 percent pass completion rate on that half. The hosts also got physically mauled more than they’re used to, suffering 19 fouls while only committing eight. Eleven left back Ayoze in particular, standing a lean 5-8, seemed to struggle with the ramped-up physicality of the match.Indy endured 30 shots on the day — 10 on target — while allowing the hosts to string together 527 passes. NYRB simply looked the sharper side, as evidenced by its 81 percent to 70 percent passing accuracy edge.The win propelled Red Bulls II up the table into sixth with 17 points; the Eleven rest in ninth with 14 points. Next up for NYRB II is a Saturday afternoon home match against FC Cincinnati, while Indy will host the Charleston Battery on Wednesday evening.

U.S. win over Bolivia has caveats but Weah, Sargent show their potential

9:48 AM ET  Jeff Carlisle Soccer  ESPNFC 

CHESTER, Pa. — “Potential” may be the dirtiest word in American soccer. When attached to the latest young phenom, it’s a word that tempts, teases and oftentimes disappoints as players fall short of lofty — and in some cases, unattainable — expectations. It can also corrupt when it’s used as a justification for giving players opportunities that haven’t been earned.There was certainly plenty of potential on display in the U.S. national team’s 3-0 win over Bolivia on Monday. The three goal scorers (Walker Zimmerman, Josh Sargent, and Tim Weah) all celebrated their first international tallies. Another five players made their U.S. debuts. The Americans dominated proceedings and the result, especially after Zimmerman’s 37th minute opener, was never really in doubt.But there were some reminders during the match that demanded the game be put in in its proper context. Bolivia was playing with an under-strength side due to a conflict with the country’s domestic league. And then there were those moments when some of the more youthful elements of the U.S. side showed their inexperience, whether it was a poor touch, a shanked cross or just nerves.”I thought for good segments of the game, the soccer was pretty good,” said U.S. caretaker manager Dave Sarachan. “I thought in the first half we had a number of opportunities to bury some chances, but we looked young. We looked young in terms of patience and quality, but that’s what these games are all about.”Weah seemed to encapsulate that assessment. He had some passes that didn’t come close to finding their intended targets and then nearly had to leave the game due to a knee injury. But he got back on his feet, combined well with Sargent and in the second half, he scored with an authoritative first-time finish.”[Weah] was all over the shop,” said Sarachan. “He looked like a kid who has never played at a higher level, [then] a guy that was looking to come out of a game where he wasn’t even sure if he was hurt, [and later] to flying and beating guys.”Weah, 18, admitted he was nervous, even more so than during his recent start for club side Paris Saint-Germain.”With PSG I had already played two games,” he said. “It was my first start but it was also the end of the season, you’re kind of just relaxing. I wasn’t that nervous. I was nervous on my [U.S.] debut and I was nervous here. Now I got the chance and I’m on the stage to start the game to show the [fans] what I can really do. That was just going through my mind at the moment even though it was just a friendly.”Not only was it Sargent’s first start with the U.S. but it was his first professional match at any level. Yes, he’s signed with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen but his birth year meant he couldn’t play any professional games with the club this season. For that reason, his inclusion in the side has, with some justification, led to questions about how a player with no professional experience is now playing for the national team.Sarachan thought it was worth taking a shot.”We’re very thin at the No. 9 position in American soccer in my opinion,” said Sarachan. “So here’s a kid that has progressed throughout all the age groups and [youth] World Cup settings, and I’m not projecting Josh to be a starter from here on in with the men’s team, but he possesses a certain mentality and frame. And why not look at him at a time when you can? We need goal scorers, we need to give them opportunities, and so for me I didn’t even think twice about it.”I think this was the perfect time to give him a little introduction.”But Sarachan acknowledged that the situation will need to be managed carefully. At some point, Sargent will need to be logging steady minutes with Bremen otherwise the meritocracy that needs to be established within the team goes out the window. And it’s true not just in Sargent’s case, but with all of the young players on the current roster.”I think it’s my responsibility [and that of] our staff and our program to make sure that they understand that there are still steps. If you want to get to “A,” you still start at “D” and “C,” then to “B.” We’re very quick [as a country] to jump them into the “A” category. I think that’s a process that we have to manage with a lot of expectations, with a lot of noise on the outside.”They’re going to feel good about tonight,” he continued. “But when I go through the tape and have meetings with guys, and we talk, there’s a lot of room to get better. So it’s just that constant communication that has to take place so they don’t put themselves ahead of things, but it’s not easy to close out a lot of noise for these young kids, that’s for sure.”The irony, of course, was that the player who had done the most to live up to considerable hype, Pulisic, was noticeably less than his best on the evening even if he did have his moments of danger.”Christian looked like he’s ready to take a break,” noted Sarachan. Yet his teammates were there to pick up the slack, a welcome development given the team’s over-dependency on Pulisic during World Cup qualifying. The first-timers especially could enjoy the cool of the evening.”If I call my mom now, she’s probably going to be screaming,” said Weah.Sargent meanwhile was left to reflect on a whirlwind last season, one that was capped off with Monday’s goal.”I haven’t had a lot of time to just calm down and think about it. It’s a really proud feeling I’d say; going from one level to the next, being able to prove myself, so it’s a really immense feeling of pride.”Up next is a pair of friendlies against Ireland and France. Those matches will certainly pose more difficulties than Monday’s encounter and provide another valuable experience for a young side.”We want to be optimistic, and there is hope, but I think we need to let this play out before we start anointing or saying ‘This next generation…'” said Sarachan. “But each step of the way, all these friendlies like tonight and the past and what we’ve got coming up, we’ll begin to add up where I think you’re going to realize that there’s going to be some good talent coming through.”

Armchair Analyst: Hope and change generation inspire USMNT win

May 28, 20189:24PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

Here is the immediate context: The US men’s national team will not be going to the World Cup this summer. A series of failures – some stretching back decades, some stretching back seven years, others very immediate and contained – means that there will be no trip to Russia.Here is the longer-term context: The US U-20s, after three straight cycles of pretty abject soccer, made the Youth World Cup quarterfinals in both 2015 and 2017. It is the first time in program history that the US had made the QFs or better of back-to-back Youth World Cups, and the US are one of just two teams to have done so (Portugal are the other) in these last two cycles.

Here is the historical context: Success at the U-20 level almost always begets future success at the full national team level. It’s not a guarantee, of course – there are no guarantees in this game of ours. But if you start cranking out full generations of 18-to-20-year-olds who can ball with and against the best, you’re probably about to have a good decade.  Here is the day’s context: A bunch of US kids beat the hell out of a bad Bolivia team 3-0 in Chester on Monday night. LAFC‘s Walker Zimmerman, a grizzled veteran at age 25, opened the scoring with a towering header off a corner kick in the first half. Then a pair of 18-year-olds, Josh Sargent of Werder Bremen and Tim Weah of PSG, sunk their blades deep.It was fun. It was not just fun, but it was primarily and mostly fun. It felt like a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways, and I’m not the only one who sensed that:

Does a win over Bolivia mean all that much? Not really. What matters is that Sargent goes on and wins a significant role with Werder (I’m hearing good things from people I trust about that), that Weah continues to progress with PSG, that Christian Pulisic gets some rest and that Weston McKennie keeps being Weston McKennie.It’s important that Erik Palmer-Brown finds a place where he plays 90 every week, and that Keaton Parks does the same. It’s important that Antonee Robinson gets a coach who can help him defeat some of his more naive off-the-ball tendencies.  It’s important that we develop two or three more attackers. This coming generation is overflowing with center backs, center mids and even fullback. There are many more questions up front, and while this has been a banner year for young domestic midfielders and defenders in MLS, can you name a winger or forward or playmaker who’s pushing through? Neither can I.  All of that, in the long run, matters infinitely more than a single friendly at this stage in a non-World Cup cycle.But it was nice to have fun watching the US play. It’s been a long time.A few thoughts:

  • Parks is one of the most languid playersI’ve ever seen come out of the US. His ability to receive the ball in traffic and passing vision jump out even when he’s not doing much, and his confidence comes through the screen at you. I worry, however, about his lack of quickness. He was beaten badly a couple of times in close quarters, and that may limit his ceiling.
  • I’m convinced there’s almost no ceilingfor McKennie. He started 25 games at central midfield, center back and defensive midfield for the second-best team in the Bundesliga this year, and he will start more than that next year. I still see him as more of a No. 8than a No. 6, at least at this point, because he’s much more comfortable when he’s working to get around the ball than he is simply protecting the defense and dictating the game as a sort of regista
  • Zimmerman’s distribution impressed me.Bob Bradley’s been asking a lot of him for LAFC and he’s evolved in a short time. This is not a read he makes or a pass he hits last year:
  • Weah is so, so smart off the ball.He’s clever about finding space and understanding where running lanes are before they actually appear, and his movement is mostly unselfish.He did telegraph that shot above, but that’s something he can work on as he gets more reps.What he isn’t is a 1-v-1 wizard, and that’s fine. Being a complementary piece who gets into good spots and capitalizes on the on-the-ball creativity of others is a great way to score a lot of tap-ins.

 

  • Robinson impressed just about everybodywith his athleticism and crossing ability, and fair enough for that. That said, his first two crosses were naive and hopeless in that you shouldn’t cross the ball from the touchline against a packed-in defense. Doing so is a good way to get countered (every time I see a young player hit a cross like that I think to myself “that kid has not been coached”).So what impressed me most was that he learned from his first half, and didn’t settle in the second. When he got on the ball he drove toward the box, put the defense on the back foot, made them scramble toward their own net, and then put it on a tee for Weah.I loved the cross. What I loved more was the “learning and improving during the game” aspect of it. Give me a young player who can think.
  • Pulisic was lousy and deserves a rest.
  • Sargent was great. I didn’t love the factthat he got called up because I don’t like when any player gets called into the full national team before they’ve played a single pro minute. It’s not a big deal, per se – not at all, really – but to me it sends the wrong message. Players can get anointed rather than earning the spot.That said, Sargent made it easy to see why, on some level, he’s indeed been anointed. He’s the best pure forward prospect we’ve had since Jozy Altidore, and unlike Jozy at 18, he’s under no illusions that he should be playing elsewhere (Jozy thought he was a winger). His hold-up play was very good, his runs were smart, and the one great chance he got, he buried:

And really, that’s about it. I’m looking forward to the next two games of this series of friendlies, and then I’m looking forward to a month of watching the World Cup.And I’m also convinced that the next cycle will be much, much better than the last one. A win over Bolivia didn’t do that, but watching this team play with no fear and plenty of swagger sure didn’t hurt.

GOAL: Weah bags his first for USMNT

United States still has ‘a lot of room for improvement’ – Dave Sarachan

12:56 AM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

CHESTER, Pa. — United States caretaker manager Dave Sarachan pronounced himself pleased at the 3-0 victory over Bolivia that his young squad delivered on Monday, but he also cautioned that there is still room for improvement “for each and every player.”Three different U.S. players scored their first international goals. Walker Zimmerman opened the scoring with a 37th minute header from a corner. Josh Sargent nabbed an opportunistic tally in the 52nd minute, picking up an errant pass from Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe and firing home. Tim Weah closed the scoring seven minutes later with well-taken goal, finishing off Antonee Robinson’s cross with a first-time strike.”I thought for good segments of the game, the soccer was pretty good,” said Sarachan. “I thought in the first half we had a number of opportunities to bury some chances.”But we looked young. We looked young in terms of patience and quality, but that’s what these games are all about.”Sargent (18 years, 102 days) became the second-youngest U.S. player in the modern era to score in his international debut. He sits behind only Juan Agudelo who was 17 years, 359 days when he tallied in the USA’s 1-0 win at South Africa on Nov. 17, 2010. Weah’s 59th minute goal made him the fourth youngest U.S. goal-scorer of all-time. Christian Pulisic (17 years, 253 days; May 28, 2016 vs. Bolivia) remains the U.S. team’s youngest ever scorer.Defensively, the U.S. was rarely troubled on the night, with goalkeeper Alex Bono not required to make a save.”I thought defensively [we were] solid, didn’t get tested a whole lot, but maybe that’s a credit a little bit to the group in terms of stepping up pressure,” said Sarachan.”I thought there weren’t any performances where I come away scratching my head, but there’s a lot of room for improvement, no question about it.”Weah endured some ups and downs on the night. Some good interchanges with Sargent got him in good positions, only for his final pass to go awry. He also had a 10th minute strike well saved by Bolivia starting keeper Guillermo Vizcarra. At one point a knee injury looked set to force Weah out of the match, but he carried on. He was all over the shop,” said Sarachan about Weah. “He looked like a kid who has never played at a higher level to a guy that was looking to come out of a game where he wasn’t even sure if he was hurt, to flying and beating guys. He was the prototypical young, nervous guy.”Everyone assumes because [Weah is] on the books at a place like PSG that he’s going to be at such a certain level. I think he’s going to get there, but he’s not there. So I think what you saw tonight was a nervous kid and yet the goal he scores is a great goal.”He’s going to be a good player, but he’s got some growing to do, some maturing to do, as a player. So what you saw is where he’s at I think.”The match witnessed Pulisic operating a level far from his best, though he did threaten on occasion. It was perhaps expected given the heavy minutes Pulisic has logged this season for club side Borussia Dortmund.”Christian looked like he’s ready to take a break,” said Sarachan.All the more reason for the U.S. manager to be pleased at how the rest of the team picked up the attacking slack.”That’s the whole point of trying to bring some young forwards into the mix because scoring goals is so difficult,” said Sarachan. “Just relying on Christian to be your sole guy, it’s too much for him and it’s not fair. We want to share the wealth and I thought the guys did that tonight.”The challenge now for Sarachan is keeping the heads of his young charges on straight, especially with matches against Ireland and France looming.”I think it’s my responsibility, our staff, and our program to make sure that they understand that there are still steps,” he said. “If you want to get to ‘A’, you still start at ‘D’ and ‘C’ then to ‘B’. [As a country] we’re very quick to jump them into the ‘A’ category.”I think that’s a process that we have to manage with a lot of expectations, with a lot of noise on the outside. They’re going to feel good about tonight.”But when I go through the tape and have meetings with guys, and we talk, there’s a lot of room to get better. So it’s just that constant communication that has to take place so they don’t put themselves ahead of things, but it’s not easy to close out a lot of noise for these young kids that’s for sure.”

Antonee Robinson excels in U.S. debut as Americans breeze past Bolivia

9:44 PM ETJason Davis

A Memorial Day friendly against Bolivia ushered in a new era of the U.S. men’s national team as manager Dave Sarachan rolled out a young side at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. A group of fresh faces dominated the game on the way to a 3-0 victory, all three goal scorers hitting their first tallies for the senior national team.

Positives

Despite the youth of the squad, the Americans rarely looked unsettled across 90 minutes. Partnerships developed across the formation, with teenagers Timothy Weah, Josh Sargent, and Weston McKinnie finding their feet quickly. The defensive performance has to be judged against the Bolivians’ lack of quality, but any clean sheet is worth highlighting. In the second half, the U.S. pressed its advantage and opened up a lead it could protect to the final whistle.

Negatives

There are few negatives worth pointing out. Christian Pulisic wasn’t on his game, but players around him picked up the slack on the attacking end of the field. There was a lack of sharpness at times, but it never caused the American problems.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — No major beefs with Sarachan this time around. The interim U.S. manager took the step to trust the young players in his squad and utilized all six of the available substitutes in a friendly. The result was positive and a number of players got experience. Job done.

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

GK Alex Bono, 7 — Required to do very little over 90 minutes as Bolivia managed zero shots on goal. Largely played long out of the back, with mixed success.

DF Eric Lichaj, 7 — Calm, composed and untroubled most of the night. Made smart decisions on the defensive end. Had a limited impact on the attacking end of the field, playing behind Weah for most of the night.

DF Walker Zimmerman, 7 — Opened the American scoring with a rising header from a set piece and backed it up with a solid defensive performance. Made several important interventions and read the game well.

DF Erik Palmer-Brown, 7 — Quiet evening at the back for the Manchester City player. Passed well but was rarely required to do much on the defensive end of the field.

DF Antonee Robinson, 8 — Played an excellent match minus a few questionable decisions that required difficult recovery runs. Contributed to the attack and hit the cross that led to the third goal.

MF Weston McKinnie, 8 — A menace all over the field for the Americans in the defensive midfield. Broke up Bolivian play with tackles and interceptions across the match.

MF Timothy Weah, 8 — Scored a goal in his first-ever start for the U.S., a reward for a strong night of work on the wing. Overcame a first-half injury scare and one-v-one miss. Combined well with Sargent.

MF Joe Corona, 6 — Provided the assist to Zimmerman to open up the scoring for the U.S. Put in a decent shift in midfield playing between the lines. Lacked a strong connection to midfield partners.

MF Christian Pulisic, 6 — Played well below his usual standard and looked lethargic at times. Lacked sharpness in the attacking third. Took a ball to the face to end his night.

MF Rubio Rubin, 7 — Active up and down the wing all night. Found space wide and posed regular danger in the attacking end. Not sharp, but good enough to do the job.

FW Josh Sargent, 7 — Created the second U.S. goal by harrying Bolivia’s back line. Played strong as a target forward, dragging defenders out and holding the ball up for teammates.

Substitutes

MF Julian Green, 7 — Energetic and influential in his half-hour playing mostly in the center of the attacking group. Picked a few poor decisions to kill moves, but connected well with teammates on the whole.

MF Keaton Parks, 8 — Looked the part in the center of the field in relief of Corona. Showed the promised passing touch and made smart choices with the ball.

FW Andrija Novakovich, 6 — Made an impression in a limited appearance. Hit a couple of good passes and should have had a chance on goal if not for a missed offside call.

MF Lynden Gooch, NR — One dribble, a few defensive interventions and a missed chance late in the game for the Sunderland man.

MF Matthew Olosunde, NR — Put in the necessary effort to hold down the flank late in the game. Unable to impact the match up the field.

DF Jorge Villafana, NR — Made a cameo with the game decided.

USMNT Player Ratings: Zimmerman, Sargent, Weah stand out in Bolivia win

May 28, 201810:52PM EDTGreg SeltzerContributor

A very young US national team enjoyed a 3-0 friendly cruise over an equally green Bolivia side on Memorial Day, with the margin of victory well-earned by a performance filled with promise.The home side patiently went about the business of running at the visitors’ left, right and center until Walker Zimmerman started the party with a restart header. They never looked back from there, with Josh Sargent and Timothy Weah punctuating strong first senior-side starts with goals of their own in the second half.

Alex Bono (6) – You may as well given the Toronto FC netminder a chilled fork and a tall glass of milk, because his debut shutout went easy as pie.

Eric Lichaj (6) – The first-time captain wasn’t greatly tested at right back, and wasn’t always clean with the ball. Lichaj did have some nice first-half touches to link rushes down his flank.

Walker Zimmerman (7.5) – The LAFC defender took full advantage of scandalous marking to power home a corner-kick header for the opener. At the back, Zimmerman stepped into passing lanes when needed and moved the ball along safely.

Erik Palmer-Brown (6.5) – Though far less busy than his partner, Palmer-Brown had his moments. The former Sporting KC Homegrown calmly ushered away a couple of counter crosses and managed a handful of positive passes out of the back.

Antonee Robinson (7.5) – Though he certainly could use polish, the left back put in a impressive debut shift. With his quick feet and strong one-v-one body positioning, Robinson made light work of swipes down in his corner on the way to 22 total defensive stops. At Bolivia’s door, the youngster knocked and knocked with crosses until he coolly picked out Weah for the capper.

Weston McKennie (7) – Though his passing was occasionally loose, McKennie helped the US control the game by constantly breaking up plays in the center of the park. His 21 total defensive stops resulted in numerous sudden counterattacks for the US.

Timothy Weah (7.5) – The Paris Saint-Germain talent started the game well, and kept hitting the gas until he bagged his first USMNT goal by knifing through defenders in the box for a gimme. Yeah, Weah could have provided a little more end product, but his ability to get loose down the line is exciting.

Christian Pulisic (5.5) – The Borussia Dortmund playmaker drove some moves, but he is clearly exhausted after a long club season. Pulisic’s touches and passes were often just a shade off, but it’s nothing that resting those heavy legs won’t cure.

Joe Corona (6.5) – It was a decent outing for Corona, who played like a veteran among the kids. He supported final-third possession well and offered some tempting restart serves, one of which was buried by Zimmerman. The yellow-card infraction was actually worth the price to halt a breakout, but we’ll still dock him for the play because he was covering his own mistake.

Rubio Rubin (7) – Playing on his off wing, Rubin kept his motor revving in the right direction for 73 minutes. His work around the area ran hot-and-cold, but the Tijuana man certainly had his mind set on pushing play forward.

Josh Sargent (7.5) – In the first half, the kid displayed the same exact all-around final third savvy that we’ve seen at youth World Cups. Then, shortly after the break, Sargent put the cherry on top of a yummy first cap with a big play. Not many strikers of any age can perform the thieving overhead touch that set up his goal, and the finish was no-nonsense. Fun days are ahead with this one aboard.

Coach Dave Sarachan (7.5) – This time, the interim boss got out of his own way to make the most of a friendly. The lineup put everyone in positions to succeed and every sub was used. More of this, please.

Subs:
Julian Green (6.5) – We’ve seen Green before as a winger, but this time he took the No. 10 role. He found good spots to receive the ball and often moved play in the right direction once he got it.

Keaton Parks (6) – Three words effectively summarize his half-hour debut: eager, but imprecise. Parks definitely showed he has the physical tools to do well at this level.

Andrija Novakovich (6) – The strike sub contributed a couple of good link touches, but wasn’t quite able to find the space he wanted to operate around the box.

Lynden Gooch (6) – The Sunderland attacker didn’t lose a ball in his 17 minutes and all five of his passes were positive. However, Gooch took too long to fire when presented with a late 10-yard chance and had his shot blocked away.

Matthew Olosunde (6) – We didn’t get to see the debutant right back put in any tense situations over his 16 minutes, but the youngster carried himself in a capable manner out there.

Jorge Villafaña (6.5) – Though he has the shortest shift of the night, Villafaña managed to squeeze two pressure turnovers and two key passes into a stoppage-time cameo.

How Dave Sarachan, amid paradoxical uncertainty, kick-started the USMNT’s rebuild

 Henry Bushnell,FC Yahoo 4 hours ago 

PHILADELPHIA — Dave Sarachan likes to call them dominoes. And no, he isn’t talking about those dotted rectangular blocks. He’s talking about decisions. About a rebuilding process. About the steps U.S. Soccer must take to move forward, away from its most traumatic night.And more than seven months on from that night – more than six months after the 63-year-old Sarachan took charge of his first U.S. national team game – an unsettling amount of those dominoes remain upright. U.S. Soccer’s members elected Carlos Cordeiro as their new president in February, but Cordeiro has been jetting around Europe and Asia on the 2026 World Cup bid campaign trail. A general manager role has been created, but remains unfilled. A technical director role is non-existent.“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Sarachan admitted during a sit-down interview with Yahoo Sports last week. “There’s a lot of … chaos isn’t the right word, but trying to find their way. There’s a lot of moving parts.”And so Sarachan, who has spent 22 of his 38 coaching years as an assistant, has effectively been on his own.“I haven’t had anybody from up above talking to me about my job,” he says of his time as interim boss. Tactical and personnel decisions are exclusively his. He has spoken with U-20 coach Tab Ramos when youth and senior national team camps have overlapped. “But in terms of having a sounding board, or anything with U.S. Soccer,” he says, “I’ve sort of been left to do what I feel is best.”And he’s been left in a strange position. He’s been left with the keys to a program that needs to move forward; but with a contract, twice extended by a few months, that expires at the end of June.When it does, he wants to stay on with the federation in some capacity. But he’s been given no assurances. Meanwhile, he’s been tasked with assembling the building blocks for a future he might not be a part of.And yet despite the paradoxical nature of what he calls a “difficult situation,” Sarachan, at the very least, has ensured that the past seven months, while perhaps directionless, haven’t been worthless.“I don’t dwell on the fact that after June 30, I may not be in this position,” Sarachan says. “I’m not naïve. I understand there’s a good chance that will happen. But my style and philosophy of coaching … that will never change. I don’t compromise that. Because I’m not looking long term, I’m looking at bringing a group together.”By all accounts, he’s done that. A 3-0 victory over Bolivia on Monday night may be the best evidence yet. By all accounts, he’s given the U.S. men’s national team exactly what it needed, exactly when it needed it most.

* * * * *

With the late-morning Philadelphia sun beaming and a ball zipping around a field in front of him, Sarachan is in his element. He barks out the occasional instruction, urging players to up the tempo of a possession drill. Once or twice, he calls the group together to demonstrate a technique. Sarachan, first and foremost, is a teacher. With a roster of kids, 15 of them 23 years old or younger, he’s comfortable. He’s in charge.  So hours later, sitting across from him in a quiet corner of a downtown Philadelphia hotel lobby, I can’t help but ask: Does Sarachan, given his precarious job status, feel like anything less than a full national team manager?“It’s a fair question,” he begins. “But the answer is no.”And his job title concurs. Back on Oct. 24, U.S. Soccer announced that “assistant coach Dave Sarachan” would “guide” the team in its first friendly post-Trinidad. When that friendly, against Portugal, rolled around, he had become “caretaker” or “acting head coach.” Now there are no modifiers. No “acting” or “caretaker” or “interim.”“Right now, I am the senior men’s national team coach,” Sarachan says. “It’s an important position, regardless of whether you’re permanent or semi-permanent. In this business of coaching, you’re never permanent. Everybody is an interim coach. So I don’t look at it like that at all. If I did, I think that would diminish my professional responsibility.”It is natural to wonder whether Sarachan’s cloudy future, coupled with his desire to remain with a U.S. national team, has compromised his ability to kick-start the rebuild. And many have wondered. In March, many questioned his motives. They posited that Sarachan’s desire to prove himself worthy of a more permanent job morphed into a desire to win, which overrode the long-term interests of the program.Sarachan, however, when presented with the criticism that he has not granted enough opportunities to young players, finds it absurd.“It’s laughable to think that way,” he says. “There’s so many people out there that are misinformed, and that just don’t know what goes into the job I have, and building a team.“National team call-ups and playing time is not just handed out. It’s not just given to guys because they’re young. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. It’s gotta be earned. These aren’t just token things because a guy plays for a big club in Europe, but he hasn’t really played, but he’s got a potential future. The idea of just giving guys minutes is just insane. And it’s not anything I would ever entertain.”If Sarachan were approaching friendlies with the sole purpose of winning, after all, Christian Pulisic would have been in Portugal and North Carolina. Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley would have been there as well. Sarachan mentions several times that those two are still very much in the national team picture.“Guys like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, and I could name a few others, will absolutely still be in the mix,” he says. “They’ve been unfairly criticized. Leaving them out for these games is not a reflection of [whether] I feel they’re going to be a part of the next cycle.”Rather, it’s a reflection of his familiarity with them, and unfamiliarity with other players whom he has given opportunity. He’s doled out 21 first call-ups and 15 debuts. He’s enabled four first national team goals. His starting lineup Monday night, with an average of 22 years and 160 days, is believed to be the youngest in modern USMNT history.These camps, he says, have been about “indoctrinating younger players,” and building relationships – even if the ones between coach and players might not last beyond June.

* * * * *

The cloud hanging over everything Sarachan has done over the past half-year is that when 20-some players arrive in New Jersey three months from now, they will, in all likelihood, report to a new manager. And that new manager could change everything – formation, style, training methods, off-field customs … everything.So what, if anything, has Sarachan built that’s sustainable? How do we know the past seven months haven’t gone to waste?

Those are the million-dollar questions.Tim Weah and Josh Sargent both scored in Monday’s friendly against Bolivia, and both received their first USMNT caps under Dave Sarachan. (Getty)

They’re also a reason Sarachan gathers the team almost every day after their post-training meal for a meeting. The topics vary. The overarching goal, though, is consistent.From November to January to March to May, Sarachan says, “I’ve successively tried to build relationships, formulate ideas, so that each time the starting point is a little higher than just starting over. I’ve tried to establish, at each stop since Trinidad, what it really means to be part of the national team.“If you have that baseline, and define the roles and responsibilities, and what it means, regardless of whether I’m coaching in July or a new guy comes in, I’d like to believe that will be [the players’] philosophy.”Off the field, many budding relationships have flourished irrespective of coaching. Friendships initially formed on youth national teams have blossomed. Camaraderie is pulsating throughout the younger generation.On the field, though, that generation needed guidance. Sarachan has provided it.“He kind of has the father feel, the grandfather feel,” goalkeeper Bill Hamid says. “These guys are taking [his coaching] on board. They’re listening a lot to his information.”The thought that this could be their last camp with Sarachan hasn’t crossed many players’ minds. Sarachan, when asked if he’s had conversations with U.S. Soccer about staying on, said, “I’ve tried. It’s hard. I’ve had a few, but there’s a lot on their plate with the GM hire and the bid. All they’ve told me is, ‘We respect you, Dave, we like what you’re doing. Let’s let this process play out.’”A few hours later, he’s back down in the hotel lobby, just minutes after Yahoo Sports’ Doug McIntyre reported that U.S. Soccer planned to hire Earnie Stewart as that GM. I mention the news to Sarachan. As he walks away, he says with a half-smile: “Dominoes are falling.”He does not know what the future holds. But the past seven months, he says, have been “refreshing.” They’ve been “an honor.” He’s even “enjoyed it.”And he’s proud. “I feel good that we’ve tried to turn the page and move forward,” he says. “I feel I was the right person at the right time, with the calmness and the experience” required to steady the program during one of the most turbulent times in its history. Monday’s performance would suggest he’s done just that.“Dave and his staff have started something special,” Hamid says, the prospect of a new manager replacing Sarachan now brought to his attention. “Breaking it would … it would almost suck a little bit.”

Someday I’ll tell my kids about this moment, says Zimmerman of USMNT goal

May 28, 201811:21PM EDTDave ZeitlinContributor

CHESTER, Pa. — On Monday night at Talen Energy Stadium, the US national team showcased a promising crop of very young European-based attackers.And yet, the first goal in the United States’ 3-0 rout of Bolivia came off the head of an older (at least by comparison) defender who was one of only two MLS players called into camp.What did it mean for LAFC’s Walker Zimmerman to score his first international goal and get the Yanks on the board with a powerful 37th-minute header off a Joe Corona corner kick?“It was incredible,” Zimmerman told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “It’s definitely a moment I’ll never forget, and something I’m going to look forward to talking about with my kids someday.”Alex Bono, the only other MLS player called in by Dave Sarachan, was one of six players to earn his first national-team cap and he responded with a shutout. The Toronto FC goalkeeper, though, didn’t even need to make a save, thanks in large part to the play of center backs Zimmerman and former Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown, who also made his first USMNT appearance.Zimmerman — who, at 25, was one of the older players in camp this week — said he gave Palmer-Brown a pep talk about trying to stay confident before the game.“I remember my first cap was not too long ago,” the LAFC center back said. “Really the ultimate takeaway I had is just to trust in your abilities and what got you to this point and don’t try to do anything out of your comfort zone. I thought he had a great game. I thought we worked well together. We were very composed. “I know they didn’t create too many chances, but I think that’s also a testament to our partnership and the whole backline keeping organized. I’m really proud of him and happy he got his first cap.”There’s a good chance Bono and Zimmerman will return to their MLS clubs when the US departs for their next two friendlies in Ireland and France, as Sarachan said he’s planning to make some roster changes.But the US interim head coach was pleased with how fullbacks Eric Lichaj and Antonee Robinson meshed with the two center backs on a backline that he noted didn’t have many vocal guys, save for Zimmerman.“I thought their organization was good,” Sarachan said. “I thought their movement was relatively good. I thought in the second half there were a few moments they got a little sloppy, but we made so many changes that didn’t help. But generally speaking, I thought our backline did a good job and I liked Antonee’s moments of getting forward as well.”Zimmerman, of course, knows the other young center backs coming through the system — including Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers, the only two players on Monday’s gameday roster who didn’t get into the game — have plenty of potential, too.But he also knows that scoring a goal, showing off his set piece skills (which he called one of his biggest strengths) and earning player of the game honors vs. Bolivia will certainly keep him right in the mix as the USMNT’s backline of the future comes into sharper focus.“We definitely have a lot of good younger guys who are up and coming, and I think there’s going to be a lot of competition at this position moving forward,” Zimmerman said. “We’re all excited for it. I think we’re ready for that challenge and I think we’re ready to be consistent international players.”

 Real Madrid’s historic Champions League title obscured by online outrage

May 27, 2018Graham HunterESPN.com freelance columnist

There has been so much heated nonsense spoken and written about Real Madrid’s 3-1 Champions League final win over Liverpool in Kiev that there are some missed or ignored items that must be focused on. And they will be here.Let’s begin with the opening goal.I’m not contesting that it makes Karim Benzema a footballing genius to have scored it, but the fact that Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius made such an atrocious series of judgmental errors in gifting the holders the lead has obscured credit that needs to flow to the much-maligned striker.Given how the modern game is officiated, Benzema should have been in a no-win situation. Karius should have known this.The Frenchman was isolated on the edge of Liverpool’s box. Karius had plenty of options about how to deal with what faced him. Yes, he had every right to try to move the ball sharply to reduce Madrid to nine outfield players by bypassing Benzema. But Karius had a choice of three red shirts, options via which he could have cut his opponent out of the game with just a scintilla more effort and concentration.With reference to keeper protection in the modern game, had Karius shaped to kick long or tempted Benzema to take another couple of paces towards him, the referee would almost inevitably have called a foul. Keepers get protected in football more than facts and truth do.Where the credit comes is that once Liverpool’s maladroit goalie makes a bad choice, Benzema reads it.Benzema is still a regulation distance away from Karius. The odds are vastly against him, but he not only gambles correctly, he reacts with tremendous agility and speed, but then also gets his leg into a position where he can be strong enough for the rebound to take the ball not only towards the goal but in.What’s more, to block a keeper throwing out to his right, the obvious foot for the striker to use is his left. But that would have cost Benzema a split-second more to effect. He instinctively raises what has been his planted, standing-weight foot and lunges.As I say, it’s not an act of genius, but it’s what every single coach, amateur or pro, wishes he could teach his footballers: Stay sharp, think, react quicker than the other guy. Or, as Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley used to teach those Liverpool players who dominated England and Europe: “Find the dope”.They taught that, especially when the ball goes dead, lesser players breathe out, they relax, they drop their concentration just a millimetre. Shankly and Paisley urged their players to always be waiting for just such an infinitesimal relaxation, and to pounce. It’s what Benzema did, and both of those Liverpool greats would have recognised it.Karius had the ball in his hands, so he relaxed. He thought that there was no danger. He lost focus by a scintilla. It was enough.I understand the mawkish horrors of watching someone fail catastrophically on the biggest sporting stage. There will have been huge tracts of the worldwide audience both thrilled with schadenfreude at watching an error of such gigantic proportions, and then instantly contrite with the guilt of having felt the dark emotion of enjoying someone else’s hardship.One of the most common nightmares is having turned up at a vital exam without studying for it. Another is waking up sweating having dreamt that suddenly you’re naked in public, don’t understand why, and everyone is watching. That’s what Karius actually lived through, in effect.But there’s no way, in my humble view, that sympathy for or outrage about the “dope” (depending on whether you’re an angry Liverpool fan or not) can detract from appreciations of Benzema’s cat-like agility and anticipation.y the way, it was his 56th Champions League goal in 87 competition starts. Only three players — Raul, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo — have outscored him in this elite tournament. This from a man Sir Alex Ferguson said was “too expensive” when he joined Madrid in 2009 for €30 million, and Gary Lineker recently reckoned was overrated.Moving on.There has been some truly ridiculous stuff written about Sergio Ramos in the aftermath of yet another rule-stretching, all-in performance from the Madrid captain.For example, thanks to one German TV station highlighting it, there has been quite the furore on social media about Ramos clipping Karius a couple of minutes before the opening goal. Some have tried to suggest that A) it was a deliberate action by Ramos, and B) that there was some correlation between that and Liverpool’s keeper making his awful blunder.What I find stunning is that no one whom I’ve seen catcalling Ramos over that incident has seen fit to note that as the Spaniard runs in towards goal in order to try to connect with a Benzema cut-back, it’s Virgil Van Dijk who shoves Ramos, which results in Madrid’s captain surging towards the ground.Firstly, does Ramos then knowingly try to “leave one” on Karius once he’s been shoved? You may have a case. But is his proximity to the keeper solely thanks to Van Dijk? Definitely. Had the referee seen Van Dijk’s shove, might it have been a penalty to Madrid? Yes. Finally, does Ramos make enough contact with Karius to have caused the German, who’s up and about pretty instantly, any significant impairment? Do me a favour: Grow up.Even if, hypothetically, that were the case, then the fault would lie with Van Dijk choosing, illogically, to shove Ramos when Benzema’s cut-back was about to be effectively blocked. So that moment was an instance when a player chooses an action outside the rules, without really having any cognisance of what the ultimate consequence might be.Which, yes, you’ve guessed it, takes us to the moment when Mohamed Salah’s shoulder is injured thanks to Ramos tugging him to the ground awkwardly.On the idea that Ramos was deliberately trying to injure him, I’m not going to waste much time. Ramos breaks the rules. Ramos is ultra-streetwise. This column is not a defence of the Real Madrid captain; it’s an attempt to bring some football realism into the debate.

Firstly, this was the kind of challenge you see regularly across the European game and that, frankly, wouldn’t usually have serious consequences for either player. This one did, no question, and I fervently wish that Salah had completed 90 vibrant minutes and, for all I care about the matter, scored a hat trick.Secondly, if you take a snapshot of the instant when the foul is made (with referee Milorad Mazic positioned for a perfect view but not the least bit interested in a booking), then you’ll see a commanding piece of information about why Ramos wouldn’t let go.He wouldn’t risk the idea of Salah twisting free, or getting up swiftly and taking the ball away from the moment of contact. Salah has made an inside run across the pitch from the right. Ramos has gone with him, but the Egyptian, if he controls and twists with the ball, will have exposed his marker and gained perhaps two yards. Two crucial yards.If Salah turns with the ball, or gets up quicker than Ramos because the attempted foul fails, then Liverpool are four vs. two. Just think about that: Scoreless against a team that has scary firepower, that has dominated the first 20 or so minutes, and it’s about to be four vs. two.Roberto Firmino has drifted off Luka Modric and Casemiro, James Milner is wide right unmarked (surprise, surprise) by Marcelo, and Sadio Mane is being watched by Dani Carvajal, who is accompanied only by Raphael Varane. Is a definite goal on the cards given the distance involved? No, that’s a little too strong. But is it the kind of situation against which Madrid will have coached, video-analysed and, frankly, prayed to avoid? Yes.So Ramos commits a foul, no question. And he won’t let Salah go, no question. But the aim is to prevent a disastrous situation, not to injure.

Do guys like Ramos accept one less dangerous opponent on the pitch as a bonus for foul play? Yes. Was his action one any hard-nosed, serial winner would have taken? Yes.If you say no, then you’re either partial or dreadfully lacking information. I’ve been watching them do it all my life, and some of them — just for information — played for Liverpool.But there was much more either missed, obscured or ignored by the contentious nature of what happened and by the shimmering beauty of Gareth Bale’s first goal.In comparison to Karius, Keylor Navas’ two terrific opening-minutes saves from Trent Alexander-Arnold? The first brave and athletic, the second so superb through a cluster of legs and bodies.Left-back Marcelo yet again changing a big Champions League match, this time with a right-footed cross. There are still so many players earning vast sums, particularly in the UK, despite having one good foot and are like flamingos with the other — good for standing. Marcelo is routinely roasted by the under-informed in the UK media, continuously pointed out as only a liability because his defensive GPS long ago broke down. Yet his right-footed cross that Bale described as “at a perfect height” was the penultimate moment in a 20-pass move back and forward across the pitch for Madrid’s all-time great goal.Twenty passes. Please, let that not be obscured.Andy Robertson’s outrageous penalty-box block to prevent Ronaldo scoring? It was a tackle for the ages. Athletically constructed, clinically executed and, temporarily, it kept Liverpool with just a glimmer of opportunity. Why has it not been the subject of adoration from everyone who witnessed the game, professionally or as fans?Because we live in an age where outrage, complaint, vilification and raw emotion too often govern over honest, sang-froid, clinical analysis.

Real Madrid’s Champions League Triumph Defined By Bale’s Heroics, Salah’s Injury

  • The debate will go on regarding this Real Madrid side’s all-time greatness, but an injury to Liverpool’s centerpiece and a moment of sheer genius from Gareth Bale tilted the scales in a memorable Champions League final.

By JONATHAN WILSON May 26, 2018KIEV, Ukraine – The decisive goal, scored with a Gareth Bale overhead kick moments after he had come off the bench, was brilliant, and the two Loris Karius mistakes that gifted Madrid goals either side of that were ghastly. But there was no doubting what had been the decisive moment as Real Madrid won its third European title in a row and its fourth in five years with a 3-1 triumph over Liverpool.As Keylor Navas went to take a goal kick, Mohamed Salah slowly subsided, sinking with a desperate sadness to the ground. It looked bad, and confirmation soon followed from Liverpool’s medical staff. He had not recovered from an injury suffered a couple of minutes earlier and his final was over after just half an hour. As Salah walked off, his face crumpled in tears, his right arm hanging awkwardly limp, Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos both consoled him, but the truth is his departure had been Ramos’s fault.The center back may not have intended to injure him, but he was guilty of a clumsy–and strangely unpunished–foul, hauling Salah down, landing on his extended arm as the two players fell together and making no attempt to loosen his hold as the two went to ground. It was, at least, highly dangerous. With Salah’s departure, so the tenor of the game was transformed. It’s in that detail that the doubts about this Madrid, the sense that despite its record it is not a truly great side, lie. Again and again, for all its individual brilliance, it has been rather fortunate over the years: with the draw, with the bounce of the ball, with refereeing decisions and with its capacity to induce mistakes from opponents.Liverpool had begun well. It had pressed hard and unsettled a Madrid side that seemed to struggle to get going. Again and again it got the ball in dangerous areas, although only once did one of the many loose balls in the Madrid box fall to a Liverpool player: Roberto Firmino’s effort was blocked, and Navas then made a fine save to keep out Trent Alexander-Arnold’s follow-up chance. Liverpool wasn’t laying siege to Madrid’s goal exactly, but it was making life difficult for the champion.In that first 30 minutes, Liverpool had nine shots; in the rest of the half, it had none. In that first half hour Liverpool had 111 touches in the Madrid half; after that seven. Madrid, so sloppy early on, found a sharpness. The game shifted to the Liverpool half, and Karim Benzema had a goal ruled out after Ronaldo, whose header was well-saved by Karius, had drifted offside in the build-up.Madrid also lost a player to injury in the first half, Dani Carvajal, who had been out for a month before coming back in the final league game of the season against Villarreal, going off five minutes after Salah. But sad as that was for him, he, clearly, is of less significance to Madrid than Salah is to Liverpool, both in terms of ability and belief.The individual quality of Madrid is not in doubt, but it’s also been true that over this recent run of success it has benefited from the strange habit of opponents of making extraordinary mistakes. Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich gifted Benzema a goal in the semifinal, collapsing as though mesmerized by a back pass, and Karius’s error was no better. Looking to roll the ball out, he somehow threw it into the dangled foot of Benzema with sufficient force that the ball rebounded and rolled, painfully slowly, into the net.Isco had just hit the bar prior to the goal, and at that point Liverpool looked demoralized. It is hugely to its credit that it didn’t disintegrate, but struck back four minutes later with Mane, who had an excellent night, extending his leg to touch in after a header from a corner kick played the ball forward. But just as Liverpool began to believe, there came a moment of the sort of absurd individual quality of which Madrid is capable, and which it has a remarkable capacity of producing just when required.Marcelo crossed, Bale went airborne, and, with only marginally less grace than Ronaldo showed against Juventus, hooked a shot over his shoulder and into the top corner, one of the greatest goals ever scored in a European final.He added another 19 minutes later, a long-range shot of no great venom, slithering through Karius’s grasp to give Madrid a cushion.Two dire mistakes, an injury to a key opponent and a goal of absolute genius. This is what Madrid is. It does not stand for any great philosophy beyond that of being rich enough to buy great players and the ability of those individuals, added to a (very) fair wind, has been enough to have it touching levels of domination in European competition not seen since the late 1950s. Perhaps that is enough for greatness, and so, too, is a title run that included triumphs over PSG, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Liverpool. But the very highest level of the pantheon probably demands a little more.

Zinedine Zidane Provides Yet Another UCL Title to Answer His Harshest Critics

 

By 90MIN May 27, 2018

Zinedine Yazid Zidane is one of the greatest players ever to have ever kicked a football, and following his third straight triumph in the Champions League on Saturday – perhaps rather annoyingly – he’s now going the right way about becoming one of the best to instruct others at how to kick a ball as well.In all seriousness, that’s doing the Frenchman a disservice. The fact of the matter is, the former midfielder is fast developing into an elite manager at arguably the biggest club in the world, when most predicted the chop for a him after a couple of seasons at the most.Almost laughably, Zidane has now won nine major trophies since taking the reins at the Bernabeu in 2016 out of a possible 13, which is a monumental middle finger to all those that slated his appointment, claiming him unfit to lead a team of egotistical superstars. That’s nine trophies. In just 28 months.With Saturday’s victory, he has now become the first manager to ever win three consecutive titles, and he is already level with Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley as the tactician with the most European crowns. He has more than Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Zidane has been in the managerial game for all of five minutes.His abilities as a manager can no longer be questioned, what we actually should be talking about is where he places among the best coaches to grace the game. Yes, on paper Real Madrid have had a team of top-class players for the past few years, but that’s only half the story.What’s most obvious with Zidane at Madrid is that the winning mentality that allowed him to reach such dizzy heights as a player has followed him into management, and his players are contently feeding off of that like a siesta-loving man supping an ice cold San Miguel on the beach.There is a respect there between players and manager now. A trust in an intelligent man that clearly knows what he’s doing. That trust and respect might not have been as strong had someone else got the gig.Not only has he showcased his winning mentality, but his ever improving tactical nous and game management is there for all to see. Against Liverpool, he trusted Karim Benzema to perform and he absolutely did. In the second half, he recognised the need to withdraw Isco and replace him with Gareth Bale to tip the balance. And boy did the Welshman do that in some style.Perhaps Zidane got slightly ‘lucky’ in his first season coming in as someone with next to no experience but still guidied his team to success, but that is where that particular argument stops.Zidane now boasts wins over Mourinho in the Super Cup final and Diego Simeone, Max Allegri and Jurgen Klopp in Champions League finals, as well as one domestic league title. Are people honestly still thinking that with such results, this man is ‘lucky’? These guys are the game’s elite coaches, and Zidane has masterminded victories over all of them.The consistency is quite remarkable. In his 28 months, he has lost just 16 games. Currently he has a win ratio of 70%.Even in the face of potential adversity this season, Zidane and his players have something major to show for their efforts – another coveted Champions League after navigating their way past the champions of France, Germany and Italy.There could be even more silverware on the horizon – Madrid are now headed for a showdown with rivals Atletico Madrid in the 2018 Super Cup, and will also have the chance to win the Club World Cup again. Should he triumph – and you simply can’t bet against him now – it’ll mean no manager has delivered more in so little time.It’s time for the cynics to eat their words – Zidane’s unprecedented achievements since hanging up his boots are the most exotic fruits of his punishing labor. Make no bones about it, he is on his way to managerial greatness–if not already there.

Cristiano Ronaldo beats Gareth Bale to Champions League goal of the season

3:58 AM ETDermot CorriganESPN FC

Cristiano Ronaldo’s overhead kick against Juventus in this season’s Champions League quarterfinals was better than Gareth Bale’s against Liverpool in the final, according to UEFA’s Technical Observers.Ronaldo’s spectacular effort in Real Madrid’s 3-0 first leg victory in Turin in early April was immediately hailed as one of the greatest goals of all time, only for Bale to score an almost exactly similar goal on an even bigger stage in Saturday’s 3-1 victory in Kiev.The task of deciding which of the two strikes was better went to UEFA’s team of Technical Observers who compiled their best 10 goals of the 2017-18 Champions League season. And they chose Ronaldo’s effort as No. 1, saying it was “an extraordinary display of technique and athleticism.”

Bale’s strike came second on the list drawn up by the experts, who described it as “the crucial goal to make it 2-1 in the final, another brilliant acrobatic finish.”The UEFA committee is made up of former West Ham, Manchester United and Everton manager David Moyes, ex-Roma and Inter Milan defender Cristian Chivu, current Latvia national team coach Mixu Paatelainen, former Werder Bremen player and coach Thomas Schaaf, ex-Poland national manager Jerzy Engel and Dane Peter Rudbæk. The same group chose Bale as man of the match in Saturday’s game due to his decisive impact off the bench.Both Ronaldo and Bale have a second goal on the list, with Bale’s side-footed volley in September’s group stage win at Borussia Dortmund rated No. 6, and Ronaldo’s long-ranger in December’s return meeting with Dortmund in at No. 10.Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain’s clever strike in the round of 16 second leg against Tottenham was rated the third best goal of the season in the competition, while another bicycle kick from Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann against Roma in the group stages was chosen as No. 4.Also on the list were Roma’s Edin Dzeko’s volley against Chelsea [No. 5], Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fred’s free kick against Roma [No. 7], Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne’s belter versus Shakhtar [No. 8] and Lorenzo Insigne’s long-ranger also against Shakhtar [No. 9].

Cristiano Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid return at Champions League victory parade

May 27, 2018ESPN staff

Cristiano Ronaldo suggested he was planning on returning to Real Madrid next season, one day after he spoke of a possible exit, as Real Madrid celebrated a European title with their fans for a third straight year.After winning their 13th European title with a 3-1 win over Liverpool in Kiev on Saturday, Madrid brought the Champions League trophy home on Sunday and paraded it through the streets of the Spanish capital as thousands of fans saluted the newly crowned champions.Ronaldo avoided making any specific comments about his future as he addressed the fans at the Plaza de Cibeles, but left by saying: “Thanks, guys, until next year.”The Portuguese star — who after Saturday’s victory said “It has been very nice being at Real Madrid” and would make a decision on his future in the coming days — was animated throughout the parade and led multiple chants of “Campeones, campeones.”The celebrations ended at a packed Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where Ronaldo took the microphone again to say: “I’m proud to play in the greatest club in the world.”That sparked the fans to shout for Ronaldo to stay — “Cristiano quédate” — with his teammates also joining in.”Thank you, this [support] is very important for me,” Ronaldo added. “I am very pleased by the passion that you have always shown me. At the matches, on the streets. Thank you to all the players who accompany me. I am doing very well. Winning is what I like to do the most and with this team it is impossible to not win the Champions League.”The festivities began with players and team members participating in a ceremony at a local cathedral. Then they met with the city mayor and community president before addressing fans from a terrace at the Puerta del Sol square, one of Madrid’s main locations.”It has become a routine to be here,” captain Sergio Ramos said. “Hopefully it will continue for many years.”The team then got on an open bus and paraded with the trophy until reaching the club’s traditional celebration spot, the Plaza de Cibeles, where fans had been waiting for the champions for hours.Ramos and left-back Marcelo carried the trophy across the walkway set up over the plaza’s fountain and draped the statue of the goddess Cibele with a Spain flag that carried Madrid’s name on it. Ramos also put a team scarf around the goddess’ head to huge cheers from the crowd as the song “We Are The Champions” was played.The final stop was at the Bernabeu, where nearly 80,000 fans attended a ceremony honoring the European champions. Players and coaches were introduced one by one amid a lights show, then lifted the trophy on a midfield stage as confetti and fireworks blasted in the background.The stadium had already been packed on Saturday with fans watching the final on eight big screens set up on the field.Thousands had already made it to the Plaza de Cibeles right after the game in celebrations that lasted into the early hours of Sunday.Madrid havewon the Champions League in four of the last five years. They had beaten Juventus last season, and city rivals Atletico Madrid in finals in 2014 and 2016.Members of Real Madrid’s basketball team, which won the European title this year, were also honoured in the ceremony at the Bernabeu.Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. 

Only One Player in History Now Has More European Cup Titles Than Cristiano Ronaldo

By 90MIN May 28, 2018

Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo lifted the fifth Champions League title of his career at the weekend following a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in Kyiv.The fifth title of his career moves the Portuguese living legend one ahead of great rival Lionel Messi in the continental stakes and puts him into a very select group of players to have won at least five European Cup/Champions League titles in the competition’s 62-year history.Ronaldo is the 11th member of that illustrious, with just a single player winning more.That player, with six titles, is Real icon Paco Gento. Surely, after backtracking on his vague threat of quitting the club, Ronaldo already has that record equalling sixth title in his sights.Gento was part of the Real side that originally dominated the European Cup in its infancy, winning five trophies on the spin from 1956 to 1960. The winger, who also won a Spanish record of 12 La Liga titles during his career, was then part of Los Blancos’ 1966 winning team as well.He was the only player present for all of the club’s first six European Cup triumphs.

Ronaldo’s fifth European title ties him with nine others. As many as seven of those are also from Real, again from that early team that won an historic five in a row.

Bernabeu legend Alfredo Di Stefano, who scored in each of those finals as Real beat Reims (1956, 1959), Fiorentina (1957), AC Milan (1958) and Eintrach Frankfurt (1960), is among them.

As are, Marquitos, Juan Alonso, Jose Maria Zarraga, Rafael Lesmes, Juan Santisteban and Hector Rial. Just Gento survived to 1966 when Real beat Partizan Belgrade in Brussels.

From AC Milan, both Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta also have five European Cup/Champions League wins each. The pair of Italian defenders both enjoyed incredible longevity in their careers, with 18 years separating their first and last titles in 1989 and 2007.

Until Real retained the Champions League last season, Maldini and Costacurta were part of the last team to successfully defend a European title, having won it back-to-back in 1989 and 1990. Milan also won in 1994, when Costacurta was suspended for the final, and in 2003.

Aged 41 by 2007 in his final season as a professional, Costacurta was left out of that final against Liverpool, although he had played a handful of games in earlier rounds. Maldini, on the other hand, started all five of his victorious finals.Having also lost finals in 1993, 1995 and 2005, Maldini and Costacurta could have had more titles. Equally, Real lost finals in 1962 and 1964 that would have inflated Gento’s tally of wins. So far, Ronaldo has lost only one final, when Manchester United were beaten by Barcelona in 2009.

Player Club(s) European Titles
Paco Gento Real Madrid 6 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966)
Cristiano Ronaldo Man Utd, Real Madrid 5 (2008, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018)
Paolo Maldini AC Milan 5 (1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007)
Alessandro Costacurta AC Milan 5 (1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007)
Juan Alonso Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Alfredo Di Stefano Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Rafael Lesmes Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Marquitos Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Hector Rial Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Juan Santisteban Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Jose Maria Zarraga Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)

Liverpool need a dose of Houllier pragmatism and a Karius replacement after UCL woe

May 28, 2018Steven Kelly

Liverpool’s hugely disappointing 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League final shouldn’t affect the long-term view of the team’s progress under Jurgen Klopp.It’s the nature of all sport for competitors to keep improving, however, to test their limits and see how far they can go. That will apply to the Reds next season too.There would be a lot of fans who’d look upon fourth in the Premier League, 135 goals scored and reaching a cup final as a perfectly good return for Liverpool next time out.The final was a bleak way of ending the season, not for the defeat so much as the manner of it. Losing Mohamed Salah so early was a massive blow and the errors of Loris Karius combined with an awe-inspiring strike from Gareth Bale meant they were doomed to fail on a night they needed most things to go their way.They did benefit from a curious, toothless performance from Cristiano Ronaldo, but that was about the only break Liverpool caught all game.The search for solutions to yet another cup setback began almost before the final whistle. A new goalkeeper was high on everybody’s wish list. While there was sympathy for Karius’ obvious distress, it didn’t stop fans from urging Klopp to make this his main priority in the summer.Finding an improvement shouldn’t be tricky, but what will stay the same is an all-round urge to get forward even when a little pragmatism is called for. A keeper told to release the ball quickly at every opportunity was bound to come unstuck. It happened in the quarterfinal second leg at Manchester City too, in the opening minute no less.Karius put Virgil van Dijk under enormous pressure and an early goal resulted, when any sane team with a 3-0 first-leg lead would be moving at a snail’s pace and trying to silence the home crowd.That’s the problem, though. This isn’t a sane team and has suffered various stumbles as a consequence. Liverpool conceded two goals or more in 17 of their matches, almost a third of them. They conceded three goals in one half seven times. That’s not acceptable, but their high-octane approach to football also resulted in Liverpool’s second-greatest season for scoring goals. Tampering with the formula may lead to a serious malfunction.There’s a marked contrast to almost everything this team does with the one that began the century with three cups in one year under Gerard Houllier. They could often be boring but still managed 127 goals themselves, albeit in a lot more games played. There’s no question about which of the sides fans would prefer to watch, but winning trophies is what ultimately matters.Most probably wouldn’t want a return to the days of the French pragmatist in every single aspect, but this team and manager could learn from them.For one thing, the goalkeeper and defence were protected far more. Nobody would call Sander Westerveld one of the club’s best keepers, but he didn’t need to be.Competition for places and squad depth was also better. In an era defined by ludicrous transfer fees it would be a harder task for Klopp to match that depth, but something like it will have to be assembled if the Reds are to progress further. Houllier’s team did understandably fade slightly during the season’s concluding weeks but there was organisation and character, something lacking in their 2018 counterparts.Club co-owner Tom Werner is already talking about buying new players, but that has been heard before and Klopp still hasn’t been given the concerted spend any major club needs just to maintain a challenge.Two top-four finishes and three finals on what he has been given so far — taking into account where Liverpool were when he took over — has been a colossal achievement for the German even if there has been no silverware.Bale turned Saturday’s match in Real’s favour while Adam Lallana couldn’t begin to replace the player of the year. That Liverpool still fought and made it a contest is to their credit, but they didn’t have the firepower to win once Salah went off.The team is close to greatness but it’s a squad game now and that must be addressed. It can only hinder general fitness if the same 11 players are called upon nearly all of the time.Seeing out winning situations can also be helped by fresh impetus from the bench, something Liverpool haven’t had for almost the entire season.All of which is nitpicking about a team that has been hugely entertaining and gone well beyond expectations.It may seem harsh and cruel, but even the best teams cannot rest on their laurels. Liverpool are not the best — yet — and to make them so will take time, work and probably quite a lot of money too.

Liverpool making progress under Jurgen Klopp but need a trophy to show it

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Check out some of the sights and sounds from Kiev, Liverpool and Madrid as Gareth Bale scored twice to clinch the Champions League title for Real Madrid. (4:29)

May 28, 2018Mark OgdenSenior Football Writer

KIEV, Ukraine — The street cleaners were out in force at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning in Kiev, attempting to wash away the detritus following the Champions League final at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium which had seen Real Madrid triumph once again, thanks in no small part to the calamitous mistakes of Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius.There will be many Liverpool supporters who would wish to see the German goalkeeper swept up and dumped with the empty bottles and cans which littered the streets of the Ukrainian capital in the aftermath of the match, following the two errors which led directly to goals for Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale in Real’s 3-1 win.It was certainly a night that will quickly be consigned to the trash can of history for those wearing red in Kiev and only time will tell whether Karius, the 24-year-old former Mainz keeper, will be allowed to rehabilitate himself and rebuild his career at Anfield.But how Liverpool react as a team and as a club is just as important as what happens next for Karius.Perspective is required on both counts. Karius has not become a bad keeper in the space of 90 minutes — just as he wasn’t a great one before it — but Liverpool must also locate the right place to stick the pin on their map of progression.Had they beaten Real to win the European Cup for a sixth time, Jurgen Klopp’s team would not have been the best team in Europe, they would simply have been Champions League winners. There is a distinct difference.But in defeat, they are also not a team of chokers or a collection of players, and a coach, who are unable to take the crucial final step from nearly men to winners.The problem with finals of this magnitude is that winning and losing leads to an exaggeration of the ramifications of the result, whichever side you end up on. And there is a danger that Liverpool will now be over-scrutinised and dismissed as a team with too many flaws to win the big trophies.But Klopp and his players have arguably over-achieved this season by making it all the wait to Kiev.Considering that Liverpool did not even compete in Europe last season, reaching a Champions League final this campaign was a remarkable feat, especially so when the likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have each spent in the region of £1 billion in recent years without reaching a final.Liverpool have played some breathtaking football, scored goals by the bucketload and beaten City three times in the space of four months, but they have still ended the season with nothing to show for it.And in the cold light of day, the second-most successful club in English football history has won just one major trophy — the 2012 League Cup — in 12 years.They have finished as runners-up in every other competition in that time — twice in the Champions League — so they are knocking on the door, but it is all about winning and Liverpool have won as many trophies as Swansea City and Leicester during the past decade.playSo how do they achieve tangible reward for their progress?Klopp will be allowed to strengthen his squad this summer, with midfielder Naby Keita already secured form RB Leipzig and efforts ongoing to sign Nabil Fekir from Lyon.A new goalkeeper is a must, as was the case before Kiev, but Klopp has so far stubbornly refused to accept the need for a new No. 1. Though Karius’ efforts may now have changed his mind.But this season has shown that Liverpool can compete with, and beat, the best in England and that is the platform on which they must build.

Champions League success will always be the ultimate goal for a club of Liverpool’s pedigree, but they have gone too long without silverware and giving greater importance to the domestic cups is perhaps a route they must now take. They simply have to stop the cycle of being second-best and get back to winning major trophies.Manchester United have endured a difficult five years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, but nonetheless, they have won three major trophies during a time of transition, so have managed to keep on winning despite the fact other teams are stronger than them.Liverpool need to rediscover the ability to do that because it is too much of a gamble to target only the Champions League and Premier League, especially with the likes of Real around in Europe and City only getting stronger in England.But if they strip away all of the emotion of Kiev and dampen down the pain of defeat, Liverpool and Klopp will see that they are making progress and building a team to be feared at Anfield.Trophies are the key, though, and next season needs to deliver at least one, regardless of which competition it comes in.

Liverpool’s Loris Karius difficult to console after Champions League final – Simon Mignolet

May 27, 2018Glenn PriceLiverpool Correspondent

KIEV, Ukraine — Simon Mignolet and Dejan Lovren both leapt to the defence of Loris Karius after the goalkeeper’s mistakes in Liverpool’s Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.Karius, 24-year-old was in tears at the final whistle after his attempted roll-out in the 51st minute struck Karim Benzema and ended up in the back of the net before he failed to deal with Gareth Bale’s long-range shot seven minutes from time.

Mignolet lost his place as Liverpool’s No. 1 to Karius at the turn of the year, but stood by his teammate and offered his support.”Every goalkeeper can relate to him,” he told reporters. “I’ve been in this situation before and every keeper has been.”It’s very difficult to say something to someone after the game. The only thing I told him is that there is a reason we got to this final, and why we played this final so I said think about that.”But of course it is very difficult to say anything to him and to let him grasp it. I know how it is. You need a bit of time. The good thing about this final is that he will have the summer to take it and go forward. If he wants to talk then of course I will be there.”I’ve been in this situation before myself and those kind of things you deal with yourself. I’m always there to help every squad member. “We have a dressing room is that very much together and that’s the reason why we got here. Together with the fans, together with the rest of the club.”I think we play, not as individuals, but as a team, we play as 11 together. We play as a whole squad. Everyone was behind the team from the very first moment we stepped into the Champions League and I think that will be the same going forward.”Liverpool stands for unity, Liverpool stands for all together. I think that will not only be the right ideal for Liverpool, it has always been their history and will always be their future.”Lovren, meanwhile, did not blame Karius for the defeat and he is confident the German has the mental resilience to bounce back from this devastating blow, having already overcome hurdles in his two seasons at Liverpool.”When we win, we win together. When we lose, we lose together,” he told reporters. “So don’t blame him. It’s easy to blame someone, but we are in the same ship together and everyone gave him the best words that they could.”He will come back strong. You cannot find the words. He had a difficult start last season, so I believe in him. Don’t make massive stories about that. Of course it’s big because it’s a final, but everyone makes mistakes.”

How Karius’ Kiev Nightmare Perfectly Demonstrates the Need for Villains Along With Heroes in Sport

 

By 90MIN May 29, 2018

There were a huge amount of talking points to reflect on as the final whistle sounded on an eventful night of Champions League final football in Kiev. Gareth Bale had scored arguably the greatest goal in European final history, two players had left the pitch in tears following cruel injuries and Madrid had become the first team to win three European Cup finals in a row since Bayern Munich from 1974-1976. But all the attention, all the post-match pub talk, all the morning papers would focus cruelly and unkindly on one man in particular: The isolated young German who was sitting alone in his own penalty area, Loris Karius.

Just put yourself in his position for one moment. Karius presumably always had a talent for goalkeeping, and started his youth career at the little-known German side FV Biberach. He gradually rose up through the ranks, eventually signing for Stuttgart, and played for the Germany Under-16s.

His rise continued when he moved to Manchester City, and after a loan spell at Mainz he eventually impressed enough for Liverpool to sign him for £4.7m in 2016. After a year of rotation and injuries under Jurgen Klopp, Karius seemed to have finally won his battle with Simon Mignolet to become Liverpool number one during the 2017/18 campaign, and all his effort and patience was now appearing to be rewarded through an appearance in a Champions League final.

All the hard work, all the long training sessions and tiring drills had led to this, and one can imagine the kind of dreams he may have had the night before the big match; making a crucial save in the last minute, perhaps, or palming away the decisive penalty to win his team the competition against the odds like Jerzy Dudek in 2005. Fast forward 24 hours and rather than being lifted high in celebration he was left alone on the turf, a broken man, his dreams crumbling around him and turning into a nightmare.

Only sport can do this. In which other job can a moment’s indecision, a split-second of hesitation, cause such pain? 99% of the time in the first incident Karius would have seen Benzema lurking and chosen another option. It was almost like a FIFA glitch, an incident that couldn’t possibly happen in a Champions League final, and the two players involved looked as stunned as anyone else when the ball ended up in the back of the net.Of course, the nature of being a goalkeeper means that their mistakes are generally highlighted a lot more than any other position on the field. A midfielder can lose possession to concede a goal and it will often be brushed over in analysis. Likewise, a central defender getting caught out of position doesn’t receive nearly as much attention as a goalkeeping blunder. It speaks volumes that despite Bale’s wondergoal, the most jaw-dropping, ‘Oh my god did you see that?’ moments of the night came not through quality, but rather from a complete lack of it.But then, it was ever thus in sport. The 1994 World Cup final is not remembered for Brazil winning, but rather for Italian legend Roberto Baggio ballooning his penalty over the bar. Baseball player Bill Buckner enjoyed a highly successful career, yet what sticks most in people’s minds will always be his through-the-legs error which led to the Mets beating the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series.

The quality of sport is now so high, so quick, at times almost robotic, that the slip ups are talked about and analysed just as much as the moments of genius. Sports players aren’t seen as real humans, with feelings, emotions, good days and bad days, and so when they screw up and collapse it is undeniably exciting and enthralling for the audience.In cricket an easy dropped catch is talked about just as much as the six which is smashed out of the ground. In tennis a double fault on set point means more than a glorious backhand stroke down the line. Just like any good novel or film, sport needs its flawed characters, for mistakes to be made, for imperfections.Where poor Karius goes from here is unclear, but there is no doubt that he has joined the legion of players who, no matter what they go on to achieve, will always be remembered for the wrong reasons. He could have taken some solace from looking across at the touchline in Kiev at Zinedine Zidane.

The Frenchman’s extraordinary moment of weakness in the 2006 World Cup final when he headbutted Marco Materazzi could easily have ended his career in football altogether, yet since then he has established himself as one of the finest managers in the world, and winning three Champions League titles in a row is an astonishing feat.And yet in years to come, when Zidane retires from football for good and people look back over his playing and managing career, what will inevitably still be the moment that first springs to mind? The headbutt. Mistakes, mess ups and villains are just as necessary as the golden moments in sport, and always will be. For that reason, no matter where he ends up and what he achieves from now in his career, Karius’ blunders in Ukraine will never be forgotten.

5/25/18 Champ League Final Liverpool vs Real Madrid Sat 2:45 pm Fox, USA vs Bolivia Mon 6:30 pm FS1, Indy 11 discount tix for home game Wed 7 pm, CDC College Summer Soccer sign-up, CFC Tryouts & Prez Cup Finalist

So the Champions League final – featuring the EPL’s Liverpool and rising star Mo Salah vs 2 time Defending Champions Real Madrid and Renaldo kicks off on Saturday at 2:30 pm on Fox 59.  For Zidane and Real Madrid – this is a chance to make history and become the first team since the 70s to win 3 Champions League Trophy’s in a Row.  For Liverpool and new manager Juergan Klopp a chance to duplicate the feats of past Liverpool teams and bring home a 4th UCL Trophy but the first since _____  (Read all the stories below on the Oleballcoach)  More people will watch this final across the world between 2 of the top teams in Europe – than the Superbowl, the NBA Finals and the World Series Combined, so enjoy!

The other high stakes game Saturday – The 170 Million Dollar Final – features Fulham (formerly Fulham America) vs Aston Villa in the English Championship.  These 2 teams will battle in Wembley at noon to see which team advances to the English Premier League next season.  (Watch on ESPN+)  Fulham of course used to have the most American’s on their team about 8 to 10 years back – when Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, Kasey Keller and my favorite Carlos Bocenegra were battling to keep them in the EPL.  Now its US defender Team Ream – carrying the banner for Fulham and the US as defacto Captain of the squad.  Go Fulham!!

Wow what a youthful group the US National Team is bringing in for Monday’s Memorial Day match in Pittsburgh with Boliva.  Led by US budding star Christian Pulisic – the US has an average age of just 22 years old on this squad.  Should be fun to watch the youngsters play a pretty good Bolivia team Monday evening at 6:30 pm on Fox Sports 1.

U.S. roster to face Bolivia

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham, on loan at Ipswich Town), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea, on loan at Vitesse Arnhem), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United), Erik Palmer-Brown (Manchester City, on loan at KV Kortrijk), Antonee Robinson (Bolton Wanderers), Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)

Midfielders: Joe Corona (Club America), Julian Green (Stuttgart, on loan at Greuther Furth), Alejandro Guido (Club Tijuana), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Keaton Parks (Benfica), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain)

Forwards: Andrija Novakovich (Telstar), Josh

Carmel FC Teams Advancing to President’s Cup Finals June 1-3 

 U13 – 2005 Boys Coached by Doug Latham  and Jeremy Slivinski 

cfcu13boys

U17 2001 Boys  Coached by Jennifer Cirrincione

CFCU17B

The 01 Boys defeated Dynamo 3-0, and Ft Wayne United 4-1 to Advance to the Semi-Finals on Sat. where they face Millieum Black 01 for a chance to go to Regionals.

Tryouts for Carmel FC – @ Shelbourne Fields

June 5 – Academy U8-U10 – 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm

June 11 & 12 (U11-U13 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm), (U14-U19 – 7:15 pm – 8:30 pm)

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2018 Alumni/College Age SUMMER Soccer Carmel Dad’s Club  

Players age 18-30 are eligible to participate. Game schedule to be announced shortly. The fee is 95.00 (no annual fee or volunteer fee apply to this league). Begins in early June games on Tues or Wed Eves at Shelbourne Field. 

Please click here  to register for this league. If you prefer to fill out a form please call the office for one to be emailed to you. 317-846-1663.  Registration is open May 9- June 5   Commissioner:  Alex Scott  scottaf2@gmail.com

GAMES ON TV

 

Sat, May 26th 

2:45 pm FOX 59   Liverpool vs Real Madrid – Champions League Final

Sun, May 27h 

1 pm ESPN+          NY Red Bulls 2 vs Indy 11 

Union Jack PubJoin the BYB for the next watch party at Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple for the next away game against the New York Red Bulls II.
Sunday, May 27 for a 1pm kickoff.

6 pm Fox Sport 1        Sporting KC vs Columbus Crew

Mon, May 28h 

1 pm  ???                         France vs  Ireland

6:30 pm fox Sport1   USA Men vs Bolivia

9 pm fox sport 1      Mexico vs Wales 

Wed, May 30h 

7 pm Myindy23           Indy 11 vs Charleston Battery  

 June 2, 2018: IF: MNT vs. Ireland (Dublin, Ireland) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

June 7, 2018: IF: Women NT vs. China (Sandy, UT) – Tickets (Avail. 4/13) – United – AO Hotel – Events

June 9

IF MNT vs. France (Lyon, France) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

7 pm Myindy23           Indy 11 vs Atlanta United

June 12

Women NT vs. China (Cleveland, OH) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

Thur, June 14        World Cup on Fox

MLS TV Schedule

SUMMER CAMPS

Indy 11 Soccer Camp at Carmel Dad’s Club Badger Fields June 4-7

Carmel High Girls Middle School Soccer Camp  Ages middle schoolers – June 18, 20, 25, 27 July 16, 17, 18, 19 at Murray 3-5 pm $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Skills Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 8:30-10:30 am $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Tactical Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 11 am till 1 pm $85

 US Soccer

US Led 2026 World Cup Big nears Vote vs Morocco that’s Too Close to Call – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Its Not Just Pulisic on this youthful Squad for the US = Jeff Carlisle – ESPNFC

Pulisic leads Young US Squad IS –

US Team led by Pulisic – Announced

Pulisic Becoming Quiet Leader of US Team and Dortmund – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Pulisic Master’s the Modern Game – special for SI by Grant Wahl –

US to Play Mexico on 9/11 in Nashville

Earnie Stewart Favorite for USMNT GM Job – MLS.com

Champions League Final – Sat May 26

Liverpool Fast Start – Mardrid Late Pressume – Can Decide the UCL Final – ESPNFC Michael Cox

Zidane isn’t known for Tactics or Style – Just Ability to Win – Sid Lowe ESPNFC

Which Trio of Scorers Will Win – Gab Marcotti – ESPNFC

Sergio Ramos – Real’s Big Game Player – Graham Hunter ESPNFC

Zidane Coy over Lineup

Lovren – Liverpool so Different from last Real – clash – Glenn  Price ESPNFC

Kroos Facing the Animals of Liverpool will be Tough – ESPNFC

How US Coach Bob Bradley Helped Mohomed Salah on his Accent to Global stardom – MLS.com

 

Marcelo’s 8 year old son completes head ball challenge in Real Locker room

Video How does this Real Madrid Team compare to the Legendary 3 time UCL Winners?

Liverpool vs Real Madrid – Detailed Look at the Matchup-

Champions League Final – too close to call – Dermont Corrigan EPSNFC

Liverpool to Recharge before the Final –says Klopp

WORLD

World Cup Teams Being Announced – Yahoo soccer

No One Was Better than Messi This Year – Power Rankings of Players ESPNFC

18 Things You May have Forgotten this EPL Season – ESPNFC

Stay Messi my Friend – ESPN Mag –

EPL 

Unia Emery Could Turn Things Around Quickly for Arsenal  – ESPNFC

EPL Club By Club Review for 2017 – yahoo

Fulham faces Aston Villa at Wembley to See who Moves up to the EPL

Why US Defender Tim Ream and Fulham might be the Favorite to return to the EPL for the first time in 4 years

Indy 11

A Message from the Coach – Coach Martin Rennie

Preview Indy 11 vs NY Red Bulls Sun 1 pm on ESPN+

Beats and Cleats – The Matt Watson Story – Indy 11

Time to Hit the Reset Button – Review of the Loss to Bethlehem – from Bloodyshambles.com

Keys to the Loss vs Bethlehem Steel

Indy 11 Schedule

USL Standings

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Saturday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Flex Packs: Discount Indy 11 Flex Pack Tickets
Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Watch the Away Games for the Indy 11 and All USL Games on YouTube

MLS

MLS Power Rankings – MLS

MLS Players Who Could Have a Great World Cup

How Bob Bradley helped Mo Salah’s star rise

Pulisic wowed by LAFC’s “unbelievable atmosphere”

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB –Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club

Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate 10 BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate 10 is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate 10—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games!  Click HERE to purchase your pass today. You Won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing, screaming, singing, dancing, and partying with the BEST SUPPORTERS SECTION in the US – the BYB.

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Tryouts for Carmel FC – @ Shelbourne Fields

June 5 – Academy U8-U10 – 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm

June 11 & 12 (U11-U13 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm), (U14-U19 – 7:15 pm – 8:30 pm)

—————————————————————————————————————————

2018 Alumni/College Age Soccer Carmel Dad’s Club  

Players age 18-30 are eligible to participate. Game schedule to be announced shortly. The fee is 95.00 (no annual fee or volunteer fee apply to this league). Begins in early June games on Tues or Wed Eves at Shelbourne Field.

Please click here  to register for this league. If you prefer to fill out a form please call the office for one to be emailed to you. 317-846-1663.  Registration is open May 9- June 5   Commissioner:  Alex Scott  scottaf2@gmail.com

A MESSAGE FROM INDY ELEVEN HEAD COACH MARTIN RENNIE

By IndyEleven.com, 05/21/18, 3:00PM EDT

A message to the fans from Coach Rennie

Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie addresses the fans following the “Boys in Blue’s” 1-2 loss at home against Bethlehem Steel FC.

“I feel like what I’ve seen since I’ve been here is we’ve got tremendous fans who are backing us so much and I want to thank them for that. “”We’re coming off two disappointing results and they’re still backing us, supporting us, chanting for us, and helping us. That’s inspiring for us to make sure that we get our home form really up and running. “”Clearly, we’ve done well for the most part on the road, but overall we’ve had some good games at home, but too many below the standard we expect, and our fans expect. They can be sure that all of our players and staff will be working to make that better and get on a run where we start winning consistently, and become much more consistent with not only our result, but the process of what we’re doing with the passing, the finishing, the movement and with the defending, which has been quite good so far.”I just want to thank the fans for being so supportive and helping us as we build the team. There’s been a few ups and downs but I’m very confident well be on the right track as we go forward.”“Indiana’s Team” will face New York Red Bulls II on the road this Sunday, May 27 at 1:00 p.m. Days later, Indy Eleven will return home to take on USL mainstays Charleston Battery on Wednesday, May 30 at 7:00 p.m. Fans can get their tickets to the home matchup starting at just $15 at IndyElevenTickets.com or by calling (317)685-1100.

PREVIEW | NYVIND

By IndyEleven.com, 05/25/18, 1:00PM EDTShareThe “Boys in Blue” travel to the Big Apple to take on New York Red Bulls II

PREVIEW:

Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
Indy Eleven @ New York Red Bulls II – #NYvIND
Sunday, May 27, 2018 – 1 P.M. EST   Red Bull Arena – New York City, New York 

Watch/Listen Live:

  • Local/National TV: N/A
  • Streaming Video:  ESPN+($)

WEEK 11: TAKING A BITE OUT OF THE BIG APPLE

Indy Eleven aim to snatch three points away from New York Red Bulls II in a Week 11 matchup in Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon. Both teams are in search of a victory after coming off Week 10 defeats to Bethlehem Steel FC.Indy Eleven are currently seventh in Eastern Conference, with a 4W-3L-2D record. In their most recent fixture, the “Boys in Blue” faced Bethlehem Steel FC at home after coming off a mid-week Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup loss to USL PDL side Mississippi Brilla FC. Bethlehem Steel left Lucas Oil Stadium with three points after defeating Indy, 1-2, last Saturday Indy Eleven midfielder Zach Steinberger tallied his first goal of the season in the 70th minute. The former Butler Bulldog volleyed home forward Soony Saad’s square pas played to the center of the box, leveling the game at one, but the lead would be short-lived. Four minutes later, Bethlehem scored the goal that would secure three points for the visitors.New York Red Bulls II also enters Week 11 after falling to Bethlehem Steel FC, 3-0, in the Steel’s first of two Week 10 fixtures. They sit one spot below Indy Eleven in eighth with a 3W-2L-5D record. The Red Bulls II were shut out for the third time in ten games in 2018. They are currently tied for second in goals scored in the East with 16, but have only scored two goals in the last five games. The New York based team is also second in the USL in attempted shots, with 158, trailing only Western Conference’s Phoenix Rising FC. Red Bulls II are undefeated at home this season with a 3W-0L-1D record in Red Bull Arena.Indy Eleven defense’s, which currently average less than one conceded goal per game, will need to be on their toes against an attack minded Red Bulls II team. Indy Eleven will need Karl Ouimette to continue shutting down opposition forwards and Owain Fon Williams to come up with more big saves.

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: MF ZACH STEINBERGER

Indy Eleven midfielder Zach Steinberger scored his first goal of the season on Saturday night against Bethlehem Steel FC. Steinberger’s goal came in the 70th minute after Indy Eleven forward Soony Saad squared a pass into the box from teammate Jack McInerney. Saad’s ball found Steinberger in the middle, who struck a shot off the half-volley. A friendly bounce lofted the strike over Bethlehem keeper Jake McGuire and leveled the scores at one.This season marks Steinberger’s second stint with “Indiana’s Team” after spending his first on loan from Houston Dynamo in 2015. During the 2015 season, Steinberger made 12 appearances with the “Boys in Blue” and found the back of the net twice. The attack minded midfielder has nearly equaled his 12 appearances in 2015, having appeared in all nine games of the 2018 season. The Long Beach, California native has averaged an excellent passing rating, completing four-fifths of the passes he’s played, and found the back of the net one time.

NEW YORK RED BULLS II PLAYER TO WATCH: MF ANDREW TINARI

New York Red Bulls II midfielder Andrew Tinari is tied for second most goals on the team (3) heading into Week 11 against Indy Eleven. The American born midfielder has started all but one game for Red Bulls II. NYRB rely heavily on Tinari’s ability to navigate the ball through the midfield, as he’s played the most passes of anyone on the team with 475. Of those passes, he’s completed just over three-quarters.Tinari had a quiet game against Bethlehem Steel FC in their previous fixture, but expect the 22-year old midfielder to be more active in the match against Indy Eleven. The New York native is a threat in the box, where he’s scored his three goals and has also notched one assist in 2018.

MATCHUP TO MARK: FW JACK MCINERNEY VERSUS DF JORDAN SCARLETT

Finding the back of the net has been somewhat of an issue for Indy Eleven in their first campaign in the USL. The “Boys in Blue” have found the back of the net eight times in nine games. Two of those goals have been provided by Indy Eleven forward Jack McInerney.McInerney is currently tied with Indy Eleven outside back Ayoze and forward Soony Saad for oals scored. The former L.A. Galaxy forward has scored both of his goals from inside the box, where he has been most efficient. The target striker aims to find the back of the net againt a Red Bulls II side that has given up five goals in the last five games, three of which came last week against Bethlehem Steel FC.On top of finding the back of the net, McInerney has also been keen on creating chances for his teammates. McInerney has created 12 opportunities on net for his fellow “Boys in Blue”, tallying one assist. Indy Eleven supporters are eager to see the form that led McInerney to second on the list of most goals scored by the age of 23 in MLS, with Indy Eleven.One Red Bull II defender tasked with containing McInerney will be Jordan Scarlett. If one was searching for a complete defender, the 22-year old Jamaican may be as close as they could getScarlett has started eight games for Red Bulls II. He’s performed extremely well defensively, having completed all but two of his tackles in the defensive end. He’s also obliterated opposition passing lanes, while moving the ball extremely well himself. The young defender has completed 80 percent of his just over 300 passes.A spearhead from the back, Scarlett leads the team in every defensive statistic for New York Red Bulls II and is second in completed passes. Scarlett must sturdy up a leaky dam if the New York Red Bulls II intends to stop Jack McInerney and the IndyEleven from exploiting the cracks his team’s defense.All the action takes place on the road this Sunday, May 27 at 1:00 p.m. Fans can watch the match LIVE on ESPN+! New users can sign up for a free 7-day trial at plus.espn.com.

Liverpool fast start, Madrid late pressure can decide UCL final

4:00 AM ETMichael Cox

Saturday’s Champions League final offers one of the most fascinating tactical clashes in recent memory: Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, with their astute, intensive, counter-pressing approach, meet the more laissez-faire style of Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid, who concentrate upon possession play.It has all the makings of a superb match. Here are four key questions waiting to be answered.

  1. What formation will Zidane use?

The most remarkable thing about Real Madrid’s Champions League record under Zidane is the sheer number of matches they have won despite appearing to be outwitted in terms of game plan. Madrid have repeatedly seemed vulnerable in a certain area, yet individual magic in the final third has saved the day.In Kiev, however, they’re up against a side boasting a comparable level of individual brilliance upfront, and therefore, it feels essential that Zidane’s side are not second-best in a tactical sense. Liverpool will use their customary 4-3-3, so how will the European Cup holders respond? There are two obvious options.The first is using the diamond midfield that has generally been Zidane’s preferred system in the Champions League. Theoretically, that would see Madrid enjoy a numerical advantage in the centre of the pitch, with Isco coming into the lineup alongside Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. There’s a danger, however, that such a narrow system will make it easier for Liverpool to press and box Madrid into the sides of the pitch when, for example, Real’s full-backs have the ball.Therefore, Zidane could use a 4-3-3 system himself. This would probably feature Karim Benzema upfront, with Cristiano Ronaldo as an inside left and Gareth Bale on the right (though Isco, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez could also feature, while Ronaldo played upfront in this alignment at Bayern Munich in the semifinal). This approach would stretch play and target Liverpool’s full-backs, who have been excellent this season but nevertheless can find themselves isolated.

  1. Can Marcelo cope against Salah?

While capable of being a key player by pushing forward on the overlap to exploit Ronaldo’s habit of narrowing the opposition right-back, sometimes Marcelo’s defensive vulnerability costs his side. He was Brazil’s worst performer in their infamous 7-1 World Cup semifinal loss to Germany in 2014, and statistics suggest that an increasing number of Real concessions come from his flank.Salah’s form this season has been incredible, with the Egyptian forward breaking the Premier League record for goals in a 38-game campaign with 32. But while his strikes have come from a variety of positions, it feels like he’ll spend the majority of this match in a wide-right role — especially when Madrid have possession — waiting to pounce on the counterattack.In Liverpool’s semifinal win vs. Roma, Salah was happy to let the opposition left-back/wing-back Aleksandar Kolarov go free on the overlap, confident that he’d do more damage on the break than his opposite number. But Marcelo is a more dangerous attacking weapon than Kolarov — not just a mere crosser and shooter but a genuine playmaker in his own right.It is likely that Marcelo will need help from Sergio Ramos, Real’s left-sided centre-back. He has a habit of providing crucial moments in big games in the opposition penalty area but is also excellent in terms of doubling up against a wide player, relying on his experience as a former full-back. If Madrid are to stop Salah, it might be about Ramos’ display as much as that of Marcelo.

  1. Will Liverpool score early?

A fundamental part of Klopp’s game plan is for his side to put the opposition under pressure in the early stages. Liverpool effectively won their quarterfinal against Manchester City with three goals in the first 31 minutes, but those early exertions can cost them later in big games: They let Roma back into their semifinal with two concessions in the last 10 minutes of the first leg and twice conceded late in the return game.The 4-3 Premier League win against Manchester City in January was another telling example: Liverpool forced early pressure in both halves and scored in the ninth minute of the first period, then the 14th, 16th and 23rd of the second. City, though, netted five minutes before half-time, then again in minutes 84 and 90. Liverpool’s pressure dominated early, but City’s possession took over by the end.It’s easy to imagine something similar happening vs. Madrid, and it’s worth remembering that Klopp’s previous Champions League final appearance, in 2013, also fits the pattern. His Dortmund side took early control against Bayern Munich — the scoring sequence doesn’t quite tell the story of the game — but faded badly late and lost to a last-gasp Arjen Robben winner.An early goal for Liverpool would compel Real to push forward and leave Liverpool space — Klopp’s side are the best counterattackers in Europe — into which they can break. But if the English side fail to score in their expected period of early dominance and end up chasing the game, it will be extremely difficult in a physical sense to press aggressively later on.

  1. What role do substitutes have to play?

Arguably the greatest contrast between these two sides is the resources available on the respective benches. This factor is another reason that Real are likely to dominate the latter stages, which means Liverpool must strike early.Liverpool have suffered badly from injuries in recent months; Joel Matip, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez are all out, while Nathaniel Clyne, Emre Can and Adam Lallana lack match sharpness after periods on the sideline, and James Milner is a slight doubt.That means Klopp’s replacements will be the aforementioned players who have struggled for game time recently or the likes of Danny Ings, Dominic Solanke and Alberto Moreno, none of whom will strike fear into Madrid.Zidane, by contrast, has no absentees and no suspensions and therefore has options. With Casemiro, Kroos, Modric and Ronaldo four surefire starters in midfield and attack, it means only two of Bale, Isco, Benzema, Vazquez and Asensio will start. The other three will be in reserve, alongside the gifted Mateo Kovacic.Real’s substitutes have proven crucial in recent final victories: Marcelo, Isco and Alvaro Morata helped overload Atletico in 2014. Then Morata, Bale and Asensio put the result beyond doubt against Juventus last year.

Real’s Zinedine Zidane isn’t known for tactics or style, just ability to win

1:40 PM ETSid Lowe

Zinedine Zidane smiled that Zinedine Zidane smile, the one that sometimes seems to disarm them all.”I’m not the best coach, and I will always say that,” he said. “I am not the best coach tactically. And, well, I don’t need to say that…” There was a pause, and that was when that smile crept across his face and he added: “… because you lot always say that, anyway.” They laughed, but they knew he was right. Many a true word said in jest and all that but beyond the smile, there was a hint of edge in his words, a point made.It was the Open Media Day at Valdebebas, Real Madrid’s training ground, out near Barajas airport, held because they were preparing for the Champions League final. For Zidane, it was the third time he’s sat there before the world’s media on the eve of the biggest club fixture in the world, the third time he has reached the European Cup final as coach of Real Madrid. And he hasn’t even been there for three full years. He has won a league title as well, plus two European Super Cups, two club World Cups and a Spanish super cup.In his first 18 months in charge of Madrid, Zidane won as many European Cups as Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. He has won two in a row just like Arrigo Sacchi; if Madrid win tomorrow night, he will have won three — as many as any one else, ever. Yet somewhere, somehow, it doesn’t always feel like it: this is as good an era as any in the game since Madrid won the first five, but it doesn’t always feel like an era and it doesn’t always feel like dominance.t is as good a managerial record as anyone anywhere too, but it doesn’t always feel like Zidane is one of them either. Which is odd, only it doesn’t feel that odd. And perhaps it should? At what point does a manager who has won it all get people say “this guy is pretty good?” How many European Cups does it take? Three? Four? Five, maybe? Or maybe never?”I’ve been at Liverpool longer than he has been a coach and he could win the Champions League three times in a row, that’s never happened before so either he’s lucky or he’s brilliant, I prefer to think he’s brilliant, like he was as a player,” said Jurgen Klopp, but another point was raised when discussing his accomplishments in Madrid.”He doesn’t get enough credit,” said Steve McManaman this week. “It’s always the same result: trophy, trophy, trophy. They would be shouting from the rooftops if Pep Guardiola did this.”That may not be entirely fair: Zidane has been credited, and often. He is admired and well-liked. Cases have been made for him, and not by him. “I’m not the best manager in the world,” he said a few months ago, “but nor am I the worst.” Many have dismissed suggestions that he’s not all that and McManaman is certainly not the only one to speak out for him, although he did so with rare knowledge, experience and incision, and there is something in what he says: a portrait of a resistance to recognition that is real. The very fact that those suggestions even exist says something.Zidane paused, flashed that smile again. “What matters is how you feel and I feel satisfie because I give everything. I can’t control what people think. And that doesn’t matter.”Being 17 points behind in the league doesn’t help of course, nor does getting knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Leganes. “That was a failure and it hurt,” Zidane admitted. Nor does having arguably the best collection of players ever assembled: it helps you win, but not be seen as the cause of that win.It doesn’t help that there have been moments of good fortune en route, either. This season, Madrid have had their share of them. This has not been an imperial march to the final; it has, though, been a difficult pathway and they have found a way past Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern. Somehow — goodness knows how, if you prefer — but they have. Zidane has always said that he felt like he had a “lucky star,” especially in this competition. But he would rebel against the suggestion that it was all about fortune, and he would be entitled to.It also doesn’t help that they had won the European Cup two years earlier when, incidentally, or perhaps not so incidentally, Zidane was assistant coach, as that reinforces the sensation that it didn’t take much and most things were already in place, even if McManaman insisted that Madrid were “dysfunctional” then.Maybe there is something else too, which Zidane was getting at. Something in the construction of Madrid and something in what it is coaches are expected to do. At heart, maybe that question is the key one: what is a coach there for? What does a coach do?”I’m not the best tactically,” said Zidane, “but I have passion and ilusion… and that’s more important.” Ilusion means hope, enthusiasm, the joy with which you work. It is more important, Zidane says, but for some it is not enough.That tactical point is a significant one; there is a sense (and there is something in it) that this Madrid team is not one that has been constructed or has a clear identity. That, to use the Spanish phrase, you can’t see the manager’s hand in the way it plays; there is not a tactical model. Asked for a view of Madrid, Real Betis coach Quique Setien talked of a kind of “anarchy.” It was not a criticism, and he recognised the value of that unpredictability, while there’s a case for valuing a coach’s willingness to embrace that, it was just a tactical analysis. But some will read it as a criticism and some will apply it as one.As Jurgen Klopp joked in his pre-match news conference, “If he’s not a good tactical coach, I’m not a good tactical coach either… and here we are in the final — with no tactics!””Vicente Del Bosque was not a screamer or a super architect with elaborate training sessions, but he kept the egos happy [and] Zizou appears to have the same approach,” said McManaman.That wasn’t meant as a criticism either — quite the opposite — but for some it falls short of what it is they think a coach should do. Even though there have been key tactical interventions too in this year’s Champions League — Marco Asensio and Lucas against PSG, Asensio in Munich, Gareth Bale out, Casemiro out, Karim Benzema out in key moments — it is not always enough. Some feel that to be considered a great coach, he should build something, create something. He should read the game and change the game.”Screamer” was another word McManaman used. It was also striking that the word Zidane used was “passion” — it is not one most would apply to him, although they would apply it differently to him. If there is a characteristic that most would apply to the coach, it is calm. Zidane doesn’t feed pointless controversies, doesn’t contribute to crises — given that he faces the media around 130 times a season, it is astonishing how rarely he puts a foot wrong — and isn’t a dominant figure, there have been no conflicts with his squad. As a player, he was quiet; as a coach he is too.And maybe that too is not what people think a coach is there for: to be talked about, to influence and (and maybe this is the point) to be seen to influence, some need to impose. Zidane doesn’t. He is calm… importantly, he also believes he should be calm. After the Bayern game, he admitted that he was suffering on the sideline but that he hid that from his players; what he transmitted mattered. They looked to him and took their lead from him, which says something in itself.”He is a leader,” said McManaman to El Pais, “but when people talk about leaders, they don’t normally think about that kind of leader. What kind of leader do you want? Do we want a shouter? Do we want an aggressive type? Do we want a communicator? Do we want someone like Del Bosque, who makes sure everyone is happy? There are lots of types of leaders and they can all lead if they have their players’ respect.”Zidane has that; he doesn’t need to invent it. As Sergio Ramos puts it: “Zidane was able to manage a difficult dressing room with sensitivity.”Again, you return to thoughts about perceptions and ideal types. Sensitivity, latitude, freedom: they’re not qualities with which great managers are often credited or associated. Good man-management is regularly presented as a backhanded compliment, offered up in the absence of anything else. But it does matter. And not everyone is able.Del Bosque won two European Cups and the World and European Championships with Spain. There are some parallels with Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley too — Paisley especially. Few really talk about Paisley as a manager who marked the game and few include him in those lists of great managers — a personality, a creator, a master tactician — but above all, coaches are there to win and the man who shuffled about in his carpet slippers won. A lot. There is a reason those two examples are significant.Ancelotti and Paisley are the only men ever to have won three European Cups as coach. Tomorrow night, Zidane may have something else in common with them.

Champions League: Salah and Liverpool’s heavy metal football face Madrid’s BBC starring Ronaldo

8:29 AM ET  Gabriele Marcotti

One group has been together five years, largely assembled through world record fees. They live in a perpetual goldfish bowl of endorsements, global tours and branding, much of it dutifully chronicled on social media. They are the established act, the aging rockers on their umpteenth victory tour and no matter if, for this last performance, one or maybe even two of them might make way for a backing artist. They remain the “BBC” — Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo — and they’re the blunt attacking force that could turn Real Madrid into European champions for the fourth time in five years. It’s something nobody has achieved since, well, Madrid themselves more than half a century ago.The other is a rising boy band who few would have even conceived of when the “BBC” super-group was assembled five years ago. Sadio Mane was in Austria and had yet to see a minute of European football. Roberto Firmino was playing in midfield for Hoffenheim. And Mohamed Salah, the last piece of the puzzle, had finished his first season in Europe, at Basel, mostly coming off the bench. There’s no catchy acronym but you’ll find plenty of the “heavy metal football” their coach, Jurgen Klopp, craves.These two attacking forces are set for a showdown in the Champions League final when Real Madrid take on Liverpool, the Establishment vs. the Upstarts.With these men, it’s not just about where they are; it’s about where they come from. Real Madrid’s trio are all blue-bloods who were tipped for greatness before they turned 20. Bale moved to Tottenham Hotspur at 18 for $10 million back when that was still a lot of money. Benzema had been capped by France and was the crown jewel at Olympique Lyonnais. Ronaldo was the apple of Sir Alex Ferguson’s eye in Manchester United’s Theatre of Dreams.As for Liverpool’s trio, when they were still teenagers? Mane was at Metz in the French second division, where he scored a single goal in 19 games. Firmino was at Figueirense, helping them earn promotion to the Brazil top flight. Salah? He had made his first appearances for Egypt’s El Mokawloon but hadn’t been playing much at all since the Port Said tragedy in 2012 brought the league to a halt.Yet even pedigree must succumb to the passage of time. In terms of the “BBC,” this has been the toughest season yet. Bale, beset by injuries, missed chunks of the past two seasons and was dropped for the Champions League final last year. Benzema, once considered untouchable as the workhorse who made those around them look good — and sometimes to the chagrin of purists who judged him solely by his goals total — is by no means an automatic choice. He hasn’t played 90 minutes of a Champions League game in more than two seasons.Bale and Benzema’s roles as Ronaldo’s complements have diminished, too, as Ronaldo himself has changed with age. He’s not the fleet-footed wide man he once was, picking up the ball deep and mazily dribbling his way into the heart of the opposition defence. He is, essentially, a centre-forward who gravitates to the left. There is now a minimalist efficiency to his game; no ounce of energy wasted, everything geared towards scoring. This has allowed him to maintain his goal production even into his mid-30s, giving Real Madrid a forward reference point and in that sense, making Benzema somewhat less indispensable.They’ve all had to adapt. Benzema has to adjust his game to the areas Ronaldo now occupies with greater frequency while Bale can’t simply be the right-flank photo-negative yin to Ronaldo’s yang. With Zinedine Zidane having a wealth of forward options beyond the trio, from the playmaking Isco to the explosive Marco Asensio, Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo can no longer be the three divas with a backing orchestra of eight guys. They have to tailor their game to the symphony.Liverpool’s front three are far more choreographed in terms of movement. Salah may have scored the most goals but he is not the main terminus: He’s a cog in a harmonious trio where no part seems to operate independently of the other two. Firmino is the nominal centre-forward whose movements left or right cue Salah and Mane, and vice-versa.These aren’t three individuals, either, as the “BBC” can sometimes appear. This is a collective of three men with slightly different skill sets (albeit with a common theme of flat-out, gut-busting work), whereby Firmino’s altruism and vision, Mane’s quickness and trickery and Salah’s finishing and speed combine for devastating effect.The “BBC” have already made history. Now they hope they can conjure up one last masterclass performance, even though for two of them (Benzema and Bale) it’s not even guaranteed they will be in Zidane’s starting XI on Saturday or beyond this season. The Champions League final will determine whether their chamber music, perhaps with the help of a few stand-ins, can withstand the “heavy metal” of the upstarts in red who play louder and faster than they do.

Zinedine Zidane coy, respectful of Liverpool ahead of Champions League final

4:51 PM ETRobbie Dunne

Toni Kroos used four adjectives to describe Liverpool on Tuesday during Real Madrid’s media day ahead of the Champions League final. “They’re tough, competitive, aggressive and very strong,” he said while also suggesting that Real Madrid have better technique. It might be true regarding the overall quality of both squads, but Zinedine Zidane has to ensure his side don’t go out thinking they are facing a bunch of uncontrolled madmen on Saturday night in Kiev. Los Blancos will need to be hungry, savvy and balanced in their approach if they are to win their third Champions League trophy in a row.

It’s not the job of former managers and players to be diplomatic with their predictions in the days leading up to the final. Vicente del Bosque and Jose Antonio Camacho, who spent time playing and coaching on the sideline at the Santiago Bernabeu, have already had their say and predict easy wins for the Spanish side — both believe Real Madrid will win by three goals, 4-1 and 3-0. Diplomacy is left to managers and players so nothing they say can be used against them in the build-up to the game and so they won’t be ridiculed if they lose afterwards.It is, however, telling of what the general feeling is around the game, and it is obvious that Liverpool are seen as underdogs. Kroos delivered a particularly condescending comment: “It’s a great achievement for Liverpool to reach a Champions League final,” he said during the media day in Madrid as his side prepare to play their fourth UCL final in five years and third in a row. “It’s very difficult to play in one final,” he said. “Two is very hard, and three is just craziness,” he concluded with more than a hint of humblebragging.You can also tell, based on these news conferences, what kind of message the managers are trying to send. And for Zidane, the message is no surprise. He’s giving nothing away and said a couple of times during the question session that he wouldn’t say anything about his lineup for Saturday. He knows that his options and the variety in team selection during the year can give Real Madrid an advantage, and he plans to use it.Isco, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo all started against Villarreal in a team that looked conspicuously like a trial run XI sent out for one last dress rehearsal. But during the chat that took place on Tuesday afternoon, Zidane assured everyone that “the BBC are the best as they have shown many times.” Zidane is sending out mixed messages to perfection because a team with Isco in it is an entirely different proposition than one without him.There is a notion that Liverpool are a crazy blend of players running around with no game plan, no tactics and are built entirely on energy. “They will be 11 plugged-in animals,” Kroos said about Klopp’s side. Zidane was keen to labour the point that Liverpool are more than just a team that press their opponents to within an inch of their lives in the hope of getting lucky.”All the talk is about the three up front or that they are weaker at the back. … No, they deserve to be in the final just like us, they are a close group,” Zidane answered when asked what he feared about his opponentThe Real Madrid manager seems to appreciate the task ahead of him. He knows he’s not the best tactician in the world and said as much during the same news conference. But he knows how to meld a dressing room towards a goal. In that way, he is like Klopp, who has often been accused of relying on emotion rather than systematically figuring out the best way to beat an opponent.But this will be a game of chess. Sergio Ramos said a couple of weeks ago that Real Madrid don’t need Marcelo for defending, though his absence in the left full-back position has caused problems before for his side. He’s not going to change now, though, and the Spanish international might be the man tasked with sliding over to stop the runs of Mohamed Salah, the most revered footballer in Europe at present.His absence in the middle might be the key as Casemiro will then have to slot in at the back. With the movement of Roberto Firmino, who much like Karim Benzema is a man who cannot be put into a singular category as a striker, Casemiro providing cover could prove decisive. He moves and drops out to the left, right and centre and causes headaches for opposition. This movement and everything that happens as a result could define what happens during the game.Nobody is more aware of the importance of a striker like this then Zidane, who has constantly played Benzema to baffle opponents. He needs to make sure he has his team ready for the tactical battle in store on Saturday. And he will, just don’t expect him to give too much away regarding preparations beforehand.

Real Madrid facing Liverpool’s ’11 animals’ in Champions League final – Toni Kroos

4:40 AM ETDermot CorriganESPN FC

Toni Kroos has said Real Madrid will face “11 animals” in Saturday’s Champions League final against Liverpool.Kroos said the constant pressing of Jurgen Klopp’s team — something he experienced against Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund during his time at Bayern Munich — would pose big challenges.”It is always tough, always difficult playing against Klopp’s teams,” Kroos said at Madrid’s media open day on Tuesday.”With Bayern Munich we had a lot of problems against Dortmund, always. That is what I expect on Saturday also.”They’ll be 11 animals, all really up for it. We’ll be better on the ball, but they’re going to put us under pressure for 90 minutes and will need to be at 100 percent or even more.”We’re expecting an aggressive Liverpool, who have a really quick forward line, but we can stop them and can win.”Madrid are looking to lift the trophy for a third consecutive year, something no side has been able to do since the Bayern Munich team of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller in the mid-1970s.Kroos, going for the fourth Champions League win of his career, said surpassing the achievement of such giants of the game “would be madness.””That I get the chance to surpass that generation with the match in Kiev sounds a bit scary, I admit,” he said.”Because of my age, I didn’t see that many games of the big players from that era. But the names alone have an unbelievable ring to them. When I pulled level with them last year, I could already hear them. But to better them would be madness.”Madrid also won the Champions League in 2014, the season before Kroos arrived, and winger Gareth Bale is among the players aiming for a fourth triumph in five seasons.”I came here to win the Champions League, play in the finals,” Bale told Real Madrid TV. “Obviously winning three, and having a chance to win a fourth, exceeds expectations.”It’s great to be in this situation, and I’m looking forward to making it four. Winning titles is the reason I came to this club.”Wales international Bale was a peripheral figure in the quarterfinals and semifinals amid speculation he could leave Madrid, but has made his case for a final place by scoring five goals in four La Liga outings.”I feel like I’ve been in good form for a while,” he said. “I’ve scored a few goals, so I’m hitting form at the right time.”

Dejan Lovren: Liverpool different in all but name since last Real Madrid clash

6:03 AM ETGlenn PriceLiverpool Correspondent

Dejan Lovren believes Liverpool have come a long way since the last time they faced Real Madrid, insisting “the only thing that is similar to that night is the name.”Lovren was part of Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool team that were beaten by Real Madrid 3-0 in the group stages of the Champions League back in 2014. However, the centre-back has stressed that Liverpool are now incomparable from that night at Anfield as they prepare to meet the European champions in the Kiev final on Saturday.”The only thing that is similar to that night is the name, Liverpool,” the 28-year-old told reporters. “I am so much more confident in the team now than I was then. I feel the team is ready to battle against every team in the world.”We showed that against Man City. Man City showed all throughout this season that they are one of the best teams in the world but they came up against Liverpool.”I wouldn’t say they play a similar style to Real Madrid but we are a totally different team and nobody played a team like us.”Real Madrid didn’t play against us [in 2014] like we play today. Maybe they are used to this team and they look at images from this game, but we are totally different now.”Lovren says appearing in the Champions League final on Saturday will prove he is on course to achieve his long-held desire to become one of the best defenders in the world.He has played a pivotal role, alongside side Virgil van Dijk in the heart of the defence, in helping Liverpool reach their first European Cup final in 11 years.The Croatia international has recalled writing himself a note at the age of 12 setting out his aims for a career in football.He said: “From day one when I started to play football I wrote it down — at 12 years of age I wrote it down: ‘One day I will be one of the best defenders in the world’.”People were laughing at me but… to reach the final… I think I showed [my quality] many times.”[I wrote it] underneath my table, out of sight, in my apartment back in Croatia where I grew up, the table where I would sit and do my homework.”There are some people still living there and the table was part of the room so I hope it is still there. I need to go and buy the table back!”Lovren has had to battle intense criticism and adversity in his four seasons as a Liverpool player since joining from Southampton for £20 million. But he insists he always shrugs his critics aside and uses them as a source of motivation.”When you say I am not good enough, I will just show you I am good enough, simple as that,” he added.”I struggled a lot in my life from day one, and you know there is belief within me and it will never go from me and it really was always there from when I was young.”I could write you a book. I will write it myself, don’t worry, this thick [placing hands wide apart].”There are many things, I don’t know where to start. People were mocking about me in school, mocking about as a teenager that I could not play like a defender, that I don’t have a left foot, that I am not quick enough.”You know all these small things, they always push me to be better: you say I don’t have a left foot? I will hit it better today with my left than my right.”To be honest, this is me, I always work on these situations. It helps me to be honest. And criticism, even if I don’t like it, I like to hear it — I know what to improve at the end.”Maybe of course you have one or two situations where you don’t play well but I don’t know which defender doesn’t make mistakes, and then maybe sometimes people make it bigger than it is.”When I have the confidence of the manager I don’t need anything more. I know how hard I worked and as a team how hard we worked, to achieve this so [getting to a final] is still an achievement for us, when you look back it is massive.”

How Bob Bradley helped Mohamed Salah on his ascent to global stardom

May 23, 20186:43PM EDTAlicia RodriguezContributor

Bob Bradley will be more than an admirer as he watches Egypt play in the FIFA World Cup in Russia next month. After all, the current LAFC head coach led the African country in the last World Cup cycle.Bradley, who talks freely about the crucible his Pharaohs team endured during his stint in charge, from a revolution in the country that overthrew the government to a massacre at a soccer match that shut down club soccer in the nation for nearly a year, did not make the 2014 World Cup with Egypt, as they lost in the final two-game playoff. But his time in charge helped bring through a generation of players who did reach the biggest global soccer tournament, including superstar Mohamed Salah.Salah, who has broken out in a major way this season with Liverpool, leading the English club to the Champions League final and earning the Premier League Golden Boot, made his senior debut for Egypt just prior to Bradley’s appointment in 2011, but the American helped bring the teenager along and get him ready for European soccer.“When the league stopped, we had to start to put together camps and friendly matches because World Cup qualifying was that June,” Bradley told reporters at LAFC training in recent weeks.“We started having opportunities to bring young guys into the camps and immediately you knew that Salah was special.”Salah moved to Swiss club FC Basel in 2012, beginning a swift rise through the ranks of top-level soccer, as he played at Chelsea, Fiorentina, Roma and then Liverpool, becoming more and more dominant at each stop from his forward position.“I was excited that we could help in some way when the moment came for him to go to FC Basel,” Bradley explained. “And then when he did well there, other doors in Europe opened for him.”When asked what he saw in Salah, now mooted to be the player to potentially break up the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly over the annual World Player of the Year award, Bradley said, “He was hungry, smart, he wanted to get better.”And now, Salah will help lead Egypt back out to the soccer world’s biggest stage in Russia. The Pharoahs will play in Group A alongside the tournament hosts, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay, their first match coming on June 15.Bradley, who still talks to Salah regularly, is happy to see his one-time player succeed on the biggest stage.“Salah’s a great guy and I’m so happy for him because he was so determined to take his career and move with it,” he said.Futbol MLS’s John Rojas contributed reporting to this article.

 

 

 

U.S.-led 2026 World Cup bid nears vote vs. Morocco that’s too close to call

May 18, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer

With the vote to secure the hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup taking place on June 13 at the FIFA Congress in Moscow, the United Bid comprised of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. is leaving nothing to chance.The various bid directors and executives have been crisscrossing the globe in the hope of convincing the various member associations that the United Bid is best. For Carlos Cordeiro, the United Bid Committee Board of Directors co-chair, the approach reminds him of his successful run for the presidency of the U.S. Soccer Federation back in February.”You’ve got to be in front of every voter,” he told ESPN FC via telephone. “There’s no substitute for in-person, one-on-one meetings, so that’s the strategy. I believe that will produce the result we’re looking for.”Based on the technical merits, the bid — with its tournament-ready stadiums and projections of $11 billion in profits — would seem to be ahead of Morocco, which will need to invest $16 billion in its infrastructure. But geopolitics have a way of shoehorning their way into a vote such as this one. As a result, the race has become complicated and looks to be too close to call.There is also the possibility that enough countries will abstain from voting to prevent either bid from reaching the 104-vote threshold needed to win the hosting rights. At that point, the whole bidding process would be reopened with none of the countries currently bidding allowed to compete.That hasn’t stopped the United Bid from projecting a confident veneer as the race heads into the final weeks.”We’re confident because we believe in what we’re delivering, and as we travel across the globe, we’re telling our story, which we feel is very compelling for 2026,” United Bid director and Canada Soccer Association general secretary Peter Montopoli said.With Morocco likely to draw heavy support from its home continent of Africa, the United Bid has been focusing its efforts primarily on securing its home base in the Americas, while then attempting to extend its reach to Asia and Europe. Although the 10 CONMEBOL countries, as well as the six eligible voters in Central America, have publicly given their support to the Bid, making sure the Caribbean is secure has been a bigger challenge.The governments of St. Lucia, Dominica and Antigua & Barbuda have all declared support for Morocco. The United Bid has been quick to point out that governments aren’t voting — the football associations are. That fact was echoed by Antigua & Barbuda Football Association president Everton Gonsalves.”I know the president of the Antigua & Barbuda Football Association is not beholden by what the government thinks,” Gonsalves said via telephone.When asked if he would vote for the United Bid, Gonsalves stopped short of a formal declaration.”Suffice to say, I’m CONCACAF, so what else can I say?” he said. “I’m part of the confederation of CONCACAF, so you can read into that what you so choose.”The declarations by Caribbean governments should at minimum give the United Bid pause, though they also run the risk of violating FIFA’s provision on governmental interference. But the Bid is focused instead on the recent declarations of support from Jamaica and Grenada. The revenues that the United Bid could potentially generate figure to trickle down to smaller football associations such as those that make up much of CONCACAF, so the job of the United Bid is to convince CONCACAF members that the bid is not only technically superior but also financially in their best interest. Whether that will carry the day over government interests remains to be seen.”I feel very confident that by the end of the day, we will have virtually all of the CONCACAF nations and South America,” Cordeiro said.

Beyond the Americas, Asia is a critical piece if the United Bid is to find a path to victory. To that end, the Bid has been very Asia-centric for the past three months, having met with each of the five subgroups within the Asia Football Confederation. Cordeiro feels that having spent part of his life in Asia — he was born in the Indian city of Bombay, now known as Mumbai — gives him a way of connecting with the AFC’s leaders.The month of May has seen the United Bid’s focus shift to Europe. Bid representatives were in the French city of Lyon earlier this week meeting with European powerbrokers who were already in town for a gathering of the UEFA Professional Football Strategy Committee. Cordeiro and his cohorts soon moved on to Kiev, where the UEFA Executive Committee is meeting ahead of next weekend’s UEFA Champions League final.This is not to say that the United Bid is completely giving up on Africa. The vote among CAF countries during the most recent election for FIFA president was fragmented, and the Bid hopes to exploit similar divisions in this vote.The Donald Trump factor continues to loom large over the vote. The policies of the Trump administration have, at minimum, provided momentum to Morocco’s bidPresident Trump’s vague tweet that suggested retaliation against countries that didn’t back the United Bid verges on the kind of governmental interference that FIFA forbids.That has left the United Bid trying to shift focus to the statements of Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto, as well as how the three countries are working together. The Bid also pledged to FIFA that it would grant visas to visitors without regard to religion or national origin.”Our governments are working incredibly well together in putting this bid together,” Montopoli said. “We’ve been working with the White House and our federal government to ensure that we have the right guarantees in place.”There has been some talk that FIFA will kick Morocco out of the race on the grounds of failing the technical inspection, but the Bid isn’t counting on that. Nor is it worrying about abstentions potentially dooming both bids.”I think the other confederations accept that this was the turn for either CONCACAF or Africa,” Cordeiro said. “I think we’re all competitors in the most open and fairest sense, and I think it’s only fair that they pick one of us or Morocco.”

Pulisic leads U.S. but McKennie, Miazga also part of promising core

11:43 AM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

The future backbone of the U.S. men’s national team is taking shape.U.S. interim manager Dave Sarachan once again named a youthful side ahead of an international friendly, in this case a match against Bolivia on May 28. But one can already detect some common threads in terms of the players getting called in.It’s true that Christian Pulisic is back in the mix for the first time since that brutal night in Trinidad on which the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in over 30 years. But the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was already a mainstay by the time World Cup qualifying ended — perhaps too much of one given how so much of the U.S. attack went through him.Now as the U.S. rebuilds, some consistent names are beginning to emerge. You have the center-back tandem of Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers that has been playing together since their time on the U.S. U-20 team. There’s Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie as well as New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams, the latter of whom isn’t on the roster for the Bolivia match but is expected to be added for games against Ireland and France.Not only are these players gaining valuable minutes for the national team, but they’re each doing the same at the club level, too. Miazga is coming off his second successful season on loan at Vitesse, one that saw him help the club qualify for the Europa League. Carter-Vickers amassed over 3,000 minutes during loan stints with Sheffield United and Ipswich Town. McKennie made 22 appearances for a Schalke side that will be playing in the Champions League next season. Adams is already a mainstay for the Red Bulls.Establishing a foundation at the club level might sound like an obvious requirement for progression at the international level, but one only has to look at the career trajectory of Julian Green to see that this hasn’t always been the case for U.S. players.It wasn’t until 2017 that Green amassed more league appearances than international matches, which is a bit stunning considering that this is a player who was taken to — and scored at — the 2014 World Cup. But even Green is beginning to accumulate that needed first-team experience. He made 24 appearances for 2. Bundesliga side Greuther Furth this season, and it was his goal on the final match day of the campaign that secured the club’s second-division status for another season. Green’s club future is uncertain, but at least there is a body of work now for teams to evaluate, and his ability to come through in a big moment will get him noticed.That said, Green’s path amounts to a cautionary tale as it relates to the expectations of rising U.S. players, and one that U.S. Soccer ought to heed when it comes to Josh Sargent.The U.S. youth international signed his first professional contract with Werder Bremen back in February. Given the acclimatization that has to take place when moving to another country and adjusting to the demands of the professional game, Bremen has quite rightly limited Sargent to time with its U-19 team. Now Sargent has been called into this camp, and it isn’t his first with the senior team, having also been called in last November for the match against Portugal.”I’ve seen things in Josh where I felt it was a good moment to bring him into the senior team,” said Sarachan. “As a striker, he plays a position that hasn’t been all that deep and shown great promise at the higher youth levels in World Cup play and so on. I feel physically he has the power and strength to play at this level; now it’s a question of can he adapt to the speed of play and physicality.”The way [Sargent] stepped into the U-20 squad just before the World Cup last year showed how he’s able to handle some bigger challenges, and so we thought this was a prime opportunity to give him an extended look with our senior team.”There is nothing wrong with bringing Sargent in, of course, or even putting him on the field against Bolivia. The same is true for players like Benfica’s Keaton Parks, Manchester United defender Matt Olosunde and Club Tijuana’s Alejandro Guido, though it seems more likely that the latter trio have been brought in simply to get a taste of how things work with the national team. But one thing holds true: Now is the time to take some risks and get a look at some younger players, even though the club level is where real progress is made. That base needs to be there if these players are to become consistent contributors for the U.S. moving forward.So for all of the excitement surrounding younger players, it is those performers who are excelling for their clubs who represent the future of the U.S. team and offer the biggest current source of hope.

Christian Pulisic headlines young U.S. squad to face Bolivia on May 28

11:10 AM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

Christian Pulisic’s return to the U.S. men’s national team headlines the 22-man roster named by interim manager Dave Sarachan that will face Bolivia on May 28.The match, to be held at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania, is the first of three that the U.S. will play over the next few weeks. The Americans will also face Ireland in Dublin on June 2 followed by the finale against France in Lyon on June 9.As has been his habit during his time in charge, Sarachan has emphasized calling in younger players. The average age is 22 years, 286 days, which is even younger than the group that was called in for a friendly against Paraguay back in March. All told, 15 of the players are under 22, with nine players who are age-eligible for participation in the 2020 Summer Olympics.”As I’ve talked about throughout this process, the theme is to offer opportunity to this younger generation of talented players that have potential down the road with the program,” said Sarachan. “We’ve had first-time call-ups in every camp since November and this is another extension of that. We’re going into the Bolivia game with newer faces along with a few familiar players as well.”Overall, these types of games provide great chances for players to bank key minutes in international matches.”Plenty of attention will be focused on Pulisic, who will likely feature for the U.S. for the first time since its disastrous 2-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to Trinidad and Tobago last October, a result that saw the Americans fail to qualify for the tournament for the first time since the 1986 edition.”It’s no secret that Christian has a very bright future for many years to come with the U.S. men’s national team,” said Sarachan. “The opportunity to have him a part of any group that we assemble is very important not just for him personally, but for this group going forward.”It’s very good to have Christian back in the mix. It’s been a number of months and I think when you can add the quality he provides to any team, that’s a big bonus for the program.”Pulisic, who hails from nearby Hershey, Pennsylvania, will be joined by a passel of up-and-coming players who are expected to form the backbone of the squad going forward, including Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie and Chelsea defender Matt Miazga. The group also includes first-time call-ups for Keaton Parks of Benfica, Manchester United defender Matthew Olosunde and Club Tijuana midfielder Alejandro Guido.  The roster isn’t entirely bereft of experienced performers, though. Club America midfielder Joe Corona, Nottingham Forest defender Eric Lichaj and Santos Laguna defender Jorge Villafana were also included. Lichaj and Villafana are the only players on the roster who were born before 1990, while Corona and Pulisic have the most caps on the roster, with 20 each.Julian Green, who will return to Vfb Stuttgart following a season-long loan at Greuther Furth, returns to the U.S. team for the first time since November 2016.Sarachan is also expected to make numerous changes to the roster ahead of the games in Europe. The alterations are expected to include the addition of European-based players as well as several MLS-based players.”When we put our roster together, we also took into account travel considerations for some of our players that have just finished long seasons in Europe,” said Sarachan. “While not everyone in Philadelphia will travel to Ireland and France, the players that are joining us this week are still getting an important opportunity as we move our program forward.”

U.S. roster to face Bolivia

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham, on loan at Ipswich Town), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea, on loan at Vitesse Arnhem), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United), Erik Palmer-Brown (Manchester City, on loan at KV Kortrijk), Antonee Robinson (Bolton Wanderers), Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)

Midfielders: Joe Corona (Club America), Julian Green (Stuttgart, on loan at Greuther Furth), Alejandro Guido (Club Tijuana), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Keaton Parks (Benfica), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain)

Forwards: Andrija Novakovich (Telstar), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)

Christian Pulisic Returns as USMNT Roster Focuses on Youth for Upcoming Friendlies

By BRIAN STRAUS May 20, 2018  SI

Christian Pulisic returns to the U.S. national team after eight months away, and he’ll be joined by good friend and Revierderby rival Weston McKennie, teenage attackers Josh Sargent and Timothy Weah, and long-lost World Cup 2014 veteran Julian Green on a youthful squad that’ll face Bolivia on May 28 outside Philadelphia.That friendly will be the first of three the USA will play before watching the World Cup from the sidelines. Coach Dave Sarachan, who’s now been running the program on an interim basis since the Americans were eliminated last October, said he will make “numerous changes” to his team before heading to Europe for matches against Ireland (June 2) and World Cup-contender France (June 9).None of the friendlies falls during a FIFA international window, so Sarachan’s access to MLS players will be somewhat limited (most European club campaigns have ended, and the Mexican season ends Sunday). There are only two MLS players on the Bolivia roster. Domestic veterans in frame to help the USA in Dublin and Lyon will skip the first portion of camp in order to reduce the number of league games lost. In addition, there may be players in Europe who were spared transatlantic travel immediately following their seasons.Meantime, a very young team will begin training in Philadelphia on Monday and then take the field May 28 at Talen Energy Stadium. The average age of this USA roster is below 23. That’s appropriate considering the importance U.S. Soccer should place on the 2020 Olympics (a U-23 competition), which would provide meaningful tournament experience to the prospects expected to lead a return to the world stage. There are nine Olympic-eligible players on the 22-man team announced Sunday, including Pulisic.“As I’ve talked about throughout this process, the theme is to offer opportunity to this younger generation of talented players that have potential down the road with the program,” Sarachan said of the roster, which includes seven uncapped players. “We’ve had first-time call-ups in every camp since November, and this is another extension of that. We’re going into the Bolivia game with newer faces along with a few familiar players as well. Overall, these types of games provide great chances for players to bank key minutes in international matches.”Regarding Pulisic’s return, Sarachan said, “The opportunity to have him a part of any group that we assemble is very important—not just for him personally, but for this group going forward. It’s very good to have Christian back in the mix.”

Here’s a closer look at the new USA roster:

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Bill Hamid (FC Midtjylland), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)

Hamid has been a regular during Sarachan’s three games in charge, seeing action in two and backing up Zack Steffen against Paraguay in March. Steffen will remain with the Columbus Crew this week, leaving Hamid as the most experienced goalkeeper in camp.Hamid, 27, made only three senior appearances for Midtjylland after joining the club from D.C. United in January. The most recent came April 26 in the Danish Cup semifinal, which Hamid and Midtjylland lost, 3-1, to Brøndby.

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United), Erik Palmer-Brown (Manchester City), Antonee Robinson (Everton), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles FC)

Several of these players have just finished up loans and will hope to use their time with the USA as a springboard to minutes with their parent clubs next season. Among them are Carter-Vickers and Miazga, who could comprise a long-term pairing in the American central defense. Carter-Vickers, 20, had a good spring at Ipswich Town and just signed a new contract with Tottenham that’ll tie him to the Premier League club until the summer of 2021. Miazga, 22, was a crucial constant (and even an occasional captain) for a Vitesse Arnhem side that finished sixth in the Netherlands and qualified for the 2018-19 Europa League.Lichaj and Villafaña, who will try to win the Liga MX championship with Santos on Sunday, provide a more experienced presence on the flanks. Olosunde, 20, will make his senior camp debut not far from his hometown. The Trenton, NJ, and New York Red Bulls product spent time with United’s U-23 reserve squad this season.“He’s been on our radar as a young defender for a number of years, and obviously the club also saw something in him,” Sarachan said of Olosunde. “He’s a versatile defender that can play on either side. He possesses good size and strength, and now he’s a guy that has a number of minutes under his belt. He was available to be a part of this camp, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to bring him in.”

Midfielders: Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Julian Green (VfB Stuttgart), Alejandro Guido (Club Tijuana), Weston McKennie (Schalke 04), Keaton Parks (Benfica), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain) 

Sarachan has deployed his team in a 4-1-4-1 in each of his three games in charge, so it’s not surprising to see a midfield-heavy roster unveiled. This is where the depth is, and the primary storyline ahead of the Bolivia game will be whether we see Pulisic and McKennie paired for the first time.McKennie still has played only once for the senior national team, in the November friendly in Portugal. But it was a command performance, and it whet the appetite for a future in which his robust box-to-box presence complements Pulisic’s attacking flair. Corona, who along with Pulisic is the most experienced international in camp (20 caps), would make sense as the third member of a three-man central midfield, bringing a focus on ball movement and tempo.Weah, 18, returns after making his senior USA debut in March. He’ll be hoping to see more than five minutes of action this time as he comes off his first Ligue 1 start for PSG in Saturday’s season-ending draw at Caen. And Green returns to the fold for the first time since November 2016. The surprise World Cup scorer has had an uneven career since netting that goal against Belgium, going on loan from Bayern Munich to Hamburger SV, signing with VfB Stuttgart then going on loan again to Greuther Fürth. He made an impact there, however, starting regularly and scoring three goals—including one in last weekend’s season finale that kept Fürth in the 2. Bundesliga. Green turns 23 next month.

Forwards: Andrija Novakovich (Reading), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)

Sarachan has been using just one forward, and if he continues with that tactical trend he’ll have two untested ones to choose from against Bolivia. Novakovich, 21, spent the 2017-18 season on loan with Telstar in the Dutch second tier and scored an impressive 22 goals in 38 appearances. He made his senior U.S. debut with a second-half spell in the win over Paraguay in March.Sargent just turned 18 in February and was ineligible to play for Werder Bremen after signing with the German club (thanks to rules regarding foreign nationals transferring as minors). His potential is clear, however, and in 2017 he became only the second American male to play in U-17 and U-20 World Cups in the same year (he scored in both) and he finished up with an invite to Sarachan’s senior camp in November. “I’ve seen things in Josh where I felt it was a good moment to bring him into the senior team,” Sarachan said. “As a striker, he plays a position that hasn’t been all that deep and shown great promise at the higher youth levels in World Cup play and so on. I feel physically he has the power and strength to play at this level. Now it’s a question of can he adapt to the speed of play and physicality. The way he stepped into the U-20 squad just before the World Cup last year showed how he’s able to handle some bigger challenges, and so we thought this was a prime opportunity to give him an extended look with our senior team.”

Christian Pulisic becoming quiet leader for U.S. and Dortmund

May 22, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — It didn’t take long for Christian Pulisic to find his feet at both the club and international level. Finding his voice is proving more of a process.There is no doubt that Pulisic is the face of the U.S. men’s national team. By the end of the World Cup qualifying cycle, he was the player around whom the nationsl team’s attack was based. In the nine international matches he played in 2017, Pulisic was either directly or indirectly involved in 13 of 17 goals scored.If that sounds like an immense burden to put on a 19-year-old, well, it is.”It’s a lot sometimes, they like to put this label on you,” Pulisic told ESPN FC on Monday. “I’m just trying to live in the moment and do the best I can for myself and for my teammates, and that’s all I can really focus on.”Once Pulisic completes his club commitments with Borussia Dortmund following Tuesday’s friendly against LAFC, he’ll rejoin the U.S. for next Monday’s match against Bolivia. It will mark his first involvement with the U.S. since the World Cup qualifying debacle concluded last October, and it will be an opportunity for him to grow into more of a leadership role.A big NBA fan, Pulisic said he looks to LeBron James for inspiration.”[James] is just the best, the way he carries himself on and off the court,” Pulisic said during an earlier roundtable with reporters. “What he’s done for so many years, it’s just inspiring, so it’s pretty crazy how he keeps it up all this time.”It’s a role that doesn’t come easily to Pulisic. By his own admission, he’s “not the most outgoing person in the world.” But leaders can emerge in a variety of ways. There are quiet ones as well as more boisterous, vocal types. It is the former category that Pulisic falls into, one who sets an example in training in terms of what needs to be done every day. But one gets the sense that on a U.S. team whose average age is 22, Pulisic is ready to impart some wisdom.”I’m going to be there for all the younger players that are going through similar things as me,” he said during the roundtable. “Of course, I’m young, but I do have a lot of caps. I’m going to try to be there for all the guys and I’m ready to do whatever it takes to help. “Just informing them about how CONCACAF can be, about some of the games, about how it’s not just always about who plays the best football, it’s about who wants it the most and just how to fight and do whatever it takes. That’s definitely what I learned in qualifying.” depth of experience is a trait most leaders have, and Pulisic has already accumulated a few professional scars, as well as some notable successes. He became more of a regular presence in the Dortmund lineup this season, amassing more minutes and appearances than when compared to 2016-17. But it was a season with considerable ups and downs, as Dortmund suffered through an inconsistent campaign that saw manager Peter Bosz fired in midseason, though the club ultimately recovered to qualify for a spot in the Champions League. The failure of the U.S. team to reach the World Cup had its effect as well.”Yeah, [Pulisic] was down, really down,” Dortmund teammate Nuri Sahin said regarding how World Cup qualifying impacted Pulisic. “He’s more hungry now and I’m sure he will lead the U.S. to many tournaments.”Sahin added that he has been impressed by what he has seen from Pulisic, especially given that this was his first year with the club in which is father, Mark, wasn’t present.”At such a young age to play around 100 games in professional football is not easy. I know this from my time,” Sahin told reporters following a training session at UCLA. “As a human being, it’s his first year in Europe far away from family, but he has adapted very well to the German lifestyle. He’s one of us. It’s good for his development. What I expect is he has a bright future and the U.S. men’s national team can be happy to have a player like that.”Sahin can relate to what Pulisic is going through on other levels as well. The Turkey international came up through Dortmund’s youth system, and won a Bundesliga title under now-Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. That got the attention of Real Madrid and Sahin later moved there, though he never settled and had a loan spell with Liverpool before returning to Dortmund.”Every football player has his dreams and one of my dreams was to play for Real Madrid because not many players in the world will wear the shirt,” he said.Pulisic has been the subject of many a transfer rumour but is attempting to keep any speculation at bay.”I’m still just finishing my season strong with Dortmund,” he said. “I’ve been happy here all season. I’m still enjoying the game, which is the most important. I’m just looking forward to having a good break this summer.”Following Dortmund’s friendly against LAFC on Tuesday night, Pulisic will have one more obligation with the U.S. and then it will be time for a rest. But his motivation is constant and the Bolivia match, which takes place Chester, Penn. some 100 miles from his home town of Hershey, will mark a welcome start to a new cycle.”It’s going to hurt for a long time until, pretty much, we qualify for the next World Cup is what I’m thinking. It was tough,” Pulisic said during the roundtable. “It was really tough for me going through that. But everything happens for a reason. I hope we can kind of now regroup and start over with some new guys and see what happens.”Pulisic wants, in his own style, to lead the way.

Masters of Modern Soccer: Christian Pulisic and the Craft of the American Midfielder

By GRANT WAHL May 01, 2018

The 2018 World Cup starts on June 14, and one of the greatest shames of the tournament is that Christian Pulisic will not be competing in Russia. Already the best American men’s player at the age of 19, Pulisic—an attacking midfielder for Germany’s Borussia Dortmund—was the lone bright spot of the U.S.’s failed World Cup qualifying campaign, which left the Americans out of the world’s most popular sporting event for the first time since 1986. Pulisic’s talent is incandescent. He can blow by world-class defenders on the dribble unlike any American before him. Had he competed in Russia this summer, Pulisic could have become a mainstream American sports superstar.

Yet the summer of 2018 could still be momentous for Pulisic. Multiple English Premier League teams—led by Liverpool, but also including Manchester United and Arsenal—have shown interest in buying the young American from Dortmund for a transfer fee that could be worth around $80 million to $100 million, shattering the previous record for an American player. Pulisic’s potential is limitless, not just on the field but also off it, where the top clubs in Europe would love to use the preeminent American player to build their brand in the expanding U.S. soccer market.

As SI’s Grant Wahl discovered writing his new book, Masters of Modern Soccer—an analysis of the craft of soccer, position by position, through seven accomplished and insightful figures from the European game—Pulisic is also wise beyond his years about how he views his role on the field. In this excerpt from the book, Pulisic explains in granular detail how he plays his position of attacking midfielder.

The following is excerpted from Masters of Modern Soccer: How the World’s Best Play the Twenty-First-Century Game. Copyright © 2018 by Grant Wahl. Published by Crown Archetype, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

It’s an undeniable fact: The United States has never produced a global men’s soccer superstar. Have there been solid American players good enough to qualify for seven of the last eight World Cups? Sure. Mainstay goalkeepers who’ve enjoyed long careers in the English Premier League? No doubt. Even a rare top scorer for a midlevel European team? There’s always Clint Dempsey and his 22 goals for Fulham in 2011–12. But for all the growth of soccer in America over the last two decades—in the popularity of the men’s and women’s World Cups, in the rise of domestic leagues, in media coverage of the planet’s most pop­ular sport—we have yet to find a U.S. men’s version of The Cho­sen One. Which is to say, a true superstar, the best player on one of the top 10 clubs in the UEFA Champions League.The reasons for this failure are many, we’re told, and mostly related to culture. The majority of our best athletes go pro in other sports, from American football to basketball to baseball. Our most popular spectator sport, American football, is more about following orders than about the individual creativity we see in the best soccer players. Soccer is a pay-to-play, middle-to upper-middle-class pursuit in the United States, unlike in the rest of the world, where the working classes produce the best players with the drive to rise to the top of a Darwinian global pyramid. What’s more, when it comes to youth soccer develop­ment, most experts will tell you the U.S. doesn’t have nearly enough qualified coaches at the vital early ages—and that the coaches who are in place tend to value strength and athleticism over skills.But there’s another factor, too. The U.S. has produced teenage soccer players with the potential to be world class, but the all too common result has been prospects who thought they had “made it” by simply signing a healthy contract or joining a European club. Coddled by youth coaches and handlers, pumped up by the leagues, and showered with premature accolades by media and sponsors searching for the elusive American Soccer Savior (always that word, savior), these putative Chosen Ones decided they had climbed Mount Everest when all they had done was reach base camp. No example of the phenomenon is more sober­ing than that of Freddy Adu, who joined D.C. United at age 14 as the highest-paid player in Major League Soccer in 2004 and headlined a national television advertising campaign that year with Pelé. Though Adu showed flashes of talent for U.S. youth national teams, he never earned the trust of a coach at club level, where he played for 14 teams in 15 years, and was last seen riding the bench in the U.S. second division, a cautionary tale of blind­ing promise unfulfilled.All of which brings us to a low-slung, redbrick residential building in a quiet neighborhood on the east side of Dortmund, a former steel-and-coal city in western Germany’s Ruhr Valley. The two-story structure, fronted by evergreens and a small lawn, is the home of an American teenage soccer star, but it’s conspicu­ous not for what it is, but rather for what it isn’t. The place looks entirely ordinary from the outside. The windows—two rectan­gular slits on each floor—are usually covered by metal shades that give the building the appearance of a military bunker. The dead-end street is, well, pretty dead. There are industrial ware­houses, a modest health club, the administrative office for a gro­cery store. All things considered, the tableau could just as well be a bland suburb of Pittsburgh.And that’s the whole point if you’re Christian Pulisic, the 19-year-old Hershey, Pennsylvania, native who has emerged as one of the world’s most promising attacking midfielders for Borussia Dortmund and the best prospect in the history of U.S. men’s soccer. When Pulisic signed a new four-year contract in early 2017 and his father, Mark, moved back to the United States after two years in Germany, Christian could have decided he had arrived and splurged on his first adult apartment in the gor­geous new glass-and-steel buildings on Dortmund’s Lake Phoe­nix, a bustling hub of bars, restaurants and nightlife. Instead, he chose a street with no bars and no restaurants—and, truth be told, barely any neighbors at all—that’s a five-minute drive from Dortmund’s training facility.

MASTERS OF MODERN SOCCER

by Grant Wahl

How do some of the game’s smartest figures master the craft of soccer? By profiling players in every key position and management, Wahl reveals how elite players and coaches strategize on and off the field and execute in high pressure game situations.That’s not to say Pulisic’s apartment is shabby inside. In fact, it’s the dream dorm suite of any college freshman—which is ex­actly what Pulisic would be in the spring of 2018—if that fresh­man had ample amounts of discretionary income and a cleaning lady who came every week.“There’s a lot of space, but nobody had lived in this building for three years,” says Pulisic, welcom­ing me inside and giving me the grand tour two days before a game against Bayern Munich. Pulisic is renting, not buying, but he got permission from the owner to spruce up an indoor swimming pool on the ground floor with colorful tile work on the wall and a poolside hangout area. Upstairs, the main living room has enough space to toss 20-yard passes with an American football and features a pool table, a folded-up ping-pong table, and a big-screen TV for watching soccer, NFL, and NBA games. The walls are filled mostly with blown-up photographs of Dort­mund’s Signal Iduna Park, Germany’s largest stadium, where more than 81,000 adoring fans cheer on their team in a roiling sea of black and yellow. Once again: Think Pittsburgh. “You go out into the city and you just see black and yellow everywhere,” says Pulisic. “They’re wearing jerseys, jackets. I’ve never seen a town that’s so connected and so proud of their team and so passionate about the game. That’s what makes Dortmund stand out so much. The weather isn’t very good, but it’s just a great town to live in. It’s really known for the soccer.”Pulisic has thick eyebrows, a ready smile, and, now that he has graduated from adolescence into adulthood, a chiseled chin and cheekbones; if there’s ever a movie made about his life, he might be played by the actor Jake Gyllenhaal. In Germany, ev­eryone pronounces Pulisic’s last name POOL-uh-sitch, the way it would be in Croatia, the birthplace of his grandfather Mate. That lineage allowed Christian to acquire a Croatian passport and start playing for Dortmund at age 16, earlier than he would have been able to with his U.S. citizenship alone. When he’s in the United States, Pulisic asks people to pronounce his name the Americanized way: puh-LISS-ick.   Pulisic realizes he hasn’t made it to the pinnacle yet just be­cause he got to this point in his career. He has to do more. With the maturity of someone 10 years older, he’s studying the craft of an attacking midfielder. “Now that I’m at a higher level and playing in the Bundesliga, you think of it more as your job,” Pu­lisic says. “How can I become the best? How can I take a certain aspect of the game and improve that to make myself better over­all? Of course, we play because we always love the game. But it’s about figuring out what you need to take that next step. That’s what I think about now.”

In a case of perfect symmetry, Pulisic’s bedrock philosophy—a relentless pursuit of progress—also applies to how he plays his position on the field. Whether he’s starting out wide (as he often does at Dortmund) or centrally (as he does more regularly for the United States), Pulisic has a visceral distaste for touches or passes that go sideways or backward. “My coaches taught me a lot is about taking the first touch positive, and I think that’s what I’ve tried to base my game off of,” he explains. “A big part of it is being aggressive. It’s not just about getting the ball and figuring out every time how you can keep possession, because there are plenty of players who can do that. That’s just not how I view my performances. It’s about: What can I do to change the game and the attacking aspect of the game? That’s how I look at it every time. Every single play is just doing what you can to keep your defender off balance so he has no idea what’s coming next. It’s being positive and going towards the goal because that’s my position. I’m an attacking midfielder.”

The last four years of Pulisic’s life are a study in constant transformation. He moved first from his home in Pennsylvania to the U.S. Under-17 national team residency program in Bra­denton, Florida; then to Dortmund to live with his father; and then into his own adult apartment. He graduated from Dort­mund’s Under-17 team to its Under-19 team to its first team. He grew, physically and emotionally, from a child to a man. If you Google “2013 Nike Friendlies” and watch the highlights of Pulisic’s U.S. Under-17 team beating Brazil 4–1—the day he real­ized he could compete against anyone in the world—you’ll see a talented but still callow 15-year-old boy.Of all the things that have changed for Pulisic, however, at least one surprising aspect has not. “The funny thing is I’ve worn the same cleat size for the last, like, four years,” he says. “I feel like my foot has definitely grown, but I haven’t done anything about it.” Pulisic wears size 8.5 soccer cleats—the Nike Mercurial Vapor, his standbys since 2011—that are a full size smaller than his running shoes (size 9.5). Yet his cleats aren’t painful to wear, he says. He wants them that way. “You just feel like your foot is closer to the ball, like you have more control over it,” Pulisic explains. “If you have a big gap between your toe and the edge of your shoe, I feel like it’s not nearly as comfortable when you’re touching the ball.”The first touch is the foundation of an attacking midfielder’s relationship with the ball. You have to learn how to control the ball with your feet, as if they were hands, supple and cushioning, welcoming passes of varying weights without a second thought and setting up your next action. The task of a first touch be­comes harder when you’re under the pressure of an advancing defender. One easy way to tell the difference in the levels of pro­fessional players—and teams and leagues, for that matter—is in the quality of their first touches. If the ball clangs off players’ feet and legs with any regularity, you’re probably not watching a Champions League knockout game.The knock on American players is that their first touch isn’t, shall we say, cultured. During the 2016 Copa América Centena­rio, one snarky fan went so far as to post a YouTube compila­tion video—set to European trance music, like so many soccer highlight videos—of the U.S. forward Gyasi Zardes butchering first touches and losing possession of the ball. To his credit, Zardes has enough speed, determination, and finishing ability to at least partially make up for his control flaws, especially as an MLS player, but, at his age (26) as a professional, it’s impos­sible to perfect a first touch. Like so many other technical skills, it is best learned between the ages of 3 and 9, not 10 or 20 years later.Pulisic, for his part, began working on his first touch at an early age with his father, Mark, who was a professional soccer player and is now a coach. It starts when I’m 5 years old,” Christian says, “and my dad’s punting the ball in the air and I’m just bringing it down and working on my first touch with both feet.” Mark emphasizes that he wanted sports—including sports other than soccer—to be fun for Christian at that age, but that didn’t prevent the youngster from learning the fundamentals.First-touch work continues for Borussia Dortmund’s youth and senior teams in regular practice sessions and on the Foot­bonaut, a $3.5 million machine pioneered by the club that has its own building at the team’s training ground. (Mark Pulisic oversaw the Footbonaut during his two years as a Dortmund youth team coach.) The Footbonaut takes Teutonic efficiency to its fußball extremes. Built as an apartment-sized, cube-shaped cage, the machine fires balls from a range of 360 degrees at dif­ferent speeds and trajectories toward the player, who then has to control the ball with his first touch, raise his head to spot the destination (an electronically lit-up square on the perimeter), and pass the ball into the target. Coaches dial up the speed and reps and keep score of the participants’ success rate. Sometimes they add a defender to mark the player in the center circle.In a game situation, the first touch is never an end in itself. “As you get older, it’s about the movements,” Pulisic says. “It’s knowing which direction to take your first touch, and not just receiving it. A lot of times it’s not about stopping the ball under your foot and not having any options after that. It’s putting yourself in a good position for what you want to do with it.” Pulisic, in particular, has a talent for using his first touch as an attacking weapon to slice through defenses. As his teammate Nuri Sahin says, “He’s fearless. He has so much speed, but what I like the most is his first touch. When he gets the ball, his first touch opens him a huge space even if there is no space.”So much of modern soccer is about utilizing space and pres­sure. Pulisic has learned that he can’t take an attacking first touch all the time. If he’s in a central position deeper on the field, he says, he’ll sometimes be more conservative and hold the ball, not least because losing it in your own end can quickly lead to a goal by the other team. But if he’s higher up the field, his attack-first mentality is fully engaged, whether Dortmund has advanced the ball from its own half or has won the ball in the opposing end using its notorious defensive pressure. Dort­mund’s pressing requires every player, including forwards and attacking midfielders like Pulisic, to work together in unison. If one player slacks off, the pressure fizzles. The commitment is exhausting and requires peak fitness and concentration, but the rewards can be enormous.In transitions, the team that has just lost the ball is often unbalanced and exposed. It’s up to Pulisic and his teammates to take advantage of the opening as soon as possible. “When my team wins the ball or when I win the ball, your first look always goes forward,” Pulisic says. “That’s something our coach here in Dortmund [Thomas Tuchel at the time] stresses a lot. You don’t know: Someone could be peeling off and making a run forward, and you can slip a ball in. Anytime you can get to the goal as quick as you can, it catches the other team off guard, especially when they’ve just lost the ball.” On the other hand, when Dort­mund loses the ball, Pulisic has to make a decision in defen­sive transition. If he’s close to the ball, he says, he’ll put pressure on the ball carrier. If he’s farther away, he’ll retreat to defend a space. That’s modern soccer: Even as an attacking midfielder, Pulisic will always have defensive responsibilities. His attention to defense has helped earn him minutes on the field.

If you listen to Pulisic describe what he’s thinking about dur­ing a game as he plays the position of attacking midfielder, the word he uses most often is next. When Pulisic wants to pass the ball to a teammate, he takes into account several factors, chief among them what the player will do upon receiving the ball. “A lot of things go into it,” Pulisic says. “It’s the weight of the pass. It’s which foot you’re passing it to and which side of his body so that he can take it into a positive area. So it’s a lot of thinking about what he has to do with the ball next. And then it’s all about the direction and speed of the pass. There are so many types of passes that are about weight, and that’s what some of the best No. 6s [deep-lying midfield­ers] in the world are great at: They can just ping [the ball] across the field and hit it on a dime on the guy’s left foot. That’s a skill I’m definitely trying to develop, but I’m not there yet.”One aspect of Pulisic’s game in which he has nearly reached full maturity is beating defenders one-on-one with the ball. Wit­nessing him perform the soccer equivalent of “breaking ankles” on a basketball court and whoosh past seasoned European pros with a combination of speed, guile, and raw explosive power is a rush of pure adrenaline for anyone who’s watching in the sta­dium or on TV. You’re left with a slack-jawed sense of wonder: Did an American teenager just do that? In Pulisic’s confidence on the field and even in his appearance—maybe it’s that high-and-tight haircut—he’s a postmillennial version of Tom Cruise’s Maverick taking out the MiGs in Top Gun. You half-expect Pulisic to wear a bomber jacket, drive a motorcycle, and play beach volleyball bare-chested in jeans in his spare time.When Pulisic has the ball and advances on a defender from a wide position, his head is up and he’s observing his foe, process­ing what he sees millisecond by millisecond. “A lot of times you see which way he’s forcing you and which way his body’s turned,” Pulisic says. “If you can get him to swivel his hips and wrong-foot him, that’s the first step in taking someone on. You want to move the ball side to side and see what he’s going to do with it. Once he starts moving and switching sides, that’s when you have him. Use your pace and change direction and go.” Should Pu­lisic stay out wide or cut inside? Sometimes he knows what he’ll do from the moment he receives the ball. On other occasions, his decision depends on the defender. “If he’s giving you enough space to the inside and he’s cutting off that endline because he doesn’t want you to play a ball in, then you take it inside and explode by him,” Pulisic explains. “When I’m playing, I’m not even really thinking about it. It kind of feels natural when you start going at him. It almost seems like he’s telling you to go one way.”Yet Pulisic doesn’t want to be too predictable in one-on-one situations. Like a baseball pitcher, he’ll keep a defender guess­ing by mixing up his speeds. First, Pulisic might cut inside and turn on the jets. But when his opponent tries to catch up, Pulisic will stop in his tracks as his hapless foil overpursues and Pulisic moves in a different direction, the bamboozle complete. Unlike a baseball pitcher, Pulisic can also disguise his intent by being dangerous using both feet. He’s naturally right-footed, and he says he would shoot a free kick or a penalty with his right foot. If he has a lot of space and a simple shot that he needs to hit with power, he’ll probably go with his right peg. But he won’t change the direction of his movement to favor his right foot, he says. That’s why he has spent so much time improving his left foot since he started working on it with his father as a five-year-old. “Every day in training, even if it’s just a simple passing drill, I try to do as many with my left as I do with my right,” Pulisic says. If you ask Pulisic which skills he had before he went to Dortmund at age 15 and which ones he has done more to acquire since joining the club, he pauses to flash back in time in his head for a moment. “I think I had a good dribbling ability al­ways, starting even with youth national teams,” he says. “In tight spaces, I could kind of maneuver my way out of them and drib­ble, and I was always creative. A big part of my game this season has been trying to become more clinical—in front of goal, crossing, passing. I know I still have a lot of work to do, and that’s what people criticize the most. But one of the toughest parts of soccer is bringing a play to the end and finding the right pass, taking the right shot, or whatever it is.”We hear the word clinical so often in soccer discussions that it has become something of a cliché. But for Pulisic the term comes down to efficiency in the most important part of the field, the op­posing penalty box. The hardest thing to do in soccer is to score a goal, to have the judgment to know what to do in the box to produce results as consistently as possible. What’s the point of beating a defender one-on-one to burst into the box if you make the wrong decisions on passing or shooting once you get there?Learning to be clinical, Pulisic says, “is so many different things. It just comes down to your focus in the end, and how per­fect you want to make that pass or shot and just make it easier on your teammates and for yourself when you have to finish in the right times.” In his first full season in the Bundesliga, Pu­lisic studied the task of crossing the ball in the same way a high school senior (which is what he would have been in the United States at the time) might study calculus. Some of it was fairly basic: Once you beat a player, pull your head up to scan the land­scape for crossing targets.

But there’s a more advanced level to crossing, too, he says. “Something I’m learning now,” Pulisic explains, “is when you look up and you don’t have a lot of options there. You can whip in a ball at the proper speed, whether it’s a chipped ball to the back post or it’s just a driven one across the goal, right in front of the goalkeeper. Those are just very tough to defend. You figure out whether you want it on the ground or if you want it a little higher. If it’s higher, like waist-height, it’s much harder to defend.”

To explain, Pulisic breaks down a play from a Champions League game against Legia Warsaw. Racing down the left side on a five-on-four break, Pulisic receives a pass in the box from Emre Mor. His head up, Pulisic knows he’s going to hit a first-time cross with his left foot—this is no occasion for futzing around with multiple touches and losing the advantage—but he doesn’t see an obvious target. Three Dortmund teammates are in the box. He could dink a short cut-back pass to Raphaël Guerreiro. Or he could send a cross into the prime space between the goal­keeper and Aubameyang (in the middle) or Gonzalo Castro (rac­ing in from the right). Ultimately, Pulisic decides to aim for the space and not a particular player. His cross shadows the line of the six-yard box waist-high. Aubameyang is defended well and can’t reach the ball, but Castro beats his man to the cross for an easy finish. “This is all about just putting it in front of the goalie in a dangerous area,” Pulisic says. “I didn’t specifically see Castro on this play. But you know you’ve got runners in the box.”When it comes to clinical shooting, Pulisic explains, one of the best tips he ever received is something simple: Put the ball on target. If your shot has no chance to go in the goal, you can’t score. That said, you also have to be precise in your accuracy as a shooter, in much the same way that a baseball pitcher has to paint the corners of home plate for most of his strikes. The size of the goal—eight feet high by eight yards wide—has been the same since it was codified by the English Football Association in 1882. How much taller are goalkeepers today than they were in the 19th century? Well, one recent study revealed the average height of male army conscripts in the Netherlands—the home of 6-foot-5 goalkeeping great Edwin van der Sar—had grown by 8.3 inches from 1858 to 1997. The height increase of human beings over the last century was what led Major League Soccer to have serious talks about making the goals larger before the league started in 1996.

In the end, MLS kept its goals the same size, due to entreaties from FIFA, but the fact remains that 21st-century goalkeepers make it extremely hard to find open space in the goal for shoot­ers. “It’s just finding the corners and sides of the goal, taking what the goalie’s giving you,” says Pulisic, noting that placement is often more important than power on a shot. “Honestly, I don’t even remember a goal of mine yet in professional soccer where it’s just been a rip, a power shot, which is kind of interesting to think about. But you look at Messi’s two goals yesterday, and I don’t know how his little body gets so much power on his shots. It’s pretty incredible.”On the previous day, Lionel Messi was at his imperious best in Barcelona’s 3–2 win at Real Madrid, dominating the world’s biggest rivalry game and scoring two goals, his second one com­ing as the match-winner in the 92nd minute to silence the Esta­dio Bernabéu. Pulisic watched every second. He has had a special connection to the city of Barcelona ever since his first trip there at age 7 with his family and three separate training stints at FC Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy, starting at the age of 10. While watching El Clásico—or any other game, for that matter—Pulisic doesn’t digest the scene the same way most viewers might.“You kind of put yourself in their shoes and you think, like, OK, if I’m in that situation, what could I do? You see what he does and then you’re thinking like, Was it a good play? What could I have done to really open that play up more or have done a little better? It’s just watching them and learning. Learning from some of the greats. Messi showed his magic yesterday, and he’s at another level than any player in the world. But I love watching a lot of the Barça players—actually that entire midfield, including Iniesta and Busquets—and what they do and how simple they play. And I love watching some of the other players around Europe, like [Paris Saint-Germain’s] Neymar and [Chelsea’s Eden] Hazard, because I do want to kind of model myself after their games.”It’s all coming so fast these days. When a gifted teenager makes The Leap, rising from complementary player to star, im­provement can happen in a matter of weeks and months, not years. When Christian Pulisic played in the Copa América Cen­tenario in June 2016, he didn’t start any of the U.S.’s six games. By the time he joined the U.S. camp five months later in Co­lumbus, he was the best player on the team. Getting better feeds on itself. If you realize hard work can take you to a new level, chances are you’ll keep the habit and not feel satisfied until you reach that level.Pulisic’s production in the Bundesliga has already been re­markable. Yet if you ask Pulisic to be honest about the aspects of his game that need work, you had better be prepared to listen for a while.“My crossing and finishing ability,” he says. “Being con­sistent and clinical in those situations, and specifically where to put the ball on passes and shots, and how hard to hit it, and the right direction. Growing as a player, becoming stronger, working on my dribbling and decision making in the right times. When to go by a player, or to make a simple pass, or to just pick your head up and find a ball in behind, like I did for Clint and I do for Aubameyang all the time.”Pulisic has the chance to make it (eventually) because he knows he hasn’t made it yet.

MLS Power Rankings: New York Red Bulls replace Atlanta United in top spot

May 21, 2018Jason Davis

  1. New York Red Bulls (+1)
    The Red Bulls caught a break or two, but they more than earned a win on the road in front of Atlanta’s big crowd. Bradley Wright-Phillips again lived up to the moment. A scary injury to Kemar Lawrencetook some of the fun out of the win.
  2. Atlanta United (-1)
    Atlanta has now lost two consecutive games at home by multiple goals. That seemed unthinkable before the season started. United won’t see the likes of the Red Bull press much this season, but that won’t stop other teams from trying to copy New York’s plan.

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  1. New York City FC (+1)
    City’s quality shined through against an overmatched Rapids side. The side’s focus was encouraging given Patrick Vieira’s future being a point of speculation.
  2. Sporting Kansas City (-1) 
    Sporting was certainly targeting a win in Minnesota, but a point away from home will do. Getting Khiry Shelton on the score sheet for the first time is a good tradeoff for a team in need of goal scorers.
  3. Columbus Crew SC (no change)
    Zack Steffen’s league-leading sixth shoutout helped Columbus to a narrow 1-0 win over New England on the road. The Crew has that trait successful teams need: capable of winning shootouts and low-scoring games.play
  4. Portland Timbers (+1)
    Samuel Armenteros’ first goal was worth the wait and the Timbers’ slow start is now a distant memory. Up to third in the West for Giovanni Savarese & Co., with all the respect that comes with it.
  5. LAFC (-1)
    Bob Bradley’s team acquitted itself well in Portland but fell victim to a rebound and a blast. Carlos Vela remains one of the league’s brightest stars thanks to another wonder goal.
  6. Orlando City (-2)
    The Lions were certainly missing Dom Dwyer in Toronto against the defending champions. With the striker, perhaps they might have taken advantage of TFC’s defensive frailty. Without him, the margin was too small to overcome.
  7. Toronto FC (+3)
    The Reds rode the efforts of local products to get a much-needed win in the absence of both Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. It’s a start, but Toronto will need much more where that came from.
  8. FC Dallas (-1)
    Up two goals in the final 10 minutes against Vancouver, FCD dropped two points with a clunk in a 2-2 draw. Reggie Cannon continued his rise with his first MLS goal.

Time To Hit The Reset Button – Indy Eleven V Bethlehem Steel FC REVIEW

By: The Pitch Bitch (Rebecca Townsend) A disappointing week – with an early exit from the U.S. Open Cup, the only open, true test of soccer champions offered in this country – morphed into a disappointing weekend for Indy Eleven with a 1-2 home loss on Saturday to Bethlehem Steel. In post-game comments, Indy head coach Martin Rennie was ready to push the reset button. His tired team was ready for a refreshment of minds, bodies, and spirits. He was the first to admit that the squad’s teamwork, passing and movement were off, that too many opportunities were given away because of rushed play. And, he said, he offered no excuses for himself or his team regardless of their recent grind of several games on the road with several talented players benched to injury. “The players are all here to play – to perform,” Rennie said, noting the hard truth that virtually every soccer player on the planet has faced before – that the evening’s match was not on. With three Steel players collapsed on the field in the 9th minute and one Indy player down, the theme of the night did appear to be ‘collapse’. The Pitch Bitch noted several plays where Indy men were in the right places, attempting the right things and the hand of fate just would not allow them the sweet sound of ball caressing net. Nathan Lewis worked his butt off attempting crosses and shots from the flank … and though his shots weren’t on, he earned a free kick and corners, which could have been better utilized.
Kevin Venegas dished a gorgeous free kick for Justin Braun. The subsequent header just wasn’t on, it was inches off, into the post. A deadly goal of such caliber would have given the game an entirely different flavor. Instead, it was missed by an inch. Soccer is a cruel mistress. Total bummer. But champions don’t cry. They move on and keep salivating for deadly strikes, they keep working, keep hunting. “Goal scoring has so much to do with confidence,” Rennie said. “If you hammer the players, you’re not really building the confidence, which they need to have.” The game plan moving forward, the coach said, is to have the players clear their heads, recharge their bodies and get back to work. Because, after all, with one fewer game played than arch rivals and current USL table leader F.C. Cincinnati, Indy sits just six points behind. Good leaders keep perspective on such matters. Parting shots from the Pitch Bitch game notes (please beware these will include a sexual reference.): Rushed play. What can we do about it? Look for time, space and your people. Think not just about speed, but change of pace. Remember, good soccer is like good sex: Sometimes we need to do it quick and dirty, capturing great effect in minimal time. This would be akin to a goal scored on a counter attack with minimal passing. But so often, we need to enjoy the anticipation, we need more foreplay, we need to enjoy the movement, the control we achieve when we’re working together and running our opponents around the field in patterns predestined to expose their vulnerable underbellies. After watching one too many squandered passes, the actual bitch notes say, “Don’t force it. Find some rhythm. Settle into it like a good, long fuck.” The game notes end on a sour note of two Bethlehem shots forcing Fôn Williams into action. But just prior, in what for Pitch Bitch on-the-spot, short-hand game notes is trés élégant cursive longhand, “even when all else is shit, Brad’s ninja stuff is fun.”

So, here’s to you Brad Ring and your more than 100 games you’ve played for Indy Eleven – and all your games as an Indiana Hoosier! – plus your MLS years and every other game that made you the man you are today! Keep up the good, solid, tough, dependable play. It’s a treat to watch you work! Thank you for your service, sir!
Thoughts by James Cormack…

My disappointment in our performance on Saturday is not easy to put into words. We had a short time to prepare coming off a Wednesday game but so did our opponents. As the game wore on our visitors could see we were lacking and they took advantage of it, they grabbed the game by the throat.e have players missing and that does not help, but the problems we can see in the way the team plays did not just develop on Saturday night. Our lack of bite in the final third has been the cause of repeating discourse for many weeks now and not wholly down to a lack of confidence in players. The issues are all over the park and it comes down to lack of quality delivery, creation, and poor decision making. All the stats in the world do not point to an improvement if those shots taken or attempted are pitiful or a result of ill decision.Last Wednesday against Mississippi Brilla we played route one football. Jack McInerney spent a lot of the game having to wrestle for 50/50 balls in the air. On Saturday it was the same again but this time Justin Braun was the wrestler and again we played way too much long ball. When we did get the ball down and play it into the width the ball disappeared into a vacuum most of the time and never came back.Lewis did not have a good game, we saw the same at Pittsburgh. There was just no end product, whether he was playing on the right as in the first half or for a spell on the left in the second when he received the ball in the corners or took it there himself it either was poorly delivered in and lost or was sent skywards with woeful attempts at shooting. If we want to have someone on the field just to look fast and dangerous we could sign Tony Kanaan, he’s in town. I am sure Nathan can do much better, but a player has to be given the incentive to improve, I really hope he does. Be more dangerous.
We rarely used the middle of the park behind the forward line to create opportunities, most times when we did it was long balls or short balls popped in the air for 50/50 challenges, I took over 1400 photos at the game and probably about 20% or more of them are Justin Braun having to wrestle in the air or on the ground for a ball. In contrast, if you look at Bethlehem and the way they played, Santiago Moar totally bossed the middle of the field in front of our back line, he was serviced well and he serviced his team around him well, he tore us apart. We need that in our play, we need a Santi Moar.The boys do need some rest, but all other teams are playing pretty much the same amount of games. The style of football we are playing, and I use the word style loosely is not good and its getting worse. In matches where we have had a healthy roster to choose from you can see the same things. Our strong defensive play has been remarked upon but even on Saturday against Bethlehem, we looked shaky. Will a couple of days rest change the way we are set up and the way we play football? Time to reset everything and look to see how we can approach matches differently in order to win regularly in this league. The problem isn’t really the strikers in my opinion.If this is the way we want to set up and play for the season, we may make the playoffs, but we probably will get found out quickly in the first postseason match. I am still optimistic, we have quality in our roster from top to bottom, it needs to shine.

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