11/23 Champions League today/Wed, US Ladies Fri 11 pm FS1, MLS Playoffs continue, USL Champ Game

The US Ladies take Youngsters to Australia for Fri 11 pm game

The USWNT will take 2 young 6 foot GK’s and along with a host of new young forwards for their 2 games in Australia Friday night at 11 pm on FS2 and Again Tues at 4 am on ESPN. 

U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION (CAPS/GOALS) –VS. AUSTRALIA:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns FC; 0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 7), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0)

DEFENDERS (7): Alana Cook (OL Reign; 2/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash; 77/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 43/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 6/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 7/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 197/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 61/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 106/24), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 66/17), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 12/3), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 31/4), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 0/0), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 20/2)

FORWARDS (6): Bethany Balcer (OL Reign; 0/0), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 7/2), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 10/1), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 43/13), Morgan Weaver (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0)

Champions League Matchday 5

Champions League play returns with American’s stars McKinney for Juventus traveling to Chelsea Tuesday at 3 pm on Paramount plus to face teammate Christian Pulisic (fresh of this goal in 20 minutes over the weekend) winner wins their group.  Lille and Tim Weah will also host RB Salzburg and Brendan Aaronson at 3 pm Tuesday with both teams needing just a win to qualify.  Serginio Dest and Barcelona with new coach Javi will try to stay alive vs Benefica while Villarreal and Man United will battle for a the top spot at 12:45 in their group.  With two rounds remaining in the Champions League group stage, it’s all to play to reach the knockout rounds — or book a consolation place in the Europa League. Here’s the state of play across all eight groups, showing what each team needs to maintain hope of progressing.   Read it all in the Ole Ball Coach

MLS Playoffs Continue Tues

Nashville will host Orlando City in the East at 8 pm on FS1, while the Defending Champ Seattle Sounders will host Real Salt Lake at 10:30 pm on FS1.  Playoff soccer is worth the watch in MLS! Playoffs Bracket Matt Turner – NE Rev and USMNT Goalkeeper was named GK of the Year in MLS – see story below!

NWSL Washington Wins Championship in Louisville

What an exciting final it was in Louisville as the game went to extra time with USWNT defender Kelly O’hare winning the game in extratime on a fantastic header to give the Washington Spirit the win over the Chicago Red Stars 2-1.  Its been a tumultuous season for the NWSL – but the final has things looking up as a good crowd was on hand and a CBS audience looked on Saturday.  San Diego and LA bring expansion teams in for next season which should add some excitement for the league.

Indy 11 Goalkeeper’s Run Ends

Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr excelled in a 2-1 shootout loss to Orange City for San Antonio late Saturday night.  Farr stood on his head and made some fantastic saves before finally succumbing in the shootout 5-3.   Hopefully some MLS teams are taking note!  Meanwhile the USL will wrap up its season Sunday night on ESPN2 or ESPN+ with the Tampa Bay Rowdies hosting Orange County SC at 8:30 pm.  

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Tues  11/23    UCL

12:45 pm EST              Dynamo Kiev vs. Bayern Munich  Paramount+

12:45 pm EST             Villarreal vs. Manchester United  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Barcelona (Dest) vs. Benfica Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              BSC Young Boys (Pfuk)  vs. Atalanta Paramount+

03:00 pm EST             Lille (Weah) vs. RB Salzburg (Aaronson) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sevilla FC vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Brooks)  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Malmö vs. Zenit St Petersburg Paramount+

03:00 pm EST             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs. Juventus (McKennie) Paramount+

8 pm FS1            Nashville vs Orlando City MLS Playoff

10:30 pm FS1    Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake  

Wednesday, November 24  UCL

12:45 pm EST              Beşiktaş vs. Ajax Amsterdam   Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Inter Milan vs. Shakhtar Donetsk Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Club Brugge vs. RB Leipzig (Adams) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST             Manchester City vs. Paris Saint-Germain  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST             Atletico Madrid vs. AC Milan  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Liverpool vs. FC Porto  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sporting CP vs. Borussia Dortmund  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sheriff Tiraspol vs. Real Madrid  Paramount+

Thursday, November 25 (Europa)

12:45 pm EST              Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Lazio Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Galatasaray (Yedlin) vs. Marseille Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Red Star Belgrade vs. Ludogorets Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              FC Midtjylland vs. Braga Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Real Betis vs. Ferencvaros Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Bayer Leverkusen vs. Celtic Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              SK Rapid Wien vs. West Ham United Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Dinamo Zagreb vs. Genk (  ) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Brondby vs. Lyon Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Rangers vs. Sparta Prague Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              PSV Eindhoven vs. SK Sturm Graz Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              AS Monaco vs. Real Sociedad Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Leicester City vs. Legia Warsaw Paramount+

3:00 pm EST                Olympiacos vs. Fenerbahçe  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Antwerp Paramount+

11 pm FS1          USWNT vs Australia

Sat, Nov 27

7:30 am NBCSN          Arsenal vs New Castle 

7:30 am ESPN+           Fulham (Robinson) vs Preston North End

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

10 USA                         Liverpool vs Southampton 

12 noon CBSSN?        Juventus (McKinney) vs Atalanta

11 am beIn Sport         Lille (Weah) vs Nantes

7:30 pm ESPN+          Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Louisville City USL

10 pm ESPN+              Orange City vs San Antonio (Jordan Farr Indy 11 GK)

Sun  11/28  

9 am NBCSN                Man City vs Westham 

11:30 NBCSN             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man Uniteded 

11:30 ESPN+               RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Leverkusen                  

3 pm ESPN+                Real Madrid vs Sevilla

3 pm ABC                    Sporting KC vs TBD   MLS Playoff

5:30 pm ESPN             Philly Union vs TBD  MLS 

8:30 pm ESPN+          Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Orange County SC

Tues  11/30   

4 am ESPN                   USWNT vs Australia

7:30 pm FS1                New England vs NYCFC   MLS Playoff

Wed 12/1

2:30 pm Peacock         Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Watford

3:15 pm  NBCSN        Everton vs Liverpool

Thurs  12/2

3:15 pm  NBCSN        Man United vs Arsenal 

PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo. Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

US Men

 Behind The Crest: USMNT Revives “Dos a Cero” vs. Mexico

Ricardo Pepi’s Story (video)

How US Players Did this Weekend

U.S. Overtakes Mexico as Concacaf’s Top Team in FIFA Ranking

Champions League 

Chelsea vs Juventus: How to watch, team news, odds, prediction

COVID-19: De Bruyne to miss three games

Xavi unfazed by possible UCL exit: Let me dream
Xavi’s winning Barcelona debut, Vlahovic magic vs. Milan: Weekend review
  ESPN
Villarreal vs Manchester United: How to watch, team news, odds, 

MLS

Playoffs Bracket

Orlando Readies for Nashville Matchup

Three Takeaways from Philadelphia’s playoff win over NYRB

Blanco & Reynoso: Argentine playmakers central to Portland vs. Minnesota playoff game

HIGHLIGHTS: Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United FC | November 21, 2021

HIGHLIGHTS: New York City FC vs. Atlanta United FC | November 21, 2021

HIGHLIGHTS: Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC | November 20, 2021

Seattle Sounders give update on Lodeiro, Ruidiaz, Joao Paulo fitness before RSL clash

LAFC, head coach Bob Bradley mutually agree to part ways

New England Revolution’s Matt Turner named 2021 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year

Report: Jozy Altidore to depart Toronto FC

EPL


Why Solskjaer’s Man United tenure fell apart
 
Rob Dawson
Man Utd malaise runs deeper than failed managers

Reports: Pochettino wants to become new Manchester United boss

Manchester United manager search: Who will replace Solskjaer?

Antonio Conte: Tottenham turnaround shows players are buying in

NWSL

Washington Spirit beat Chicago Red Stars to win their first NWSL championship

NWSL Ends Its Season of Reckoning With High Hopes and a Worthy Final
NWSL final: Washington Spirit a fitting champion after overcoming year of turmoil
  itlin Murray
Coach of NWSL’s Red Stars resigns amid report of emotional abuse

NWSL Final features USWNT Players

Champions League group stage: what every team needs to go through

Nov 3, 2021Dale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC

With two rounds remaining in the Champions League group stage, it’s all to play to reach the knockout rounds — or book a consolation place in the Europa League. Here’s the state of play across all eight groups, showing what each team needs to maintain hope of progressing. Group winners and runners-up qualify for the Champions League round of 16, with third-placed teams dropping into the Europa League preliminary knockout round. Teams that finish bottom are eliminated from Europe.

QUALIFIED FOR UCL ROUND OF 16: Ajax, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Liverpool

ELIMINATED: Besiktas, Malmo, RB Leipzig

GROUP A
Nov. 24: Manchester City vs. Paris Saint-GermainClub Brugge vs. RB Leipzig
Dec. 7: RB Leipzig vs. Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain vs. Club Brugge

Group A

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Man City4301+89
2 – PSG4220+38
3 – Brugge4112-64
4 – Leipzig4013-51

Manchester City: Need a point to go through, and can secure top spot with a win at home to PSG.

Paris Saint-Germain: Will be through with two draws, or if Club Brugge fail to win either of their remaining games.

Club Brugge: Must win both their remaining games to have a chance of qualifying.

RB Leipzig: Have been eliminated from the Champions League and must win away to Club Brugge to stay in contention for a place in the Europa League.GROUP B
Nov. 24:Liverpool vs. FC PortoAtletico Madrid vs. AC Milan
Dec. 7: FC Porto vs. Atletico Madrid, AC Milan vs. Liverpool

Group B

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Liverpool4400+812
2 – Porto4121-35
3 – Atletico4112-24
4 – Milan4013-31

Liverpool: Have qualified as group winners.

FC Porto: Will be through on Matchday 5 if they win at Liverpool and Atletico lose to AC Milan. Four points will also be enough.

Atletico Madrid: Know that at least a draw at home to AC Milan will definitely keep their fate in their own hands ahead of the trip at FC Porto on Matchday 6. Could be eliminated if they lose to Milan and Porto beat Liverpool.

AC Milan: Must win both their remaining games to have a chance of staying in the Champions League, but their best hope may be to edge third and drop into the Europa League. Will be eliminated completely if they fail to beat Atletico.

GROUP C
Nov. 24: Besiktas vs. AjaxSporting CP vs. Borussia Dortmund
Dec. 7: Ajax vs. Sporting CP, Borussia Dortmund vs. Besiktas

Group C

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Ajax4400+1212
2 – Dortmund4202-46
3 – Sporting4202+26
4 – Besiktas4004-100

Ajax: Have qualified and need a point to win the group.

Borussia Dortmund: Dortmund hold second place on head to head, which means a win at home to Sporting will send them through. A draw would leave them needing a win at home to Besikas to seal second place.

Sporting CP: Victory at home to Dortmund by 2+ goals will send them through to the round of 16 on Matchday 5.

Besiktas: Are out of the Champions League and will be eliminated completely if they fail to beat Ajax or Borussia Dortmund avoid defeat against Sporting.GROUP D
Nov. 24: Inter vs. Shakhtar DonetskSheriff Tiraspol vs. Real Madrid
Dec. 7: Real Madrid vs. Inter, Shakhtar Donetsk vs. FC Sheriff

Group D

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Madrid4301+69
2 – Inter4211+37
3 – Sheriff4202-16
4 – Shakhtar4013-81

Real Madrid: Must win away to FC Sheriff to guarantee qualification on Matchday 5, while two draws from their remaining two games would also send them through.

Inter Milan: Will be through with a game to spare should they beat Shakhtar and FC Sheriff fail to beat Real Madrid. Four points will also see them through for certain.

FC Sheriff: Will be out if they lose to Real Madrid and Inter beat Shakhtar. They may need to hope Inter fail to win and it goes down to the final day for a place in the knockout stages.

Shakhtar Donetsk: Are going to have to win both their remaining games and hope other results go their way if they to have a chance of going through or dropping into the Europa League.

GROUP E
Nov. 23: Dynamo Kiev vs. Bayern MunichBarcelona vs. Benfica
Dec. 8: Bayern Munich vs. Barcelona, Benfica vs. Dynamo Kiev

Group E

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Bayern4400+1512
2 – Barca4202-46
3 – Benfica4112-44
4 – Dynamo4013-71

Bayern Munich: Have qualified for the round of 16, and need a point to win the group (or can do so with a defeat if Barcelona fail to win at home to Benfica).

Barcelona: Will be through with win a win at home to Benfica on Matchday 5.

Benfica: Must avoid defeat to Barca to stay in contention. Two wins guarantees second place.

Dynamo Kiev: Have to win both remaining games, and hope Barca lose at home to Benfica, to have any chance of staying in the Champions League. They could yet overtake Benfica for the Europa League slot with a win in Portugal on Matchday 6.GROUP F
Nov. 23: Villarreal vs. Manchester UnitedYoung Boys vs. Atalanta
Dec. 8: Atalanta vs. Villarreal, Manchester United vs. Young Boys

Group F

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Man Utd4211+17
2 – Villarreal4211+47
3 – Atalanta412105
4 – Y Boys4103-53

Manchester United: Will be through with a win away to Villarreal in their next match. Four points from the two games will also guarantee progress.

Villarreal: Will definitely be through if they beat Man United by 2+ goals or 1-0.

Atalanta: Can guarantee a place in the round of 16 with two victories, and four points would be enough if Villarreal lose to Man United.

Young Boys: Still in contention but need to win at home to Atalanta to have any realistic hopes of finishing inside the top 2. If they lose to Atalanta, they are sure to finish bottom of the group and exit Europe.

GROUP G
Nov. 23: Lille vs. FC SalzburgSevilla vs. VfL Wolfsburg
Dec. 8: FC Salzburg vs. Sevilla, VfL Wolfsburg vs. Lille

Group G

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Salzburg4211+27
2 – Lille412105
3 – Wolfsburg4121-15
4 – Sevilla4031-13

FC Salzburg: Will be through with a win at Lille on Matchday 5, and that will seal top spot if Wolfsburg fail to beat Sevilla. Two draws will also send them into the round of 16.

Lille: If they can win at home to Salzburg, a point away to Wolfsburg would be enough to send them through.

Wolfsburg: Are sure to still be in contention on Matchday 6, when a win at home to Lille will guarantee at worst a place in the Europa League.

Sevilla: Will be out of the Champions League if they lose at home to Wolfsburg, and also be sure to finish bottom should Lille win at home to Salzburg.

GROUP H
Nov. 23: Chelsea vs. Juventus, Malmo vs. Zenit St Petersburg
Dec. 8: Zenit St Petersburg vs. Chelsea, Juventus vs. Malmo

Group H

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Juventus4400+712
2 – Chelsea4301+59
3 – Zenit410303
4 – Malmo4004-120

Juventus: Have qualified, and need a point away to Chelsea to seal top spot.

Chelsea: Need a point to go through, and would also progress with a loss at home to Juve should Zenit fail to beat Malmo. Must beat Juventus to have a chance of topping the group.

Zenit St Petersburg: Must win both their remaining games, and hope Chelsea lose to Juve, to go through. Would also need to beat Chelsea by 2+ goals to win the head to head.

Malmo: Are out of the Champions League and must beat Zenit by 5+ goals to overtake them on head to head and have the best chance of finishing third and dropping into the Europa League.

Champions League predictions, Matchweek 5 (from Joe Prince-Wright)

Tuesday

Dynamo Kiev 1-3 Bayern Munich
Villarreal 2-2 Manchester United
Chelsea 2-1 Juventus
Barcelona 2-1 Benfica
Sevilla 1-1 Wolfsburg
Malmo 1-2 Zenit
Lille 2-0 RB Salzburg
Young Boys 1-3 Atalanta

Wednesday

Besiktas 0-3 Ajax
Inter 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
Sporting 1-3 Dortmund
Man City 3-2 PSG
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Milan
Liverpool 3-1 Porto
Clube Brugge 2-1 RB Leipzig
Sheriff 0-4 Real Madrid

UEFA Champions League group stage Matchday 1 results

Sevilla 1-1 Red Bull Salzburg
Young Boys 2-1 Manchester United — Solskjaer, Maguire reaction
Lille 0-0 Wolfsburg
Villarreal 2-2 Atalanta
Chelsea 1-0 Zenit Saint Petersburg — Tuchel reacts, praises Lukaku
Malmo 0-3 Juventus
Barcelona 0-3 Bayern Munich
Dynamo Kiev 0-0 Benfica

Besiktas 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
Sheriff Tiraspol 2-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Inter Milan 0-1 Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid 0-0 Porto
Club Brugge 1-1 Paris Saint-Germain
Liverpool 3-2 AC Milan — Klopp reaction
Man City 6-3 RB Leipzig — Grealish reactionSporting Lisbon 1-5 Ajax

UEFA Champions League group stage Matchday 2 results

Shakhtar Donetsk 0-0 Inter Milan
Ajax 2-0 Besiktas
Real Madrid 1-2 Sheriff Tiraspol
AC Milan 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Sporting Lisbon
Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 Man City
Porto 1-5 Liverpool
RB Leipzig 1-2 Club Brugge

Wednesday

Atalanta 1-0 Young Boys
Zenit 4-0 Malmo
Wolfsburg 1-1 Sevilla
Bayern Munich 5-0 Dynamo Kiev
Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 Lille
Juventus 1-0 Chelsea
Benfica 3-0 Barcelona
Manchester United 2-1 Villarreal

UEFA Champions League group stage Matchday 3 results

Tuesday

Besiktas 1-4 Sporting
Club Brugge 1-5 Man City – Recap
PSG 3-2 RB Leipzig – Recap
Ajax 4-0 Borussia Dortmund
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-5 Real Madrid – Recap
Inter Milan 3-1 Sheriff
Atletico Madrid 2-3 Liverpool – Recap + Klopp reaction
Porto 1-0 AC Milan

Wednesday

RB Salzburg 3-1 Wolfsburg
Barcelona 1-0 Dynamo Kiev
Lille 0-0 Sevilla
Benfica 0-4 Bayern Munich
Chelsea 4-0 Malmo
Zenit 0-1 Juventus
Young Boys 1-4 Villarreal
Man United 3-2 Atalanta – Recap

UEFA Champions League group stage Matchday 4 results

Tuesday

Malmo 0-1 Chelsea – Pulisic returns
Wolfsburg 2-1 RB Salzburg
Dynamo Kiev 0-1 Barcelona
Sevilla 1-2 Lille
Bayern Munich 5-2 Benfica
Juventus 4-2 Zenit
Villarreal 2-0 Young Boys
Atalanta 2-2 Man United – Ronaldo grabs a point for United

Wednesday

AC Milan 1-1 FC Porto
Real Madrid 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
Sporting Lisbon 4-0 Besiktas
Man City 4-1 Club Brugge – Recap
RB Leipzig 2-2 PSG
Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Ajax
Sheriff 1-3 Inter Milan
Liverpool 2-0 Atletico Madrid – Recap

USMNT’s Roller Coaster Remains on Track for World Cup Qualification

After beating Mexico and tying Jamaica, two windows remain for the U.S. to book its trip to Qatar next fall, and the outlook is a positive one.

BRIAN STRAUS  SI 

 says something about the U.S. men’s national team that members were disappointed by Tuesday’s 1–1 World Cup qualifying draw in Jamaica. Points are tough to come by on the road in Concacaf, but this young squad doesn’t put a cap on its confidence, expectations or ambition.“I felt like we could’ve won every game so far in qualifying,” midfielder and de facto captain Tyler Adams said in Kingston.But it also says something about the Americans that they haven’t—that they struggled to impose themselves on a less talented Reggae Boyz squad and may have been fortunate to escape with a point. Although the U.S. took an early lead on a goal by Tim Weah, the hosts replied with a breathtaking strike from West Ham United’s Michail Antonio, then successfully bypassed the U.S. press with a series of long balls before nearly winning the game with a late header that was ruled out by the referee.Qualifying is a roller coaster, coach Gregg Berhalter said. So was the tie in Kingston and the November window at large, which began with last week’s 2-0 dismantling of Mexico in Cincinnati. That isn’t just coach speak. It’s an accurate assessment. The U.S. is now just past the midpoint of Concacaf’s Octagonal, which will send the top three finishers directly to the Qatar World Cup and an additional side to an intercontinental playoff.It’s been almost all ups and downs, from the lows of the frustrating home draw with Canada, Weston McKennie’s September suspension and the whole team’s awful night in Panama, to the historic highs of that brilliant second half in Honduras, the comeback against Costa Rica and then the next-generation “Dos a Cero” in Cincinnati. Through it all, Berhalter has started 30 different players and given 26 their World Cup qualifying debut. It’s been a struggle at times, and the 4-1-3 record could, and maybe should, be better. But it’s also quite an achievement for a young team that’s learning as it goes. Toss in the fact that the Americans so frequently take the field without many of their highest-profile players (Gio Reyna and Sergiño Dest missed this month’s games and a recovering Christian Pulisic was a second-half substitute), and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, or at least satisfied, with the performance so far.The U.S. is in second place with six qualifiers remaining, and it’s on pace to reach Qatar.“I think we’re on the right track,” Berhalter said in Kingston. “[We’re] basically having to get the guys experience on the fly. We’re playing an Olympic-age team. The average age again was Olympic-eligible—22 [and 341 days]. It’s really learning as you go, and the guys have done a great job adapting to that. We’ve had very strong home performances. We’ve gotten five points on the road already, in four games.“We’ll use the winter and spring of ’22 to hopefully get qualification, but the guys have been great,” the manager continued. “When I look at the year of ’21 in general, you know we lifted two trophies. We’re in the position where we want to be (in) World Cup qualifying. We’ve won 16 games already [tying the single-year U.S. record]. The guy have done a great job. It’s all down to them and their commitment to the program.”But like the response to Tuesday’s tie, there should be a bit of concern woven in to the optimistic outlook. Second place is good. It’s also somewhat treacherous. Although there’s now some separation between the top four and bottom four in the Octagonal, the U.S. is only one point above fourth place, which would mean a one-game, neutral-site playoff against a team from South America, Asia or Oceania next June (the draw is Nov. 26). A worst-case scenario of a trip to Qatar, a potential site, for a winner-take-all game against the likes of Uruguay or Japan with a World Cup berth on the line is hovering over the horizon.Among the six games remaining for the U.S. are the three that arguably are the toughest on the Octagonal schedule: at Canada on Jan. 30, and then at Mexico (March 24) and at Costa Rica (March 30). The Canadians are vastly improved and undefeated in qualifying, and the difficulty of winning in Mexico City and San José is long established. The U.S. is a combined 0-21-4 in World Cup qualifiers in those two inhospitable cities. And so the margin for error at home is pretty much gone, and a point or two on the road very well may be necessary as well. There’s still a lot of work left to do.

What Vlatko Sees in USWNT Roster Newcomers

The U.S. women’s national team is gearing up for Nov. 27 and 30 friendlies in Australia, where they haven’t played in 21 years.Twenty-one is also the age of the current roster’s youngest player (Sophia Smith). The squad, which was announced Tuesday morning, is full of the next generation, in fact. Of the 22 players, 12 have 10 international caps or fewer. Five don’t have any caps at all.“Part of the reason why we picked some of the younger players, or some of the inexperienced players, is to give them a taste of what this environment is all about and also to show them that they have potential to be on the World Cup team, and I think that’s the best motivation they could have,” said USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski.

THE USWNT’S FULL ROSTER HEADING TO AUSTRALIA LATER THIS MONTH, ACCORDING TO A PRESS RELEASE TUESDAY.

Mallory Pugh and Trinity Rodman were also invited to join the roster but opted out due to undisclosed reasons.

The frontrunner for NWSL Rookie of the Year, Rodman has yet to make an appearance with the senior national team. Her presence would have added to a young offense that already has three rookies.

Defense is the only position that doesn’t have any uncapped players. Alana Cook heads to Australia with two caps, while Emily Fox has six and Sofia Huerta seven.Let’s take a closer look at the particular areas of the field Andonovski is keen to rebuild and the players he is eager to see.

CASEY MURPHY AND BELLA BIXBY

In the absence of Alyssa Naeher, who is out with a knee injury, veteran Jane Campbell will lead the goalkeeping trio that includes the North Carolina Courage’s Casey Murphy and the Portland Thorns’ Bella Bixby, each with no caps.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to put those young goalkeepers in the top and challenging environment and to put him through some adversity and see how they deal with it,” Andonovski said. “I think that Australia’s an incredible team … We’ll find out very fast who is cut for big games under pressure.”Bixby had a standout season in the NWSL, starting 16 matches and recording nine clean sheets to earn a nomination for the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year.“She’s done a very good job individually to keep those shutouts, so she’s one of those players that needs an introduction to this environment,” the coach said.Bixby and Murphy were teammates on the national U-23 team from 2017-18. Murphy also started on the U-20 squad.Andonovski is familiar with Murphy after coaching her with OL Reign (then Reign FC) in 2019. He saw her improve on a weekly basis and, after watching multiple videos to evaluate her progress this year, has noticed her continued development with the Courage. In North Carolina’s quarterfinal game against the Washington Spirit on Sunday, Murphy made 13 saves to send it to extra time, where the Courage eventually lost.“We’re glad to say that she’s ready for the next level of her career,” he said.

ASHLEY SANCHEZ

With zero caps for the USWNT, Ashley Sanchez steps onto the pitch as the only novice in the midfield.

The 22-year-old, however, has a multitude of experience with the youth program, from the U14 level all the way through U15, U17 and U20. Competing in the U17 and U20 FIFA Women’s World Cups in 2016, she became the first player in U.S. history to play in multiple World Cups in the same year.

Andonovski has been following Sanchez’s progress with Spirit closely all season.“Some of the things that she’s developed first and foremost is she’s better at the things that she was good at,” Andonovski said.Specifically, Sanchez thrives at solving problems under pressure, whether it’s finding tight spaces, connecting with the front line or getting back on defense.“I think that she she’s becoming a little bit more of a rounded player,” Andonovski said.

FORWARDS

The attacking third will feature the most youth, as five of the six forwards have 10 caps or fewer. While Lynn Williams leads the offense with 43 caps, Bethany Balcer and Morgan Weaver will look to get their first.“The forward position is an area where we felt like we need to increase the competition,” Andonovski said. “And not just the competition; we need to increase the overall experience of the players. We have to give them games like this.”The coach seems to be taking into consideration player performances in the NWSL, where five of his forwards have seven league goals or more to rank among the top 10 scorers. Ashley Hatch won the NWSL’s Golden Boot award with 10 goals during the regular season.Weaver of the Portland Thorns appears to be the outlier, with just one goal in 19 NWSL games this season. But stats aren’t everything. Similar to Williams, the 24-year-old is a workhorse off the ball and puts defenders under a lot of stress.Balcer, the 2019 NWSL Rookie of the Year in her third season with the OL Reign, has been a weapon on attack. Five of the nine goals she’s scored this season have come by way of headers. She’s also the first player from an NAIA school to have made an NWSL roster. At Spring Arbor University from 2015-18, Balcer had 129 goals in 98 appearances.

GAME TIMES

The first match will kick off on Nov. 27 at 3 p.m. local time in Sydney. For North America, that’s Nov. 26 at 11 p.m. ET on FS2.The team plays again Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. local time, or 4 a.m. ET on ESPN.

ANDONOVSKI NAMES 22 PLAYER ROSTER FOR USWNT MATCHES IN AUSTRALIA TO END 2021

BIOSTEEL TRAINING CAMP ROSTER INCLUDES 10 TOKYO 2020 OLYMPIANS AND 12 PLAYERS WITH 10 CAPS OR FEWER

NOVEMBER 9 2021

ON THE PITCH

CHICAGO (Nov. 9, 2021) – U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski has named 22 players for the trip to Australia that will feature two matches against the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup co-hosts to end the 2021 schedule.

The roster features 10 members of the 2020 Olympic Team and 12 players with 10 caps or less — including five uncapped players — and has an average age of 26.3 years. Andonovski will choose 18 players to suit up for each of the two matches.

The first match will take place at Stadium Australia in Sydney on Saturday, Nov. 27 at 3 p.m. local time (Friday, Nov. 26 at 11 p.m. ET on FS2) and the second will be at the McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle on Tuesday, November 30 at 8:05 p.m. local time (4:05 a.m. ET on ESPN).

“We still have a few players out with injuries, so this roster is a mixture of players with a lot of experience in World Cups and Olympics, some who have been a part of the program for a while but who are looking to make their mark in international soccer and a few who are getting a first chance with the National Team in an event like this,” said Andonovski. “We’ve turned the page towards 2023 World Cup qualifying and rarely do we get the chance to test young players in environments filled with adversity, so we need to take advantage of what these two games will offer us. It’s exciting to get a chance to see all these players together in our environment and give them a chance to play against one of the best teams in the world.”

Twenty-one of the 22 players on the roster play in the National Women’s Soccer League with 17 on teams that made the NWSL playoffs. Midfielder Catarina Macario, who has scored eight goals in her past nine games with Olympique Lyon in France, is the only player on the roster not playing domestically.

The U.S. Women’s National Team has not played in Australia for 21 years. The most recent visits were in 2000, a year in which the USA played in three different competitions in Australia, the final one being the Sydney Olympics where the USA earned a silver medal. Football Australia expects large crowds for both matches.


U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION (CAPS/GOALS) – NOVEMBER MATCHES VS. AUSTRALIA:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns FC; 0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 7), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0)

DEFENDERS (7): Alana Cook (OL Reign; 2/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash; 77/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 43/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 6/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 7/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 197/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 61/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 106/24), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 66/17), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 12/3), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 31/4), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 0/0), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 20/2)

FORWARDS (6): Bethany Balcer (OL Reign; 0/0), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 7/2), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 10/1), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 43/13), Morgan Weaver (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0)

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

  • The roster features 10 players who won bronze medals at the 2020 Olympics and six who were on the team that won the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
  • After 36-year-old veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn, followed by 30-year-old midfielder Kristie Mewis. The youngest is 21-year-old forward Sophia Smith.
  • There are only two players on the roster age 30 or older — Sauerbrunn and Mewis. The average age of the remaining 20 players will be 25.6 years on the first match day in Australia.
  • The average caps per player on the 22-player roster is 32.
  • Andonovski called up two uncapped goalkeepers in six-foot Bella Bixby of Portland Thorns FC and six-foot-one Casey Murphy of the North Carolina Courage. Both have had quality seasons with their respective clubs and Murphy made a playoff record 13 saves in 1-0 quarterfinal playoff loss to the Washington Spirit on Nov. 7.
  • This is the first time the USWNT has ever had two goalkeepers six-foot or over on one roster.
  • While Murphy has yet to earn a cap, this will be her sixth event training with the full USWNT. Most recently, she was in with the USA for the trip to Sweden and France last April and she was the starting goalkeeper for the USA at the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. This is Bixby’s first full WNT call-up, although she does have experience with the Under-23 USWNT in 2017 and 2018 when she was known as Bella Geist, prior to her marriage.
  • Both goalkeepers join 2020 Olympian Jane Campbell, who has seven caps and who earned a shutout against South Korea on Oct. 26 in Minnesota.
  • Sauerbrunn is by far the most experienced player on the roster with 197 caps, and she is joined by 2020 Olympic Team center back partners Dahlkemper (77) and Tierna Davidson (43) as well as outside back Emily Sonnett (61), who played in two matches in Japan. The other three defenders have a combined 15 caps.
  • Seven of those caps belong to Sofia Huerta, who has been playing outside back of late for OL Reign and is the only player in women’s soccer history to have played for the USA and Mexico at the senior level. Huerta switched associations in 2017 and earned her caps over 2017 and 2018 but has not been back with the WNT until this trip.
  • Huerta was tied for the NWSL lead in regular season assists this year with six.
  • Alana Cook, also of OL Reign, earned one of her two career caps in 2021, playing the full 90 against Colombia on Jan. 22.
  • The other defender is Emily Fox of Racing Louisville, who played well in both of the USA’s most recent matches, against South Korea in October, in which she earned her fifth and six caps.
  • The midfielders are perhaps the most experienced position group. Andi Sullivan (20 caps) and Ashley Sanchez (0 caps) of the Washington Spirit are the only two of the six midfielders who were not at the 2020 Olympic Games.
  • Sullivan’s experience with the senior National Team dates back to 2016, when she was a junior in college at Stanford. Sullivan started at defensive midfield in the USA’s most recent match against South Korea on Oct. 26.
  • This will be the third full WNT camp for Sanchez, who made history by being the first American to play in both the FIFA Under-17 and Under-20 Women’s World Cups in the same cycle, something she did in 2016. She also attended the October 2020 training camp in Denver and was called into one training camp under Jill Ellis in March of 2016. She also attended the U.S. WNT Identification Training Camp in December of 2019.
  • The group of forwards features just one Olympian in Lynn Williams, who had a goal and an assist in the quarterfinal victory over the Netherlands in Japan and who has 13 goals in her 43 career caps.
  • The other five forwards have a combined 19 caps and three international goals, two for Margaret Purce and one for Smith.
  • Of the six forwards, four of them – Bethany Balcer, Ashley Hatch, Smith and Morgan Weaver – were at the U.S. WNT Identification Training Camp in December of 2019. Aside from the ID camp, this will be the second full USWNT event for Balcer and the first for Weaver.
  • Hatch was awarded the Golden Boot this season as the top scorer in the NWSL with 10 goals while also scoring the game-winner in the 1-0 quarterfinal playoff victory over the North Carolina Courage on Nov. 7. Balcer and Margaret Purce finished the regular season with nine each while Williams and Smith had seven scores each. Smith led the league in shots with 72 and shots on goal with 36.
  • Hatch earned her first cap in 2016 in Sandy, Utah in a 16-minute performance against Switzerland when she was still playing at BYU. She earned her second in 2018 vs. Mexico.
  • Eight of the 10 NWSL clubs have players on the roster with Portland Thorns FC having five. OL Reign and the Washington Spirit have four each and the Houston Dash has three.
  • Eleven players on the roster have represented the USA in a FIFA Women’s World Cup at the youth level.
  • Three players on the roster were named to the NWSL Team of the Month for October: Huerta, Hatch and Purce.
  • Five players on the roster are up for end-of-the season 2021 NWSL Awards.
  • MVP: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit) and Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
  • Defender of the Year: Alana Cook (OL Reign)
    Goalkeeper of the Year: Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Rookie of the Year: Emily Fox (Racing Louisville)

NWSL final: Washington Spirit a fitting champion after overcoming year of turmoil

Nov 20, 2021Caitlin Murray

In a National Women’s Soccer League season that will be remembered more for its leaguewide off-field problems than its splendid play on the field, the Washington Spirit became a fitting champion Saturday, beating the Chicago Red Stars 2-1 in a thrilling extra-time finish.

To say that the Spirit’s road this season to the final was a rocky one would be an understatement. The NWSL stepped in and banned their coach after player allegations of abuse failed to prompt the team’s owner to act. A power struggle between that owner and another investor ensued, with the players publicly demanding the team be sold. And the Spirit had to forfeit two regular-season games after a COVID-19 outbreak, earning a hefty fine for protocol violations too.

In a word, the Spirit’s season has been chaos. But the only way the Spirit could come back from a goal deficit and beat the Red Stars on the league’s biggest stage was not by ignoring the chaos swirling around them — the players simply had to embrace it. “It’s been a lot of different emotions but we’ve been leaning into them and soaking up the chaos and seeing what we could do with it,” Spirit captain Andi Sullivan said. “I don’t think you could create something else like it.”You probably wouldn’t want to either — the Spirit were hardly the only team in the NWSL dealing with off-field problems this season — but the Spirit’s unique ability to use the uncertainty to their advantage means there is no better team to go down in NWSL history as the 2021 champion.”People have no idea what we’ve all gone through,” veteran defender Kelley O’Hara said. “The resiliency and perseverance of every single player on this team is pretty incredible and something that I haven’t had on any NWSL team I’ve been on. It’s the best feeling ever to be ending on a win.”In the first half, however, it looked like perhaps an emotional toll had finally caught up with the Spirit. Whether it was the weight of the stakes or the drain of their off-field turmoil, something tamped down some of the Spirit’s flair and flashiness, which had carried them through the playoffs to the final.

Trinity Rodman, the 19-year-old breakout who was named Rookie of the Year, looked frustrated as she created dangerous moments for the Spirit but couldn’t tap into her previous magic. In the 11th minute, she had only to get around center-back Sarah Gorden for a breakaway, but the NWSL Defender of the Year poked the ball away. Later, after some ball circulation to create space for Rodman, she pulled the trigger from the top of the box, but it went straight to goalkeeper Cassie Miller.

“I was extremely frustrated with myself and our movement of the ball,” Rodman said. “Once you can get out of your head and keep focusing on the next pass, the next shot, the next ball, that’s gonna get you to the end.”Since early in the match, Rodman was seen at times bent over clutching her side as if she were cramped from overexertion — but she never stopped. She leaned in even more and single-handedly shifted the match’s momentum, leading a Spirit turnaround in the second half. It started in the 62nd minute when Rodman fired a rocket off the post from well outside the box, a chance that seemingly rattled the Red Stars’ back line. Three minutes later, Rodman took on three defenders, finally breaking free with a nutmeg through the last defender’s legs before another shot from distance. But her key contributions would be assists that followed, not goals.In the 66th minute, Rodman slipped a ball to Tara McKeown, who was fouled in the box, earning a penalty that Sullivan buried to equalize. After the match moved to extra time, Rodman lofted a long ball to the back post in the 97th minute, finding O’Hara’s head. It was O’Hara’s first goal of the 2021 season.”We never quit,” Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe said. “We never gave up on each other and that second half shows who we are.”For the Red Stars, it was a brutal end after it looked as though they’d overcome their own set of challenges.Coming into Saturday, they were already missing starters Julie Ertz (left thigh), Casey Krueger (illness), Alyssa Naeher (right thigh) and Kealia Watt (right knee). Within 12 minutes, captain and midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo had to come off with an injury, replaced by Makenzy Doniak. More bad luck struck before the half, when Mallory Pugh went down with injury — but, as has become the Red Stars’ identity, they stayed locked in and scored in first-half stoppage time, despite being down a player. Arin Wright (nee Gilliland) lofted a long cross to the back post and Rachel Hill nodded it home.After losing the 2019 NWSL championship and the 2020 Challenge Cup, the Red Stars have now lost their third consecutive final.”It’s been hard because we’ve had that taste in our mouth of losing a final like that,” said Morgan Gautrat (nee Brian), one of Chicago’s most consistent players this season. “It’s why we go to practice every single day and we play every minute like it’s the last.”For anyone who didn’t know about the Spirit’s off-field problems or the reckoning in the NWSL at large, Saturday’s final had all the normal trappings of a celebratory finish to the regular season: full stands at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky; supporters for each side banging drums and cheering; players putting in a high-level, competitive, focused performance. “The crowd brought it — there were some people heckling me,” O’Hara said, laughing.But there were hints of the shadow cast by the tumultuous season that preceded the final. Local fans of Racing Louisville took it upon themselves to bring some large hard-to-miss signage for the Spirit: “We support Spirit fans. Sell the team, Baldwin.” Spirit fans who made the trip brought their own signs urging majority owner Steve Baldwin to sell amid a public and ugly power struggle for control of the club. Baldwin, who stood by former Spirit coach Richie Burke even as players alleged abuse, has been pitted against Y. Michele Kang, the female minority owner who has earned the backing of Spirit players.Other signs scattered throughout the stadium offered even weightier slogans like “Listen. Believe. Protect.” And “#NoMoreSilence. Support NWSLPA.”Those signs were, of course, a reference to Burke, the coach accused by Spirit players of berating them with cruel name-calling and racial remarks. When Baldwin caught wind that journalists were looking into it, he claimed Burke had health problems and gave him a front-office job instead of firing him, which prompted the NWSL to step in and ban him. But the signs were also a reference to a larger backdrop of abuse and mistreatment of players that forced a reckoning in the NWSL this year.The most shocking allegations came against former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley, who two players said forced them to kiss as he watched, sent them lewd photos and showed up to film session in his underwear. A player filed a formal complaint in 2015, and Thorns owner Merritt Paulson and general manager Gavin Wilkinson let Riley quietly leave the club in what was framed as a routine non-renewal after poor on-field results. Riley quickly landed a new job, and was fired last month only when the players shared their stories publicly for the first time. The NWSL’s commissioner, Lisa Baird, resigned last month under fire for refusing to investigate Riley earlier this year.

“It’s been a really long year for every team, for different reasons — a bunch of adversity on and off the field, and it’s necessary to make this league better,” Gautrat said, reflecting on Saturday’s final. “But I do think it was a great showing — 120 minutes of end-to-end soccer, good goals and excitement.”The NWSL championship wasn’t even supposed to be in Kentucky. It had originally been scheduled to be played in Portland, Oregon, the city that has nicknamed itself Soccer City, USA — but to accommodate a national noon East Coast broadcast slot, it would be played at 9 a.m. local time, which drew outrage from players and fans. The mishandling of the allegations against Riley from the Portland Thorns front office didn’t make the location any more attractive.But that the players managed to force the league to move its marquee event some 2,000 miles away was yet another testament to the power of the players. In a professional league, players shouldn’t have to get involved in fixing off-field problems as often as NWSL players have, but they’ve risen above the challenges repeatedly, as the NWSL final put on full display.That’s as true for the Spirit players as anyone else, as no club has dealt with more problems — at least in public — this year. It’s fitting that the Spirit have been the best team in the NWSL at coming back after conceding a goal first: their whole season has been a comeback of sorts. They haven’t lost since Burke was finally fired months ago, a hot streak that carried them to the final, and on Saturday they made enduring a season of messiness well worth it.”We’ve been in playoff mode since the end of the September — we controlled what we could control, and that was winning,” O’Hara said. “Here we are.”

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11/18/21  USA ties Jamaica 1-1, 2nd in group, NWSL Finals Tix on Sale in Louisville Sat 12 noon CBS, MLS Playoffs Start, Indy 11 New Coach Named, Champ Leagues Tues/Wed, Italy, Portugal to WCQ Playoffs

US Ties Jamaica 1-1

The USMNT is fortunate to salvage at tie at Jamaica 1-1 as a late goal by Jamaica was called back on an over the back call. (Hi-lights)   I thought the starting line-up was spot on with Busio stepping in for Weston McKinney (suspended Yellow Card) and Richards stepping in for Miles Robinson (Red Card suspension).  The only thing I would have done is put Matt Turner back in Goal for Zack Steffan.  Steffan played great vs Mexico – but Turner is our best Shot Stopper and with bad field conditions – I just preferred Steffan back there (please don’t tell me he wouldn’t have made that save on the goal – he’s done it in every game.)  It was a great strike by Jamaica’s superstar and Adams should have never left him open but Steffan was out of spot, his footwork questionable and his reach incorrect.  Sorry but Turner at least gets a paw on it – (may not of saved it but) it was hit from 30 yards out.  Still the US definitely looked less energized in the empty stadium but we outshot them 9-6 with each getting just 2 shots of goal each.   They got off to a great start as Man of the Match Tim Weah scored the 1st goal and the first 20 minutes we looked solid.  But the energy left the US after the Jamaica wonder goal by Michail Antonio of West Ham United – and the US really didn’t recover.  The addition of Pulisic and Acosta did not impact the game in the 65th minute this time – as Musah (Strep Throat) and Weah (who looked exhausted after going 90 vs Mexico) came off.  I thought Busio was way over his head as he didn’t win 1 challenge all night and was basically a blank spot on the field.  He’s young – he’ll learn.  Musah just 18 was special as always  – but the defense didn’t step up in the 2nd half and the midfield was overrun some in the 2nd.  Overall this is a disappointing result and we were lucky to get out with a point.  Later Canada rose to top in the table as they Stunned Mexico in IceTeca 2-1Highlights

US Stands in 2nd – But

A quick glance at the Table has the US where we want to be in 2nd place overall with 15 points.  But the US honestly has the most difficult run down the stretch.  We still play at Canada in January and at Mexico and Costa Rica in late March.  That’s 3 games – where you don’t expect to pick up points.  That’s part of why the Jamaica game and letting that 3 points go – hurts.  The US, of course, must win our final home games with El Salvador and Hondorus in January and Panama in March – but we might need to get a least a point and a tie at Canada/Mexico or Costa Rica – we have never done that in qualifiers in Mexico or Costa Rica – and Canada honestly looks like the top team in CONCACAF right now.  So while things looks good now – finishing in the top 3 (the 4th team has to playoff to get to the World Cup) is still not a lock.  The good news for the US is Panama is the closest battling for th 3rd spot and they still travel to Costa Rica/Mexico/Jam while finishing up at home with the US.  

Remaining CONCACAF World Cup qualifying opponents

points in parenthesis

Canada (16) : at HON, vs USA, at SLV | at CRC, vs JAM, at PAN

USMNT (15): vs SLV, at CAN, vs HON | at MEX, vs PAN, at CRC

Mexico (14): at JAM, vs CRC, vs PAN vs USA, at HON, vs SLV

Panama (14): at CRC, vs JAM, at MEX | vs HON, at USA, vs CAN

Costa Rica (9): vs PAN, at MEX, at JAM | vs CAN, at SLV, vs USA

Jamaica (7): vs MEX, at PAN, vs CRC | vs SLV, at CAN, vs HON

El Salvador (6): at USA, at HON, vs CAN | at JAM, vs CRC, at MEX

Honduras (3): vs CAN, vs SLV, at USA | at PAN, vs MEX, at JAM

More on 2-0 Win over Mexico from Cincy

So this was my view from the Glorious American Outlaws Section vs Mexico last week after we scored the goal – (some pics) the atmosphere was amazing as Dos a Cero was achieved at home in front of a stadium full of American Outlaws in Cincy.  Special shout out to Jeremy Stroebel and Witney Zalenski of American Outlaws Indy as they helped me secure fantastic tickets behind the goal in the AO section just 2 days prior to the game.  If you aren’t a member you should join, if nothing else join us for US games at Union Jack in Broad Ripple. 

Of course by now everyone has heard about the Quote from Mexican Goalkeeper Memo Ochoa – about the US Seeing its self in the Mirror and wanting to be Mexico.  Pulisic’s goal and then pulling up his shirt to show the Man in the Mirror on his T-shirt was the ultimate response.  God I love Pulisic !!  Cool video – Man in The Mirror

Here’s a hilarious sequence on US Coach Greg Berhalter  who by the way has beaten Mexico 3 times in a row – NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE – and has us at the Top of the Table midway thru World Cup Qualifying. Listen I question his tactics sometimes – but you could argue this is the Best coaching job by a US Manager ever.  Was he is doing with a team that’s average age was 23 years old Friday night is amazing.  He has completely changed the way we play – he has adjusted to his talent – which is young but outstanding – and he adopted a high press attack that absolutely dominated Mexico.  The first half was even – but the US just ran roughshod over El Tri in the 2nd half with 55% possession and far more shots.  (19-9 overall).  We are young and Mexico is old – the torch is being passed to US – and its time the world took notice.  We still have been qualification games ahead but Berhalter has the US playing better, more offensive, attacking futbol than anyone ever.  At this point I would say the Jury is no longer out on Berhalter – its time to give him the respect he has earned – he’s our Coach – will be our Coach thru the 2022 World Cup when this team makes a Quarterfinal run.  He’s a former US National Team player, an MLS Champion Coach, and now he’s making his mark on our national team. 

 Interesting news that Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic – is said to be on Barcelona’s wish list for Jan transfer

NWSL CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS   Sat 12 noon at Louisville on CBS  Tickets Available Just $15

Interesting watching #1 Seed Portland and all those US players lose 2-0 at home to the Chicago Red Stars.  Sophia Smith, Becky Saubraun, Klingingberg, and the NWSL Regular Season Champs Thorns lost to the young Red Stars and Tierna Davidson. Even without quarter-final hero Mal Pugh (due to COVID-19 protocols), the Red Stars still had enough offensive firepower to eliminate the top-seeded Thorns yesterday.  Red Stars forward Katie Johnson scored just minutes after subbing in for an injured Kealia Watt, and midfielder Sarah Woldmoe netted an insurance goal in the second half to secure the 2–0 win. No. 2 OL Reign vs. No. 3 Washington Spirit: Both sides netted a goal within the first 12 minutes, but Spirit forward Ashley Sanchez defied the laws of physics to score the 68th minute game-winner and send Washington to their first title game since 2016. Undefeated in 11 straight on-field matches, the Spirit appear unstoppable. Now all that’s left is the championship game…and finding a new ownerWhat’s next: Neither the Spirit nor the Red Stars have won an NWSL title, but that’ll change this  Saturday at 12 p.m. noon in Louisville at Lynn Family Stadium on CBS.  Tickets are just $15 – if you have daughters who play soccer you should scoop up tickets and head down there!!

Indy 11 Names New Coach

Indy Eleven secured a sideline leader for the future with today’s announcement of Mark Lowry as the fourth permanent head coach in club history. Lowry, one of the USL Championship’s most successful coaches since joining the league in 2019, has already begun his duties on behalf of Indiana’s Team and is expected to arrive in Indianapolis on Wednesday.  Lowry lands in the Circle City after a three-season stint with El Paso Locomotive FC, which he guided to a 42W-19L-29D record in USL Championship regular season, USL Championship Playoffs, and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action from 2019-21. The 36-year-old native of Birmingham, England, improved Locomotive FC’s record across each of their first 3 seasons of play, the first 2 of which culminated in back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference Final. Lowry’s 40 regular season victories over those three years rank as the fourth most amongst USL Championship coaches across that span.“

GK Jordan Farr plays for San Antonio in USL Conference Finals Sat Night, 10:30 pm on ESPN+

Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr on load to San Antonio has reached the conference finals after a huge 2-0 win over Rio Grande Valley FC.  Next up for San Antonio and Farr is a trip to LA to face Orange County SC at 10:30 pm on ESPN+.  In the Eastern Conference Final its Indy 11 rivals Louisville FC traveling to Tampa Bay to face the Rowdies in St. Pete’s Al Lang Stadium at 7:30 pm on ESPN+.

MLS Playoffs Start

The MLS Playoffs start Sat with Phlly hosting NY Red Bull at 2:30 and Sporting KC hosting Vancouver at 4 pm all on Telemundo.  Sad the playoffs don’t hit US English Speaking TV until Sunday with the NYCFC hosting Atlanta United and Joseph Martinez at 3 on ABC – at Yankee Stadium and Portland hosting Minn United at 6:30 pm on ESPN.  (Previews) .  Predictions Here’s the Playoff Bracket.

NBC Pays 2.8 Billion to Keep EPL

News today that the NBC has bid $2.8 billion to keep exclusive rights to the EPL – lets hope that means they will give us more NBC network games that matter.  Will be interesting to see with NBCSN – going away 12/31/21 – that USA Network – which has much more coverage will be the home of the EPL along with NBC. I would love to see them add the 10 am Sat AM games to NBC – why not ?  NBC doesn’t do any college game coverage until after 2 pm on Saturday’s and EPL would be interesting head to head vs college gameday coverage on ESPN and Fox.  I was actually hoping ESPN would get a little piece of the package as well – they would cover the EPL more if they did.  But oh well – glad at least that NBC stepped up.  Big games this weekend include Chelsea’s vs Leicester City at 7:30 am on NBCSN on Sat and Liverpool hosting Arsenal at 12:30 pm on NBC.  Sunday has Man City hosting Everton 9:30 am on NBCSN. 

Guerin Catholic boys soccer coach Chris McGrath dies after lengthy COVID battle

Brian Haenchen, Indianapolis Star  Thu, November 18, 2021, 3:06 PM·3 min read

Guerin Catholic boys soccer coach Chris McGrath died Wednesday morning, according to a CaringBridge entry by his wife, Shari McGrath.McGrath was hospitalized due to COVID in mid-September, and was later moved to the ICU and placed on a ventilator, according to a blog post from school president Rick Wagner in early October. He is survived by his wife, and their three children: daughters Emily (17) and Julia (19), and son Ryan. “Chris peacefully passed away this morning at 10:45 surrounded by his family,” Shari wrote. “He fought one hell of a fight, but there was nothing more that the medical staff could do for his lungs. “In an email to the school community Wednesday, Wagner asked for continued prayers for McGrath’s family, as well as GC faculty, staff, students, and “most especially the boys soccer program, as these young men move forward during this challenging time.” “The Guerin Catholic community sends our love and support to the McGrath family and the boys soccer program,” a statement from the school on Twitter read. “May he rest in peace.”McGrath, who was an active member of the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association, won more than 60 games during his tenure as Golden Eagles head coach (2016-21), with semistate appearances in 2019-20. Assistants Jacob Cloran, Jim Alvarez and Anthony Alvarez shared coaching responsibilities in McGrath’s absence, guiding the senior-driven Golden Eagles to the sectional finals, where they lost to eventual Class 2A champion Brebeuf Jesuit.”We’ve just come together as a group,” Cloran said after a 2-1 victory over Cardinal Ritter in the Sectional 26 semifinals. “When you’re on a team, you lift people up when you’re down and you work through things.”McGrath’s involvement in the Indy soccer scene extended well beyond his role as Guerin coach.

In fact, he was perhaps best known for founding Sogility, a soccer-specific training facility in Westfield that takes a technology-driven approach to training. Opened in 2018, the indoor facility has been so popular that the company plans to break ground on a new, larger building to the east of its current location later this year.“While we mourn Chris’s untimely passing, his influence on elite soccer in Central Indiana will be a part of his legacy,” Sogility CEO Jimmy Carson said in a statement. “We will continue to grow Sogility based on the foundation he established. Please keep his family, the Sogility family, and all those that Chris influenced in your prayers.”A prayer service for McGrath is scheduled for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at St. Vincent’s 86th Street near the benches and statue at Entrance 1, according to a press release from Sogility. Further details about the arrangements are to come.A GoFundMe page established on behalf of the McGrath family late last month has raised more than $23,000 towards its goal. Those interested in donating should follow this link.  Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen.

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Sat 11/20  

7:30 am NBCSN          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leicester City

9:30 am ESPN+           Hoffenhiem (Richards) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

10 USA                         Wolverhampton vs West Ham

12 noon CBS               NWSL Championship Chicago Red Stars vs Washington

12:30 pm NBC            Liverpool vs Arsenal

2:30 pm Tele                Philly Union vs NY Red Bulls MLS Playoff

4 pm Tele                     Sporting KC vs Vancouver

11 am beIn Sport         PSG vs Nantes

7:30 pm ESPN+          Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Louisville City USL

8 pm FS1                      Santos Laguna vs Atletico San Luis (Liga MX)

10 pm ESPN+              Orange City vs San Antonio (Jordan Farr Indy 11 GK)

Sun  11/21  

9 am NBCSN                Man City vs Everton

11:30 NBCSN             Tottenham vs Leeds  

12 noon CBSSN          Inter Milan vs Napoli (Italy)                    

3 pm ESPN+                Real Sociedad vs Valencia (Musah) 

3 pm ABC                    NYCFC vs Atlanta United MLS Playoff

6:30 pm ESPN             Portland Timbers vs Minn United MLS 

Tues  11/23    UCL

12:45 pm EST              Dynamo Kiev vs. Bayern Munich  Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Villarreal vs. Manchester United  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Barcelona (Dest) vs. Benfica Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              BSC Young Boys (Pfuk)  vs. Atalanta Paramount+

03:00 pm EST “          Lille (Weah) vs. RB Salzburg (Aaronson) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sevilla FC vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Brooks)  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Malmö vs. Zenit St Petersburg Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Chelsea (Pulisic) vs. Juventus (McKennie) Paramount+

8 pm FS1            Nashville vs Orlando City MLS Playoff

10:30 pm FS1    Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake  

Wednesday, November 24  UCL

12:45 pm EST              Beşiktaş vs. Ajax Amsterdam   Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Inter Milan vs. Shakhtar Donetsk Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Club Brugge vs. RB Leipzig (Adams) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Manchester City vs. Paris Saint-Germain  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Atletico Madrid vs. AC Milan  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Liverpool vs. FC Porto  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sporting CP vs. Borussia Dortmund  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sheriff Tiraspol vs. Real Madrid  Paramount+

Thursday, November 25 (Europa)

12:45 pm EST              Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Lazio Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Galatasaray (Yedlin) vs. Marseille Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Red Star Belgrade vs. Ludogorets Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              FC Midtjylland vs. Braga Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Real Betis vs. Ferencvaros Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Bayer Leverkusen vs. Celtic Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              SK Rapid Wien vs. West Ham United Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Dinamo Zagreb vs. Genk (Mckensie) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Brondby vs. Lyon Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Rangers vs. Sparta Prague Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              PSV Eindhoven vs. SK Sturm Graz Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              AS Monaco vs. Real Sociedad Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Leicester City vs. Legia Warsaw Paramount+

3:00 pm EST                Olympiacos vs. Fenerbahçe  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Antwerp (Vines) Paramount+

Sat, Nov 27

11 pm FS1          USWNT vs Australia

PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo.Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

USA

My View after the 2nd Goal from the USA vs Mexico Last Week


USMNT lessons: McKennie is vital and defense has depth, but will road form hurt them?
 
Jeff Carlisle  ESPNFC

USMNT were fortunate, frustrated to leave Jamaica with draw in World Cup qualifying
Opinion: With disappointment of 2018 World Cup qualifying still fresh, USMNT’s draw feels more like a loss

Decisive Sounds Define USMNT’s ‘Decent’ Draw Brian Straus SI
What we learned from Concacaf qualifying: USA wobble as Canada surge to the top

Tim Weah scores and USMNT holds off Jamaica for tie in World Cup qualifying
2022 Concacaf World Cup Qualifiers: USA 1-1 Jamaica – A fortunate draw away from home
Gregg Berhalter praises USMNT backs, Michail Antonio; Updates Pulisic, Musah health

US Will Qualify – How Far Can they Go?  
USMNT player ratings: Tim Weah shines as rest of attack sputters vs Jamaica

Player Ratings – USA vs Jamaica

Breaking down the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Jamaica: thoughts & player ratings ASN

Three Takeaways from the USMNT’s World Cup Qualifying draw at Jamaica

What we learned from the USMNT’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw at Jamaica

USMNT U-20’s lose to Mexico, ending Revelations Cup winless

US U20 Sanogo Enjoys Positive Experience with US U20s

Clint Dempsey, Hope Solo headline finalists for National Soccer Hall of Fame

CONCACAF QUALIFYING

Assessing the Octagon with 2021 over and just two windows remaining

Three Takeaways from Canada’s historic Iceteca win over Mexico
Mexico out of its element — 14 degrees — in loss in Canada in World Cup qualifier
  Eric Gomez

Mexico Emerges From the Cold Feeling the Heat in World Cup Qualifying

WORLD QUALIFIERS


Four-goal Mbappe fires France to World Cup finals, Belgium also qualify

Portugal could face Italy in World Cup playoffs

Southgate unleashes attacking talent, but England fall short of expectations  James Olley

Wales seal World Cup playoff spot with draw vs. Belgium

Chile hope England-born Ben Brereton Diaz can salvage World Cup hopes  Tim Vickery

Neymar, Messi close in on what could be their last World Cup

Indy 11 & USL Championships

   

·          INDY ELEVEN INSTALLS MARK LOWRY AS HEAD COACH

· ·         Championship Playoffs Preview: Orange County SC vs. San Antonio FC & Jordan Farr at GK 

·         Championship Playoffs Preview: Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Louisville City FC

·         Championship Playoffs Report: Patino at the Double as San Antonio Downs Toros

·         Championship Playoffs Report: Lancaster’s Late Winner Sends LouCity Past Independence

·         Championship Playoffs Report: Ekra’s Goal Lifts Rowdies Past Legion FC

·         Built from the Grassroots Up, Detroit City FC Eager for New Stage in Championship

·      Indy Eleven to Compete in USL Academy League Playoffs

MLS Playoffs


Who will win MLS Cup in 2021? Predicting every Round 1 matchup and a champion

Bandwagon guide to the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs: Who to root for and why

Ranking Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoff teams by tier as the regular season ends

Eastern Conference Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs preview Video

Western Conference Preview Video

Caden Clark: Don’t overlook “darkhorse” New York Red Bulls in playoffs

Orlando City seek sharper edge in attack to break down Nashville in Round One matchup

MLS Looks to Upgrade its TV Contract
David Blitzer Group Near Deal to Buy MLS Club Real Salt Lake

Galaxy dig at Mexico boss over Chicharito snub

Besler retiring after storied 13-year MLS career
Bob Bradley is out as LAFC coach after four seasons

NWSL FINALS & USMNT

Mallory Pugh could miss NWSL final due to COVID-19 protocols

NWSL VIDEO hicago and Washington Pull off Stunners to Advance to Finals Sat

Spirit, Red Stars Advance to NWSL Final

OL Reign’s Fishlock, Harvey scoop NWSL awards
Thorns’ Bixby Says Father Died Before NWSL Semifinal

USWNT to play two-game series in Australia

USWNT adds youth to squad vs. Australia

San Diego NWSL new side to be called Wave FC

Angel City Jersey Drop
Behind the Scenes: The unveiling of Angel City FC’s first kit

WORLD

Wjhat to Expect from Xavi as New Barcelona Manager
Gerrard embracing pressure at Aston Villa

Steven Gerrard: Aston Villa aim to push for Europe

BIG GAMES TO WATCH  

30 am NBCSN          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leicester City

9:30 am ESPN+           Hoffenhiem (Richards) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

10 USA                         Wolverhampton vs West Ham

12 noon CBS               NWSL Championship Chicago Red Stars vs Washington

12:30 pm NBC            Liverpool vs Arsenal

2:30 pm Tele                Philly Union vs NY Red Bulls MLS Playoff

4 pm Tele                     Sporting KC vs Vancouver

11 am beIn Sport         PSG vs Nantes

7:30 pm ESPN+          Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Louisville City USL

8 pm FS1                      Santos Laguna vs Atletico San Luis (Liga MX)

10 pm ESPN+              Orange City vs San Antonio (Jordan Farr Indy 11 GK)

Sun  11/21  

9 am NBCSN               Man City vs Everton

11:30 NBCSN             Tottenham vs Leeds  

12 noon CBSSN          Inter Milan vs Napoli (Italy)                    

3 pm ESPN+                Real Sociedad vs Valencia (Musah) 

3 pm ABC                    NYCFC vs Atlanta United MLS Playoff

6:30 pm ESPN             Portland Timbers vs Minn United MLS 

Tues  11/23  

12:45 pm EDT             Dynamo Kiev vs. Bayern Munich Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs. RB Salzburg (Aaronson)  Paramount+, Galavisión, fubo TV

12:45 pm EDT             . Manchester United  Paramount+, UniMás, TUDN, fubo TV

Malmö vs. Chelsea (Pulisic) Paramount+, UniMás, TUDN, fubo TV

04:00 pm EDT             Dynamo Kiev vs. Barcelona (Dest) Paramount+, PrendeTV

04:00 pm EDT            

04:00 pm EDT             Villarreal vs. BSC Young Boys (Pefok) Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

  

World Cup qualifying bubble watch: Portugal, Mexico and Italy are in varying degrees of trouble

Henry Bushnell   Wed, November 17, 2021, 12:35 AM

Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal have taken long routes to the World Cup before. Eight years ago this month, in fact, they were 20 minutes and one goal away from missing the tournament altogether. Four years later, Italy reminded international soccer that its giants aren’t immune to qualifying failures. That the unthinkable can happen. That the sport’s bluebloods can miss out on its banner event.And four years after that? Here we are again. Only this time, the road is even longer.Qatar 2022 is 12 months away. Its field is essentially half-full. And for now, neither Portugal nor Italy is a part of it. The last two European champions suffered stunning upsets this past weekend, and stumbled into a perilous playoff round that could still send them to the World Cup, but also could send them home. Each will have to win two do-or-die games in March to avoid ignominy. They could even find themselves on a collision course that inevitably subjects at least one of the two to the unthinkable fate.Oh, and they aren’t alone. World Cup mainstays from the Americas are struggling, too. None has outright missed the World Cup just yet. But a few are very much on the bubble as the 32-team competition takes shape.What follows is a snapshot of that bubble after a wild November international window that concluded with 13 teams officially qualified; with 38 other nations realistically in play for 19 unclaimed spots; and with Canadians diving into piles of snow to celebrate a famous win over Mexico.So, let’s dive in with them.

Already qualified (13)

  • Brazil — Unbeaten and nearly perfect in South America’s qualifying gauntlet
  • Argentina — Also unbeaten, and now officially en route to Qatar after Tuesday’s draw with Brazil. Last cycle took Argentina to the brink, needing a final-day hat trick from Lionel Messi. This cycle, by those standards, was smooth.
  • France — Uninspiring but never truly threatened in a weak European group
  • Belgium — Dominant yet again. Belgium’s last World Cup qualifying loss was in Estonia on Oct. 14, 2009.
  • Spain — Scraped by Sweden on the final two matchdays
  • England — Scored 39, conceded 3 in 10 games. British media have transitioned from moaning about their team to moaning that World Cup qualifying is a waste of time.
  • Germany — Stunned by North Macedonia early on, but cruised thereafter
  • Denmark — One of the first to secure qualification — and didn’t drop points until they had
  • Switzerland — The beneficiary of Italy’s final-day flop
  • Netherlands — Left it late, but held off Norway and Turkey to finish atop their group
  • Croatia — Had to beat Russia on the final day … and did, thanks to an injured defender’s clumsy, monsoon-aided own goal
  • Serbia — Stunned Portugal with a 90th-minute winner to send Ronaldo and Co. tumbling toward the playoffs
  • Qatar — Automatically qualified as the host. No business being at a World Cup otherwise. (No business being the hosts, either, but that’s another discussion for another day.)

The locks (2)

(Percentages in parentheses are each team’s qualification odds from We Global Football)

Iran (100%) and South Korea (99.9%) — On 16 and 14 points, respectively, in an otherwise astonishingly weak Asian Group A, where no other team has more than 6 points. The top two qualify automatically. There are four games to go. Those two will be Iran and South Korea.

The likelihoods (4)

Ecuador (98.2%) — Six points clear of fourth place in South America with four games to go. Two stumbling South American teams would have to pass the Ecuadorians. And with two of their remaining opponents, Brazil and Argentina, already qualified, a late collapse seems unlikely.

Saudi Arabia (86.2%) — Absolutely strolling through the tougher of the two Asian groups. The Saudis often struggle against World Cup-caliber opponents, but steamroll lesser foes.

United States (96.2%) — At first glance, the U.S. is right in the thick of an Octagonal dogfight. But it looks like the best team in CONCACAF. It still gets Honduras, El Salvador and Panama at home. Nine points from those three games should be enough on their own. Even a fourth-place finish would leave the Americans as likely favorites in an intercontinental playoff. “We’re on the right track,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said Tuesday. And he’s right.

Canada (95.5%) — Unbeaten and roaring toward a first men’s World Cup berth since 1986. Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Mexico, in frigid Edmonton, felt like a crowning capital-M Moment. Yes, there are still only two points separating first and fourth place. But the Canadian’s look like strong favorites to qualify.

The top of CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying table. (Screenshot: Google)

The non-playoff bubble (9)

Mexico (97.3%) — So, on one hand, Mexico still has the top combo of talent and experience in CONCACAF; it has four of six remaining matches at home; it’s still in great shape to qualify. On the other hand, it’s reeling after losses to the U.S. and Canada. It could have a new coach when qualifying resumes in January. This feels a lot more like 2014 — when Mexico very nearly missed the World Cup — than 2018 — when it qualified comfortably.

Panama (46.2%) — Two massive comebacks have Los Canaleros punching directly up at Mexico and the U.S., level on points with El Tri in third place. If there’s a team that can unseat the current top three, it’s them.

Japan (90.3%) and Australia (49.8%) — Both trailing Saudi Arabia. One will nab the second automatic qualifying slot in Asia’s Group B, the other will likely win the Asian playoff. (Japan’s probability is so much higher than Australia’s because its one-point lead is more significant than you realize, because three of its four remaining matches are at home, and because it’s a much better team than the Socceroos.)

Colombia (72.2%)Peru (24.2%)Uruguay (46.3%)Chile (20.3%) and Bolivia (1.6%) — If we accept that Ecuador is in, these five nations, separated by two points, are scrapping for just one automatic qualification spot and one intercontinental playoff berth.

Colombia, narrowly leading the pack and with the easiest remaining fixtures (Peru and Bolivia at home, already-qualified Argentina and lowly Venezuela away), is in the best shape of the bunch. But Uruguay has the most talent and World Cup experience.

Bolivia, meanwhile, has been dominant in La Paz. A result in Venezuela in January could put it in position to pull off the biggest shock of the qualifying cycle.

South America’s qualifying table. (Screenshot: Google)

The European playoffs (12)

Europe’s final three participants will come from a 12-team playoff field that’s chock-full of intrigue. The teams will be drawn into three pods of four. One-off semifinals and a final in each pod will send one team to Qatar and three packing.

There are six seeded teams, including Portugal and Italy, that can’t meet in the semifinals. But there’s nothing protecting them from sharing a pod, and potentially meeting in a high-stakes final.

Games will take place in March. Here’s the seeding for the Nov. 26 draw, which will determine matchups and brackets:

Seeded: Italy (49.5%), Portugal (44.9%), Sweden (32.6%), Wales (28.3%), Russia (28.1%), Scotland (22.2%)
Unseeded: Poland (20.5%), Austria (17.0%), Czech Republic (17.0%), Ukraine (15.8%), Turkey (13.7%), North Macedonia (10.5%)

The African playoffs (10)

In Africa, 10 four-team groups produced one winner each. Five of the 10 winners will be seeded, five unseeded for the playoff draw. Each playoff is two legs, with the victor going to the World Cup and the vanquished watching from home.

Seeded: Algeria (68.7%), Senegal (62.4%), Morocco (58.0%), Tunisia (54.4%), Nigeria (52.7%)
Unseeded: Cameroon (47.2%), Egypt (44.0%), Mali (42.2%), Ghana (37.8%), DR Congo (32.7%)

The intercontinental playoffs (1)

The fifth-place team from South America, the fourth-place team from CONCACAF, the winner of a playoff between two third-place teams from Asia, and one team from Oceania will be pitted against one another for two spots in Qatar. The matchups will be determined by a draw. Home-and-home series will be played in June 2022 — after the World Cup group stage draw has already taken place on April 1.

It’s not entirely clear how Oceania plans to choose its contestant in the intercontinental playoffs. But that contestant will almost certainly be New Zealand (43.7%).

The longshots (7)

Paraguay (1.0%) — No wins against non-Venezuelan opponents. Still only four points behind Peru in fifth, but with four nations to leapfrog to get there.

Costa Rica (8.1%) — A 95th-minute winner against Honduras on Tuesday night established Los Ticos as the best bet to crash CONCACAF’s current top four.

Jamaica (4.2%— Seven points out of the playoff place with six games to go. Is it doable? With Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey in the fold, yeah. But likely? No.

UAE (3.1%)Lebanon (0.7%)Iraq (8.0%) and Syria (0.3%) — One of these four teams will meet Australia or Japan in the Asian playoff — where they’ll be a heavy underdog to advance to an intercontinental playoff, where they’d be a heavy underdog as well.

Still mathematically alive: Oman, China, El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Tahiti, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga and 

USMNT’s World Cup qualifying lessons: McKennie is key, defense has depth, but will road form hurt them?

Nov 17, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

For the United States men’s national team, the just concluded round of World Cup qualifiers finished much like the previous two. There were more positives than negatives even if there was a nagging sense that points were left on the table. In this instance, Friday’s 2-0 defeat of rivals Mexico provided its usual boost, but like most sugar highs, the buzz wore off. Tuesday’s 1-1 road draw with Jamaica was disappointing because the Americans were expected to perform better, and ultimately, the USMNT found itself fortunate to escape Kingston with a draw.

The most encouraging sign of progress arrived via Tim Weah. The Lille attacker was an absolute menace against El Tri, wearing a groove down the right wing with his persistent, positive runs and delivering a critical assist on Christian Pulisic‘s goal that opened the scoring. He followed that up with the 11th-minute goal against Jamaica that gave the U.S. a brief lead.

Weah’s performance built on his showing from the previous window, in which he forced the game-winning goal against Costa Rica, and such has been the winger’s play that the U.S. hasn’t really felt the absence of injured attacker Gio Reyna. On a team in which effective wing play is prized, Weah has cemented his spot in manager Gregg Berhalter’s rotation and looks a solid bet to head to Qatar, should the U.S. qualify.The other source of comfort came from the team’s center-backs — in particular, Walker Zimmerman. This is a player who was left off the initial roster for the October window, was then called in due to John Brooks‘ back injury and subsequently looked sharp in games against the Reggae Boyz and Panama. In this window, Zimmerman made the most of additional playing time and was a dominating presence in both matches, though he counted himself lucky to be bailed out by a foul call on Damion Lowe that wiped out what would have been a late, game-winning Jamaica goal.Miles Robinson was solid against Mexico, his late red card notwithstanding, while Chris Richards has performed well in both of his World Cup qualifying starts. The center-back position has been touted as an area of strength and depth, and it became so clear in this window that Brooks, long thought to be a lock for the starting XI, arguably has some considerable work to do to win back his spot.The progress showed by the likes of Weah and Zimmerman hints that there is indeed depth within the U.S. player pool, but like just about every team on the planet, the depth is uneven and there are certain individuals the U.S. simply can’t do without.One of those is Weston McKennie. The Juventus midfielder rebounded from the two-game, internal suspension meted out by Berhalter, and he remains the emotional hub for this team — so much so that his absence was palpable against the Reggae Boyz. At present, there’s simply no other player who provides the same level of two-way play as McKennie, which is all the more reason he needs to compete with more discipline. It’s one thing to pick up a yellow card for a tactical foul; it’s another to be issued a caution for getting into a fracas with an opponent, which is what happened against Mexico.Pulisic’s value also remains immense, as his substitute performance against Mexico reaffirmed. The only concern is his durability. USMNT fans will be hoping that the two months between now and the next window will see the Chelsea winger build on his fitness and get a run of games with his club, which is no easy task given the talent around him.The striker position has some questions around it as well. Ricardo Pepi spent the past two matches basically taking his share of lumps for the team and he held up relatively well, assisting Weah’s goal on Tuesday. But it seems as though the U.S. could benefit from having a different (read: more physical) kind of forward at its disposal. Berhalter loves his strikers to be mobile, which is better to help press from the front. It’s also why, at present, a player like Jesus Ferreira is in the mix while Daryl Dike isn’t. But there may be a time when the USMNT will need a scrappier kind of goal, and Dike seems much more likely to conjure up that kind of play than Ferreira or even Josh Sargent. Through all of this, eight games into the World Cup qualifying campaign with six to come in early 2022, the U.S. finds itself about where it hoped to be, in second place. Achieving this while missing some key players like Reyna, Pulisic and McKennie for extended stretches leads to more of a glass-half-full perspective. Compare and contrast that with four years ago, when the USMNT was perpetually vulnerable and ultimately slid out of the top four.However, there’s also a nagging sense of déjà vu because the Americans seem unable to string together impressive performances. When the U.S. last qualified in the 2014 cycle, the team put its stamp on that qualifying campaign with a three-game winning streak; a similar run of form didn’t materialize four years later. It’s easy to pin this lack of consistency on the team’s youth, but the choice of young players isn’t something that’s been forced on Berhalter — it’s an approach he willfully chose long ago.ayThe reality is that the Octagonal is turning into a four-horse race with the U.S. challenged by Mexico, Canada and Panama. Just two points separate those sides, while Costa Rica still has a heartbeat following its dramatic home win over Honduras. One place the U.S. does not want to be in is fourth in the standings, which would force an intercontinental playoff. Circumstances can change quickly, too — look at how Mexico went from first to third in this window — and the U.S. doesn’t want to head into the last qualifying window in March needing a result at either Mexico or Costa Rica.The 2021 calendar year has been one of achievement for this U.S. side. It claimed two trophies and fashioned a rare three-game winning streak against Mexico. Along the way, this group of players is maturing, too, but for all of this team’s growth, the USMNT needs to find more of a killer instinct on the road in World Cup qualifying that will create some separation between itself and the other contenders. Doing so will take the U.S. to its ultimate goal.

Opinion: With disappointment of 2018 World Cup qualifying still fresh, USMNT’s draw feels more like a loss

Nancy Armour, USA TODAYTue, November 16, 2021, 11:24 PM

Forgive supporters of the USMNT if they don’t share Gregg Berhalter’s calm and positivity.The angst from the U.S. men’s national soccer team’s shocking failure to make the World Cup four years ago remains, making a winnable draw in Jamaica feel more like a loss. No matter how many times Berhalter said the team is on track, that ending this window in first or second place is what they wanted, fans will eye the Concacaf standings warily, wondering how costly those two dropped points might be.The Americans are in second place in the Concacaf World Cup qualifying standings, with Canada in first and Mexico in third. But only the top three teams automatically advance to the World Cup in Qatar next year and, with six qualifiers left, just two points separate the top four teams.“We’re looking at it as good result,” Berhalter insisted after the U.S. men needed a questionable disallowed goal to escape Jamaica with a 1-1 tie Tuesday night. “Anytime you can get a point away from home is a good thing in Concacaf, I want to be very clear by saying that.”Most qualifying windows, that would be a reasonable statement to make. But all those near misses in 2017 have left their mark. Had the U.S. men only won another home game four years ago, or picked up another couple of points on the road, they would have been in Russia.Instead, they were shut out for the first time in 32 years, kickstarting the rebuild that has produced the youngest U.S. team ever. Most talented, too.Which helps explain the frustration with Tuesday night’s result.The USMNT had one of its finest performances ever against Mexico on Friday night. The “Dos a Cero” scoreline might have been similar, but this victory was like none of the others. The U.S. men dictated the style and tempo of the game, forcing El Tri to adapt and react rather than the other way around as usual.Christian Pulisic being sublime was not a surprise, but Tim Weah and Yunus Musah were revelations. Weston McKennie’s command and skill underscored why the U.S. men are a lesser team when he’s not on the field. Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson were a dynamic combination on the backline.It was the kind of performance that grabs the attention of the rest of the world, a declaration that this is not the same old U.S. team.And then, four days later, the USMNT was lucky to avoid a loss against Jamaica.“It was all in our hands,” Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said. “The U.S. didn’t create any goal-scoring opportunities tonight. They were gifted with a goal one time. The guys kept their head, stayed in the game, managed to equalize, and I think we could have gone on and won the game. Numerous opportunities presented itself, but we didn’t capitalize on it.“We could have easily come away with three points. But I’m grateful and we keep fighting.”Yes, the field was patchy, to put it kindly. The conditions were brutal, with temperatures in the 80s that made humidity feel more like the 90s. The Americans also were short-handed, with McKennie (yellow-card accumulation) and Robinson (red card) out and Pulisic still on limited minutes.But these are the kind of challenges all teams encounter. Conditions in Qatar are going to be tough, too. There will be quick turnarounds between games, particularly the deeper the tournament goes.If the Americans want to play with the best, want to be the best, they’re going to have to find ways to rise above whatever obstacle is put in front of them.Maybe it’s not fair to expect the young Americans to have it figured out yet. They are, as Berhalter pointed out, an Olympic-age team, with an average roster age of about 22.“Each game we play, we grow,” said Weah, who followed his breakout performance against Mexico with the lone U.S. goal Tuesday. “The consistency will come. We’re all young.”With 15 points after the first eight games, it’s hard to fathom the USMNT not qualifying for Qatar. But the top four teams are so close that one bad game — or two dropped points, perhaps — could make the difference between booking an automatic trip to Qatar and having to sweat out a playoff.And the rest of the USMNT’s games won’t be easy, with trips to Canada and Mexico in the last two windows.Not only is Canada much improved, Canada Soccer isn’t above gamesmanship. It staged Tuesday night’s game in Edmonton, where it was so cold the federation giddily dubbed Commonwealth Stadium “Estadio Iceteca.” Azteca has always been a house of horrors for the USMNT, with just one victory there in a rivalry that dates back to 1934.”We don’t take anything for granted,” Berhalter said. “The next window is going to be important.”Especially when you’ve left points on the table.Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USMNT doesn’t have luxury of leaving points on table in qualifying

The USMNT will surely qualify for the World Cup. The real question: How far can it go while there?

Henry BushnellTue, November 16, 2021, 7:01 PM

The U.S. men’s national team is going to qualify for the World Cup. That was true before this past weekend. It was especially true after a rousing Dos a Cero defeat of Mexico on Friday. It’s still true after a 1-1 draw in Jamaica that some will brand disappointing. The U.S. entered Tuesday night with a 98.3% chance to qualify, per one model. Its odds remain well above 95%. It will need roughly nine points from its last six games, and unless something goes horribly wrong, it will surely get them.The real question now, after a successful November window, is not whether the USMNT will reach Qatar. It’s how much damage the U.S. can do while there.The answer based exclusively on a viewing of Tuesday’s game in Kingston would be a timid “not much.” The U.S. started strong, and took a lead via the ascendent Tim Weah. But it faded after a Michail Antonio rocket leveled the score. Control of the game eluded the U.S. midfield. Second-half chances for the Americans were scarce. A guilt-edged Jamaican miss and a questionable call helped them escape with a point.

MICHAIL ANTONIO. THERE WAS NO STOPPING THAT. 😳His second goal in three appearances for Jamaica 🇯🇲 pic.twitter.com/r6uK1XUCkZ

But all of that that would ignore the bigger picture. This team, which regularly sets “youngest to” and “youngest since” records, is growing on the fly. It’s been good enough, despite inexperience and injuries and suspensions and grueling travel, to rise to the top of CONCACAF’s “Octagonal,” North and Central America’s qualifying grind. More importantly, there’s no telling how much better it can get.

This young USMNT will continue to grow

The only certainty is that the USMNT has time. Twelve months, to be exact, until it will gather in Europe or Qatar. Twelve months for teenagers to mature, for early-20s stars to learn, for a young core that still has never played 90 minutes together to absorb one another’s tendencies, to get in tune.  The team’s youth has been discussed plenty in recent months. U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter has said plenty that it still isn’t discussed enough. Tuesday’s starting lineup, with an average age under 23, was the second-youngest in USMNT World Cup qualifying history. It trailed only an October lineup. The front six, with 23-year-old Christian Pulisic recovering from injury and 23-year-old Weston McKennie suspended, were aged 22, 21, 21,19, 18 and 18. They play in Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1. They play in the Champions League, and have been linked with some of the world’s biggest clubs. In Qatar, they’ll presumably be joined by Borussia Dortmund’s Gio Reyna (19) and Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest (21). They are the generation that American soccer message-board obsessives always dreamed ofome will question why they couldn’t beat Jamaica, or Panama last month, or El Salvador the month prior. But “going through [qualifying] for the first time is challenging,” Berhalter pointed out in October. “CONCACAF is hard,” Tim Weah said last week. Conditions are “difficult,” Berhalter said Tuesday, and “rough,” Weah said. “Away games are super hard,” he added. Several teammates have echoed similar sentiments.They are the youngest senior national team in the world, bar none. And while their current collective strength is debatable, their future is clearly brighter than their present. Twelve months ago, a few of Tuesday’s starters weren’t even in the USMNT picture. Their development over the past year has been remarkable. Their development over the next year is the type of prospect that should have U.S. fans salivating.”I think we’re growing,” Weah said. “Each camp that we come in, the games that we play, we grow.”That is not to say that the Yanks will enter November 2022 as group favorites or World Cup contenders. It’s to say that — well, they could, couldn’t they?They won’t be Brazil or France, or Argentina or England. But why can’t they grow into the Netherlands or Colombia or Switzerland? And something even greater when the World Cup arrives on U.S. soil in 2026, when much of the current core will be in their primes?

The USMNT’s route to qualification

First things first, of course. They won’t take qualifying for granted. Berhalter will make that clear as he sends his players back off to their clubs on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. He won’t like reading this. Mathematically, a place in Qatar is far from secure. But with home games remaining against El Salvador, Honduras and Panama, it’s overwhelmingly likely. The worst-case scenario, at this point, is a fourth-place finish and an intercontinental playoff, in which the U.S. would very likely be favored.So a ticket will surely be punched in March. Attention will then turn to what the USMNT can do with it, and how far it can go. A year of vital growth — from 18 years old to 19 in some cases, from 21 to 22 in others — will hold the answers.

USMNT ‘on the right track’ for World Cup qualification despite disappointment of dropped points in Jamaica

November 17, 2021 by Larry Henry Jr  SBI  

The U.S. men’s national team concluded its 2021 competitive schedule on Tuesday night with a road draw against Jamaica, and although the result won’t feel like a positive to many, the Americans continued on the right track heading into its final six World Cup Qualifying matches.Gregg Berhalter’s side saw an early advantage slip away in a 1-1 draw with the Reggae Boyz in Kingston, hanging on for the USMNT’s third draw through eight qualifiers overall. While the USMNT did drop two points on the road, hanging on against a Jamaican side desperate for points was key to ending November’s window without a defeat.“We’re not looking at tonight as a disappointing result, we’re looking at it as a good result,” Berhalter said postmatch. “Any time you can get a point on the road is a good thing. I think for the guys to have their heads down because we wanted more from tonight is completely natural, but this is a point we’ll absolutely take from the road.“What we will do now is evaluate, we’re going to be back in camp in about two weeks for the friendly against Bosnia and then we have another break before the January camp begins,” Berhalter said. “There’s not a lot of rest for us. The message to the guys was to come into this camp and end in one of the top two spots and we’re in position to do that. Now we have six qualifiers left and hopefully we can see the qualification.”Outside of Michail Antonio’s thunderous blast in the 22nd minute, the Americans held the Jamaicans to only one shot on goal. Walker Zimmerman and Chris Richards did well to keep the West Ham forward in check for most of the match, while DeAndre Yedlin did the same with Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey.Timothy Weah continued his good run of form with his second international goal, showing off his determination in the box and clinical ability from a tight angle. Ricardo Pepi and Brenden Aaronson both logged a lot of running in the match, pressuring Andre Blake and the Jamaican backline for their 77-minute outings.It wasn’t a glamourous performance by the Americans at all, but it’s another positive step for this youthful squad of players.“I think we’re on the right track, having the guys get experience on the fly,” Berhalter said. “We’re playing an Olympic-eligible team in regards to age, roughly 22.3 years old average age. The guys have done a great job adapting to that and we’ve had some very strong performances at home and the road performances we’ve earned five points from four matches.”“In 2021 we’ve lifted two trophies, we’ve won 16 games, and we’re where we want to be in qualifying,” Berhalter said. “The guys have done a great job and it’s all down to them and their commitment to the program.”The USMNT will take plenty of positives from its four-point window, especially after handing rivals Mexico its first loss of qualifying on Friday. Several young players are racking up consistent minutes in the squad, providing an early glimpse of what the long-term roster could be for 2022 and beyond.Veteran players like Christian Pulisic, Zack Steffen, and Zimmerman have contributed big moments this month and will now aim to continue playing leading roles heading into the new year. Other players like Gio Reyna, Sergino Dest, and John Brooks could be back into the squad by January and February’s qualifiers, giving Berhalter even more options to call upon for matches against El Salvador, Canada, and Honduras.“The first window was a major learning experience for us in terms of how to mentally prepare for these three games and get through the travel and we got five points from those matches,” Berhalter said about the September window. “Then the next two window we still averaged four points in each of those, so that’s pretty good when you think about the inexperience and youth of this group.“We’re learning on the fly,” Berhalter said. “One game is in a cold environment, the next is in a tropical place, so it’s all different challenges we have to face. I think the guys have done a good job of learning as we go, and now it’s about making sure we’re ready for 2022. We will take our position for right now.”

Gregg Berhalter praises USMNT backs, Michail Antonio; Updates Pulisic, Musah health

Nicholas MendolaTue, November 16, 2021, 8:44 PM

Gregg Berhalter wasn’t about to play the blame game when it came to the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Jamaica in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday in Kingston.In fact, he was all about the positives.The USMNT coach celebrated his back line and really his entire team after the Americans took four of six points from Mexico and Jamaica to stay in a World Cup qualifying position more than halfway through the Octagonal.“I think we’re on the right track, having to get the guys experience on the fly,” Berhalter said. “We’re playing an Olympic-aged team and it’s really learning as we go. We’ve had really strong home performances and got five points on the road. When I look at 2021 in general, we lifted two trophies and we’re in the position we want to be in World Cup qualification.”

[ MORE: 3 things | Player ratings ]

Timothy Weah’s acute finish put the Yanks ahead 1-0 only for Michail Antonio’s vicious goal from 34 yards to leave the match level at halftime.The Yanks are now off until a December friendly and a pair of January qualifiers, and will certainly hope to be a bit healthier when they come back to CONCACAF matches.There’s a question of whether all players will be released for the January games, but Berhalter could use only Christian Pulisic off the bench, lost Weston McKennie and Miles Robinson to yellow card accumulation, didn’t have Giovanni Reyna at all, and had to play an ailing Yunus Musah versus Jamaica.

“Yunus was a little bit under the weather,” said Berhalter, who lifted Musah with 24 minutes to play in Kingston. “He came down with strep throat and we could tell that was taking a toll on him. We were thinking about halftime. But I don’t want this to be about the field.”Berhalter explained that his pregame comments about Pulisic perhaps starting were about gamesmanship, as the American came into the match when Musah exited the fray.“He wasn’t ready to start the game,” Berhalter said. “He’s working his way back, man. We wanted to keep the big picture in this window. He’s doing well.”Berhalter heaped praise on center backs Walker Zimmerman and Chris Richards for Tuesday’s performance as well as Miles Robinson’s work alongside Zimmerman against Mexico.

After all, Jamaica’s forwards are their strength.“It was one big moment, his goal, but we all watch Michail Antonio every week in the Premier League and he’s dominating,” Berhalter said. “He can turn really well, if you get in a physical battle you’re probably not going to win. Don’t forget Leon Bailey, Tecatito, Raul Jimenez, Lozano. We faced some good competition this window and our back line held up well.”As for the pitch, Berhalter didn’t like it but knows that Jamaica had to fight the same battle.“It gets really choppy and you have to get the ball out of tight areas,” he said. “It’s tough. Both teams had to deal with it and we chose slightly different ways to go about it. We wanted to go side to side to get behind them and Jamaica wanted to go direct. Chris Richards and Walker Zimmerman did a really good job with Antonio and what came their way.””I was happy to get the goal against them but unfortunately we didn’t get the full points but we take the one point and we continue.”Tim Weah joins @jennyachiu to discuss the @USMNT‘s draw on the road against Jamaica. 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/fUsuzLQ3I5

Jamaica vs USMNT final score: 3 things we learned as Weah scores again

By Nicholas MendolaNov 16, 2021, 7:02 PM EST

The United States men’s national team made it four of six points from the international break, burnishing its World Cup stock with a 1-1 draw against Jamaica on Tuesday in Kingston.They’ll take it.Timothy Weah’s acute finish put the Yanks ahead 1-0 only for Michail Antonio’s vicious goal from 34 yards to leave the match level at halftime.A dodgy pitch and officiating that apparently required X-ray worthy fouls for a whistle to be considered left this match ugly despite the two fantastic goals.Gregg Berhalter’s Americans open the door for either Mexico or Canada to pass them for first on the table with a win later in Edmonton, but their 15 points will find them in an automatic qualifying spot until at least January.

NBCSportsRemaining CONCACAF World Cup qualifying opponents

Jamaica’s fourth draw leaves it with seven points through eight matches. The Reggae Boyz will finish at least four points out of the playoff spot.


Jamaica vs USMNT final score, stats

Final score: Jamaica 1, USMNT 1

Scorers: Weah (11′), Antonio (22′)

Shot attempts: USMNT, 9-6

Shots on goal: 2-2

Possession: USMNT, 62%


Three things we learned from Jamaica vs USMNT

1. The F in CONCACAF is for Foul: The past few qualifiers have seen CONCACAF nations targeting Christian Pulisic with contact after contact, much of it the illegal variety, and Jamaica made sure to foul just about everyone in a U.S. shirt. Pulisic was on the bench to start but Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson were targeted and sent airborne on multiple occasions.

2. Jamaica finding itself: The USMNT may end up grateful to have played Jamaica twice in the first eight qualifiers because Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey are just finding their footing and each other in the Reggae Boyz shirt. Antonio, of course, scored a vicious goal from 34 yards, and Bailey was a first-half menace to the USMNT. The Reggae Boyz may have drawn too many matches already, but should only get better as long as Antonio and Bailey keep showing up.

3. Lack of VAR benefits USMNT? The joke that is CONCACAF not helping every Octagonal nation have access to VAR may have actually helped the United States, as Jamaica had the ball in the goal late only to see Walker Zimmerman adjudged to have been fouled by the scorer. Replays showed that the play was close enough that a video reviewer might have awarded the goal.

Man of the Match: Liam Moore

The Reading center back was a handful for the Yanks, with three clearances, a blocked shot, two interceptions, and a tackle helping Jamaica limit true danger from the Americans.


Jamaica vs USMNT recap

The subpar pitch conditions were on display early as both teams fought odds bounces and worse footing, and Weah showed confidence when he put the Yanks ahead despite the territory.

Weah worked a 1-2 with Ricardo Pepi, who had worked back toward the ball from inside the 18, and worked his defender before spinning a shot past Andre Blake, off the far post, and over the line.

2-0 was a distinct possibility when Andre Blake robbed Brenden Aaronson after the Reggae Boyz defenders blocked a Ricardo Pepi chance.

Jamaica leveled the score before the break when Antonio buried a shot from 34 yards after being given a glimmer of light from an aggressive backtracking Tyler Adams.

Gianluca Busio looked very good for the Yanks in the early stages of the second half and curled a shot just over the bar in the 52nd minute.

Bobby Decordova-Reid should’ve had it 2-1 to the visitors when Antonee Robinson cut out a cross onto the path of the Fulham man, who missed badly over the goal from the edge of the six.

Christian Pulisic entered for the final 24 minutes and was fouled twice, drawing a free kick, but was otherwise fairly well-handled by the Reggae Boyz.

Jamaica had the ball in the goal in the 84th minute but it was a fairly-clear foul on Walker Zimmerman that allowed the Reggae Boyz’ would-be goal.

USMNT player ratings: Tim Weah shines as rest of attack sputters vs Jamaica

By Andy EdwardsNov 17, 2021, 7:24 AM EST

The USMNT picked up another point on its path to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with Tim Weah standing out as the Yanks’ best player and back-to-back man-of-the-match winner.The rest of the attack, though? Not so much. The defense was solid and only conceded from a seemingly impossible strike. Balancing those two facts will not be easy for USMNT fans, especially now that World Cup qualifying goes on hiatus for two months.Here’s a look at who stood out (for better or for worse) for Gregg Berhalter’s side, with some special bonus commentary from not onnly PST’s Nicholas Mendola (italicized), but also PST’s honorary American (for a night, or until the USMNT plays England in the World Cup again), Joe Prince-Wright (also italicized)…


GK – Zack Steffen: 6 (6.5) – So, Steffen is the no. 1 goalkeeper again, just like that? There was plenty of uproar last month when Matt Turner kept the starting place when Steffen returned to the team, but it doesn’t appear to have nuked the USMNT’s chemistry or confidence, as some believed it would. Having two trustworthy goalkeepers is a luxury, not a problem. And no, there’s no way Turner (or probably any other goalkeeper in the world) gets to the lightning bolt that came out of Michail Antonio’s foot (WATCH HERE – Jamaica’s only shot on target for 75 minutes).

When it comes to Antonio’s goal, could he have saved it/broken his hand? It’s a slim possibility, but I have a hard time faulting the Manchester City keeper for not getting to the vicious shot from distance. With the dodgy pitch, his footwork was important. (NM)

RB – DeAndre Yedlin: 6 (5.5) – Sergiño Dest remains the starter at right back (when healthy), but the November international window made it quite clear that Yedlin is the firmly entrenched backup.

Didn’t get close enough on multiple occasions to stop crosses and should have been punished when Bobby Decordova-Reid missed a sitter. Some poor crosses in the final third, too. Very much Sergino Dest’s backup. (JPW)

CB – Chris Richards: 6.5 (6.5) – This was a tough spot for Richards to step into, especially after watching the Miles Robinson-Walker Zimmerman partnership blossom as World Cup qualifying wore on, but Richards never looked out of his depth while battling for 90 minutes against one of the world’s most in-form strikers at the moment. This was a big test, and he passed.

A tough outing for the young center back, but he did OK. Tried to step high on Antonio as much as he could. Couldn’t get on the ball (usually a huge strength of his) as much as he would have liked, but stood tall. (JPW)

CB – Walker Zimmerman: 7 (7) – With Robinson unavailable due to suspension, the responsibility of organizing the defense fell solely on Zimmerman. Typically, it’s Robinson who waits behind as Zimmerman surges forward to break up play ahead of the backline, but Zimmerman pulled double-duty to ease the 21-year-old into a tough spot. He did it well, as evidenced by Jamaica’s paltry attacking output.

At times he was exposed for pace by Antonio, but the West Ham man does that to a lot of defenders. Calm, composed, and a big part of keeping the Yanks organized. The question isn’t whether he’s one of America’s top two center backs, but how much of a problem that will be against more explosive center forwards at a World Cup. (NM)

LB – Antonee Robinson: 5 – It’s hard to remember Robinson doing anything other than squaring the ball for Decordova-Reid inside the USMNT’s six-yard box. He’s been great in recent outings, but it wasn’t his finest moment.

DM – Tyler Adams: 6.5 (6) – For a second straight game, Adams’ impact was limited by opponents’ plan to deny him easy possession of the ball and simply harass him at every turn when that didn’t work. This is the new reality for the USMNT and Adams, the Yanks’ most important and influential player, as he continues to ascend to the next level. Good news: Adams and Berhalter are smart enough to adjust when World Cup qualifying resumes in January.

Solid and steady throughout, but could he have done more to stop Antonio cutting inside and driving toward goal on his stunning strike? Probably. Getting caught on the wrong side of forwards cutting in from the left is one weakness in his game that he must work on. The captain dug deep alongside Busio and Musah, but the USMNT definitely missed Weston McKennie (suspension) in midfield alongside Adams. (JPW)

CM – Gianluca Busio: 6 (7) – Speaking of tough spots, Busio was likely selected to replace McKennie with the aforementioned anti-Adams gameplan in mind. With Adams unable to get on the ball as often as Berhalter would like, having a pair of ball-carrying shuttlers one line ahead would, in theory, fix the USMNT’s supply chain issues. It’s a big change, on the fly, with limited training time, and so on and so forth. The inexperience of Busio and Yunus Musah fell short of what the USMNT needed from its central midfield duo, though neither individual struggled by any means.

It was a night with precious few standout performances from the USMNT, but Busio was the new piece in the puzzle, and I thought the Venezia youngster showed the composure of a much older player (being pro since you’re a kid at Sporting KC helps that maturity along). He was very good in tight spaces and even found himself into shooting position for what would’ve been a marvelous second goal. (NM)

CM – Yunus Musah: 6 – See, above: Busio, Gianluca.

RW – Tim Weah: 7.5 (7.5) – This game featured Weah’s best moment to date in a USMNT shirt, even if not his best overall performance. Heck, it wasn’t even his best outing during this international window. It wasn’t so long ago that Weah looked like he might fall considerably short of the lofty hopes and dreams of USMNT fans, but he has clearly hit a massive development upswing in the last 6-12 months, and the USMNT is benefitting in big ways.

Start him at a 7 for the goal alone, a wonderful finish that showcased physicality, power, and a quality finish. Weah is daring Berhalter to play anyone else opposite of Christian Pulisic, and honestly he may be next man up if Ricardo Pepi continues to run cold. (NM)

LW – Brenden Aaronson: 5.5 – An anonymous game from arguably the most consistent attacking player through the first two windows (six games). The physicality of the Jamaican challenges made it plenty difficult for Aaronson to remain upright.

CF – Ricardo Pepi: 5.5 (5) – The 18-year-old was unlucky to not score the USMNT’s second goal shortly after the first, but that was about it from Pepi. The problematic position remains problematic. Countdown to World Cup: 12 months, at which point he’ll (hopefully) be a street-wise veteran.

Hardly had a kick, but kept on working up top. Involved in build-up to Weah’s goal. Some hefty challenges on him early in the game seemed to unsettle the FC Dallas forward. After his fine start to qualifying, the teenager is a marked man. He’s playing like a player who knows they have a lot of big European clubs watching them. Everything seems a little rigid and forced right now. (JPW)

Sub – Christian Pulisic: 5.5 – A fully fit, full-of-confidence Pulisic doesn’t do this, but goodness was it frustrating to watch on Tuesday, and I’m glad someone else noticed it. The USMNT needs more from its most accomplished attacker, and hopefully it will come with fitness and playing time.

Breaking down the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Jamaica: thoughts & player ratings

The United States national team finished the November window with four points from two games. The players were perhaps a bit disappointed but the team is still on a heallthy pace to qualify. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta breaks down the game with his thougths, analysis, and player ratings after a second viewing

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA    NOVEMBER 17, 20214:50 AM

THE UNITED STATES DREW Jamaica 1-1 to end its November window and turn the page heading into the final two World Cup qualifying windows in January and March. The game wasn’t pretty and the U.S. team could have done better, but drawing on the road still keeps Gregg Berhalter’s team on pace to qualify.The starting XI was hardly as surprise. Nine of the players remained from the lineup that defeated Mexico while Chris Richards replaced the suspended Miles Robinson and Gianluca Busio replaced the suspended Weston Mckennie.Meanwhile, Jamaica had its best starting XI featuring Leon Bailey and Michail Antonio. Playing in Kingston, the U.S. team was matched up against the best Jamaica had to offer.The U.S. team started strong with Tim Weah scoring in the 11th minute. On the play, Weah received the ball in the midfield, played it to Ricardo Pepi. With his first touch, Pepi got the ball back to Weah who moved into the box, got around Bobby Decordova-Reid, and then beat Andre Blake for a 1-0 advantage.The lead lasted just 11 minutes as Antonio got the ball in the midfield, took advantage of space on the left side of the midfield, and unleashed a 34-yard blast that beat Zack Steffen.The U.S. team controlled the remainder of the first half but was unable to capitalize.The second half became very physical. The U.S. still held the possession edge but Jamaica had two dangerous chances, once when Antonee Robinson was lost on a cross and Decordova-Reid sent a shot over the bar. Then towards the end, Jamaica had a goal called back when Damion Lowe was judged to have fouled Walker Zimmerman before his header.The final whistle sounded with both teams disappointed. The U.S. team failed to take advantage of a big opportunity while Jamaica’s position in the table is in terrible shape as it sits seven points back of qualification.Here are some thoughts on the U.S. performance.

 FINAL THIRD/SET PIECES LACKING

 Poor field conditions aside, the U.S. team controlled the run of play.  Consider this, the U.S. was 326/428 in passing while Jamaica was just 171/269. The U.S. completed 155 more passes than Jamaica, nearly twice as many. The U.S. team also had a huge edge in completed passes in the attack half: The U.S. team completed 154 passes in the attacking half while Jamaica had just 92That pressure did not yield nearly enough chances. Heading into 2022, the final ball needs to be there.  lso, crossing was very ineffective. The U.S. team was credited in the stats as sending in 20 crosses. Only twice were these crosses accurate.Set pieces are the biggest weakness of the U.S. team so far this entire World Cup qualifying campaign. It is surprising because the team was effective at this in Nations League and at the Gold Cup. In qualifying, there has been no end-product. Last night, the U.S. team had Pulisic, Busio, and Aaronson taking the kicks without any success.

 THE PHYSICAL GAME

 Without Weston McKennie, Gregg Berhalter elected to start two teenagers in a three-man midfield in Yunus Musah and Gianluca Busio. While talented, Jamaica was able to neutralize their talent with a lot of fouls and forcing the U.S. team into trying to win second balls as opposed to having opportunities to dribble.The midfield structure broke down a lot. Tyler Adams typically likes to get on the ball 80-100 times a game. When he does that, the rest of the team plays better and the other midfielders are able to attack more. Against Jamaica, Adams had just 55 touches and was not able to have the impact in the game he typically does.Adams had the biggest drop off but then that led to the other midfielders seeing a drop off. Busio had just 66 touches over 90 minutes. Musah had 46 touches over 66 minutes and his replacement, Kellyn Acosta had just 12 over his 24 minutes.When the U.S. midfielders are not on the ball but the U.S. team is controlling possession, that either means that the defenders touch the ball a lot, the ball was involved in the front three, or the ball is forced out to the wings a lot. Neither Aaronson, Weah, or Pepi had 30 touches, so Jamaica’s pressure was designed to not allow the U.S. team to have an easy time in the middle of the field.Jamaica finished with 15 pass interceptions while the U.S. team had just four. Yes, the U.S. team should have more since they had more attempts, but Jamaica was able to telegraphy well what the U.S. team was trying to do.The physical game really hurt the U.S team’s midfield. If Weston McKennie played, he could have won more physical battles and helped the team go up the middle.The wingers and fullbacks couldn’t threaten enough from wide positions to open the game up.

 LOOKING AHEAD

 The U.S. team has a favorable window in January but a brutal window in February. Is the U.S. team going to rotate lineups or try to keep the same XI in-tact? Winning the two games at home is absolutely critical to the team’s chances and El Salvador and Honduras are good opportunities where the team should be heavily favored.Set pieces, better crossing, and winning the physical games are key. One thing 2021 has taught is that only rarely are teams ever going to be completely healthy. Gio Reyna and Sergino Dest should be back from their current injuries (and Pulisic should be fit) but will there be more injuries?The U.S. team has done well this qualifying campaign considering that it is sending out starting XI’s with average ages often under 23 and none of the players having been through qualifying before. It’s learning on the fly.The good news is that it is far more likely that the U.S. team continues to improve as opposed to regresses. But limiting mistakes and finding ways to make big plays is what typically determines qualifying or not.

 PLAYER RATINGS

 THE STARTING LINEUP

 Zack Steffen: The Manchester City goalkeeper allowed a shot from 34-yards and while it was a brilliant shot, Steffen’s positioning could have been better. He wasn’t forced into any big saves and made a few mistakes in the second half with his distribution and decision-making to leave his line. He did make a few nice clearances off crosses and set pieces. Rating: 5.0

Antonee Robinson: The Fulham-based left back had a tough game and was lucky Decordova-Reid didn’t score after he got past Robinson. His passing just wasn’t there. Rating: 4.5

Chris Richards: The Hoffenheim central defender did well to cover for Antonee Robinson, who was typically pushed deeply into the attack. He had a few suspect moments but generally acquitted himself well. Rating: 6.5

Walker Zimmerman: While some of his long-balls weren’t accurate, Zimmerman’s aerial ability was important to team’s defense as he won 7/10 duels and 6/8 aerials, and had four clearances. Jamaica was sending balls into the box and Zimmerman regularly did well to defend them. Rating: 7.0

DeAndre Yedlin: While his crossing was also lacking, Yedlin was solid defensively and made no major mistakes. Rating: 5.5

Tyler Adams: It was a tough assignment for Adams who far more defensively inclined than the other midfielders. He broke up players but didn’t get on the ball nearly enough. When he did, he did well and had a nice range of passing. Rating: 6.5

Gianluca Busio: His first World Cup qualifying start, Busio had a nice shot from distance and was on the ball more than all of the other midfielders. He set up two chances and his passing range was sharp. Rating: 7.0

Yunus Musah: It was a strong start to the game for Musah but he faded a bit (and it was later revealed he had strep throad). He’s a threat off the dribble but had some tough turnovers too. Rating: 6.0

Brenden Aaronson: The Salzburg attacker was good in the press to limit Jamaica’s possession. His final ball wasn’t there but he was aggressive every time he was is possession. Rating: 6.0

Tim Weah: The Lille attacker had a fantastic goal when he blew through the Jamaican defense. He tired but is strong start to the game gave the U.S. team and edge and the lead. Rating: 7.5

Ricardo Pepi: The FC Dallas forward need to get the ball more for shots – he had just two shots which were both blocked. He worked well with Weah on the goal for the assist. Rating: 6.0

 THE SUBSTITUTES

 Kellyn Acosta: The Colorado midfielder added some bite to the midfield late. Rating: 6.0

Christian Pulisic: Pulisic came off the bench and battled hard, drew a bunch of fouls. His set piece delivery didn’t improve the U.S. team’s struggles but Pulisic helped to keep Jamaica on their back foot. Rating: 6.5

Paul Arriola: The DC United winger only had four touches but won a corner late. Rating: NR

Jesus Ferreira: The FC Dallas attacker only had two touches but one of them was a dangerous ball into the final third. Rating: NR

The Thump and the Whistle: Decisive Sounds Define USMNT’s ‘Decent’ Draw

After a booming goal from Michail Antonio and a late, favorable foul call, the U.S. may be fortunate to leave Jamaica with a point, but it’s a valuable one in the big World Cup qualifying picture.  Brian Straus SI 

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The sound of Michail Antonio’s foot striking the ball had almost the same reverberation—the same sort of visceral thump you can feel surge through your chest—as the beat in the Bob Marley medley that was blasting inside Jamaica’s National Stadium about half an hour earlier.This is a country that’s defined in part by sound, and so the first match played in front of Jamaican fans since before the pandemic fittingly was as well.There was the din of the vuvuzelas and air horns carried by the small but enthusiastic crowd of 4,100 here at the venue they call The Office. There was the unmistakable leathery punch you could hear across Independence Park as Antonio, a new Reggae Boy recruit, leveled the score on a stunning, world-class goal that altered Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier. And then there was the whistle that saved it for the U.S. men’s national team, which unexpectedly benefited from a road refereeing decision that fell its way.The Costa Rican middle man ruled out a potential Jamaican game-winner in the 84th minute, thus preserving a 1-1 draw for the Americans. Perhaps if The Office was filled to its 35,000 capacity, Juan Calderón would’ve been less decisive or sympathetic in that critical moment.“I don’t think you get that call at times,” said U.S. center back Walker Zimmerman, the player Jamaica’s Damion Lowe was adjudged to have fouled before heading home what would’ve been the backbreaker. “So it’s fortunate.”But this was an odd game in a slightly surreal setting. Jamaica has been taking the pandemic really seriously. There are signs and billboards around the capital reminding residents to comply with protocols. Entering a hotel, business or bus often required temperature checks and/or a liberal spritz of hand sanitizer, and masks are ubiquitous inside and out. Once Marley’s music ended, the stadium PA was used most frequently to remind fans scattered around the bleachers to keep their masks on and stay six feet apart.A national curfew of 8 p.m. pushed Tuesday’s kickoff forward to 5 p.m, which feels almost like lunch time in Concacaf. And so the moon rose over the lush green hills sitting just behind the arena as the U.S. and Jamaica contested a scrappy and physical qualifier during which you could hear just about everything—from the shouts of individual supporters to the pivotal plays that’ll shape the road to Qatar.“It wasn’t really much of a soccer match. It was more just physicality—who could run longer and just continue to fight, and I’m proud of the boys of how they did that,” U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen said. “It wasn’t a pretty match and we knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty game going into it. We knew that we needed to fight and that’s exactly what we did. We got a decent result.”There was some pregame pressure on the Americans to equal the proactive performance they put on last Friday in Cincinnati. There, the U.S. played Mexico off the TQL Stadium stadium pitch in what became an instant “Dos a Cero” classic. Conditions were far different here in the Caribbean, however. Weston McKennie’s suspension and Yunus Musah’s strep throat (he played 65 minutes) impacted the U.S. midfield, the Reggae Boyz were buoyed by having any fans at all and the choppy field lent itself to the direct, long-ball soccer the hosts chose to play. Absent the requisite chemistry and rhythm in midfield, not to mention the turnovers it often creates against teams that try to keep the ball, the U.S. was left to try to limit Antonio and compatriot Leon Bailey and endure the slog.The draw (and Canada’s subsequent win over Mexico) ensured the U.S. (4-1-3) would conclude the November window in second place in the Concacaf Octagonal, which will send the top three finishers to next year’s World Cup and the fourth to an intercontinental playoff. U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said here that he was happy with that big picture, even if Tuesday’s outcome wasn’t ideal. The lineup he fielded in Kingston was the second youngest in the U.S.’s World Cup qualifying history, averaging under 23 years of age.“We’re looking at it as a good result. Any time you can get a point away from home it is a good thing in Concacaf qualifying. I want to be very clear by saying that. For the guys to have their heads down because we wanted more is completely natural, but this is a point that we’ll absolutely take on the road,” he said.“We wanted to end in first or second position this window, and we’re in position to do that. We’re going to do that. So that’s positive. And now we have six games left—two windows [early next year]. And that’s where we want to hopefully seal the ualification.” The Americans looked like they ready to take a big step toward Qatar early Tuesday. They enjoyed the stronger start and took an 11th-minute lead through winger Tim Weah, this month’s U.S. revelation. The son of a Jamaican mother (and a very famous father), Weah lifted the visitors in front with a beautiful run through two defenders and a tight-angled, left-footed finish past goalkeeper Andre Blake. It was the potential highlight of the night for 10 minutes.Antonio, 31, is new to the Jamaican national team but he’s an established Premier League star who’s tied for second on the 2021-22 scoring chart. The London-born son of Jamaican parents had harbored hopes of playing for England, but after several close calls, he agreed to represent the Reggae Boyz and finally received his passport in August. Tuesday’s game was just his third appearance.In the 22nd minute, he picked up the ball in midfield and held off and then turned Tyler Adams before cutting back onto his right foot and unleashing a shot that echoed around the stadium and shook in the air, bedeviling Steffen. Antonio has Premier League class and confidence infused into an imposing tank of a body. He didn’t do much else Tuesday—the U.S. back four was excellent. But his 35-yard sonic boom reset the game.“Jeez, it was a good one,” Adams said. “Usually when a player cuts in from there, you’re not thinking that he’s going to shoot it. But he didn’t hesitate.”Steffen said the shot’s movement reminded him of the Jabulani, the controversial 2010 World Cup ball that seemed to have a mind of its own.“It was coming in fast. It was moving. I’d have to see it again, but I don’t think I really had much of a chance,” Steffen said.It took the reeling Americans until the second half to rediscover their legs, and Gianluca Busio, McKennie’s replacement, had a promising shot that curled just over the crossbar. But the better chances fell to the hosts. Christian Pulisic’s 66th-minute entry failed to spark the U.S. and as the visitors began to sit deeper, Jamaica earned a corner kick and appeared to take the lead. But as Lowe was racing toward his bench in celebration, Steffen had already taken the free kick and sent the U.S. on the attack. The whistle was quick, both Berhalter and the players said. And while Jamaica didn’t protest much, the lack of VAR in Concacaf qualifying may have helped the Americans.“It looked like he shoved Walker. I thought it was a good call,” Steffen said.“I think the ref blew the whistle pretty early,” Zimmerman said. “I think he had his eyes on it from the beginning of the play, thankfully.”“He called it really early, so it seemed he was pretty confident of the call,” Berhalter added. “He blew the whistle early and that was a relief.”A quick whistle and a sigh of relief—those are the sounds of a close call and a point on the road. But what you won’t hear from this U.S. contingent is a moan or lament. The perspective following the tie was mostly broad and positive. This team is now familiar with the Concacaf grind, and everyone knows what sort of pitfalls lie on the road to the World Cup. The Americans avoided them, for the post part, in Jamaica. Four points in a two-game window that included a showdown with Mexico, and which was played with a handful of high-profile players missing or injured, is a decent return.Berhalter will convene separate camps in December and January. There will be a friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Dec. 18, and then qualifying resumes with critical matches against El Salvador, Canada and Honduras Jan. 27-Feb. 2. The top half of the Octagonal standings is air tight, but the U.S. is where it wants to be.“When you think about the youth of this group, the inexperience of this group in Concacaf qualifying, you know we’re on the right track,” the manager said. “We’re going through a lot here, man, and we’re learning on the fly and the guys have done a good job with that. We’ll take our position right now and focus on 2022.”

What we learned from the USMNT’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw at Jamaica

By Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76    ARMCHAIR ANALYST: MATT DOYLE   MLS.com Tuesday, Nov 16, 2021, 08:45 PM

The US men’s national team went down to Jamaica on Tuesday evening and, for 20 minutes, they looked a whole hell of a lot like the side that beat Mexico Dos a Cero last week. Sure, they were missing Weston McKennie’s energy and attacking presence in central midfield, and yes, they were struggling some with the spongy turf of Independence Park.

But Tim Weah scored himself a golazo in the 11th minute and damn near set up another in the 15th. The US were all over the ball, all over the hosts and all about creating distance atop the Octagonal standings for the first time in World Cup qualifying.

Then, in the 22nd minute, Michail Antonio got loose in midfield, strode into the final third and unleashed a thunderbastard from 35 yards that Zack Steffen only managed to wave at as it went top bins. Out of nothing it was 1-1, and after that goal a giddy and gorgeous US outing turned into more of a grim, resolute and ultimately fairly lucky road point.

It was, in one game, an example of how the US want to play – front foot, high energy, connecting passes, multiple runs and runners in the box – and how they absolutely, positively must not. Because the Antonio golazo immediately took the wind out of the US sails, and they never quite got it back.

That’s the big-picture story of the game. Let’s dive into some of the minutiae:

• Each window thus far has had at least one player step forward and make a case for themselves. This window will be remembered as the Tim Weah & Walker Zimmerman window.

Weah, through 20 minutes, was in the same type of form that got him the Man of the Match nod vs. El Tri, and scored as pretty a goal as you could ever hope for. This is gorgeous:

Zimmerman, meanwhile, won everything in the air* all night, and his distribution continues to be an asset rather than a negative. I suspect both these guys made strong cases to be starters once the next window comes around.

(*) Go rewatch how dominant Zimmerman was in the air, consistently outjumping everyone on the field. And then minutes from full time, he suddenly can’t jump higher than 12 inches off the ground?

That doesn’t track. What does track is that he was pretty obviously held down – a classic, clever striker’s foul – and the angle that shows it just wasn’t available on the broadcast. A guy who’s won everything in the air for the past two games doesn’t suddenly forget how to jump.

• Ricardo Pepi’s link play continues to evolve, though his hold-up play is coming along more slowly.

Often those two things are conflated. For clarity, here’s what I mean: On sequences like the one that led to Weah’s goal, in which Pepi gains a yard of separation from his defender, he’s become much more dangerous at connecting meaningful passes. And because his soccer brain and game sense are growing damn near exponentially, he’s become smarter and better at timing his movements and finding those pockets where he can create a yard of space and start linking play.

Where he still struggles is with the physical demands of rugged hold-up play. By this I mean he still can not put his back into a defender, hold them off, shield the ball and allow his teammates to advance upfield. He still lacks that physicality and feel.

When the US are flowing, as they were in the first 20 minutes, Pepi’s improved link play is a game-changer. When the US are bogged down, as they were for most of the final 70, his lack of rugged hold-up play is noticeable and can make it tough for the midfield to find a release valve.

• Ok, about that midfield: Gianluca Busio, McKennie’s replacement, had a chance to make a statement. The one he ultimately made was “I’m no replacement for Weston McKennie.”

Busio’s young and has been very good with Venezia, and I think it’s fair right now to say that he’s much better suited to tactical games on pristine Serie A turf than he is for physical battles in the chop and slop of Concacaf. It’s not just that he doesn’t win those physical battles, it’s that he’s rarely in position to fight them in the first place.

As of the 60th minute he hadn’t registered a tackle, interception or a foul. Worse yet is that he hadn’t registered a single duel as per Opta, which is almost impossible for a central midfielder. That lack of midfield confrontation speaks to how uninvolved he was – how the Reggae Boyz didn’t even feel his presence – and explains, to a pretty good degree, why the US midfield struggled to dominate the game the way they’d managed against El Tri.

He did play better over the final 20ish minutes, but by that point the game was gone and the US were just holding on.

• Compounding this was Tyler Adams having, by his standards, a poor outing. The most glaring moment came on Antonio’s goal. Watch, at the very start of this clip, how Adams jumps a potential passing lane rather than immediately getting touch tight on Antonio:

This is a mistake. The reason Antonio strode into the attacking third in rhythm is because Adams made the wrong choice there, and then was never able to scramble back and get touch tight. If he had been, he’d have blocked that shot, or even forced Antonio into a pass.It’s still a golazo, obviously. But these seemingly tiny margins matter a great deal when facing a striker as dangerous as Antonio.

• I agreed with Briana Scurry’s halftime analysis on Paramount+ that Steffen should’ve done better with his footwork, reading of the play and technique to at least give himself a chance at getting a hand to Antonio’s shot.

That is not the same thing as saying that I think he should’ve saved it, or that Matt Turner would’ve saved it. But Steffen’s sloppy footwork is a recurring theme and explains why he often gets a weak push when attempting to save shots that are going high. Think Daniel Royer’s goal in the 2018 playoffs, or Niall McGinn’s goal from earlier this year.

From a goalkeeper friend of mine:

He just gets going sooo late.

When there is an above-shoulder save across your body, you want to use your top hand (which would be his right in this situation). He just doesn’t have time to get a deep enough plant on his left so he can rotate his torso.

So when you see a keeper use their left in a situation like that, it’s a tell-tale sign that they’re reacting late for some reason.

• Chris Richards was pretty good, though I think he was lucky to get away without being called for a handball in the first half. Still, games like this are very good growing experiences for a young center back who has a good chance of starting in Qatar a year from now, should the US qualify.

• Both fullbacks had weird games – good at the start, but DeAndre Yedlin became bizarrely disengaged, while Antonee Robinson’s sloppiness seemed to increase exponentially with each passing minute.

I don’t know why, and each of them had a hand in one of the game’s pivotal moments: Bobby Reid’s spectacular miss midway through the second half. Easily the biggest let-off of the game for the US.

• Brenden Aaronson constantly got into good spots and just lacked the burst and/or 1-v-1 ability to leverage them into high-quality chances. Then Christian Pulisic came on and… stood at the touchline, waiting to get on the ball then dribble, inverted, into midfield.

It’s not a useless thing by any stretch, as Pulisic drew multiple fouls in dangerous spots, and with better service that actually could’ve been a difference-maker.

But it’s hard to watch the US and not imagine what it would be like if Pulisic was as willing to do the early, hard running as Aaronson is. Watching him repeatedly go 1-v-3 into the hurt locker has become dispiriting.

———

A four-point window is good. Not great, obviously – six would’ve been great. If it’d been six, I’d have fired off a “congrats to the USMNT for qualifying for the World Cup tweet” and risked the wrath of the soccer gods.

But they’re not there yet. This is a young team and Berhalter is still sifting his way through important parts of the roster, and right now it’s clear that the drop from McKennie & Musah to the back-up No. 8s is something of a glaring issue. But even as that’s happened, the US have discovered more depth at center back than most thought was available ahead of qualifying.

So the process continues. Qualifying for the World Cup has never been easy, and that certainly hasn’t changed this time around.

Three Takeaways from the USMNT’s World Cup Qualifying draw at Jamaica

By Charles Boehm @cboehm  Tuesday, Nov 16, 2021, 10:35 PM  MLS..com 

The US men’s national team didn’t win, which means a large chunk of their fans will be irate for the foreseeable future. And yes, there were ample shortcomings and misunderstandings in Tuesday evening’s 1-1 draw with Jamaica at the National Stadium in Kingston.But as one who witnessed a past edition of the USMNT contrive to lose in a similar scenario at that lovable, vuvuzela-haunted concrete bowl, I’m here to tell you: Gregg Berhalter, Tim Weah & Co. should snatch that point with both hands and escape Independence Park gratefully.  Here are three observations from the Yanks’ eighth game, and 15th point, of the Octagonal.

1

Clunky tempo in the land of rhythm

Jamaica have punched far beyond their weight on the global stage in cultural terms, due in large part to the incredibly vibrant musical landscape that’s gifted the globe with reggae, dancehall, the building blocks of hip-hop and myriad other styles.

The USMNT couldn’t find their flow at all on the scruffy pitch at The Office, however.

Whether it was the surface, the sultry Caribbean air, the din of horn honks from the small (COVID-19-restricted) crowd, the hole of the suspended Weston McKennie – whose value was strikingly underlined by his absence – or a combination of everything, the relentless pace of play and fluid passing exchanges that lit up Friday’s thumping 2-0 win over Mexico were nowhere to be found.

“The conditions change – as you’re playing on that field more, it turns, and it gets really choppy, and then you have to try to get the ball out of tight areas, it becomes challenging,” said Berhalter postgame, making sure to note that while his players were disappointed with the result, he felt just fine gutting out a road point.

“Our passing percentage was down a good bit; Jamaica’s was extremely low in the game. So it’s just the conditions, both teams had to deal with it, and we chose slightly different ways to go about it. We wanted to keep the ball on the ground, move the ball side to side and get behind them. And Jamaica chose to play very direct and relied on first balls and second balls … Overall, a very disruptive game because of the direct play of Jamaica.”

2

Big players make big plays

The general perception is that the USMNT boast superior talent to the Reggae Boyz, understandable given the two teams’ relative places in the Ocho table. Weah’s wonderfully-taken early solo strike seemed to vindicate that point of view, with the slick winger – whose mother is Jamaican – continuing his rich run of form for both club and country.

But that’s a generalization applied across an entire squad. And no one on the pitch possessed more strength, attacking menace and overall quality than the dangerous Michail Antonio, who flipped the game on his head with that astonishing piledriver that hurtled past Zack Steffen from long range to equalize the score.

That’s one of the elite strikers in the world’s most popular league, a talent who could well be starring for England right now if a few junctures in his career had unfolded a bit differently. He’s now scored in back-to-back games for Jamaica and no matter where the islanders are in the standings, his individual ability merits great caution and respect from any opponent.

Berhalter praised the USMNT’s Chris Richards-Walker Zimmerman center-back duo for how they coped with Antonio and the hosts’ overall bombardment of long balls and searching deliveries down the channels. Still, the US back five let their concentration slip in that fleeting phase of broken play, and the West Ham man made them pay.

“We know what his capabilities are,” said Reggae Boyz coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore of Antonio. “He was blessed with a wonderful strike; I think he had the Americans on their back foot for most of the game, and I think it’s a great performance for Michail tonight.”Antonio’s strike destabilized the visitors and underscored their failure to build upon Weah’s solid start, which should have allowed them to better manage the terms of engagement. Letting a game like this spin out of their control and become a ragged, end-to-end affair invited Jamaica back into it when they should’ve been feeling demoralized at falling behind yet again.

“When you talk about the direct play, the physical duels in this game, it was challenging, and it was a lot of stretched field, open field,” said Berhalter. “And it made it hard to get around duels sometimes and very difficult. But overall, I think both teams competed well, and we’ll move on.”

3

Yay, more goalkeeping discourse

Antonio’s howitzer blast was a gorgeous hit by any measure. What’s more subjective is whether Steffen could’ve done better on the play.

For some observers – this correspondent included – it’s uncharitable, even unrealistic to suggest that any other goalkeeper would have a ghost of a chance to parry it away from the top corner. Others, like US women’s national team goalkeeping legend Briana Scurry on the Paramount+ studio analysis team, saw red flags with the Manchester City man’s footwork as he reacted to the ball rocketing off Antonio’s boot, and there’s something to that.

It might not be fair to dock Steffen points for conceding a worldie like that. Yet he looked jittery for much of the rest of the match, punching instead of catching a couple of box deliveries and looking static on the late Damion Lowe headed corner-kick finish that was waved off by a soft-looking foul call. And it slots all too neatly into the ongoing debate about whether he’s a better option than Matt Turner in the USMNT nets.

Conventional wisdom says Turner is the superior shot-stopper and has the advantage of regular minutes with the New England Revolution, while Steffen’s distribution and all-around game gives him the edge but comes with the drawback of only spot match duty as the backup to Ederson at City. After the Mexico game, Berhalter revealed that the coaching staff had tracked the number of possessions gained by Steffen’s comfort with his feet compared to Turner’s more basic passing.

Yet he’s quite noticeably stopped short of declaring Steffen to be his No. 1, even though that was the de facto reality for much of Berhalter’s tenure before this year. On Friday he noted that Steffen would have to “keep his form” to stay ahead of Turner, adding “we’re not hesitant to change goalkeepers.”

Some people consider a clear, undoubted No. 1 in goal to be a bedrock element of a successful team; Berhalter is apparently not one of them.

Assessing the Octagon with 2021 over and just two windows remaining

The November games are over and CONCACAF now has just two qualifying windows remaining. There is now separation between the top half and the bottom half. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta looks at the top four teams and discusses the pros/cons of where each sits in their pursuit of qualifying. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTAPOSTED
NOVEMBER 17, 2021
4:00 PM

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THE OCTAGON or “Ocho” will now head into the final two windows with each team playing three times in January/February and then three times again in March. Each team has played eight games heading into 2022 and after the November window, we can see a clear separation between the top half and the bottom half.

The top half consists of Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Panama – in that order. Just two points separate leading Canada from fourth-place Panama. A five-point gap separates Panama from the bottom half where Costa Rica sits with nine points, Jamaica with seven points, El Salvador with six points, and Honduras with just three.

It is not impossible for Costa Rica to move into the top four, but for now it seems like current top four are the most likely to finish in the top four. We just don’t know their places.

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As most know by now, the top three qualify for the World Cup while the fourth-place team has to go to an intercontinental playoff – where it could likely be the underdog.

Between Canada, the USA, Mexico, and Panama you have a four-team race for three spots.

Here is a look at each team and why their fans should feel both optimistic and concerned over their current standing.

CANADA

Points: 16

January Window: @Honduras, USA, @El Salvador

March Window: @Costa Rica, Jamaica, @Panama

OPTIMISTIC LOOK

Canada is atop the group, is playing well, has yet to lose, and the 2-1 win over Mexico capped a six-point window and created a sense of euphoria the country has never seen about its men’s national team in well over a generation. The team is loaded with talent with Alphonso Davies perhaps the best player in all of CONCACAF, Jonathan David/Cyle Larin comprising of the best forward tandem, and Tajon Buchanan another budding player full promise. Everyone is stepping up and on Tuesday it was Alistair Johnston who made a big play to create Larin’s first goal over Mexico.

Schedule-wise, Canada is done with Mexico and doesn’t have an away trip to the United States. A lot of the heavily lifting has been done.

Canada seem is riding a wave of positivity that seems destined to carry it to Qatar and then in a spot to build up its team ahead of co-hosting the tournament in 2026.

PESSIMISTIC LOOK

Canada has performed well thus far but has been doing so mostly at home. Of its eight games, five have been in Canada. While it has earned draws on the road against the USA, Mexico, and Jamaica (certainly very strong accomplishments), it will now have to play four of its final six games on the road in Central America. Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama are tough places to play and a hiccup or two should be expected.

There are also a bunch of other things that should cause concern. In each of the upcoming windows, the team is going to have to travel a lot. 1) Assemble in Canada, 2) travel to Central America and play game one 3) return all the way to Canada for game two and 4) travel back to Central America for game three. On top of the travel, the fluctuation in temperature between Canada in the winter and Central America could be eighty or ninety degrees.

While four games are on the road, one of the home games is against a U.S. team that is a regional power that has won both the Gold Cup and Nations League in 2021 while beating Mexico three times.

Also, combine this with the fact that for the January window, Canada’s MLS based players will still be offseason and that makes it harder considering the Canadian team, while boasting an strong XI, is still not as deep as the U.S. or Mexico yet.

UNITED STATES

Points: 15

January Window: El Salvador, @Canada, Honduras

March Window: @Mexico, Panama, @Costa Rica

OPTIMISTIC LOOK

The United States team is generally improving. Without question, the team is in a much better start than it was a year ago. It’s starting lineups now typically boast an average age of under 23 so a learning curve was expected. For years, American fans have been stressing the future of this team. But the talk now is turning into something substantive on the field. And the team is also getting deeper. It won the Gold Cup with mostly reserve players and then against Mexico this past window, there was no Gio Reyna, no Sergino Dest, Christian Pulisic had to come off the bench, and John Brooks was left off the roster due to form. The U.S. team can miss chunks of its main group and still compete well.


The good news for the U.S. team is that the team seems far more likely to continue to improve than to regress. After a draw against Canada, the U.S. team looked comfortable playing at home against teams that it should beat with wins over Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Mexico. The team is playing home games like it did when players like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Carlos Bocanegra carried the team through very strong qualifying cycles in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

That is very important when you consider the two home games in January are against El Salvador and Honduras, which are struggling to compete in the Octagon. If the U.S. team can compete like it should, it should rack up points in January. When you look at Panama’s tough window in January, there is real opportunity for some big separation.

PESSIMISTIC LOOK

The United States has three brutal road games remaining. Heading to Canada is going to be no fun and the U.S. team has never won a competitive game away at Mexico or away at Costa Rica. After a loss on the road to Panama, can the U.S. team find a way to eke out points in any of its four toughest road games? The game against Jamaica wasn’t reassuring.

That puts an unusual amount of pressure on the team to win its remaining home games – which are very doable, but the team can’t slip up. Massive squad rotations worked in the road trip to Honduras but didn’t against Panama.  The U.S. team needs to enter March in a strong position because that window is its hardest of qualifying.


The U.S. team is young and that has paid off, but the remaining part of the schedule is a test of maturity. Winning the toughest road games in this region is hard. Just, look at the beating Mexico took in November if you’re looking for proof.

MEXICO

Points: 14

January Window: @Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama

March Window: USA, @Honduras, El Salvador

OPTIMISTIC LOOK

Mexico had a brutal November window. They had tough road tests against the United States and Canada and came up short against two emotionally changed opponents in hostile environments. Fair enough.

But despite that, Mexico is in strong position when you look at the standings. Just three of its first eight games have been at home. It only took a beating in its two hardest games. Compared with the United States – which has its hardest road games coming up – Mexico was also able to draw at Panama, win at Costa Rica, and win at El Salvador. Those seven road points more than offset the two losses in November to put it on pace to qualify.


Azteca is a brutal place to play and Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador will be heavy underdogs. Hosting the U.S. team can be tricky as the U.S. team should be confident and has draw there the last two cycles. But by the time the third window rolls around, Mexico will have momentum and will be looking to go in for the kill against its archrival.

PESSIMISTIC LOOK

Games aren’t played on paper. On paper, Mexico should be favored in most of its upcoming games. But Mexico’s toughest opponent isn’t another CONCACAF team. It’s Mexico. This team can beat itself when it is down and the November window set the stage for a winter of discontent where fans are angry with head coach Tata Martino. The players say dumb stuff to the press and are visibly frustrated on the field (this was visible against the U.S. in Cincinnati and against Mexico in Edmonton).

All it’s going to take is a stumble out of the gate in January and the normally supportive home crowd could turn angry at its own players. Mexico’s passion for its own national team cuts both ways and the self-destruct button is within reach.

PANAMA

Points: 14

January Window: @Costa Rica, Jamaica, @Mexico

March Window: Honduras, @USA, Canada

OPTIMISTIC LOOK

Who is hotter than Panama now? The November window was epic for Panama which rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Honduras 3-2 on the road. Then at home to El Salvador, Panama was down 1-0 in the second half but defeated Hugo Perez’s team 2-1 to complete a perfect six -point window.


A team that can will itself to win through a belief in itself is always a dangerous team. The players are all very emotional and are able to score goals when needed. They are seemingly never out of any game and the team rotates effectively – so they’re not reliant on any one or two players.

PESSIMISTIC LOOK

The team has been boosted in large part by two wins – a 1-0 home win over the United States when the U.S. was just off. Then a staggering 3-0 win over Jamaica on the road. But Panama also drew at home to Costa Rica and drew at home Mexico (which are below what the U.S. and Canada did to the same opponents). It also lost on the road to El Salvador. Panama’s most recent wins were against the two worst teams in the Octagon and Panama needed epic rallies for those wins.

Panama has a harder schedule than the United States, Mexico, and possibly Canada. If it can win at Costa Rica or Mexico, only then will they have the inside track towards a top three finish.


The team has a wave of positive emotion right now but the biggest detriment to momentum is time. Two months until the next qualifier will halt that momentum and Panama will have to press forward with its talent. While Panama is good, it doesn’t have the talent of Canada, Mexico, or the United States.

OUTLOOK

Soccer is tough to predict, and predicting CONCACAF is almost impossible. One bad bounce, one bad call, one big mistake can change everything.

Despite the problems Mexico had in November, it has the right schedule ahead to not just qualify but to finish atop. Four out of six games at Azteca has it just where it wants to be. It also has a decent number of points on the road. November’s scheduling was just too tough. Tata Martino might be embattled, but Mexico should find the remainder of the schedule winnable.

The United States doesn’t have an easy schedule like Mexico, but the January window is favorable. The team is improving, and the young players are gaining experience a fast rate.


Canada has put itself in a great position. The four road games and travel are difficult but it will become easier for the players to take if they sense a World Cup ticket is getting close. They might have some hiccups, but they have enough talent and experience to cross the line.

Panama seems like the odd team out here. The schedule is tough, their momentum will dissipate with the two-month break. Panama is a good team, but a bit behind the other three.

For that reason, I’ll predict the top four order of 1) Mexico, 2) United States, 3) Canada, 4) Panama

Written Version: Landon, Wahl and Witty on Jamaica 1, USMNT 1

The Boys Break Down a Point Away in CONCACAF Grant Wahl Nov 18

As we do after every USMNT World Cup qualifier, I was joined by Landon Donovan and Chris Wittyngham to discuss the USMNT’s 1-1 tie at Jamaica in Kingston. I really enjoyed this discussion and think you will too.

Grant Wahl:

Hey there. Welcome to Landon, Wahl and Witty on the Road to Qatar. I’m Grant Wahl. Thanks so much for joining me. We’ve got a special episode in partnership with Meadowlark and Le Batard and friends with reaction from Landon Donovan, Chris Wittyngham and me to the U.S. men’s national team’s 1-1 tie against Jamaica on World Cup qualifying Matchday 8. Landon’s with us tonight, I think from Southern California. You in San Diego, Landon?

Landon Donovan:

I’m in San Diego. Yes.

Grant Wahl:

Awesome. Witty’s in South Florida. I’m in Kingston, Jamaica, where I’m writing for my Substack newsletter, which you should sign up for free or pay at grantwahl.com to get my posts in your inbox. Guys, it’s great to be with you. How are you?

Landon Donovan:

What’s going on, Witty?

Chris Wittyngham:

I didn’t love that performance, but it’s a point on the road and I’m told that that’s what you’re supposed to get. It’s a point on the road. So I guess I’m okay with it.

Grant Wahl:

This was a really interesting one guys, just doing some postgame interviews with the players in particular. They’re disappointed about this, which I know we’ve discussed this over time. Getting a point on the road in Concacaf World Cup Qualifying is not a bad thing, as long as you’re getting three points at home. U.S. has been doing that lately. But it was just interesting to see this sort of reaction from the players here. It was pretty muted. They felt they could have gotten three points. Landon, what was your sense of the whole thing?

Landon Donovan:

Exactly what I expected as I always say. So listen. All the factors, if you just took everything out of it, and you said U.S. against Jamaica on neutral ground without having played a game three days earlier, et cetera, et cetera, you’d say, “Okay.” You’d be disappointed in a 1-1 result. I know very well all the factors involved. So hugely emotional game against Mexico. It is so difficult three days later to get up emotionally for a game against one of the bottom dwellers of the group, away with lots of travel, plus the physical recovery involved. It’s just difficult and not an easy place to play, not a great field, no atmosphere in the stadium, all these different reasons. And that makes it difficult. So in the end, just take the point, get on the plane, go back to your clubs and we’ll see you in the new year.


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Grant Wahl:

Chris, what stood that to you in this game?

Chris Wittyngham:

Well, I think I would be surprised that the U.S. players felt like they deserved more from that game, because their performance did not. I mean, the only thing that deserved a win from that is that they were 1-0 up. But after that, they didn’t really play very well. And I thought they left a lot out there just in terms of their attacking play. They couldn’t really keep possession of the ball very much. Gianluca Busio, I thought, was the only player that was helping them tick, but didn’t offer really anything else and didn’t really offer much threat in the final third. He’s certainly a player that was a lightning rod for conversation tonight. But I think, in the overall, I really hated that playing surface. It just, you can tell how much it hurts the United States’ ability to play. They’re just not used to it.

Everything that we saw from Yunus Musah that we loved in Cincinnati on Friday, it’s negated by the playing surface. And it was also revealed after the game that he had strep throat as well. So he was kind of playing through it as well. And then I think, when you just look at Jamaica, everything except for their front three is basically a really high end USL team or a low end MLS team. But that front three, just by virtue of the names and the pedigrees, they can summon a moment. And that’s exactly, that’s all they did is they summed a moment.

Although, I mean, they probably frankly, should have won the game considering the chance that Bobby Decordova-Reid had, and the goal that was disallowed from Damion Lowe as well, but Decordova-Reid, Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey. That’s Premier League pedigree up top. If they played in a U.S. shirt we’d be like, “Oh, wow. Look, they’ve got three players who have been in the Premier League up top.” And so, those are real threats and Antonio summoned a moment and they probably could have snuck away with all three points, given the other two chances that they had.

Grant Wahl:

Two really good goals in this game though, Tim Weah putting the U.S. up 11 minutes in, third straight, good game for Weah, even though he did tail off in the second half. He said he got really tired, and here’s a guy who’s not playing 90 minutes every game at club level right now. And then, Antonio with maybe the best goal I’ve seen somebody score against the U.S. in quite a while. And that totally changed Jamaica because until that point, the U.S. was completely bossing this game. The goal kind of comes out of nowhere from distance. But then after that, it seemed like it perked Jamaica up and they actually performed more toe to toe with the U.S. for the rest of the game. And I felt like what Chris said is true, that if one of these teams looked like they were going to win the game in the second half, it was Jamaica, not the United States.

Landon Donovan:

Yeah. I agree with that, Grant. And, my experiences playing against Jamaican teams is very much rhythm based. And confidence based, when things are going their way and things are going well, they play better, especially at home. And so, when the U.S. come out, score the goal sort of on top of the game, Jamaica looked like a bottom feeder in the group, and then they score the goal and everything changes. And so the momentum shifted. They actually had real belief again. And to be honest, probably should have had a man sent off with the tackle on Tyler Adams. And were fortunate not to have that, but they were much better the rest of the game. And I’ll just say it again, if you’re the U.S., just get out of Jamaica, get on the flight out of Kingston, take the point and we’ll see you in the new year.

Chris Wittyngham:

But I guess, the U.S. fans’ response and I saw when Gregg Berhalter said that a lot of the responses were, “Why are you happy with this? Why are you happy with a point?” And I understand, that’s the formula, right? This is basic math. You’re trying to get to … I saw on Twitter, it’s basically 1.7 points per game is enough to qualify you for the World Cup. If you win all your home games and draw your away games, you’re at two points per game and you’re doing the math. But there was a feeling coming off the Mexico game that it was a step forward. And again, we’ve done a few of these pods with away Concacaf matches. And you’re wondering, what is it that you’re not able to replicate away from home? Why does a goal deflate you in that way?

Landon Donovan:

But Witty, we’re going to have this re-education process every four years with new U.S. fans. And it’s amazing that we are having these conversations because it means we’re bringing new U.S. fans in all the time. Every time we qualify and then make a World Cup, we’re bringing in new fans. But the reality is, I can promise you if we’re sitting here in 12 years, we’re going to have the same conversation. Why couldn’t they beat El Salvador? Look at all these guys playing at Barcelona and Real Madrid. And it’s just, we’re going to have the same conversation every time. It’s not easy. And there’s all these mitigating factors and you saw it again tonight.

Grant Wahl:

Maybe we should have titled our podcast, The Re-education Camp.

Landon Donovan:

Exactly.

Grant Wahl:

But I do want to talk a little bit about the absences for the U.S. in this game and the impact that they had on it. So Miles Robinson out, first time he hasn’t played, I think, in qualifying. I thought Chris Richards was fine replacing him in this game. Now Weston McKennie, out on a yellow card suspension. And I wrote this after the game. And I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are. I feel like the central midfield three of McKennie, Adams, and Musah is so far in away the best central midfield for this U.S. team right now. And I feel like if you don’t have all three of them, you’re going to have some issues. That just seems to be what happens here. And I almost feel like they’re so complementary to each other that the whole becomes better than the sum of the parts in a way.

And I thought that not having McKennie out there, Musah didn’t play as well. Adams didn’t play quite as well as he normally does. And Busio wasn’t bad or anything. And he had a really nice shot attempt on goal at one point, but it was just different and it wasn’t quite as effective. And you’re playing on the road and I realize there’s other factors here, but I just feel like that central midfield three really works well together. And you can tell when even just one of them is not there.

Landon Donovan:

So I’m going to beat a dead horse and Witty, you just tell me to shut up, but this is why, again, I got so frustrated when Weston made those decisions. And they’re just a different team when he’s not on the field versus when he is. And would he have made a difference that won the game at this point? At this point I would bet money, yes. You can say in the Canada game, well, who knows, but I think he would’ve made a difference tonight. Maybe he breaks up the play where Michail Antonio scores the goal. Maybe he gets in the box and gets on the end of a header. You just don’t know. And so that’s why you need him on the field. And you saw it again tonight when he’s not on the field, we just look like a different team. Tyler Adams and Musah were fine. Nothing, they weren’t terrible. They were fine. But that combination of three, and tell me if you disagree, Witty, but they are just, like Grant said, just better than what we have right now.

Chris Wittyngham:

I guess my feeling would be a level of concern off of that, that there isn’t someone who I feel can step in. I was really hoping that Busio would have a better game. I think it’s a really tough spot for him to be in, just because I think a lot of that game, if you look at the three-man midfield of Jamaica, it’s all about physicality. It’s all about being able to get stuck in. And that’s not really Busio’s strength. I think he’s getting better in Italy. It’s a perfect league for him to learn that. But he’s 19.

And I thought, Daniel Salloi had a nice backing of his former teammate when he said, “Hey, do you remember your first game in World Cup qualifying when you were starting at 19? It’s tough.” But to your point, Landon and Grant, Weston McKennie has not started an away World Cup qualifier since the opening day against El Salvador. And you can’t imagine there’s a player that’s better suited to the style of play away in Concacaf in the U.S. team than Weston McKennie. I guess I’d just ask you, what do you feel like that indispensability is with Weston? What do you feel like the U.S. lack through his absence?

Landon Donovan:

That’s a good question. So I’ll answer first. Grant, I’m curious to hear what you have to say. First of all, there’s a physicality, that Busio is a very good player, but Weston just has a physicality about him. That’s different. He covers ground differently. He wins duels differently. He tackles differently and he gets on the end of crosses, gets himself in the box and scores goals, which is different. And then there’s a dynamic between the three of them that it’s hard to pinpoint. You can’t necessarily pinpoint chemistry and why that is, but there is, it’s become clear. And so Busio might be the right guy, eventually too, or maybe he’s the fourth guy to those three or Kellyn Acosta is the fourth to those three. But right now, those two just don’t have the chemistry, Kellyn Acosta and Busio, that the other three have. And, you’re seeing that grow game after game.

CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Will Never Be the Same

So I’m Savoring Every Moment of the Octagonal   Grant Wahl   Nov 15

IRISH TOWN, Jamaica — I can’t tell you how much I’m going to miss the men’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament in the future. The current format has more or less stayed the same since qualifying for World Cup 1998: The USMNT has been part of a months-long home-and-away tournament involving five—or, this time, seven—other teams in the region.The games truly matter, and if you’re someone who follows it closely—I’m covering all 14 qualifiers on-site—you also get a memorable travel experience around some of the most gorgeous parts of North and Central America and the Caribbean.But I’m treasuring every moment this time around because it’s likely never going to be the same again for the USMNT. The U.S., Mexico and Canada are co-hosting World Cup 2026, and while FIFA hasn’t yet made it official that the hosts will receive automatic bids, everyone assumes that will be the case. So the U.S. almost surely won’t need to qualify in the next cycle. What’s more, the men’s World Cup will expand from 32 to 48 teams in 2026. So even when the U.S. has to qualify for World Cup 2030, the challenge will be infinitely easier if CONCACAF sends, say, a guaranteed six teams to the World Cup instead of the current three. There just won’t be that much at stake for the USMNT.And don’t get me started on what happens if FIFA gets its way and institutes World Cups every two years (World Cup 2028?), which wouldn’t leave time to have a meaningful regional qualifying tournament like this one.


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So I’m savoring everything on these trips. In Honduras, it was the pre-match fireworks that extended into the game’s first five minutes and the PA system playing Live Is Life, the soundtrack for Diego Maradona’s most memorable warmup of all time. In Honduras, it was the amazing pre-game pupusas from a food truck that I demolished on a paper plate, the Hondureña who made them smiling at my smiles. In Panama, it was doing a pre-game Twitter Spaces from the stadium in two languages with my friend Nicolle Ferguson.And the games in the U.S. have been a blast, too, from Nashville to Austin, from Columbus to Cincinnati. I’ve been blown away by all the new MLS stadiums, and the communal energy at those games has been off the charts. The convincing U.S. win over Mexico took it to a new level. There hasn’t been this much excitement around the USMNT since World Cup 2014 in Brazil.That brings us to Jamaica, which might be my favorite trip of the bunch. The game is in Kingston, which isn’t like the tourist destinations on the other parts of the island like Negril and Montego Bay (where most of the American Outlaws are staying, quite reasonably, before taking a bus to and from the game). My favorite place to stay here is a 45-minute drive into the Blue Mountains above Kingston. It’s a boutique place (that’s not overly expensive) called Strawberry Hill. Every morning I brew some local coffee, go out on my terrace with a ridiculous view overlooking the city and sit down to write. On Sunday morning, the beautiful sounds of singing from a nearby church service filled the air. This morning the sounds are coming from the roosters in the neighborhood. You couldn’t ask for much more. There’s a reason I’m staying here an extra day after the game and not returning to New York until Thursday.This isn’t a paid ad for Strawberry Hill, but if you ever come to Jamaica, consider taking the road less traveled—which is to say, narrow roads with crazy hairpin turns up into the mountains—and check it out. The place is owned by Chris Blackwell, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame producer who co-founded Island Records and brought to the global masses Bob Marley, U2, Steve Winwood, Grace Jones, Melissa Etheridge and a bunch of other artists. As you might expect, great music is playing all day long at the bar and restaurant here, and the walls of the place are covered in Blackwell’s classic music-themed photographs and, in one special room, gold and platinum records commemorating millions of albums sold. Strawberry Hill is where Marley came to recover after being shot in 1976. And you never know who you might meet here. One day when I was having a Red Stripe or three at the bar before a qualifier in 2013, I got into a fun soccer conversation with a guy who was clearly a fan of the game. It turned out to be Captain Horace Burrell, the longtime president of the Jamaican Football Federation. The Captain, as most people called him, had a fascinating life. He had served in the military for decades (hence: Captain), had fought on the U.S. side in the 1983 invasion of Grenada and had become wealthy as the proprietor of the Captain’s Bakery chain across Jamaica. In soccer politics, the Captain was an ally of both the notorious Jack Warner and U.S. Soccer. He served a six-month suspension from FIFA in 2011 for his role in the Mohamed bin Hammam CONCACAF bribery scandal.The Captain was what I’d call a charming rogue, in the same way that the former Mafia don Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno was described by the old New York City columnist Murray Kempton. The Captain served his time with FIFA—he got caught and deserved to—and he eventually came back stronger than ever, playing a major role with then-U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati in 2016 in swinging the FIFA presidential election from Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman to Gianni Infantino in the final round of voting.The Captain passed away from cancer a year later. He was a figure in the grey areas of FIFA politics. But I’ll still remember having beers with him that day and getting a sense of what he was about. In the military he had picked up aviation skills. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he left Strawberry Hill that day in 2013 in his helicopter.

Who’s in? Who’s out? How every European nation made the World Cup finals

Dale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC

The group stage of European World Cup qualifying is complete, with only the playoffs left to decide the final three places at Qatar 2022.

QUALIFIED: GermanyDenmarkBelgiumFranceCroatiaSpainSerbiaEnglandSwitzerlandNetherlands

PLAYOFFS: Scotland, WalesCzech RepublicAustriaRussiaNorth MacedoniaSwedenPortugalPolandItalyUkraineTurkey

Here’s how the 10 groups played out.

GROUP A

Group A

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Serbia8620+920
2 – Portugal8511+1117
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

A stunning turnaround in Lisbon as Portugal threw away an early lead and a direct place at the World Cup finals.Renato Sanches netted on two minutes, only for Dusan Tadic to equalise just after the half hour. And the real drama came in the 90th minute, as Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the goal to win the group.Portugal are seeded in the playoff draw.

GROUP B

Group B

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Spain8511+1019
2 – Sweden8503+615
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Spain had a worrying time against Sweden, needing a point to advance to the finals, before Alvaro Morata calmed the nerves with what proved to be an 86th-minute winner.Spain go direct the the World Cup finals, while Sweden enter the playoffs.Sweden are seeded in the playoff draw.

GROUP C

Group C

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Switzerland8530+1318
2 – Italy8440+1116
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Switzerland scored three second-half goals at home Bulgaria to get the 3-0 win they needed to put pressure on Italy.

The European champions couldn’t respond, held to a goalless draw away to Northern Ireland.

It means Switzerland qualify for the World Cup and, just like in qualifying for the 2018 edition, Italy must go through the playoffs. Roberto Mancini’s team will be seeded in those playoffs.

GROUP D

Group D

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – France8530+1518
2 – Ukraine8260+312
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

France had sealed their place in the finals on Saturday, so on the last day it was all about the runners-up spot.

Finland had it in their own hands, but they fell to a 2-0 loss at home to France.

That opened the door for Ukraine, who won 2-0 away to Bosnia and Herzegovina to steal into second place. They will be unseeded in the playoffs.

GROUP E

Group E

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Belgium8620+1920
2 – Wales8431+515
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Belgium qualified for the World Cup with their 3-1 win at home to Estonia at the weekend.

Wales and Czech Republic were already assured of a playoff place via the UEFA Nations League so the last day was about finishing second and hopefully being seeded in that draw.

Wales were losing at home to Belgium, but Kieffer Moore earned the 1-1 draw which confirmed the Welsh would be one of the best runners-up.

Although the Czechs beat Estonia 2-0, they will be unseeded in the playoffs.

GROUP F

Group F

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Denmark10901+2727
2 – Scotland10721+1023
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Denmark qualified but missed out on finishing with a 100% record after defeat to Scotland in their last game.That victory was crucial for Scotland, and it means they will be seeded in the playoff draw.Austria didn’t finish inside the top two, but are guaranteed of being unseeded in the playoffs as a UEFA Nations League group winner.

Netherlands avoided the World Cup playoffs with victory over Norway. Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Image

GROUP G

Group G

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Netherlands10721+2523
2 – Turkey10631+1121
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Netherlands finally booked their place in the World Cup finals, but it took two late goals to be absolutely sure.

The Dutch would have been knocked out had Norway scored in Eindhoven, but goals from Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay in the last six minutes sealed safe passage.

Turkey held on to second place ahead of Norway with a 2-1 win in Montenegro, but they will be unseeded in the playoffs.

GROUP H

Group H

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Croatia10621+1623
2 – Russia10612+1322
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Croatia got the win they needed against Russia in split to climb above their visitors and top the group.

Fedor Kudryashov scored an own goal in the 81st minute to give Croatia and 1-0 win.

Russia will have to go through the playoffs, where they will be seeded.

GROUP I

Group I

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – England10820+3626
2 – Poland10622+1920
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

England cruised to the World Cup on the final day, winning 10-0 away to San Marino.

But it wasn’t such good news for Poland, who had already qualified for the playoffs but lost their final match 2-1 at home to Hungary.

That defeat meant Poland would be unseeded in the playoffs.

GROUP J

Group J

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Germany10901+3227
2 – N Macedonia10532+1218
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Germany had already secured their place in October, leaving the playoff place up for grabs this month.

North Macedonia were in danger of throwing it away, drawing 1-1 at home to Iceland, before two goals from Eljif Elmas gave them victory and a place in the playoffs.

However, North Macedonia will be unseeded in the playoff draw so face an away semifinal.

HOW THE PLAYOFFS WORK

The 10 runners-up from the groups are joined by the best two UEFA Nations League group winners not to have finished in the top two of their qualifying group.

EDITOR’S PICKS

37dTim Vickery

We now know that Austria and whoever misses out on the top two from Group E between Czech Republic and Wales will qualify via the Nations League.

The playoffs, to be played in March 2022, will be seeded by qualifying points, with the two UEFA Nations League teams unseeded. The draw takes place on Friday, Nov. 26.

Seeded teams will be drawn at home against unseeded teams, to play one-legged semifinals.

SEEDED: Portugal, Scotland, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Wales
UNSEEDED: Turkey, Poland, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Austria, Czech Republic

The finals will see the winners of SF1 play SF2, SF3 vs. SF4 and SF5 vs. SF6. There will be a draw, also on Nov. 26, to determine the home team in each final path.

Argentina looking confident, cohesive with World Cup spot secured

10:58 PM ET  Tim VickerySouth America correspondent

Argentina have qualified for the World Cup and extended their unbeaten run to 27 games,but Brazil will probably come away the happier side after Tuesday night’s 0-0 draw in San Juan.

Argentina were at full strength, on paper at least. Lionel Messi may not have been close to full fitness — he had only played the last 15 minutes against Uruguay on Friday and looked short of his usual sharpness. And over the course of the game they lost Cristian Romero, their best centre-back, and midfield anchorman Leandro Parades to injuries. Lautaro Martinez also left the game at the interval. He may have been feeling a knock, but his replacement was also an admission by coach Lionel Scaloni that the game was not going as he had planned. An out-and-out centre-forward, Martinez was not able to get into the game because Brazil blocked Argentina in midfield so effectively.ADVERTISEMENTBrazil were without both Neymar and Casemiro — the players referred to by coach Tite respectively as the technical leader and the competitive leader. The attack was extraordinarily youthful; centre-forward Matheus Cunha was making his first start for the national team, Vinicius Junior his second and Raphinha his third. The other member of the attacking quartet, Lucas Paqueta, looks like a grizzled veteran in comparison, but he has only consolidated his place in the side over the last few months.But with the wingers helping back, and full-backs Danilo and Alex Sandro playing conservative roles, Argentina were denied the space to establish their customary passing rhythm in midfield. In comparison with the final of the Copa America in July, it was clear that the extra speed of Eder Militao at centre-back allowed Brazil to stay compact higher up the field so they could press more effectively. And if the defensive line was breached, the immaculate Marquinhos was there to cover. Alisson in goal was hardly troubled. He had to dive left to push away a shot from Rodrigo De Paul, and, in the 89th minute, Messi finally broke away but struck straight at the keeper.

CONMEBOL Table

GPPTSGD
1 – Brazil (Q)1335+23
2 – Argentina (Q)1329+14
3 – Ecuador1423+10
4 – Colombia1417-1
5 – Peru1417-5
6 – Chile1416-1
7 – Uruguay1416-7
8 – Bolivia1415-8
9 – Paraguay1413-9
10 – Venezuela147-16
1-4: Qualifies; 5: Playoff

The clearer chances, however, came at the other end. Vinicius fluffed an audacious chip after a clever pass from Paqueta. Matheus Cunha was still more audacious, and shot narrowly over from inside his own half with Emiliano Martinez stranded. A Fred volley clipped the bar after a free kick had been half cleared, and a rare Danilo burst set up Vinicius for a shot that Martinez got down smartly to save.There was, perhaps, little on show that will linger in the mind of the neutral. Maybe the venue did not help. The game was taken to the small northern town of San Juan, with the crowd close and creating a frenetic atmosphere. Argentina’s usual home, River Plate’s stadium in Buenos Aires, might have provided the stage for a more cerebral affair, with more light than heat. Bit ever here, there was something to be learned. Brazil have had cause for concern at a lack of emotional control — they clearly did not do themselves justice when chasing the game in the final of the Copa America. Here they were tested, especially when Nicolas Otamendi got away with smashing a forearm into the face of Raphinha. But they were able to keep their cool — just. And with plenty of attacking flair combined with a record of just four goals conceded in 13 qualifiers, they can build for the World Cup in confidence.As can Argentina who, if not at their best on this occasion, have put together their most solid, coherent and frequently attractive side for the last few years. Their new total of 29 points guarantees their World Cup place because so many of the teams behind them dropped points — including Chile, who went down 2-0 at home to Ecuador.

Everything went wrong for Chile in the first half. They went behind early to a well struck shot from rampaging left-back Pervis Estupinan. Soon afterwards they had Arturo Vidal sent off. And Alexis Sanchez limped off. They made a bold effort to haul themselves back into the game, but the points were sealed in stoppage time when midfielder Moises Caicedo advanced to score a cracker from the edge of the box.Ecuador were the big winners of this round. They went into the action safely in third place, with a four point cushion, which has now been increased to six. Effectively this means that they are guaranteed to go into the final two rounds still in third place. A slot in Qatar is now theirs to lose.Chile’s defeat means that they fall from fourth to sixth, outside the qualification places. They are overtaken by Colombia, despite a deeply disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Paraguay. For both sides it was their fifth consecutive game without a goal. But Colombia have been defending so well that they have only lost one in their last 10, and are crawling to the World Cup one point at a time.Into fifth, the playoff spot, climb Peru, who have made a remarkable rally since the Copa America in the middle of the year. Their 2-1 win away to Venezuela was open and dramatic, with the two sides trading punches. At 1-1 the game was decided by two set pieces. Peru won a free kick on the edge of the area, and Cristian Cueva’s shot flicked off the defensive wall and beat the keeper. Straight away, Venezuela were awarded a penalty. Darwin Machis had already scored a fine goal, but his kick was at a comfortable height for Pedro Gallese to save. Gallese had more problems in stoppage time when a Machis shot took a deflection, requiring a fine reflex save. Such moments turned one point for Peru into three — and the difference could well be vital when the competition comes to an end.Peru are a point ahead of Chile, and of Uruguay, who found new ways to self destruct in their latest defeat, 3-0 away to Bolivia.

The extreme altitude of La Paz is an extremely tough challenge for visitors, and for almost half an hour Uruguay appeared to be taking the sting out of the game. But there are risks in defending deep, especially for the goalkeeper. At altitude,the ball flies through the rarefied air more quickly than usual, making it hard for the keeper to judge its trajectory.Bolivia’s veteran Juan Carlos Arce sent in a cross from deep on the left, looking for centre-forward Marcelo Martins Moreno. He stretched but was unable to make contact. Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera had to prepare to cover his shot, and when the ball went straight on it came at him quicker than he expected, slipped through his hands and tricked in off the far post.Then, just before half-time, Uruguay needlessly gave away a corner. Their marking was slack, and Martins Moreno rose to give Bolivia a two goal lead and put Uruguay in the dreaded position of having to chase the game while gasping for oxygen. They lost 3-0, a result that keeps Bolivia’s hopes alive, but which may well bring an end to the remarkable near-16 year reign of Uruguay coach Oscar Washington Tabarez.

Who will win MLS Cup in 2021? Predicting every Round 1 matchup and a champion

Drake Hills, Nashville TennesseanWed, November 17, 2021, 8:29 PM

Records were broken and a resurgence was forged in Major League Soccer this season, as the New England Revolution, winners of the Supporters’ Shield, set a regular-season points record in the post-shootout era and the Colorado Rapids had their best conference finish in club history.The MLS Cup Playoffs begin Saturday and the Revs and Rapids enter as respective No. 1 seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences. Both received first-round byes.New England (73 points) will host either New York City FC or Atlanta United FC on Nov. 30 in the conference semifinal round, and Colorado will await the Portland Timbers or Minnesota United FC for a second-round clash on Thanksgiving Day.

Here’s who I think will survive Round One, followed by my picks along the way to the MLS Cup Final.

Drake Hills’ picks for 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs by USA TODAY Network 

Eastern ConferenceNew England is good. They’re record-setting good. But are they better than 2017 Toronto FC?

The Reds were the last team to do the double: lifting the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in the same season. U.S. Men’s National teamers Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and a dangerous Sebastian Giovinco helped TFC to lift the cup. I’m predicting New England to do the same.

MVP candidate Carles Gil (4 goals, 18 assists), goal-getters Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou (31 combined), teaming up with premier youngster Tajon Buchanan are enough firepower.

(4) New York City FC vs. (5) Atlanta United

Winner: Atlanta United

Atlanta United’s Luiz Araújo and coach Gonzalo Pineda were timely additions to Josef Martinez and Miles Robinson anchoring the Five Stripes. New talent working cohesively will be enough to limit NYCFC’s Taty Castellanos, who won the Golden Boot this season (19 goals, 8 assists).

(3) Nashville SC vs. (6) Orlando City SC

Winner: Nashville SC

Nashville SC has not lost at home this season, becoming the seventh MLS club in history to do so. A fourth meeting against Orlando City won’t be breaking that streak. Nashville’s MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar has scored two goals against the Lions this year.

(2) Philadelphia Union vs. (7) New York Red Bulls

Winner: Philadelphia Union

The New York Red Bulls are the sleeper team of the East and its record proves a 1-0 score line is all RBNY needs. Their last five wins were secured by a one-goal margin.

The Union is strong at Subaru Park and will be too strong for RBNY.

Western Conference

Rapids coach Robin Fraser took this club from a bottom-half team in the league to a No. 1 seed in three seasons, the first in club history.Colorado’s scoring comes by committee. Michael Barrios has been the attacking catalyst (8 goals, 8 assists), but the development of Jonathan Lewis (7 goals) and the return of Dom Badji (5 goals) has led the Rapids to the top.A seasoned playoff bunch like the Portland Timbers should end the Rapids’ MLS Cup journey in the second round, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rapids home-field advantage and an early goal gets them passed the Timbers.

No. 4 Portland Timbers vs. No. 5 Minnesota United FC

Winner: Portland Timbers

Sebastian Blanco and Felipe Mora were worth a combined 18 goals this system. Add in the surprise of Dairon Asprilla adding a spark up front and they should handle business for Portland at Providence Park.

No. 3 Sporting Kansas City vs. No. 6 Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Winner: Vancouver Whitecaps

This seems to be the anticipated upset of the postseason. The way Vancouver ended the season against the Seattle Sounders, only losing one of its final nine matches, an upset is fitting. MLS newcomer Ryan Gauld and Cristian Dájome are two players to watch in this one.

No. 2 Seattle Sounders FC vs. No. 7 Real Salt Lake

Winners: Seattle Sounders

The Sounders should handle business at home in Round One. With a healthy Raúl Ruidíaz, a margin of multiple goals wouldn’t be a surprise.

For stories about Nashville SC or Soccer in Tennessee, contact Drake Hills at DHills@gannett.com. Follow Drake on Twitter at @LiveLifeDrake. Connect with Drake on Instagram at @drakehillssoccer and on Facebook.

USMNT’s faltering draw to Jamaica illustrates bumpy road to Qatar 2022

WRITTEN BYMIKE DECOURCY

There was a moment in the first half, not even 20 minutes into the United States’ World Cup qualifier at Jamaica, that American midfielder Yunus Musah gathered the ball in the center of the field at Independence Park and contemplated one of his favored rampages toward the opposing goal. He had demolished Mexico with his physical strength and dribbling skill, and it was time to do the same to the Reggae Boyz.As Musah advanced, though, the ball did not. The field — yes, the field — had other ideas.It’s not always the opposing fans or the refs or the pressure of the circumstance. Sometimes, it’s as simple as lacking the comforts of home. For a squad that included three teenagers and was the second-youngest the USMNT ever deployed for a qualifier, being unable to count on the ball rolling evenly was among the many reasons it left Jamaica with a 1-1 draw and a single point to add toward its total.“We’re not looking at it as a disappointing result. We’re looking at it as a good result,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter told reporters. “Any time you can get a point away from home is a good thing in CONCACAF qualifying. I want to be very clear by saying that.“I think for the guys to have their heads down because we wanted more is completely natural, but this is a point that we’ll absolutely take on the road.”It’s a point more precious than American fans are likely to appreciate. The U.S. easily could have lost, given one blown opportunity at a wide-open tap-in for Jamaica’s Bobby Reid and a disallowed goal from his teammate, Damian Lowe, on an 84th-minute set piece.The U.S. took a 1-0 lead on forward Timothy Weah’s inventive 11th-minute goal, which required a sweet feed from striker Ricardo Pepi, two nifty moves from Weah and a left-footed finish past ace goalkeeper Andre Blake. That was answered 11 minutes later, though, when Jamaica’s Michail Antonio — currently third in the Premier League in goals for West Ham United — drove to the left against U.S. midfielder Tyler Adams, stopped and cut back to his right foot and left Adams behind. He blasted a searing shot from 34 yards that found the top right corner, beyond the reach of goalkeeper Zack Steffen.“Obviously, it was a rough game. Not the result that we wanted,” Weah said. “We knew it was going to be difficult.“Conditions were rough, but that’s no excuse. We wanted to execute, but it wasn’t there today.”(Getty Images)

MORE: How USA can qualify for World Cup in Qatar

It’s difficult to reconcile this torpid performance against the brilliance of Friday night’s victory over Mexico. But combining the two gives the USMNT four points from the two-game window in CONCACAF qualifying, and still leaves it in position to earn an automatic position in the 2022 World Cup field.The Americans now have five points from four road games, slightly ahead of the “win your home games, draw on the road” standard that tends to assure qualification in this format. However, they’re also a couple points behind at home because of a 1-1 September draw against Canada. Their 15 points through eight games is three more than they earned in the entire 10-game qualifying round when failing to qualify for Russia 2018.Qualifying will not be easy. Not that it ever has been.“It was difficult conditions, it really was,” Berhalter said. “Controlling the ball, playing the ball was challenging. You can chalk it up to simply that. It was challenging field conditions, and the movements weren’t always clean. That’s something you can’t control.”This is not something Musah would have encountered often while growing up in Italy or later England, where he trained in the Arsenal youth program. Pristine pitches predominated once he moved to Spain to join Valencia in 2019, and that’s what was in place in Cincinnati — even though it rained — when the USMNT dominated rival Mexico to earn a 2-0 victory and take over first place in the final round of World Cup qualifying.After that moment in the 18th minute, though, Musah seemed to abandon the skill that had made him such a force against Mexico. With midfielder Weston McKennie out because of a yellow-card suspension — and with Musah muted and fellow teen Gianluca Busio just a shade hesitant in his first qualifying start — the Americans lacked the engine that had driven them four days earlier.Berhalter allowed that he thought Musah was bothered by the conditions, then told Sporting News he also was bothered by a case of strep throat.“We could tell that was taking a toll on him,” Berhalter told SN. “I don’t want this to be about the field, I really don’t. It was the same for both teams. We had enough time to be moving the ball. It was difficult, but we had enough time. And it’s just something you have to deal with. And we’re used to dealing with that.” Are they, though? Most of the USMNT still has played in just a few CONCACAF road qualifiers. Hesitation was horrifically huge for many of those who played Tuesday. So many circumstances that could have been devastating developed because players expected balls to roll into their feet, only to see them die and be beaten to the play by the opposition. There were passes fed in the direction of teammates that lacked the necessary pace, including one to Steffen that traveled so slowly it nearly allowed Jamaica another simple scoring chance.That’s what happened on the play that set Reid up, with U.S. right back DeAndre Yedlin waiting too long to pursue what should have been a simple clearance. Instead, Jamaica was able to feed a cross to the far post, where left back Antonee Robinson tried to clear it for the Americans. Instead, he knocked it directly across the goal to Reid. What should have been a simple tap-in was blasted over the crossbar because Reid panicked.In the 84th minute, Jamaica’s corner kick was pursued by Lowe directly in front of the goal, but he was called for climbing over defender Walker Zimmerman’s back to head the ball past. Berhalter said he heard the whistle quickly, so he believed referee Juan Gabriel Calderon of Costa Rica was convinced of his call.“When you think about the youth of this group, the inexperience of this group in CONCACAF qualifying, we’re on the right track,” Berhalter said. “Just thinking about it, you don’t often get where you’re in a qualifying competition, one venue is freezing cold, and the next venue is this tropical climate.“Most continents, when they have qualifying, the weather’s consistent. So we’re going through a lot here, man. We’re learning on the fly. The guys have done a good job with that. We’ll take our position now and focus on 2022.”To be clear, he meant the six games remaining in qualifying that will be played in the new year — not “Qatar 2022.”The Americans are not there yet. And the road to get there will remain bumpy.

INDY ELEVEN INSTALLS MARK LOWRY AS HEAD COACH

By Indy Eleven Communications, 11/16/21, 9:35AM EST


England Native Set to Lead Indiana’s Team to Success Following Three Standout Seasons at the Helm of El Paso Locomotive FCINDIANAPOLIS – Indy Eleven secured a sideline leader for the future with today’s announcement of Mark Lowry as the fourth permanent head coach in club history. Lowry, one of the USL Championship’s most successful coaches since joining the league in 2019, has already begun his duties on behalf of Indiana’s Team and is expected to arrive in Indianapolis on Wednesday.

“In Mark Lowry, Indy Eleven has found a coach who will be as passionate about connecting with and contributing to our community as he will be to strengthening our club on the field,” said Greg Stremlaw, Indy Eleven President and Chief Executive Officer. “While still a relatively young coach, his impressive results speak volumes both as a tactician and a leader, and we cannot wait to see those traits put into action.“We believe the process of finding our next head coach was worth the considerable due diligence taken in recent months, which involved interest from more than 250 candidates from across the soccer world. We firmly believe in Mark’s ability to again make Indy Eleven one of the elite USL Championship competitors on the field and burnish our credentials as one of the league’s premier organizations,” Stremlaw concluded.


Lowry lands in the Circle City after a three-season stint with El Paso Locomotive FC, which he guided to a 42W-19L-29D record in USL Championship regular season, USL Championship Playoffs, and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action from 2019-21. The 36-year-old native of Birmingham, England, improved Locomotive FC’s record across each of their first three seasons of play, the first two of which culminated in back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference Final. Lowry’s 40 regular season victories over those three years rank as the fourth most amongst USL Championship coaches across that span.“I want to put on record my sincere gratitude to El Paso Locomotive FC for the last three years. I had a wonderful time and will always be thankful for what they gave me,” said Lowry. “Looking forward, it’s an honor to be named Head Coach of Indy Eleven. It’s a club with an impressive history and one I’m familiar with dating back to the NASL days.“I’m excited for the challenge of getting the club back to where it belongs, fighting for championships and towards the top end of the table,” continued Lowry. “It’s what this fan base deserves, and you have my word I’ll work hard every single day to instill a winning culture and a culture of high standards that embody what it means to represent Indianapolis and the Eleven brand.”During El Paso’s recently concluded 2021 campaign, Lowry led Locomotive FC to an impressive 18W-4L-10D (64 points) ledger that easily clinched the Championship’s Mountain Division title and marked the third highest point total across the 31-team league. Lowry earned the July 2021 USL Championship Coach of the Month honor, which coincided with the club’s 23-game home undefeated run that stretched over a calendar year and was, at one point, the longest such streak in North American professional soccer.  Prior to El Paso, Lowry became familiar with Indy Eleven as a member of the Jacksonville Armada FC coaching staff. Lowry began his head coaching career as the interim boss of the then-NASL side in August 2016 before a positive run of results helped him shed the interim tag by that October. Following the 2017 NASL season, Lowry stayed on to lead Armada FC during their 2018 season in the NPSL’s Sunshine Conference before moving to USL Championship circles as the first head coach of El Paso Locomotive FC.Lowry also spent four seasons in the Orlando City SC organization, spending time with both their Academy system and U-23 entry in the then-USL PDL (now USL League 2). Prior to Orlando, Lowry gained extensive experience as a player, academy coach, and scout in the English professional system. Lowry was a player scout and academy coach for English Premier League (EPL) side Wolverhampton Wanderers FC in 2009 and a player scout for Birmingham City FC in 2007 and 2008, also then in the EPL. He currently holds his UEFA “A” coaching license.With Lowry now settling into his new position, Indy Eleven expects to make announcements surrounding its 2022 roster and coaching staff in the coming weeks.

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11/15/21 USA Wins 2-0 Over Mexico vs Jamaica Tues 5 pm on Para+, NWSL Finals Tix on Sale in Louis Sat 12 noon CBS, Huge Qualification Games Today/Tues

DOS A CERODOS A CERO – US Dominates Mexico in 2nd half  

It had to be 2-0 right?  USA vs Mexico – in Ohio – it had to be Dos a Cero.  The great thing about the result is like normal the US came alive in the 2nd half.  After a 0-0 start, where ball possession was even, and the chances were a little in Mexico’s favor as they had forced 2 very good saves from US Keeper Steffan with only 1 good shot of our own, the game turned in the 2nd half.  The US’ constant high pressure started to wear down a much older Mexican team – especially their older back line.  Tim Weah was running free down the right side all night and Pepi was holding up play and setting up good shots.  Finally when Pulisic (Capt America) came on he scored within 6 minutes of entering the game with a world class header across goal on a great cross to the near post by Weah.   The McKinney insurance goal 10 minutes later settled us in on Dos a Cero.  Here are Extended Hilights – US 2 – Mexico 0 in case you missed it.  The US plays at Jamaica tomorrow – Tues at 5 pm on Paramount plus only – NO TV.  Pregame starts at 4 pm – with the best coverage in the US.  Paramount + Free Trial. PS – James Sands has been added to replace Robinson and McKinney who will miss the Jamaica game with Red Card and yellow card accumulation.

Shane’s Roster Picks for Tuesday vs Jamaica 5 pm Paramount Plus

—– Steffen —–

— Scaly — Richards — Zimmerman — Robinson

—- Musah —- Adams —- Llegett

—- Weah —- Pepi —- Aaronson

Cincy and the New TQL Stadium were Fantastic Hosts

You Must See this — If this doesn’t give you chills – you aren’t American.  It brought tears to my eyes in the stands at Cincy – FINALLY US Soccer has a singer who understood his job was to lead us in Singing the Anthem.  And Of course ESPN was TOO DAMN Stupid to Show it live.  You only saw that if you were watching TUDN – which by the way you should always watch because – the US still doesn’t understand how to cover a soccer game.  Here are Extended Hilights – US 2 – Mexico 0 in case you missed it. I must say I am so blessed to have been at the 4 of the 5 2-0 wins in Ohio and Chicago and this one was no different.  Except I felt like the entire stadium this time was the American Outlaws section.  The singing was constant – everyone stood the entire game – and I could not pick out a section of Mexican fans. There were some scattered throughout the stands – tons outside the stadium – but inside they were hard to pick out.  It was a US home crowd and we stayed for 30 minutes after the win – it was Amazing.  Cincy will become the new goto stadium for US wins in Qualifiers – it was cold and rainy and it had a US Crowd Frenzy that helped carry the team to victory. 

Funny Moments

You have to check these things out – of course by now everyone has heard about the Quote from Mexican Goalkeeper Memo Ochoa – about the US Seeing its self in the Mirror and wanting to be Mexico.  Pulisic’s goal and then pulling up his shirt to show the Man in the Mirror on his T-shirt was the ultimate response.  God I love Pulisic !!  Cool video – Man in The Mirror

Here’s a hilarious sequence on US Coach Greg Berhalter  who by the way has beaten Mexico 3 times in a row – NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE – and has us at the Top of the Table midway thru World Cup Qualifying. Listen I question his tactics sometimes – but you could argue this is the Best coaching job by a US Manager ever.  Was he is doing with a team that’s average age was 23 years old Friday night is amazing.  He has completely changed the way we play – he has adjusted to his talent – which is young but outstanding – and he adopted a high press attack that absolutely dominated Mexico.  The first half was even – but the US just ran roughshod over El Tri in the 2nd half with 55% possession and far more shots.  (19-9 overall).  We are young and Mexico is old – the torch is being passed to US – and its time the world took notice.  We still have been qualification games ahead but Berhalter has the US playing better, more offensive, attacking futbol than anyone ever.  At this point I would say the Jury is no longer out on Berhalter – its time to give him the respect he has earned – he’s our Coach – will be our Coach thru the 2022 World Cup when this team makes a Quarterfinal run.  He’s a former US National Team player, an MLS Champion Coach, and now he’s making his mark on our national team.      Cool Interviews hear that crowd postgame – Go USA !    

NWSL Finals Set Sat 12 noon at Louisville on CBS  Tickets Available Just $15

Interesting watching #1 Seed Portland and all those US players lose 2-0 at home to the Chicago Red Stars.  Sophia Smith, Becky Saubraun, Klingingberg, and the NWSL Regular Season Champs Thorns lost to the young Red Stars and Tierna Davidson. Even without quarter-final hero Mal Pugh (due to COVID-19 protocols), the Red Stars still had enough offensive firepower to eliminate the top-seeded Thorns yesterday.  Red Stars forward Katie Johnson scored just minutes after subbing in for an injured Kealia Watt, and midfielder Sarah Woldmoe netted an insurance goal in the second half to secure the 2–0 win. No. 2 OL Reign vs. No. 3 Washington Spirit: Both sides netted a goal within the first 12 minutes, but Spirit forward Ashley Sanchez defied the laws of physics to score the 68th minute game-winner and send Washington to their first title game since 2016. Undefeated in 11 straight on-field matches, the Spirit appear unstoppable. Now all that’s left is the championship game…and finding a new ownerWhat’s next: Neither the Spirit nor the Red Stars have won an NWSL title, but that’ll change this  Saturday at 12 p.m. noon in Louisville at Lynn Family Stadium on CBS.  Tickets are just $15 – if you have daughters who play soccer you should scoop up tickets and head down there!!

See the Man in the Mirror Now Ochoa?

WORLD CUP QUALIFYING

Today England can qualify for the World Cup by beating San Marino on the Road at 2:45 pm on ESPN+.  Italy has a tougher go as they need a win at Northern Ireland also on ESPN+ to advance as the Group Winners.  (updates as they happen)

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Mon 11/15  

2:45 pm ESPN+            Northern Ireland vs Italy

2:45 pm ESPN+            San Marino vs England

2:45 pm ESPN+            Scotland vs Denmark

Tues 11/16   

8 am   paramount + Egypt vs Gabinni

2:45 pm ESPN2 Wales vs Belgium

5 pm Paramount+      Jamaica vs USA

6:30 pm fubo               Argentina vs Brazil

9 pm Para +                Canada vs Mexico

Sat 11/20  

7:30 am NBCSN          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leicester City

10 USA                         Wolverhampton vs West Ham

12 noon CBS               NWSL Championship Chicago Red Stars vs Washington Spirit

12:30 pm NBC            Liverpool vs Arsenal

2:30 pm Tele                Philly Union vs NY Red Bulls MLS Playoff

4 pm Tele                     Sporting KC vs Vancouver

7:30 pm ESPN+ Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Louisville FC

10 pm ESPN+                San Antonio (Jordan Farr GK) vs Orange County FC

Sun  11/21  

9 am NBCSN               Man City vs Everton

11:30 NBCSN             Tottenham vs Leeds   

12 noon CBSSN          Inter Milan vs Napoli (Italy)                    

3 pm ESPN+                Real Sociedad vs Valencia (Musah)  

3 pm ABC                     NYCFC vs Atlanta United MLS Playoff

6:30 pm ESPN             Portland Timbers vs Minn United MLS  

PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo.Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

USA

Despite Reviving Dos a Cero, It’s No Time for USMNT to Reflect

USMNT felt Mexico’s disrespect. Christian Pulisic, with a win and a cheeky T-shirt, fired back
Dos a Cero again: USMNT blanks Mexico 2-0 for crucial World Cup qualifying victory

Opinion: Win over Mexico shows USMNT has the swagger to go with its considerable talent

Opinion: USMNT needs to follow Ted Lasso’s advice after Mexico win and ‘be a goldfish’

USMNT vs Mexico final score? Dos a Cero, via super-sub Pulisic

USMNT player ratings: 2022 World Cup in sight after beating Mexico

US vs Mexico —  MLS 

WORLD  

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Tim Vickery

Who’s in? Who’s out? European World Cup qualification enters the final stretch

With one day remaining of the group stage of European World Cup qualifying, the race is hotting up for a place at Qatar 2022.

QUALIFIED: GermanyDenmarkBelgiumFranceCroatiaSpainSerbiaEnglandSwitzerland

PLAYOFFS: Scotland, WalesCzech RepublicAustriaRussiaNorth MacedoniaSwedenPortugalPolandItaly

That leaves one automatic qualification spot still up for grabs for group winners, along with two playoff places for the group runners-up.

Here’s the state of play across all 10 groups.

GROUP A

Group A

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Serbia8620+920
2 – Portugal8511+1117
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

A stunning turnaround in Lisbon as Portugal threw away an early lead and a direct place at the World Cup finals.Renato Sanches netted on two minutes, only for Dusan Tadic to equalise just after the half hour. And the real drama came in the 90th minute, as Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the goal to win the group.Portugal are guaranteed to be seeded in the playoff draw.

GROUP B

Group B

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Spain8511+1019
2 – Sweden8503+615
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Spain had a nervy time against Sweden, needing a point to advance to the finals, before Alvaro Morata calmed the nerves with what proved to be an 86th-minute winner.Spain go direct the the World Cup finals, while Sweden enter the playoffs.  Sweden should have enough points to be seeded in the playoff draw, but they must wait for confirmation.

GROUP C

Group C

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Switzerland8530+1318
2 – Italy8440+1116
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Switzerland scored three second-half goals at home Bulgaria to get the 3-0 win they needed to put pressure on Italy.

The European champions couldn’t respond, held to a goalless draw away to Northern Ireland.

It means Switzerland qualify for the World Cup and, just like in qualifying for the 2018 edition, Italy must go through the playoffs. Roberto Mancini’s team will be seeded in those playoffs.

GROUP D
Nov. 16: Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Ukraine, Finland vs. France

Group D

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – France7430+1315
2 – Finland7322+211
3 – Ukraine7160+19
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

France (12 points) sealed their place at the World Cup with am 8-0 win over Kazakhstan on Saturday.

Finland (11 points) moved into second with victory over Bosnia, who are now eliminated, and must win at home to France on Nov. 16 to definitely secure the playoff place. They will be second regardless if Ukraine do not win in Bosnia.

Ukraine (9 points) now know they must win in Bosnia to make the playoffs, with Finland losing or drawing against France. If Finland lose, Ukraine go to the playoffs with any win.

If Finland draw and Ukraine win, it comes down to goal difference. If Ukraine win by one goal, goal difference would be level and it would come down to goals scored (as it stands, Finland have 10 goals and Ukraine 9). If goals scored also finishes level, Ukraine are second on head to head record.

GROUP E
Nov. 16: Czech Republic vs. Estonia, Wales vs. Belgium

Group E

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Belgium7610+1919
2 – Wales7421+514
3 – Czech Rep7322+311
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Belgium (19 points) qualified for the World Cup with their 3-1 win at home to Estonia.

Wales (14 points) are second ahead of Czech Republic (11 points), and both are assured of a playoff place via the UEFA Nations League if they finish third. However, Wales need at least a point at home to Belgium guarantee finishing second and have a chance of being seeded in the playoff draw. They will also finish second with a defeat if Czech Republic fail to beat Estonia.For Czech Republic to finish second, they have to win at home to Estonia, and need Wales to lose, meaning the two teams will finish level on points. The Czechs (+3) must then finish with better goal difference than Wales (+5). If goal difference finishes level, second place would be decided on group goals scored.

If records finish identical, Wales win the head to head. This can only happen if Wales lose and Czech Republic win by the same one-goal scoreline.

– UEFA World Cup playoff system explained

GROUP F

Group F

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Denmark10901+2727
2 – Scotland10721+1023
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Denmark qualified but missed out on finishing with a 100% record after defeat to Scotland in their last game.  That victory was crucial for Scotland, and it means they will be seeded in the playoff draw.Austria didn’t finish inside the top two, but are guaranteed of being unseeded in the playoffs as a UEFA Nations League group winner.

GROUP G
Nov. 16: Gibraltar vs. Latvia, Montenegro vs. Turkey, Netherlands vs. Norway

Group G

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Netherlands9621+2320
2 – Turkey9531+1018
3 – Norway9531+918
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Vastly superior goal difference effectively means Netherlands (20 points) will only need a point at home to Norway to qualify for the World Cup. They could only miss out with a draw if Turkey (18 points) win in Montenegro by at least 13 goals.However, Netherlands would miss out on the playoffs and finish third in the group if they lose to Norway (18 points) and Turkey win.Turkey are level with Norway, but hold second on goal difference (by one goal) following their 6-0 win over Gibraltar. Turkey know that a win away to Montenegro guarantees at least a playoff place.If Turkey (GD +10) and Norway (GD +9) both win, Netherlands are out and first and second will be decided goal difference. Turkey can only top the group if both they and Norway win. Turkey, who have scored 10 more goals than Norway, would need to win by the same score margin, or one goal fewer, to finish top on goal difference or goals scored.

A draw is definitely enough for Turkey for the playoffs if Norway lose.If Norway win in the Netherlands, they get at least a playoff, and win the group if Turkey fail to win. If Turkey win, Norway must win by two goals more than Turkey to overtake them on goal difference. A draw is enough for the playoffs if Turkey lose.If Turkey and Norway draw, Turkey are second on goal difference.If Turkey and Norway both lose, it will again come down to goal difference, so Norway would need Turkey to lose by a two-goal greater margin.Turkey and Norway won’t finish with identical records as Norway would need to win 12-10, even if Turkey only won 1-0.

GROUP H

Group H

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Croatia10621+1623
2 – Russia10612+1322
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Croatia got the win they needed against Russia in split to climb above their visitors and top the group.

Fedor Kudryashov scored an own goal in the 81st minute to give Croatia and 1-0 win.

Russia will have to go through the playoffs, where they will be seeded.

GROUP I

Group I

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – England10820+3626
2 – Poland10622+1920
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

England cruised to the World Cup on the final day, winning 10-0 away to San Marino.

But it wasn’t such good news for Poland, who had already qualified for the playoffs but lost their final match 2-1 at home to Hungary. That result means they have to wait for results on Tuesday to find out if they will be seeded or not, but their hopes and hanging in the balance.

GROUP J

Group J

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Germany10901+3227
2 – N Macedonia10532+1218
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Germany had already secured their place in October, leaving the playoff place up for grabs this month.North Macedonia were in danger of throwing it away, drawing 1-1 at home to Iceland, before two goals from Eljif Elmas gave them victory and a place in the playoffs.However, North Macedonia will be unseeded in the playoff draw so face an away semifinal.

HOW THE PLAYOFFS WORK

The 10 runners-up from the groups are joined by the best two UEFA Nations League group winners not to have finished in the top two of their qualifying group.We now know that Austria and whoever misses out on the top two from Group E between Czech Republic and Wales will qualify via the Nations League.The playoffs, to be played in March 2022, will be seeded by qualifying points, with the two UEFA Nations League teams unseeded. The draw takes place on Friday, Nov. 26.Seeded teams will be drawn at home against unseeded teams, to play one-legged semifinals.

SEEDED: Portugal, Russia, Italy, Scotland
UNSEEDED: Austria, North Macedonia
POT TBC: Czech Republic, Sweden, Wales

The finals will see the winners of SF1 play SF2, SF3 vs. SF4 and SF5 vs. SF6. There will be a draw to determine the home team in each final path.

European champions Italy and England can qualify for the 2022 World Cup on Monday but Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal will have to wait until next year to battle through the playoffs.Portugal crashed to a 2-1 loss to Serbia on Sunday that sent the winners through to the finals in Qatar and forced Portugal into the playoffs in March as the second-placed team in Group A.

Christian Pulisic and USMNT revive ‘Dos a Cero’ lore, vanquish Mexico in World Cup qualifier

Henry BushnellFri, November 12, 2021, 11:03 PMIn this article:

 celebrates the first of two U.S. goals that beat Mexico in a World Cup qualifier on Friday. (Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

CINCINNATI — The half-fit savior jogged up the sideline at 10:31 p.m. He had, for over an hour here on Friday night, watched a World Cup qualifier from a shivering bench, bundled in a rain-repelling overcoat, helpless. He’d watched from a worn patch of grass just beyond the southwest corner flag as his teammates and their biggest rivals sparred, surging and retreating, trading crunching tackles and promising moments but, for 65 minutes, no goals.Christian Pulisic watched all of it, and knew he could change it.Five minutes after joining the fray, with his first touch the ball, he did.Pulisic, who’d been limited by injury to just 23 minutes of competitive soccer over the past two months, headed the U.S. ahead of Mexico on a frigid night in Ohio. Eleven minutes later, Weston McKennie doubled the lead. And ghosts reappeared. Dos a Cero emerged from its grave. Some 20,000 American fans sang it, those three Spanish words, flowing from the mouths of gringos, echoing around TQL Stadium the rest of the night.Those fans had stood without reprieve through drizzle and driving rain, as mid-40s temperatures dipped into the 30s. They’d hoped to revive that famous scoreline, to resuscitate the demons that Mexico had seemingly vanquished five years and one day ago, when it snapped the streak of four consecutive 2-0 U.S. wins in home qualifiers.For over an hour, the USMNT looked strong but incapable. Focused and passionate, but without cutting edge. Organized and intelligent, but without an extra touch of class. Possession and purpose without a breakthrough.Then Pulisic arrived, and Cincinnati came alive, and the past became the present. Perhaps the future, too. There may never be another U.S.-Mexico game like this. There may never be another opportunity in Ohio for El Tri to confront these demons.Dos a Cero, after another magical night, may just live on forever.

The Dos a Cero lore

It all began just up the road in Columbus, over 20 years ago, before a few current USMNTers were even born. The Mexican media dubbed it La Guerra Fría. Soccer’s cold war. Literally. The U.S. won 2-0. Mexicans froze. A legend was born.It solidified itself in USMNT culture that next summer at the World Cup. Dos a Cero again, then again in 2005, and by then it was more than just two numbers. It was a foregone conclusion, a rite of passage for U.S. fans, a date that got circled on calendars and a flight that instantly got booked, because the game would inevitably be in Columbus and the result would inevitably be 2-0. It was again in 2009. And again in 2013.

The names on backs of jerseys changed. Not much else did. Clint Dempsey could have made it Tres a Cero in 2013. Some fans revised the chant as he stepped up to a stoppage-time penalty kick. Others, though, cringed at the thought. One standing behind the goal that day swears that Dempsey “looked me directly in the eye, gave me a wink, and kicked the ball wide. And then looked up at us [fans], and kinda gave us a little sly grin, and kinda gave us a thumbs up, and clapped as he walked away to celebrate. So, I go to my grave saying, Clint did that for the culture.”

Such was the importance of Dos a Cero, and such was the sadness when it perished in 2016. (Cause of death: A Rafa Marquez dagger.) But the traditions it spawned? They persisted, and reappeared in Cincinnati this week. On Friday, as the sun set and temperatures ebbed, parking lots, bars and streets filled. Mexican and American and Mexican American fans came from all 50 states, and from south of the border, some having paid thousands of dollars for a ticket, some having gamed a system designed to prevent them from getting one.They danced and drank and sounded air horns. Some indoctrinated their kids. Others met friends they hadn’t seen in years. Many fraternized with the enemy. Starkly different cultures meshed in a largely white Midwestern county, harmonizing around the one thing they share: Soccer.This time, the city was different. The venue was brand new. The goosebumps and stomach pits, though, were familiar. U.S. fans felt them, and wondered whether their players would. Only one of the 11 who took the pitch to a coordinated, stadium-wide “U-S-A” chant on Friday had played in this game before. Would they understand its history? Its ethos? Could they cope?They answered resoundingly, and immediately.

Passion and intensity mixed with poise

They swarmed to the ball high up the pitch in the game’s very first minute. They stood up to Mexican elders in individual duels. Zack Steffen, a controversial choice to start the game in goal, calmly split Mexican opponents with passes. Tyler Adams, after some early mistakes, flew into tackles. Tim Weah and Ricardo Pepi combined, with a dummy and a flick, and with the confidence of men twice their footballing years.

The classiest players on the field were the Mexican stars. The usual suspects. Chucky Lozano was magical. His teammates cut through the U.S. press in the 18th minute, going back to front with six touches and five passes, and played him in on goal. Steffen sprawled for his biggest save of the night.

But those stars — Raul Jimenez, Tecatito Corona, Hector Herrera, Edson Alvarez — met resistance. They met DeAndre Yedlin’s shoulder and Miles Robinson’s grit. They outplayed Adams and McKennie throughout the first half, but Yunus Musah, all of 18 years old, ran the U.S. show. He wriggled in and out of tight spaces, his feel for the game precocious, his drive relentless. Standing on the sideline, U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter marveled.

“The quality, the bravery, the relentlessness,” he said of Musah postgame. “He just keeps going.”

But part of Berhalter also worried. His kids, clearly, were undaunted. They were outpossessing Mexico. Perhaps outstripping individual expectations. And yet they hadn’t found a goal.

“We have to get one,” Musah told Weah at halftime.

“I’m thinking how well we’re playing,” Berhalter said, “and it would’ve been a shame if we didn’t win the game.”

At a Thursday meeting, though, Weah said they’d talked about patience. About balancing intensity and poise. They emerged from their locker room at halftime — a full two minutes before Mexico did — with all of those attributes and more.

They kept their heads when the game got chippy and, in some instances, brutal. Jimenez put Adams on his back after an aerial duel. Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez very nearly gauged Brenden Aaronson’s eye. A scuffle ensued. The match frayed. Fans wondered, understandably, if there’d be a winner.

But Mexico had tired. The U.S. never did. “That’s the effect that we have on opponents,” Berhalter said. “When we can press them, and we can be that aggressive around the ball and with the ball, turning them around, making them face their own goal, it becomes really challenging.”

The Americans took control. And then, with around 25 minutes remaining, Berhalter looked to his right. Down the sideline, swinging his limbs, warming his muscles, was a $73 million forward with the final-third lethality that had been lacking.

“When we brought in Christian, it gave the team a boost,” Berhalter said. “And it also put some fear into Mexico. Because they know his quality.”

Dos a Cero lives forever

So on came Pulisic. Five minutes later, with the match seemingly stalling a bit, out wide the ball went to Weah. Weah, the coaches’ man of the match, drove at a defender, giving Pulisic time to sneak between two others in the box.

The ball skimmed off his head and past Memo Ochoa. As TQL Stadium exploded, Pulisic brought two fingers to his ears. As beer flew and 20,000 people leapt with joy, he lifted up his jersey, to reveal an undershirt, and send a message.

As the game resumed, and the USMNT refused to flinch, Mexico wilted. McKennie waltzed through a crumbling defense and finished.

Robinson got sent off late, few cared. It was Dos a Cero, again. It was Dos a Cero, Part Six. It was Dos a Cero, risen.

At the final whistle, U.S. players beamed and scurried onto the field. Up in the stands, U.S. supporters jumped. A middle-aged man clad in only a shirt and stars-and-striped shorts shed the shirt and waved it in the air.

And then came the chant, again and again, and again and again.

The players gathered at midfield, then took a lap around the field to soak it in. Perhaps they knew the context. Perhaps they didn’t. The World Cup is changing. The qualifying format will change with it. The U.S. and Mexico may never come back to Ohio, at least not for a meaningful game. This was the end of an era, of a ritualistic experience, of a series that has defined U.S. men’s national team fandom for two decades.

And it will always be associated with those three words.

Dos. A. Cero.

More to USMNT than Christian Pulisic, but Chelsea star proves vs. Mexico he’s the face of U.S. soccer

CINCINNATI — Christian Pulisic was there. He was there for a week of hard training. He was there in the dressing room as the players gathered round. He was there as the game began to tip in the second half. He was there in front of goal. He was there in the middle of that magical, glorious celebration that set TQL Stadium aglow.

Pulisic was there with the message on his shirt, the perfect person — the only person — who could deliver that necessary missive to Mexico, the one that makes clear this United States men’s national team is not interested in being anything other than its precocious, penetrating self. No one could say that Pulisic was the best player on the field in the thrilling 2-0 victory over its biggest rival Friday night. Pulisic played only 25 minutes and, in truth, even had it been 90, it was hard to imagine him (or anyone) surpassing the dynamic Timothy Weah, who delivered nothing less than everything you could want from a winger attacking from the edge against a dangerous opponent.But after missing the past three U.S. games because of an ankle injury, Pulisic reminded evryone, including Mexico, that he is this team’s talisman. Its star. Its leader, the kind of player who can, at any moment, grip a match in his hands and bend it just so.He came into a scoreless game. He pushed and pressed and prodded. He made a precise run at a precise moment to meet Weah’s impeccable cross. He headed the ball past Guillermo Ochoa, the Mexican goalkeeper who suggested earlier this week that this young U.S. group has accomplished so little that it still sees El Tri when it gazes at its own reflection. As Ochoa floundered then in the bitter cold late Friday, Pulisic ran toward the corner and proudly pulled up his jersey to reveal the words scrawled in black marker on his undershirt: Man in the mirror.It was a flawless riposte, sly and knifing all at once. The Americans howled. The Mexicans slumped. The days of the U.S. being bossed by its rival are long since past.Even Pulisic, ever stoic with the media, allowed himself a relative crow. “We’ve come a long way in the past few years,” he said.


Earlier in the week, in a conversation at the team hotel, I asked Pulisic how he felt about the U.S.’s progress as this arduous World Cup qualifying cycle approached its halfway point. “I think we’re in a good position,” he offered quickly in the head-down, muted murmur that is his default. Then he paused and looked up. “In a week and a half, we could be in a great one,” he said.They nearly are. If the U.S. can get a result on Tuesday in Jamaica, it will head into the new year in excellent shape to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar — a goal that, Friday’s excitement aside, is far bigger than any one win over a reviled neighbor.Pulisic, of course, is the only link to the 2018 World Cup qualifying failure, and he does not hide his desperation to lead this group back from those dregs. That is what made his injury so much more difficult to manage. Missing games for Chelsea was gutting enough, but having to sit idly by as the national team played three critical matches in the last window without him was brutal for Pulisic.Stuck in London, he went to sleep early on days the U.S. played and woke up in the middle of the night to watch the games, pacing in his living room. When his recovery progressed to the point he could rejoin Chelsea’s training a few weeks ago, he immediately began thinking about targeting a return in time for Mexico.He craved it. Pulisic makes no secret of the fact that he is not wired to be a vocal captain like Tyler Adams, but he nonetheless sees himself as a leader of this youthful U.S. group. And so he wanted to be present, to be visible, to be close.”I just want to lead in my own way,” he told me, “and I hope that the other guys can see that and then try to follow.”He needn’t worry. Even if many of his teammates are only a few years younger (Pulisic, remember, is still only 23), it is clear there is an abiding connection. Brenden Aaronson, who was among those asked to fill in with Pulisic out, said Pulisic “means so much to our team,” adding, “It’s like another confidence boost just having him here.”Weah said simply, “He’s our star player. He’s so deadly.”It was Weah and DeAndre Yedlin who came up with the idea to put “man in the mirror” on a shirt, and it is emblematic of Pulisic’s place within the group that he was the one who got to show it.It should be said: It is not his team. There is too much talent for any one player to take on that load, and the truth is that the U.S. is better because of it. But there is also no denying that Pulisic remains the ideal fulcrum around which this American roster pivots.That is what U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter — and, very likely, just about every American fan in the stands — thought when Pulisic took off his warm-ups, gave his coach a hug and ran onto the field late Friday.”When we brought in Christian, it gave the team a boost,” Berhalter said. “And it also, I think, put some fear into Mexico.”


Sports is, so often, simply a results business, and that concept is especially true in World Cup qualifying. Yes or no — did you accomplish that which you set out to do? Reaching Qatar next winter is, at bottom, the only measure that matters for this American team.But the journey remains important. The moments do have meaning. And Friday in the arena with their most important opponent was a moment for the U.S. players. They imposed their will on the game. They played their style, not Mexico’s. They threatened. They defended. They were patient, trusting that their work would be rewarded even if it took so long to arrive.Even more, they did not act surprised by their victory, did not lay false claim to being some sort of massive underdog who pulled off an upset. Their skill is indisputable and, to some, might even be superior. They had their crowd. They deserved to win on Friday and they did. It was a formative experience in the story still to be written about this gifted group.Now comes another moment. A road game in Jamaica feels like the classic comedown, the kind of match that slips away easily if not held with care. A win is ideal, of course, but even a steady draw would show the sturdiness of character to which the U.S. aspires. CONCACAF is hard and the most important course of action is often just figuring out how to avoid undoing the positive work you’ve already done.It is not clear what Pulisic will be able to offer on Tuesday in Kingston. He had played less than half an hour for Chelsea before rejoining the U.S., and the conditions in Jamaica — hot, humid and on a field that inevitably resembles the rough on a chewed-up golf course — are lacking for a fit player, let alone one coming back from an ankle injury.Might he come on as a late sub again? Perhaps. But even if not, the power lies in knowing that he is available. That he is back.Pulisic was there on Friday. Right where this U.S. team needs him most.

 

USMNT Duo Suspended for World Cup Qualifier in Jamaica

AVI CREDITOR

he U.S. men’s national team is flying high after a 2–0 winDos A Cero once again—over Mexico, which lifted the Americans to the top of the Concacaf World Cup qualifying standings. The victory did come at a cost, though.Midfield star Weston McKennie received a yellow card, giving him two in the 14-match competition, while center back Miles Robinson was dealt two in the second half, resulting in a red card and a sending off. McKennie’s accumulation and Robinson’s ejection mean both will be unavailable for Tuesday’s qualifier in Jamaica. Any player who accumulates two yellow cards over the course of the competition is forced to miss the subsequent match. McKennie, Tyler Adams and DeAndre Yedlin were the U.S. players carrying yellows into Friday’s match vs. El Tri. John Brooks and Jordan Pefok also picked up yellows earlier in qualifying, but they are not in this camp.McKennie received his as part of the fallout of a skirmish that followed Chaka Rodríguez appearing to grab Brenden Aaronson’s face and eyes. Rodríguez saw yellow in that sequence, as did U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen.Robinson saw yellow in the 59th minute before getting his second in the 90th for taking down Hirving Lozano from behind. It left the U.S. down to 10 men for the duration of stoppage time. Robinson has been a constant in the back for the U.S. throughout qualifying, and his absence opens up a place for Chris Richards or Mark McKenzie, the other two center backs in camp in addition to Friday’s other starter, Walker Zimmerman.

Reviving Dos a Cero Is Worth Boasting, but It’s No Time for USMNT to Reflect

There was much to celebrate Friday night in Cincinnati after a memorable win over Mexico, but the World Cup qualifying road to Qatar is only halfway complete.

BRIAN STRAUS  Sports Illustrated

CINCINNATI — U.S. men’s national team players, coaches and staff—or at least the staff who had access to the stadium PA system here—weren’t too fond of the suggestion that they see only Mexico when looking in the mirror.El Tri captain Guillermo Ochoa implied last week that Mexico is and always will be the Americans’ exemplar and measuring stick. But with Friday night’s emphatic 2–0 World Cup qualifying win, which was its third straight competitive triumph over Mexico in just five months, this young U.S. side demonstrated that it’s developing its own identity. It has broader ambitions.There’s a catch, however. There’s always a morning after, no matter how glorious the previous evening might have been. And there’s always a response required, whether you win or lose. The U.S. (4-1-2) may be in first place at the halfway point of Concacaf’s Octagonal qualifying competition, but this isn’t the summit. Tickets to Qatar aren’t yet secured, and Jamaica (1-3-3) is on the schedule next Tuesday. If the U.S. spends too much time basking in the afterglow of Friday’s win or admiring its own robust reflection, it risks squandering its momentum and advantage. “This game is behind us now,” said U.S. winger Christian Pulisic, whose timely match-winning goal and “MAN IN THE MIRROR” undershirt were the talk of TQL Stadium late Friday. “It’s huge to help us to get three points, and now we’re first place in the group and to be in this position is unbelievable. But we haven’t accomplished our ultimate goal yet. Jamaica is going to be a tough match. We know what they’re about. We’re going to get the scouting report. We’re going to prepare as best we can. That’s all we can do now.”Tuesday’s game in Kingston will mark the second time during this World Cup qualifying cycle that the U.S. plays again shortly after a win. And the first one was a disaster. Last month, the the Americans eased past the Reggae Boyz in Austin, Texas, before flying to Panama City and face planting. The 1-0 loss to Los Canaleros marked their worst performance in almost two years.There are differences between that game and this week’s. That loss in Panama came on just three days rest and was the second of three October qualifiers. As a result, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter deployed a heavily-rotated squad in Panama that was missing the requisite chemistry, movement and attacking verve. But next Tuesday’s qualifier will come after four days rest and will conclude this international window. There’s almost no need to be cautious.“It should be reasonable that if we’re happy with the performance of the players in the first game, that they can continue on and play the second game and we won’t need to rest them or rotate them,” Berhalter said after unveiling this month’s squad.He had every reason to be happy with every performance against Mexico. But he’s not going to just send out the same XI. There are two suspensions to contend with, and they’re significant. Midfielder Weston McKennie is a casualty of the stupidly draconian yellow card accumulation rule that requires a player to sit out after receiving only two cautions across the entire qualifying competition. The scorer of Friday’s second goal, McKennie saw yellow following a second-half confrontation between several U.S. and Mexico players. He was also booked in the Octagonal opener at El Salvador.The U.S. will also play Jamaica without center back Miles Robinson, who’s arguably traversed more ground on Berhalter’s depth chart than any other player since the summer. The Atlanta United defender probably should’ve won the Concacaf Gold Cup MVP award, and he was excellent on Friday, partnering with Nashville SC’s Walker Zimmerman to take Mexico front man Raúl Jiménez out of the game. Robinson was sent off with a second yellow card in the 90th minute for a tug from behind on Hirving Lozano.

Tradition Restored, Respect Earned: USMNT’s Latest ‘Dos a Cero’ Hits All the Right Notes

The U.S.’s rallying cry against Mexico has officially been adopted by its new generation in a defining World Cup qualifying victory.  BRIAN STRAUS  Sports illustrated

CINCINNATI — This may be a generation of young U.S. players the likes of which we’ve never seen. It’s ambitious, fearless and committed to its manager Gregg Berhalter’s stated mission “to change the way the world views American soccer.”But it still has an enthralling and timely appreciation for the classics.It’s the score made famous by their predecessors, the ones who pulled the U.S. men’s national team even with and often past their arch rival and long-time tormenter, Mexico. It became a slogan, an appellation and a call to arms: “Dos a Cero.” It was the score when the Americans bested El Tri at the 2002 World Cup and when they established a long-sought home-field advantage in nearby Columbus, where they won four straight World Cup qualifiers by that exact margin.If Friday night’s qualifier here in wet and chilly Cincinnati indeed was the last between the teams on U.S. soil, then this stretch of games that redefined U.S. soccer’s standing in the region ended on a perfectly poignant note. Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie scored second-half goals, punctuating as dominant a performance as the U.S. has ever enjoyed against its rival. The 2–0 win lifted the Americans (4-1-2) to first place at the halfway point of Concacaf’s eight-team qualifying competition, which will send the top three finishers to next year’s World Cup in Qatar and the fourth-place side to an intercontinental playoff.The U.S., which visits Jamaica (1-3-3) next Tuesday, is now ahead of second-place Mexico on goal differential. But the gap suddenly seems bigger than that. After losing his first two matchups against El Tri, Berhalter has engineered an unprecedented three straight competitive wins in just five months—the Concacaf Gold Cup and Nations League finals during the summer and then Friday’s signature triumph.Before making their case to the world, the Americans had to re-establish themselves locally. The failure to advance to the 2018 World Cup loomed large over this revitalized program as the new quadrennial cycle commenced. But this player pool clearly is made of different stuff. It’s exceptionally young for a contending national team—this month’s squad averages under 24 years of age—but its aspirations and confidence are evident. Many members play for high-profile clubs. Others are on their way. And they approached Friday’s game with no fear, pressing and harassing and going at Mexico until the visitors eventually and inevitably buckled.“When I think about our age and the youth we have in this generation coming up and having to compete against Mexico, that’s an experienced team. And these guys just keep going and they’re relentless,” said Berhalter, a member of that U.S. team that bested El Tri in ’02. “It’s the mentality of the group to be very aggressive. We wanted to put Mexico on their heels. We know they’re a good team, a well-coached team, and for us it was about, ‘How we can we disrupt them?’ And I think we didn’t want to show that sign of weakness by dropping off. We wanted to be aggressive and continue to press.” If it looked like the hosts played with a bit of a chip on their collective shoulder, it’s because they probably did. Each and every qualifier is worth just three points, and the three points earned Friday are no more vital than the ones at stake in Kingston next week. But anyone who’s ever competed understands the nature of rivalry, and how that friction and antipathy can jumpstart emotions, highlight perceived sleights and heighten sensitivity. It’s not enough to beat El Tri. It has to sting.This week, veteran Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa expressed an interesting take on the cross-border clásico. Those two wins over the summer and that winning overall record over the past three decades didn’t change the overall pecking order, he suggested, because the U.S. still defines itself by its relationship to Mexico.“Mexico has been that mirror in which they want to see themselves and reflect—what they want to copy,” Ochoa told reporters.Berhalter bristled during his pre-game press conference on Friday, saying that his players apparently still “have a long way to go to get the respect of Mexico.” That was the cue. At some point between then and Friday’s kickoff. U.S. Soccer staffers put Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” on the stadium playlist. And Pulisic, separately and coincidentally, had the same phrase written on a white undershirt.When Pulisic scored the game’s opening goal on a quick near-post run and sharp, short-range, 75th-minute header, he lifted his U.S. jersey and showed off the undershirt to the fans sitting behind TQL Stadium’s south goal. And after the final whistle sounded about 15 minutes later—McKennie had tallied the symbolic second goal in the 85th—the arena’s PA system played Jackson’s hit.

Pulisic, McKennie Bring Dos a Cero Back for USMNT vs. Mexico

AVI CREDITOR sports illustrated

It’s Dos a Cero: The next generation.   Into Friday’s World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico for just five minutes as a second-half substitute, U.S. men’s national team star Christian Pulisic scored the go-ahead goal in the 74th minute, while Weston McKennie added a second 11 minutes later to give the U.S. a familiar 2–0 win in an intense bout between the two storied rivals at FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium.The stakes were big, with the U.S. now topping the Concacaf Octagonal halfway through the cycle, tied on points with Mexico but ahead on goal differential. After the other results in the region on the night, the U.S. is a point clear of third-place Canada and three points ahead of fourth-place Panama. More importantly, the U.S. is eight points clear of fifth-place Costa Rica. The top three teams in the Octagonal automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the fourth-place team goes to an intercontinental playoff. The Dos a Cero scoreline had been a fixture in World Cup qualifying bouts between the two sides, with the U.S. winning 2-0 in 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2013 before Mexico snapped the streak and prevented it from going to five in a row in Columbus in 2016, winning 2–1 to open the last round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. On a night the U.S. made it three straight wins in competitive matches vs. El Tri in a matter of five months, following summer triumphs in the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup finals, the Americans took back their tradition as well. The U.S. was a bit shorthanded for the match. Pulisic wasn’t available from the start, Gregg Berhalter announced Thursday, citing his bandwidth after just returning from injury, while Sergiño Dest and Gio Reyna were sidelined with injuries of their own. Mexico wasn’t playing with a full deck either, with the visitors facing a bit of a center back crisis. Néstor Araujo was suspended, while César Montes and Héctor Moreno were out injured, forcing manager Tata Martino to dip into his depth at a pivotal position.  Things were busy on the U.S. left to start the match, with left back Antonee Robinson pushing forward and trying to drive the U.S. attack only to be thwarted, while Jesús “Tecatito” Corona tried to go 1-v-1 on Miles Robinson—who was covering Antonee Robinson’s area—on the other end, with the Atlanta United center back coming out on top in their duel.  The first U.S. half-chance emanated from the right, though. Yunus Musah did well to keep possession in the midfield before finding Tim Weah out wide, and he picked out Mexican-American forward Ricardo Pepi, whose redirect in the box went wide of the target in the fifth minute.  Weah called his own number from long range on a one-man transitional moment a couple of minutes later, trying to beat Guillermo Ochoa with a low blast when he had Brenden Aaronson streaking forward into the box. The veteran goalkeeper calmly and cleanly made the save.   Mexico tested Zack Steffen for the first time in the 12th minute. Edson Álvarez curled a shot from over 20 yards out toward the left post, but Steffen, who got the start over Matt Turner for a second straight qualifier, was equal to it, diving to his right and pushing it around the target.  Steffen made another massive save in the 18th minute, when Hirving Lozano was played through by Corona and found himself on a breakaway. With DeAndre Yedlin bearing down, Lozano still had room to shoot, but a sprawling Steffen made the save.

USMNT analysis

DOS-A-CERO Again! Pulisic ignites USMNT rally to down Mexico in Cincy

The United States national team wrote another memorable chapter to its long-standing rivalry with Mexico. While it featured many new players, the 2-0 scoreline remained the same with Christian Pulisic breaking the game open with a huge goal and Tim Weah putting on a dazzling performance. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta breaks it all down with his thoughts and analysis.

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA   American Soccer now —  NOVEMBER 12, 20213:55 PM

AT HALFTIME, it seemed like the game could have gone either way with the score even at 0-0. Mexico had some nice chances, but the U.S. team had some nice chances but was only lacking its final ball. The second half, however, told a completely different story and the U.S. defeated Mexico by the iconic 2-0 score to notch a third competitive win over Mexico in 2021 and move into first atop the Octagonal World Cup qualifying group.

The U.S. team simply came out and took the game to Mexico in the second. The U.S. team dominated and had the better of chances. Mexico struggled to get anything decent going in their final third. The U.S. team was able to press much higher up the field.“The second half is when we started to pull away,” Berhalter said. “The first half was an entertaining half, it was back and forth and both teams were taking shots at each other. The second half is where we started to pull away.”“That’s the effect we have on our opponents. when we can press them and we can be that aggressive around the ball and with the ball, turning them around make them face to face your own goal becomes really challenging.”With the U.S. in control of the possession and pressuring Mexico, the turning point came in the 69th minute when Berhalter subbed in Christian Pulisic. The Chelsea star has missed most of this season for the Blues – first due to COVID and then due to an injured ankle. He had made a few late cameos in England before the break and was not fit to start.But he was fit to make a difference. In the 74th minute, five minutes after entering, he turned the game decidedly in favor of the U.S. team with a critical goal off a beautiful pass from Tim Weah.“We bought in Christian he gave the team of boost and it also put some fear into Mexico, because they know his quality,” Berhalter said. “So, anytime we can bring in players like that, and they can make an impact is a good thing for us.”In the 85th minute, the U.S. put the game out of reach when Tim Weah swung a ball into the middle for Jesus Ferreira. The FC Dallas attacker played it off to McKennie who attempted to play it back to Ferreira. His pass was deflected off a defender and came back to him and he had an opening through the defense. He moved in and beat Guillermo Ochoa with the shot.The U.S. team was able to play out the win but suffered a late second yellow card to defender Miles Robinson who was sent off and is now suspended for the Jamaica game. He will join Weston McKennie as two players who will miss that important game.When the final whistle sounded, the U.S. ended yet another 2-0 storied win over Mexico. It is now the sixth time the U.S. team has defeated its archrival with that iconic scoreline in World Cup or World Cup qualifying with the other editions coming in 2001, 2002, 2005, 2009, and 2013.

Here are some thoughts on the win

WEAH WAS THE MOTM

 Gregg Berhalter gave Tim Weah the “Coach’s MOTM” and it was the right decision. In the first half, Weah was actively pushing the ball forward whenever he had the chance and this prevented Mexico from pressing too high as it kept them on their heels a little bit.Then in the second half, Weah was the key difference maker. His cross set up Puslic beautifully for the opening goal and then it was his pass to Ferreira that was instrumental in McKennie’s late goal.
For the three wins the U.S. team has had over Mexico this year, this was the best offensive performance from any American players. It would take going back to Landon Donovan to find a player who had a better offensive game against Mexico.Weah’s raw numbers were simply fantastic across the board.

PULISIC BUILDS USMNT LEGACY

 Christian Pulisic has had a wonderful career so far and while he is yet to play in a World Cup, he has scored some important goals for the team. This was probably his biggest so far. The U.S. team is desperately trying to reverse the legacy of 2017 and change a new narrative.The two wins over Mexico this summer were important but this one put the exclamation point on what has been a good year for a program that has built a deep pool of players. This win put the U.S. team in an excellent position in World Cup qualifying and Pulisic’s goal is what turned the tide from a good U.S. performance into a winning performance. That is what star players are supposed to do.

 MIDFIELD RISES TO THE OCCASION

 The starting midfield for the U.S. team was sloppy with its passing in the first 20 minutes. The remainder of the match, however, the starting trio of Adams, McKennie, and Musah were dominant. In the second half, it was no contest.For the starting trio, they won 22/35 of their combined duels. The physicality they brought to the game gave the U.S. team an edge, and it wore and older Mexican team down.
While McKennie scored, the most complete midfield performance was Yunus Musah who is one of the most direct midfielders the U.S. team has had. When Beharlter preaches “verticality,” Musah seems to fit this plan.Gianluca Busio has been pushing for a starting spot, but Musah will probably make it tough for him. Busio and Musah both are still a little defensively naive and it is tough to start both of them together. But for now, it’s tough to take Musah off the field.

 YOUTH PROVIDES THE EDGE

 The U.S. national team has three wins in three games against Mexico this year. In those three wins, the U.S. team has scored six goals. Five of those six goals have been scored after the 74th minute (27th, 82nd, 114th, 117th, 74th, 85th).It’s an older Mexican team and a very young U.S. team. Berhalter was quick to point out how he wanted to wear Mexico down. This strategy has been very effective. The U.S. has found a way to own the latter parts of the game and that has been key.Will the U.S. team be able to do that in Azteca next year? That’s a tough assignment.

 ZIMMERMAN’S BIG NIGHT

 Walker Zimmerman had a very, very big night for the U.S. team. He was a steady presence in the back and dominated in the air. Aside from one turnover in the first half, it was pretty much flawless defensively. It wasn’t just winning duels, he was intercepting passes and doing well in his 1v1 defending.This was a defining performance for Zimmerman who probably put himself on the inside part of a top 23-player roster. If Berhalter is going to call in four central defenders he’s probably one of them. The odds are that John Brooks regains his form. That would probably have John Brooks, Miles Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, and Chris Richards as the top four central defenders at the moment. 

STEFFEN’S STANDS TALL

 It was one of the most talked about decisions in the starting XI since it was known in advance. Berhalter opted to start Zack Steffen over Matt Turner. It was talked about because both goalkeepers have done well, and both should feel they have reasons to start.In this game, Steffen did well and the fact that he got the nod in this game probably makes it a realistic guess he will be the team’s starter in big games – at least for now. Turner will still get chances and is probably a slightly better shot-stopper than Steffen. But Steffen’s ability to play out of the back and distribute the ball worked well here and it the U.S. team earned a lot of key possessions out of it.Of course, Steffen has dealt with several injuries over the years and has missed a lot of time. The fact that he rarely plays for his club also could see his form fluctuate. But for now, Steffen put himself in a great situation. 

LOOKING AHEAD TO JAMAICA

 On Tuesday, the U.S. team will face Jamaica in Kingston and keeping the entire starting lineup from this game together is impossible because Miles Robinson and Weston McKennie are suspended.There are some other evaluations which Berhalter will have to consider – mostly around fitness levels of some players. Most likely it will be players like Tim Weah and Yunus Musah haven’t been regular starters with their respective clubs and playing two full games from the start with extensive travel are tough questions.Berhalter admitted after the Mexico win that he was thinking about calling in extra players but those would almost certainly be for cover.
In central defense, Zimmerman and Chris Richards seems certainly to be the combination. In place of McKennie, Kellyn Acosta has been the backup in that role for most of the year. While Gianluca Busio could get the start, it would be in place of Musah and it would be hard to see the two teenagers starting together.The rest of the lineup should be pretty much the same and Pulisic, like against Mexico, will be a big offensive weapon off the bench.

 Player ratings

THE STARTING LINEUP

 Zack Steffen: The Manchester City backup goalkeeper had a big outing with important saves in the 12th and 18th minutes while having solid distribution. Rating: 7

Antonee Robinson: The left back pushed forward and defended well although his crossing and final ball sometimes let him down. Rating: 6.5

Walker Zimmerman: The Nashville SC stallwart had a first-rate performance in central defense and was most responsible for the cleansheet. He also had some nice passes out of the back that created nice possessions. Rating: 7.5

Miles Robinson: The Massachusetts native was sent off in the 89th minute with his second yellow card but the U.S. was up 2-0 and coasting. Prior to that, Robinson had a nice game where he defended well and won his duels. His first yellow card was unnecessary. Rating: 6.5

DeAndre Yedlin: The team’s loan veteran from the 2014 World Cup team wasn’t flashy but was just dependable and strong. He made no real mistakes and was there defensively whenever needed. Rating: 6.5

Tyler Adams:  Adams had a tough beginning of the game but settled in nicely. His second half was strong and he allowed the attackers, fullbacks and other midfielders to push higher up the field and build pressure. Rating: 7

Weston McKennie: The Juventus midfielder scored the team’s second goal but also did a ton of dirty work in the middle of the field to disrupt Mexico’s attack. Rating: 7

Yunus Musah: It was a big outing from Musah who passed well in the open field and was always looking to dribble quickly and create chances. He linked up well with Weah and Mexico struggled to contain his skill an athleticism. Rating: 7.5

Brenden Aaronson: The New Jersey native had a shot inside of the 20th minute but couldn’t get enough on it and hit it straight at Ochoa. While he had other positive moments, he didn’t stand out as much as he typically does and his set piece deliveries can be better. Rating: 6.5

Tim Weah: It was Weah’s best performance for the U.S. team and one of the best offensive performances a U.S. player has ever had against Mexico. While he didn’t score, he had a stellar assist on Pulisic’s goal and his pass to Ferreira was instrumental in the second goal. When Mexico was playing well in the first half, Weah was part of the U.S. team’s effort to get the ball forward and not let Mexico step too far into the attack. He was everywhere and Mexico had no answer for him. Rating: 8.5

Ricardo Pepi: His scoring touch let him down but Pepi was able to contribute in other ways. He set up Musah for a good chance in the first half. It was clear Mexico was paying a lot of attention to shutting him down, but Pepi wasn’t invisible and had his moments. Rating: 7

 THE SUBSTITUTES

 Christian Pulisic: Pulisic did what star players do, create a moment of magic to give his team an edge. His goal was the defining moment. Rating: 7.5

Kellyn Acosta: The Colorado native replaced a tired Musah and helped see out the win. He didn’t do much either way. Rating: 5.5

Jesus Ferreira: Entering into the game in the 82nd, Ferreira played with some nice energy. He had a big hand in the second goal in getting it to McKennie (not credited with an assist because McKennie’s attempted pass didn’t work). He missed a late shot wide – which he could have done better but was probably lost in the moment. Still, his energy was solid. Rating: 6.5

Chris Richards: A stoppage time sub to fill the void in central defense left by Robinson’s red card. Rating: NR

 THE COACH

 Gregg Berhalter: You can’t argue with the result, the decisions, or the performance. The U.S. team looked prepared. The lineup was 100% right and his non-lock picks – Steffen, Zimmerman, Weah – all worked out. His subs changed the game and the team made some important adjustments at halftime as the U.S. began to take the game to Mexico after the break. Rating: 8.0

As global soccer’s landscape shifts, was USMNT-Mexico the best we’ll ever see at FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium?

Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer  Mon, November 15, 2021, 8:59 AM

TQL Stadium is about six months old, and it might have already peaked and hosted the best-ever night its history.Due to the shifting landscape of international soccer, we might never again see a soccer spectacle at the stadium as big as Friday’s U.S. men’s national team game against vaunted rival Mexico in FIFA World Cup qualifying.At the outset of the July 28 press conference at TQL Stadium announcing the USMNT’s quadrennial home match against Mexico in World Cup qualifying, FC Cincinnati Chief Executive Officer and Controlling Owner Carl Lindner III proudly declared: “We’ve done it.”And they had done it. The biggest match and the most intense rivalry in North American soccer, and therefore one of the prominent international fixtures in the world, would be staged at TQL Stadium. Building a venue worthy of the game and bringing it to Cincinnati was no small achievement.Four months later, the match was executed to perfection. Friday’s game was nothing short the spectacle you expect of USMNT-Mexico, complete with chippy on-field drama and a famous “Dos a Cero” victory that immediately took its place in USMNT lore.

USMNT-Mexico FIFA World Cup qualifier: Winners, losers from TQL Stadium

Opinion: Win over Mexico shows USMNT has the swagger to go with its considerable talent

A World Cup qualifier against Mexico is as big as it gets for USMNT and its fans. There’s another happening in March 2022, too, at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Bigger venue, pro-Mexican crowd, of course, and every bit as much passion and flair.

But after that game, the biggest match we know in North American soccer might cease to exist as we’ve come to understand and love it in its present context.

There won’t be a qualifying cycle for the next World Cup for these decades-old foes. The event is to be jointly hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and allows the three host countries to qualify automatically.The 2026 World Cup is also the tournament that will see the field grow to 48 national teams from 32.

In enlarging the World Cup field, it’s more likely regional heavyweights will have an easier path to qualifying. There will be less risk of missing the tournament altogether, which befell the U.S. for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and nearly happened to Mexico four years earlier in Brazil.And then there’s still the possibility (albeit a fiercely debated one) of switching the FIFA World Cup from being staged once every four years to a biennial event. That could also upend that qualification process as we know it.The USMNT-Mexico rivalry will remain, of course. The border countries will meet again in games both meaningful and friendly.FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding told The Enquirer on Wednesday he expected the rivalry to continue unabated, with future meaningful match-ups likely to occur in the Concacaf Gold Cup, which crowns this FIFA region’s champion national team every two years.The newly introduced Concacaf Nations League will exist, too. That competition, which saw the Americans meaningfully triumph in the championship match over Mexico in June, attempts to make a kind of league season out of international matches for the region.But Friday’s match still might have been the end of an era, and the best night TQL Stadium will ever know.It’s not that FC Cincinnati did anything wrong. The venue and the club that reside there aren’t at fault, of course, but having tasted built a stadium worthy of hosting the match and experienced the extravagance of USMNT-Mexico firsthand, it would also be Cincinnati’s loss to see the rivalry diminished.To be sure, this isn’t just a Cincinnati problem.A lessened USMNT-Mexico rivalry on the men’s side is a broad, pressing concern for both countries. It was discussed at length in the week leading up to the match, and American players and coaches were regularly asked about it.If it doesn’t get bigger than USMNT-Mexico in World Cup qualifying, and the stakes and format of World Cup qualifying are going to shift, how can there ever be another USMNT-Mexico match like Friday’s, and the one in March to come?How can Cincinnati ever again know white-hot soccer feuding set against frigid temperatures and driving rain, and 26,000 still packing the stands?

Asked Thursday about the future of the USMNT-Mexico rivalry, U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter said, “it could potentially change.””I think about the rivalry over the years and the impact of these games, what they’ve meant to our fans and Mexican fans and the rivalry and how the rivalry’s grown, you know, it’s been great,” Berhalter said. “I’ve been asked ‘is it gonna change? Will the rivalry change?’ And I don’t think it will.”We may not be able to play qualifiers of this magnitude, World Cup qualifiers. But we’ll see them down the road in a lot of meaningful games and the rivalry is always gonna be intense. You know, we’re both fighting to be top of our region and when you have two teams like this going at each other, there’s always gonna be heat.”This is not to say TQL Stadium doesn’t have big games and events left in it.The stadium’s in its infancy, and by every account U.S. Soccer has enjoyed the two events it helped stage there in 2021 (the U.S. women defeated Paraguay in a post-Olympics friendly in September).In terms of the city at-large continuing to be a destination for major matches, TQL Stadium should be at the top of the list for future consideration regarding MLS All-Star games, friendlies, Gold Cup matches, and other events.

There’s also Cincinnati’s bid to host 2026 World Cup matches. The bid isn’t to host the USMNT specifically and Paul Brown Stadium would be the host venue, but if the tournament comes to the city in 2026, you can bet that would be like nothing the region has ever experienced.And then there’s FC Cincinnati. The club fell on hard times upon entering Major League Soccer and has finished last in the league for three consecutive years. The club is a popular punching bag for national MLS pundits but the reality, as well as the custom in North American sports, is that all expansion projects eventually improve.Better days will come at the club level in Cincinnati. MLS Cup playoff soccer at TQL Stadium would be a very enticing proposition given the club’s rabid support.Bringing an event like the USMNT’s World Cup qualifier for Qatar 2022 to Cincinnati was always going to be special. Regardless of the outcome, it promised to be memorable and historic.The game that resulted, combined with the scenes around the city for a week leading up to the match, surpassed expectations. History was made, and then some.The stadium’s reputation grew for the right reasons, and U.S. Soccer, be it the men’s or women’s national teams (probably both), will surely return eventually.Still, that doesn’t promise the spectacle Cincinnati witnessed on Friday. Scenes like that are becoming scarce, so we simply might not ever again see a night like Friday for as long as TQL Stadium stands. That’s simply the reality of the impending sea change in the world’s game.


Written Version: Landon, Wahl and Witty on USMNT 2, Mexico 0

Mike Ryan Joins the Group to Break Down a Huge U.S. Win Over Its Archrival     Grant Wahl Nov 14 

As we do after every USMNT World Cup qualifier, I was joined by Landon Donovan and Chris Wittyngham (along with the Dan Le Batard Show’s Mike Ryan) to discuss the USMNT’s big 2-0 win over Mexico in Cincinnati. I really enjoyed this discussion and think you will too.

Grant Wahl:

Hey there. Welcome to Landon, Wahl and Witty On The Road To Qatar. I’m Grant Wahl. Thanks so much for joining me. We’ve got a special episode in partnership with Meadowlark and Le Batard and Friends with reaction from Landon Donovan, Chris Wittyngham, Chris Wittyngham and me to the U.S. men’s national team’s 2-0 dos a cero win over Mexico on World Cup qualifying Matchday 7. Landon is in Washington D.C. tonight. The rest of us are here in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I’m writing for my Substack newsletter at grantwahl.com. Go there to read all my stuff. Guys, great to be with you. How are you?

Landon Donovan:

I’m buzzing. I wish I was there. You guys must be electric.

Chris Wittyngham:

Yeah. I mean the atmosphere was crazy from minute one, walking into the stadium. It’s jam packed. In the first half, you felt confident. The U.S. wasn’t really vulnerable except for that one chance for Chucky Lozano, but you wondered where were they going to find the attacking breakthroughs from? Then they came in the second half.

Mike Ryan:

A true home-field advantage and all the games should be at Cincinnati?

Grant Wahl:

This was totally pro U.S.. You’ve got a few Mexican fans sprinkled throughout, but very much pro U.S.. We’ve been in so many stadiums over the years, for USA-Mexico games in the U.S., where that’s not the case, where it’s very pro Mexico. I want to get a sense of what happened in the second half of this game, because that was the best half I have seen the U.S. play against Mexico since maybe the 2013 World Cup qualifier in Columbus, where you, Landon, scored. Was that your thought?

Landon Donovan:

What it looked like to me, I said to someone at halftime, I was on the phone and I said, “Although Mexico had the two, certainly one, most dangerous chance, it felt like the U.S. had the tempo of the game the way they wanted it. The only way Mexico were going to get a chance was through Raúl holding the ball up, Raúl Jiménez, and maybe Chucky Lozano running behind.” Off of that movement, him holding it and Chucky from outside-in to attack the U.S. team, but Mexico just looked like they did not have a way they were going to score. They never looked dangerous except for the one chance. In the U.S., in the first half, it wasn’t clean or perfect, but they were at the top of Mexico’s box over and over and over and over. You just felt at some point there was going to be some sort of breakthrough. I just felt like we looked like the team that was going to score, even though Mexico had the bigger chance in the first half.

Chris Wittyngham:

To me, the thing that most stands out about that performance is that the U.S. were the ones that were pressing. The U.S. were the ones that were causing Mexico problems. My feeling in the Tata [Martino] era has always been his sides come out and cause the U.S. problems, and you’ve got to survive the first 15 minutes. But it was exactly the opposite and Mexico never grew into the game. It never felt like this is going to be a team that is going to create consistent chances. I think that comes down to the center back partnership of Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson. Zimmerman, in particular, I thought was absolutely massive for the U.S..

You feel like you found a couple of center backs there. That’s your partnership going forward. Play the two of them. They know exactly what they’re doing. They negated Mexico. They did a good job. The one fear I had when you look at the lineup, the two Robinsons, Zimmerman and [DeAndre] Yedlin is, could this team play out from the back? They actually found direct forward passes that were not just knocking the ball along. It was with intent and Ricardo Pepi did a decent job with handling those. Tim Weah did a decent job at those, but really it was the assuredness of the fact that allowed them to press forward.

Mike Ryan:

I think we found our center back pairing for the World Cup run in Qatar. To see Walker Zimmerman really step up to this level in this moment was really reassuring and really good for MLS, and really good for the future of that center back position. They totally neutralized Raúl Jiménez.

Grant Wahl:

He really didn’t have a big impact on the game besides decking Tyler Adams. Miles Robinson did get a second yellow, so we are going to see a different combination down in Jamaica. I think Chris Richards is a terrific player with a really bright future. I’m curious to see if we see him making that replacement, but Zimmerman did not put a foot wrong in this game. I did think Tim Weah was the man of the match for the U.S. For the second straight game, the game winning goal, connected to Tim Weah, a guy who wasn’t even going to start ahead of Paul Arriola in the last game, and came in because Arriola got hurt in the warmup [against Costa Rica]. Do you get a sense, Landon, that Tim Weah is really starting to establish himself as a player who could make a difference for the U.S.?

Landon Donovan:

It certainly looked like it tonight. He looked comfortable, confident, like he belonged in the team. I haven’t seen him look that way yet. So I think he’s just growing, as all players do at that age, and feeling comfortable and confident. What you want, ultimately, is competition. You saw it tonight with Zack Steffen, and now Matt Turner. You saw it with Tim Weah’s performance. When Gio [Reyna]’s back, what does that mean? What does that mean for Paul Arriola? You want that. You want competition, but I want to touch on Walker Zimmerman. I thought Tim Weah was fantastic, but for me, Walker Zimmerman was the man of the match. He just neutralized Raúl Jiménez in almost every aerial duel. The one he lost, Raúl Jiménez held the ball, laid it off and Chucky Lozano was in behind for their one chance. I also want to give Gregg Berhalter a ton of credit.

They came out and went after Mexico. We’ve seen the U.S. team in the past, a little more hesitant, sitting back, a little more savvy, tactical in the way they defended. They just went after them and put them under pressure. Mexico, to their credit, tried to play out and tried to play out and tried to play out, but Walker Zimerman was isolated one v one a decent amount of times and he just won every duel. The U.S. absolutely pummeled Mexico in just duels. I think it was like 65 to 40. They won every duel and that just turned the game into the U.S.’s favor so they could just keep Mexico pinned their end, pile pressure on, as I always say. Then eventually, they made them crack and won the game.

Chris Wittyngham:

Landon, am I being hyperbolic if I say that this is in some ways, the U.S. justifying, I think, what’s been a journey for a decade, probably? When Jurgen [Klinsmann]  takes over, with Berhalter, they’ve been trying to implement a style of play so that when they go into big games, it’s not just about bunker and countering and the hard work. Am I diminishing your achievements with the U.S. national team if I say that this is the U.S. living up to the identity that they’ve set forward for themselves more than they ever have?

Landon Donovan:

Here’s the reality, Witty. In the late ’90s, early 2000s, we played 15, 18, 20 games together a year, plus a January camp, so we were together all the time. We were able to build partnerships, build relationships. In modern football, you just don’t have that. They don’t have time to train together, work together. I’ve said that all along. It’s really hard for Gregg to actually implement a style of play when you have guys for three days of training, and they’re mostly just recovering because they played a game on the weekend in London or somewhere in Europe.

What I saw tonight , and what it felt like to me, was continuity starting to build. You had that same midfield three with Weston [McKennie] and Tyler [Adams] and [Yunus] Musah, and they looked comfortable. They knew how to play together. Center back pairing, or the back line pairing isn’t always the same, but you’re getting more of the same guys together on the field, consistently. Pepi now on the field consistently with Brenden Aaronson. All of that stuff matters because you start to build a rhythm with the player next to you. That’s what you saw tonight. They look like an actual team versus a lot of really good, talented players who hadn’t had enough time to train together.

Grant Wahl:

I also want to mention, I just came out of the press conferences, separate press conferences for Tata Martino and Gregg Berhalter, but the same word being used. A lot of intensidad from Tata in his talking about the U.S., and then Gregg saying first thing, “Intensity. That was how we won this game.” He was impressed with their effort in the first half, but especially in the second half, he feels like they wore them down in the second half of this game and gave themselves the opportunity to get the goals. It still took Christian Pulisic coming on.

Mike Ryan:

Well, that’s where I wanted to jump in. The super sub Christian Pulisic, the best player was being the best player. It’s great to see him in that form. He flashed in that sub appearance in the Champions League for Chelsea. To see him really take advantage of this opportunity and be the best player, was super encouraging to me as a Chelsea supporter and as an American supporter. Landon, I’m curious what your thoughts were on Christian Pulisic’s appearance.

Landon Donovan:

Yeah. You know what that goal reminded me of, guys? That, to me, looked like a Clint Dempsey goal. When I saw it, it just looked like Clint. It was inside your guy, taking a chance, bang in front of goal and he smashed it home. You don’t think of Christian as that type of player. But I’ve said this consistently about him. He does not have a weakness in his game. There’s nothing he can’t do on the field. That’s why it’s frustrating when he is injured, right? That’s why it’s frustrating when Gio’s not here, right? That’s why it’s frustrating when Weston got into trouble or when he’s injured. These are special players who can change the game in an instant. It was really fun to watch him come in after he’s been out for so long and make an impact. I was really happy for him.

Grant Wahl: Christian Pulisic, by the way, showing off a t-shirt after his goal that said, “Man in the mirror.” Now there’s a story here. He’s not just a Michael Jackson fan, everyone. Memo Ochoa, the goalkeeper for Mexico, had said this week, “Mexico is the mirror in which the United States wants to see itself.” That ticked off this U.S. team. Gregg Berhalter talked about that yesterday. Lack of respect. Clearly, Christian, or someone close to Christian, put a t-shirt together at some point today.

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11/11 /21   2 Tix for US-Mex for Sale at COST, US vs Mexico Fri 9 pm ESPN 2, Indy 11 GK Farr in playoffs Sat at 9 pm

11/11 /21   2 Tix for US-Mex for Sale at COST, US vs Mexico Fri 9 pm ESPN 2, Indy 11 GK Farr in playoffs Sat at 9 pm

So lets start with I have 2 extra Tickets for the US game vs Mexico on Friday night – in Cincinnati in the American Outlaws Section behind the goal.  This is a standing room section with Crazy American Outlaw fans and is a very exciting section to be in.  Tickets at my cost of $145 each for 2 tix.   RE or call me at 317-748-7174 if interested in join us or meeting us at the game.

Roster Set for US Men vs Mexico on Friday night 9 pm ESPN2 from Cincy

Its here – the biggest game on the calendar every 4 years – outside of a World Cup – is World Cup Qualifying USA vs Mexico.  I have been blessed to be at a whole bunch of 2-0 (Dos A Cero) games in the Midwest including the last 4 in Columbus with 3 wins and of course the devastating loss 4 years ago.  So what happens this time?  First of the US sits in 2nd place – so we don’t have to beat Mexico (who is undefeated in qualifying thus far).  However, after back to back wins in the Nations League with our A team and then the Gold Cup with our B team – expectations are extremely high.  The US will have Christian Pulisic back – interesting to see if he starts or comes on in the 2nd half – considering his fitness and recovery from his ankle injury that has had him out for 2 months.  My guess is he starts – he’s our Captain – and I just don’t see him not starting.  Interesting to see John Brooks was not brought in for this set of games – he is back and playing in Germany – so I think this is a sign he’s not first choice for Coach Berhalter right now.  I am ok as long as Miles Robinson is in the middle – I think Zimmerman or Chris Richards are fine starting beside him. Either way none of them has faced the pressure of Qualifying vs Mexico – but certainly Miles has shown his a starter in INK if he’s healthy.  The left will be Antonee Robinson of course with Joe Scally (the18 year old new guy starting for Monchengladbach right now). Is he too young to start vs Mexico – in his first ever game (cap).  I don’t think so – he’s played Bayern Munich,  Dortmund – the kid can hold his own!  I think he starts but wouldn’t be surprised if Yedlin starts instead with Dest out injured.  I think Matt Turner is your GK.  He’s our best shot-stopper and that’s what you need vs Mexico.  Don’t play out of the back as much – kick away and let your goalkeeper protect his net without the BS buildup out of the back vs MEXICO.  The midfield is set in my mind – Adams at the #6, Mckinney and Musah at the shared #8 slots.  Finally up top its Christian on the left, Aaronson on the right and Mexican American youngster Pepi (get on the Pepi train) up top.  Of course knowing Coach B – don’t be surprised if Lleget or Paul Arriola slides in the starting line-up somehow.   I think it’s a huge game – honestly this might be the last time – a game this important is played in Qualifying like this.  We host the 2026 World Cup so no qualifying next round – and who knows if the World Cup will become every 2 years vs 4 (HORRIBLE IDEA) which would change qualifying completely.  I for one can’t wait !!  9 pm kickoff on ESPN2 – with pregame starting at 8:30 pm I think.  I am picking the US 2-1 (though I would love 2-0) of course !!

Shane’s Starting line up vs Mexico

Pepi

Aaronson/Arriola (adjusted at 5 pm)

McKennie/Musah

Adams

Robinson/Robinson, Zimmerman, Scally

Turner

US MEN  – DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB/COUNTRY; CAPS/GOALS):

GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 24/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0)

 DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 22/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 8/0), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 4/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 17/1), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 14/3), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 0/0), Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp/BEL; 8/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 69/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 20/2)

 MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 42/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 20/1), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; 7/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 33/8), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 27/7), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 9/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 29/0)
FORWARDS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 13/5), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 41/8), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 2/2), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 4/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 40/16), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 16/1)

MLS Playoffs Set

So MLS Decision day was exciting as the LA Teams could not qualify despite tying the final game where they needed a win to advance.  New England and Bruce Arena claimed the Supporters Shield for most points in MLS.   Here’s the Playoff Bracket with games starting next Saturday Nov 20. 

Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr Plays Sat night on ESPN + for San Antonio

Farr looks to start his 2nd game after a 2-0 shutout win vs San Diego last weekend.  San Antonio will host Rio Grand Valley FC  on Sat night at Toyota Field at 9:00 p.m. ET, with the game available live on ESPN+  in the Western Conference Semi-finals of the 2021 USL Championship Playoffs.   Jordan is up for Goal of the Month for October.

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Thurs 11/11   

2:45 pm ESPN +           Greece vs Spain

2:45 pm ESPN +          Romania vs Iceland

2:45 pm ESPN+            Ireland vs Portugal

7:30 pm fubu               Brazil vs Colombia

Fri 11/12

2:45 pm ESPN2            Italy vs Switzerland

2:45pm ESPN +            England vs Albania

8 pm Paramount+        Honduras vs Panama

9 pm ESPN2                 USA vs Mexico 

9:10 pm Para +            Canada vs Costa Rica   

SATURDAY, NOV. 13 on ESPN+


Malawi vs. Cameroon (8 a.m. ET)
Liberia vs. Nigeria (11 a.m. ET)
Ivory Coast vs. Mozambique (2 p.m. ET)
France vs. Kazakhstan (2:45 p.m. ET)
Montenegro vs. Netherlands (2:45 p.m. ET)
Belgium vs. Estonia (2:45 p.m. ET)

Sun 11/14  

9 am ESPN+                  Croatia vs Russia

12 pm ESPN+               Armenia vs Germany

2:45 pm ESPN+            Spain vs Sweden

3 pm CBSSN               OL Reign vs TBD- NWSL Playoffs

5:30 pm CBSSN          Portland Thorns vs TBD

Tues 11/16   

 2:45 pm ESPN2          Wales vs Belgium

5 pm Paramount+      Jamaica vs USA

6:30 pm fubo               Argentina vs Brazil

9 pm Para +                Canada vs Mexico

PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo.Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

USA

How to Make USA vs Mexico a Home Game – the Challenge
How will USMNT lineup versus Mexico in big home World Cup qualifier?

How should the USMNT line up vs Mexico?  Stars and Stripes

USMNT-Mexico: World Cup qualifying clash’s key players, storylines

Ricardo Pepi spotlight intensifies for USA-Mexico World Cup qualifying clash NATIONAL WRITER: CHARLES BOEHM
US, Mexico set for CONCACAF ‘Clasico’ in World Cup clash

Aaronson: Pulisic back for U.S.-Mexico a ‘boost’
  Jeff Carlisle
Tuchel warns USMNT: Don’t ‘overuse’ Pulisic

Cherish USMNT vs. Mexico as World Cup’s future will change the rivalry forever
Five things to watch in USMNT vs Mexico in World Cup qualifying

Pepi: U.S.-Mexico a ‘special feeling’ for family
CBS to make US qualifier at Jamaica only available as stream

Report: USMNT forward Daryl Dike wanted by Serie A clubs

USMNT defender Chris Richards continues to make mark in Bundesliga

U.S. Soccer’s New Nike Deal Is Its Biggest Ever Partnership
Straus: The U.S.-Mexico Stakes Are Different for Ricardo Pepi

Creditor: Yedlin’s Experience a Differentiator Among Young U.S. Team

Straus: A Lot of Fight, a Little Fate and a Course Correction for USMNT

Straus: Musah’s Wait Was Worth It—and He’s Worth the Wait

Mexico taps Raul, Chucky for U.S., Canada

World

 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for on every continent
England’s Rice out of World Cup qualifiers with illness

Spain and Italy face decisive dates in World Cup qualifying

Immobile out of Italy’s World Cup qualifying deciders

Injured Chiellini out of Italy’s final World Cup qualifiers

Brazil, Argentina eye Qatar World Cup qualification

Zlatan jokes of ‘old body and young mind’ ahead of Sweden return

Paul Pogba out with injury; Ogbonna suffers ACL issue

African players in Europe: Zaha stars as he mulls Ivory Coast future

Germany’s Süle positive for virus, Kimmich among 4 more 

MLS Playoffs


Decision Day delivers drama and heartbreak
  Jeff Carlisle
D.C. United wins, but misses MLS playoffs by just one point in heartbreaker

Galaxy and LAFC fail to wrap up MLS Cup playoff berths

MLS all-time scorer Wondolowski retires

MLS playoffs set; Castellanos wins Golden Boot

Josef Martinez’s brilliant volley puts ATL in the playoffs

US Women + NWSL Playoffs

Vlatko Andonovski reveals USWNT November roster
Crystal Dunn embraces union role, says USWNT won’t “settle for anything other than equality”

Carli Lloyds Career is over
Ashley Hatch’s extra-time goal lifts Spirit to dramatic NWSL playoff win

EPL


Antonio Conte on Tottenham: ‘Work is the only medicine for us’

Drab draw with Everton shows task ahead for Conte at Tottenham

Beaten after 7 months, Liverpool stunned by soaring West Ham

USMNT’s Berhalter on Mexico: Two trophies didn’t seem to have earned their respect

3:51 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

CINCINNATI — United States men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter says that his side still has “a long way to go” to get the respect of rival Mexico.

Speaking to reporters on a Zoom call ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier between the two longtime rivals (stream LIVE on ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET), Berhalter said the two victories the U.S. enjoyed over Mexico last summer — in the CONCACAF Nations League and the CONCACAF Gold Cup finals — have done little to change Mexico’s perception of the U.S.  

“When you hear things coming out from their camp, that we want to be [Mexico], where we’re looking at some mirror that’s Mexico and we want to see ourselves or something like that, it shows that we have a long way to go to get the respect of Mexico,” Berhalter said. “The two victories in the summer I guess didn’t do a lot to get that. We’re going to have to do it [on Friday] by our play on the field.”Berhalter revealed that Christian Pulisic won’t start the match after making a recent return from an ankle injury, while Zack Steffen will start in goal ahead of Matt Turner.Pulisic injured his ankle during the World Cup qualifier against Honduras in September, and has made just two substitute appearances for club side Chelsea since then. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel mentioned recently that he hoped Berhalter would be “responsible enough” with his use of Pulisic, a plea that left Berhalter bemused.”He’s been training for four days [with Chelsea], and common sense is going to tell us you can’t start a guy in a game like this when he’s only been training for four days, and he’s been out for two months,” Berhalter said. “I understand Tuchel’s concern. Our idea wasn’t to play him 180 minutes in this trip anyway. He’s not going to start [Friday].As for Steffen, the Manchester City keeper has made just four league and cup appearances this season as the primary backup to Ederson, while Turner has been playing every game for the New England Revolution. Yet Berhalter opted to go with Steffen, whom he managed previously when both were with the Columbus Crew.”They’re both great goalkeepers, no question about it,” said Berhalter. “We’ve seen that in camp this week. Zack is going to start the game [Friday]. But you know, there’s very little separating them at this stage and we could just as easily went with Matt. We decided to play Zack.”Much has been made about the U.S. team’s choice of venue. The U.S. Soccer Federation has acknowledged being strategic, aiming to ensure that the crowd is pro-U.S. by placing the game in a smaller stadium and in a city farther way than some other locales with large Mexican-American populations.”We take pride in having Latino fans and that’s something that’s important to us and we hope that in the future guys like Ricardo Pepi will help us get more Latino fans,” said Berhalter. “When you’re talking about a World Cup qualifier, it’s really important to have a pro-U.S. crowd, and whether that’s with Latinos in the stands or not, we want a pro-U.S. crowd and it’s not always easy to ensure that.”Mexico figures to have a sizable advantage in experience, one that Berhalter acknowledged his side can’t make up. He estimated that Mexico’s average age will be 29 while the U.S.’s will be closer to 22 or 23. But he hopes that the experience his side has gained in recent years — including four matches against El Tri — will be enough.”We’ve learned from that game, and it’s important that we’re taking all those lessons on board as we prepare for [Friday] night.”As for Mexico, El Tri manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino said that he is focused on the winning and breaking the two-match losing streak to the U.S.”We’ve looked at the games against the U.S. and we’ve worked on doing things differently. We never think of not playing for the draw,” Martino said. “Set pieces were a big factor in the previous games, it is how they won those matches.”As for the location of the match being a factor to limit Mexico fans, Martino added: “We always feel the support of Mexicans, in whichever place that we play.”

Zack Steffen will start, but Christian Pulisic won’t in what could be the last great U.S.-Mexico World Cup qualifier

“This is the date you’re circling,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said, of the last big home qualifier in the rivalry before the nations co-host the World Cup, and the tournament expands to 48 teams.by Jonathan Tannenwald

CINCINNATI — In the standings, every World Cup qualifying game counts the same: three points for a win, one for a tie, none for a loss.But in hearts and minds across American soccer, one game counts just a little more: the home game against Mexico. And now, five years and a day since the last one, it’s that time again.“I think given what’s on the line, you know — a ticket to the World Cup — it just remains a massive fixture,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said. “It’s a date that U.S. soccer fans put down on their calendar and they can’t wait for it. … This is the date you’re circling, and you can’t wait to get in the stadium and see this game because you know you can get behind your team against their biggest rival with the World Cup on the line.”The news of the day was Berhalter’s announcement that Downingtown’s Zack Steffen will start in goal, and Hershey’s Christian Pulisic will not start in the attack. Pulisic has only just returned to action with his club team, England’s Chelsea, after being sidelined for nearly two months with an ankle injury suffered during the U.S.’ Sept. 8 World Cup qualifying win at Honduras.“Common sense is going to tell us you can’t start a guy in a game like this when he’s only been training for four days and he’s been out for two months,” Berhalter said. “Hopefully, he’ll get some playing time; we’ll put him on the field and he can make an impact and help us get the result that we want. … He will be ready to play; he won’t start the game.”That opens the door for Medford’s Brenden Aaronson to start in Pulisic’s spot, the left wing of Berhalter’s preferred 4-3-3 formation.As for why Steffen will start over Matt Turner, Berhalter said, “There’s very little separating them at this stage, and we could have just as easily went with Matt. But we decided to play Zack.”

» READ MORE: Brenden Aaronson’s rocket ride to stardom hits its highest point yet ahead of the USMNT’s biggest game

In the 20 years since the U.S. turned the series on its head with its first 2-0 win over Mexico at Columbus’ old Crew Stadium, the matchup has grown into not just the most famous clash in North and Central America, but one of the great national team soccer spectacles on the planet.There have been four more U.S.-Mexico qualifiers in Columbus since the first, all 2-0 U.S. wins until El Tri finally snapped the streak in 2016 with a 2-1 win.The end of the Columbus streak is part of why the U.S. Soccer Federation moved this game elsewhere in Ohio. That FC Cincinnati’s new TQL Stadium has around 6,000 more seats than the Columbus Crew’s new Lower.com Field is likely another part, because it will put more money in the governing body’s bank accounts after the pandemic shutdown.But money isn’t the only consideration here, even with sky-high ticket prices. TQL Stadium’s 26,000-seat capacity is still small enough for U.S. Soccer to control who gets those tickets. That helps produce a pro-American crowd, instead of the sea of Mexican green that supports this country’s most popular men’s soccer team whenever the team plays in the United States.Why keep this game in Ohio instead of going to other soccer hotbeds? A report on the subject by Yahoo! Sports this week noted that Columbus and Cincinnati have the smallest Mexican immigrant populations of the 22 U.S. markets with MLS teams.But Mexico isn’t the only team whose fans can outnumber U.S. fans on American soil. Berhalter witnessed it when the U.S. played Costa Rica in northern New Jersey in 2016, and when he played against Guatemala and Honduras in Washington in the early 2000s.“We take pride in having Latino fans, and that’s something that’s important to us, and we hope that in the future, guys like Ricardo Pepi [a son of Mexican immigrants] will help us get more Latino fans,” he said. “When you’re talking about a World Cup qualifier, it’s really important to have a pro-U.S. crowd, and whether that’s Latinos in the stands or not, we want a pro-U.S. crowd. And it’s not always easy to ensure that. … It’s not about who you are, it’s about who you support.”» READ MORE: If you don’t know about U.S. men’s soccer rising star Ricardo Pepi yet, it’s time to pay attention

https://www.youtube.com/embed/2fc7Phg7sec?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.inquirer.com The excitement level is as high as ever, amplified by the prime-time lights of a kickoff at just after 9 p.m. Eastern time (ESPN2, ESPN+, Univision 65 and TUDN). But it’s tinged with a bit of melancholy.Because the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are cohosting the 2026 men’s World Cup, they’re all but assured of getting automatic berths in the field. And with the tournament expanding to 48 teams at that point, enough teams from Concacaf will qualify that the regional governing body won’t be able to cap off its qualifying campaign with the round-robin slugfest that has been tradition since 1997.On top of that, when the U.S. and Mexico meet at Mexico City’s famed Estadio Azteca on March 24, they might have already booked their tickets to Qatar — or at least be on the verge of it.So for people who’ve been around this sport and this rivalry for a long time, this game will mean even more than usual. And if you’re new to it, sit back and enjoy one of the greatest soccer spectacles in which any American team takes part.

Opinion: Another chapter begins in the USMNT’s storied rivalry with Mexico

Nancy Armour, USA TODAY

Fri, November 12, 2021, 7:21 AM

When the U.S. men’s national soccer team defeated Mexico twice this summer — with a trophy at stake each time, no less – it seemed to signal a change was coming in what has often felt like a lopsided rivalry.

The Americans were young, but brimming with talent. Players who not only are playing in Europe, but starting for clubs that play in the UEFA Champions League. Players that other countries had courted, aggressively.

But prestigious as the Gold Cup and Nations League might be, the Americans won’t really get their archrival’s attention until they win when it matters.

Like Friday.

The World Cup qualifier in Cincinnati won’t make, or break, either team’s chances of playing in next year’s tournament in Qatar. Concacaf’s top three teams advance to the World Cup, and Mexico currently leads the Octagonal at almost the halfway point, with the USMNT three points behind.

There is something to be said, however, for taking points away from Mexico. And, more importantly, letting El Tri know once again that this U.S. team is every bit its equal.

“We have a long way to go to get the respect of Mexico. I guess the two games this summer didn’t do a lot to get that,” coach Gregg Berhalter said Thursday, an edge in his voice. “We’re going to have to do a lot tomorrow on the field.”

For decades, Mexico had the run of Concacaf. And the U.S. men. From 1937 until 1980, Mexico had a 24-game unbeaten streak against their neighbors to the north, with many of the margins laughable.

There was the 7-2 drubbing in a qualifier for the 1958 World Cup, which came after a 6-0 rout. In several of the games, the U.S. men didn’t even manage a goal.

Fortunes began to change in the mid-1990s, as the U.S. men began their climb toward soccer respectability. A USMNT win here, another there, games that were competitive. Finally, in the Round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup, there was a landmark U.S. win.

Goals by Brian McBride and Landon Donovan stunned Mexico, which was eliminated 2-0 while the Americans – the Americans! – advanced to the quarterfinals. “Dos a Cero” wins sealed the USMNT’s spot at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and the Americans won by that same scoreline to book their place in the 2014 tournament while putting Mexico on the brink of missing out.But the U.S. men’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia forced a rebuild.

MORE: USMNT coach talks about what might be his most important game yet

This is, arguably, the most talent and depth the U.S. men have ever had, led by players like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna (who remains out with a hamstring injury). Of the 25-man roster for this round of qualifiers, 15 play in Europe.The Americans are young, however, with the average age of their recent rosters in the early 20s. It has taken the team time to come together, with the USMNT getting off to a rough start in qualifying.The wins over Mexico this summer served notice, though, of what this team could be. The decision in August by teenage phenom Ricardo Pepi to play for the USMNT, rather than Mexico, only solidified the notion that the Americans are on the rise.“I knew I had to take my own path,” said Pepi, who has been even better than the Americans could have hoped, scoring three goals in his first four appearances. “We have a very important game and I want to make sure I represent the U.S. in a good way.“It’s going to be a special feeling. A special feeling having my family in the stands, having me put the U.S. jersey on,” Pepi added. “I feel like I’m going to get goosebumps for sure. I’m going to be very motivated for the game, and very prepared for it. It’s going to be good.”One game won’t erase Mexico’s advantage in the all-time rivalry. Nor will it be enough to get the USMNT the respect it wants from its old foe.But it’s a good place to start.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

Preview, prediction for USMNT vs. Mexico FIFA World Cup qualifier at TQL Stadium

Pat Brennan, Cincinnati EnquirerThu, November 11, 2021, 8:16 PM

It doesn’t take much heat to cause the storied rivalry between the U.S. men’s national soccer team and Mexico to boil over.The running footballing feud between the countries appears set to do so once again after it remained on a high simmer following an eventful and successful summer for the Americans.The USMNT took two trophies off the Mexicans this past summer, winning dramatically in both the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup finals in June and August, respectively.Whether its a friendly match or a cup final, there’s never a throwaway encounter between the U.S. and Mexico, but meetings in FIFA World Cup qualifying matches tend to trump all other encounters.

More: What you need to know for the U.S. men’s national team’s match with Mexico at TQL Stadium

That makes the high-stakes USMNT-Mexico qualifying match Friday at TQL Stadium (9:10 p.m.) a chance for “El Tri” to claim the grandest form of redemption against its most bitter rival.Following the second of the USMNT’s successful trophy conquests in which it downed Mexico, and with the ongoing World Cup qualifying cycle looming, Mexico was forced to cope with criticism and doubt ahead of its qualifying campaign.Now, a victory by the Americans would pull them even with Mexico on points in the eight-team, round-robin qualifying group from which the top three teams advance directly to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.Conversely, Mexico could go six points clear of the U.S. with a victory, and provide itself with redemption after a summer of perceived failures.Mexico head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino was widely viewed to have called upon some of the country’s most-trusted, experienced players for November matches against the U.S., as well as Canada (Tuesday, 9:05 p.m.).Taken together, some view this two-match stretch as Mexico’s most difficult in the qualifying process.For the Americans’ part, head coach Gregg Berhalter assembled a group believed to be talented but still somewhat inexperienced in big matches on the international stage.However, the American player pool surely gained confidence and experience from its summer successes.”I think that the experience that we gained from playing in those tournaments over the summer gave a lot of different players the opportunity to play in big games,” American midfielder Tyler Adams said during a Thursday news conference. “The big takeaways obviously from that were raising two trophies at the end of them. That was our goal in the summer but at the end of the day, those trophies don’t mean anything to us now moving forward into this game because we have a World Cup on the line.”

How Mexico responds tactically and stylistically to the open, attacking matches of this past summer remains to be seen.How the young American team responds to Mexico’s response could ultimately decide the outcome of the contest. The maturation process could unfold quickly and in real-time on Friday.What seems certain for Berhalter is that respect from the Mexicans is still lacking, even after back-to-back wins with trophies on the line.”For us, despite being a young group, we know what this is about,” Berhalter said during a Thursday interview. “When you hear things coming out from their camp (like) we want to be them … it shows that we have a long way to go to get the respect of Mexico and the two victories over the summer, I guess, didn’t do a lot to get that so we’re going to have to do it (Friday).”

The Game

Kickoff: 9:10 p.m.; Friday at TQL Stadium

TV: ESPN2

Series info: Mexico leads the all-time series with a 36-21-15 record against America.

Roster notes: Gregg Berhalter on Thursday stated that Chelsea FC’s (England) Christian Pulisic wouldn’t start against Mexico as he’s returning to full fitness from an injury. Berhalter also confirmed Zack Steffen would start at goalkeeper for USMNT.

Cincinnati.com prediction: USMNT 1, Mexico 1.

USMNT

Record in Concacaf World Cup qualifying: 3-1-2, 11 points (second place)

FIFA world ranking: No. 13

Head coach: Gregg Berhalter

Mexico

FIFA world ranking: No. 9

Record in Concacaf qualifying: 4-0-2, 14 points (first place)

Head coach: Gerardo “Tata” Martino

Mexico roster:

(club/country)

Goalkeepers (3): Rodolfo Cota (Leon), Guillermo Ochoa (Club America), Alfredo Talavera (Pumas UNAM)
Defenders (9): Nestor Araujo (Celta Vigo/Spain), Jesus Gallardo (Monterrey), Cesar Montes (Monterrey), Julio Cesar Dominguez (Cruz Azul), Hector Moreno (Monterrey), Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez (Tigres), Osvaldo Rodriguez (Leon), Jorge Sanchez (Club America), Johan Vasquez (Genoa/Italy)
Midfielders (9): Edson Alvarez (Ajax/Netherlands), Sebastian Cordova (Club America), Roberto “Piojo” Alvarado (Cruz Azul), Andres Guardado (Real Betis/Spain), Orbelin Pineda (Cruz Azul), Carlos “Charly” Rodriguez (Monterrey), Luis Romo (Cruz Azul), Hector Herrera (Atletico Madrid/Spain), Ricardo “Canelo” Angulo (Chivas)
Forwards (5): Jose Manuel “Tecatito” Corona (Porto/Portugal), Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey), Raul Jimenez (Wolves/England), Henry Martin (Club America), Hirving “Chucky” Lozano (Napoli/Italy)

Noteworthy: Since 2000, the U.S. and Mexico have split their World Cup qualifying contests via a 4-4-2 record.

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter talks World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico in Cincinnati

Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer Thu, November 11, 2021, 11:11 PM

One could reasonably argue that TQL Stadium will be the site of the most important night in Gregg Berhalter’s managerial career to date.

Berhalter, who has been the head coach of the U.S. men’s national team since late 2018, will lead his side out against Mexico’s national team Friday at FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium (9:10 p.m. ET, ESPN2) in a pivotal FIFA World Cup qualifying match in the Concacaf region.

The eight-nation qualifying group will see the top three finishers qualify automatically for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and while the Americans have controlled the series against Mexico this century, anything can happen when the two sides meet.

Berhalter’s already taken two trophies off the Mexicans this year in winning the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup finals against “El Tri,” but it doesn’t get bigger for the head coach of the USMNT than the World Cup qualifier played against Mexico on American soil.

More: Inside the USMNT roster that will take on Mexico at TQL Stadium

Ahead of the start of the camp, which kicked off Monday at the Mercy Health Training Center in Milford with 10 players present, Berhalter conducted an exclusive interview with The Enquirer. The conversation ranged from further dissection of the health of Christian Pulisic, arguably the biggest American star in the November camp, to Joe Scally, the 18-year-old Borussia Mönchengladbach rising star that’s been called into the senior national team for the first time.

Berhalter also reflected on the selection of TQL Stadium as the site for the all-important USMNT-Mexico clash, and a 2017 U.S. Open Cup match in which his Columbus Crew were eliminated from the tournament by FC Cincinnati.

Enquirer: We’re less than a week out from the Mexico match. Now that it’s finally here and is the next match to play, what are the emotions? What’s the feeling in the pit of your stomach?

Gregg Berhalter: “You know, it’s a good question. In the context of World Cup qualifying, it’s just another game, right? But in terms of the rivalry and the history and the times when you get to play them with a pro-U.S. crowd in a great stadium, I mean, it makes it special. It really does, and we’re focused on playing our game, playing a good game, and really just looking forward to giving this young group the experience of this game.”

E: The home match (for the U.S.) against Mexico in World Cup qualifying – a lot of people will say that’s the big one in the career of a U.S. national team manager, whether they get two cycles or one or whatever, the perception is this is the big one. Do you agree with that?

GB: “I just think it’s a great event. All the qualifiers that we play at home are amazing but this takes it to another level. It’s like amazing-plus. Because of the attention around the game, because of the amped up crowd, all of this just turns it into a really special event. For us as a group, we’re relishing this opportunity. We’ve played them four times already and all four times were in the United States but you could argue it wasn’t a pro-U.S. crowd. So, now we get to play in Cincinnati with our fans behind us and we’re looking forward to it.”USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter talks with a member of his team at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati ahead of a 2019 Gold Cup match against Venezuela. E: In our American soccer consciousness, we heap so much attention on this Mexico match. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for that but why do you think the game takes on the importance that it does from an American perspective?

GB: “I think it’s because they’ve been top dog in the region historically, right? And now we come in and we have something to say about it. And we, over the years and the early 2000s, we started dominating the matchup. It was something that – no one likes to be taken off their perch and this was something where it became personal and the matchups have been heated. For the U.S. fans, the U.S. loves to see winners and to see the national team start to get some good victories against Mexico, it meant a lot. All that intensified the rivalry. Now, if you’re talking about in the 70s and they’re beating us every game, the rivalry wasn’t as intense, right?”

E: In the 2018 Russia World Cup cycle, the U.S. lost its home match to Costa Rica and that was one of the key results in that cycle. The math is different in this qualifying cycle because it’s an eight-team group as opposed to six like it was previously, but you reversed that result back on Oct. 13 in a 2-1 win (at Lower.com Field). That was the last match you played in qualifying and since you’re trying to kind of do the same thing on Friday against Mexico and reverse a loss from that previous cycle, how big do you think it was to reverse the Costa Rica result?

GB: “We didn’t really look at it like that. We looked at it like we want to have a good performance, a strong performance, and we want to win the game. It wasn’t really something that crept into our mind. You know, this group is a different team, has a different focus and we want to win our home games. And whether it’s Costa Rica, Jamaica, whoever – we want to win. We have Mexico, and Friday night will be no exception.”

E: A couple questions on site selection for this Mexico match. You’ve managed twice in Cincinnati – a big game (a U.S. Open Cup match between FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew) at the club level and the Venezuela friendly (in 2019). I wonder how your experience managing in those games, and taking stock of what this city offered on those occasions, impacted whatever voice you had in picking the site for this Mexico game.

GB: “We had a working group that got together and evaluated what’s gonna be important for each game. We looked at the weather, we looked at the crowd, we looked at the facilities – both training and stadium. We looked at the distance of that game to the next game, and overall, my personal experience here really helped me understand what the fans are like.

“I’ve mentioned, I referenced the game we had against Cincinnati in the Open Cup and that was one of the best atmospheres I’ve experienced in the United States because of both fan bases in the same stadium in big numbers. Diverse colors that were contrasting. It was a fantastic game, so I just know that when you talk about a pro-U.S. crowd, I was very comfortable with the fact that we’d get that in Cincinnati. With the venue (TQL Stadium) being what it is, it’s a top-class facility in Major League Soccer.”

E: Did you get to come and walk the stadium or take a tour during the selection process?

GB: “We had people come look at it. I didn’t personally. I was invited by the club to come to the opening game and unfortunately, due to my schedule, I couldn’t come but I got a lot of feedback and did the virtual tours and all that stuff.”

E: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about that 2017 Open Cup match. Time has passed. I remember the post-game and it was emotional, and there was just so much stuff there with those two organizations back in 2017. A lot of that has dissipated and now it’s just a great rivalry in MLS but what are your recollections of that night?

GB: “I mean, you don’t like to lose any game so that was never fun. Our fans were disappointed and your fans were excited. It was a great game. It’s a storybook-type of run that FC Cincinnati had that year and I don’t like to lose at all but I still remember the experience. I think overall, it was a great atmosphere in the stadium and that’s what soccer’s about. You got the away supporters as well, and that’s what made it a great event.”

E: In terms of where you are in the process of starting the November camp, you’ve picked your squad, you’re still waiting for the players to arrive. Can you describe what it’s like for you watching the last club matches for the players after you’ve named your squad? Especially with the Mexico game on-deck. I imagine there are a lot of nerves and maybe some personal investment in their performances because you’ve just named them to the national team.

GB: (Laughter). “It’s the worst. After you’ve named the roster, you want to put them in a glass case. What we’ve learned is to expect the unexpected and you just have to take it like that but it is nerve-racking when you name a squad and they still have to play a game, sometimes two games with the Champions League midweek, and you’re really just anticipating something happening but it’s also part of it. That’s part of being an international manager.”

 I’m sure you addressed this to the best of your ability last week on your Zoom call and I’m not sure how much would have changed in just a few days, but do you have a better sense today of what you can lean on Christian Pulisic for in this camp and how you’ll manage his situation (coming off an injury)?

GB: “I think the important thing is that Christian leaves camp healthy and ready to push on with Chelsea. That’s gonna be first and foremost in our minds, and then when we get him in camp, seeing exactly where he’s at and seeing exactly what his role will be, so we haven’t determined exactly what his role will be but I’m sure he’ll be on the field in these games.”

E: Joe Scally. People are excited to see him get this call-up. What factored into the decision to call him in and what are your expectations for a younger player in his situation?

GB: “I think that it’s a case where he’s earned it. He’s pushed his way into the team by playing every week and playing at a high level and winning games, and playing against good team. It’s like that’s the beauty of the national team, when guys can really play their way onto the team. Joe’s an example of that. We’re not looking at the age. We’re looking at his quality, and we’re looking at what he’s doing every single week. You know, Joe’s certainly performed well. He’s the only player in this camp that hasn’t been in a camp before. We’ve used a lot of players over these last two years so it’s nice to get some consistency, but with Joe, he’s a guy that’s earned his way into the group.”

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: World Cup qualifying: Gregg Berhalter talks USMNT vs. Mexic

Christian Pulisic back for USMNT-Mexico gives ‘confidence boost,’ says Brenden Aaronson

2:06 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States international midfielder Brenden Aaronson said the return of Chelsea star Christian Pulisic gives the U.S. a “confidence boost” ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier (watch or stream LIVE on ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) against rivals Mexico.

Pulisic missed out on the previous round of qualifiers due to an ankle injury he sustained against Honduras back in September. He only recently returned to the field for Chelsea, featuring as a substitute in both the 1-0 win against Malmo FF in the Champions League and the 1-1 draw last weekend against Burnley.  U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter has made it clear he doesn’t expect Pulisic to log heavy minutes against Mexico, and then Jamaica four days later. Prior to the Burnley match, he spoke of progressing Pulisic “in a safe way” and that “we’re also not willing to risk anything.”But Pulisic was among the 10 U.S. players that took part in Monday’s training session and those in attendance spoke of how important his return to the side is.”With Christian being back, I mean, for the whole team, we know how much quality has,” said Aaronson. “He’s been with the national team for a long time, doing his thing, and he was here through the last qualifying and he did a fantastic job then. He means so much to our team, so it’s awesome having him back. It’s like another confidence boost just having me here.”Fulham and U.S. defender Antonee Robinson added, “Christian coming back in, it’s massive for the group just having him around. In general, like, just being a good lad, being around him, and being a leader off the field. And we know when he gets on the field, whether he starts or has to come off the bench, then he’s a player we can rely on to put his all into the team and create chances and help us if we need him to get the win.”Nonetheless, Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel stressed caution over Pulisic’s minutes while on international duty, saying that the player “still feels some pain.””I hope that they don’t overuse him and are responsible enough,” Tuchel previously told reporters. “Christian still feels some pain. It is a matter of pain management. It’s not a matter of a re-injury or being still injured. It’s just still painful. He has tried hard.”Hopefully everybody, including himself, is responsible and doesn’t get carried away by emotions and by helping his country to win a super important match. Hopefully it all goes well and the minutes will elevate him and he will come back stronger.”The U.S. has had the upper hand in recent encounters with El Tri, prevailing with their full side in the CONCACAF Nations League final in June, and then with largely a reserve side in August’s Gold Cup final. But Aaronson knows that the U.S. can’t rely too heavily on previous results.”We got the best of them the two times before, but this is something totally different,” he said. “It’s World Cup qualifying and it’s a different kind of beast, so we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Chelsea boss Tuchel: USMNT’s Pulisic still ‘in pain’ ahead of key qualifiers

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has said that United States star Christian Pulisic is still “in pain” ahead of the key World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Jamaica this week, and has warned U.S. counterpart Gregg Berhalter against overusing the 23-year-old forward.

Pulisic was named in the U.S. squad last week after returning from an ankle injury sustained in the 4-1 victory over Honduras two months ago but has only played a total of 23 minutes in substitute appearances for Chelsea against Malmo and Burnley.

The U.S. sit in second place in the qualification standings in the race to reach the Qatar World Cup, three points behind Mexico and a point ahead of third-place Canada ahead of the crucial meeting against El Tri in Cincinnati on Nov. 12.

But when asked if Pulisic was ready to play a significant role for the U.S. during the international window, Chelsea boss Tuchel cast doubt over whether the forward will be able to feature for the full match at the TQL Stadium on Friday.”The answer is if you look at the minutes, the question is maybe answered,” Tuchel told reporters following Chelsea’s 1-1 draw against Burnley. “I hope that they don’t overuse him and are responsible enough.”Christian still feels some pain. It is a matter of pain management. It’s not a matter of a re-injury or being still injured. It’s just still painful. He has tried hard.”He wants desperately to come back. We needed him back. It was a good start for him in Malmo. Today he had 10 minutes [against Burnley]. We are a bit worried.”Hopefully everybody, including himself, is responsible and doesn’t get carried away by emotions and by helping his country to win a super important match. Hopefully it all goes well and the minutes will elevate him and he will come back stronger.”The U.S. have already been hit with a double injury blow, as Barcelona full-back Sergino Dest and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna were ruled out of the fixtures against Mexico and Jamaica.The absence of both players heightens the importance of Pulisic’s return, but Berhalter has insisted that he will be cautious in managing the Chelsea forward’s minutes after spending the past two months on the sidelines.”We’re gonna see what kind of minutes he gets [against Burnley],” Berhalter told reporters after naming his 25-player squad last week. “It was unexpected that he played against Malmo and he ended up playing a little bit.”So for us, it’s about progressing him in a safe way. We know he’s valuable to the team. We know we want him on the field. But we’re also not willing to risk anything. It’s about how he feels, and depending on that will dictate what role he plays in these two games.”

U.S. Soccer’s biggest challenge vs. Mexico: Making a home game an actual home game

Henry Bushnell  –Wed, November 10, 2021, 1:30 PM

CINCINNATI — The most popular soccer team in the United States is a traveling circus that draws Incondicionales everywhere it goes. “Unconditionals,” the Mexican national team calls them. Diehard fans of El Tri who, in recent years, have filled stadiums coast to coast. They packed Soldier Field. They took over Las Vegas. They regularly make the U.S. men’s national team a de facto road team at home.But once every four years, in Ohio, U.S. Soccer doesn’t let them.When the U.S.-Mexico rivalry resumes in World Cup qualifying here on Friday, American officials expect Cincinnati’s glistening TQL Stadium to fill with red, white and blue. They’ve planned light displays and synchronized chants. They expect a rabid, patriotic, crowd, in part because they — a group of prominent U.S. Soccer staffers that includes USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter — have worked for months behind the scenes to create it.They “absolutely” believe that they could sell out a 100,000-seat stadium for this game, which one U.S. Soccer employee calls “the Super Bowl of what we do.” But they know many of the 100,000 would be Mexican Americans. And they’d rather win. So, using everything from Census data to complex ticket lotteries, they follow a 20-year-old blueprint to make this home game … well, a home game.

Gaming the ticket allocation

Nearly a quarter-century ago, before Dos a Cero and frigid Columbus, with USMNT fandom nowhere near as robust as it is today, U.S. Soccer brought its first modern-era qualifying showdown with Mexico to Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts. And on that April day in 1997, from a crowd of 57,000 with split allegiances, it learned a lesson.“If you’re playing against a team that has a large community of expats in the U.S.,” longtime U.S. Soccer official Sunil Gulati said in a recent interview, “you almost have to play in a smaller stadium.”So U.S. Soccer took its 2001 qualifier against Mexico to 24,000-seat Crew Stadium in Columbus, where it could more selectively sell tickets. It won the game in front of an overwhelmingly pro-U.S. crowd. So it simply kept coming back. The lore around the venue and a succession of 2-0 victories made that decision almost automatic, even as moderate-size, soccer-specific stadiums multiplied across the country. Amy Hopfinger, U.S. Soccer’s vice president of events, remembers “at least entertaining the idea” of playing the game elsewhere in 2016. “But,” she said in an interview, “there was no real consideration.”That choice alone, though, didn’t ensure that stars and stripes would fill the stands. Behind the scenes, U.S. Soccer’s commercial department refined the process that does. They grant exclusive ticket access to a variety of groups with ties to the American soccer establishment. For Friday’s game in Cincinnati, they designed a “weighted random draw,” essentially stacking a lottery in favor of fans who pay to be U.S. Soccer “Insiders.”The first batch of tickets went to fans who pay a $500 annual membership fee. The second and third went to lower-level paying members. The fourth was available to recognized U.S. supporters groups, such as the American Outlaws, and to FC Cincinnati’s MLS season ticket holders. Only the fifth and final batch was available to non-paying “Insiders.” In total, according to a federation spokesman, there were requests for more than 30,000 tickets. Requests for around 10,000 tickets were left unfulfilled. The general public never got access.

The scheme, of course, is rooted in the fact that relatively few of these members will support Mexico. And it has worked. The average fan-ratio estimate from those who attended qualifiers in Columbus is roughly 85-15 in favor of the U.S. Five consecutive World Cup cycles brought a true home-field advantage. Only a USMNT loss in 2016 opened up the venue selection process to other candidates — and, perhaps, some thought, to other regions of the country.But according to Donald Wine, a prominent American Outlaws leader, “a few more Mexican fans have gotten into the building each time.” The secondary market offered opportunities. So do free or cheap memberships. The scheme isn’t foolproof. It’s penetrable. Which is why the location of the game still matters.“I still don’t think we would go to a strong Mexican American community,” Hopfinger said.

Finding a U.S.-friendly venue

U.S. Soccer’s unofficial venue selection committee comprises Hopfinger, chief commercial officer David Wright, longtime administrative whiz Tom King and director of marketing Mike Gressle — but also Berhalter, sporting director Earnie Stewart and USMNT general manager Brian McBride. They consider dozens of factors, but ultimately, for the Mexico game, as Berhalter said last week, “our priority was finding a venue that we know we’d have a pro-U.S. crowd.”

He went on to mention the nation’s “rich Hispanic heritage.” Mexican Americans, specifically, now make up 12.2% of the U.S. population. Not all of the 36.6 million care about soccer; and not all of those who do care root for El Tri. But many are fanatics. The Mexican national team plays roughly three times as many games in the U.S. as it does on home soil, in part to attract those fanatics. When U.S. Soccer schedules friendlies against Mexico — when revenue is the primary concern — it tries to attract them too.But when it schedules qualifiers, it tries to avoid them. It knows that the Mexican American population is concentrated in certain regions and hubs. And it surely knows, for example, that no major hub is within a four-hour drive of Cincinnati.

(US Census Bureau/Yahoo Sports illustration)

(US Census Bureau/Yahoo Sports illustration)

In fact, only one, Chicago, is within seven hours. Just 4.4% of Ohioans identify as Hispanic, and only 1.8% claim Mexican heritage — both bottom-10 marks among U.S. states. Of the 17 states with MLS teams, Ohio’s Latino population share ranks last. And of the 25 U.S. metropolitan areas with MLS teams, Columbus and Cincinnati rank second-to-last and last.Not coincidentally, Columbus and Cincinnati were the two finalists to host the qualifier against Mexico, Hopfinger said. Dozens of cities bid in total. “Minnesota put in a real strong effort,” she said. “And there’s probably others in the Midwest. … We talked to Kansas City.” But in the end, only two were seriously considered.Other factors also bolstered Cincinnati’s candidacy. A fresh 26,000-seat stadium and eager fan base were two major ones. That fan base made Hopfinger “feel comfortable about tickets being taken and used by those supporters,” rather than seeping onto the secondary market — where pickings have been extremely slim. Tickets are going for over 200% of their already-high face values. “So we feel really confident in not only how we priced it, but also in that ticket holders are actually utilizing their tickets,” Hopfinger said.Demographics, though, have been and will remain part of the calculus. Hopfinger mentioned “understanding census data and things like that.”“And I don’t think that’s the final determination,” she clarified. “But it is a conversation that we have.”

Party planning

With tickets almost certainly in USMNT-supporting hands, Aaron Gonzalez and the American Outlaws go to work. Gonzalez is U.S. Soccer’s head of event production. AO is the largest nationwide U.S. fan group, with some 30,000 members across all 50 states. Together, they create a spectacle that is equal parts organic and carefully orchestrated.They began the orchestration before Friday’s location was even announced. The moment it was, in late July, AO leaders contacted their Cincinnati chapter. Over the coming months, drummers and “capos” — chant coordinators — got involved. They dreamt up and painted a “tifo,” a massive banner that they’ll raise minutes before kickoff.Gonzalez, meanwhile, planned a party unlike any he’d planned before. “We’ve circled this date for a long time,” he said. Fans will arrive here on Friday to find a high-tech LED wristband in their seat. After warmups, lights will dim, the wristbands will brighten and flash, covering the stands in red, white and blue. A “manifesto video” will play. Eight laps of pyrotechnics will illuminate the field as players emerge from the tunnel. The U.S. starting lineup will be introduced via call and response. A PA announcer will boom first names; thousands of fans will scream surnames on cue. Then a noise meter, an in-stadium host and a countdown will prompt them as 9:10 p.m. nears.Gonzalez has scripted much of this on his own, or with input from colleagues. But in one case, input came from the head coach. At previous games, Gonzalez and AO had coordinated a slow-clap chant right at kickoff. Many outsiders felt that it deadened the raucous atmosphere building toward the game; that it was an awkward departure from the roar that typically greets an opening whistle. Berhalter apparently felt similarly. He met with Gonzalez. They decided that the clap — modeled after Iceland’s Viking clap, but accompanied by “U-S-A” — should instead welcome players to the field several minutes earlier. Their new goal for the moments before and after kickoff, Gonzalez said, is to “try to create chaos, this noisy atmosphere, this awesome sound.”And then, for 90 minutes, 26,000 fans will try to sustain it. AO and other organized supporters groups will try to simplify their chants and get the entire stadium involved. Because they know, as USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta said Tuesday, that “being at home, in a pro-U.S. crowd, is definitely huge.”They also know that this opportunity, to fill the ears of Mexican players with “U-S-A” chants, is rare. So they’re going to make the most of it.And even if they aren’t 20,000-strong; even if Mexican fans find their way in and claim some 20 or 25% of seats, “you’ll be able to feel that it’s 100% American,” Gonzalez said. “That’s our goal.”

Cherish USMNT vs. Mexico; World Cup’s future will change the rivalry forever

1:27 PM ETSam BordenESPN Senior Writer

Yunus Musah had only heard about it. The fire. The intensity. The bags of urine flying from the stands like gross, golden grenades. Tall tales, you know? Lore. Musah had heard stories, but it wasn’t until this summer that he finally saw a sliver of it with his own eyes.

It wasn’t his fault he was unaware, either. Musah grew up in Italy, spending his youth soccer days playing in England. He is every bit as American as any other player on the U.S. men’s national team — he was born in New York — but until June, when he was part of the U.S. roster for the Nations Cup final, he’d never really grasped the singular truth that his teammates with U.S. roots seemed to understand from their first kick of a ball…

… The games against Mexico are different.”I only realized it then,” Musah told me one day last month, his eyes getting wide as he talked about the national anthems, the fireworks and the way the fans shouted and chanted at each other with that incredible heat that felt more like a rolling boil. He laughed. “That’s when I realized ‘OK — this is mad.'” It is, and it has been this way for decades, with every generation of American players, coaches and fans bringing their own backstory to the rivalry, only to inevitably end up in the same place. There is no debate on this particular subject, and no other perspective. When the schedule for the World Cup qualifying matches was announced, which match did you look for first? Which date did you put in your calendar right away?

Now, finally, it’s here again. Friday in Cincinnati. U.S. vs. Mexico (watch on ESPN2 or stream LIVE on ESPN, starting at 9 p.m. ET). Another one of these games that ripples up from the page. That crackles. That feels like the beginning to a new chapter in this story that we all crave the most.Only this time, it also feels like something is ending.


It should be noted that Musah wasn’t being hyperbolic. The atmosphere in Denver for that Nations League final really was something remarkable. The game, which featured the top players from each side, had all the U.S./Mexico hallmarks: contentious refereeing decisions, scuffles, grittiness, absurd emotional swings and, when it was over and the U.S. had won, the haughty dismissiveness from Mexico that comes from a group continuing to hold a marked advantage in the all-time, head-to-head record.As good as the feeling was that night, though, it was still the Nations League. It was still a tournament without history.The World Cup qualifiers between the teams, on the other hand, have always existed on a different plane. Theirs is a heightened sense of urgency, of importance, of meaning.The stakes are incomparable: for teams in North America, the World Cup is alone at the pinnacle. For all its charm, the Gold Cup isn’t the Euros or the Copa America; it just isn’t. It doesn’t have anything close to the same meaning to players or fans that the continental tournaments do elsewhere. Because of that, when Mexico and the United States play in a World Cup qualifier, the match isn’t simply about asserting superiority; it’s about standing in front of your rival on the road toward the only thing that truly matters.We know the moments. The “Dos a Ceros.” The brutal reverse by Mexico in Columbus five years ago that was part of the American death spiral. The scoreless draws in Azteca in 1997 and 2013. The U.S. has still never won a qualifier there.Those games are the root drama of this rivalry, its lifeblood. But in terms of carrying meaning, they might be nearly complete. The game at Azteca in this qualifying cycle isn’t until March, when one (or both) of the teams could be qualified. And with the 2026 World Cup being hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada, those countries won’t need to participate in the qualifying tournament at all over the next four years. There will be only friendlies.Beyond that, FIFA has voted to expand the World Cup field to 48 teams (for now), which means that CONCACAF will receive at least six places in every tournament — a reality that’ll further drain the drama from the already top-heavy confederation. Traditionally, the final round of qualifying featured six teams (the Hex, as it was known) and three were guaranteed spots, giving the rivalry games their edge.Going forward? With the disparity in resources among the CONCACAF nations, it seems virtually impossible to imagine a situation in which either of the top countries is at risk of missing a World Cup when there are a half-dozen spots available. After all, since 1990, only seven of the 41 CONCACAF nations have even qualified for a World Cup, highlighting just how divided the region really is.

Now, let’s be clear: Nobody’s saying that the intensity in games between the U.S. and Mexico is going to suddenly disappear. It can’t. The players will always bring their own histories to the matchups, and more and more, those histories are infused with passion for the rivalry from the youngest of ages.When Paul Arriola was 14, he attended a U.S. youth national team camp that involved a trip to that summer’s Gold Cup final at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. It was the U.S. against Mexico, and Mexico routed the Americans 5-0. Arriola, who grew up in Chula Vista, California — right near the border with Mexico — looks back at that game as a particularly formative afternoon in his career.”We were all there with our U.S. polo shirts on,” Arriola told me. “And every time Mexico scored, we would get beer thrown on us [by the Mexico fans]. I remember getting so angry, and so frustrated that we were kids and these people were showing such passion that they were willing to throw beer on kids.” He shook his head.”Obviously, I have great respect for the rivalry and for the teams and you know, for Mexico and their fans, but it still drives me today to always want to win against them. Because, you know, I carry that extra edge. And that experience that I experienced.”Ricardo Pepi, who will likely lead the attack for the U.S. on Friday, grew up near the border in El Paso, Texas, and makes no secret of where his family’s loyalties were when he was younger.”I’m being honest with you: I always used to root for Mexico just because, you know, my parents rooted for Mexico,” he said. “They’re Mexican, I grew up watching Mexican soccer, I grew up watching the Mexican national team. And you know, those were times where, you know, we’re rooting for the Mexican national team in general. In my household, it’s all Mexican culture. And then I stepped foot out of my house and it’s all American culture.”He shrugged. Whatever is at stake, a U.S.-Mexico game will always be special for his family.”I started representing the U.S. and U.S. national teams, and I started feeling something for the crest,” he said, “and I said I was going to represent the U.S. with all my heart.”Friday’s game feels like the typical powder keg. The U.S. has a young, largely unproven team and has shown the expected inconsistency one would expect from such a group: disappointments like the home draw with Canada or the sluggish performance in the loss against Panama, juxtaposed against the vibrancy of the second half in Honduras or the fightback from an early hole to take all three points against Costa Rica. The unpredictability, for both good and bad reasons, has been persistent.Mexico, too, hasn’t been as automatic as it would like. It took a last-minute goal to beat Jamaica (largely seen as the weakest of the teams in the group) and draws against Panama and Canada (startlingly, at the Azteca) have laid bare their own vulnerabilities. The importance of this game, for both teams, is real.Does it seem most likely they both make Qatar? Certainly. But there’s enough scar tissue from 2018 for American fans, still enough doubt and still enough games left to play in this cycle that the significance of the match has surged. Brenden Aaronson, who figures to be one of many Americans playing in his first qualifier against Mexico, said he thinks it will be “a war.” Tim Weah, who came on as a substitute in that Nations League final, told me that was his “first time getting a taste of it. And it was an amazing feeling and I can’t wait to get more of it.”He isn’t alone; this is what everyone craves. The U.S. and Mexico. A packed stadium in Ohio. A World Cup spot in the offing for those players who can assert themselves.It is the best kind of night in American soccer, the sort of night that players and coaches and fans see anytime they close their eyes.Embrace it. Adore it. Revel in it. It might not be quite like this ever again.

Ricardo Pepi spotlight intensifies for USA-Mexico World Cup qualifying clash

By Charles Boehm @cboehm

  •  Wednesday, Nov 10, 2021, 03:50 PM
Ricardo Pepi USMNT

Gregg Berhalter uttered a great many words to explain the absence of several of his regular forward options last week when announcing the US men’s national team roster for this month’s World Cup qualifiers vs. Mexico and Jamaica, including players like Daryl Dike, Josh Sargent and Jordan Pefok.

The USMNT want to press their opponents, he noted, and prefer mobility, work rate and penalty-box movement in this November camp, which contains two matches instead of the three shoehorned into each of the September and October windows. But really, Berhalter’s justification for carrying a smaller cadre of strikers this time essentially boiled down to 11 letters: Ricardo Pepi.

“This window is a short window; we see Ricardo playing a large portion of these two games,” said the coach. “So we think we’re in a good spot.”

While both Berhalter and Pepi have quickly noted that his FC Dallas teammate Jesus Ferreira, Tim Weah and even Christian Pulisic are also options at the No. 9 role, that’s quite an expression of faith in an 18-year-old player with just four career caps, all of them in this Concacaf Octagonal round.

Nothing changes, said the kid from El Paso.

“I feel like as a national team player, you always have to prove yourself. You don’t have a spot saved for the team, you don’t have a starting spot that’s always going to be there for you,” Pepi told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “I feel like every day you get an opportunity, you have to take the opportunity and be able to show yourself out. So I feel like I’ve been doing that.

“I have Jesus behind me, who is also a good player, who is also just pushing me to be better and I’m pushing him to be better. So it’s always that competition between teammates that are going to make each other better.”

El Tren! Ricardo Pepi nets brace to continue incredible start to USMNT career

USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta has walked a comparable path to Pepi. Now 26, Acosta rose through FCD’s academy to become a highly-rated young phenom, and at age 21 logged a full 90 minutes in a massive US-Mexico qualifier at Estadio Azteca in 2017, helping the Yanks gut out a 1-1 draw. The Colorado Rapids mainstay likes what he’s seen so far.

“Ricardo, he’s great. He’s taken his opportunities really well,” said Acosta. “He showcased well in MLS and then coming into the national team, he’s been great, scoring a bunch of goals, being a force up front. And for him, I mean, just keep going and doing what he’s doing. I think he’s a guy that’s pretty level-headed despite everything going on around him. He’s done a great job of being confident and being a quiet assassin on the field, and credit to him.

“This is one of those games where he knows what’s at stake. And I think he’s ready, he’s ready for the task. And as a team as a whole, we’re all ready for it.”

It’s not hard to tell that Pepi’s three goals and two assists in those four USMNT appearances are a crucial factor in the program’s sudden reliance on him. However, the ante gets upped dramatically – in a number of ways – against Mexico at FC Cincinnati‘s home on Friday (9:10 pm ET | ESPN2, Univision, TUDN).

It’s not only a grudge match against an ancient rival, a regional giant and the early leader in the Ocho standings. It’s also the cradle of Pepi’s heritage, his parents’ birthplace and a country whose colors the dual-eligible talent wore at youth national team level.

“I’ve been an El Tri fan for most of Ricardo’s life and beyond,” Pepi’s father Daniel, who was also his first coach, told MLSsoccer.com earlier this year. “But when he decided to join the US and fight for the US – soccer-wise, I’m talking soccer-wise – I’m all USA, man. Let’s go USA … My El Tri shirt, it’s already behind every other jersey in the closet.”

Ricardo, who expects 10 or more family members to be in the stands at TQL Stadium, once patterned his game after Raul Jimenez and remembers eagerly watching US-Mexico showdowns as far back as elementary-school age.

“Honestly, I was just rooting for Mexico back then. And representing the US, it’s very important that we go out there this next game and we go out and get the win,” he said, later adding that he visualized a moment like Friday’s as he made what he dubbed an agonizing decision of allegiance over the summer.

“There was a talk that I had with my dad, that I had with my family in general. I was just bringing everything to the table to them: I was talking about what it would be like walking out [onto the field] playing the game vs. Mexico,” Pepi said on Tuesday. “We talked about how special it would be, and how motivating that would be for me, just to be able to get called up to the national team, be able to play in that game. So that made me work harder as a player.”

Which Country has the Ultimate Home Field Advantage? THE OCTAGON

“They’ll eat you up and spit you out.” This is just one of the ways that players describe World Cup Qualifying in CONCACAF. Whether it’s the heat of Mexico City, the noise in San Salvador, the cold of Columbus, each nation in CONCACAF uses it own,

In both his choice of team and his levels of performance, Pepi carries rich symbolism for U.S. Soccer, especially in a moment where many of his fellow Mexican-Americans like Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy) and David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake) have picked El Tri. Add in the momentous winter ahead of him, during which he’s widely expected to be the subject of large transfer bids from European suitors, he would seem to carry great weight on his young shoulders.

Paso a paso; one step at a time.

“There’s conversations that I have with coach Gregg, I have conversations with my teammates here in the national team, players like Christian Pulisic, players like Weston McKennie who I’ve always tried to take advice from, because they’re in that place, in Europe, just playing at the highest level of soccer,” said Pepi. “So those are players that I’m always trying to talk to and just get some advice from them. And also just my family and my agent, I think they’re very important for me to just be able to keep my mind on what’s next and not focus on the future.”

He’s worn the spotlight well so far; it will surely shine brighter than ever on Friday.

“I’m going to get some goosebumps for sure,” said this year’s 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR leader. “I’m going to be very motivated for the game, and I’m going to be prepared for it.”

USA vs. Mexico: A fierce rivalry bred out of respect

While the game will be fierce, the respect will be ever-present.By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Nov 11, 2021, 6:00am PST

The United States Men’s National Team’s rivalry with the Mexican Men’s National Team is one of the fiercest and greatest international rivalries on Earth. Two teams within a confederation have, for decades, fought for the right to hold the title of Kings of Concacaf. And for the most part, the two teams have done that without interruption from any other teams within the region.USA vs. Mexico is the biggest soccer match on this continent. Many call it the Super Bowl of North American soccer. And that rivalry once again takes center stage Friday night in Cincinnati when the USMNT and Mexico face each other in World Cup qualifying.So many matches in the history of this rivalry have had epic moments, big goals, and trophies that were won. It permeates throughout the fabric of soccer in both countries, from the national teams to the federations, from the domestic leagues to the fanbases. Players hate each other, federations want to outdo each other, and fanbases strive for their teams to win over the other at all costs so they can hold the bragging rights and claim their team as the true kings of the continent.But, the hatred that you see on the field isn’t born out of anything malicious. Rather, it’s formed from something that’s more difficult to attain: respect.Back in 2015, Tim Howard broke down the rivalry more aptly than just about anyone has in quite a while:“I have always thought that your fate and reputation and your legend will ultimately be decided as a U.S. player by how you perform against Mexico,” Howard said. “Those will be the games you remember and cherish. We talk about the hatred, that is bred out of respect. They fear us and vice versa, because we have a mutual respect.”That mutual respect is why the games are intense, fierce, and full of passion on both sides. Ahead of the match on Friday, Tim Howard, who’s currently a Premier League analyst for NBC Sports, joined Julie Stewart-Binks for an interview on the upcoming episode of her show, Drinks with Binks, which streams on Saturday nights on Fubo Sports Network at 5:00pm and 5:30pm on both coasts (Fubo TV free trial). He reiterated that while he hates the Mexican players and the team and the federation, that hate is there because of the respect he has for them.That respect must remain for the rivalry to continue to be great. On Friday night, yet another chapter will be written in the book of USA vs. Mexico. While there will certainly be gamesmanship on both sides, both by players and coaches, and there will certainly be banter in the stands, the mutual respect must be the constant. The players want to win, the fans want to win, and it will seem that every soccer fan in North America will pick a side. But listen to the words of Tim Howard: the hatred is bred out of respect. Let’s keep respect at the center of this match as we cheer on the USMNT.

USA vs. Mexico, 2022 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying: Scouting Mexico

The two continental titans face off once again. By Brendan Joseph  Nov 11, 2021, 7:00am PSTThe United States Men’s National Team continues to fight through the third round of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification, currently at second place in the CONCACAF table. The next opponent was circled on the schedule well in advance, another Mexico fixture that is sure to provide all the expected thrills and drama. The two nations renew the rivalry at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second international match hosted by the recently opened venue.Mexico is managed by Gerardo “Tata” Martino, an experienced journeyman with stops at Paraguay, Newell’s Old Boys, Barcelona, Argentina, and Atlanta UnitedAppointed to the role in January of 2019, the 58-year-old has compiled an impressive 33-5-5 record. Despite some criticism over the summer after losing in the finals of the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup, he has his team on pace to easily reach the World Cup.El Tri is undefeated in qualifying with a 4-0-2 record, topping the group. The last international window opened with a 1-1 draw with Canada, followed by wins over Honduras and El Salvador, 3-0 and 2-0, respectively. A recent friendly against Ecuador – played on a non-FIFA date, featuring a definitive second-choice group – ended in a 3-2 loss. The sour taste of the underwhelming summer is gone, washed away by success in more meaningful competition, where Mexico always seems to get the job done.Martino named a 26-player roster for the matches against the United States and Canada. The roster features 18 call-ups from Liga MX. Notable names such as Jonathan dos Santos, Uriel Antuna, Diego Lainez, Julian Araujo, and David Ochoa are not included.

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GOALKEEPERS (3): Guillermo Ochoa (América), Alfredo Talavera (UNAM), Rodolfo Cota (León)

https://de2d3190abee06490329602c3b91e1c3.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html DEFENDERS (9): Héctor Moreno (Monterrey), Jesús Gallardo (Monterrey), Néstor Araujo (Celta Vigo), Luis Rodríguez (UANL), Julio César Domínguez (Cruz Azul), Jorge Sánchez (América), Osvaldo Rodríguez (León), Johan Vásquez (Genoa), Gilberto Sepúlveda (Guadalajara)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Andrés Guardado (Betis), Héctor Herrera (Atlético Madrid), Edson Álvarez (Ajax), Orbelín Pineda (Cruz Azul), Carlos Rodríguez (Monterrey), Roberto Alvarado (Cruz Azul), Luis Romo (Cruz Azul), Sebastián Córdova (América), Jesús Ricardo Angulo (Guadalajara)

FORWARDS (5): Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jesús Corona (Porto), Hirving Lozano (Napoli), Henry Martín (América), Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey)

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Martino utilizes an attacking 4-3-3 formation with inverted wingers and dynamic fullbacks. The build-up is primarily through the wide areas, resulting in a centering pass, direct through ball, or quick shot after cutting inside. When maintaining possession, the ball is methodically cycled by the back line until a vertical one-two combination can be opened. Frequent decoy runs and dummies are also used to pull the opponent out of position and create space.The USMNT has struggled recently with defending crosses, particularly those played in transition. The back line is in an ongoing state of flux, compounded by John Brooks not being included in this camp. Impeding Mexico’s progress partially falls on the shoulders of Tyler Adams, but the run of play may generally avoid the rangy midfielder’s significant purview.

Lozano//Jimenez//Corona

Herrara//Guardado

Alvarez

Gallardo//Vasquez//Moreno//Sanchez At 36 years of age, Guillermo Ochoa remains the starter for Mexico, adding to his 120 caps. Now at Club América, he provides experience and a sense of stability, never rattled or bothered by high pressure situations. While no longer as explosive, his shot-stopping and ability to control the box make him one of the world’s most complete goalkeepers.Monterrey’s lockdown center back, César Montes, was removed from the roster due to an injury. Regular starter Néstor Araujo is suspended after earning two yellow cards against El Salvador. Mexico should be fine, as long as Héctor Moreno’s “muscle discomfort” remains a minor issue. The left-footed 33-year-old is a sharp passer and harrying defender, even finding the first goal in the previous fixture. His partner will be either Gilberto Sepúlveda of Chivas or Genoa’s Johan Vásquez, neither of whom possess much international experience. The latter appears to have gained Martino’s favor following a strong performance at the Tokyo Olympics and securing regular minutes in Serie A.Jesús Gallardo is the current first-choice left back, harboring the attacking instincts to overlap as the wingers cut inside. He is a flashy one-on-one dribbler and pushes deep into the final third. On the other side of the formation is Jorge Sánchez of América, who times his tackles incredibly well and is a decent crosser. While not as dangerous as his partner, the 23-year-old forces unexpected turnovers which spark counter-attacks. Veterans Julio César Domínguez and Luis Rodríguez could also feature if Martino prefers a more experienced player.At defensive midfielder, Edson Álvarez dictates proceedings for Mexico and will, at times, drop back to serve as a third center back. Whether cycling possession, swarming possessing lanes, or halting a dribbler dead in his tracks, the 24-year-old is constantly on patrol. He recently extended his contract with Ajax after a breakout year that saw the Dutch super club claim a league and cup double.El Tri is loaded at the central midfield position with plenty of talent available. Despite Martino appearing to pull back from Andrés Guardado, he started against Canada. A match with the USMNT may beckon for the veteran playmaker’s presence and ability to cycle the ball to the wings. His constant partner, Héctor Herrera, remains a favorite of the manager. The 31-year-old box-to-box still pushes the tempo at Atlético Madrid, arguably playing as a quasi-ten at the international level. As an alternative option, versatile Luis Romo emerged over the past year, known in Liga MX for hitting the most audacious of accurate long passes and field switches.Napoli’s Hirving “Chucky” Lozano is one of the most dynamic players in CONCACAF. The inverted winger charges into the final third and frequently beats defenders off the dribble. On the other side, Jesús Corona is similarly strong with the ball and pulling away opponents to open up space. He can cross from the wing and will also cut inside.Raúl Jiménez made a triumphant return to the national team last window after overcoming a horrifying skull fracture. The target striker played in all three matches, scoring a 90th minute insurance goal in the 2-0 victory over El Salvador. The 30-year-old is a handful and a problem, possessing the size and speed to punish opposing back lines. Whether in hold-up play or transition, he is going to wreak havoc and influence proceedings.The summer is long over, the triumphant Nations League and Gold Cup results irrelevant to World Cup qualification. This is a refocused and experienced Mexico that should be favored to claim all three points over an inconsistent USMNT, only weakened by some unforeseen issues at center back. The match promises to be an entertaining, back-and-forth affair that is unlikely to end in a scoreless draw or shutout.The match is scheduled for Friday, November 12th at 9:10 p.m. Eastern, 6:10 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include ESPN2, TUDN USA, and Univision USA, and Fubo TV (free trial).

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Written Q&A: ESPN’s Sebastian Salazar

Grant Wahl  Nov 11Sebastian Salazar will be hosting ESPN2’s pregame and postgame shows for the USMNT-Mexico World Cup qualifier on Friday (

One of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had on a reporting trip came during the 2016 Summer Olympics, when Sebastian Salazar and Arlo White joined me and a few other people in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (where we were covering the USWNT) to attend a Cruzeiro Brazilian league game at the same stadium where the USMNT famously beat England 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup. That was Sebi’s first national gig, with NBC Sports, and it came right before he joined ESPN.

It was clear that Sebi was a major talent on a national scale, and he has only continued that rise over the last few years. He and I caught up ahead of Friday’s big USMNT-Mexico World Cup qualifier, which he’ll be broadcasting for ESPN. Really enjoyed this conversation!

Grant Wahl:

Our guest now is my friend Sebastian Salazar of ESPN. He’s the co-host with Hérculez Gómez of the excellent show Fútbol Américas, which you can see on ESPN+. Sebi also appears on ESPN FC and does play-by play with Julie Foudy on ESPN’s U.S. women’s national team games, among other things. Sebi, it’s great to see you. Thanks for coming on the show.

Sebastian Salazar:

Hey, thanks for having me on. I’ve listened to the show for a while. So as I was telling you before, it’s always cool to appear on a show that you’ve listened to.

Grant Wahl:

I love it that we actually have listeners, I just get excited about this, who then come on as interview guests. So we’re recording this on Friday night, it’s coming out Monday, which means it’s USA-Mexico week in World Cup qualifying. And for you, as someone who pays close attention to soccer on both sides of the border, what does this week mean to you?

Sebastian Salazar:

Well, I can kind of give you the personal side of it first. I’m very much split. My dad is from upstate New York, kind of rural western upstate New York, and my mom is from Mexico City. So even our household is very much divided. And my dad is a fan of the U.S,.no doubt about it. He came to soccer late, but he’s a huge fan of the game. And the U.S. is his team. My mom taught me the game, and she loves Mexico and she doesn’t like their rivals. The U.S. is one of their rivals. So it’s a strange week on a personal level, because you feel a lot of conflicting emotions. And I think that’s kind of the center of the rivalry.

In terms of where the rivalry is now, I just think it’s an amazing kind of intersection. Mexico is kind of really honest about it, enjoying a great generation, but it’s probably, if not at their peak, kind of coming off it. And what is the U.S. team? The U.S .is this kind of explosion of potential. And so you’re kind of waiting for these two lines to cross and I feel like on both sides of the border, we’re kind of always wondering how close we are to that moment.

Grant Wahl:

Yeah. It’s just a lot going on. What are you set to be doing for ESPN on Friday for the USA-Mexico broadcast?

Sebastian Salazar:

So we’ll have pre-game, halftime, post-game coverage, all that surrounding the match on ESPN2 as well as on ESPN+, they’re going to simulcast it. And we’ll have Jermaine Jones and Kasey Keller, the same guys that we had for the games in Columbus and Austin, it’s been great working with them. We’re kind of a new team starting to get to know each other, but you get those two guys over dinner and you realize they have stories for days. So my only job is to try and bring those out of them. And, I think, as we hang out more, it’s going to be better and better.

I think the pre-game show is going to have a lot of elements like it always does. We’re bouncing up to the booth, we’re using Sam Borden, who’s been our sideline reporter throughout these games. He’s got his more E:60 kind of storytelling side of things. And he’s going to dive into some interesting topics and people there. So I think from those aspects, we’re going to try to hit it from all angles. And we have an hour on the digital side, which is a real blessing. You need space for games like this. You need pre-game space. And the truth is, you work for TV stations, you know how hard it is to get on what they call linear TV. And so they can get you the game and about 10 or 15 minutes pre-game, but you can’t do U.S.-Mexico justice in 10 or 15 minutes pre-game, you need a proper hour.

So we’ll go an hour before. We’re probably going to go hours after. Fútbol Américas is going to do a special live edition right after the game as well. So it’s going to be a lot of fun. Especially in the Fútbol Américas show, we’re going to be pulling people from the Deportes side. So you’re really going to get in that moment, I think, a cool slice of where really both fandoms are at.


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Grant Wahl:

I think it’s really cool how your show does give us that. It’s a real look at both sides on sort of a 50-50 way, which I really appreciate to get that full context on things. I do want to ask you about the two coaches. If you’re Mexico coach Tata Martino, what are you thinking about this game? And what if you’re U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter? But I want to start with Tata. If you’re Tata, what are you thinking about this game?

Sebastian Salazar:

Are my stars going to show up? Really. Because that’s been the question with Mexico, is Chucky Lozano going to be the star player that we’ve seen him be really at the CONCACAF level, right, that elite difference maker. And the only name that I can think of in that category right now is Alphonso Davies. But can Chucky Lozano be that type of player? Can Raúl Jiménez be what he was pre-injury? He started to get some of those goals. He’s beginning to score in the Premier League, to convert that to the national team in a big significant moment against the United States. And the other real serious concern is his back line. I mean, his center back position is kind of a rotating shop right now. And I think until that gets settled, there’s real serious concerns for Mexico there.

The other point that is kind of obvious, we talk again about this young team perhaps overtaking an older team is when you look at the United States, they’re scary. They’re scary fast. They’re scary physical from a Mexican perspective, at least. And so I think, the right combination in that midfield trio, which I mean, you tell me a coach that isn’t desperate to figure that out, right? Unless it’s [Carlo] Ancelotti of Madrid, who kind of knows he has to be always going to be provided health, if you figure the right three out, man, you figured out a big part of your 4-3-3. He’s got to get younger there. He’s got to get leggier there. Because some of the guys like Andrés Guardado are just starting to show that they’re just a little too old for the speed of the international game.

So I think there’s a lot of concerns for the Mexico side. Yeah, you sit first in CONCACAF and that maybe allows you to tinker a little bit, to take some chances and get some answers in big games like this, which you can’t really replicate elsewhere. But I do think from a Mexican perspective, there are some warts under what looks like a pretty good qualifying run.

Grant Wahl:

So what if you’re Gregg Berhalter? What are you thinking about from your perspective?

Sebastian Salazar:

Yeah. Well, the No. 9 position, man, right? It’s a position we talk about on Fútbol Américas all the time. Why now with Herc, right? You’re always going to bring up like top fives and this and that. But I think that’s been one of the running themes on the show is the top five at that position for the U.S. And I’m sure if you go back to the first one, I’m sure he’s got Jozy Altidore somewhere in there, like No. 2 or 3. And you can just see how much change there’s been since, what, we started the show not even a year ago, seven, eight months ago. So that position, really, is not just unanswered, but he’s tried so many different questions at it like beyond [Ricardo] Pepi.

And so I think, when you see Pepi in there for now, you think, “Great, listen, this kid’s amazing, and we hope the run for him continues. But you’ve got to have other options. So I’m thinking that’s a big concern for him. What you’re going to get out of your star guys too? Is Weston McKennie going to give you some of those goals that he’s been scoring for Juventus? We talked about it on the show.

To me, if you’re Mexico, you’re worried about him. He’s a big-game player. He’s a set-piece player. Set pieces for Mexico are really a nightmare, especially against the United States. For every Mexico fan, they’re a hold-your-breath moment. So Weston McKennie is a scary player for you. And then Christian Pulisic, who in other games against Mexico and honestly for this U.S. team, has been very quiet. What are you going to get from him over 90 minutes? 60 minutes? 30 minutes? Whatever you ask of him in that Mexico game, which is another big question for Gregg Berhalter. What’s the actual workload you can ask of Christian Pulisic after what we’ve seen is now kind of a cycle of him going to the national team, getting hurt, missing time with Chelsea.

Grant Wahl:

So when it comes to your show, Fútbol Américas, is it accurate to say that you’re trying to do something on the show that we see a lot more of in Mexican media than the U.S. soccer media, which is to say, having polémica, debates about the sport here?

Sebastian Salazar:

Yeah. So first of all, I wouldn’t say it’s probably unique to Mexican soccer, right? I think you see that in a lot of different places.

Grant Wahl:

Sure.

Sebastian Salazar:

Herc is Mexican American, I’m Mexican American, most of our production team is Mexican American, Latino. so they watch ESPN Deportes. We see the content that comes out of Argentina, which is where we produce a lot of our content. But yes, the bulk of it, Mexico City, shows like Fútbol Picante, those are kind of institutions in Mexican soccer. They set the narrative for what everybody is talking about, what’s in the papers. And I’ll be honest, that’s a show that I’ve idolized since I was a kid. Since it launched, not a kid, when I’m a much younger adult when it launched and being like, “Wow, this is something that I’m going to watch every night.”

And then, to have some of those ideas and try and bring that into an English-speaking setting and talking about the things that folks north of the border care about, right? Like doing it towards MLS and doing it with Liga MX, but in English, national teams as well, the women’s national team. I think it’s a good experiment, right? We’re doing something that is maybe different and seeing if there’s a market for it. But I think it’s also an honest clash of cultures. This is something that as more and more people from Mexico and of Mexican descent end up in the United States, things are going to come with us and come with our parents, and I think there’s going to be an influence.

And I hope that this is one of those influences. And this is one that is for the better and, really, enjoyment of the people in this space.

Grant Wahl:

So what has some of the response been from some of the establishment American soccer organizations, MLS, U.S. Soccer, groups like that, to some of the criticism that does come up on your show?

Sebastian Salazar:

Yeah, no, I think, we haven’t had that big blow-up moment yet. I think Herc and I, when we started the show, and I’m sure you’ve had these interactions as well. We’re kind of like, “All right, when’s that coming? Because we’re going to be right on that line over and over and over again,” and we knew what we wanted to talk about. We knew that there would be times when we kind of wanted to focus on things that maybe organizations would prefer ESPN not focus on. I think that’s really the power of the show is the platform of ESPN, right?

I mean, I’d love to think that it’s the things that we do that are unique and different. But having that platform is really what serves the show. And so in some ways, when you say something on the show, you know it’s going to get out, right? You know people are going to hear it. And it’s always interesting, right? Because you can tell people aren’t listening to the podcast or watching the show live, it’s always when the tweet goes out. I know you know that. It’s when you get that email and when you get that phone call.

I think we definitely have opened some good conversations. I’ve had people texting me like, “Hey, I disagree with this. What was this supposed to mean? What was that?” And, “Hey, you’ve got to clarify what you say,” or “You have to stand by what you say,” and at least, I won’t speak for Herc, I know he does a lot of work for the show. We put a lot of work into what we’re covering and what we’re saying. We’re not going to go out there and be irresponsible. We might go out there, shoot from the hip, but we’re not going to shoot from the hip irresponsibly, if it can be done. So we try to be as prepared as we possibly can be. And so I think in that way, while some of the criticisms might feel stinging, I feel like there’s always substance to it.

And as long as there’s substance, those conversations, I think, back and forth, can be had. The conversations that are the ones that I’m not involved in, right. And I don’t know if you’ve ever gone through this, when they go straight to your bosses. And those are when you’re like, “Okay, now I know I really did something wrong.” And if they’ve gone to the bosses yet, we haven’t heard about it, so we’ll leave it there.

Ricardo Pepi spotlight intensifies for USA-Mexico World Cup qualifying clash

By Charles Boehm @cboehm  Wednesday, Nov 10, 2021, 03:50 PM MLS.com 

Gregg Berhalter uttered a great many words to explain the absence of several of his regular forward options last week when announcing the US men’s national team roster for this month’s World Cup qualifiers vs. Mexico and Jamaica, including players like Daryl Dike, Josh Sargent and Jordan Pefok.

The USMNT want to press their opponents, he noted, and prefer mobility, work rate and penalty-box movement in this November camp, which contains two matches instead of the three shoehorned into each of the September and October windows. But really, Berhalter’s justification for carrying a smaller cadre of strikers this time essentially boiled down to 11 letters: Ricardo Pepi.“This window is a short window; we see Ricardo playing a large portion of these two games,” said the coach. “So we think we’re in a good spot.”While both Berhalter and Pepi have quickly noted that his FC Dallas teammate Jesus Ferreira, Tim Weah and even Christian Pulisic are also options at the No. 9 role, that’s quite an expression of faith in an 18-year-old player with just four career caps, all of them in this Concacaf Octagonal round.

Nothing changes, said the kid from El Paso.“I feel like as a national team player, you always have to prove yourself. You don’t have a spot saved for the team, you don’t have a starting spot that’s always going to be there for you,” Pepi told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “I feel like every day you get an opportunity, you have to take the opportunity and be able to show yourself out. So I feel like I’ve been doing that.“I have Jesus behind me, who is also a good player, who is also just pushing me to be better and I’m pushing him to be better. So it’s always that competition between teammates that are going to make each other better.”USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta has walked a comparable path to Pepi. Now 26, Acosta rose through FCD’s academy to become a highly-rated young phenom, and at age 21 logged a full 90 minutes in a massive US-Mexico qualifier at Estadio Azteca in 2017, helping the Yanks gut out a 1-1 draw. The Colorado Rapids mainstay likes what he’s seen so far.“Ricardo, he’s great. He’s taken his opportunities really well,” said Acosta. “He showcased well in MLS and then coming into the national team, he’s been great, scoring a bunch of goals, being a force up front. And for him, I mean, just keep going and doing what he’s doing. I think he’s a guy that’s pretty level-headed despite everything going on around him. He’s done a great job of being confident and being a quiet assassin on the field, and credit to him.

“This is one of those games where he knows what’s at stake. And I think he’s ready, he’s ready for the task. And as a team as a whole, we’re all ready for it.”

It’s not hard to tell that Pepi’s three goals and two assists in those four USMNT appearances are a crucial factor in the program’s sudden reliance on him. However, the ante gets upped dramatically – in a number of ways – against Mexico at FC Cincinnati‘s home on Friday (9:10 pm ET | ESPN2, Univision, TUDN).

It’s not only a grudge match against an ancient rival, a regional giant and the early leader in the Ocho standings. It’s also the cradle of Pepi’s heritage, his parents’ birthplace and a country whose colors the dual-eligible talent wore at youth national team level.

“I’ve been an El Tri fan for most of Ricardo’s life and beyond,” Pepi’s father Daniel, who was also his first coach, told MLSsoccer.com earlier this year. “But when he decided to join the US and fight for the US – soccer-wise, I’m talking soccer-wise – I’m all USA, man. Let’s go USA … My El Tri shirt, it’s already behind every other jersey in the closet.”Ricardo, who expects 10 or more family members to be in the stands at TQL Stadium, once patterned his game after Raul Jimenez and remembers eagerly watching US-Mexico showdowns as far back as elementary-school age.

“Honestly, I was just rooting for Mexico back then. And representing the US, it’s very important that we go out there this next game and we go out and get the win,” he said, later adding that he visualized a moment like Friday’s as he made what he dubbed an agonizing decision of allegiance over the summer.

“There was a talk that I had with my dad, that I had with my family in general. I was just bringing everything to the table to them: I was talking about what it would be like walking out [onto the field] playing the game vs. Mexico,” Pepi said on Tuesday. “We talked about how special it would be, and how motivating that would be for me, just to be able to get called up to the national team, be able to play in that game. So that made me work harder as a player.”

both his choice of team and his levels of performance, Pepi carries rich symbolism for U.S. Soccer, especially in a moment where many of his fellow Mexican-Americans like Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy) and David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake) have picked El Tri. Add in the momentous winter ahead of him, during which he’s widely expected to be the subject of large transfer bids from European suitors, he would seem to carry great weight on his young shoulders.

Paso a paso; one step at a time.

“There’s conversations that I have with coach Gregg, I have conversations with my teammates here in the national team, players like Christian Pulisic, players like Weston McKennie who I’ve always tried to take advice from, because they’re in that place, in Europe, just playing at the highest level of soccer,” said Pepi. “So those are players that I’m always trying to talk to and just get some advice from them. And also just my family and my agent, I think they’re very important for me to just be able to keep my mind on what’s next and not focus on the future.”

He’s worn the spotlight well so far; it will surely shine brighter than ever on Friday.

“I’m going to get some goosebumps for sure,” said this year’s 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR leader. “I’m going to be very motivated for the game, and I’m going to be prepared for it.”

USMNT-Mexico rivalry intensified by recruiting dual-national talent

5:00 PM ET  Jeff Carlisle  Eric Gomez

The games between Mexico and the United States have emerged as some of the most heated on the soccer calendar. Who can forget Rafa Marquez’s harsh red on Cobi Jones at the 2002 World Cup or Oguchi Onyewu’s wild-west staredown with Jared Borgetti in 2005? Giovani Dos Santos’ wonder-goal at the Rose Bowl in 2011 was an instant classic — and then there’s that certain Columbus scoreline.

Yet it isn’t just on the pitch that the two sides compete. Off the field, the two federations are engaged in a battle for players that is reminiscent of recruiting in college sports. The process begins in a player’s teenage years and can extend into their 20s. Players have even moved back and forth between each country’s programs, causing euphoria or consternation within the fan bases of each country.Of late, this battle has reached a crescendo. In the past three months, LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo and Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa — both of whom were part of the U.S. U-23 team that failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics — announced that they had filed one-time switches to represent Mexico. Earlier this year, Efrain Alvarez also selected Mexico after having risen through the Galaxy ranks.On the other side of the ledger, FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi, born in El Paso, Texas to Mexican parents, pledged his international future to the United States. He’s made an immediate impact, scoring three goals in his first four appearances.After El Tri won the majority of competitive fixtures in the 2010s, the pendulum has begun to swing back towards the USMNT after victories last summer in the CONCACAF Nations League and the Gold Cup finals. Ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier (stream LIVE on ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET), ESPN dug into the recruitment process and how both nations attempt to convince players where to pledge their international futures.

‘It all started with Dennis’

Dual nationals have long featured in U.S. squads — from Thomas Dooley and Earnie Stewart in the 1990s to more recently Fabian Johnson and John Brooks. Mexico, however, has been more reluctant to engage that player pipeline, preferring to rely on more homegrown talent.As such the contest for dual nationals has appeared one-sided. Over the past decade, U.S. players with Mexican roots — like Carlos Bocanegra, Omar Gonzalez, Jose Francisco Torres and Herculez Gomez — have logged over 13,000 minutes and have played in at least one World Cup. By contrast, Mexico’s total is less than 1,500 minutes among the likes of Isaac Brizuela, Miguel Angel Ponce, Alvarez and Jonathan Gonzalez.But that strategy shifted under Dennis te Kloese, who worked with the Mexico Football Federation (FMF) in a variety of technical roles from 2011-12 and again from 2014 to 2018. Speaking to ESPN, Te Kloese — now general manager for the LA Galaxy — pointed out that in the late 2000s, Liga MX teams started to be more proactive in their recruitment of American players with Mexican roots after they restructured their youth sides.”That boosted some of the activities for the youth national teams in general, but also with some scouting activities in the U.S., and scouting in Mexico,” Te Kloese said. “There ended up some players in Mexico of Mexican-American descent, and they became candidates for youth national teams.”

Emboldened by the approach, the FMF expanded its reach into the U.S. by scouting different parts of the country, especially in the talent-rich area of Southern California.”That all started with Dennis,” said Sacha van der Most, a scout based in Southern California for the FMF until 2019. “When he was at [former MLS club] Chivas USA, we went through the youth teams in the local area, looking for players who fit the mold of what [former club owner Jorge Vergara] wanted for that team, these Mexican-Americans.”The approach has allowed Mexico to make further in-roads with young talent before they latch on with a club.”In Los Angeles and Orange County, I get groups of young players with Latin American roots from all over,” said Van der Most. “But most of them are Mexican-American. You could build a powerhouse team with just local Mexican-American talent.”If a player already has ties to the United States via their youth national teams, the federation will create a plan or presentation for them in order to detail the development they could potentially make with Mexico.”We would identify them and bring them in, and all that carried over when Dennis took on his role with the Mexican federation,” added Van der Most.Despite Te Kloese’s exit from the FMF in 2018 to take the Galaxy job, his modus operandi for scouting dual nationals has remained.”[Mexico is] very aggressive,” said Joaquin Escoto, the executive VP of operations for Alianza Futbol, which holds scouting combines in the U.S. that are attended by Liga MX clubs. “They’re always comparing, ‘Is that goalkeeper better than the one I have in that age group? If so, I’m going to try to convince them to come play for us.’ And they follow up very well and very fast. If it’s a player they know they want, they don’t go dark for three months, six months. They don’t waste any time.”

Culture, language factor in recruiting pitches

When discussing the recruiting battles, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter assumes one thing. “Mexico’s going after every single player that has a Mexican and American passport,” he tells ESPN. “That’s the way we just look at the world.”Therefore, Berhalter has two primary considerations in his pitches: the extent to which the player feels a connection to the U.S., and the ability to expose them to the environment in the U.S. setup.”We’re going to be successful by not only the talent we have, but the connection we have to each other and the connection we have to representing our country,” he said. “The power of that goes a long way.”So for me, it’s first about gauging where the player is at with the U.S., how he feels about the U.S., how he feels about the group. And then it’s about our environment, how can we create an environment that players want to be in and let the environment almost speak for itself.”The U.S. has had some notable recruiting successes under Berhalter’s tenure. Barcelona defender Sergino Dest opted for the U.S. over the Netherlands, while Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah did the same despite EnglandItaly and Ghana as his other options. In both instances, there was consistent communication from Berhalter and his staff that helped establish, and then deepen, those relationships.

The same can be said about Mexico’s strategy. Hugo Perez, a former player on the USMNT’s 1994 World Cup squad and an ex-U.S. youth coach, has also spent time as a scout for Mexico. Now the manager for El Salvador‘s national team, Perez said communication between players’ families and the FMF played a key role.

“They do a good job in communicating with the families. I think that’s a big difference,” said Perez about the FMF. “I don’t think, at least from what I remember after I left, I don’t know if anybody in the U.S. does that, or has the capacity to do that.”But the language is a barrier sometimes when you go speak to parents.”Those cultural and language connections pose a special challenge when it comes to recruiting Mexican-American players. Berhalter counters that USSF scouts and youth national team coaches are initially responsible for maintaining contact with dual nationals. As those players get older, it falls on Berhalter, USMNT general manager Brian McBride and USSF sporting director Earnie Stewart. Berhalter also feels he’s better served using other avenues by which to make a connection.”I don’t even try to compete with that. It’s not our jobs,” he said regarding Mexico’s approach of highlighting cultural and linguistic commonality. “Our jobs are to show the player what we can offer them in our program, show them what our environment looks like in camp, show them where they fit in with what we do on the field. And then ultimately, we’re comfortable with their decision.”While there remains criticism that U.S. Soccer doesn’t do enough to connect with the Latino community, Brad Rothenberg, who oversees Alianza Futbol as a VP with For Soccer Ventures, senses things are changing.”I’d say it’s taken the [USSF] a long time to become a bilingual organization,” he said. “It’s not there yet, but at least they’re improving because some of their stuff is now in Spanish. That’s a very specific example of how Latino players and leagues feel disconnected from the federation. I think the grassroots license is now bilingual. And there’s some content that’s bilingual. It’s just took a while to get there.”

How Gonzalez’s Mexico switch upped the rivalry ante

What really announced Mexico’s arrival in the recruiting arena was its successful pursuit of midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez. The Santa Rosa, California native had represented the U.S. from U-15 all the way to U-20. After being left off the team that represented the U.S. at the 2017 U-20 World Cup, Gonzalez broke into the lineup at Liga MX powerhouse Monterrey in the summer of 2018.When the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, there was an expectation that Gonzalez would be called up to the senior team. Caught in the transition period between full-time managers, Te Kloese pounced. He flew up to his hometown, met with Gonzalez’s family and convinced him to switch to Mexico.”[Gonzalez] wasn’t really considered by the U.S. Soccer Federation at some point, so it wasn’t a very difficult recruiting trip to be honest,” Te Kloese said.Gonzalez, who declined to speak with ESPN for this story, has seen his career for both club and country stagnate. He’s on loan at Liga MX side Necaxa and has only made a total of three senior appearances for El Tri. But at the time, Gonzalez’s decision sent shock waves through the U.S. soccer community, with considerable criticism aimed at the USSF for failing to do more to make sure a player remained within its system.The experience with Gonzalez could been seen in the recent decisions of Alvarez, Ochoa, Araujo, and Pepi.When swaying Alvarez, the FMF emphasized how his playing style would better mesh with Mexico than the United States, and how he could have success with El Tri when given the opportunity to play.”With Efra, we talked a lot about his playing style, it’s just a very Latin, Mexican style,” said Van der Most. “The United States just doesn’t play like that, it doesn’t suit him. And he saw that early on. Ultimately, there were other factors of course — Efra really wanted to play for Mexico over anything else.”But his recruitment wasn’t always pleasant. Cresencio Alvarez, Efrain’s father, complained that before his son made his choice, the constant badgering of both the national teams was “traumatizing.”“One [federation] will call him, then the other one will, and then they’ll both call him at the same time,” he said in March.Meanwhile, Ochoa’s switch cast light on the emotional strain players sometimes suffer when faced with such this decision. In his Players’ Tribune essay detailing the how and why behind his switch from the United States to Mexico, Ochoa detailed his struggle in fitting in with both groups. After experiencing both sides via youth camps, the goalkeeper remarked, “in the U.S., I was ‘the Mexican.’ In Mexico, I was ‘the Gringo.'”This is why, according to Berhalter, he applies heavy doses of empathy when discussing a player’s future, even if they end up choosing Mexico. Berhalter went as far as to say how when Araujo told him of the decision to join Mexico, he was “proud” of the decision the player made. “There’s never bad blood,” he said. “I really feel for these guys.”And all I want is for them to make a decision that they’re comfortable with. Because if we lose a player, a player you know, that’s not the important thing. The important thing is that these guys know that we have their best interests in mind.”That is not to say that Berhalter is completely reliant on a soft sell approach. Pepi mentioned that it was his conversations with the U.S. manager that helped tip the scales. While Pepi wasn’t made available for an interview, a source with direct knowledge of the recruitment process credited Berhalter with helping seal the deal.”I think that the major thing, the difference maker was the fact that Gregg picked up the phone himself,” the source said. “Gregg expressed to Ricardo how much he wanted him in the program, how much he could use Ricardo in the near future. The credit here is Gregg. That’s really what it boiled down to.”

What Te Kloese and Berhalter insist on is that during the recruiting process, no promises are made in terms of playing time or participating in a particular tournament. It can also hurt a coach’s credibility down the road if a promise is made and not kept.”There’s an equation, and the equation is happiness equals expectations over reality,” said Berhalter. “I could promise a guy or talk to a guy about his role. But if that doesn’t come to fruition in the future, eventually you’re going to have an unhappy player.”But there is a sense that the U.S. isn’t emphasizing its success stories with dual nationals of Latino decent. Perez for one, is surprised that the U.S. doesn’t make use of their former national team players.”Hire your ex-World Cup Hispanic guys who worked or played for the U.S.,” he said. “They should be ambassadors of the U.S. right now. That’s what Mexico does.”

A personal choice, or a business decision?

For the discussion of cultural connections, a key aspect gets lost in the decision — that of practical, on-field considerations. The U.S. depth chart at forward was wide open, allowing a path for Pepi to make an immediate impact, though Berhalter credits the player for taking his chance.Mexico’s depth-chart issues at goalkeeper and right-back, respectively, could allow for Ochoa and Araujo to solidify those spots in the near future, but the competition won’t be easy.”I do believe the growing parity [between Mexico and the U.S.] will be a factor for a lot of these dual national kids,” said Gomez, who played for the United States from 2007 to 2013. “How many of these kids at the end of the day, if they have equal love in their hearts for both countries, look at how each team is doing and make a business decision?”Gomez’s ex-USMNT teammate Joe Corona counters that players will just go with their gut decision over cultural connections, depth charts or on-field success.”The bottom line is, [players] go with their heart in the end,” said Corona, who was eligible to play for Mexico and El Salvador. “There are other factors, but most guys will ultimately pick the team they root for and want to play for the most.”As a former member of the Galaxy, Corona played with both Araujo and Alvarez in 2019 and 2020. He recalls their experience of being courted by the Mexican national team as very different from his. In 2011, Corona was called into camp by the USMNT right before coach Bob Bradley was fired and the call-up fell through. Only then was he contacted by Mexico.And despite one appearance for Mexico’s U-23 side, Corona said his decision to play for the U.S. was made before he had even stepped on the pitch.”I had interest from one team and then it just snowballed,” he said. “I was very young — most guys are. It was a tough decision, but I’m very happy with the choice I made.”Corona also offers some advice to the players who’ll have to make the decision soon.”From my personal experience, everything happened so quickly to me,” said Corona. “I remember when I wanted to go pro, that was the last thing I thought about, choosing between Mexico and the USA. One thing that might help is preparing kids when they’re young. Letting them know they might have to choose from a younger age. It’s a good problem to have.”

 

Zack Steffen will start, but Christian Pulisic won’t in what could be the last great U.S.-Mexico World Cup qualifier

“This is the date you’re circling,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said, of the last big home qualifier in the rivalry before the nations co-host the World Cup, and the tournament expands to 48 teams.by Jonathan Tannenwald

CINCINNATI — In the standings, every World Cup qualifying game counts the same: three points for a win, one for a tie, none for a loss.But in hearts and minds across American soccer, one game counts just a little more: the home game against Mexico. And now, five years and a day since the last one, it’s that time again.“I think given what’s on the line, you know — a ticket to the World Cup — it just remains a massive fixture,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said. “It’s a date that U.S. soccer fans put down on their calendar and they can’t wait for it. … This is the date you’re circling, and you can’t wait to get in the stadium and see this game because you know you can get behind your team against their biggest rival with the World Cup on the line.”The news of the day was Berhalter’s announcement that Downingtown’s Zack Steffen will start in goal, and Hershey’s Christian Pulisic will not start in the attack. Pulisic has only just returned to action with his club team, England’s Chelsea, after being sidelined for nearly two months with an ankle injury suffered during the U.S.’ Sept. 8 World Cup qualifying win at Honduras.“Common sense is going to tell us you can’t start a guy in a game like this when he’s only been training for four days and he’s been out for two months,” Berhalter said. “Hopefully, he’ll get some playing time; we’ll put him on the field and he can make an impact and help us get the result that we want. … He will be ready to play; he won’t start the game.”That opens the door for Medford’s Brenden Aaronson to start in Pulisic’s spot, the left wing of Berhalter’s preferred 4-3-3 formation.As for why Steffen will start over Matt Turner, Berhalter said, “There’s very little separating them at this stage, and we could have just as easily went with Matt. But we decided to play Zack.”

» READ MORE: Brenden Aaronson’s rocket ride to stardom hits its highest point yet ahead of the USMNT’s biggest game

In the 20 years since the U.S. turned the series on its head with its first 2-0 win over Mexico at Columbus’ old Crew Stadium, the matchup has grown into not just the most famous clash in North and Central America, but one of the great national team soccer spectacles on the planet.There have been four more U.S.-Mexico qualifiers in Columbus since the first, all 2-0 U.S. wins until El Tri finally snapped the streak in 2016 with a 2-1 win.The end of the Columbus streak is part of why the U.S. Soccer Federation moved this game elsewhere in Ohio. That FC Cincinnati’s new TQL Stadium has around 6,000 more seats than the Columbus Crew’s new Lower.com Field is likely another part, because it will put more money in the governing body’s bank accounts after the pandemic shutdown.But money isn’t the only consideration here, even with sky-high ticket prices. TQL Stadium’s 26,000-seat capacity is still small enough for U.S. Soccer to control who gets those tickets. That helps produce a pro-American crowd, instead of the sea of Mexican green that supports this country’s most popular men’s soccer team whenever the team plays in the United States.Why keep this game in Ohio instead of going to other soccer hotbeds? A report on the subject by Yahoo! Sports this week noted that Columbus and Cincinnati have the smallest Mexican immigrant populations of the 22 U.S. markets with MLS teams.But Mexico isn’t the only team whose fans can outnumber U.S. fans on American soil. Berhalter witnessed it when the U.S. played Costa Rica in northern New Jersey in 2016, and when he played against Guatemala and Honduras in Washington in the early 2000s.“We take pride in having Latino fans, and that’s something that’s important to us, and we hope that in the future, guys like Ricardo Pepi [a son of Mexican immigrants] will help us get more Latino fans,” he said. “When you’re talking about a World Cup qualifier, it’s really important to have a pro-U.S. crowd, and whether that’s Latinos in the stands or not, we want a pro-U.S. crowd. And it’s not always easy to ensure that. … It’s not about who you are, it’s about who you support.”» READ MORE: If you don’t know about U.S. men’s soccer rising star Ricardo Pepi yet, it’s time to pay attention

https://www.youtube.com/embed/2fc7Phg7sec?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.inquirer.com The excitement level is as high as ever, amplified by the prime-time lights of a kickoff at just after 9 p.m. Eastern time (ESPN2, ESPN+, Univision 65 and TUDN). But it’s tinged with a bit of melancholy.Because the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are cohosting the 2026 men’s World Cup, they’re all but assured of getting automatic berths in the field. And with the tournament expanding to 48 teams at that point, enough teams from Concacaf will qualify that the regional governing body won’t be able to cap off its qualifying campaign with the round-robin slugfest that has been tradition since 1997.On top of that, when the U.S. and Mexico meet at Mexico City’s famed Estadio Azteca on March 24, they might have already booked their tickets to Qatar — or at least be on the verge of it.So for people who’ve been around this sport and this rivalry for a long time, this game will mean even more than usual. And if you’re new to it, sit back and enjoy one of the greatest soccer spectacles in which any American team takes part.

 

World Cup qualifying: What to watch in UEFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL and more

5:00 AM ETESPN

The two-week international break might mean a pause for clubs, but it’s all systems go around the globe with World Cup qualifying and every continent is approaching the end of the road to Qatar 2022. Only three teams — including hosts Qatar, who qualify automatically — have already punched their tickets to the big show (well done, Germany and Denmark) and there are 95 nations still with a shot at securing one of the remaining spots in the 32-team field.

Europe (UEFA)

Spain in danger?
Luis Enrique’s side are starting to form an identity around a promising young core of players, but they’ve got work to do if they’re to make it to the World Cup. They are two points off Janne Andersson’s Sweden at the top of Group B and face the group leaders on Sunday, but their week begins with a trip to Euro 2004 champs Greece on Thursday

If Luis Enrique’s team get a victory in Athens, another win against Sweden on Sunday in Seville would guide them home as group winners, avoiding the pitfalls of the playoffs. But Sweden will also be gunning for that top spot, and travel to Georgia on Thursday evening (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 12 p.m. ET) hoping to maintain that slender lead at the top of the pool.

Spain will be without some key personnel — Ansu Fati and Eric Garcia are absent — but Dani Carvajal is included, making him the first Real Madrid player called up by the former Barcelona manager since March.

Ronaldo’s grudge match
Back in April, Cristiano Ronaldo was so outraged at his late winner against Serbia getting controversially overturned (there was no VAR in the opening qualifiers) that he threw his captain’s armband to the ground and stormed off at the final whistle. Sunday sees the two nations meet again in the return match in Lisbon, and World Cup qualification is on the line.

Serbia hold a one-point advantage over Portugal at the top of Group A, but Portugal have a game in hand. That extra match for Fernando Santos’ men comes against the Republic of Ireland on Thursday (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 2:35 p.m. ET), who are out of the running for a spot at Qatar, but will offer resistance: Portugal needed two late Ronaldo goals to get past them in September. A result in Dublin for Portugal would mean they’d be in the driving seat for Sunday’s clash against Serbia, where Ronaldo will no doubt have a bearing on matters.

Could Italy really be dumped into the playoffs?
Italy’s match against Switzerland on Friday has all the hallmarks of a winner-takes-all clash. The two teams are locked on 14 points at the top of Group C, with both finishing off their pool stages with games they’d expect to win – Italy travel to Northern Ireland and Switzerland host Bulgaria. So it’s all eyes on Rome this week as Roberto Mancini’s European champions look to book their place in the World Cup and avoid the playoffs.

Italy’s 37-match unbeaten run came to an end in the Nations League semifinals against Spain in October, but they bounced back by beating Belgium 2-1 to take third. But they will be without a few key players in Nicola Zaniolo, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Ciro Immobile, while Nicola Barella is an injury doubt. With their midfield depleted, Mancini could hand debuts to Lazio’s Danilo Cataldi and Torino’s Tommaso Pobega. They won’t have it easy against Switzerland, however, with Murat Yakin’s side keeping clean sheets in their last four matches – including a 0-0 draw in the return match in Basel in September.

Haaland a big miss for Norway
As Borussia Dortmund have found out over the past week, life without one of the best players in the world is tough. BVB striker Erling Haaland is out injured with a hip injury and may not be fit until Christmas, which will come as a huge blow for his country Norway as they seek to book their place at the World Cup.

Norway are two points behind Netherlands in Group G with two games remaining. Louis Van Gaal’s Oranje face Montenegro on Saturday, while Norway host Latvia. If both teams win, then the final match of the group next Tuesday in Rotterdam (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 2:35 p.m. ET) where the two teams meet will be fascinating. But if Norway drop any points, then they have Turkey sitting just two points behind them, looking to capitalize on any slip-ups for a playoff place.

Norway still have the likes of Martin Odegaard to help bolster their qualification hopes, but they’ll have to find a way to make up that shortfall of Haaland’s goal record — an impressive 12 in 15 appearances for the national side — in order to advance. — Tom Hamilton

North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF)

Longtime rivals meet in Ohio
If there is a red-letter day for World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, it’s when United States and Mexico square off. The latest installment is set to take place this Friday at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 9 p.m. ET) with both teams looking to cement their places among the three automatic qualification spots. Mexico leads the way with 14 points from six matches, and looks to be cruising towards Qatar. The U.S. is in second place, three back of El Tri.

– CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table

Yet such is the state of the standings that the U.S. is one result from being pulled back into the pack, and the memories from the failed 2018 World Cup qualifying effort still linger in the minds of some observers. The U.S. will have to make do without the likes of Giovanni Reyna and Sergino Dest, both injured, and a less-than-fully-fit Christian Pulisic. So with an away game against Jamaica set for the back half of this window, a victory over their bitter rivals would go a long way towards clinching qualification.

Canada‘s road to Qatar reaches a crucial point
The opening six games of qualifying have witnessed the continued rise of Canada. John Herdman’s side has already recorded credible road draws against the U.S. and Mexico, good enough for third place. The Reds have some emerging talents as well, with not only Bayern Munich‘s Alphonso Davies in the mix, but also Lille‘s Jonathan David and the New England Revolution‘s Tajon Buchanan.

Canada has historically gotten ahead of itself at times, and this window will provide it with yet another test to see if it is for real, via home matches against Costa Rica and Mexico. A pair of wins would mean that most of the toughest fixtures are already out of the way, and clear the path towards its first successful qualification since 1986. — Jeff Carlisle

Africa (CAF)

The “Elephants” without their Eagle
Wilfried Zaha‘s absence from the Ivory Coast squad for their crunch qualifiers — including a blockbuster showdown with Cameroon — is shrouded in mystery. The Elephants boast arguably the most scintillating array of attacking talent on the continent, but will be missing star man Zaha after he was omitted by coach Patrice Beaumelle.

– Africa preview: Can youthful South Africa reach Qatar

Zaha refused to join the team in October because of “homesickness,” according to the coach, who revealed the attacker was reflecting on his international future. However, these quotes were denied by Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira, who expressed surprise at Beaumelle’s suggestion and told journalists that the forward still wanted to represent the Elephants.

Regardless of the dissatisfaction or misunderstanding at the root of Zaha’s absence, Ivory Coast have their work cut out to take a further step on the road to Qatar, with both Gervinho and Jeremie Boga also out. One point ahead of Cameroon with two games to play, the Elephants must face the Indomitable Lions in Douala in their final group game (stream LIVE on ESPN+, Tues. 11/16, 2 p.m. ET) — the biggest fixture of the campaign. Fail to progress, and expect fingers of accusation to be pointed at Zaha for abandoning the Elephants when they needed him most.

Will Nigeria let things slip?
Unlike Super Eagles generations of the past, Nigeria have always qualified for major tournaments under current German coach Gernot Rohr. They’ve reached three consecutive competitions and appeared firmly on course to advance to the final round (two-legged playoffs to reach the final) after being drawn into a relatively straightforward Group C. However, a shock home defeat vs. Central African Republic in October has raised concerns that the West African powerhouse may stumble again as two more tricky games await.

They lead Cape Verde by nine points to seven, but they must still host the Sharks — giant-killers on various occasions over the past six years — in their final game, and first play Liberia in neutral Tangiers on Saturday. Unlike some of Africa’s other giants, Nigeria are yet to settle on an effective playing style to see off the smaller sides, while their infamous 4-4 draw with Sierra Leone a year ago (despite being 4-0 up after half an hour) demonstrates just how vulnerable they can be.

Aubameyang vs. Salah for a World Cup spot?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang appears primed to go down in history alongside the likes of George Weah, Mohamed Aboutrika and Abedi Pele as an all-time African great who never got the chance to showcase his talents at a World Cup.

With Mohamed Salah‘s Egypt starting the qualifying campaign slowly, Arsenal skipper Auba — now finding form in the Premier League — could have helped Gabon take the initiative in Group F. Instead, there have been familiar lapses — notably, back-to-back away defeats and allowing Egypt to snatch a 90th-minute equaliser in Franceville — though with two games to go, they’re not entirely out of the running. In matchday five, they must defeat Libya at home and hope Egypt fall in Angola (the Pharaohs have never defeated the East Africans away) to stand any chance.

If that occurs, the Panthers would then set up a winner-takes-all showdown in Alexandria on Nov. 15, meaning we could well see Aubameyang vs. Salah for a spot in the playoffs. — Ed Dove

South America (CONMEBOL)

Colombia need to get results against Brazil and Paraguay to remain on course for a ticket to Qatar 2022. Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images

Expect World Cup spots to start filling up
World Cup qualifying is into the home stretch, with six matchdays remaining and four automatic spots up for grabs. Brazil and Argentina lead comfortably and will no doubt secure their spots in Qatar sooner rather than later. And Brazil can get over the line with a win against Colombia on Thursday.

– South America preview: Colombia looking to James for spark

The most contested battles are taking place below them. Ecuador are third on 17 points, while Colombia and Uruguay sit one point behind — the latter are in the fifth spot because of goal difference and would head into an intercontinental playoff if qualifying ended today. Further down, ChileBoliviaParaguay and Peru remain in contention despite their inconsistent form; Ricardo Gareca’s Peru are five points off fourth place place, with 18 points still to play for.

– CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying table

Games to watch
The highlight for the upcoming window is Friday’s Clasico del Río de la Plata. Uruguay, with manager Oscar Tabarez under intense scrutiny, must win in Montevideo against an undefeated and supremely confident Argentina, the Copa America holders. If Uruguay lose, Tuesday’s game against Bolivia in La Paz will suddenly take on more challenges than just the dizzying heights of the capital.

Colombia‘s visit Thursday to Brazil is another one to watch, with the home team attempting to secure a spot in Qatar 2022. Meanwhile, Colombia has more draws than it would like in a tournament of this level and must impress in Sao Paulo with next Tuesday’s key game against Paraguay in Barranquilla looming. A win in Brazil should put Reinaldo Rueda’s Colombia in the best mood possible for Paraguay, and the return of midfielder James Rodriguez is a reason to hope. — Damian Didonato

Asia (AFC)

Where is Taremi for unbeaten Iran?
Given his star-player status in the country, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Porto striker Mehdi Taremi was omitted from Dragan Skocic’s squad for the upcoming Group A games against Lebanon and Syria. It’s since been reported that Taremi has not seen eye to eye with Skocic in recent times and failed to answer calls from team officials hoping to resolve their conflict.

– Asian preview: What’s to play for this week

There is still plenty of firepower in the Team Melli ranks, however, in the form of Zenit’s Sardar Azmoun and Feyenoord winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and two wins over the next week should still be well within their reach. Nonetheless, this issue with Taremi has longer-term implications for one of Asia’s top national teams, who gave a good account of themselves at the last World Cup and are expected to feature in Qatar next year.

– AFC World Cup qualifying tables

All to play for in Group B
Can Saudi Arabia maintain perfect start and keep Australia and Japan at bay? Although the latter two nations were expected to be the front-runners in qualifying Group B, it is Saudi Arabia who lead the way thus far as the last remaining team with a perfect record of four wins in the Asian qualifiers.

While they don’t boast as many illustrious names as their rivals — the entire squad plays in the domestic league — Saudi Arabia’s mix of experience and youth has caught the eye, and they already passed one big test with their 1-0 victory over Japan last month. Their next major hurdle is Thursday’s visit to Australia, where anything other than defeat should enhance their qualification prospects, especially given the top two are guaranteed berths at Qatar 2022.  On the other hand, perennial heavyweights Japan — the only Asian team to reach the knockout round at the last World Cup — are in desperate need of recovering from a slow start having already suffered two defeats in their opening four matches. Anything less than wins over Vietnam and Oman could spell trouble for the Samurai Blue. — Gabriel Tan

Oceania (OFC)

The qualifiers in Oceania were originally scheduled to kick off in the second half of 2020, but have faced multiple delays due to logistical challenges stemming from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The latest update from the Oceania Football Confederation in September suggested that the remaining matches will now take place next March, potentially in the centralised, neutral venue of Qatar. — Tan

How the NWSL Semifinals Were Set—and How They’ll Be Won

The NWSL is down to four very capable contenders, each with its own winding tale of how it reached this point—and a key to determine whether a trip to the final will follow. ov. 11, 2021BY JIMMY TRAINA

Prediction: The Reign will get revenge for the October loss and edge a Spirit team that gives a valiant effort. In the end, OL’s experience and depth—particularly up front—will be too much.

Portland Thorns vs. Chicago Red Stars

5:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

How the Thorns got here: Portland was widely seen as the league favorite heading into 2021, though that designation was given before the Reign’s in-season moves. And while the Thorns indeed won the NWSL Shield, holding off their Pacific Northwest rival by two points, they haven’t always looked like the top team in the league this year. It needs to be noted that just like Washington, Portland has played of late under the spotlight of being a central figure in the NWSL scandal focused on former Thorns coach Paul Riley. Longtime GM Gavin Wilkinson was officially replaced in his longtime role with the club last week as part of the fallout.

Since The Athletic broke the Riley story and the league took a player-driven break in early October, Portland has gone 1-1-3, and it scored just six goals over its final seven regular-season games. Still, the Thorns lead the NWSL in goal differential, on the back of only allowing a league-low 17. While the team traded star goalie A.D. Franch to Kansas City in August, Bella Bixby has proven to be a high-level starter between the posts, rewarded for her play with a USWNT call-up for two friendlies in Australia later this month. The attack remains daunting with the likes of Christine Sinclair, Lindsey Horan, Crystal Dunn and Sophia Smith, even if it hasn’t always jelled in 2021. But on a team loaded with stars, it’s 33-year-old midfielder Angela Salem who is having the season of her life while holding down the No. 6 position, becoming the rare defensive midfielder to be nominated for NWSL MVP.

https://17bc7514ea1a4a374f0cfa695a7a48fd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html How the Red Stars got here: Chicago got off to a rough start in 2021, failing to win a game at the Challenge Cup before getting trounced 5–0 by the Thorns in the season opener. How fitting, then, that these two teams meet six months later for a spot in the championship. The May version of the Red Stars is a far cry from the current one, which has overcome injuries to Julie Ertz (who’s missed virtually the entire season) and Alyssa Naeher (out since the Olympics) to produce yet another quality side under Rory Dames.

The resurgence of two players in particular, Morgan Gautrat and Mallory Pugh, has helped drive Chicago’s season. Gautrat has performed at an MVP level in the midfield and served as an anchor of the lineup, while Pugh, finally healthy, played a career-high 23 games in the regular season and produced four goals and four assists (plus the quarterfinal game-winner) while continually being a thorn in opposing defenses’ sides. In her second year in Chicago, forward Kealia Watt has also settled in with a team-leading five goals, but that number is a reminder that, overall, this attack still uses a bit of a by-committee approach in the post–Sam Kerr era.

X-factors

Thorns: Smith has seven goals on the season, but the 21-year-old forward has just one in her last six games. Look for Portland to try to get her involved early and set the tone for the attack.

Red Stars: Sarah Gorden has been the Red Stars’ Iron Woman, playing every minute of every game in 2021. With the center back leading the defense, Chicago has surrendered just one goal across its last four games and put up nine clean sheets this season.

Prediction: Something wasn’t quite clicking for the Thorns on the field down the stretch. The Red Stars, meanwhile, are peaking at the right time, and their momentum will help them clip the home side in what’s sure to be a rousing atmosphere at Providence Park.

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Attend a Free 20-Minute Webinar on Nursing Bridge Programs

11/5/21   CHS teams finish 2nd in State, Champions League Dramatics, MLS Decision Day Sun, US Roster for Mexico Fri Set, Indy 11 GK Farr in playoffs tonight at 9 pm, Manchester Derby Sat

High School –  CHS Boys & Girls Finish 2nd in the State

Huge Congrats to the Girls and Boys Carmel High School teams and coach Shane Schmidt of the boys and Frank Dixon for the girls who each finished 2nd in the state this season after advancing to the State Finals last weekend at the Mike at IUPUI last weekend. 

The CHS boys fell to Noblesville 3 -1  while the CHS girls lost a heartbreaker 2-1 to Homestead on a goal from former Carmel FC star Emily Roper. 

Former Carmel FC GKs Chloe Fouts, Aubree Empie, Bethany Ducat, Claire Bartley

Carmel FC boys GK Charlie Featherson and Will Lathem

Proud of both teams including our former and current Carmel FC players on both teams on the boys side GK Charlie Featherson, Will Latham, Ricky Monsey, Cade Turton, and Cole Fogleman, along with GKs Aubree Empie, Bethany Ducat, and Emily Roper, especially the Goalkeeper’s who I helped coach along the way.

Roster Set for US Men vs Mexico on Friday night 9 pm ESPN2 from Cincy

The US men welcome Christian Pulisic back to the roster just in time for the biggest game of Qualifying vs Mexico on Friday night.  Your’s Truly is headed to Cincy Thursday night for the big game – Desperately looking for Tix still please RE:if you have any ! The US stand in 2nd place in the FIFA World Cup Qualifying with a 3-1-2 record during the first two “triple dates” and picking up 11 points total, including four on the road capped by a historic comeback in the 4-1 win away to Honduras on Sept. 8. Those results have lifted the United States into sole possession of second place after six matches.   Great to see Pulisic back – he looked ok in his 20 minute stint for Chelsea on Tuesday late and should see time this Sunday vs Burnley.  Thrilled to see new young defender Joe Scally a season long starter for Monchengladbach on the back line.  He could well step right in for the injured Serginio Dest who took a knock in their Champions League game this week.  Also interesting to see Pepi is the only legit #9 on the roster this time – as Zardes is hurt and Dike is in a playoff battle with Orlando.  Surprising not to see Young Boys striker Jordan Pfuk however up top.  I will have my preferred roster and wall to wall coverage next week heading up to the biggest game of the year USA Mexico next Friday!!   

US MEn  – DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB/COUNTRY; CAPS/GOALS):

GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 24/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0)

 DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 22/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 8/0), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 4/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 17/1), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 14/3), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 0/0), Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp/BEL; 8/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 69/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 20/2)

 MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 42/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 20/1), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; 7/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 33/8), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 27/7), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 9/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 29/0)
FORWARDS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 13/5), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 41/8), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 2/2), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 4/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 40/16), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 16/1)

Champions League Always Delights – Big Teams to Thru

The GOAT of Champions League came thru again as Renaldo scored 2 goals for Man United including another 93rd minute game saving goal to tie the game at 2 vs Atalanta.   While Man U is struggling – the big boys of Juventus, Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Ajax have qualified for the next round of 16.  Adams and the Leipzig Red Bulls with Jesse Marsch as coach were eliminated in their last minute tie with PSG.  Westin McKennie almost scored as Juventus cruised over Zenet.  Either way he has re-established yes starting role for Juve and their new coach Allegri. 

CBS/Paramount + Coverage is Really Coming on Strong

Ok so let me start by saying the CBS Coverage of Champions League is the best in the business bar none.  After watching Fox Sports for Years and even ESPN before that – and their coverage of Champions League CBS is simply doing it better with regards to their Pre-Game, Post-Game and Goalazo – live jump from game to game coverage.  Now the Goalazo and post game shows are normally on CBS Sports Network – which kind of compares to showing things on FS2 – many don’t have that – which is unfortunate. (Fortunately my YouTube TV does have it so I am covered.  And they often play the replays of the games overnight or sometimes even right after the games – say 7 or 9 pm for some of the bigger games like Man United coming back to score the game winner in the 93rd minute.   Of course all of the games for Champions League + Europa League are streamed online on Paramount plus – and you can see them live.  Of course the live games can’t be fast forwarded or rewound.  The good news in unlike with the EPL’s Peacock – replays on Paramount plus are  2 hours after the game ends.  The pre + post game show’s with Kate Abdo are a full 5 hours long around the featured games with at least an hour before and an hour after.  They often do the same for coverage of the USA games for road matches in CONCACAF.  For me the $5 per month is an outright necessity if you are a fan of a Champions League or Europa League team – and even as a lover of soccer in general – CBS and Paramount Plus are really coming thru.  Now if we can just convince the powers that be – that they need to put more games on CBS Sports Network and on the Big CBS.  (No reason the USA vs Mexico at Azteca and say Canada on the road aren’t on CBS proper with solid lead in and lead out shows.  

US Ladies – Carli Lloyd Retires

It was super classy as Carli Lloyd played her last game for the US Ladies a couple of week’s back. I was upset coach didn’t leave her in to score a goal as the US eventually put up 5 goals against a stingy South Korea team.  But her final speech was pure class. Of course Lloyd is still playing in NWSL and they will have games this weekend on Sunday leading into the NWSL playoffs starting next weekend. 

MLS Decision Day Sunday 3:30 pm

The season wraps up Sunday with 3 spots in the West and 3 in the East still up for grabs. Here’s a good breakdown and here’s what exactly has to happen for each team still in contention.   New England can capture both the Supporters Shield and the record for most points in an MLS season as they go for 76 in their home match with Inter Miami.  Montreal hosts Orlando for a winner take all spot in the playoffs – Montreal must win – while Orlando can get  win or tie to make it.  LA Galaxy hosting Minn United at 6 pm on FS 1 is the biggest game of the day as both teams are in with a win.  But Galaxy will need help if they tie or lose. 

Indy 11 Season Ends – GK Jordan Farr Plays tonight for San Antonio

The Indy 11 season mercifully came to an end Saturday night with a 2-1 loss at ?   The   GK Jordan Farr has been added to San Antonio’s roster for tonight’s playoff game on emergency loan.  Farr comes off of back to back GK Saves of the Week.  Farr has joined the Texan side ahead of its game against San Diego Loyal SC tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 5, at Toyota Field in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2021 USL Championship Playoffs. San Antonio will host SD Loyal on Friday night at Toyota Field at 9:00 p.m. ET, with the game available live on ESPN+ and SiriusXM FC.  The emergency loan followed an injury to San Antonio’s Matt Cardone in its final game of the regular season this past Saturday night.  The Loyal are managed by former US Superstar Landon Donovan. 

The Ole Ballcoach is desperately looking for Mexico vs USA tickets next week in Cincy – if you have a line on tickets please let me know.  1, 2, 3, 4 tickets – willing to pay over price

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Fri 11/5   (American’s in Parenthesis)

9 pm  ESPN+                 San Antonio (Jordan Farr in goal) vs SD Loyal (Landon Donovan’s team)  Playoffs

Sat 11/6  

8:30 am NBCSN           Man United vs Man City (Steffan)

11 am Peacock             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Burnley

11 am NBCSN               Crystal Palace vs Norwich City (Stewart)

`1 pm Paramount+      Juventus vs (McKennie) vs Fiorentina

1:30 pm ESPN+            RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Dortmund

1:30 NBC                       Brighton vs New Castle United

4 pm beIn Sport           Bordeaux vs PSG

Sun 11/7  

9 am NBCSN                 Everton vs Tottenham  

10:15 am ESPN+          Valencia vs Atletico Madrid  

11:30 am NBCSN         West Ham United vs Liverpool    

2:45 pm Paramount+  AC Milan vs Inter Milan (Milan Derby)  

3 pm CBSSN                 Chicago Red Stars vs NY Gothem (NWSL)

3:30 pm ESPN+            New England vs Inter Miami

3:30 pm ESPN+            Nashville vs NY Red Bulls

3:30 pm ESPN+            NYCFC vs Philly Union

6 pm Fox Sports 1        LA Galaxy vs Min United

6 pm ESPN+                  Portland Timbers vs Austin

Thurs 11/11   

245 pm ESPN +            Greece vs Spain

2:45 pm ESPN +          Romania vs Iceland

2:45 pm ESPN+            Ireland vs Portugal

7:30 pm fubu               Brazil vs Colombia

Fri 11/12

2:45 pm ESPN2            Italy vs Switzerland

2:45pm ESPN +            England vs Albania

8 pm Paramount+        Honduras vs Panama

9 pm ESPN2                 USA vs Mexico 

9:10 pm Para +            Canada vs Costa Rica    

Sun 11/14  

9 am ESPN+                  Croatia vs Russia

12 pm ESPN+               Armenia vs Germany

2:45 pm ESPN+            Spain vs Sweden

3 pm CBSSN               OL Reign vs TBD- NWSL Playoffs

5:30 pm CBSSN          Portland Thorns vs TBD

Tues 11/16   

 2:45 pm ESPN2          Wales vs Belgium

5 pm Paramount+      Jamaica vs USA

6:30 pm fubo               Argentina vs Brazil

9 pm Para +                Canada vs Mexico

PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo.
  • Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

US Men


Pulisic back in USMNT vs. Mexico, Jamaica
  
Jeff Carlisle
USMNT has Christian Pulisic, Joe Scally on World Cup qualifying roster

USMNT gets Christian Pulisic back from ankle injury for World Cup qualifier against Mexico

Christian Pulisic to return to USMNT roster for World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico

Weston McKennie opens up on growing up with USMNT, Juve, becoming a star

USMNT’s Steffen signs new long-term City deal  Rob Dawson

Inside the USMNT roster that will take on Mexico at TQL Stadium

Landon Donovan’s Other Legacy: Challenging the stigma of mental health

US Ladies


Soccer Star Carli Lloyd on her legendary career and goals for the future

Lloyd caps ‘amazing’ USWNT journey with victory

USWNT to play two-game series in Australia

MLS Decision Day  

Decision Day Cheat Sheet

https://www.mlssoccer.com/news/weekend-cheat-sheet-your-definitive-guide-to-mls-decision-day-2021 
How Bruce Arena took the Revs from the bottom to best in MLS history
  
Bonagura
LAFC’s playoff hopes dealt a blow after draw with Whitecaps

Jordan Morris returns, but Sounders held to draw with LA Galaxy

Galaxy’s playoff hopes tenuous after tie with Sounders

Champions League


Champions League group stage: what every team needs to go through
  
Dale Johnson 
Christian Pulisic returns, nearly scores as Chelsea edges Malmo 1-0

Renaldo Saves Man U with another Epic last Second Goal

Renaldo’s Miracle Goal

How Ronaldo became soccer’s ‘Mr. Clutch’
Liverpool’s joyous win ensur ed Atletico Madrid couldn’t play Anfield spoiler again
  James Olley


Leipzig frustrate PSG with last-gasp equaliser

Dortmund to appeal to UEFA after Hummels’ red card
 
Leipzig boss Marsch targets referee after draw with PSG

Benzema double carries sloppy Real to victory over Shakhtar

Ajax reach last 16 as Dortmund fume over Hummels red

Champions League: Juventus, Bayern turn on style, Barcelona gets relief

Dybala scores twice as Juventus ease into Champions League knockouts

Marsch struggles to steady RB Leipzig’s erratic form

Bayern, Juventus through to Champions League knockout rounds

EPL


Matchweek 11 preview: Manchester Derby

Conte vows to revive Tottenham’s fortunes

Antonio Conte named new Tottenham boss; how could Spurs line up?

Emery rejects Newcastle to stay at Villarreal

World


Japan ‘backs to wall’ for must-win World Cup qualifiers

Kante and Coman return as France look to clinch World Cup berth

Mexico to play in empty stadium for two World Cup qualifiers as anti-gay chants persist

Ibrahimovic recalled to Sweden squad for World Cup qualifiers

Indy 11 

Indy 11 Thanks the Fans

RECAP | MEMPHIS 901 FC 3 : 0 INDY ELEVEN – OCTOBER 30, 2021

USL CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP: INDY ELEVEN 1 : 1 FC TULSA

USL Playoffs – start Tonight USL Championship Fans’ Choice Save of the Week – Week 27

Championship Playoffs Preview: San Antonio FC vs. San Diego Loyal SC

GOALKEEPER JORDAN FARR TO REPRESENT SAN ANTONIO FC Tonight at 9 pm  

Manchester United vs. Manchester City (2.5)

  • Manchester United (+340)
  • Manchester City (-135)
  • Tie (+290)

An unpredictable Manchester United against a Manchester City team that lost at home to Crystal Palace in its most recent Premier League game. What could go wrong? Man United seems likely to go with three central defenders again after it worked against Tottenham, though Raphael Varane is out for a month with a hamstring injury. Go over 2.5 goals.

Everton vs. Tottenham (2.5) [Sunday]

  • Everton (+185)
  • Tottenham (+150)
  • Tie (+225)

Tottenham has a new manager in Antonio Conte and Everton has lost three consecutive league games after tying 1-1 at Manchester United. There’s not going to be a result that’s surprising in this one. Maybe go with the tie? We’re torn.

Leeds vs. Leicester City (2.5) [Sunday]

  • Leeds (+170)
  • Leicester City (+150)
  • Tie (+250)

Leicester’s loss to Arsenal last weekend was its first league loss since a 2-1 defeat to Brighton in September. Leeds got its first win of the season on Sunday over Norwich. Go with Leicester.

USMNT weekend viewing guide: Decisions, decisions

MLS Decision Day means a slew of games on Sunday in addition to a full weekend of international action.

https://cdn1.sportngin.com/attachments/photo/77d9-166534783/08142021_INDvOKC_m1524_Matt_Schlotzhauer_large.jpg

It’s the last weekend of matches before the USMNT write the next chapter in their rivalry with Mexico, so let’s get right to it with some action on Friday.

Friday

Mainz v Borussia Mönchengladbach – 3:30p on ESPN+

Cut out of the office a little early, grab a pint, and get your weekend started right with Joe Scally and Borussia Mönchengladbach kicking off on Friday afternoon. Scally has played all but nine league minutes for ‘Gladbach this season, as the club has had their ups and downs and currently sit in 10th place. The club is coming off a 2-1 win over Bochum and a 5-0 thumping of a mostly first team Bayern Munich side in the DFB-Pokal. Scally will get his first taste of USMNT camp following the match on Friday ,and while it would be unusual to throw a first timer into the mix against Mexico, there may be a door open for Scally with Sergiño Dest missing the camp due to injury.

Saturday

Chelsea FC v Burnley – 11a on Peacock

Christian Pulisic has finally returned from injury, as he appeared for the first time since August in Chelsea’s 1-0 midweek win over Malmö FF in Champions League group stage action. Between his early season COVID quarantine and the ankle injury he picked up with the USMNT during the September window, Pulisic has just one league appearance for Chelsea this season, though he did pick up a goal in that match. It would be surprising to see Pulisic start this weekend, as it seems likely the team will work him up to full match fitness with some substitute appearances. Still, as long as he is healthy, he should be seeing some time for the club. Please Christian, just stay healthy.

Other notes:

Streaming overseas:

  • Chris Richards and Hoffenheim face Bochum at 10:30a on ESPN+. Richards continues to be a regular, steady presence for Hoffenheim.
  • John Brooks seems to have handled his absence from the November window as professionally as one could hope and will make his case against further exclusions starting Saturday for Wolfsburg against Augsburg at 10:30a on ESPN+.
  • Josh Sargent and Norwich City face Brentford at 11a on Peacock, with both club and player needing to find some way to get on track.
  • Sergiño Dest is out injured so FC Barcelona will have to look to start another winger when they face Celta de Vigo at 11:15a on ESPN+.
  • Timothy Weah and Lille face Angers at Noon on beIN Sports. Weah saw just 11 minutes off the bench in Lille’s loss to PSG last weekend, but started midweek in the club’s 2-1 win over Sevilla FC in Champions League group play.
  • Weston McKennie has two goals in Juventus’ last two league matches, but unfortunately the club has lost both and currently sit in 9th place. They will face 7th place Fiorentina at 1p on Paramount+.
  • Tyler Adams, Jesse Marsch and RB Leipzig will take on a Borussia Dortmund side that is really struggling with injuries, including the absence of Gio Reyna, who the club has recently said they hope to see return yet this year. The match will be on ESPN+ at 1:30p.
  • Matt Miazga appears to have lost his starting position at Deportivo Alavés, having been on the bench the past two matches. The club face Levante at 1:30p on ESPN+.

Sunday

Venezia v Roma – 6:30a on Paramount+

If you’re struggling to sleep in Sunday morning with the time change (how have we not fixed the abomination that is time changes yet), feel free to get up and check out Gianluca Busio and Venezia. You may even be treated to a Tanner Tessmann sighting as well, Tessmann received his first start for Venezia last weekend as the club played to a scoreless draw with Genoa. While you’re at it, you can check out Roma as well and curse out Jose Mourinho, who seems to have quite the beef with Bryan Reynolds. Hopefully Reynolds will be moving on in January to a club more interested in developing players.

Other notes:

  • Nashville SC and the New York Red Bulls kick off MLS Decision Day at 3:30p on ESPN. Nashville have locked up a spot in the playoffs, so Walker Zimmerman could get a rest, but NYRB need a win to guarantee their place.
  • The LA Galaxy take on Minnesota United at 6p on FS1 with both teams needing a win to clinch their playoff spot. Currently the Galaxy sit in 7th, the final playoff spot, two points ahead of LAFC and Real Salt Lake. Meanwhile Minnesota United are in 5th place but with just one more point than the Galaxy. The club is three points ahead of RSL and LAFC but could lose a tiebreaker to either club.

Streaming overseas:

  • Konrad de la Fuente and Olympique de Marseille face Metz at 7a on beIN Sports. Konrad started and played the first 60 minutes last weekend, picking up a yellow card.
  • Yunus Musah and Valencia face Atletico Madrid at 10:15a on ESPN+. Musah did not make it off the bench last weekend in the teams 2-0 victory over Villarreal.
  • Nicholas Gioachinni has had spot minutes in every match for Montpellier since joining the club but has yet to see anything meaningful. The club face Nice at 11a on beIN Sports.
  • Matthew Hoppe’s Mallorca side face Elche at 12:30p on ESPN+. Hoppe has not seen any minutes recently and there may be some injury concern.
  • Julian Green’s Greuther Fürth take on Timothy Chandler’s Eintracht Frankfurt at 1:30p on ESPN+. Both seem pretty far from Berhalter’s call up list at this point.

MLS Mashup (all games on ESPN+):

  • Toronto FC has been eliminated from the playoffs but could play spoiler to Paul Arriola and DC United, who haven’t been eliminated but would need help in the form of NYRB and Montreal losses. The match will kick off at 3:30p.
  • Matt Turner and the New England Revolution have wrapped up the Supporters Shield, so they don’t have much to play for on Sunday at 3:30p. On the flip side, their opponent, Inter Miami, have been eliminated from playoff contention.
  • A win or a draw for Miles Robinson, George Bello and Atlanta United over FC Cincinnati at 3:30p will be enough for a playoff birth. Cincinnati have already clinched the league’s worst record.
  • Gyasi Zardes and the Columbus Crew would need a win and a whole bunch of help (including three other teams losing and making up a -7 goal differential with NYRB) to make the playoffs one season removed from their league title. They face the Chicago Fire at 3:30p.
  • CF Montreal and Orlando City face off at 3:30p, with Montreal needing a win while Orlando City and Daryl Dike can seal their fate with a win or a draw.
  • James Sands and NYCFC would need a win or draw to clinch their first round bye, while Paxten Aaronson and the Philadelphia Union have already sealed their spot. Like all the other Eastern Conference matches, this one will kick off at 3:30p.
  • The Western Conference matches will all start at 6p, including Ricardo Pepi, Jesus Ferreira, and eliminated FC Dallas facing Cade Cowell and the San Jose Earthquakes.
  • Likewise, neither the Portland Timbers (already clinched a bye) nor Austin FC (eliminated) will have much to play for on “Decision Day.”
  • Sporting Kansas City can clinch the top spot in the Western Conference with a win and a Seattle Sounders loss. SKC face Real Salt Lake, who are looking to sneak into the playoffs with a win and some help.
  • Kellyn Acosta and the Colorado Rapids could also claim the top spot in the Western Conference with a win and some help. Their first order of business will be taking care of LAFC, who have not been eliminated but need some help themselves.
  • Finally, while the top of the conference is crowded, it’s Cristian Roldan, recently returned Jordan Morris, and the Seattle Sounders, who control their own fate and can clinch that top spot with a win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Soccer on TV: The NWSL playoffs start, plus derbies in Manchester, Milan and Seville

Gotham FC’s Carli Lloyd plays against her first professional club in what could be her last game.

by Jonathan Tannenwald

Manchester United vs. Manchester City

Saturday, 8:30 a.m. (NBCSN, Telemundo)

As headline-grabbing as United’s wild comebacks against Atalanta in the Champions League were, they’re actually nothing new for the club. The Red Devils have been playing games like that for decades, and no one knows it better than manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær. He helped author one of United’s all-time come-from-behind wins in the 1999 men’s Champions League final.an But while it may be an entertaining way to live, it’s not healthy, and this game might reveal the truth. City will be fired up after losing at Crystal Palace 2-0 last Saturday, then thumping Club Brugge at home 4-1 on Wednesday. If Pep Guardiola’s team delivers a big win over its crosstown rival, expect Solskjær’s seat to get hot again.  » READ MORE: The rest of this weekend’s Premier League schedule

RB Leipzig vs. Borussia Dortmund

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

Leipzig snatched a 2-2 tie at home against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday with a 92nd-minute penalty kick, giving their European campaign a badly-needed breath of life. Let’s see if the momentum carries into the Bundesliga in a matchup that usually produces high-scoring games.

» READ MORE: The rest of this weeekend’s Bundesliga schedule

AC Milan vs. Inter Milan

Sunday, 2:45 p.m. (Paramount+)

Officially, the Milan derby is called the Derby della Madonnina, named for the statue of the Virgin Mary atop the city’s famed Duomo cathedral. Unofficially, it’s Italy’s most famous rivalry, and often its best.

ADVERTISEMENT

In addition to having stars on the field like Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimović and Inter’s Lautaro Martínez, the teams are second and third in the Serie A standings, with Milan seven points above Inter and tied on points with first-place Napoli. It should be another electric scene at the San Siro, one of the world’s grandest soccer stadiums.

» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend’s Serie A schedule

Real Betis vs. Sevilla

Sunday, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)

Last weekend’s preview column neglected the Basque derby, Real Sociedad vs. Athletic Bilbao, one of Spain’s most fun rivalries. We won’t make that same mistake with the Seville derby, another terrific local grudge match. It’s the only one that gets called El Gran Derbi, “The Great Derby,” and it’s been played since 1915.

Sevilla has a pair of great forwards in Alejandro “Papu” Gómez and Rafa Mir. Betis’s squad includes Mexican superstar Diego Lainez, who is finally back from a long injury absence — though not on El Tri’s squad for this month’s World Cup qualifiers.

» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend’s La Liga schedule

Chicago Red Stars vs. Gotham FC

Sunday, 3 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

The biggest spotlight will be on Gotham’s Carli Lloyd, as the team where she began her pro career in 2009 tries to end that career in the first round of the playoffs. But there will be big-time players to watch all over the field.

Chicago winger Mallory Pugh has been playing very well, and has regained a place with the U.S. national team after falling down the depth chart. And Gotham’s Margaret Purce will be trying to book a seat on the U.S.’ flight to Australia for a much-anticipated two-game tour Down Under at the end of the month.

The matchups between Gotham wingers Purce and Ifeoma Onumonu and Chicago defenders Casey Krueger and Sarah Gorden should be superb theater.

» READ MORE: Carli Lloyd scores in her last Gotham FC game in New Jersey, and now heads to the NWSL playoffs

Washington Spirit vs. North Carolina Courage

Sunday, 5:30 p.m. (Paramount+)

While the Spirit’s year was full of turmoil off the field, the team was amazingly successful on the field. So successful, in fact, that Washington finished third in the standings despite having to forfeit two games due to breaches of COVID-19 protocols.  The squad is bursting with young talent, from defenders Sam Staab and Tegan McGrady to Golden Boot-winning forward Ashley Hatch and 17-year-old phenom Trinity Rodman, the daughter of NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman. And amid them all is Andi Sullivan, the present captain of the club and a potential future captain of the U.S. national team, directing traffic and controlling the tempo in central midfield.

North Carolina’s roster, meanwhile, is led by a cadre of trophy-winning veterans: center back Abby Erceg, all-world playmaker Debinha, and forwards Lynn Williams, Jessica McDonald and Amy Rodriguez.  The Courage have had their own share of turmoil with the firing of manager Paul Riley amid abuse allegations, and their sixth-place finish was their worst since 2015 — when the club was the Western New York Flash. But those veterans have won a pile of trophies over the years, including three NWSL regular-season titles and two playoff championships. This is their time of year.

MLS Decision Day – Sunday – Playoff Races Conclude ! 

Watch-along Show

MLS’ regular-season finales are at the same time on Sunday – watch the Eastern Conference at 3:30 pm ET, then continue through 6 pm ET for the Western Conference – and the context hits you over the head like a cartoon frying pan. Win/draw/lose-and-get-lucky or your season is over. It’s going to get crazy/confusing/weird. Trust me when I say the LIVE standings and second screen watch-along will be your best friends as the drama unfolds. Let’s experience it together.

;

Tom Bogert did us all a solid and put the totality of the stakes in one place. Here are the cliff notes:

Eastern Conference

  • Three remaining playoff spots for six teams
  • Seeding TBD in spots 2-4 (home-field advantage in Round One), with Philadelphia and Nashville guaranteed at least one home playoff game
  • Four teams (NYC, ATL, ORL or RBNY*) mathematically able to claim a Round One home game by finishing 4th

Western Conference

  • Three remaining playoff spots for five teams
  • Seeding TBD in spots 1-3 (top team gets playoff bye, top two get Concacaf Champions League spots)
  • All Round One home games claimed: Timbers will be the fourth seed, no matter the results on Sunday

Here’s how stat magician and MLS historian extraordinaire Rick Lawes described the day’s happenings:

“There have never been this many teams alive before for Decision Day, nor this many placings still up in the air.”

Nice. Here are the full scenarios.

Now that I’ve hit you over the head with some cast iron cookware – always remember to season your pan, folks – let’s get to it in the same format as last week: by ranking every Decision Day match by playoff implications from least to most.

13

San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas

BetMGM odds: SJ +110 | Draw +270 | DAL +210

Webster’s Dictionary defines PFP (playing for pride) as … this game.

Why I’m watching: This could be Ricardo Pepi’s final MLS game for FC Dallas, and it will certainly be his final game before starting for the US men’s national team against Mexico in Cincinnati for November’s World Cup qualifier. His form matters and a final memento would be nice should a big-money transfer materialize this winter.

Watch: Sunday, 6 pm ET on MLS LIVE on ESPN+

12

New England Revolution vs. Inter Miami CF

BetMGM odds: NE -275 | Draw +425 | MIA +650

New England are the No. 1 overall seed and Supporters’ Shield winners, and Inter Miami are strictly PFP. No playoff implications here.

Why I’m watching: The chase for 76 and a Supporters’ Shield celebration. The Revs could extend their points record to even further heights. If they do, are they unquestionably the best regular-season team in MLS history? It’d be harder to argue no with a four-point cushion on 2019 LAFC. Bruce Arena said this week that he’ll play his best lineup. Might as well bring three more points to the Shield party! Lift it, Bruce!

Watch: Sunday, 3:30 pm ET on MLS LIVE on ESPN+

11

Portland Timbers vs. Austin FC

BetMGM odds: POR -150 | Draw +320 | ATX +333

Austin sure PFPed hard on Wednesday night! They’ll PFP again in Portland, where Decision Day can change ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the Timbers’ playoff place. They’re the fourth seed in the Western Conference no matter what happens.

Why I’m watching: Sebastian Blanco. What a friggin’ genius. With him firing, Portland might just win MLS Cup.

Watch: Sunday, 6 pm ET on MLS LIVE on ESPN+

10

Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire FC

BetMGM odds: CLB -200 | Draw +375 | CHI +425

You already know the Fire are PFP, more on that in a second. The Crew’s playoff chances are theoretically alive … but they must first win to have a chance and even then they’d have almost no chance of jumping over the playoff line. Here’s the winning scenario…

Crew win + DC lose or draw + MTL lose or draw + Red Bulls lose (and Crew make up a goal differential gap of seven goals) = Columbus IN the playoffs

Yeahhhhh, they won’t be defending MLS Cup.

Why I’m watching: I want to see the lineup Frank Klopas puts out there. Why? Follow the breadcrumbs.

Watch: Sunday, 3:30 pm ET on MLS LIVE on ESPN+

9

FC Cincinnati vs. Atlanta United

BetMGM odds: CIN +310 | Draw +300 | ATL -140

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It’s been three years of PFP for FC Cincinnati, with very little to take pride in on the field. The positive spin is that a new coach is on the way once new general manager Chris Albright gets through his hiring process and decides on the fourth manager (sixth if you count interim tags) in club history.

Atlanta United are basically in the playoff field. They just don’t officially have the “x” next to their name. Here’s the only scenario (it all comes down to tiebreakers vs. Orlando City) in which they’d miss out…

ATL lose by eight goals to CIN + RBNY win or draw + MTL beat ORL 1-0 = Atlanta OUT of the playoffs

The scorelines can change, but the margins would have to stay the same to make up the goal differential gap. So yeah, not going to happen. Atlanta could also clinch a top-four seed with a win in Cincinnati, plus an NYCFC loss to the Union at Yankee Stadium and Orlando loss or draw.

Why I’m watching: I watched all of Atlanta’s scoreless draw at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night. They created nothing. That’s not hyperbole. Nothing. That was with Luiz AraujoEzequiel Barco and Marcelino Moreno in the XI and Josef Martinez off the bench. That group put up 0.1 xG. They won’t go far in the playoffs with that sort of (lack of) production from their marquee players. Luckily, TQL Stadium seems to be an elixir for creative blocks and goalscoring woes.

Watch: Sunday, 3:30 pm ET on MLS LIVE on ESPN+

8

Toronto FC vs. D.C. United

BetMGM odds: TOR +175 | Draw +260 | DC +130

Toronto are PFP – and momentum in the Canadian Championship – but they sure seem to be enjoying the spoiler role.

As for the spoiling, D.C. United are not in control of their own destiny. They must beat Toronto on the road, where they are 2-10-4 this year, then the Red Bulls must lose AND Montreal must lose or tie. If all that happens, Hernan Losada’s boys are playoff-bound!

Why I’m watching: Jozy Altidore. It sure seems like he’s back in form. That CanChamp goal against Pacific FC was a thing of beauty. Good timing for his career (and perhaps for Gregg Berhalter?)! Could we see him with the US national team soon? Don’t count Altidore out. I’m hitting follow on whatever happens next for him.

Watch: Sunday, 3:30 pm ET on TSN 4, MLS LIVE on ESPN+

7. New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union

BetMGM odds: NYC -135 | Draw +290 | PHI +300

No more PFPs! Hooray!

Both NYCFC and Philly are IN, so there’s nothing existential about this one. The Union know they’ll have a home game, but it’d be best to avoid the Revs for as long as possible and be guaranteed to host a conference semifinal as well. Win at Yankee Stadium, and they’ll lock in as the No. 2 seed.

NYCFC, though three points back of Philadelphia, are in a similar position. They just need help from the Red Bulls. If they win and the Red Bulls beat Nashville, the blue side of New York will finish second in the East. If NYCFC don’t win, either Atlanta or Orlando can jump them with a win. If they draw, they’ll get the No. 4 seed on the wins tiebreaker. Got it?

Why I’m watching: This could be a conference semifinal. It could be a conference final. I always watch the previews before I see a movie in the big theater. Plus, Taty Castellanos is chasing the Golden Boot presented by Audi with 18g/8a at present. That’s fun.

Watch: Sunday, 3:30 pm ET on MLS LIVE on ESPN+

6

Nashville SC vs. New York Red Bulls

BetMGM odds: NSH +145 | Draw +195 | RBNY +200

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Nashville are in the same situation as Philly, both sit on 53 points, but they need help from NYCFC to finish second in the East. That’s because Nashville are, according to amateur MLS Twitter statisticians, still a subpar team. Wait, what? How does that make any sense when they’ve just lost four times all year? Well, they haven’t yet won 13 games, which is the historic and universally accepted cutoff for such things. I don’t make the rules! I kid, but actually it does matter because the first tiebreaker wins, and they trail the Union and NYCFC 12 to 14.

The Red Bulls’ playoff scenario is simple. If they win or draw in Nashville, they’re in. No matter what happens on Decision Day, if they make the playoffs, they’d go on the road in Round One. Should they lose, it basically comes down to Montréal and D.C. United – I know the Crew are mathematically in it as well (but not really, see above) – failing to get all three points.

Why I’m watching: Can Nashville win (key word) a home game with playoff-level stakes? That’s the test in the actual playoffs, and though they’re undefeated at home … they’ve drawn eight of 16 games, which would mean a 50 percent chance for visiting teams to spring an extra-time or shootout upset. I want to see if Gary Smith’s team can handle their business in 90 minutes against a potential Round One opponent.

Watch: Sunday, 3:30 pm ET on ESPN, ESPN Deportes

5

Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Seattle Sounders

BetMGM odds: VAN +175 | Draw +250 | SEA +135

The Whitecaps are in the same position as the Red Bulls. Win or draw at B.C. Place, where they are 7-1-0 this year, and they’re in. If they can’t do that, they need at least two of the clubs below them to biff it.

The Sounders could finish anywhere from first to third in the Western Conference. The top two spots come with 2022 Concacaf Champions League spots. Win and they’ll for sure play CCL ball next year. Draw or lose and that’s a maybe depending on results in Kansas City and Colorado.

Why I’m watching: ANDIAMO! The Western Conference playoffs will be better with the Whitecaps in the field. I want them to make it! From an MLS Cup contender perspective, I think we’re all interested in seeing how Nico Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz fare in their return from injury layoffs to starting roles and whether Jordan Morris can change the match off the bench. They’re all Best XI quality, but they’re not yet match fit or in rhythm for Seattle. Yet.

Watch: Sunday, 6 pm ET on TSN 1/4, MLS LIVE on ESPN+

4

Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake

BetMGM odds: SKC -145 | Draw +300 | RSL +350

Real Salt Lake have to win. Period. Do that and they’re in since only one of Minnesota and the Galaxy can surpass 48 points (goal differential’s at play, too).

For SKC, you can just scroll up and reread the Sounders section. Sporting could finish anywhere from 1-3 in the West. If they win, no matter the other results, they’ll qualify for CCL.

Why I’m watching: First of all, to see if RSL can prove the doubters wrong in a season of unimaginable uncertainty and make the playoffs, on the road no less! Second, both teams laid big, fat eggs on Wednesday night. Who has the shortest memory when it matters most?

Watch: Sunday, 6 pm ET on MLS LIVE on ESPN+

;

3

Colorado Rapids vs. LAFC

BetMGM odds: COL +120 | Draw +250 | LAFC +200

With a win, the Rapids could finish atop the Western Conference. I repeat … THE RAPIDS COULD FINISH ATOP THE WEST. No matter what happens, they won’t finish lower than the No. 3 seed. Pretty heady stuff.

LAFC are below the line, which means they need three points and some help. Step one, win. Step two, hope either Vancouver lose OR Real Salt Lake lose or tie. If that happens, thanks to the Loons and Galaxy going head-to-head and LAFC’s positive goal differential – the only team outside the top four in the West that can say that! – then Bob Bradley’s boys will be in! It’s not out of the realm of possibility!

Why I’m watching: I know I’m going to watch the Rapids again this year. I don’t know that about LAFC. Or Bob Bradley coaching LAFC. Or Carlos Vela playing for LAFC.

Watch: Sunday, 6 pm ET on MLS LIVE on ESPN+

2

LA Galaxy vs. Minnesota United FC

BetMGM odds: LA +100 | Draw +260 | MIN +230

Both teams are in with a win, but only one team can win! Minnesota United are in with a tie, but that won’t help the Galaxy unless they get help. Speaking of help, both teams are currently above the line, which means they can both make it if LAFC and RSL stumble in any way. For this one, it’s better if you just read the scenarios from Mr. Lawes.

Why I’m watching: This game is a stumbling block for the rest of the Western Conference bubble. What happens here helps determine what happens everywhere.

Watch: Sunday, 6 pm ET on FS1, FOX Deportes

1

CF Montréal vs. Orlando City SC

BetMGM odds: MTL +100 | Draw +250 | ORL +240

This is a must-win for Montréal, and not the kind where the season continues if they don’t win. If they win, they’re in. If they lose, they’re out. If they draw, they’re out. They must win.

Orlando City are in with a win or a draw OR a Red Bulls loss. There is also that Atlanta United seven-goal differential gap, but you and I know that’s not happening. They need to get a result, otherwise it’s going to be a nerve-wracking day. Let’s be honest, it’s just going to be a nerve-wracking day. Missing the playoffs would be a catastrophe.

Why I’m watching: It smells like desperation, 90 minutes of pure desperation!

Watch: Sunday, 3:30 pm ET on TSN1, MLS LIVE on ESPN+

Champions League group stage: what every team needs to go through

Nov 3, 2021  Dale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC

With two rounds remaining in the Champions League group stage, it’s all to play to reach the knockout rounds — or boo a consolation place in the Europa League.Here’s the state of play across all eight groups, showing what each team needs to maintain hope of progressing.Group winners and runners-up qualify for the Champions League round of 16, with third-placed teams dropping into the Europa League preliminary knockout round. Teams that finish bottom are eliminated from Europe.

QUALIFIED FOR UCL ROUND OF 16: Ajax, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Liverpool

ELIMINATED: Besiktas, Malmo, RB Leipzig

GROUP A
Nov. 24: Manchester City vs. Paris Saint-GermainClub Brugge vs. RB Leipzig
Dec. 7: RB Leipzig vs. Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain vs. Club Brugge

Group A

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Man City4301+89
2 – PSG4220+38
3 – Brugge4112-64
4 – Leipzig4013-51

Manchester City: Need a point to go through, and can secure top spot with a win at home to PSG.

Paris Saint-Germain: Will be through with two draws, or if Club Brugge fail to win either of their remaining games.

Club Brugge: Must win both their remaining games to have a chance of qualifying.

RB Leipzig: Have been eliminated from the Champions League and must win away to Club Brugge to stay in contention for a place in the Europa League.

GROUP B
Nov. 24: Liverpool vs. FC PortoAtletico Madrid vs. AC Milan
Dec. 7: FC Porto vs. Atletico Madrid, AC Milan vs. Liverpool

Group B

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Liverpool4400+812
2 – Porto4121-35
3 – Atletico4112-24
4 – Milan4013-31

Liverpool: Have qualified as group winners.

FC Porto: Will be through on Matchday 5 if they win at Liverpool and Atletico lose to AC Milan. Four points will also be enough.

Atletico Madrid: Know that at least a draw at home to AC Milan will definitely keep their fate in their own hands ahead of the trip at FC Porto on Matchday 6. Could be eliminated if they lose to Milan and Porto beat Liverpool.

AC Milan: Must win both their remaining games to have a chance of staying in the Champions League, but their best hope may be to edge third and drop into the Europa League. Will be eliminated completely if they fail to beat Atletico.

GROUP C
Nov. 24: Besiktas vs. AjaxSporting CP vs. Borussia Dortmund
Dec. 7: Ajax vs. Sporting CP, Borussia Dortmund vs. Besiktas

Group C

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Ajax4400+1212
2 – Dortmund4202-46
3 – Sporting4202+26
4 – Besiktas4004-100

Ajax: Have qualified and need a point to win the group.

Borussia Dortmund: Dortmund hold second place on head to head, which means a win at home to Sporting will send them through. A draw would leave them needing a win at home to Besikas to seal second place.

Sporting CP: Victory at home to Dortmund by 2+ goals will send them through to the round of 16 on Matchday 5.

Besiktas: Are out of the Champions League and will be eliminated completely if they fail to beat Ajax or Borussia Dortmund avoid defeat against Sporting.

GROUP D
Nov. 24: Inter vs. Shakhtar DonetskSheriff Tiraspol vs. Real Madrid
Dec. 7: Real Madrid vs. Inter, Shakhtar Donetsk vs. FC Sheriff

Group D

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Madrid4301+69
2 – Inter4211+37
3 – Sheriff4202-16
4 – Shakhtar4013-81

Real Madrid: Must win away to FC Sheriff to guarantee qualification on Matchday 5, while two draws from their remaining two games would also send them through.

Inter Milan: Will be through with a game to spare should they beat Shakhtar and FC Sheriff fail to beat Real Madrid. Four points will also see them through for certain.

FC Sheriff: Will be out if they lose to Real Madrid and Inter beat Shakhtar. They may need to hope Inter fail to win and it goes down to the final day for a place in the knockout stages.

Shakhtar Donetsk: Are going to have to win both their remaining games and hope other results go their way if they to have a chance of going through or dropping into the Europa League.

GROUP E
Nov. 23: Dynamo Kiev vs. Bayern MunichBarcelona vs. Benfica
Dec. 8: Bayern Munich vs. Barcelona, Benfica vs. Dynamo Kiev

Group E

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Bayern4400+1512
2 – Barca4202-46
3 – Benfica4112-44
4 – Dynamo4013-71

Bayern Munich: Have qualified for the round of 16, and need a point to win the group (or can do so with a defeat if Barcelona fail to win at home to Benfica).

Barcelona: Will be through with win a win at home to Benfica on Matchday 5.

Benfica: Must avoid defeat to Barca to stay in contention. Two wins guarantees second place.

Dynamo Kiev: Have to win both remaining games, and hope Barca lose at home to Benfica, to have any chance of staying in the Champions League. They could yet overtake Benfica for the Europa League slot with a win in Portugal on Matchday 6.

GROUP F
Nov. 23: Villarreal vs. Manchester UnitedYoung Boys vs. Atalanta
Dec. 8: Atalanta vs. Villarreal, Manchester United vs. Young Boys

Group F

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Man Utd4211+17
2 – Villarreal4211+47
3 – Atalanta412105
4 – Y Boys4103-53

Manchester United: Will be through with a win away to Villarreal in their next match. Four points from the two games will also guarantee progress.

Villarreal: Will definitely be through if they beat Man United by 2+ goals or 1-0.

Atalanta: Can guarantee a place in the round of 16 with two victories, and four points would be enough if Villarreal lose to Man United.

Young Boys: Still in contention but need to win at home to Atalanta to have any realistic hopes of finishing inside the top 2. If they lose to Atalanta, they are sure to finish bottom of the group and exit Europe.

GROUP G
Nov. 23: Lille vs. FC SalzburgSevilla vs. VfL Wolfsburg
Dec. 8: FC Salzburg vs. Sevilla, VfL Wolfsburg vs. Lille

Group G

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Salzburg4211+27
2 – Lille412105
3 – Wolfsburg4121-15
4 – Sevilla4031-13

FC Salzburg: Will be through with a win at Lille on Matchday 5, and that will seal top spot if Wolfsburg fail to beat Sevilla. Two draws will also send them into the round of 16.

Lille: If they can win at home to Salzburg, a point away to Wolfsburg would be enough to send them through.

Wolfsburg: Are sure to still be in contention on Matchday 6, when a win at home to Lille will guarantee at worst a place in the Europa League.

Sevilla: Will be out of the Champions League if they lose at home to Wolfsburg, and also be sure to finish bottom should Lille win at home to Salzburg.

GROUP H
Nov. 23: Chelsea vs. Juventus, Malmo vs. Zenit St Petersburg
Dec. 8: Zenit St Petersburg vs. Chelsea, Juventus vs. Malmo

Group H

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Juventus4400+712
2 – Chelsea4301+59
3 – Zenit410303
4 – Malmo4004-120

Juventus: Have qualified, and need a point away to Chelsea to seal top spot.

Chelsea: Need a point to go through, and would also progress with a loss at home to Juve should Zenit fail to beat Malmo. Must beat Juventus to have a chance of topping the group.

Zenit St Petersburg: Must win both their remaining games, and hope Chelsea lose to Juve, to go through. Would also need to beat Chelsea by 2+ goals to win the head to head.

Malmo: Are out of the Champions League and must beat Zenit by 5+ goals to overtake them on head to head and have the best chance of finishing third and dropping into the Europa League.

San Antonio Acquires Jordan Farr on Emergency Loan

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 11/04/21, 11:00AM EDT

FARR HAS MADE 34 APPEARANCES FOR INDY ELEVEN IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP’S REGULAR SEASON AND PLAYOFFS

San Antonio FC has acquired goalkeeper Jordan Farr on an emergency loan following ahead of Friday’s Western Conference Quarterfinal against San Diego Loyal SC. | Photo courtesy Matt Schlotzhauer / Indy Eleven

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio FC announced on Thursday it had acquired goalkeeper Jordan Farr from Indy Eleven on an emergency loan ahead of its game against San Diego Loyal SC on Friday night at Toyota Field in the Western Conference Quarterfinals

TAMPA/INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, November 4, 2021) – Indy Eleven and San Antonio FC today announced that Indy goalkeeper Jordan Farr has been acquired by SAFC via a temporary emergency loan. Farr has joined the Texan side ahead of its game against San Diego Loyal SC tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 5, at Toyota Field in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2021 USL Championship Playoffs. San Antonio will host SD Loyal on Friday night at Toyota Field at 9:00 p.m. ET, with the game available live on ESPN+ and SiriusXM FC.  The emergency loan followed an injury to San Antonio’s Matt Cardone in its final game of the regular season this past Saturday night. San Antonio FC formally petitioned the league to register an emergency goalkeeper pursuant to the league’s Emergency Goalkeeper Exemption for the playoffs. This petition was approved by the league’s Compliance and Registration Departments.Under league rules, after the Roster Freeze date, if a club is reduced to a single available and healthy goalkeeper, that club may petition the league to register an emergency goalkeeper. The subsequent registration will be permitted until such time as one or more of the originally rostered goalkeepers becomes available and healthy.“In the spirit of competition, Indy Eleven is glad to work with the USL Championship, San Antonio FC, and Jordan Farr in facilitating this unique short-term loan. As we have done in similar circumstances with Evan Newton and Kristian Nicht in past seasons, Indy Eleven is proud to provide such opportunities for our players to rise to the occasion, and we look forward to seeing Jordan do just that should he be called upon,” explained Greg Stremlaw, Indy Eleven President & CEO.Farr recorded 72 saves, five shutouts and a goals-against average of 1.33 during his 21 appearances across Indy Eleven’s recently concluded 2021 USL Championship regular season. After missing two months due to a wrist injury during the middle of the season, Farr enjoyed some of his best performances in the closing weeks of the campaign, highlighted by his first career appearance on the USL Championship Team of the Week presented by Cleer Audio for Week 26 following a five-save effort in a 1-0 win over Louisville City FC on Oct. 16.The Salem, Ore.-native also earned back-to-back Championship Save of the Week nods for impressive reaction stops during the afore-mentioned win over LouCity and a 1-1 draw with FC Tulsa in Week 27 play.The fourth-year professional has spent his entire pro career up to this point with Indiana’s Team, collecting 34 appearances across regular season and postseason action overall while recording 10 shutouts. Farr is no stranger to the postseason, having collected a 2W-1L-0D record and 1.00 goals against average during three appearances in the Eleven’s run to the Eastern Conference Final of the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs.

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11/2/21   CHS teams finish 2nd in State, Champions League Tues/Wed on CBSSN + Paramount+

High School –  CHS Boys & Girls Finish 2nd in the State

Huge Congrats to the Girls and Boys Carmel High School teams who each finished 2nd in the state this season after advancing to the State Finals last weekend at the Mike at IUPUI last weekend.  Proud of both teams including our former Carmel FC players on both teams !!  I will have full game reviews on Friday. 

Champions League Tues/Wed this week

Christian Pulisic appears to be ready to return for Champions League today as Chelsea travels to Malmo at 1:45 pm on Paramount plus.  The All American match-up Tuesday at 4 pm has Wolfsburg and American defender John Brooks hosting RB Salzburg and American midfielder Brenden Aaronson.  Wednesday gives us the return Leg of the best game from the last matchday – Liverpool hosting Atletico at 4 pm on Paramount plus. As always the best pregame and postgame in soccer – has Paramount Plus on 1 full hour before the 4 pm games on CBS Sports Network and the Goalaso show updating all the games at 4 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday.   Full update midway thru Group Stage.

The Old Ballcoach is still desperately looking for USA vs Mexico Tickets late next week in Cincy – willing to pay over cost for 1 or 2 or up to 4 tickets please RE: or call 317-748-7174.

Champions League TV schedule

All times Eastern. (Americans in parenthis)

Tuesday, November 2

01:45 pm EDT             Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs. RB Salzburg (Aaronson)  Paramount+, Galavisión, fubo TV

01:45 pm EDT             Malmö vs. Chelsea (Pulisic) Paramount+, UniMás, TUDN, fubo TV

04:00 pm EDT             Dynamo Kiev vs. Barcelona (Dest) Paramount+, PrendeTV

04:00 pm EDT             Bayern Munich vs. Benfica  Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

04:00 pm EDT             Villarreal vs. BSC Young Boys (Pefok) Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

04:00 pm EDT             Atalanta vs. Manchester United  Paramount+, UniMás, TUDN, fubo TV

04:00 pm EDT             Juventus (Mckinney) vs. Zenit St Petersburg  Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

04:00 pm EDT             Sevilla FC vs. Lille (Weah)    Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

Wednesday, November 3

01:45 pm EDT             AC Milan vs. FC Porto  Paramount+, Galavisión, fubo TV

01:45 pm EDT             Real Madrid vs. Shakhtar Donetsk  Paramount+, UniMás, TUDN, fubo TV

04:00 pm EDT             Manchester City vs. Club Brugge  Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

04:00 pm EDT             RB Leipzig (Adams) vs. Paris Saint-Germain  Paramount+, Univision, TUDN, fubo TV

04:00 pm EDT             Liverpool vs. Atletico Madrid   Paramount+, PrendeTV

04:00 pm EDT             Sporting CP vs. Beşiktaş   Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

04:00 pm ED               Borussia Dortmund vs. Ajax Amsterdam  Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

04:00 pm EDT             Sheriff Tiraspol vs. Inter Milan  Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

Americans in Champions League TV schedule

All times Eastern.

Another Champions League week means another chance for USMNT players to cover themselves in glory

Wolfsburg v RB Salzburg, 1:45p on Paramount+, Galavision, fuboTV (free trial), Sling TV, TUDN.com: John Brooks and Brenden Aaronson face off in Champions League. Wolfsburg’s new boss Florian Kohfeldt will be familiar to USMNT fans, as he ran Werder Bremen into the ground during Josh Sargent’s time there.

Malmö v Chelsea, 1:45p on Paramount+, UniMás, TUDN, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Christian Pulisic is back in Chelsea’s squad for their Champions League match in Sweden. He hasn’t played for club or country since suffering an injury in Honduras on Sep 8.

Dynamo Kyiv v FC Barcelona, 4p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Sergiño Dest and Barcelona picked up 3 points at home vs Kyiv last time out in Europe, and they need to pick up 3 more points on the road to keep their hopes of knockout-stage football alive.

Villarreal v Young Boys, 4p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Jordan Pefok and Young Boys have just one win so far, at home to Manchester United.

Sevilla v Lille, 4p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Group G is wide open after Salzburg, which means Tim Weah and Lille have an opportunity to push into second place on the road in Spain.

Juventus v Zenit St. Petersburg, 4p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Weston McKennie and Juve are perfect in Champions League so far, and will expect all 3 points at home to their Russian counterpart.

Also in action:

Bayern Munich v Benfica, 4p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: It’s unlikely, but possible one or both of Malik Tillman or Taylor Booth could be in Bayern’s squad at the Allianz Arena.

Wednesday

RB Leipzig v PSG, 4p on Paramount+, TUDN, Univision, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Tyler Adams and Leipzig have suffered in the Champions League so far, with 0 points from 3 games. They host PSG’s potent attacking trio of Messi, Neymar, and Mbappé.

Borussia Dortmund v Ajax, 4p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Gio Reyna is expected to miss this match as he continues recovery from injury.

New York Red Bulls v Atlanta United, 7:30p on FS1, fuboTV, Sling TV: Caden Clark, John Tolkin, and the Red Bulls are unbeaten in 6 at home; they welcome Miles Robinson and George Bello into the Big Apple.

Also in action:

Manchester City v Club Brugge, 4p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Expect Zack Steffen on City’s bench; Owen Otasowie hasn’t dressed for Brugge in 6 weeks.

CF Montréal v Houston Dynamo, 7:30p on ESPN+: Djordje Mihailovic and Montréal haven’t scored in their last two outings.

Thursday

  • Brøndby v Rangers, 1:45p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Christian Cappis scored again at the weekend — he’s up to 5g 1a in less than 800 minutes for Brøndby.
  • Galatasaray v Lokomotiv Moscow, 1:45p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: DeAndre Yedlin and Galatasaray have a 3-point cushion atop Group E in Europa.
  • Genk v West Ham, 1:45p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Mark McKenzie and Genk sit bottom of Group H in Europa, and West Ham have 9 points from 3 games.
  • Antwerp v Fenerbahçe, 4p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Sam Vines and Antwerp have just 1 point from 3 Europa games.
  • Marseille v Lazio, Europa, 4p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Konrad de la Fuente and Marseille could jump to second in Group E with a win.
  • Ferencváros v Celtic FC, 4p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Cameron Carter-Vickers’ Celtic and Henry Wingo’s Ferencváros have a sizeable distance to cover to catch group leaders Leverkusen and Betis.

Also in action:

  • Monaco v PSV, 1:45p on Paramount+, Galavision, fuboTV, Sling TV, TUDN.com: Richie Ledezma is back in training, but hasn’t seen the field for PSV since his ACL injury.
  • Olympiacos v Eintracht Frankfurt, 1:45p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Timmy Chandler and Frankfurt are top of Group D in the Europe League.
  • Omonia Nicosia v Basel, 1:45p Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Mix Diskerud and Omonia host Basel in Conference League play.
  • AS Roma v Bodø/Glimt, 4p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Bryan Reynolds and Roma trail Bodø/Glimt by one point for the lead in Group C of the Conference League.
  • Slavia Prague v Maccabi Haifa, 4p: Josh Cohen and Maccabi Haifa are second in Group E of the Conference League.
  • Ibiza v Tenerife, 4:15p: Shaq Moore looks to have reclaimed his spot at Tenerife, starting two games over the course of the past week.
  • Pumas UNAM v Santos Laguna, 10p on TUDN, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Sebastian Saucedo has 1 goal and 1 assist in 721 minutes for Pumas in the Apertura.
  • Atlas v Querétaro, 11p on TUDN, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Bryan Olivera scored his first Liga MX goal for Querétaro last week.

 

Champions League

Champions League midway review: Barcelona, Leipzig in trouble; Ajax, Liverpool surging

Chelsea boost: Pulisic available for UCL return

Pep: Brugge ‘much more important’ than Man Utd

Messi misery continues: PSG star injured again

Ole warns Man Utd squad: Team over individual

Pique overtakes Ramos to top list of UCL’s goal-scoring defenders

There’s the journey, and there’s the destination. For a sport dominated by haves and have-nots — so, most sports — we generally understand that the winner of a league or tournament is going to come from a select minority of teams. But in instances in which the destination is predictable, or even a bit boring, the journey can entertain us all the same.

A good Champions League group stage probably isn’t going to change the destination all that much, and the current iteration of the tournament certainly hasn’t: At the beginning of the tournament, the top four favorites per FiveThirtyEight were Manchester CityBayern MunichChelsea and Liverpool, respectively, and two months later, it’s Bayern, City and Liverpool, with Chelsea having plummeted all the way to … fifth.

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But the journey has been fun. Sheriff Tiraspol, of tiny Moldova (or really, the even tinier Transnistria), eked out a qualification win over former champion Crvena Zvezda on the way to the group stage and immediately won against both Shakhtar Donetsk at home and mighty Real Madrid on the road. Manchester United have won two matches and lost one via clutch, late goals. Liverpool has won a pair of 3-2 classics. The Benfica vs. PSV Eindhoven playoff battle was epic, too.

Whose odds have shrunk the mostRB Leipzig: The good news for RBL and manager Jesse Marsch is that it seems like the tide has turned a bit. The Red Bulls took only four points from their first five Bundesliga matches and started their Champions League campaign by giving up six goals to Manchester City and losing at home to Club Brugge. Since then, however, they’ve taken 11 points from five domestic matches, and in their last UCL match they led PSG with 25 minutes left in the Parc de Princes.

Of course, they still lost to PSG, and they’re still sitting at zero points. Per FiveThirtyEight, their odds of advancing to the knockout rounds for the third straight season have fallen from 57% at the start of the tournament to 3% now. They could potentially benefit from making a Europa League run, but they have to make up four points on Club Brugge just to reach third place and qualify for Europa. The poor start was awfully costly even if RBL looks like RBL again from here.

https://a.espncdn.com/combiner/i?img=/i/teamlogos/soccer/500-dark/103.png&w=126&site=espnfcAC Milan: Milan has certainly given a better account of itself than RBL, but the Rossoneri find themselves with zero points all the same. They led Liverpool at halftime in Anfield, but allowed two second-half goals to fall, 3-2. They led Atletico at home, but allowed an Antoine Griezmann goal in the 84th minute and fell via a Luis Suarez penalty in the seventh minute of injury time. They were tied with Porto until a Louis Diaz goal in the 65th minute. Their odds of advancing have withered from 32% in August to 4% now.

This has been a disappointing run, if not a particularly discouraging one. They’re tied atop Serie A with a torrid Napoli, having dropped only two points in 11 league matches. A young core roster — midfielders Sandro Tonali (21) and Franck Kessie (24), defenders Davide Calabria (24), Fikayo Tomori (23) and Theo Hernandez (24) and attackers Rafael Leao (22) and Brahim Diaz (22) — has paired well with veterans like Olivier Giroud and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and they’ve played well despite a run of injuries. If there are only three matches left in their continental journey, they could spin that as an opportunity to focus on winning Serie A instead.Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

https://a.espncdn.com/combiner/i?img=/i/teamlogos/soccer/500-dark/83.png&w=126&site=espnfcBarcelona: Stuck between a veteran-heavy salvage job and a financially driven youth movement, Barcelona have been aimless thus far. They fired manager Ronald Koeman last week after a run of just three wins in 10 matches, and they stand in ninth place in La Liga following a weekend draw with 14th-place Deportivo Alaves. And they’re playing catch-up in the Champions League after matching 3-0 defeats against Bayern and Benfica to start group play.

Their 1-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv kept the door open — their odds of advancing remain at 50% (down from 77% at the start), but they’ve got another must-win in Kyiv on Tuesday. Lose, and they’re likely playing for third place and a shot at a Europa League run, which, honestly, wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for their young pieces — healthy-again winger Ansu Fati (18), midfielders Pedri (18), Gavi (17) and Nico Gonzalez (19), fullback Sergino Dest (20), defenders Ronald Araujo (22), Oscar Mingueza (22) and Eric Garcia (20), etc. But years of sketchy decision-making and a financial crisis off the pitch have very much caught up to the club on it.

https://a.espncdn.com/combiner/i?img=/i/teamlogos/soccer/500-dark/2250.png&w=126&site=espnfcSporting CP: With a strong, defensive identity and solid continuity from last season’s Primeira Liga title run — the club’s first in 19 seasons — it wasn’t hard to see Ruben Amorim’s Sporting as a potential contender in Group C, a worthy foil to attacking Ajax and Borussia Dortmund squads. But they got run over by Ajax, 5-1 at home, in the opening match and suffered a frustrating 1-0 defeat at Dortmund. A win over Besiktas kept hope alive and their league form remains fantastic (they’re unbeaten and only trail Porto atop the table by goal differential), but their odds of advancing to the knockouts have still fallen from 42% to 16%.

This is another team that could benefit from a Europa League run, and the Leoes are well-positioned to land there. And hey, maybe keeping bigger clubs off of Amorim’s scent for a bit longer — the 36-year-old has been phenomenal since taking over in March 2020 — is worth a momentary setback.

Zenit Saint Petersburg: It’s been six years since Zenit topped Gent, Valencia and Lyon and won Group H. Since then, no Russian team has advanced to the knockout rounds, and only one (CSKA in 2017-18) has managed more than seven points in group play. With a second win over Malmo, Zenit would reach six points, at least, but 1-0 losses to Juventus and Chelsea have dropped their odds of advancing from 32% to 7%.

Defense hasn’t been an issue, at least. Zenit has allowed just two goals and matched both Juve and Chelsea blow-for-blow. But blown chances from veterans Artem Dzyuba and Yaroslav Rakitskiy and newcomer Claudinho left them with an uphill climb over the next three matches.

Whose odds have improved the most?

https://a.espncdn.com/combiner/i?img=/i/teamlogos/soccer/500-dark/160.png&w=126&site=espnfcPSG: After a disappointing opening performance, PSG has navigated the Group of Death. They drew with Club Brugge on September 15 but put themselves in great position to advance with home wins over Manchester City (2-0) and RBL (3-2). Return trips to Manchester and Leipzig won’t be easy, but after starting out with just 54% odds of advancing, they’re now at 92%.

Let’s be honest: PSG have been uninspiring as a whole this season. They’ve been quite successful, mind you, losing only once in Ligue 1 play, and after losing the league title to Lille, they’re eight points clear of the field and repositioned to cruise to an easy win. Plus they beat Manchester City 2-0 and lead the Very Difficult Group! That’s clearly great.

But when a team adds Lionel Messi to an attack that already featured Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, visions of transcendence and wizardry fill the mind. Instead, we’ve seen cautious tactics, bare-minimum results and a general roster imbalance. Thanks to both injuries and load management, the transcendent trio above has only played together six times, winning just three of the six and scoring just 11 goals. PSG has enjoyed isolated moments of individual brilliance and if they ever click, it could be reminiscent of the 2015 Barca team that featured peak or near-peak versions of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez. With that team, you could see goals coming six passes in advance.

For anyone with memories of that Barca squad, witnessing general, functional competence from PSG and watching them do just enough… that’s not what anyone signed up for from the most expensive attacking line of all time. They’re suffering from the weight of expectation, but they still have time to live up to it.

2dESPN

https://a.espncdn.com/combiner/i?img=/i/teamlogos/soccer/500-dark/2790.png&w=126&site=espnfcRB Salzburg: At this point last season, Salzburg had dropped 11 points in 12 league matches — in a race they’d eventually win with ease — and had generated one point through three Champions League affairs, giving both Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich hell before running out of gas in the last 15 minutes. This time around, they’ve dropped only four points in 12 league matches, and they’ve taken seven points from three Champions League matches (in an admittedly much easier group). They lost forward Patson Daka to Leicester City, midfielder Enock Mwepu to Brighton and manager Jesse Marsch to RB Leipzig… and got better?

After wins over both Lille and Wolfsburg, their odds of advancing to the knockout rounds have increased from 56% at the start of the year to 92% now. Teenage forward Karim Adeyemi has erupted (18-year-old Benjamin Sesko has been excellent in league play, too), and before Saturday’s draw with Ried, Salzburg had briefly risen to 15th in FiveThirtyEight’s club rankings, ahead of Juventus and La Liga-leading Real Sociedad and barely behind Manchester United. They remain 18th, pretty incredible for a team from the Other Bundesliga.

https://a.espncdn.com/combiner/i?img=/i/teamlogos/soccer/500-dark/111.png&w=126&site=espnfcJuventus: After winning nine consecutive Serie A titles, Juve finished fourth in the league last season, salvaging a Champions League bid by a single point, and fired rookie manager Andrea Pirlo in favor of a more seasoned coach: Max Allegri, who had been responsible for five of those Scudettos and Juve’s last great Champions League runs (they were runners up in 2015 and 2017).

In league play, this move hasn’t even slightly paid off. After Saturday’s loss at Hellas Verona, they stand in 10th place, four points outside the top four and 16 points behind Napoli and Milan atop the table. They have already all but clinched a second year Scudetto-free, but they have handled their business in the Champions League, at least. With 1-0 wins over both Chelsea and Zenit, they stand in first place in Group H and despite underwhelming overall form, their odds of advancing have improved from 71% in August to 97% t

Ajax: Ajax is on a spectacular run of form at the moment. They’ve won six Eredivisie matches by at least three goals thus far, and after getting smoked by a torrid PSV Eindhoven, 5-0, in the Johan Cruyff Shield back in early August, they repaid the favor with a 5-0 league win on Oct. 24.

But this isn’t about Ajax in the Eredivisie: they almost always dominate their league. No, this is about Ajax beating its first three Champions League opponents by a combined 11-1. They torched Sporting 5-1 in Lisbon in mid-September, then made Borussia Dortmund look tired and slow for 90 minutes in a 4-0 win in mid-October. Sebastien Haller has scored six goals in three UCL matches and 13 in all competitions, while Dusan Tadic and Steven Berghuis have combined for 10 more goals and 17 assists (all comps) as well.

While superclubs mostly just pass managers back and forth to each other, searching for super-club experience instead of actual potential, Ajax has managed to hold onto Erik Ten Hag for nearly four years. He led the club to the Champions League semifinals in 2019, and this year’s squad has already nearly clinched advancement to the knockout rounds. Not only that, but FiveThirtyEight also gives them the fourth-best odds of winning the entire tournament — 10%, behind only Bayern, Manchester City and Liverpool. Even by the standards of a four-time European champion, the team is on a high ebb right now.

https://a.espncdn.com/combiner/i?img=/i/teamlogos/soccer/500-dark/364.png&w=126&site=espnfcLiverpool: It hasn’t been easy, but the Reds have handled their business thus far in Champions League play. They torched Porto, 5-1 on the road, but they needed two second-half goals to beat Milan 3-2, and they needed an Antoine Griezmann red card and a late Mo Salah penalty to win 3-2 at Atletico Madrid. Their nine points have taken them to the brink of advancement — their odds of doing so have increased from 77% in August to over 99% today.

A home win over Atletico on Wednesday would clinch Liverpool’s spot in the next round and potentially clinch a Group B win depending on the Porto-Milan result. That would be huge for a team that is navigating both Premier League and Champions League title pushes with a midfield light on depth. They’ve enjoyed better injuries luck than they did last year (if only because last year’s luck was so terrible), but any opportunity to rest a key player or two would be welcome.

Can Sheriff do it?

The five teams above have seen their odds of advancement improve the most. Did I forget to mention Sheriff Tiraspol, the Cinderella of the tournament and first-place team in Group D? Nope. As the team with by far the worst FiveThirtyEight rating heading into the tournament, the Moldovan champions had to advance through four qualification rounds just to reach the main field of teams, and they started the group stage with just a 2% chance of advancing.

Stirring wins over Shakhtar and Real Madrid have indeed put them atop Group D despite a loss to Inter, but they still have their work cut out for them. FiveThirtyEight gives them just a 23% chance of advancing — a major improvement, but not quite as much as the teams above — and a 67% chance of finishing third in the group.

They’ll need at least one more big upset to get the job done, in other words. Inter visits Sheriff Stadium on Wednesday, and Real Madrid does the same in three weeks. Winning one of these two (or taking a point or two while winning at Shakhtar in December) could get them close to the finish line. And honestly, it isn’t out of the question. They check a lot of “Sturdy Underdog” boxes — goalkeeper Giorgos Athanasiadis has been brilliant, their midfield has been excellent at progressing the ball into dangerous areas, Sebastien Thill has proven capable of long-range magic, and Adama Traore, hero of qualification, gives them particular quality up front.

“Your goalkeeper stands on his head, and your attackers make the most of just a few chances” has won plenty of matches through the years. Sheriff needs it to work one or two more times.

This week’s most important matches

5. Ajax at Borussia Dortmund (Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET). This one’s big for BVB for a couple of different reasons. For one thing, a Dortmund loss paired with a Sporting CP win over Besiktas would leave them tied at six points each and put BVB’s advancement hopes at risk. For another, Ajax really did wipe the floor with them in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago, and a quick rebound would do a lot for overall perceptions and confidence. Either way, an extremely banged up BVB squad producing a result against one of the hottest teams in Europe is a tall ask.

4. Atletico Madrid at Liverpool (Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET). Atletico took only one combined point at home against Liverpool and Porto and finds itself tied for second with Porto at four points at the halfway mark. A huge trip to Portugal looms, but stealing a point at Anfield would be huge. Is Liverpool wobbly after a frustrating home draw with Brighton on Saturday?

3. Manchester United at Atalanta (Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET). Late-game heroics have put United in first place at the turn, but their overall mediocre form means they aren’t exactly safe just yet. Atalanta isn’t exactly hot either — three wins in their last eight matches — but has the identity United seems to lack. Can they build another early lead and finish the job this time?

2. Inter Milan at FC Sheriff (Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET). Sheriff’s work is far from done, and Inter comes to town in strong form, having lost just once in their last 10 overall matches. Is there more underdog magic in the cards, or will Nicolo BarellaEdin Dzeko and company have too much?

1. Barcelona at Dynamo Kyiv (Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET). This is nearly a do-or-die moment for Barca, their best remaining chance at three points. Win, and they could have a chance at locking up advancement with a win over Benfica in a few weeks. Lose, and they need a miracle. They beat Dynamo 1-0 at home a couple of weeks ago, but they haven’t won a match on the road since May. All in all, a huge moment for interim manager Sergi Barjuan.

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10/22/21   Indy 11 Final Home Game Sat 7 pm, CHS teams advance to Semi-State in Nashville Sat, Carli Lloyd’s Final Game Tues FS1, Champions League Theatrics

Indy 11 face Final home Game Sat 7 pm vs Tulsa on TV 23

Indy Eleven played one of their better games as home last weekend as they took down Louisville 1-0 behind USL Player of the Week Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr’s 5 saves.  Jordan Farr Won USL Save of the Week.  The 11 took the series title for the first time in years.  Indy Eleven will finish out its home campaign at Carroll Stadium this Saturday, Oct. 23, with the club’s annual Fan Appreciation Night contest against FC Tulsa, presented by your Central Indiana Honda Dealers. Tickets for the 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff can be secured by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100 during regular business hours, while fans who cannot make it to “The Mike” can follow the action live on MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM / exitos943.com (in Spanish.  GK – Jordan Farr, Indy Eleven: Jordan Farr recorded a five-save shutout and a -1.90 Expected Goals Differential to keep Indy in the game against Louisville City FC before a late goal earned the hosts a 1-0 victory and the season series in the LIPAFC against their biggest rivals at Michael A. Carroll Stadium.

High School –  CHS Boys & Girls Advance to Semi-States in Nashville Sat

The #3 Ranked Carmel High Girls defeated East Central 1-0 last weekend at home behind Megan Hamm’s goal to the Semi State Semi-State Finals Saturday in Seymore vs Bloomington South at 5 pm.  The Carmel Boys defeated Cathedral 3-0 at home to advance to the Semi-State Championships at 3 pm on Saturday at Seymore vs Castle.   Tickets for the games are $10 and available here.  Tickets must be purchased online as they will not be on sale at the gate.  Good luck to both Carmel teams, our former Carmel FC players and coach Shane Schmidt and Coach Frank Dixon. 

The Ole Ballcoach is desperately looking for Mexico vs USA tickets next month in Cincy – if you have a line on tickets please let me know.  1, 2, 3, 4 tickets – willing to pay over price

Champions League Theatrics

Man Champions League never ceases to deliver – when the best clubs in the world match up – the best in the world step up.  The best game of Matchday 4 was Liverpool’s thrilling 3-2 win at Atletico Madrid as Mo Salah scored a brace for Liverpool in the controversial win.  Meanwhile Man United needed the Champions League’s leading scorer Christian Renaldo’s late dramatics to cap a thrilling 3-2 comeback win over Atalanta at Old Trafford.  PSG outlasted Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig as they got some questionable PK calls to help them to a 3-2 comeback win at home.  Finally Brendan Aaronson and Salzburg outlasted Wolfsburg and US Centerback John Brooks – 3-1. 

US Ladies Tied Korea 0-0 Play again Tues Night 8 pm on FS1 – Carli Lloyd’s Last Game

Interesting so there were some really exciting moments on Thurs night as the US  failed to win on home soil for the first time as they tied South Korea 0-0 in Kansas City.  Korea is a top 20 unilike the crap teams the US ladies tend to schedule for home friendlies.  Nice to see an actual game for a change – funny when we don’t play patsy’s we look just ok.  The US had a boatload of shots but none of them really good as the Korean GK had little trouble keeping the clean sheet vs a mix of young and old for the US.  Interesting that the starters went with Morgan up front with Heath and Rapinoe on the wings – the combo while they had shots – could not muster a goal in the 1st half.  The final 30 minutes had Carli Lloyd enter along with the impressive Smith and Mallory Pugh on the wings.  Again the youngsters provided some of the finest moments but they could not provide the winner as the US tied at home for the first time in 22 games.    The ladies will have a replay on Tuesday night at 8 pm on FS1 – on Carli Lloyd’s final game in a US Jersey.  I look for her to start and score as the US will certainly return with a win on Tuesday. 

US Ladies Roster

GOALKEEPERS (2): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 6), Adrianna Franch (Kansas City NWSL; 9)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash; 76/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 41/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville; 4/0), Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars; 36/0), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 147/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 195/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 60/0)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 104/23), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 64/16), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 10/3), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 30/4), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 19/2)

FORWARDS (7): Tobin Heath (Arsenal, ENG; 179/36), Carli Lloyd (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 314/134), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 188/114), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 65/18), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 185/61), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 8/1), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 42/13)

Big Games

El Classico will be played on ESPN Sunday at 10:15 am ESPN plus of course – as Barcelona and American Sergino Dest host Real Madrid.  Over 100 million are expected to watch.  Following el Classico is the English equivalent as Liverpool will travel to Old Trafford at 11:30 am on Sunday on NBCSN to play Manchester United and Christiano Renaldo fresh of their come from behind Champions League win Wed.   Later Sunday Inter will travel to Juventus as Weston McKinney looks to help the old lady win on the road at the Italian leaders at 2:45 pm on ESPN+.   

Next Friday Tim Weah and Lille will travel to PSG to face Messi and crew at 3 pm on beIN Sport.    

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Sat 10/23   (American’s in Parenthesis)

7:30 am NBCSN           Chelsea vs Norwich City (Stewart)

930 am ESPN+             Bayern Munich vs Hoffenhiem

9:30 am ESPN+            RB Liepzig (Adams) vs Furth

10 am NBCSN               Leeds vs Wolverhampton

12:30 NBC                    Brighton vs Man City 

3:30 pm TDUN             Seattle Sounders vs Sporting KC    

7 pm ESPN+ TV23        Indy II vs Tulsa

10:30 pm Univision     LA Galaxy vs Dallas

Sun 10/24  

9 am NBCSN                 West Ham vs NewCastle United

10:15 am ESPN+          Barcelona (Dest) vs Real Madrid EL CLASSICO

11:30 am Telemundo Man United vs Liverpool     

12 noon CBSSN            Roma vs Napoli  

2:45 pm CBSSN, P+ +  Inter vs Juventus (McKennie)

2:45 pm beIn Sport     Marseille vs PSG

5 pm ESPN                    Austin vs Houston

7:30 pm FS1                 Orlando City vs New England

Tues 10/26   

2:45 pm EPSN +           Chelsea vs Southampton League Cup

8 pm FS1                      USA Women (Carli Lloyd last game) vs Korea  KC

10:30 pm ESPN            LAFC vs Seattle Sounders

Weds 10/27   

2:45 pm ESPN+            Stoke City vs Brentford  League Cup

2:45 pm ESPN+            Westham vs Man City (Steffan GK) League Cup

8:30 pm FS1                 Sporting KC vs LA Galaxy MLS #2 vs #3

Thurs 10/28   

7:30 pm Paramount + Racing Louisville vs NY/NJ Gotham FC NWSL

Fri 10/29   

3 pm beIN Sport          PSG vs Lille (Weah)

Sat 10/30   

7:30 am NBCSN           Leicester City vs Arsenal

7:30 am NBCSN?         Tottenham vs Man United 

8 pm ESPN+                  Indy 11 @ Memphis  Last Game

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Our GK Jordan Farr Wins USL Save of the Week

INDY ELEVEN GOALKEEPER JORDAN FARR NAMED TO USL CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM OF THE WEEK FOR WEEK 26

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN 1 : 0 LOUISVILLE CITY FC – OCTOBER 16, 2021

INDY ELEVEN TO HOST WOMEN’S OPEN TRYOUTS FOR INAUGURAL USL W LEAGUE SQUAD DECEMBER 28-29

USL Playoff Projections

USL Standings  

US LADIES

Carli Lloyd: Competitor, Winner, Legend

October USWNT friendlies – USA 0-0 South Korea: 22 game home win streak ends By Parker Cleveland S&S
U.S. Women’s National Team draws 0-0 against Korea in Carli Lloyd’s Kansas City sendoff

International Friendly: USWNT, South Korea draw 0-0 in Kansas City

Carli Lloyd Final Games Roster – The 18

Sauerbrunn: ‘Heavy’ days amid NWSL fallout

U.S. Women’s National Team Extends Home Unbeaten Streak to 61 Matches in Front of Sellout Crowd With 0-0 Draw Against Korea Republic

US Men

USMNT Viewing Guide

Jesse Marsch is the closest thing to a Real Life Ted Lasso – Grant Wahl
Top 25 players in the USMNT pool right now

Goalkeepers

Our GK Jordan Farr Wins USL Save of the Week

Navas Making Saves vs Honduras

Champions League  

 UEFA Champions League: Juventus stays perfect; Chelsea, Barcelona win
Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool final score: Three things we learned as Salah, VAR star

Barca edge past Dynamo to revive Champions League hopes at half-empty Camp Nou

Champions League: Stars shine as Messi, Salah score twice in wins

‘Too naive’ – Leipzig rue costly mistakes in PSG defeat

Man Utd aren’t finished article yet says Pogba
Ronaldo again rides to Man Utd’s Champions League rescue

Liverpool defeat 10-man Atletico in five-goal thriller as Salah delivers 

Back to the future as Salah spearheads Liverpool’s revival

Romelu Lukaku injury update, Timo Werner news from Thomas Tuchel

Man City crush Brugge to re-energise Champions League push

Villarreal beat Young Boys to end long Champions League drought

Haller hits sixth Champions League goal as Ajax thrash Dortmund


World

 El Clasico preview: Everything you need to know about Barcelona vs. Real Madrid  1dSam Marsden, Alex Kirkland
Barcelona, Real Madrid combine present and future in Clasico of fallen giants

Barcelona, Real Madrid and El Clasico: The people who made it the biggest match in soccer
  
N
NBC’s ‘Premier League Mornings Live’ will be live at Coliseum this weekend

Can Man United ruin Liverpool’s unbeaten record? 

English Premier League betting preview: Can Manchester United beat Liverpool at home?
Steve Bruce leaves Newcastle by ‘mutual consent’ after takeover

Premier League player Power Rankings

Mendi Saves Chelsea vs Brentford

MLS / NWSL

Red Bulls, MLS Youth Programs Producing Stars and New Revenues
Orlando Pride owner Mark Wilf pledges commitment to change amid NWSL upheaval
Alex Morgan: Investment must coincide with biennial World Cup plan

International Friendly: USWNT, South Korea draw 0-0 in Kansas City

Alex Azzi

Thu, October 21, 2021, 11:03 PMThe opportunities were there, but the goals were not.On Thursday night in Kansas City, the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) and South Korea played to a 1-1 draw. It marked the third game in the USWNT’s post-Olympic victory tour and the penultimate game of Carli Lloyd‘s USWNT career.The U.S. controlled the game, outshooting South Korea 19-8 and maintaining possession for nearly two-thirds of the game.South Korean goalie Yoon Young-Geul had an excellent showing, which included multiple clutch saves in the dying minutes of the match.“Today she was their best player,” U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “It was good for us that we created those opportunities. If it takes something like the saves she had in the game, so be it. That’s all we can do.”The draw snapped a 22-match home soil win streak for the U.S. The Americans were one win away from matching the longest home streak in team history, set from April 1993 to February 1996. They are still unbeaten in their last 61 matches at home, which includes 55 wins and six draws.

One drought also nearly came to an end in Kansas City. In the 46th minute, Becky Sauerbrunn came close to scoring the first goal of her USWNT career. Currently at 196 caps, Sauerbrunn is nearing the USWNT record for most caps without scoring. (The current record, 202, is held by goalkeeper Hope Solo.)

U.S. Women’s National Team draws 0-0 against Korea in Carli Lloyd’s Kansas City sendoff

U.S. Women’s National Team draws 0-0 against Korea in Carli Lloyd’s Kansas City sendoff

Shaun Goodwin

Thu, October 21, 2021, 10:27 PM

Diving to her right, A.D. Franch pushed away a screaming half-volley toward the bottom corner of her goal. The shot initially deflected, she sprang back up and cradled the bobbling ball.The Kansas City chapter of the American Outlaws roared approval from the north stand of Children’s Mercy Park — territory usually occupied by Sporting KC’s supporters’ section, the Cauldron.For the American Outlaws, the avid supporters group that follows the U.S. national soccer teams to matches around the country, it was a chance to cheer their keeper’s save — for Franch, her first official save in her first hometown start for the U.S. Women’s National Team.- Franch, who hails from Salina, Kansas, and plays for the KC NWSL club, earned the start and drew cheers throughout her performance as the USWNT tied the Korea Republic 0-0 Thursday night.“KC showed up as I expected them to, and hopefully that continues for the women’s game and KC WoSo right now,” Franch said. “That’s what we want in this city as we’re continuing to try to get a (World Cup) bid here in the city. I think it’s important to recognize that the fans are here and this city is something special to play for and I’m excited to be here to do that.”The tie extended a 61-game unbeaten home streak for the U.S.Franch made just the one save, in the 35th minute on a shot by Sel-Gi Jang, but it was the only one required of her. Korea never mounted much of an attack on the American goal.The game also marked a special first for USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski, who directed a national team game in his hometown of Kansas City for the first time.“I feel like anywhere I turned, I knew someone,” Andonovski said. “It was good and I’m glad I put up a good show. I just wish that we paid this wonderful crowd back with a good win, but I promise next time we come back here we’ll score a few goals.”The final score was no doubt closer than he would’ve liked against an opponent ranked 18th in the world. But a USWNT starting front line that featured such U.S. heroes as Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan was unable to break down the stout Korean defense.“These are the type of opponents and games that we’re looking forward to playing because they create different challenges and multiple challenges throughout the game,” Andonovski said. “It will take the best of us to solve the challenges and overcome them.”Most of the Americans’ pressure on Korea’ came from the U.S. midfield, especially from Lindsey Horan, who was honored for making her 100th national team appearance before the game.. At one point she sent a 20-yard curler off the left post; six minutes later her close-range header was saved by goalkeeper Young-Guel Yoon.Both Heath and Rapinoe were replaced at halftime by the USWNT “new guard” of Sophia Smith and Mallory Pugh. Fifteen minutes into the second half, Morgan, too, was subbed out in favor of Carli Lloyd, who played in her penultimate game for the U.S. She has announced that she’ll retire at season’s end.

The decision to take Rapinoe and Heath out of the game was pre-planned, Andonovski said. Heath was coming off a weekend game with her club team, Arsenal, while Rapinoe is still working her way back from an injury.Smith added an exciting dimension to the U.S. front line with an aggressive and attack-minded edge.“She’s a lot more offensive-minded and more direct with her runs, and more specific with her runs, and we’ve seen that ever since she came in,” Andonovski said.While Andonovski treated the game as more than just a retirement tour for Lloyd, many among the sellout crowd of 18,467 came to see Lloyd play here one last time. That much was evident in the roar that arose when she entered the game and every time she touched the ball near the Korea box.

The 39-year-old forward had an excellent chance in the 76th minute, but it was saved by Yoon.The USWNT’s second-half trio of attackers — Smith and Pugh, in particular — looked more creative than their first-half predecessors. But they were no more successful in manufacturing a winning goal for the KC crowd.“Our final product was poor and I think we could have done better,” Horan said. “My header was crap. But still, credit to her (Yoon, the Korea Republic keeper).“I kind of look at our team and think that there were some final passes that we could have gotten on the end on, but she did a great job today.”The USWNT can make amends Tuesday against Korea in St. Paul, Minnesota. That game will be Lloyd’s 316th and final game for her country.

USMNT weekend viewing guide: major matchups

el Classico is a headliner and we have American matchups throughout Europe

By jcksnftsn  Oct 22, 2021, 8:33am PDT It’s a fantastically full weekend with matchups around Europe that include Americans going head to head, or making appearances in major European clashes such as Inter Milan v Juventus and Barcelona meeting Real Madrid in the latest edition of El Clasico. Let’s jump straight to Saturday which is when the action begins.

Saturday

RB Leipzig v Greuther Furth – 9:30a on ESPN+

Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig will look to bounce back from a painful loss to PSG in mid-week Champions League play when they face Julian Green and a Greuther Furth team that looks destined for relegation.After giving up an early goal to Kylian Mbappe, Leipzig had pulled back and taken a 2-1 lead in Paris and looked on track for what could have been a signature with for Jesse Marsch’s club. However, they would see it slip away when Tyler Adams misplayed a ball while under pressure (possibly being fouled) and had it land right at the feet of Mbappe who would feed Messi for the tying goal. Minutes later PSG would take the lead on a Messi penalty.Things should be significantly easier for Leipzig this weekend as they face a Furth side with one draw and seven losses in their first eight matches. Obviously they don’t want to completely overlook them as dropped points to a team of that level would be devastating to a Leipzig currently tied for eighth place and hoping to compete for a top of the table position but this matchup might be an opportunity to rest some players who have already seen a high number of minutes across multiple competitions this season.

Julian Green has struggled to make an impact for Greuther Furth in their Bundesliga campaign and the club has seen any hopes of avoiding relegation slip away as quickly as imaginable. Green is still looking for his first goal contribution on the season and has just over 100’ in the teams past four matches, having failed to make it off the bench in two of those contests.

Other notes:

  • A potential matchup in the EPL will have to be put on hold as injury will keep Christian Pulisic out of Chelsea’s match with Norwich City and Josh Sargent. The clubs face off at 7:30a on NBCSN.
  • It’s an American matchup in Spain that can be seen on ESPN2 as Yunus Musah and Valencia face Matthew Hoppe’s Mallorca. Musah saw 15’ off the bench last weekend against Barcelona after starting the previous two matches for Valencia. However, the potential matchup could be ruined by Hoppe’s failure to appear, he has not seen the field in the past month and was not included in last weekends squad. The matchup will take place at 8a Saturday morning.
  • Zack Steffen received his first EPL start with Manchester City last weekend and looked solid in the teams 2-0 win over Burnley. However, Ederson was available for the clubs midweek thumping of Club Brugge and will resume his role barring injury. Man City face Brighton and Hove Albion at 12:30p on NBC.
  • The Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City face off in a battle for the Western Conference. Currently Kansas City trail by six points but they have a game in hand so a head to head win over Seattle would give them the opportunity to pull even. The match will be at 2:30p on Univision and TUDN.
  • The LA Galaxy and FC Dallas meet at 10p on Univision and TUDN so get on board the night train.

Streaming overseas:

  • John Brooks and Wolfsburg will look to get back on track when they face Freiburg at 9:30a on ESPN+. Wolfsburg have lost three straight Bundesliga matches and fell midweek to RB Salzburg in Champions League play as well.
  • Chris Richards will have a change to make a first hand impression with his parent club when Hoffenheim face Bayern Munich at 9:30a on EPSN+.
  • Giovanni Reyna remains out amid concerns that he may be out through the November international window as well. Borussia Dortmund face Arminia Bielefeld at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Matt Miazga and Deportivo Alaves face Cadiz at 10:!5a on ESPN+. Miazga has started the last three matches for Alaves.
  • Gianlucca Busio and Venezia have pulled themselves up to 15th place on five points from their last three matches and now face fourteenth place Sassuolo. The club is still just two points out of the relegation zone but if they are able to build on this strong run they will be in good position.
  • Fightin’ Joe Scally and Borussia Monchengladbach face Hertha Berlin at 12:30p on ESPN+. After a slow start to the season Gladbach have pulled themselves up to 10th place and solidly middle of the table.
  • Timothy Weah and Lille take on Brest at 3p on Fanatiz USA and beIN Sports. Lille lost last weekend to Clermont Foot and are still trying to find their bearings in their campaign to defend last seasons title.

MLS Mashup (all games on ESPN+):

Sunday

Barcelona v Real Madrid – 10:15a on ESPN+

It’s an El Clasico matchup between Barcelona and Real Madrid and everybody is asking one question: does Sergino Dest have a new position? The American right back has been starting on the wing for Barcelona, most recently in their 1-0 Champions League victory over Dynamo Kiev though he did shift back to his more traditional RB role midway through the game. Dest also started at RW last weekend in the teams 3-1 win over Valencia and picked up an assist on the final goal.

Barcelona come into their first meeting of the season with Real Madrid five points out of first place and two points behind a cluster of teams that are currently in second including Real and Atletico. The matchup has not been kind to Barcelona recently, they are looking for their first head-to-head win since 2019 and have lost three straight.

Other notes:

  • Bryan Reynolds finally made the field for Roma but it was in a 6-1 Europa Conference League play thumping at the hands of Bodo/Glimt and he has not sniffed the field regularly in league play so it seems unlikely we will see him Sunday when Roma face Napoli at Noon on CBSSN.
  • Weston McKennie looks to continue his solid form as Juventus face Inter Milan at 2:45p on CBSSN.
  • Daryl Dike and Orlando City SC close out the weekend against Matt Turner and the New England Revolution at 7:30p on FS1.

Streaming overseas:

  • Nicolas Gioachinni at Montpellier face Monaco at 11a on Fanatiz USA and beIN Sports.
  • Timothy Chandler has suddenly started three straight matches for Eintracht Frankfurt who face Bochum at 1:30p on ESPN+.
  • Konrad de la Fuente and Olympique Marseille will get a shot at PSG at 2:45p on Fanatiz USA and beIN Sports. Marseille currently sit in third place, although already 10 points back of league leading PSG.

Champions League talking points: Liverpool make a statement; Barcelona, Real Madrid win ahead of Clasico

Oct 21, 2021ESPN

Matchday 3 of the Champions League group stage has been and gone, and there is plenty to discuss, from important wins for Barcelona and Real Madrid ahead of El Clasico, to an epic Manchester United comeback and struggles for several German teams.

We asked Rob Dawson, Alex Kirkland and Derek Rae to answer some big questions.

What caught your attention on Matchday 3?

Dawson: Liverpool‘s 3-2 win over Atletico Madrid was fantastic entertainment and put a dent in the argument that the Champions League group stages are dull. To go to the champions of Spain and win was a huge statement from Liverpool and they should be considered one of the favourites to lift the trophy.Kirkland: There were other eye-catching results for Spanish teams — Real Madrid’s 5-0 demolition of Shakhtar, Villarreal‘s 4-1 win at Young Boys — but yes, it’s hard to avoid Atletico’s perplexing loss to Liverpool. What do you make of a game where Atletico were dreadful for 20 minutes, unplayable for a long spell after that, and finally undone by a red card and a penalty? It was simultaneously encouraging and disappointing, and it feels like we’re still no closer to finding out exactly what they’re capable of this season.

Rae: As someone who focuses heavily on the Bundesliga, this was a bitterly disappointing midweek for German clubs. (Thank goodness for Bayern Munich, whose opener in the 4-0 win at Benfica from man-of-the-match Leroy Sane evoked Arjen Robben memories.)

I expected a hard game for Dortmund at Ajax, but could not have foreseen such an emphatic 4-0 clobbering. Meanwhile, Leipzig had good phases in the 3-2 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain, but they were undone by individual mistakes from which Tyler Adams and Mohamed Simakan must learn. Wolfsburg under Mark van Bommel are just a mess; after being outplayed by a youthful, vibrant Salzburg for a 3-1 defeat, they have gone seven without a win in all competitions.

Real Madrid and Barcelona won; which of the two gives you more optimism?

Kirkland: In terms of being Champions League contenders: neither. Madrid are stronger right now, but they’re still way off the likes of Bayern, Man City, Chelsea or Liverpool. The defence is significantly weaker without Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, and Carlo Ancelotti doesn’t feel like a coach for a rebuild.

Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona, meanwhile, are a zombie team: lurching on with a coach who should have been sacked by now, and would have been if an affordable replacement had been available. Barca’s kids are very exciting, but it’s much too soon to hope they can bring European success in the short term.

Rae: In the short term, Madrid have the greater upside. The squad is more seasoned and deeper, while the attack, with Karim Benzema playing some of his best football for years, is better than what Barca can muster. Meanwhile, Vinicius Jr.’s development is fascinating to watch and there is just a firmer base about Real.

But Barcelona might be a very different proposition in the coming years. The shoots of recovery are visible, especially with teenagers GaviPedri and a fit-again Ansu Fati. Barca are behind their rivals in most areas, but the La Masia academy represents the club’s biggest source of hope.

Dawson: Both are teams in transition but Real Madrid seem to be dealing with it far better than Barcelona. In Benzema they have got one of the best strikers in the world and they have the benefit of Ancelotti, who has seen it all before. This is not a vintage Madrid side by any stretch but they will fancy their chances of being in the hunt for trophies at the end of the season. Barcelona, meanwhile, look like they’re in survival mode and Koeman will be lucky to survive the season, never mind lift any silverware.

What do you think about technology use in the Champions League?

Rae: I do not see a huge difference regarding VAR use and that is probably not a surprise, given the leagues I cover most closely — Bundesliga and LaLiga — do not deviate much, if at all, from UEFA standards. England may be different.

What I would say is that hand signals after VAR decisions could do with work from some UEFA refs. For example, Romania’s Ovidiu Hategan managed to fool many a commentator and fan on the first disallowed Bayern goal against Benfica by apparently pointing to the centre spot. His signal for second disallowed goal was not significantly clearer!

Dawson: The implementation of VAR in the Premier League was bumpy to say the least but, in general, it has been a lot smoother this season. Purely from a spectator’s view, it has not seemed as streamlined in the Champions League this season. Fans don’t like delays to a game which should be free-flowing and the quicker VAR decisions are reached, the better for everyone.

Kirkland: There’s been endless VAR talk in Spain recently, with frustration over Kylian Mbappe‘s winning goal for France in the UEFA Nations League final. There was frustration here too at the role VAR played on Tuesday in denying Atletico a penalty and chance for an equaliser for Diogo Jota‘s challenge on Jose Maria Gimenez and how long the decision took, regardless of the merits. Overall though, the way VAR is used in Europe feels faster, more transparent and less intrusive than it does in LaLiga.

What is the best Champions League goal you have seen live?

Dawson: Nothing will top the drama of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winner against Bayern Munich in the 1999 final but the atmosphere inside Old Trafford after Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winner in injury time against Villarreal on Sept. 29 was a moment to make the hairs on your neck stand up. Fans have been locked out of stadiums for too long because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a lot of pent up emotion seemed to come flooding out when Ronaldo’s shot hit the net.

Kirkland: So many to choose from. Gabriel Batistuta’s rocket for Fiorentina at Wembley in October 1999 was special and Thierry Henry’s solo run at the Bernabeu in 2006 is hard to beat, given the circumstances. The other that has always stuck in my mind was Lionel Messi‘s first against Arsenal in March 2011. What he did — scooping the ball over hapless goalkeeper Manuel Almunia before finishing — was so good that you couldn’t tell what he’d done in real time. (The replays on the big screens at Camp Nou were greeted by awed ‘oooohs’ from the crowd).

Rae: I was not in Glasgow for Zinedine Zidane’s masterpiece in the 2002 final, so will go for a final goal I did see in the flesh. It is a strange one in some ways but I picked it because Messi says it is one of his all-time favourites and that is good enough for me.

The image of it stays in my mind to this day: With Barcelona 1-0 up in the 2009 final against Manchester United in Rome, Xavi’s superb ball was whipped in from the right and the 5-foot-7 superstar, then 22, jumped as high as I have ever seen him jump, before flinging himself at the ball, which looped over the helpless Edwin van der

In battle over biennial World Cups, FIFA isn’t the villain you think it is

Henry Bushnell Wed, October 20, 2021, 10:34 PM

Let’s begin with the obvious. FIFA, as full of it as ever, with customary disregard for women’s soccer, has launched a ruthless campaign to increase the frequency of World Cups. Its origins, supposedly, are a Saudi Arabian proposal, which led to a “feasibility study,” which has been dreadfully opaque. It’s clear, though, that no matter the feasibility, FIFA has decided that biennial World Cups would be desirable.So it enlisted soccer legends to shill for a plan woefully short on detail. They met resistance every step of the way, from players and FIFPro, the global players’ union; from managers and massive clubs; from many in the women’s game, who feel their World Cups would be overshadowed; and most of all, from the European soccer governing body, UEFA.UEFA, in a statement last week, blasted the plans yet again, saying they would “damage all forms of football, devalue the [World Cup] itself, disadvantage fans financially and stunt the development of women’s and youth football around the world.” It cited player health. It said that “any perceived attraction is shallow.” More tan a dozen European nations have reportedly considered splitting with FIFA, or boycotting the World Cup, if FIFA tries to force the changes through.Fans and Western media have largely sided with the Europeans, framing this intensifying fight as good vs. evil, as nobility vs. FIFA greed. And they have a point. The chief motive here is money. FIFA rakes in billions from the men’s World Cup. Playing it twice as often might devalue it long-term, but would immediately boost FIFA’s bottom line.This fight, though, is not good vs. evil. It’s a battle for control. It’s a global organization that represents the interests of global soccer vs. a European organization that represents the interests of European soccer. And the Europeans are winning. They’re tightening their grip on power. The biennial World Cup is FIFA’s desperate attempt to wrest some back.

FIFA vs. UEFA, greed vs. more greed

FIFA and UEFA are driven by a singular force. Each wants to organize games and tournaments between the world’s most popular soccer players. They want to sell sponsorships and broadcast rights to those games, and distribute profits among their members, who use the handouts to buy or develop more popular soccer players, whom FIFA or UEFA will eventually monetize too.And for a while now, UEFA has done this more often and more profitably than FIFA has. The global governing body reported $5.7 billion in revenue from 2015-2018. The European governing body, over that same period, made roughly $14.3 billion.UEFA is winning because its premier competition, the Champions League, runs annually, four times as frequently as FIFA’s. And because, although the entire world supplies the Champions League, only European clubs and associations benefit from it. All the best players from Asia, Africa and the Americas play for a handful of elite Western European teams. So the biggest companies from Asia, Africa and the Americas want to sponsor those teams, their games and the tournaments they contest.So the money flows, and the Europeans consolidate their power. Argentina, Senegal and South Korea develop players. European leagues, European clubs and European soccer federations (via UEFA) profit off those players. They turn profits into infrastructure that ensures future profits for themselves. Club owners — American billionaires, Russian oligarchs, Arab sheiks — pocket cash or goodwill along the way. The pattern, which reinforces itself, is backward at best, colonialist at worst, and the organization best positioned to disrupt it is … FIFA.

What FIFA posits, essentially, is that players developed by Argentina, Senegal and South Korea — or by Guatemala, Tanzania and Oman — should play more often in competitions organized by a governing body that represents those countries. And FIFA, for all its corruption, sleaziness and incompetence, still does that. It shares its revenue with all 211 member associations. Yes, it pays president Gianni Infantino and other privileged executives millions of dollars, and constantly undermines its own credibility. But it does funnel revenue from World Cups to Sri Lanka, and Uganda, and Dominica, funding soccer in countries where the resources of Western European life do not exist.Many of those countries crave a biennial World Cup because if FIFA’s revenue soars, theirs will too. FIFA’s solidarity payments are their main source of income, their youth players’ main source of opportunity. One-hundred sixty-six of them supported the “feasibility study.” If all or most of them were to vote in favor of the biennial plan at a special congress or the regularly scheduled FIFA Congress on March 31, the plan would become reality.European media have rued FIFA’s democratic structure, rightly pointing out that it gives no say to players. They’ve whined that it gives as much say to a country that wins World Cups as it does to one that will never sniff a prestigious tournament. But the latter isn’t inferior by choice. Many developing countries adore soccer. They simply struggle to build professional leagues or competitive national teams because countless decks have been stacked against them. Historical forces have diverted resources elsewhere. And now, a European-centric soccer system has left them behind.What UEFA posits is that the powerful men who rule that system should remain powerful. That the system produces entertaining soccer as is. That fans enjoy it, and players tolerate it, and money keeps rolling in. That the status quo is fine, and preferable to FIFA’s flawed plan.And in some ways, UEFA is right. Much of the pushback is legitimate. FIFA’s initial focus on the men’s game and neglect for the women’s game has, in some eyes, left the biennial concept doomed from the start.But UEFA’s mission here isn’t altruistic. It isn’t a soccer savior fighting a corrupt villain. It’s a four-letter acronym representing an establishment and fighting on behalf of its own members’ interests. You know, just like FIFA so often is.

Why the biennial World Cup battle will end in compromise

FIFA’s problem is that it can’t make this argument because the argument frames players as products rather than humans, and feeds suspicions that the fuel behind the plan is financial. Instead, FIFA has relied on empty logic and pleas about “the future of football,” because without more regular World Cups, apparently, according to Infantino, “football is risking to lose its appeal” among Gen Z. It also attempted to attach the biennial World Cup proposal to a rejiggering of the international match calendar, which is necessary and rational but mostly unrelated.The arguments were easy to rebut. And European powerbrokers have, relentlessly. Even the International Olympic Committee joined the resistance last weekend. This week, with the narrative largely controlled by European media, FIFA’s resolve began wavering. Rather than push for a vote in December, Infantino announced Wednesday that FIFA would hold a virtual “global summit” on Dec. 20 and “try to reach a consensus.”A consensus, of course, will never form around a biennial World Cup. CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, has also opposed the plan. And while it could technically be voted into bylaw without any European or South American support, the Europeans and South Americans could just as easily jump ship, arrange their own lucrative tournament, and detonate the World Cup’s appeal.All of which is why Infantino’s words at a 45-minute news conference Wednesday hinted at eventual compromise. “I’m here to unite,” he said, after acknowledging vehement criticism. “I’m not here to divide.”The path to common ground could be rocky. Collisions along the way could be explosive. They often are when two powerful, self-interested bodies clash. The result could be a global nations league, or a second, diluted quadrennial competition. UEFA’s power, though, which in some ways outweighs FIFA’s, should prevent a true biennial World Cup from materializing.That isn’t cause for celebration. It isn’t a win for the everyman over the powerful elite. In fact, if you squint, you could see it as the opposite. You could see FIFA, despite its sinful past and seedy present, as a voice of the voiceless, fighting to reclaim the world’s game on behalf of the world.“They all must be listened to,” Infantino said Wednesday of his 211 member associations. “And my role is exactly to listen to everyone, to listen to every side, to give a voice to those who are never heard.”

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10/22/21   Indy 11 Final Home Game Sat 7 pm, CHS teams advance to Semi-State in Nashville Sat, Carli Lloyd’s Final Game Tues FS1, Champions League Theatrics

Indy 11 face Final home Game Sat 7 pm vs Tulsa on TV 23

Indy Eleven played one of their better games as home last weekend as they took down Louisville 1-0 behind USL Player of the Week Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr’s 5 saves.  Jordan Farr Won USL Save of the Week.  The 11 took the series title for the first time in years.  Indy Eleven will finish out its home campaign at Carroll Stadium this Saturday, Oct. 23, with the club’s annual Fan Appreciation Night contest against FC Tulsa, presented by your Central Indiana Honda Dealers. Tickets for the 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff can be secured by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100 during regular business hours, while fans who cannot make it to “The Mike” can follow the action live on MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM / exitos943.com (in Spanish.  GK – Jordan Farr, Indy Eleven: Jordan Farr recorded a five-save shutout and a -1.90 Expected Goals Differential to keep Indy in the game against Louisville City FC before a late goal earned the hosts a 1-0 victory and the season series in the LIPAFC against their biggest rivals at Michael A. Carroll Stadium.

High School –  CHS Boys & Girls Advance to Semi-States in Nashville Sat

The #3 Ranked Carmel High Girls defeated East Central 1-0 last weekend at home behind Megan Hamm’s goal to the Semi State Semi-State Finals Saturday in Seymore vs Bloomington South at 5 pm.  The Carmel Boys defeated Cathedral 3-0 at home to advance to the Semi-State Championships at 3 pm on Saturday at Seymore vs Castle.   Tickets for the games are $10 and available here.  Tickets must be purchased online as they will not be on sale at the gate.  Good luck to both Carmel teams, our former Carmel FC players and coach Shane Schmidt and Coach Frank Dixon. 

The Ole Ballcoach is desperately looking for Mexico vs USA tickets next month in Cincy – if you have a line on tickets please let me know.  1, 2, 3, 4 tickets – willing to pay over price

Champions League Theatrics

Man Champions League never ceases to deliver – when the best clubs in the world match up – the best in the world step up.  The best game of Matchday 4 was Liverpool’s thrilling 3-2 win at Atletico Madrid as Mo Salah scored a brace for Liverpool in the controversial win.  Meanwhile Man United needed the Champions League’s leading scorer Christian Renaldo’s late dramatics to cap a thrilling 3-2 comeback win over Atalanta at Old Trafford.  PSG outlasted Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig as they got some questionable PK calls to help them to a 3-2 comeback win at home.  Finally Brendan Aaronson and Salzburg outlasted Wolfsburg and US Centerback John Brooks – 3-1. 

US Ladies Tied Korea 0-0 Play again Tues Night 8 pm on FS1 – Carli Lloyd’s Last Game

Interesting so there were some really exciting moments on Thurs night as the US  failed to win on home soil for the first time as they tied South Korea 0-0 in Kansas City.  Korea is a top 20 unilike the crap teams the US ladies tend to schedule for home friendlies.  Nice to see an actual game for a change – funny when we don’t play patsy’s we look just ok.  The US had a boatload of shots but none of them really good as the Korean GK had little trouble keeping the clean sheet vs a mix of young and old for the US.  Interesting that the starters went with Morgan up front with Heath and Rapinoe on the wings – the combo while they had shots – could not muster a goal in the 1st half.  The final 30 minutes had Carli Lloyd enter along with the impressive Smith and Mallory Pugh on the wings.  Again the youngsters provided some of the finest moments but they could not provide the winner as the US tied at home for the first time in 22 games.    The ladies will have a replay on Tuesday night at 8 pm on FS1 – on Carli Lloyd’s final game in a US Jersey.  I look for her to start and score as the US will certainly return with a win on Tuesday. 

US Ladies Roster

GOALKEEPERS (2): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 6), Adrianna Franch (Kansas City NWSL; 9)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash; 76/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 41/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville; 4/0), Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars; 36/0), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 147/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 195/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 60/0)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 104/23), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 64/16), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 10/3), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 30/4), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 19/2)

FORWARDS (7): Tobin Heath (Arsenal, ENG; 179/36), Carli Lloyd (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 314/134), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 188/114), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 65/18), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 185/61), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 8/1), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 42/13)

Big Games

El Classico will be played on ESPN Sunday at 10:15 am ESPN plus of course – as Barcelona and American Sergino Dest host Real Madrid.  Over 100 million are expected to watch.  Following el Classico is the English equivalent as Liverpool will travel to Old Trafford at 11:30 am on Sunday on NBCSN to play Manchester United and Christiano Renaldo fresh of their come from behind Champions League win Wed.   Later Sunday Inter will travel to Juventus as Weston McKinney looks to help the old lady win on the road at the Italian leaders at 2:45 pm on ESPN+.   

Next Friday Tim Weah and Lille will travel to PSG to face Messi and crew at 3 pm on beIN Sport.    

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Sat 10/23   (American’s in Parenthesis)

7:30 am NBCSN           Chelsea vs Norwich City (Stewart)

930 am ESPN+             Bayern Munich vs Hoffenhiem

9:30 am ESPN+            RB Liepzig (Adams) vs Furth

10 am NBCSN               Leeds vs Wolverhampton

12:30 NBC                    Brighton vs Man City 

3:30 pm TDUN             Seattle Sounders vs Sporting KC    

7 pm ESPN+ TV23        Indy II vs Tulsa

10:30 pm Univision     LA Galaxy vs Dallas

Sun 10/24  

9 am NBCSN                 West Ham vs NewCastle United

10:15 am ESPN+          Barcelona (Dest) vs Real Madrid EL CLASSICO

11:30 am Telemundo Man United vs Liverpool     

12 noon CBSSN            Roma vs Napoli  

2:45 pm CBSSN, P+ +  Inter vs Juventus (McKennie)

2:45 pm beIn Sport     Marseille vs PSG

5 pm ESPN                    Austin vs Houston

7:30 pm FS1                 Orlando City vs New England

Tues 10/26   

2:45 pm EPSN +           Chelsea vs Southampton League Cup

8 pm FS1                      USA Women (Carli Lloyd last game) vs Korea  KC

10:30 pm ESPN            LAFC vs Seattle Sounders

Weds 10/27   

2:45 pm ESPN+            Stoke City vs Brentford  League Cup

2:45 pm ESPN+            Westham vs Man City (Steffan GK) League Cup

8:30 pm FS1                 Sporting KC vs LA Galaxy MLS #2 vs #3

Thurs 10/28   

7:30 pm Paramount + Racing Louisville vs NY/NJ Gotham FC NWSL

Fri 10/29   

3 pm beIN Sport          PSG vs Lille (Weah)

Sat 10/30   

7:30 am NBCSN           Leicester City vs Arsenal

7:30 am NBCSN?         Tottenham vs Man United 

8 pm ESPN+                  Indy 11 @ Memphis  Last Game

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Our GK Jordan Farr Wins USL Save of the Week

INDY ELEVEN GOALKEEPER JORDAN FARR NAMED TO USL CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM OF THE WEEK FOR WEEK 26

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN 1 : 0 LOUISVILLE CITY FC – OCTOBER 16, 2021

INDY ELEVEN TO HOST WOMEN’S OPEN TRYOUTS FOR INAUGURAL USL W LEAGUE SQUAD DECEMBER 28-29

USL Playoff Projections

USL Standings  

US LADIES

Carli Lloyd: Competitor, Winner, Legend

October USWNT friendlies – USA 0-0 South Korea: 22 game home win streak ends By Parker Cleveland S&S
U.S. Women’s National Team draws 0-0 against Korea in Carli Lloyd’s Kansas City sendoff

International Friendly: USWNT, South Korea draw 0-0 in Kansas City

Carli Lloyd Final Games Roster – The 18

Sauerbrunn: ‘Heavy’ days amid NWSL fallout

U.S. Women’s National Team Extends Home Unbeaten Streak to 61 Matches in Front of Sellout Crowd With 0-0 Draw Against Korea Republic

US Men

USMNT Viewing Guide

Jesse Marsch is the closest thing to a Real Life Ted Lasso – Grant Wahl
Top 25 players in the USMNT pool right now

Goalkeepers

Our GK Jordan Farr Wins USL Save of the Week

Navas Making Saves vs Honduras

Champions League  

 UEFA Champions League: Juventus stays perfect; Chelsea, Barcelona win
Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool final score: Three things we learned as Salah, VAR star

Barca edge past Dynamo to revive Champions League hopes at half-empty Camp Nou

Champions League: Stars shine as Messi, Salah score twice in wins

‘Too naive’ – Leipzig rue costly mistakes in PSG defeat

Man Utd aren’t finished article yet says Pogba
Ronaldo again rides to Man Utd’s Champions League rescue

Liverpool defeat 10-man Atletico in five-goal thriller as Salah delivers 

Back to the future as Salah spearheads Liverpool’s revival

Romelu Lukaku injury update, Timo Werner news from Thomas Tuchel

Man City crush Brugge to re-energise Champions League push

Villarreal beat Young Boys to end long Champions League drought

Haller hits sixth Champions League goal as Ajax thrash Dortmund


World

 El Clasico preview: Everything you need to know about Barcelona vs. Real Madrid  1dSam Marsden, Alex Kirkland
Barcelona, Real Madrid combine present and future in Clasico of fallen giants

Barcelona, Real Madrid and El Clasico: The people who made it the biggest match in soccer
 
N
NBC’s ‘Premier League Mornings Live’ will be live at Coliseum this weekend

Can Man United ruin Liverpool’s unbeaten record? 

English Premier League betting preview: Can Manchester United beat Liverpool at home?
Steve Bruce leaves Newcastle by ‘mutual consent’ after takeover

Premier League player Power Rankings

Mendi Saves Chelsea vs Brentford

MLS / NWSL

Red Bulls, MLS Youth Programs Producing Stars and New Revenues
Orlando Pride owner Mark Wilf pledges commitment to change amid NWSL upheaval
Alex Morgan: Investment must coincide with biennial World Cup plan

International Friendly: USWNT, South Korea draw 0-0 in Kansas City

Alex Azzi

Thu, October 21, 2021, 11:03 PMThe opportunities were there, but the goals were not.On Thursday night in Kansas City, the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) and South Korea played to a 1-1 draw. It marked the third game in the USWNT’s post-Olympic victory tour and the penultimate game of Carli Lloyd‘s USWNT career.The U.S. controlled the game, outshooting South Korea 19-8 and maintaining possession for nearly two-thirds of the game.South Korean goalie Yoon Young-Geul had an excellent showing, which included multiple clutch saves in the dying minutes of the match.“Today she was their best player,” U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “It was good for us that we created those opportunities. If it takes something like the saves she had in the game, so be it. That’s all we can do.”The draw snapped a 22-match home soil win streak for the U.S. The Americans were one win away from matching the longest home streak in team history, set from April 1993 to February 1996. They are still unbeaten in their last 61 matches at home, which includes 55 wins and six draws.

One drought also nearly came to an end in Kansas City. In the 46th minute, Becky Sauerbrunn came close to scoring the first goal of her USWNT career. Currently at 196 caps, Sauerbrunn is nearing the USWNT record for most caps without scoring. (The current record, 202, is held by goalkeeper Hope Solo.)

U.S. Women’s National Team draws 0-0 against Korea in Carli Lloyd’s Kansas City sendoff

U.S. Women’s National Team draws 0-0 against Korea in Carli Lloyd’s Kansas City sendoff

Shaun Goodwin

Thu, October 21, 2021, 10:27 PM

Diving to her right, A.D. Franch pushed away a screaming half-volley toward the bottom corner of her goal. The shot initially deflected, she sprang back up and cradled the bobbling ball.The Kansas City chapter of the American Outlaws roared approval from the north stand of Children’s Mercy Park — territory usually occupied by Sporting KC’s supporters’ section, the Cauldron.For the American Outlaws, the avid supporters group that follows the U.S. national soccer teams to matches around the country, it was a chance to cheer their keeper’s save — for Franch, her first official save in her first hometown start for the U.S. Women’s National Team.- Franch, who hails from Salina, Kansas, and plays for the KC NWSL club, earned the start and drew cheers throughout her performance as the USWNT tied the Korea Republic 0-0 Thursday night.“KC showed up as I expected them to, and hopefully that continues for the women’s game and KC WoSo right now,” Franch said. “That’s what we want in this city as we’re continuing to try to get a (World Cup) bid here in the city. I think it’s important to recognize that the fans are here and this city is something special to play for and I’m excited to be here to do that.”The tie extended a 61-game unbeaten home streak for the U.S.Franch made just the one save, in the 35th minute on a shot by Sel-Gi Jang, but it was the only one required of her. Korea never mounted much of an attack on the American goal.The game also marked a special first for USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski, who directed a national team game in his hometown of Kansas City for the first time.“I feel like anywhere I turned, I knew someone,” Andonovski said. “It was good and I’m glad I put up a good show. I just wish that we paid this wonderful crowd back with a good win, but I promise next time we come back here we’ll score a few goals.”The final score was no doubt closer than he would’ve liked against an opponent ranked 18th in the world. But a USWNT starting front line that featured such U.S. heroes as Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan was unable to break down the stout Korean defense.“These are the type of opponents and games that we’re looking forward to playing because they create different challenges and multiple challenges throughout the game,” Andonovski said. “It will take the best of us to solve the challenges and overcome them.”Most of the Americans’ pressure on Korea’ came from the U.S. midfield, especially from Lindsey Horan, who was honored for making her 100th national team appearance before the game.. At one point she sent a 20-yard curler off the left post; six minutes later her close-range header was saved by goalkeeper Young-Guel Yoon.Both Heath and Rapinoe were replaced at halftime by the USWNT “new guard” of Sophia Smith and Mallory Pugh. Fifteen minutes into the second half, Morgan, too, was subbed out in favor of Carli Lloyd, who played in her penultimate game for the U.S. She has announced that she’ll retire at season’s end.

The decision to take Rapinoe and Heath out of the game was pre-planned, Andonovski said. Heath was coming off a weekend game with her club team, Arsenal, while Rapinoe is still working her way back from an injury.Smith added an exciting dimension to the U.S. front line with an aggressive and attack-minded edge.“She’s a lot more offensive-minded and more direct with her runs, and more specific with her runs, and we’ve seen that ever since she came in,” Andonovski said.While Andonovski treated the game as more than just a retirement tour for Lloyd, many among the sellout crowd of 18,467 came to see Lloyd play here one last time. That much was evident in the roar that arose when she entered the game and every time she touched the ball near the Korea box.

The 39-year-old forward had an excellent chance in the 76th minute, but it was saved by Yoon.The USWNT’s second-half trio of attackers — Smith and Pugh, in particular — looked more creative than their first-half predecessors. But they were no more successful in manufacturing a winning goal for the KC crowd.“Our final product was poor and I think we could have done better,” Horan said. “My header was crap. But still, credit to her (Yoon, the Korea Republic keeper).“I kind of look at our team and think that there were some final passes that we could have gotten on the end on, but she did a great job today.”The USWNT can make amends Tuesday against Korea in St. Paul, Minnesota. That game will be Lloyd’s 316th and final game for her country.

USMNT weekend viewing guide: major matchups

el Classico is a headliner and we have American matchups throughout Europe

By jcksnftsn  Oct 22, 2021, 8:33am PDT It’s a fantastically full weekend with matchups around Europe that include Americans going head to head, or making appearances in major European clashes such as Inter Milan v Juventus and Barcelona meeting Real Madrid in the latest edition of El Clasico. Let’s jump straight to Saturday which is when the action begins.

Saturday

RB Leipzig v Greuther Furth – 9:30a on ESPN+

Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig will look to bounce back from a painful loss to PSG in mid-week Champions League play when they face Julian Green and a Greuther Furth team that looks destined for relegation.After giving up an early goal to Kylian Mbappe, Leipzig had pulled back and taken a 2-1 lead in Paris and looked on track for what could have been a signature with for Jesse Marsch’s club. However, they would see it slip away when Tyler Adams misplayed a ball while under pressure (possibly being fouled) and had it land right at the feet of Mbappe who would feed Messi for the tying goal. Minutes later PSG would take the lead on a Messi penalty.Things should be significantly easier for Leipzig this weekend as they face a Furth side with one draw and seven losses in their first eight matches. Obviously they don’t want to completely overlook them as dropped points to a team of that level would be devastating to a Leipzig currently tied for eighth place and hoping to compete for a top of the table position but this matchup might be an opportunity to rest some players who have already seen a high number of minutes across multiple competitions this season.

Julian Green has struggled to make an impact for Greuther Furth in their Bundesliga campaign and the club has seen any hopes of avoiding relegation slip away as quickly as imaginable. Green is still looking for his first goal contribution on the season and has just over 100’ in the teams past four matches, having failed to make it off the bench in two of those contests.

Other notes:

  • A potential matchup in the EPL will have to be put on hold as injury will keep Christian Pulisic out of Chelsea’s match with Norwich City and Josh Sargent. The clubs face off at 7:30a on NBCSN.
  • It’s an American matchup in Spain that can be seen on ESPN2 as Yunus Musah and Valencia face Matthew Hoppe’s Mallorca. Musah saw 15’ off the bench last weekend against Barcelona after starting the previous two matches for Valencia. However, the potential matchup could be ruined by Hoppe’s failure to appear, he has not seen the field in the past month and was not included in last weekends squad. The matchup will take place at 8a Saturday morning.
  • Zack Steffen received his first EPL start with Manchester City last weekend and looked solid in the teams 2-0 win over Burnley. However, Ederson was available for the clubs midweek thumping of Club Brugge and will resume his role barring injury. Man City face Brighton and Hove Albion at 12:30p on NBC.
  • The Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City face off in a battle for the Western Conference. Currently Kansas City trail by six points but they have a game in hand so a head to head win over Seattle would give them the opportunity to pull even. The match will be at 2:30p on Univision and TUDN.
  • The LA Galaxy and FC Dallas meet at 10p on Univision and TUDN so get on board the night train.

Streaming overseas:

  • John Brooks and Wolfsburg will look to get back on track when they face Freiburg at 9:30a on ESPN+. Wolfsburg have lost three straight Bundesliga matches and fell midweek to RB Salzburg in Champions League play as well.
  • Chris Richards will have a change to make a first hand impression with his parent club when Hoffenheim face Bayern Munich at 9:30a on EPSN+.
  • Giovanni Reyna remains out amid concerns that he may be out through the November international window as well. Borussia Dortmund face Arminia Bielefeld at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Matt Miazga and Deportivo Alaves face Cadiz at 10:!5a on ESPN+. Miazga has started the last three matches for Alaves.
  • Gianlucca Busio and Venezia have pulled themselves up to 15th place on five points from their last three matches and now face fourteenth place Sassuolo. The club is still just two points out of the relegation zone but if they are able to build on this strong run they will be in good position.
  • Fightin’ Joe Scally and Borussia Monchengladbach face Hertha Berlin at 12:30p on ESPN+. After a slow start to the season Gladbach have pulled themselves up to 10th place and solidly middle of the table.
  • Timothy Weah and Lille take on Brest at 3p on Fanatiz USA and beIN Sports. Lille lost last weekend to Clermont Foot and are still trying to find their bearings in their campaign to defend last seasons title.

MLS Mashup (all games on ESPN+):

Sunday

Barcelona v Real Madrid – 10:15a on ESPN+

It’s an El Clasico matchup between Barcelona and Real Madrid and everybody is asking one question: does Sergino Dest have a new position? The American right back has been starting on the wing for Barcelona, most recently in their 1-0 Champions League victory over Dynamo Kiev though he did shift back to his more traditional RB role midway through the game. Dest also started at RW last weekend in the teams 3-1 win over Valencia and picked up an assist on the final goal.

Barcelona come into their first meeting of the season with Real Madrid five points out of first place and two points behind a cluster of teams that are currently in second including Real and Atletico. The matchup has not been kind to Barcelona recently, they are looking for their first head-to-head win since 2019 and have lost three straight.

Other notes:

  • Bryan Reynolds finally made the field for Roma but it was in a 6-1 Europa Conference League play thumping at the hands of Bodo/Glimt and he has not sniffed the field regularly in league play so it seems unlikely we will see him Sunday when Roma face Napoli at Noon on CBSSN.
  • Weston McKennie looks to continue his solid form as Juventus face Inter Milan at 2:45p on CBSSN.
  • Daryl Dike and Orlando City SC close out the weekend against Matt Turner and the New England Revolution at 7:30p on FS1.

Streaming overseas:

  • Nicolas Gioachinni at Montpellier face Monaco at 11a on Fanatiz USA and beIN Sports.
  • Timothy Chandler has suddenly started three straight matches for Eintracht Frankfurt who face Bochum at 1:30p on ESPN+.
  • Konrad de la Fuente and Olympique Marseille will get a shot at PSG at 2:45p on Fanatiz USA and beIN Sports. Marseille currently sit in third place, although already 10 points back of league leading PSG.

Champions League talking points: Liverpool make a statement; Barcelona, Real Madrid win ahead of Clasico

Oct 21, 2021ESPN

Matchday 3 of the Champions League group stage has been and gone, and there is plenty to discuss, from important wins for Barcelona and Real Madrid ahead of El Clasico, to an epic Manchester United comeback and struggles for several German teams.

We asked Rob Dawson, Alex Kirkland and Derek Rae to answer some big questions.

What caught your attention on Matchday 3?

Dawson: Liverpool‘s 3-2 win over Atletico Madrid was fantastic entertainment and put a dent in the argument that the Champions League group stages are dull. To go to the champions of Spain and win was a huge statement from Liverpool and they should be considered one of the favourites to lift the trophy.Kirkland: There were other eye-catching results for Spanish teams — Real Madrid’s 5-0 demolition of Shakhtar, Villarreal‘s 4-1 win at Young Boys — but yes, it’s hard to avoid Atletico’s perplexing loss to Liverpool. What do you make of a game where Atletico were dreadful for 20 minutes, unplayable for a long spell after that, and finally undone by a red card and a penalty? It was simultaneously encouraging and disappointing, and it feels like we’re still no closer to finding out exactly what they’re capable of this season.

Rae: As someone who focuses heavily on the Bundesliga, this was a bitterly disappointing midweek for German clubs. (Thank goodness for Bayern Munich, whose opener in the 4-0 win at Benfica from man-of-the-match Leroy Sane evoked Arjen Robben memories.)

I expected a hard game for Dortmund at Ajax, but could not have foreseen such an emphatic 4-0 clobbering. Meanwhile, Leipzig had good phases in the 3-2 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain, but they were undone by individual mistakes from which Tyler Adams and Mohamed Simakan must learn. Wolfsburg under Mark van Bommel are just a mess; after being outplayed by a youthful, vibrant Salzburg for a 3-1 defeat, they have gone seven without a win in all competitions.

Real Madrid and Barcelona won; which of the two gives you more optimism?

Kirkland: In terms of being Champions League contenders: neither. Madrid are stronger right now, but they’re still way off the likes of Bayern, Man City, Chelsea or Liverpool. The defence is significantly weaker without Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, and Carlo Ancelotti doesn’t feel like a coach for a rebuild.

Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona, meanwhile, are a zombie team: lurching on with a coach who should have been sacked by now, and would have been if an affordable replacement had been available. Barca’s kids are very exciting, but it’s much too soon to hope they can bring European success in the short term.

Rae: In the short term, Madrid have the greater upside. The squad is more seasoned and deeper, while the attack, with Karim Benzema playing some of his best football for years, is better than what Barca can muster. Meanwhile, Vinicius Jr.’s development is fascinating to watch and there is just a firmer base about Real.

But Barcelona might be a very different proposition in the coming years. The shoots of recovery are visible, especially with teenagers GaviPedri and a fit-again Ansu Fati. Barca are behind their rivals in most areas, but the La Masia academy represents the club’s biggest source of hope.

Dawson: Both are teams in transition but Real Madrid seem to be dealing with it far better than Barcelona. In Benzema they have got one of the best strikers in the world and they have the benefit of Ancelotti, who has seen it all before. This is not a vintage Madrid side by any stretch but they will fancy their chances of being in the hunt for trophies at the end of the season. Barcelona, meanwhile, look like they’re in survival mode and Koeman will be lucky to survive the season, never mind lift any silverware.

What do you think about technology use in the Champions League?

Rae: I do not see a huge difference regarding VAR use and that is probably not a surprise, given the leagues I cover most closely — Bundesliga and LaLiga — do not deviate much, if at all, from UEFA standards. England may be different.

What I would say is that hand signals after VAR decisions could do with work from some UEFA refs. For example, Romania’s Ovidiu Hategan managed to fool many a commentator and fan on the first disallowed Bayern goal against Benfica by apparently pointing to the centre spot. His signal for second disallowed goal was not significantly clearer!

Dawson: The implementation of VAR in the Premier League was bumpy to say the least but, in general, it has been a lot smoother this season. Purely from a spectator’s view, it has not seemed as streamlined in the Champions League this season. Fans don’t like delays to a game which should be free-flowing and the quicker VAR decisions are reached, the better for everyone.

Kirkland: There’s been endless VAR talk in Spain recently, with frustration over Kylian Mbappe‘s winning goal for France in the UEFA Nations League final. There was frustration here too at the role VAR played on Tuesday in denying Atletico a penalty and chance for an equaliser for Diogo Jota‘s challenge on Jose Maria Gimenez and how long the decision took, regardless of the merits. Overall though, the way VAR is used in Europe feels faster, more transparent and less intrusive than it does in LaLiga.

What is the best Champions League goal you have seen live?

Dawson: Nothing will top the drama of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winner against Bayern Munich in the 1999 final but the atmosphere inside Old Trafford after Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winner in injury time against Villarreal on Sept. 29 was a moment to make the hairs on your neck stand up. Fans have been locked out of stadiums for too long because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a lot of pent up emotion seemed to come flooding out when Ronaldo’s shot hit the net.

Kirkland: So many to choose from. Gabriel Batistuta’s rocket for Fiorentina at Wembley in October 1999 was special and Thierry Henry’s solo run at the Bernabeu in 2006 is hard to beat, given the circumstances. The other that has always stuck in my mind was Lionel Messi‘s first against Arsenal in March 2011. What he did — scooping the ball over hapless goalkeeper Manuel Almunia before finishing — was so good that you couldn’t tell what he’d done in real time. (The replays on the big screens at Camp Nou were greeted by awed ‘oooohs’ from the crowd).

Rae: I was not in Glasgow for Zinedine Zidane’s masterpiece in the 2002 final, so will go for a final goal I did see in the flesh. It is a strange one in some ways but I picked it because Messi says it is one of his all-time favourites and that is good enough for me.

The image of it stays in my mind to this day: With Barcelona 1-0 up in the 2009 final against Manchester United in Rome, Xavi’s superb ball was whipped in from the right and the 5-foot-7 superstar, then 22, jumped as high as I have ever seen him jump, before flinging himself at the ball, which looped over the helpless Edwin van der

In battle over biennial World Cups, FIFA isn’t the villain you think it is

Henry Bushnell Wed, October 20, 2021, 10:34 PM

Let’s begin with the obvious. FIFA, as full of it as ever, with customary disregard for women’s soccer, has launched a ruthless campaign to increase the frequency of World Cups. Its origins, supposedly, are a Saudi Arabian proposal, which led to a “feasibility study,” which has been dreadfully opaque. It’s clear, though, that no matter the feasibility, FIFA has decided that biennial World Cups would be desirable.So it enlisted soccer legends to shill for a plan woefully short on detail. They met resistance every step of the way, from players and FIFPro, the global players’ union; from managers and massive clubs; from many in the women’s game, who feel their World Cups would be overshadowed; and most of all, from the European soccer governing body, UEFA.UEFA, in a statement last week, blasted the plans yet again, saying they would “damage all forms of football, devalue the [World Cup] itself, disadvantage fans financially and stunt the development of women’s and youth football around the world.” It cited player health. It said that “any perceived attraction is shallow.” More tan a dozen European nations have reportedly considered splitting with FIFA, or boycotting the World Cup, if FIFA tries to force the changes through.Fans and Western media have largely sided with the Europeans, framing this intensifying fight as good vs. evil, as nobility vs. FIFA greed. And they have a point. The chief motive here is money. FIFA rakes in billions from the men’s World Cup. Playing it twice as often might devalue it long-term, but would immediately boost FIFA’s bottom line.This fight, though, is not good vs. evil. It’s a battle for control. It’s a global organization that represents the interests of global soccer vs. a European organization that represents the interests of European soccer. And the Europeans are winning. They’re tightening their grip on power. The biennial World Cup is FIFA’s desperate attempt to wrest some back.

FIFA vs. UEFA, greed vs. more greed

FIFA and UEFA are driven by a singular force. Each wants to organize games and tournaments between the world’s most popular soccer players. They want to sell sponsorships and broadcast rights to those games, and distribute profits among their members, who use the handouts to buy or develop more popular soccer players, whom FIFA or UEFA will eventually monetize too.And for a while now, UEFA has done this more often and more profitably than FIFA has. The global governing body reported $5.7 billion in revenue from 2015-2018. The European governing body, over that same period, made roughly $14.3 billion.UEFA is winning because its premier competition, the Champions League, runs annually, four times as frequently as FIFA’s. And because, although the entire world supplies the Champions League, only European clubs and associations benefit from it. All the best players from Asia, Africa and the Americas play for a handful of elite Western European teams. So the biggest companies from Asia, Africa and the Americas want to sponsor those teams, their games and the tournaments they contest.So the money flows, and the Europeans consolidate their power. Argentina, Senegal and South Korea develop players. European leagues, European clubs and European soccer federations (via UEFA) profit off those players. They turn profits into infrastructure that ensures future profits for themselves. Club owners — American billionaires, Russian oligarchs, Arab sheiks — pocket cash or goodwill along the way. The pattern, which reinforces itself, is backward at best, colonialist at worst, and the organization best positioned to disrupt it is … FIFA.

What FIFA posits, essentially, is that players developed by Argentina, Senegal and South Korea — or by Guatemala, Tanzania and Oman — should play more often in competitions organized by a governing body that represents those countries. And FIFA, for all its corruption, sleaziness and incompetence, still does that. It shares its revenue with all 211 member associations. Yes, it pays president Gianni Infantino and other privileged executives millions of dollars, and constantly undermines its own credibility. But it does funnel revenue from World Cups to Sri Lanka, and Uganda, and Dominica, funding soccer in countries where the resources of Western European life do not exist.Many of those countries crave a biennial World Cup because if FIFA’s revenue soars, theirs will too. FIFA’s solidarity payments are their main source of income, their youth players’ main source of opportunity. One-hundred sixty-six of them supported the “feasibility study.” If all or most of them were to vote in favor of the biennial plan at a special congress or the regularly scheduled FIFA Congress on March 31, the plan would become reality.European media have rued FIFA’s democratic structure, rightly pointing out that it gives no say to players. They’ve whined that it gives as much say to a country that wins World Cups as it does to one that will never sniff a prestigious tournament. But the latter isn’t inferior by choice. Many developing countries adore soccer. They simply struggle to build professional leagues or competitive national teams because countless decks have been stacked against them. Historical forces have diverted resources elsewhere. And now, a European-centric soccer system has left them behind.What UEFA posits is that the powerful men who rule that system should remain powerful. That the system produces entertaining soccer as is. That fans enjoy it, and players tolerate it, and money keeps rolling in. That the status quo is fine, and preferable to FIFA’s flawed plan.And in some ways, UEFA is right. Much of the pushback is legitimate. FIFA’s initial focus on the men’s game and neglect for the women’s game has, in some eyes, left the biennial concept doomed from the start.But UEFA’s mission here isn’t altruistic. It isn’t a soccer savior fighting a corrupt villain. It’s a four-letter acronym representing an establishment and fighting on behalf of its own members’ interests. You know, just like FIFA so often is.

Why the biennial World Cup battle will end in compromise

FIFA’s problem is that it can’t make this argument because the argument frames players as products rather than humans, and feeds suspicions that the fuel behind the plan is financial. Instead, FIFA has relied on empty logic and pleas about “the future of football,” because without more regular World Cups, apparently, according to Infantino, “football is risking to lose its appeal” among Gen Z. It also attempted to attach the biennial World Cup proposal to a rejiggering of the international match calendar, which is necessary and rational but mostly unrelated.The arguments were easy to rebut. And European powerbrokers have, relentlessly. Even the International Olympic Committee joined the resistance last weekend. This week, with the narrative largely controlled by European media, FIFA’s resolve began wavering. Rather than push for a vote in December, Infantino announced Wednesday that FIFA would hold a virtual “global summit” on Dec. 20 and “try to reach a consensus.”A consensus, of course, will never form around a biennial World Cup. CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, has also opposed the plan. And while it could technically be voted into bylaw without any European or South American support, the Europeans and South Americans could just as easily jump ship, arrange their own lucrative tournament, and detonate the World Cup’s appeal.All of which is why Infantino’s words at a 45-minute news conference Wednesday hinted at eventual compromise. “I’m here to unite,” he said, after acknowledging vehement criticism. “I’m not here to divide.”The path to common ground could be rocky. Collisions along the way could be explosive. They often are when two powerful, self-interested bodies clash. The result could be a global nations league, or a second, diluted quadrennial competition. UEFA’s power, though, which in some ways outweighs FIFA’s, should prevent a true biennial World Cup from materializing.That isn’t cause for celebration. It isn’t a win for the everyman over the powerful elite. In fact, if you squint, you could see it as the opposite. You could see FIFA, despite its sinful past and seedy present, as a voice of the voiceless, fighting to reclaim the world’s game on behalf of the world.“They all must be listened to,” Infantino said Wednesday of his 211 member associations. “And my role is exactly to listen to everyone, to listen to every side, to give a voice to those who are never heard.”

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10/14/21   USMNT Wins 2-1 in Columbus, Indy 11 Host Louisville Sat 7 pm, CHS Regional Finals Sat at CHS, US Ladies Thur 8 pm ESPN, Champions League Tue/Wed

High School Regional Finals CHS Boys & Girls at Home Murray Stadium this Saturday

The #3 Ranked Carmel High Girls defeated Brownsburg 3-0 on the road Wed with a couple of Assists by former Carmel FC star Emily Roper to advance to the Regional Finals Saturday at Murray Stadium where they will face East Central at 3:30 pm.  #2 Homestead downed #1 Noblesville 4-2 to advance to the Finals at Kokomo.  The Carmel Boys defeated Avon 3-1 at Avon to advance to the Regional Championships at 1 pm on Saturday at Murray Stadium.   Tickets for the games are $8 and available here. The Cathedral girls face Brebeuf Sat at 4 pm at Bishop Chatard.

US Wins 2-1 in Columbus – stands in 2nd in Concacaf standings 6 games in

The Youngest ever group to start a US Qualifier rallied from an early goal down to win 2-1 in front of a wild crowd at the Fabulous new Columbus Crew Lower.com Field.  I was part of that crowd along with my neighbors Partha and Ed – check out the pics.

Barcelona Defender Sergino Dest scored a screamer to tie the game up in the first half before Lille’s Tim Weah’s 2nd half goal to put the US ahead for good.  Coach Berhalter returned home to the place he once coached the MLS Crew and started his former Goalkeeper Zach Steffan in net for the first time in the Qualifiers.  Listen I had no issue with Steffan in goal here and he played fine overall.  The backline was solid with the return of Dest and Robinson on the edges and Miles Robison in the middle along with surprise starter Hoffenheim centerback Chris Richards.  Richards definitely had issues with turnovers at times – and showed why he’s probably 4th in the pecking order of Center Backs – while Miles Robinson again proved why he should NEVER not be on the Field at Centerback for the US again for the next 15 years – he was a rock back there.  Dest of course gave up the first cross that led to the Costa Rica goal before showing his offensive swerve with his game tying goal. He is honestly the flashiest player (check this rebono from Wed Destinho)  the US has produced – can tell he plays for Barcelona.  Meanwhile Antonee Robinson showed he is far and away our best left back option with his continued runs into the offense with solid cover on defense.  

Speaking of cover – is there any doubt who the MVP and true Captain of this team is – Tyler Adams controls the game from his Dmid #6 slot and continues to prove we are simply not the same team without him.  In the middle I thought Weston McKinney was solid if not unspectacular-he still disappears for entire portions of the game – and needs to press his will on the game more in my opinion.  One of the biggest finds this year by Berhalter to me is Yanus Musah.  The 18 year-old Valencia man is simply made to play in our midfield when McKinney and Adams are on the field too.  Musah’s ability to move the dang ball forward instead of backwards (Roldan, Bradley, ) is what sets him apart.  He really runs at the defense and breaks them down – and even though he hasn’t mastered the perfect pass yet – you can see he’s thinking it – the kid is 18 – and he really makes this US team better! 

Speaking of making us better – Brenden Aaronson is the next coming of Landon Donovan – period.  He’s going to be that good – and at just 20 years old he’s only going to get better.  He runs forever – with a constant motor – and already you can tell he’s reading the game better after just a few months at Champs League side Salzberg.  Honestly seeing as Pulisic is always injured – having Aaronson to fill in the 5 out of 10 games that Christian doesn’t play is a nice safety net – and if Christian is healthy – Aaronson is a super 2nd half sub on the opposite side.   The opposite side (right wing) was the key position in my mind this game as Tim Weah (subbing for late scratch Paul Arriola) turned in a man of the match performance.  His lightning quick bursts down the line were impressive finally leading to the 2nd half winning goal.  Thank goodness fate stepped in and kept Berhalter from screwing this up!! 

Speaking of Berhalter – I take my shots at him – and yes he seems to make some INTERESTING decisions sometime – but folks saying this was a do or die game for him are just flat stupid!  All the guy has done is win 2 straight trophies using 2 completely different teams while beating our archrivals Mexico each time in the process.  He’s invited more players – young players into camp than the 3 previous coaches combined – while only losing 3 games in the process.   Yes Berhalter is trying to change the way the US plays – he’s trying to get this young talented team to possess the ball and control the tempo – something NO OTHER US TEAM – has ever done even against the Minnows of CONCACAF.  We should absolutely control the possession against every team in CONCACAF except perhaps Mexico.  But switching to this style of play takes talented players who can pass and control the ball – something the young guys seem to have. He just started the youngest ever team to play a qualifier and won.  This team is the Golden Generation – and I for one think Berhalter is doing a fine job bringing this young team along.  I can honestly say that every player who started tonight – could well be on the squad in Qatar and 4 years later in the US – in fact in 2026 many of them will really be hitting the prime of their careers.  This team is building for the future – just like Berhalter is.  He’s learning on the job- he makes mistakes along with way – but overall this team is trending up.  We are the highest we have been ranked in forever – and this team will qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.   Oh and Cudos to ESPN on Wed night – solid ½ pregame showing and decent 15 minute postgame –in wasn’t Paramount plus’s fantastic coverage with a 1 hr lead in and outtro- but it was better than normal. 

The Ole Ballcoach is desperately looking for Mexico vs USA tickets next month in Cincy – if you have a line on tickets please let me know.  1, 2, 3, 4 tickets – willing to pay over price

2022 WCQ Standings

TEAMGPWDLGDP
Mexico6420+714
United States6321+511
Canada6240+610
Panama622208
Costa Rica6132-16
Jamaica6123-45
El Salvador6123-55
Honduras6033-83

Champions League is Back Tues/Wed –Paramount+  US Players Abound

Looking ahead to Champions League this week finds Americans in darn near half the games which are on Paramount – with the Golazo Show covering all the games on CBS Sports Network at 3 pm Tues/Wed.  (See full schedule on the OBC) Wednesday 6 of the 7 games have American’s headed by Salzburg and American winger Brendan Aaronson vs Wolfsburg and Centerback John Brooks at 12:45 pm.  Tuesday the big Game is PSG vs RB Leipzig with American coach Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams on Paramount+ at 3 pm along with Liverpool traveling to Atletico Madrid also at 3.  You have to see this Trick Shot by Dortmund’s Haaland.

US Ladies Play Thurs Night ESPN– Carli Lloyd’s Last Games

The US 2nd Leading Scorer of All time will lace them up for the USWNT just 2 more times as they play South Korea Thurs night on ESPN then Tues night on FS1. 

US Ladies Roster

GOALKEEPERS (2): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 6), Adrianna Franch (Kansas City NWSL; 9)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash; 76/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 41/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville; 4/0), Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars; 36/0), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 147/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 195/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 60/0)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 104/23), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 64/16), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 10/3), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 30/4), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 19/2)

FORWARDS (7): Tobin Heath (Arsenal, ENG; 179/36), Carli Lloyd (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 314/134), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 188/114), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 65/18), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 185/61), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 8/1), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 42/13)

Indy 11 face Louisville at Home Sat 7 pm My TV 23

Indy Eleven could put a nice little feather in its 2021 cap by taking the season series against Louisville outright for the first time with a win on Saturday at 7 pm.  Tickets are still available.  Playoff chances are slim to none for the 11 so this might be the last real chance to salvage something out of the season by knocking off their heated rival Louisville.  Sat night is Breast Cancer Awareness Night – Real Men Wear Pink !!  – In conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a limited amount player worn and signed warm up jerseys will be available for purchase at the game (while supplies last). Portions of the proceeds will support American Cancer Society and Indy Eleven Foundation.  Pink Tshirts and Scarfs will also be available. 

The BYB is Hosting the Annual ChILI COOK-OFF will be from 4:00 PM  6:00 PM before the game in the BYB Lot.   

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Sat 10/16    (American’s in Parenthesis)

9:30 am ESPN+            Freiburg vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

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

10 am USA                   Leicester City vs Man United

11 am beIN Sport        Lille (Weah) vs Clermont

12 Noon NBC               Brentford vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

High School Regional Finals CHS Boys 1 pm & Girls 2:30 pm at Home Murray Stadium this Saturday

7 pm ESPN+ TV23        Indy II vs Louisville 

10:30 pm EPSN+          LA Galaxy vs Portland Timbers

Sun 10/17   

9 am NBCSN                 Everton vs West Ham

930 am ESPN+             Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich

11:30 am NBCSN         NewCastle United vs Tottenham

1 pm ESPN               NY Red Bulls vs NYCFC

2 pm CBSSN                 NC Courage vs NY/NJ Gotham FC  NWSL

2:45 pm Paromout+    Juventus (McKennie) vs Roma

3 pm ESPN+                  Barcelona (Dest) vs Valencia (Musah)

7 pm Paramount+        Houston Dash vs Portland Thorns

Tues 10/19 – Champions League

10 am Paramount+      Celtic vs Ferencaros  (Europa)

12:45 Paramount+      Beziktas vs Sporting CP

3 pm Paramount+        PSG vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

3 pm Paramount+        Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool

3 pm Paramount+        Porto vs Milan

3 pm Paramount+        Brugge vs Man City (Stefan)

Wed 10/20 – Champions League

10:30 am Paramount+ Spartak vs Leicester City (Europa)

12:45 Paramount+   Salzburg (Aaronson) vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)  

12:45 Paramount+      Barcelona (Dest) vs Dynamo Kyiv

3 pm Paramount+        Lille (Weah) vs Sevilla  

3 pm Paramount+        Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Malmo  

3 pm Paramount+        Young Boys (Pfuk) vs Villareal  

3 pm Paramount+        Man United vs Atalanta  

3 pm Paramount+        Zenit vs Juventus (McKinney)  

Thurs 10/21   

12:45 Paramount+      Vitesse vs Tottenham

8 pm ESPN           USA Women vs Korea  KC

Tues 10/26   

8 pm FS1                       USA Women (Carli Lloyd last game) vs Korea  KC

PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo. Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

USA


USMNT World Cup qualifying: What’s working and what’s not through six games
 
Bill Connelly  ESPN

U.S. reliance on youth pays off as Dest, Weah lead comeback win  ESPN hJeff Carlisle

A Lot of Fight, A Little Fate, and Course Correction for US Team – Brian Straus SI  


USMNT vs. Costa Rica takeaways: Tim Weah, Sergiño Dest spark comeback in qualifier
LA Times
USMNT player ratings from Dest-led comeback win over Costa Rica

Gregg Berhalter, USMNT stars applaud comeback: ‘The mentality is right’

U.S. men’s national soccer team erases early deficit, beats Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying

Soccer’s biggest clubs offer U.S. players something MLS can’t: a path to Europe

USA Ladies

USWNT announces roster for October friendlies

US Roster
2021 NWSL Timeline: Amid league failures, players reclaim control

Embattled NWSL moves championship game from Portland to Louisville

NWSL championship final moved from Portland to Louisville after player complaints

USL’s new women’s league announces first president

Abby Wambach says she ‘failed to speak out’ as a player

Tobin Heath, Catarina Macario of USWNT score in Women’s Champions League

World Qualifying


Canada are stronger than ever – and the best may be yet to come

England held as Hungary fans clash with police

Denmark qualify for 2022 World Cup

Germany qualify for Qatar 2022 but Belgium made to wait

Japan boss urges team to build on crucial World Cup win, Son scores again

World

Neymar has ‘many years’ left at the top, says Pochettino
Mbappe takes centre stage for PSG in absence of Messi, Neymar

English Premier League betting: Beware of the international break 

Indy 11

USL CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP | BIRMINGHAM LEGION FC 3 : 1 INDY ELEVEN

PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN VS. LOUISVILLE CITY FC – OCTOBER 16, 2021

INDY ELEVEN EARNS INDIANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, WELLNESS COUNCIL OF INDIANA GOLD COVID STOPS HERE DESIGNATION

Indy 11 Tickets

Soccer on TV: Leicester City-Manchester United and a Bundesliga first-place battle bring European club soccer back to action

Plus, find all the info you need to watch the big games in Italy, Spain, MLS and the NWSL.Oct 14, 2021   The Philly Union – The Goalkeeper 

Leicester City vs. Manchester United

Saturday, 10 a.m. (USA Network, Universo)

Leicester has endured a wobbly start to the Premier League season, with recent ties against lowly Crystal Palace (owned by the Sixers’ Josh Harris) and Burnley. The Foxes have the talent to get back on track in $33 million striker Patson Daka (a former teammate of Brenden Aaronson at Red Bull Salzburg) and midfielders Harvey Barnes, James Maddison, and Youri Tielemans  Philly

Manchester United, of course, has Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba. The Red Devils are two points out of first, and probably won’t top the table after this weekend because the other top teams all have winnable games. But they have the look of title contenders.

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Bayern Munich

Sunday, 9:30 a.m. (ESPN+)

At just 18 years old, Florian Wirtz has fired Leverkusen into a first-place tie atop the Bundesliga with Bayern. Can the challengers dethrone the nine-time reigning champions and win their first German league title since 1979? This game will tell us if they’re for real.

Newcastle United vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Sunday, 11:30 a.m. (NBCSN, Telemundo)

Newcastle plays its first game since the club was bought by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which everyone involved — including the Premier League — insists isn’t the same thing as the Saudi government. But PIF chair Mohammed bin Salman is the country’s crown prince, deputy prime minister, and minister of defense.Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International were among many vocal critics of the deal. Amnesty accused the Premier League of “allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to walk into English football simply because they have deep pockets.”Bin Salman has long been accused of ordering the killing of journalist Jamal Khasoggi, though he denies it; and the country’s government has a reputation for abusing rights activists and quashing dissent.For many Newcastle fans, though, all that seems to not matter. On the day the deal was sealed, a big crowd celebrated outside the Magpies’ St. James’ Park Stadium. Some fans chanted “We’ve got our club back!” after longtime owner Mike Ashley, whose reign had Newcastle as one of England’s most glaring underachievers, departed.

New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC

Sunday, 1 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)

A few weeks ago, the Red Bulls were presumed to be too far out of the playoff race to make a serious run. They’ve since proven that presumption wrong, charging up the standings with a six-game unbeaten run. Two of those games were against NYCFC. A win or tie here would make this year the first since 2015, the Pigeons’ debut season, that the Red Bulls haven’t lost against their Hudson River Derby rivals.

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READ MORE: The rest of this weekend’s MLS schedule

North Carolina Courage vs. Gotham FC

Sunday, 2 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Thanks to having two games in hand, Gotham has not just a shot at a playoff berth, but an outside chance at a first-round bye if it can win out. On paper, this is the hardest of the four remaining games for Carli Lloyd, Margaret Purce and company. The remaining three include a visit to last-place Kansas City and a home-and-home set against next-to-last Louisville.

Juventus vs. Roma

Sunday, 2:45 p.m. (Paramount+)

Juventus seems to finally be up off the mat in Serie A, in seventh place with four straight wins after starting the season with two losses and two ties. Roma is in fourth place thanks in part to English forward Tammy Abraham, formerly of Chelsea. This will be a measuring-stick game for both teams.

Barcelona vs. Valencia

Sunday, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)

Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest and Valencia’s Yunus Musah starred for the U.S. men’s national team in Wednesday’s 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Costa Rica. They might get this game off to rest, but Barcelona can’t take it too lightly. Archrival Real Madrid comes to town next weekend.

» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend’s La Liga schedule

Venezia vs. Fiorentina

Monday, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN+)

Though Gianluca Busio only got limited playing time in the U.S.’ recent World Cup qualifiers, he looked great when given the chance. Now he returns to Italy to help Venezia continue its quest to avoid going back down to Serie B in its first top-flight season for 19 years.

By the way, if you’re a soccer fashionista, Venezia’s viral-sensation jerseys are coming back in stock. You’ll have to fork over $127, including all the shipping fees, you can’t get customization, and you might also have to gamble on getting the size right. But the jerseys are really sharp.

United States comes back to beat Costa Rica as Sergino Dest strikes

The United States came from behind in impressive fashion to beat Costa Rica in its CONCACAF World Cup qualifier at the new home of Columbus Crew on Wednesday night.

U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter changed his lineup significantly, inserting goalkeeper Zack Steffen among nine changes to the starting 11 following Sunday’s 1-0 loss away to Panama as his team looked to pick up a needed three points against a veteran Costa Rica team. The Americans gave up a first-minute goal to Costa Rica’s Keysher Fuller, but drew level in the 26th when Sergino Dest buried a gorgeous shot from distance on the counter-attack to beat Keylor Navas.”I was like, I have to shoot it,” Dest said. “I was just so happy We needed that goal. It was a really important goal. Right now we are on track.”The home side continued to pile on the pressure after conceding early, but Costa Rica did not go away and saw a penalty shot waved off as half-time approached when Chris Richards appeared to trip up Johan Venegas in the area after a poor giveaway by the U.S. defense.A Costa Rica own goal saw the U.S. take the lead after the hour mark, when Timothy Weah‘s well-struck shot from a tight angle came back off the post and bounced off backup keeper Leonel Moreira, who came on for the injured Navas, before trickling into the net.Paris Saint-Germain keeper Navas injured his right adductor muscle and was replaced by Moreira at half-time.The U.S. had Costa Rica scrambling after it took the lead and saw several near chances go before seeing out the victory to move up to 11 points from six matches in the team’s quest to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.The three points was all the more impressive given the Americans fielded their youngest lineup ever in a World Cup qualifier, averaging 22 years, 61 daysNext up for Berhalter and the Americans is a huge Octagonal match against Mexico on Nov. 12 in Cincinnati (watch live on ESPN2 at 9:10 p.m. ET). The U.S. will visit Jamaica four days later.Over its final six matches, the U.S. must travel to Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica.

USMNT Is Positioned Well for Mexico, World Cup Qualification After Roller-Coaster Week

Two home wins sandwiched a dreadful road defeat, but the key moments tilted in the favor of the U.S., which is left with a positive World Cup qualifying outlook.

AVI CREDITOR  SI 

n such an intense, fast-moving period, it’s easy to become prisoner of the moment.As it relates to the U.S. men’s national team and its quest to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, that means, for those on the outside, contemplating a roller coaster of what-ifs, worst-case scenarios and knee-jerk reactions that may either be lacking the context of the bigger picture or may not entirely be rooted in reality—at least not with the full complement of evidence required to come to such conclusions. For those on the inside, it means tuning all of that out as much as possible and keeping one eye on the big picture and the other on what’s right in front of you.“What I try to avoid, especially with the team, is putting pressure on them because of external forces. We have enough internal pressure that we want to play a certain way. We want to play well and we want to win games,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said following Wednesday night’s 2–1 win over Costa Rica. “But all of World Cup qualifying is difficult. All of World Cup qualifying is challenging. And sometimes I feel like people forget that and people think it’s a cakewalk and we’re going to play the youngest team in the history of U.S. Soccer in a game, and we’re just going to breeze through these games. It’s not realistic.”The U.S. most certainly did not breeze through this October window, but on the surface, a six-point haul after home wins vs. Jamaica and Costa Rica and a lifeless road defeat to Panama represents another satisfactory effort in the grand scheme. Somewhat ironically, though, it was a series of individual moments that allowed the U.S. to emerge from the October window in good shape. The victory over Costa Rica was defined by a number of instants that went the U.S.’s way (after the first-minute calamity, that is). There was the 13-pass sequence that led to Sergiño Dest’s goal (and yes, the sequence nearly broke down after the first few passes, and you could argue that Tim Weah should’ve hit an early, first-time cross to Dest, but the play wound up with Dest’s banger of a goal, so all of that is moot).There was the potential-PK-that-wasn’t on Chris Richards’s sliding challenge on Jonathan Moya (Berhalter may wind up grateful after all that Concacaf does not have VAR available in this competition). There was Miles Robinson’s awful giveaway and heroic recovery tackle (he’s fortunate that was Bryan Ruiz who made the steal and not someone with the pace of, say, Alphonso Davies). There was the injury to Costa Rica star goalkeeper Keylor Navas that at least raises the idea that perhaps Weah’s shot that resulted in the game-winning own goal could have had a different fate. And there was the pregame injury to Paul Arriola that resulted in Weah’s starting to begin with. There’s no telling what Arriola could have or would have done in that place, but Weah wound up as one of the U.S.’s top performers on the night. Often, a complex picture boils down to the fine margins, and on Wednesday, the majority fell in favor of the Americans.So the U.S. moves forward as part of a trio of teams beginning to separate from the pack. The Concacaf Octagonal isn’t halfway done just yet, but the three 2026 World Cup hosts—Mexico, the U.S. and Canada—are positioned best to secure the region’s three automatic berths for the 2022 showcase. For the U.S., there’s a five-point buffer between its current standing and not making it to Qatar, though with road matches at Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica still to come, the hard part hasn’t yet hit.Since this is the first eight-team final round of Concacaf qualifying, there’s no previous data to draw upon to determine what would be a target number of points for the U.S. to hit to secure a top-three berth, but through six games, the U.S. is likely and roughly halfway to glory slightly less than halfway through the fixture list.There’s little time to rest on laurels, though. The home Mexico game is on tap next, and full focus will be on Cincinnati, where the U.S. can either pull even on points with El Tri atop the table or find itself dragged back closer to the middle of the pack, allowing the external doubts to creep back in ahead of a trip to Jamaica. Barring injuries, the U.S. will have a full deck for the Mexico match. It was imperative that Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, the indispensable midfielders they are, avoided picking up second yellow cards in qualifying Wednesday that would have rendered them suspended (Adams looked to be close to receiving one for dissent after Costa Rica’s opening goal, with the referee going to his pocket before ultimately not doling one out). If Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna are fit to rejoin the team—and take a second to consider that the U.S. has secured 11 points from six games by getting just one match out of Reyna, just over one and a half from Pulisic and one and a half from imposing center back John Brooks—then Berhalter may actually have a full complement of top talent for his first time as U.S. coach. Given that November’s is a more traditional two-game window and not a three-game one, squad rotation will be less of a requirement as well.All eyes will also be on the U.S. goal. Zack Steffen was handed the start in Columbus, and the first-minute fiasco made for a clinic of second-guessing. Did Berhalter need to make a change in the back and open himself up to the potential for criticism when Matt Turner had been so steady? In the long run, it may prove that getting Steffen that game has tremendous value, and while it’s nice that on one hand the U.S. feels it has two goalkeepers it can turn to in big spots and feel equally at peace, it helps when there’s consistency at the back. Steffen lost the No. 1 job due to injury and COVID-19, so in one sense it’s unfair to take it from him permanently, but Turner had deputized well in the previous five games, coming up with pivotal moments that are likely to be overlooked when qualifying is through, and, unlike Steffen, he plays regularly for his club. The scrutiny over the decision in goal doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon.But that’s a question to be sorted in a few weeks’ time. For now, the U.S. has emerged from another grind of a week in a position of strength. It’s sandwiched in the table between Mexico and Canada, who remain the only unbeaten sides left in the region. Elsewhere, Panama remains equally capable of stifling top foes at home while struggling on the road. Costa Rica looks old and severely limited. Jamaica got the win it needed to remain alive and will hope that the likes of Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey come back next month to fortify the squad before it becomes too late. El Salvador is still a tough foe that has little to show for its efforts in the points column. Honduras is in last place and onto a new coach, its hopes of qualifying for a third World Cup in four cycles dwindling by the game.All things considered, the U.S. remains right where it needs to be to achieve its ultimate goal, and after all the angst, worry and hypothesizing over the last few days, that’s a fine place to reside.

United States reliance on youth pays off in comeback win over Costa Rica

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Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Sergino Dest and Tim Weah were making their way back to the United States bench after being substituted, the two offensive heroes pumped up the home crowd at Lower.com Field. Dest high-fived teammates, as well as a few fans. Weah found time to give his jersey to someone in the crowd. Even though there were about 17 minutes left in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, they both showed their exuberance and confidence that the U.S. could see out the rest of the match.

That the U.S. did, prevailing 2-1 over the Ticos to grab a vital three points in its World Cup qualifying quest. The energy displayed by Dest and Weah was fitting in that this was a match where youth triumphed over experience. The U.S. starting lineup, averaging 22 years and 61 days, was the youngest it had ever fielded in a World Cup qualifier. Costa Rica, meanwhile, put out a starting XI with six players over 30. And its youngest player, 27-year-old Keysher Fuller, was older than the U.S.’s oldest player, 26-year-old goalkeeper Zack Steffen. The difference became even more pronounced later in the game when 39-year-old forward Alvaro Saborio, 37-year-old midfielder Christian Bolanos and 33-year-old defender Kendall Waston all entered the match.The U.S. certainly showed its inexperience at times, not the least of which was falling behind with less than a minute elapsed on the clock. But the U.S. showed plenty of resilience in recording a win that likely puts it second in the Octagonal standings.”For us to be navigating through this CONCACAF qualifying — which is a bear, a monster — with this group, and the amount of poise they showed on the field today, particularly going down a goal, and then the second half being up a goal and managing the game really well,” said United States coach Gregg Berhalter after the match. “I mean, Gianluca Busio comes on, and he looks like he’s 30 years old. So I’m proud of the effort. The guys showed a lot of poise and they’re growing. They’re growing as a team.”The start couldn’t have been more inauspicious. Less than a minute into the match, Steffen — something of a surprise starter after Matt Turner had started the first five matches — came off his line to clear a through ball with his head, but it didn’t eliminate the danger. With the U.S. defense scrambling to get back in shape, Ronald Matarrita found a wide open Fuller at the far post to sidestep past Steffen.Yet this youthful U.S. team didn’t crumble. In fact, it immediately seized the initiative, and even as the U.S. looked overeager with some of its passing, it was first to a lot of second balls and put consistent pressure on the Costa Rica goal.

“We weren’t nervous at all,” Weah said. “Obviously it was a bummer to take the goal pretty early in the game. But we knew what our game plan was, and it was to expose their backline and I feel like we did that. The outside backs played a huge role today. The wingers played great. Everyone played great so it was us coming together and just staying focused and adding that intensity.”The fear was that with all-world goalkeeper Keylor Navas in net for the Ticos, it was going to take something otherworldly to get on the scoreboard. Dest delivered precisely that, taking a pass from Yunus Musah near the corner of the box, moving the ball to his supposedly weaker left foot and unleashing a rocket into the top corner that left Navas with no chance. Not even the fact that his shoelace was untied could stop him.”I think it was [Weston McKennie], he made the run in behind and the guy follows him, so there was space for me,” Dest said. “I just got put inside and I thought like the only thing I could do at the moment was just shoot it, because we had to score. We are 1-0 down, so I felt like you know, we needed this point so I was just trying to show it and it was an amazing goal.”A critical point in the match came at halftime when it was revealed that Navas had suffered an adductor injury and would have to be substituted for by Leonel Moreira. Without its talisman in net, the game was there for the taking.The U.S. eventually took advantage in the 66th minute, as Dest turned provider for Weah, whose tight-angled drive went off Moreira, hit the post and trickled in. It officially went down as an own goal, though Berhalter said he would try to get that changed.Still, it was a big moment for Weah, who only found out five minutes before game time that he would be starting after Paul Arriola was injured during the warm-up. And just prior to the goal he noticed he was about to be subbed out.”I saw [Matthew] Hoppe and DeAndre [Yedlin] on the sideline getting ready to come in, so I kind of had the idea that I was gonna get subbed out,” he said. “But my goal was just to stay focused on till then and it just so happened at the ball came out wide to Serge and I saw the run and I just hit it one time and it happened to go in. It’s just being focused in those moments.”It was a redemptive performance for the U.S. following last Sunday’s loss to Panama, but especially for Dest. Much has been expected of the defender, he of the Ajax and now Barcelona pedigree, yet he has endured a rollercoaster ride in qualifying, struggling during the last window, especially when playing on the left side of the U.S. defense. In this window, Dest succeeded in raising his level, and in this match, he was the difference-maker that fans and teammates alike expected.”It’s almost like the sky’s the limit for [Dest]. He could be as good as he wants to be,” said Berhalter. “You saw today with his attacking play, it’s unreal. For Serge it’s just hanging in there mentally, really pushing himself to be to be the best when he’s on the field.”Dest admitted that qualifying games in CONCACAF are “an eye-opener” and a different world from what he’s used to in Europe. He noted that the intensity is high, and the opponents are hardworking.”And it’s just physical,” he added.But Dest and his teammates are learning they can play that card as well. And they needed to use their physical attributes — and brains too – to get past the Ticos. One moment that crystallized the task facing the U.S. was when defender Miles Robinson gave the ball away in the second half, sparking Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz on an apparent breakaway. But Robinson ate up the yards in ravenous fashion and snuffed out the threat. Costa Rica just didn’t have the legs.In the process, the U.S. banished some ghosts too. It was the Ticos who sent the U.S. team’s qualifying effort during the 2018 cycle into a tailspin with a 2-0 road victory. Four years later, this Costa Rica team is clearly one that is in transition. But it’s a foe that still needs to be vanquished, and the U.S. this time protected its home turf.The win puts the U.S. second in the Octagonal standings, but the six points in this window are a smidgen less than what was expected, given that a draw in Panama was doable. And the road is going to get tougher. A Nov. 12 home encounter with bitter rivals Mexico looms, as does a road tilt against Jamaica, which looked revived in a 2-0 road win against Honduras. The U.S. will need to play with more consistency.  But so far youth has served the U.S. well, and at least for the moment, the qualifying campaign is back on track.

The USMNT and Balancing Momentum, Changes and the Big Picture

Wholesale lineup swaps led to a disjointed effort in Panama, but it’s all part of a long-term strategy. Whether it proves worthwhile is the lingering question.

AVI CREDITOR

 quick glance at travel options from Chicago, where U.S. Soccer is headquartered, to Qatar, the host of the 2022 World Cup, reveals that, as of Monday, there are very few nonstop flights. The vast majority of routes come with stops along the way, some that may not be the most direct or convenient. This is not meant to be a travel advisory for those looking to book plans for next November, but more so a roundabout, metaphorical way at stating that for the U.S. men’s national team, making it to Qatar quite clearly won’t be achieved via the most direct and desirable means.In theory, having a top-choice team available for every World Cup qualifying match would be great. In theory, having to confront schedule compression that jeopardizes the wellbeing and ability of players more than it has in the past wouldn’t be a factor. And in theory, the quest to sustain momentum would not be in direct conflict with what’s realistically required over the span of such a hectic week.That’s how the U.S. wound up arriving at Sunday night’s approach, where the impact of seven lineup changes became a prevailing theme following a 1–0 defeat in Panama that, again, has the spotlight squarely on the U.S. to respond in its next match. With Weston McKennie (muscle strain) and Antonee Robinson (COVID-19 travel protocol due to his club being based in the U.K.) not making the trip, two changes were already guaranteed, but taking it a significant step further wound up throwing off the balance of the team. As manager Gregg Berhalter said, the U.S. was not great in duels vs. Panama, and its spacing was all off. The Americans didn’t manage a single shot on goal, and their expected goals total, something Berhalter has used as a data point to defend previous results where the final scoreboard hasn’t been fully flattering, was a paltry 0.22. As Berhalter succinctly and accurately said amid more detailed and self-reflecting remarks, “We were poor.”“Looking at the game [vs. Jamaica] on Thursday in Austin and then the travel and then what we’re going to be dealing with here, the conditions, we wanted to be able to get fresh guys on the field,” Berhalter said. “You saw some of the guys that played in the game in Austin had a difficult time bringing the intensity that we needed. So we were hoping with this lineup that we were going to get that, get mobility, and we didn’t play our best. We had a number of guys that performed below expectations, and that’s part of it. It’s a young group. It’s about learning, regrouping and going from here.”Winning the Nations League and Gold Cup this summer with different squads perhaps instituted a false level of expectation that the U.S. could effectively swap out lineups on a wholesale level and have little to no drop-off. But there’s nuance that gets lost in that. Not every player can step in and replicate to the same effect, and the number of the switches isn’t necessarily as important as the specifics of who wound up starting. Beyond that, the stakes are significantly higher here, and it’s become clear (if it wasn’t already) that Tyler Adams’s presence on the field can have a domino effect on everyone else. Trotting him out for the entirety of all three games this month, as was the case last month, was untenable, though, Berhalter said.“Prior to this camp, Tyler hasn’t been playing regularly for his team,” Berhalter said. “He had a little bit of injury, he was in and out of the lineup, so now to ask a player who has not had any load or much load in the last three weeks, to go play three 90s, I wasn’t comfortable with it, and I’ll take responsibility for that. The good thing is he’ll be ready to go against Costa Rica, and he should have full power for that game.”The number of changes was significantly higher compared with some of the U.S.’s chief competitors. It’s not apples to apples given the number of variables in play, but Mexico, playing with the luxury of having two straight home games with no travel in between matches, made three lineup changes from its first match of this window to the second. Perhaps more appropriate as it relates to the U.S., Mexico made five swaps last month between matches at Costa Rica and at Panama, and Los Canaleros held El Tri to a 1–1 draw—and would’ve taken all three points if not for a late Tecatito Corona equalizer.Canada, facedwith the difficulty of playing two straight road games before heading home, made five lineup swaps Sunday night. Costa Rica, the U.S.’s next opponent, played on the road and returned home, making just three changes in between games and knowing full well that a flight to Columbus beckoned.Los Ticos were in a considerably more desperate position, though, carrying only three points into their fifth game and knowing that defeat to El Salvador on Sunday would have spelled early doom. As much of a greater margin for error as there may be in a round that features 14 matches instead of the previous 10, there is still a giant match-to-match swing when it comes to comfort level in the table, considering the stakes.The level of comfort for the U.S., which hasn’t had the services of the injured Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna for this full window, was different. Perhaps sitting atop the table entering Sunday’s game and having a slightly larger margin for error based on its most recent results, it felt able to take a calculated risk and make more sweeping changes, thinking that if it could steal a point or even all three in Panama that it’d be sitting pretty three days later vs. Costa Rica—and that even if it didn’t, it’d still be set up to succeed in its next match with a more full-strength squad. There’s a big picture to take into account, even if a quick-trigger fan base demands excellence on a game-to-game basis. The U.S. demands that of itself, too, but the practicality of executing that given all the constraints and long-term planning is not always considered. There’s no doubt that Berhalter and the U.S. got it horribly wrong Sunday night, but there’s little time to dwell on it when the next match and next chance to spin the narrative is less than 72 hours away.“I think the way to look at it—and this is how I looked at it—now it obviously doesn’t look like the best choice, but I think we have to wait until Thursday,” Berhalter said. “Because if we would’ve played the same players from the last game—first of all, two of them weren’t even here, so that was going to be impossible—but if we would’ve played the same players in this game, I’m not sure we would position ourselves in the best way to win again on Wednesday. The conditions that we’re dealing with here, the travel, with the weather, made it complicated. And we had to make I guess a somewhat risky decision, and the good thing is we’re still in second place.”He’s right about being in second place, but in such a congested table over a third of the way through the qualifying competition, the sixth-place team is only three points behind. And the problem with enduring such a self-inflicted stumble and coming up on the wrong end of that calculated risk is that the U.S. has put itself into a similar position as it did last window. It needs a win in its final match to stabilize its table standing and enter the next window feeling good about the big picture and its overall itinerary on what it hopes is a winding road that ultimately leads to Doha.“Our goal is to go into Wednesday’s game and get three points,” Berhalter said. “We take every game as it comes, and Wednesday is another opportunity to get three points and further establish our position in the group.”

Lot of Fight, a Little Fate and a Course Correction for USMNT

The U.S. men’s national team’s World Cup qualifying campaign has proven to be about a young group’s capacity to respond, and that was on display in a second window-salvaging win in as many months.

BRIAN STRAUS  SI 

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OLUMBUS, Ohio — The tifo hoisted by the American Outlaws behind the north goal of Lower.com Field was still fluttering in the evening breeze when disaster struck.“Our Future Is Now,” the massive banner read. But just 60 seconds into Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, the U.S. men’s national team’s future appeared imperiled. A short clearance by goalkeeper Zack Steffen, a somewhat surprising choice to start in place of workhorse Matt Turner, helped spark a Tico attack that ended with a slow, seeing-eye shot from defender Keysher Fuller bouncing in to Steffen’s right. And with that, the U.S. was losing this mostly must-win match before the smoke from the pre-game pyrotechnics had finished drifting into the Columbus night.This month’s three-game qualifying window was about responses. The U.S. had to respond to the absence of its two most dangerous attacking players, the injured Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna. It had to respond to Sunday’s loss in Panama, which was probably its worst performance under coach Gregg Berhalter. And it had to respond following that stunning first-minute breakdown. That’s a test for any team. And it represents an especially intriguing challenge for one so inexperienced and young. The starting lineup Berhalter chose to face Costa Rica was the youngest in the program’s World Cup qualifying history. It averaged 22 years and 61 days.“That’s basically unheard of in international football,” Berhalter said.

The Americans controlled the contest, pinned Costa Rica back and deserved the good fortune to come. Sergiño Dest, the 20-year-old outside back, brought the U.S. level with a stunning 25th-minute equalizer. The hosts survived a couple nail-biting defensive errors on either side of halftime and then in the 66th, Tim Weah—a last-minute addition to the U.S. lineup—fired home the game-winner. The 2–1 victory and three points lifted the second-place Americans to a 3-1-2 record, strengthened their hold on one of Concacaf’s three direct berths to the 2022 World Cup and helped boost morale ahead of the November showdown with Mexico.Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports Both three-game windows have been a grind. The U.S. didn’t hit its stride in September until the second half of the third game. There was a steep learning curve for a team of qualifying debutants, injuries and the sensational suspension of midfield anchor Weston McKennie. This month, a relatively easy opening win over Jamaica was followed by the faceplant against Panama, which generated considerable conversation and concern about Berhalter’s faith in the depth of his player pool and the team’s mental fortitude. Fuller’s goal provided one more symbolic hurdle. The Americans cleared it with aplomb. https://41be34960ab1bd05b2b76c8ba5ee64ce.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html “What I try to avoid, especially with the team, is putting pressure on them because of external forces. We have enough internal pressure that we want to play a certain way. We want to play well and we want to win games,” the manager said. “But all of World Cup qualifying is difficult. All of World Cup qualifying is challenging. And sometimes I feel like people forget that and people think it’s a cakewalk and we’re going to play the youngest team in the history of U.S. Soccer in a game, and we’re just going to breeze through these games. It’s not realistic.”They’re young enough that seven players on the current squad, six of whom saw action on Wednesday, weren’t born when Columbus hosted its first World Cup qualifier back in the fall of 2000. The old Crew Stadium had become a symbolic and spiritual home for a national team lacking an official one, a fortress where the Americans routinely challenged Mexico for regional supremacy and lost only once. The venue is now different and far more modern. But if Columbus really is the national team’s spiritual home, then the ghosts delivered for the Americans on Wednesday.Winger Paul Arriola pulled up injured during warm-ups, and Weah found out five minutes before kickoff that he was going to start. The 21-year-old Lille attacker struggled in Panama but got an unexpected chance to make amends in Columbus. Moments before he was set to be replaced in the second half, he made a smart run between the Costa Rican left and center backs, positioned himself over a short pass from Dest and hammered a shot off the post and goalkeeper Leonel Moreira. It was scored as an own goal, which seemed unfair to Weah and rankled Berhalter.“I don’t think it’s an own goal. I think we gotta get that changed,” Berhalter declared. “I think it’s Tim’s goal. So we’ll talk to FIFA about that or whoever we need to and see if we can get that reversed.”Weah was just glad he started and was still on the field, and he made the most of that twist of fate.  “I saw [Matthew] Hoppe and DeAndre [Yedlin] on the sideline getting ready to come in so I kind of had the idea that I was going to get subbed out,” he said. “My goal was just to stay focused until then, and it just so happened that the ball came out wide to [Dest], and I saw the run and I just hit it one time and it happened to go in. It was just being focused in those moments.”Moreira’s inability to corral Weah’s bid also represented a bit of good fortune for the hosts. Costa Rican legend Keylor Navas, a three-time UEFA Champions League winner, started the match but departed after the first half with a muscle injury. Perhaps he parries Weah’s shot. Perhaps that’s the difference between one point and three.But the U.S. earned its luck. Its response to the early deficit was confident and emphatic. All the movement, proactivity and dynamism that was missing in Panama was on display in Columbus, where Berhalter deployed nine new starters (Weah and Yunus Musah were the only holdovers). The Americans didn’t buckle after Costa Rica’s goal. Rather, they soon imposed their will in midfield and carried the play. By the time a quarter hour had passed, the U.S. was clearly in the ascendancy. Dest’s goal was a thing of beauty—a 13-pass move that included nine players and which finished with a brilliant, space-creating decoy run by McKennie and then an emphatic left-footed blast by the Barcelona back.He was responding too. Dest had a miserable night in the Octagonal opener in El Salvador and was lifted early. He then got hurt in the subsequent game against Canada. Wednesday was a welcome boost, and Dest acknowledged his return to form with animated exhortations to the crowd as he exited the match in the 73rd minute.“Obviously I grew up in Holland and the Concacaf teams, they play a little bit different,” Dest said. “The intensity is high. They work a lot. They work really hard and it’s just physical. It’s physical. But, I mean, we can also do that, you know? And I think if you just work as a team we can beat every team.”Nobody has ever doubted this squad’s potential. It’s loaded with players who are on the books at the sport’s top clubs and others who are attracting their attention. Putting that potential into practice, however, hasn’t been seamless. Berhalter has argued that ups and downs should be expected. That’s a function of youth and of trying to qualify from a region whose teams have a habit of nullifying edges in talent or pedigree. Conditions are tough, the travel is a grind and the opposition is desperate and savvy. Any point is a good one. Rebounding from a poor performance with a come-from-behind win is a sign that the composure and confidence required is developing. “The beginning we weren’t sharp enough,” Dest said. “After a couple minutes we came into the game and created more chances, and we were in their half. The mentality of this group is still right, you know? We work together. We do it together.”Berhalter didn’t have to stretch to draw a link between the Sunday’s loss and Fuller’s early goal.“My initial thought was, ‘Here we go. We’ve got to respond.’ We challenged the guys to respond after a poor performance in Panama, and this was going to be another element that we needed to respond to,” he said.“If you go look at the Germanys, Frances, Brazils, they’re basically playing 28-year-old, 29-year-old teams. So for us to be navigating through this Concacaf qualifying, which is a bear—a monster—with this group, and the amount of poise they showed on the field, particularly going down a goal, and then the second half being up a goal and managing the game really well. … I’m proud of the effort,” Berhalter added. “The guys showed a lot of poise and they’re growing. They’re growing as a team.”

Three Takeaways from the USMNT’s World Cup Qualifying rally past Costa Rica

By Charles Boehm @cboehm  Wednesday, Oct 13, 2021, 11:15 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio – By any means necessary, right?

Ws are the bottom line during World Cup qualifying, and while the US men’s national team took the long cut to get there at Lower.com Field – longer than the Olentangy and Scioto Rivers’ meandering paths past this lovely new venue, I reckon – they did indeed reach their goal, digging out a 2-1 comeback win over Costa Rica to put their Concacaf Octagonal campaign back on course.

Here are three observations from a massive, stomach-churning but ultimately quite encouraging victory.

1

Nightmare start, thumping response

Gregg Berhalter made nine changes from the XI that stumbled so badly in Panama last Sunday, most of which were understandable. But the one in goal was perhaps a bit more of a head-turner, so to speak: handing Zack Steffen his first World Cup qualifying cap and dropping Matt Turner after 11 consecutive starts across Gold Cup and qualifying action.

It’s not that Steffen hasn’t accrued both caps and credibility with this team, it was more a question of his sharpness – having played just two matches for Manchester City so far this season – and whether a change at this particular moment was necessary, from both a team and individual standpoint.

It looked like even more of a talking point when Steffen showed some hesitancy as Los Ticos surged forward and slipped a scruffy goal past him a mere 60 seconds after the opening whistle, a brutal punch to the gut on a night where an inspiring start had been a clear priority for the USMNT.

“My initial thought was, ‘Here we go, we got to respond,’” said Berhalter postgame. “We challenged the guys to respond after a poor performance in Panama, and this was going to be another element that we needed to respond to.”

And indeed they did, pushing through some obvious jitters and gradually connecting passes to build a rhythm. While they probably didn’t expect to see such a proactive early approach from Costa Rica, the energy, movement and bite of that rangy Tyler Adams-Weston McKennie-Yunus Musah midfield trio steadily tilted the field in the Yanks’ favor.

Marauding fullbacks are a core element in Berhalter’s ideal way of playing and Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson filled the role to a T here, crafting crisp passing triangles along the channels and stretching the Ticos with their constant availability on big, booming switches. And then Dest calmed just about every US nerve in the building with this weaker-foot thunderbolt of an equalizer:

“It was early enough in the game, if we stayed calm and stuck to the game plan, I thought we’d be OK,” said Berhalter of the early setback. “It briefly flashed in my mind, Costa Rica just going into a really really low block. Thankfully they didn’t do that. So credit to the guys for staying calm, hanging in there and playing our game.”

2

Joy and rhythm

With an average age of 22 years and 229 days old, the USMNT starting XI was the youngest World Cup qualifying lineup in program history, breaking the record set just a month ago in the Honduras win. There’s reason to fear the downsides of that inexperience against a bunch of savvy vets like these Ticos – yet there are also major advantages, too.The young Yanks finally asserted control over the balance of a match, bossing the possession battle by a 64-36 ratio and forcing their much older adversaries to chase, shift and scrap. The visitors tired visibly down the stretch and while it was to their credit that they hung around until the very end, they looked a beaten, broken bunch as they limped off the pitch.Meanwhile, there was some entertainment on offer for the home faithful in addition to the vital three points. The US are playing this freakishly young lineup because they’re damn good, and with Dest, Tim Weah, Brenden Aaronson & Co., there’s skill and daring aplenty. The run of play was downright vibrant at times.Dest even made a point of thrilling the crowd not only with his golazo, flicks and backheels but also by being an impromptu cheerleader after exiting the match, which can only further endear him to the supporters:

“The crowd is amazing,” Dest said. “I love the fans, I was trying to get them hyped up, also for the other players. We can feel that the fans have our backs, so hopefully they continue like that.”

A third, clinching goal seemed close at hand, but when it didn’t materialize, the USMNT had to keep their focus and salt away the result – and it spoke volumes when Gianluca Busio, a 19-year-old WCQ debutant, was called upon to help do so, successfully.

“That’s basically unheard of in international football,” said Berhalter of his fresh-faced side. “If you go and look at the Germanys, Frances, the Brazils, they’re basically playing 28-year-old, 29-year-old teams.

“So for us to be navigating through this Concacaf qualifying, which is a bear, a monster, with this group, and the amount of poise they showed on the field today, particularly going down a goal and then the second half being up a goal, managing the game really well – Gianluca Busio comes on and he was playing like he’s 30 years old. So I’m proud of the effort, the guys showed a lot of poise and they’re growing, they’re growing as a team.”

3

Sturdy spine

As mentioned above, the concept of control has been a recurring thread in this USMNT’s journey to date – the ability to put a thumb on a match’s metronome to slow it down it or goose it up as needed.

That trait was woefully lacking in Panama, and it burned them. Something similar can be said of the disappointing draw against Canada last month, and for significant stretches, the away tie in El Salvador as well.

On Wednesday the group put it all together, getting stuck in, knitting together passing combinations, coordinating their movements and turning the screw minute by minute. Costa Rica did tug open a few seams here and there and it took a jaw-dropping display of Miles Robinson‘s recovery speed to shut down a sudden Bryan Ruiz breakaway in the second half.

But on the whole, the Yanks remained protagonists, undergirded by the engine-room steel and athleticism of “MMA”: Adams – who remains irreplaceable – McKennie (an influencer who needed to step up here) and Musah.

If those three can stay healthy, build their chemistry and keep a focus on both the short-term work and the long-term rewards ahead, they have a real prospect of growing into a force to be reckoned with down the Octagonal stretch, and eventually in Qatar 2022.

“We know his talent,” said Berhalter of the excellent Musah. “The talent is off the charts, and I know it’s easy to talk really highly about a guy after he plays well in a win and everyone’s happy. But I’m telling you, the kid is a player.

“Regarding Weston, he’s another one that his physicality, his desire alone can carry him, and just can push the team. He plays with a lot of momentum, he plays with a lot of energy, in transition moments he’s explosive, he sees passes. For me, he’s really a quality player.”

My 3 Thoughts on USMNT-Costa Rica

A Dominant U.S. Midfield Overcomes a Disastrous Start; A Tremendous Team Goal Finished by Dest; the USMNT Is On Track for the World Cup

   Grant Wahl Oct 14 

Sergiño Dest (left) scored on a left-footed rocket past Keylor Navas (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Welcome to Fútbol with Grant Wahl — a newsletter about soccer. You can read what this is about here. If you like what you see, consider forwarding it to some friends. You can also click the button below to subscribe for free and receive every free post (like this one) in your inbox the second it’s published. And if you do like it, consider going to the paid version to receive every post I produce.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Here are my three thoughts on the USMNT’s 2-1 win against Costa Rica in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier, bringing the U.S. to 11 points after six games in the CONCACAF Octagonal:

• The U.S. midfield was hugely improved over the Panama loss. After going down 1-0 in the first minute in the worst start imaginable, the U.S. deserved to come back and win this game, not least because the midfield was dominant. Tyler Adams should start every game in the central midfield, period. He’s a game-changer in how much space he controls, and he makes players like Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie around him better. The U.S. had 63 percent possession in the game and was far smoother in its passing than the jumbled mess we saw in Panama Sunday. That central midfield completed just 11 passes to each other in the first half; Adams, McKennie and Musah completed three times as many in the first 45 on Wednesday, as noted by TruMedia’s Paul Carr. While Costa Rica’s aging players were exhausted in the second half of their third game in seven days, the U.S.’s midfielders kept ticking and the Ticos rarely looked threatening. The one time they did, when Bryan Ruiz had a breakaway thanks to a botched U.S. pass, Miles Robinson reeled Ruiz in like you might expect a 24-year-old to track down a 36-year-old.

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• The USMNT scored one of its best goals in a long time. Sergiño Dest has a knack for producing highlight-reel goals, and he added a glorious one to the list by blasting a rocket with his left (weaker) foot—with his shoelaces untied!—past Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas to tie the score at 1-1. But I wish highlight packages would also show the other reason why it was such a great goal: The majestic U.S. buildup involving 13 passes among nine players over 35 seconds. That’s the kind of soccer this U.S. team is capable of playing, and when they do it’s something to behold. It was also the first time in nine games that the U.S. scored a goal in the first half. On Tuesday, Antonee Robinson said the U.S. players needed to remind themselves that they’re a good team and can be ruthless in the attack, that it was time to be less conservative. The result of that approach was one of the best U.S. goals—and build-ups—that we’ve seen.

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• It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of the U.S. comeback. This was a pivotal match in the 14-game Octagonal. Had Costa Rica kept its lead, the Ticos would have overtaken the U.S. in the standings by a point, the U.S. could have fallen as low as fifth place and U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter would have been on a very hot seat. Instead, the U.S. finds itself in no worse than second place by the end of the night (and first if Mexico loses at El Salvador). That’s a much better place to be in heading into the next qualifier, a huge rivalry game next month against Mexico down the road in Cincinnati. Getting at least six points out of this window was crucial for the USMNT, and that job got done, even if the loss in Panama was ugly. At this rate, the U.S. is doing what it takes to get to the World Cup next year. The path getting there might be bumpier than U.S. fans want—that was certainly the case against Costa Rica—but they’re on track for Qatar.

Laces Wild

Dest’s Golazo with an Untied Shoe Powers USMNT’s 2-1 Comeback Win over Costa Rica

   Grant Wahl Oct 14 

Welcome to Fútbol with Grant Wahl — a newsletter about soccer. You can read what this is about here. If you like what you see, consider forwarding it to some friends. You can also click the button below to subscribe for free and receive every free post in your inbox the second it’s published. And if you do like it, consider going to the paid version to receive every post. I also wrote My 3 Thoughts on the USMNT-Costa Rica game at the final whistle. You can subscribe for free to the Fútbol with Grant Wahl Podcast, including our USMNT-Costa Rica breakdown with Landon Donovan and Chris Wittyngham, in partnership with Meadowlark Media and Le Batard and Friends.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The great ones do it with their shoes untied. Remember when Usain Bolt won the 100 meters at the 2008 Olympics? He set a world record, and the laces on his left spikes were undone. Or remember when Diego Maradona did the most memorable warmup of all time, dropping outrageous ball skills before a 1989 UEFA Cup semifinal to the Opus song “Live Is Life”? Both of Maradona’s cleats were untied. The U.S.’s Sergiño Dest is not in the Mount Olympus realm of Bolt and Maradona—the Barcelona fullback is just 20 years old—but the equalizing goal he scored in the U.S.’s 2-1 win over Costa Rica on Wednesday was something special, a left-footed jolt of kinetic energy that felt like it could launch all of Lower.com Field into orbit. That Dest struck the ball with his weaker foot at the end of a 13-pass, 35-second buildup involving nine U.S. players was breathtaking. That his left shoe was untied the whole time made it preposterous. When coaches tell you to strike the ball with your laces, they presume that you’ll knot them first. Dest, however, is an unconventional character. When Lionel Messi held his tearful farewell press conference at Barcelona, Messi wore a suit and tie, and most of his teammates dressed for the momentous occasion. The Dutch-born Dest wore a red Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls full kit, shorts and all. “I never really think what I’m going to do,” Dest said after Wednesday’s game, referring to his goal, not the Bulls kit. “Weston [McKennie] made the run in behind, and the guy followed him, so there was space for me. I just cut it inside, and I thought the only thing I could do in that moment was just shoot it. Because we had to score, we were 1-0 down. I felt like we needed these points. So I was just trying to shoot, and it was an amazing goal.”Dest’s play so far In the Octagonal has explored the full spectrum of the Sergiño Experience. He was out of his element on Matchday 1 in El Salvador, his first game ever in Central America, leaving his teammates exposed while he dribbled into dead ends. Bringing a Barcelona starter to Estadio Cuscatlán felt like taking a bottle of Mouton Rothschild to a Jägermeister-drenched freshman dorm party. Last month’s window became a wash when Dest got injured against Canada. But he came back strong against Jamaica in Austin last week, serving a delicate cross for Ricardo Pepi’s first goal, and after sitting out the loss in Panama he brought the goods against Costa Rica.“Sergiño is an interesting player because it’s almost like the sky’s the limit for him,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said on Wednesday night. “He could be as good as he wants to be. And you saw today with his attacking play, it’s unreal. … For Serge, it’s just hanging in there mentally, really pushing himself to be the best when he’s on the field. And I think we’re forgetting how young he is. Defenders rely on experience, and he just needs to gain experience. He’s doing a great job now. He’s played over 60 games for Barcelona already. That’s a really impressive record, and he just needs to keep working.”

Truth be told, Dest hadn’t covered himself in glory defensively on the strange goal that Costa Rica scored in the first minute of the game, silencing the crowd as the American Outlaws were still lowering their tifo. Dest couldn’t keep up with Ronald Matarrita, whose cross found Keysher Fuller open in the box. Fuller’s shot beat an oddly rooted Zack Steffen, who was starting in the U.S. goal in place of Matt Turner. Dest, who was all the way over on the right side, kept the Costa Ricans onside despite U.S. protests, and suddenly the Yanks were down a goal and staring at a fate similar to the devastating home qualifying fixture loss to Costa Rica four years ago.

 “My initial thought was here we go,” said Berhalter. “We challenged the guys to respond after a poor performance in Panama. And this was going to be another element that we needed to respond to. It was early enough in the game. If we stayed calm and stuck to the game plan, I thought we’d be okay. It briefly flashed in my mind, Costa Rica could just go into a really, really low block. Thankfully they didn’t do that. But credit to the guys for staying calm, hanging in there and playing our game.”

The U.S. had some luck along the way. After McKennie and Yunus Musah combined to gift-wrap a first-half scoring chance for Costa Rica, Chris Richards—making his World Cup qualifying debut—dove in for a tackle at the last moment and avoided what could have been a penalty and red card. Then in the second half, a bad pass in the back from Miles Robinson sprang 36-year-old Bryan Ruiz on a slow-motion breakaway, only for the 24-year-old Robinson to reel in Ruiz like a Bassmaster and prevent him from even releasing a shot. (Had it been anyone other than Ruiz, the Ticos could have equalized.)…

Good Reads: Landon Donovan Joins Us to Talk USMNT-Costa Rica and Look Ahead to USA-Mexico.

   Grant Wahl Oct 14 

USMNT legend Landon Donovan will join me and Chris Wittyngham for podcast episodes after every USMNT World Cup qualifier to break down the game and share insights from his vast experience. Those podcasts, in partnership with Meadowlark and Le Batard and Friends, will post on the night of or the day after every qualifier. Every audio episode of Fútbol with Grant Wahl is available for free in the archives on my Substack siteApple PodcastsSpotify and elsewhere.

For paying subscribers to this newsletter, we’re going to make the written versions of these podcasts available as well. Some people just prefer to consume written content over audio content. You can sign up for a subscription (free or paid) here.


Grant Wahl:

Hey there. Welcome to Fútbol with Grant Wahl. Thank you so much for joining me. We’ve got another special episode today in partnership with Meadowlark and Le Batard & Friends with reaction from Landon Donovan, Chris Wittyngham, and me to the U.S. men’s national team’s 2-1 win over Costa Rica on World Cup qualifying Matchday 6. Landon is in San Diego, where he coaches San Diego Loyal. Chris is in South Florida, and I am in Columbus, Ohio, where I’m writing for my Substack newsletter, which you should subscribe to, free or paid, at grantwahl.com. Guys, it’s good to see you. How are you?

Landon Donovan:

What’s going on, guys?

Chris Wittyngham:

I feel like in that intro two things stay the same and one thing changes. And I feel like it’s just a reminder you that you’re at every World Cup qualifier.

Landon Donovan:

That you travel a lot.

Do you think if Keylor Navas is in the game that he makes the save [on the U.S. game-winner]? “Yes. And when he came out at halftime, again, I was with my buddies in the bar and I said, “I have no idea what happened, but that is the biggest blessing for us.” 100% he makes the save. 100% he makes the save on Weah’s shot. And then who knows what happens after that? Maybe the U.S. do score again, but there’s no doubt in my mind. And so, that was a gift.” — Landon Donovan

Grant Wahl:

I travel a lot, man. I am looking forward to getting home for a few days, but I love covering these things onsite. I love the travel, the away games, the home games too. Loved being in that stadium tonight in Columbus, brand new stadium, it’s absolutely gorgeous and just great location, great atmosphere. And the U.S. gets three points after a disastrous start going down 1-0 in the first minute on a truly strange goal by Costa Rica. Let’s start with Landon. What were you thinking at that point?

Landon Donovan:

All right. So full disclosure, I was driving home. I was three minutes late to this bar with my buddies, and I get there and I see the screen and I’m like, “Guys, what the hell happened?” Last time we sat at that bar, we beat Jamaica 2-0. So they’re like, “It’s all your fault. You weren’t here in time. Blah, blah, blah.” So I actually had to see it on the screen of his phone.

And my thought was what everyone thought is, a little bit of a haphazard clearance by Zack [Steffen], but then just a sort of series of, I guess, mistakes, but also a bit of misfortune too. And then on first glance, you think, “Well, the player in front of Zack has to be offside.” And then when you watch the replay, you see Sergiño [Dest] is kind of back in the play. Maybe he’s off the field and that’s like sort of this gray area too. So it was a bit of just a weird play, but a horrible start.

Grant Wahl:

Yeah. I can’t imagine a worse one. And Zack Steffen is involved in that play, but I want to ask you both, like how much was Zack Steffen at fault, and how did you feel about him getting his first start in qualifying ahead of Matt Turner?

“I am fascinated by this game. I think it’s going to be probably the most hyped U.S.-Mexico game ever.” — Landon Donovan

Chris Wittyngham:

I wasn’t particularly bothered by it. I think there’s a segment of the U.S. men’s national team fan base that was kind of annoyed that this is another bit of tinkering that Gregg Berhalter did that felt unnecessary. I didn’t think that Matt Turner was particularly good in Panama, particularly from a distribution point of view. And so, I wonder if Gregg Berhalter was kind of looking to improve in that area with Zack Steffen coming in.

I was incredibly defensive of the decision. I thought that Zack Steffen has kind of been unfairly maligned now because of how well Matt Turner has played. I don’t think these are two things that are at odds. I still think Zack Steffen is an incredibly talented goalkeeper who has been chosen by Pep Guardiola to be a part of Manchester City. And also Matt Turner has had an incredible couple of years in Major League Soccer.

So I think that both are well capable of starting. But then in the first minute, he’s kind of involved in a moment where you almost see the lack of game experience that he has in recent times, because he is shielded by a defender. It is an awkward situation, he comes racing off his line, which he’s become comfortable with doing, playing for Pep and playing with Ederson.

And so he’s way out of his goal, but then he comes back in, and I think he’s kind of unnerved by this movement that happens in front of him, immediately goes to appeal for offside. And I think is kind of undone by circumstances that maybe if you were playing every week, wouldn’t feel as bothersome or as new to him. So I do think that he is unlucky, but I think the bottom line is that’s probably a save that he should be making, and probably would have made if he was playing regular games for his club.

Landon Donovan:

But I would say, Witty, I can’t really tell, but I’m not sure he saw the ball. I thought maybe he might’ve been double-blinded by his own player and then by the Costa Rican player too. So it’s hard to know if he saw it because it looked like he just reacted late. The first part is, it’s exactly what you said. It’s just not being game sharp and making a little bit of a crazy play flying out of his goal like that.

But that being said, there was plenty of time for the U.S. to settle, defend the cross, block the cross, defend the cross when it came in and then make a play. And they just didn’t. So it was sort of a series of errors. But to the U S ‘s credit, the response was excellent. And what I’ve said over and over to you guys is, mounting pressure on teams, and they just did that over and over and over. And the last 20 minutes were basically a cakewalk because Costa Rica were so worn out.

Grant Wahl:

We talked after the third game in the window last month about how exhausted Honduras was. And you could just see it on the field in the second half. And the U.S. has more players that they use. They have, I think, the advantage of more infrastructural support, they fly charters. They have this whole recovery arsenal that Gregg Berhalter described a little bit when I asked him about it yesterday. And the advantage I think becomes very clear in the third game. And Costa Rica is an old team. I think Costa Rica has players that are older than you, Landon.

Landon Donovan:

[Laughs] That’s saying a lot.

Grant Wahl:

And so, when Bryan Ruiz has the one great chance of the second half, a bad pass in the back by Miles Robinson, and then Miles Robinson catches up to Bryan Ruiz, who should’ve had a breakaway, and Robinson makes a great recovery run and the shot doesn’t even really get off. But you felt like this is an old Costa Rica team. It’s a lot of the guys from the 2014 World Cup team that got to the quarterfinals. And it’s frankly not as good a Costa Rica team as we’ve seen in recent cy