2/17/2020   Champions League Sweet 16 Back Tues/Wed, CCL MLS vs Concacaf starts Tues/Wed, Man City UCL Ban?

The return of EUFA Champions League Play this week and next (Tues/Wed 3 pm) leads of the week of huge games.  Its Sweet 16 time – with huge match-ups including Defending Champions Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid on TNT 3 pm on Tuesday and Dortmund (with subbing American youngster Geo Reyna) hosting Paris St. Germain at the same time.  Wednesday we Tottenham, last season’s 2nd place finishers, hosting RB Leipzig who will not have American Tyler Adams in the line-up as he is hurt.  That game is 3 pm on TNT.  Next Tues its Chelsea hosting German league leader Bayern Munich and Wed we get powerhouses Real Madrid hosting Man City.  Of course Liverpool will knock out my Atletico – so sad to see the spectacular coach Simeone on the bubble with Leti Madrid – injuries have crippled this team this season and I am not sure this is the same team in the new digs as it was at the legendary Caldron downtown.  Good to have Champions League back!

Concacaf Champions League

The CCL kicks off this Tues/Wed/Thurs on Fox sports 1 & 2 with evening games each next over the next 2 weeks and MLS squads Atlanta United, Seattle, LAFC, Montreal, NYCFC match up against teams from Mexico, Costa Rica, and other CONCACAF country teams.  Mexico has dominated the competition mainly because the season hasn’t even started yet in MLS while they are mid season in Mexico and other countries – but with 3 powerhouse squads – perhaps MLS can break thru this year?  (see full schedule on http://theoleballcoach.com)

Man City UCL Ban?

Wow huge news with EUFA handing down a 2 year suspension of Man City for Champions League for breaking rules on how much they spend on players.  If this sticks it will be huge – imagine would Pep leave Man City – would their top players like DeBruyne or leave with no Champions League player for 2 full years.  With regards to money it could cost Man City 200+ million in Champions League payouts.  The ramifications are huge.  I can certainly say while I was excited to see City win their first title a number of years back – over the past 3 years since Pep Guadiola has arrived – they have become the best team money can buy and spent billions on players while winning back to back titles.

USA

Great to see the US Ladies have no issues with Olympic Qualifying as they destroyed everyone including Canada in the finals with a huge 3-0 blanking.  Great to see 2nd string forward/Wingers Christian Press and Amanda Williams get on the board with some huge goals.  The US seriously probably has the 2 most talented teams in the America’s if not the world.  It will be interesting to see if the new coach will work in some youngsters – or stay with the same team that won the World Cup last summer.

GAMES ON TV 

Tues 2/18– Champions League

3 pm Gala, fubotv, B/R     Dortmund (Geo Reyna) vs PSG  

3 pm TNT                            Atletico vs Liverpool  

10 pm Fox Sport 2             Leon vs LAFC (CCL)

10 pm Fox Soccer/fubo     Motagua vs Atlanta United (CCL)

Weds 2/19– Champions League

2:30 pm NBCSN                 Man City vs West Ham

3 pm TNT                            Tottenham vs RB Leipzig (Adams?)

3 pm Gala, fubotv, B/R      Atalanta vs Valencia

8 pm Fox Sport 2               Deportivo vs Montreal Impact (CCL)

10 pm Fox Sport 2             Comunicaciones vs America (CCL)

Thur 2/20– Europa League+ CCL

3 pm TNT, TUDN fubotv,   Club Brugge  vs Man United

8 pm Fox Sport2                San Carlos vs NYCFC (CCL)

10 pm FS2                           Olimpia  vs Seattle Sounders (CCL)

Fri

10 pm   FS1                         USA Ladies vs Mexico (Olympic Qual Finals)

Saturday, 2/22
7:30 a.m. ET: NBCSN         Chelsea vs Tottenham

10 am NBCSN                     Crystal Palace vs Newcastle United

9:30 am Fox Sport2           Bremen ( ) vs Dortmund (Gio Reyna)

10 am beIN Sport               Barcelona vs Eibar

12 noon ESPN+                  SPAL vs Juventus

12:30 pm FS2                     Schalke vs RB Liepzig  
12:30 p.m. ET: NBC           Leicester City vs Man City

3 pm beIN Sport                 Levante vs Real Madrid

Sunday
6:30 am ESPN2                  Genoa vs Granada

9 a.m. ET: NBCSN               Man United v. Watford

11:30 a.m. ET: NBCSN       Arsenal vs Everton

3 pm beIN Sport                 PSG vs Bordeaux

Monday 2/24

.3 pm  NBCSN                     Liverpool vs West Ham

Tues 2/25– Champions League

3 pm TNT                            Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Bayern Munich  

3 pm TUDN fubotv, B/R    Napoli vs Barcelona

8 pm Fox Sport 1               Atlanta United vs Motagua  (CCL)   

Wed 2/26 – Champions League

3 pm TNT                            Real Madrid vs Man City  

3 pm TUDN fubotv, B/R    Lyonnais vs Juventus

6 pm Fox Sport 2               NYCFC vs San Carlos  (CCL)

10 pm FS2                           Montreal Impact vs Deportivo Saprissa

Thur 2/27– Europa League+ CCL

3 pm TNT, TUDN fubotv,   Man United vs Club Brugge

3 pm fubotv                        Olympiackos vs Arsenal

10 pm Fox Sport 1             LAFC vs Leon (CCL)

10 pm FS2                           Seattle Sounders vs Olimpia

Sat, Feb 29  MLS Season Opens

Sun, 3/1 

9 a.m. ET: NBCSN               Everton vs Man United

9am NBCSN                       Tottenham vs Wolverhampton

3 pm beIN sport/Fubo      Real Madrid vs Barcelona  (El CLassico)

3 pm ESPN                          Seattle vs Chicago Fire

5:30 pm ESPN                    LAFC vs Inter Miami

7:30 pm FS1                       Portland Timbers vs Minnesota United

WORLD, Champions League

How will Premier League clubs fare in UCL last 16?

Guardiola admits City can’t be sure Sterling will be fit to face Real Madrid

Liverpool most difficult team in UCL says Atletico Boss

Could Neymar, Mbappe antics derail PSG as season enters crunch time?
‘I don’t fear Haaland’ – Meunier backs PSG to overcome Borussia Dortmund in Champions League

Champions League squads changes for four PL teams

– Man City’s ban: What it means and what happens next
– Source: Guardiola fears for players after UEFA ban
– Klopp reacts to ban: “Complete wow!”

USA 

US women beat Canada 3-0 in Olympic qualifying final

USMNT: Brooks is back! Defender makes Bundesliga return

Tyler Adams to miss out on UEFA Champions League clash vs. Spurs
Top 25 players in the USMNT pool right now

Klinsmann removed from Hertha board after “unacceptable” departure

MLS

Doyle: Which MLS team has the best CCL chance?

CCL Fever! Predictions, team-by-team capsules and scouting reports

Club Leon president calls LAFC match “life or death”

Vela among reasons why MLS can finally topple Liga MX

Atlanta hit by injury bug heading into CCL opener

Report: FC Cincy closing in on deal for Ajax attacking midfielder

“Oh my gosh, I’m getting traded:” Zimmerman talks Nashville

Cincinnati Season Preview: Will FCC’s attacking makeover pay off?

40k and counting: Nashville eyeing attendance record

Wiebe: What Zimmerman trade means for LAFC, Nashville and the future

What the new CBA means for MLS: Players get their share  Jeff Carlisle

Champions League last-16 preview: don’t miss Dortmund-PSG, Man City under pressure, Liverpool to get upset?

4:03 PM ET  ESPN

With the Premier League race over, PSG running away with Ligue 1, Bayern and Juventus seemingly in charge of the Bundesliga and Serie A respectively, we might have to look to the UEFA Champions League for our soccer drama between now and May. The action returns in force this week with the start of the last-16: all 16 teams still standing are from Europe’s top five leagues and there’s upset potential up and down the draw.Will holders Liverpool successfully defend their crown or are we destined to get a new champion? What can we expect from Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona? How about RB Leipzig, who have soared from nowhere to challenge Bayern domestically but have more than enough talent to cause a shock in Europe, too? Consider this your ultimate guide to the first knockout round of the biggest club competition in soccer.

Jump to: Viewing guide and predictions | Burning questions

Your first leg viewing guide and predictions

Presented in order of watchability from “must-see TV” to “DVR for later,” Gab Marcotti breaks down all eight first legs of the last-16.

REAL MADRID vs. MAN CITY
– First leg: 2/26, 3 p.m. ET

Despite a string of injuries this season, most notably to record signing Eden Hazard, Real are leading la Liga and would love nothing more than crushing Pep Guardiola’s dream of a third Champions League crown. Especially given the fact that after his City side have been hit with a two-year ban from European competition, he won’t be getting another crack at it for a while.

PREDICTION: Tense, thrilling draw sets up possible drama at the Etihad

DORTMUND vs. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
– First leg: 2/18, 3 p.m. ET

This has the potential to be the most wide-open and popcorn-worthy tie of the round. Both sides love to score, and score often: Kylian Mbappe and Neymar may be the most glamorous pair of forwards in the game right now, but the Dortmund duo of Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho could one day supplant them. The German side aren’t what they used to be defensively but have more than enough in attack to trouble the French champions.

O’Hanlon: Guess what, folks? PSG are going to win the CL

PSG have suffered their share of Champions League heartbreakers over the years, whether against Barcelona or Real Madrid. With former Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel leading the way, is this the year it all comes together for PSG?

PREDICTION: Borussia Dortmund to strike first against French elite

ATALANTA vs. VALENCIA
– First leg: 2/19, 3 p.m. ET

Free-scoring Atalanta’s high-energy, high-press, all-out attack have made them among the highest scorers in Europe and they’ve done it on a shoestring budget, coaxing goals galore from Papu Gomez, Josep Ilicic and Luis Muriel. Sometimes, it looks as if they’re simply playing a different sport. Valencia have had a rough season and have already changed managers this year, but they’re a classic feast-or-famine foe and you just don’t know what you’re going to get.

PREDICTION: Atalanta to take advantage

CHELSEA vs. BAYERN MUNICH
– First leg: 2/25, 3 p.m. ET

Bayern had a major wobble at the start of the campaign, but are back to their laser-focused selves in 2020, marching towards more silverware domestically and, they hope, in Europe. Interim boss Hansi Flick has revived Thomas Muller‘s form and gotten more out of Serge Gnabry, while Robert Lewandowski might be the best pure scorer in the modern game.

Chelsea have punched well above their weight with a bunch of home-grown youngsters in Frank Lampard’s first season as manager, but it remains to be seen if they can hold their own against one of the most relentless and experienced footballing machines around.

PREDICTION: First-leg draw sets up fun in Munich

TOTTENHAM vs. RB LEIPZIG
– First leg: 2/19, 3 p.m. ET

Jose Mourinho — as he’ll no doubt remind you — has won this competition twice and knows what it takes to get it done in a two-legged format, though he’ll be without star striker Harry Kane, who is injured. Without the talismanic No.9, plenty will be expected of Heung-Min Son around goal while Giovani Lo Celso looks ready to be the anchor of Tottenham’s midfield and transition game.

Leipzig are the ultimate intangible: at 32, manager Julian Nagelsmann is a veritable wunderkind who relies on a defensive beast (Dayot Upamecano), a deadeye pest of a scorer (Timo Werner) and plenty of hard running and tactical creativity in between. They have the talent to catch teams on the counter.

PREDICTION: Tottenham to seize control

ATLETICO MADRID vs. LIVERPOOL
– First leg: 2/18, 3 p.m. ET

The contrast in styles is sharp — deep defending vs. high energy, hunt ’em down, full court press — but the ethos is the same for both teams known for their gritty, tough and uncompromising attitude. The problem is that Atletico Madrid are trying to (unsuccessfully) transition from the system that brought them to a success to a more open style, whereas Liverpool boast clockwork efficiency and are finding many different ways to win games under Jurgen Klopp this season.

PREDICTION: Liverpool to walk on with first leg win

NAPOLI vs. BARCELONA
– First leg: 2/25, 3 p.m. ET

Funnily enough, these are the only two teams that have beaten Liverpool’s first team since Jan. 3, 2019 but both are going through a bumpy patch. Napoli changed managers in December, have a number of players in contractual disputes and are midtable in Serie A. Europe appears their only hope for joy this season. Barcelona have suffered key injuries (Luis SuarezJordi Alba), have also changed managers and are still coming to grips with new boss Quique Setien’s old school, press-and-possess style.

Past editions of Barca have been reliant on Lionel Messi for that burst of inspiration but it’s become a dependence in 2020. If he’s on, this game becomes routine. If he’s not, they’re in trouble.

PREDICTION: Barcelona to take a lead back to Camp Nou

LYON vs. JUVENTUS
– First leg: 2/26, 3 p.m. ET

Lyon are yet another club to have changed managers in midseason and while Rudi Garcia has righted the ship to some degree, they’re still mid-table in Ligue 1. The silver lining: they’re getting great performances from the most hyped 16-year-old in the game, Rayan Cherki.

After eight straight Serie A crowns, Juventus did a 180-degree turn in the summer, bringing in new boss Maurizio Sarri with a view towards becoming more attack-minded. It’s definitely a work in progress though Cristiano Ronaldo‘s run of 10 straight Serie A games with a goal (and 20 league goals in 20 games) has been their saving grace on many occasions this season. At 35, he’s in the form of his life: will that continue in the Champions League?

PREDICTION: Juve all the way given Cristiano Ronaldo’s scoring spree

Big questions to be answered in the round of 16

Looking to make sense of the talking points in Europe’s top competition? ESPN’s writers have you covered.

Who’s under more pressure: Zidane or Guardiola?

There’s more pressure on Pep Guardiola, no question about it. It’s not just the 25 points separating Manchester City from the top of the Premier League, or the fact that he may be watching the next two Champions’ Leagues on TV due to his club’s FFP violations, or even the fact that having won two Premier League titles delivering the biggest trophy in club football is the last unconquered peak. Rather, as Guardiola himself has admitted, he puts an absurd amount of pressure on himself. Not so much in terms of achieving results, but in terms of the process his teams go through to get there.

– Man City’s ban: What it means and what happens next
– Source: Guardiola fears for players after UEFA ban
– Klopp reacts to ban: “Complete wow!”

Real Madrid, on the other hand, is a perpetual hot-seat, but Zinedine Zidane has more padding than most. The great stone-face has been there, done that and his team are sitting top of La Liga, a competition they’ve won just once in the last seven years. — Gab Marcotti

Can Simeone spring a surprise vs. Liverpool?

Something odd happened when Atletico Madrid played Leganes on Jan. 26. Or, perhaps more accurately, nothing happened. And that’s exactly the point.

There was a moment in the second half when Diego Simeone turned towards the fans and began to do the kind of gesture he has done a thousand times before, raising his arms to try to get them going. But as he began, the reaction was not as immediate or as unanimous as it used to be (it barely existed at all, in fact) and almost as soon as he had started, he stopped again. It wasn’t a big deal, perhaps, and most people wouldn’t even have noticed, but for those that did and who know it wasn’t normal, it added to the feeling that something is not right.

TOP FOOTBALL NEWS

For a brief moment, it was as if the man Unai Emery once described as “war personified” wasn’t fighting any more. He stood alone. In front of him, Atletico don’t look like his team, the players are not his sort of players, the demands are not what they once were, the identity is not either, and the results are worse than they have ever been under him. They’re not even the second-best team in Madrid any more, let alone the first. Out of the cup, out of the league and, most suspect, soon to be out of the Champions League.

There is little faith, an inescapable, overwhelming awareness that Liverpool are the better team and that the odds are stacked against them. But then, that’s the way Atletico always liked it. And if they are to get back in touch with themselves, if this is to feel like a Simeone side again, a rebellion with the odds stacked against them, maybe that’s what they need. — Sid Lowe

Dortmund vs. PSG is the best game of the round, right?

I don’t even need to tell you as you know this already. Regardless of your team or who you support, you know that this is the tie of the last-16. There is nowhere else this month where you will find so much attacking talent, so many ballers. Who will have the most nutmegs: Neymar or Jadon Sancho? Who will score the most beautiful goal: Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappé? Who will be the most exposed defensively: Keylor Navas or Roman Burki? Who will get his tactics right: Lucien Favre or Thomas Tuchel?

– Okwonga: What makes Haaland so special

You know there will be loads of goals, loads of entertainment and loads of drama. The pressure is certainly on PSG and Tuchel, for his return to Dortmund (and it will be fascinating to see what reception he gets from the Yellow Wall). The French champions can’t afford to be knocked out early again in this Champions League. They believe they have the best and most balanced squad they have ever had. But the Germans also have faith in themselves and in their ability to cause problems for any opponent. — Julien Laurens

Who will step up next to Messi for Barcelona?

If there was any quiet jubilation around the Camp Nou when the Champions League draw paired them with Napoli, it has firmly dissipated now.

Napoli don’t have a pedigree in this competition, let alone one that bears comparison with FC Barcelona. Napoli closed out 2019 needing to change coach, seventh in Serie A and already 17 points off the top. Barca, under Ernesto Valverde, topped their Champions League group, led La Liga and their two strikers had shared 28 goals between Europe and the domestic title chase. Now Luis Suarez is injured, Valverde sacked, Messi goal-shy, Ousmane Dembele out for the season and Messi’s other great playing ally, Jordi Alba, won’t be fit to play in the San Paolo stadium.

Moreover, while new manager Quique Setien is introducing ideas that this team badly needs — a sharper use of possession, much more intense training sessions — it somewhat feels as if Barcelona’s depleted squad are struggling to cope. His side looks obedient, but they also look sluggish. All Setien’s victories have been by a maximum of one goal, have looked in jeopardy and are unlikely to frighten Rino Gattuso’s re-energised Napoli.

Fundamentally, Barcelona’s recently unrequited love-affair with the Champions League simply has to spark some kind of elemental competitive reaction, Messi must start scoring again and Marc-Andre ter Stegen needs to continue his glittering form or else, remarkably, Napoli will look like slight favourites to many. — Graham Hunter

Is the Champions League too top-heavy or should we just enjoy the show?

This year’s last-16 feels like a logical end point to a direction of travel that’s been glaringly obvious for some time. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with the best teams in Europe facing one another: that’s the whole point of the competition and taken on its own, there are bound to be some exceptional games of football.

It is also true to point out that certain match-ups between the continent’s elite are slowly gaining their own folklore in the eyes of the modern fan, such is their regularity. But the overwhelming domination of five super-wealthy leagues and their clubs comes at the expense of the diversity, intrigue and genuine unpredictability that makes the sport itself so great. It said plenty that Ajax, who have won this competition four times, were regarded with such astonishment when they reached the semi-finals last year.

Football’s landscape is an ever-shifting one and nobody is expecting a return to the period between 1981-91, when sides from seven different countries – including Yugoslavia and Romania – won the European Cup, at least not yet. But surely the possibility of that is what should make this competition great.

The spectre of a closed shop is drawing ever nearer; it should concern everyone and, while nobody should be discouraged from enjoying the games in their own right, it’s worth asking yourself if this is the future you want for our sport. — Nick Ames

Can Nagelsmann seal his status as the next “Special One” vs. Mourinho?

Julian Nagelsmann quickly became Germany’s most promising coach, but now the 32-year-old is looking to take the next step. Before coaches become great by winning, most show signs of moving in that direction. Nagelsmann has done that, and now his next opportunity to move towards greatness has come. If Nagelsmann can get the better of a serial winner like Jose Mourinho, it will show that the young coach has more than promise: he has the ability to win when it really matters. The Bundesliga might be exciting, but the value of success on the European stage is unparalleled.

Victory against a Premier League opponent and a coach like Mourinho would be a massive step forward for Nagelsmann. He’s already on the coaching map, but win here and he becomes a major attraction. To do that, he’ll have to outfox a coach and a personality who has been here many times before. He will also have to prove that he can create a plan to handle deep-lying, counterattacking opponents. After RB Leipzig failed to do so against Frankfurt and only showed up for half the game vs. Bayern, this is the ultimate test for the young head coach. — Jonathan Harding

Which Serie A side has the best shot of moving on?

Jurgen Klopp has named Juventus favourites for the competition, which is odd timing considering how vulnerable the Old Lady appears at the moment. Napoli have tended to raise their game against top sides this season, taking four points from six against Liverpool and recently defeating Italy’s top three. Honestly though, it’s hard to look beyond Atalanta.

Manager Gian Piero Gasperini feels the draw for the Round of 16, against Valencia, couldn’t have been kinder and his players have shown they’re acclimated to the speed and skill expected at this level. After becoming the first team ever to qualify for the knockouts with zero points from their opening three games, impossible is nothing to the Bergamaschi. Atalanta have already made more in TV and prize money than the total cost of their wage bill and with a return to the competition looking likely next season, they can play with minds at rest and smiles on their faces.

It may still be a bit of a leap to nominate them this season’s Ajax, but for now, Atalanta seem the healthiest and most in-form Italian side left in the Champions League. — James Horncastle

Which young talent will seize the spotlight in the last-16?

The latter stages of the Champions League is when whispers become roars regarding certain up-and-coming stars, so who should we keep an eye on as the last 32 approaches? Let’s start with someone who has already announced his arrival. Erling Haaland has eight goals in 305 Bundesliga minutes for Borussia Dortmund, and is about to face a fragile PSG defence. They also have this kid called Jadon Sancho, too.

Ideally, Ansu Fati would only be on the fringes of the Barcelona team, but things are far from ideal at the Nou Camp. Injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele mean that the 17-year-old is a regular by necessity though he certainly has the talent: Fati could do some damage against Napoli. At 16, Lyon’s Rayan Cherki is even younger than Fati: Lyon have been more cautious because they’re able to be, but if things aren’t going to plan against Juventus, we could see him unleashed.

Finally, Callum Hudson-Odoi has endured a slightly stop-start time at Chelsea since he rejected Bayern Munich and stayed at Stamford Bridge, but he’s found some form recently. It would be very apt if he did some damage against the very team he turned down. — Nick Miller

Simeone’s Atletico Madrid tenure may come to its Champions League conclusion in Liverpool tie

12:52 PM ETGraham HunterSpain writer

There’s a scenario whereby, completely unnoticed, we might be witnessing Diego Simeone’s last Champions League match at home in charge of Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.Those who’ve been thrilled by his intense, brooding, winning ways, his Johnny Cash-in-football-boots persona, will fervently hope that it’s not so. Those at Atleti who’ve benefitted from the hundreds of millions of euros he’s earned them across nearly a decade of exhilarating European exploits will be praying the same.But here’s the deal: Who’s the favourite in this tie? It’s Liverpool, by a distance. And for several reasons. Not just because they are Champions League holders but because Jurgen Klopp has his side doing a passable impersonation of peak Simeone Atletico, only better: the intensity, the fervor for winning, the same squad unity, the same feeling that everyone at the club, all the fans and owners aren’t just singing from the same hymn sheet, they wrote the words.Liverpool’s footballers are all consistently performing on a range of eight-out-of-ten to ten-out-of-ten and have been doing so for a couple of seasons. It’s an incredibly rare feat, but one that Simeone and assistant “Mono” Burgos also achieved for a couple of years around their 2014 La Liga title win. That was Atleti’s first such triumph in 18 years, somewhat less of a drought than Liverpools will be when, some time in the coming weeks, they become England’s champions for the first time in 30 years.Nevertheless, the similarities between the two clubs’ ideas, attitudes and achievements make this an extra-intriguing tie. Sadly, it comes at precisely the wrong time for Atleti.To have seen Los Rojiblancos of 2013-14 or 2015-16 take on Klopp’s Liverpool of the past two seasons would be reason enough for someone in Silicon Valley to finally confirm that, thanks to billions spent on research and development, time travel was now an app available to all of us.The stifling, aggressive press and rob of that Atleti era: the remorseless registering of clean sheets, their utter brilliance at imposing themselves in attacking set plays, the bullishness of peak Diego Costa, world-class Antoine GriezmannArda Turan‘s impishness, imperial Diego Godin; you’d pay handsomely to watch them play Alisson, Virgil van DijkAndy RobertsonTrent Alexander-ArnoldJordan Henderson and the magical forward trident of Roberto FirminoMohamed Salah and Sadio Mane across two legs of knockout football.But Liverpool are not only a mirror, showing in stark detail how Atleti have declined, England’s champions-elect are arguably a better XI and a better squad than even the remarkble levels Simeone has reached since taking over at the Vicente Calderon in 2011.The greatest thing that unites the two clubs has been messianic belief in the coach.From the day he crossed the threshold, taking a moribund bunch and immediately winning Atletico their fifth international trophy, Simeone has been the club’s benign dictator. They are defined by his standards, his rules, his personality, his spiky, relentless need to win.Klopp’s not too dissimilar, in effect at least. This is his Liverpool. The German’s personality floods Melwood and makes him an all-permeating influence, from those who serve the tea to the leading goal scorer to the academy kids who polish the first team’s boots to the data technicians. It is extremely evocative of how Simeone and Burgos have been at their Majadahonda training ground, the Calderon or now the Wanda Metropolitano during their golden years.But Klopp and Simeone want to see their football achieve different objectives: the Argentinian winning 1-0 at any cost, the German almost equally happy to win 4-3 or 6-0 so long as the three points head to Anfield and the game was entertaining. These two leaders of men convene with their most rabid followers, the fans, on a weekly basis. If they are angry, the fans are furious; if they are jubilant, the fans are ecstatic. They appeal a decision and the lava of fan anger pours down on the official. The supporters are a sea of certainty: “In Klopp/Simeone we trust.”Or at least it was that way at Atleti. Not necessarily now.Once it was like an evangelical preacher exhorting his flock to raise their their voices heavenwards. Simeone would hop from foot to foot with anxiety, imagined or real, and after spinning around like the Tasmanian devil, often with three or four minutes left on the clock, he’d flap his condor-wing arms up and down and the response would be a guttural roar of beseeching, unconditional support from the supporters to the 11 souls in red and white on the pitch. Simeone’s energy and standards were communicated via the voices of 50,000 disciples. It was magical.Then, last week, as Atletico were still holding on 80 minutes after Angel Correa gave them an early — and slender — lead over Granada, Simeone reached for the arm-flapping trick. It was like an old champion boxer knowing what punch to throw but with reactions so slow that the challenger sees it coming a mile off. There was no reaction from the fans, no messianic “we believe” roar. Instead, there was apathy, frustration and very little impact.Strange, changed times. Football is weird, let’s agree on that.

More surprising things have happened than Liverpool perhaps feeling just a little gentler than they were before their winter break and the globetrotting holidays Klopp’s players were able to cram in. They’ll benefit from the time off, eventually, but can they get back to ramming speed immediately?Stranger things, too, have happened than the warriors at Atleti — Jan Oblak, Koke, Saul, Yannick Carrasco, Correa and perhaps even newly fit Alvaro Morata — bucking themselves up sufficiently for a home win. But over the two legs, with Simeone’s troops now beginning to show the same “we’re not really sure whether we believe in Simeone anymore’ lethargy, Liverpool are demonstrable favourites to go through.Let’s say that happens. There’s a brilliant five-way race for the crucial fourth Champions League-qualifying slot in la Liga. Atletico will be most people’s favourites and, should they qualify, it’s much easier to see Simeone moving a year further towards the end of his contract, which extends until 2022. But the two clubs closest to Atleti in fourth, Sevilla and Real Sociedad, are either level on points or just two behind, while Valencia and Villarreal are, respectively, two and four points off Simeone’s team. It’s not comfortable. It will be a battle royal.If Atletico don’t qualify for next season’s Champions League, I doubt it would lead to Simeone being sacked — not after such lengthy success. However, do you doubt that Atleti are casting about just in case there’s a better alternative out there?Talking of better alternatives, it’s the gossip of the Spanish football industry that Mono Burgos — fluent in English — is starting to get itchy feet, beginning to wonder whether he could win trophies and earn a huge salary increase by heading out on his own. Will he? Would that damage Simeone at Atleti? You’d guess so.And Simeone’s infamous, brutally demanding fitness coach, “Profe” Oscar Ortega? Atletico’s players no longer maul other teams with their suffocating pressing, they no longer shut down a single-goal lead so effectively; in fact, they no longer look as if they are enjoying their football. Ortega, it would appear, has scalded those who’ve worked with him for years and, just as happened when Real Madrid said thank you and adios to fitness coach Antonio Pintus before appointing Gregory Dupont last summer, change seems both inevitable and vital.Some of you may believe that Atletico knocking out Liverpool is within Simeone’s remarkable compass. Fair enough. Some may believe that even if he’s defeated and has nothing to play for other than Champions League qualification from March onwards, he’s certain to stay with Los Colchoneros next season. OK, no problem.But the concept of this elimination either leading to a mutual agreement to change at the end of this season or yet another year in the Europa League, and then either the club or their manager deciding it’s time to part ways in summer 2021, well, neither of those scenarios now seem terribly unlikely. Each would mean that this gargantuan match against Liverpool would be looked back on as an unheralded “Adios” for Simeone in the Champions League with Atleti.It’s not the right way for a great reign to end. I hope it isn’t so.But don’t rule it out.

PSG to win the Champions League? Neymar, Mbappe & Co. compare closest to past 10 winners

How do you win the Champions League?

It turns out that “be Real Madrid” is not a bad place to start. The Spanish giants have won 13 European Cups, and no other club has more than seven. They’ve won four of the past six, and their current manager, Zinedine Zidane, has never not won the Champions League. Three tries and three trophies for Zizou, so that’s that, huh?

Although Zidane The Manager has yet to be eliminated from the Champions League, other teams have in fact won the tournament.

As I wrote about in my newsletter, Liverpool grabbed it last year with a slightly throttled-down pressing approach that relied on their defense and their goalkeeper — a sentence that would’ve been unthinkable just a year prior. Barcelona nabbed the trophy in 2015, thanks to the devastation wrought by Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez. Bayern Munich did it the year before Pep Guardiola came to town by essentially fielding the entire World Cup-winning German national team, plus Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. Chelsea took down Bayern the year before that despite finishing sixth in the Premier League, and the year before that was the most recent time Guardiola won it, with the Barcelona team that Sir Alex Ferguson said was the best side he’d ever seen.

Since the 2010-11 season, only five clubs have won the Champions League title. What did they have in common?

At first glance, there isn’t a lot connecting any of those teams. But using domestic-play data from TruMedia, we can look at the statistical profiles of the past nine winners, see what the minimum benchmarks have been and compare them to all 16 remaining teams in this season’s competition. We’ll go through a number of categories and eliminate the 2020 teams that aren’t up to snuff before landing on our One True Champion.

Let’s get to it.

Measurement No. 1: Scoring enough goals

In domestic play, all of the previous nine winners averaged at least 1.7 goals per game. That low-point number, unsurprisingly, belongs to Chelsea. After all, they finished sixth in their own league that season; however, they sported a solid plus-19 goal differential and won the Champions League while Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were at their peaks. We’re not talking about a bunch of scrubs here. Plus, including an outsider team such as Chelsea in the numbers makes this exercise more interesting, as it accounts for the possibility of a non-favorite winning the whole thing.

We must say goodbye to Tottenham (1.6 goals), Napoli (1.57), Lyon (1.54), Valencia (1.43) and Atletico Madrid (1.00) at the first hurdle. No big surprises there, as none of those five sides is favored to advance to the quarterfinals, per FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index. Goals, especially given that we’re dealing with just more than half a season, can be statistically noisy; in other words, goals aren’t necessarily predictive of more goals. But even if we look at expected goals — a more predictive measure — only Napoli (1.93) break the 1.7 threshold.

Teams eliminated: Tottenham, Napoli, Lyon, Valencia, Atletico Madrid
Teams remaining: Bayern Munich, Man City, Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atalanta, Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, RB Leipzig, PSG

Measurement No. 2: Goals against

Defense, it turns out, has tended to win championships over the past decade. Who knew?

Of the previous nine winners, five gave up fewer than one goal per match, and four of them — both Barcelona sides, Liverpool and Bayern Munich — were below 0.6. In fact, no team in this season’s field is below 0.6 goals allowed per match, with Liverpool landing exactly on that mark. However, weaker defenses have won titles, too. Two of Zidane’s Madrid teams, along with Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid team, allowed north of one goal per match. The worst defense, though, was, again, Roberto di Matteo’s Chelsea, who let in 1.21 goals per game on their way to the trophy.

Despite that high figure theoretically creating a low barrier for entry into our exercise, four more teams are eliminated at this stage: Barcelona (1.22), Atalanta (1.35), Chelsea (1.36) and Borussia Dortmund (1.52). Dortmund are scoring at a higher rate than any team left in the tournament, a wild 2.82 goals per game, and Atalanta are third, with 2.65 goals per game. Plus, Atalanta are doing it in Serie A, where it has traditionally been difficult to score goals. Both teams should be neutral fan favorites, but their porous backlines mean their opponents are never out of a game.

Chelsea’s defense doesn’t seem likely to stand up against round of 16 opponent Bayern Munich (second among all teams with 2.76 goals scored per game), and as has been the trend the past few years in Catalonia, it’s a shame Lionel Messi can’t play defense, too.

Teams eliminated: Barcelona, Atalanta, Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund
Teams remaining: Bayern Munich, Man City, Juventus, Real Madrid, Liverpool, RB Leipzig, PSG

Measurement No. 3: Game control

Rather than looking at pure possession numbers, the next step after goals scored/allowed is to look at how the remaining teams control the field. How good are they at all the things that happen before the ball ends up in the net? To do this, we can see how many passes a team allows in their final third and compare that to how many passes a team completes in their opponent’s final third. Then we can take those two numbers and determine a team’s percentage share of final-third passes.

Unsurprisingly, Barcelona lead the way among the previous winners, but perhaps surprisingly, No. 1 is Luis Enrique’s team, not Pep Guardiola’s. The 2014-15 vintage completed 74% of the final-third passes in their matches, compared to the 10-11 side’s measly 73.1%. Bayern, Liverpool and 2017-18 Madrid were also all north of 60%. Last place, once again, was Chelsea, with 56.1% of final-third passes.

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Of the remaining seven teams, none of them is below Chelsea’s mark. City and Bayern are both above 70%, and Liverpool, Juventus, PSG and Real Madrid are all above 60%. RB Leipzig sit last, with 58.6%.

If looking at how teams tilt the field doesn’t eliminate anyone, we can then look at how long a team keeps the ball when they get it. Opta records a statistic called “sequences” — essentially, an interrupted chain of possession — and no team that has won the Champions League since 2011 has had an average sequence time below 9.4 seconds. That low (again!) comes from Chelsea, but Ancelotti’s Madrid weren’t much higher, at 9.6. That means goodbye for Leipzig, whose average sequence time is 8.7 seconds, the second-lowest figure of all 16 knockout-round teams, above only Atletico Madrid’s manic (7.3 seconds) approach.

Teams eliminated: RB Leipzig
Teams remaining: Bayern Munich, Man City, Juventus, Real Madrid, Liverpool, PSG

Measurement No. 4: Shots, shots, shots

The six teams left in this exercise are a bit harder to separate. If we look at how they press, all six are above the threshold of the previous winners. The minimum average starting point for all of their sequences — a proxy for how high up the field they win the ball back — is 47.7 meters from their own goal. That number belongs to Real, but they’re still significantly above 2011-12 Chelsea’s mark of 45.9 meters. Man City, for what it’s worth, start their average sequence 53 meters from their own goal, which is higher than that of any of the past nine winners.

In terms of how fast they win the ball back — something known as “passes allowed per defensive action” (PPDA) — all six are lower than Chelsea’s 13.26. Liverpool’s high mark of 11.02 is still below where they were last season, when they, you know, won the Champions League. This season’s most aggressive pressers are PSG (8.03), but they’re still significantly behind Barcelona’s mark of 6.98 in 2014-15. That side also scored more goals and gave up fewer goals than any other team in this season’s field.

(Side note: Luis Enrique’s team really might be the best of all time.)

Looking at how often the teams cross the ball doesn’t do us any good either, so we’re back to shots: How many do they take, and how many do they allow?

Like in PPDA, Liverpool are at the bottom, with 15.56 shots per game, but like in PPDA, that number is still better than that of last year’s title-winning team. Because they’re bottom in almost every number we’ve looked at so far, let us note that 2011-12 Chelsea took more shots (17.66) than all but three of the past nine CL winners.

How about shots against? Finally, some progress! Chelsea gave up 11.82 shots per game during the 2011-12 season, and this season, Juventus are giving up 12.3. That’s actually the third-highest figure among all of the round of 16 participants, better than only that of Valencia and Tottenham. FiveThirtyEight’s SPI gives Juve just a 3% chance to win the whole thing, and their inability to suppress shots is one of the biggest reasons they aren’t in the top tier of contenders.

Burley sees Sancho as an investment in Liverpool’s future

Craig Burley says Jadon Sancho could take pressure of Sadio Mane and Mo Salah if he joined Liverpool.

What about the quality of those shots?

All of the five teams left take above-average shots, in terms of their xG per shot. However, none of the previous nine winners allowed their opponents to take particularly good shots. The worst mark goes to Zidane’s 2017-18 team (0.12), but that’s right around the Europe-wide average. This season, though, there are two teams living by the mantra of “we don’t normally give up shots, but when we do, we give up great ones.”

Manchester City are conceding shots with an average of 0.15 per shot (worst among all remaining teams), and Bayern Munich are conceding chances with an average xG value of 0.13, which is third worst. Per FiveThirtyEight, Bayern (20%) and City (17%) are third-favorites for the title behind Liverpool (21%). The low-quantity-high-quality defensive approach works in domestic leagues in which both clubs have a significant talent advantage over almost all of their opponents, but it could implode once the competition heats up.

Teams eliminated: Bayern Munich, Man City, Juventus
Teams remaining: Real Madrid, Liverpool, PSG

Measurement No. 5: Fouls

Listen, we’re nitpicking here, all right? One of the only remaining differentiating factors for these three teams is how often they foul their opponents. Among the past nine champs, only one committed more than 12 fouls per match: 2012-13 Bayern Munich, who hacked down the opposition 13 times per match. At the other end sit last season’s Liverpool, who committed 8.29 fouls per game.

While the highlight of the Real Madrid season so far is Federico Valverde’s game-saving, last-minute, last-man, red-card tackle on Alvaro Morata in the final of the Spanish Supercopa, the team’s wider penchant for foul play earns them the boot from our list. Zidane’s team commits 13.22 fouls per match.

For whatever reason, none of the recent winners other than Bayern has fouled anywhere near that much. It could speak to a larger lack of control that then shows up in other areas of the game. It could lead to too many set pieces, which lead to the kind of scripted moments that often decide knockout games. Or, as Madrid fans will surely be hoping, it could be totally random.

Teams eliminated: Real Madrid
Teams remaining: Liverpool, PSG

Measurement No. 6: Passes

And then there were two: Liverpool and PSG, who played a pair of the more thrilling group-stage matches in last season’s tournament.

It sure seems as if PSG are trying to find a new absurd way to exit the competition every year. First, it was La Remontada, when they blew a 4-0 first-leg lead to Barcelona. Then they bought Neymar, the Barcelona player who led that comeback, only for him to miss the second leg of their round of 16 matchup with eventual winners Real Madrid. Then last year, of course, Neymar didn’t play in either match against Manchester United, and despite winning the first leg at Old Trafford 2-0, PSG were eliminated by a last-minute penalty awarded by VAR for a handball on a shot that probably wasn’t going to end up anywhere near the goal frame.

However, this season’s PSG have more in common with the previous nine Champions League winners than anyone else, including last year’s champ. None of those teams completed fewer than 84.5% of their passes, with both Liverpool and Chelsea tied at the bottom of the threshold. This season, Liverpool have dropped down slightly, to 83.7%, a barely perceptible shift that, for the purposes of this exercise, eliminates them from the list.

As long as they’re both out there, PSG can beat anyone. Of course, they’ve played together in only one Champions League knockout match since they joined the team in the summer of 2017.

PSG kick off the round of 16 against Dortmund next week, and like clockwork, Neymar hurt his ribs and hasn’t played a league game in more than two weeks. (Mbappe is also skipping this weekend’s game vs. Amiens.)

We’ll give them one more shot, but depending on how things go over the next few months, next season’s version of this exercise might include another filter, one that says “Not PSG.”

UEFA’s new Champions League Man of the Match award is truly a thing of beauty

With the Champions League due to resume this week, UEFA has introduced a brand new award to the mix and it is a glorious sight to behold…

The Toe Poke Daily is here every day to bring you all the weirdest stories, quirkiest viral content and top trolling that the internet has to offer, all in one place.

From the round of 16 onward in this season’s Champions League, the best performers in every match will be bestowed with a dazzling new “Man of the Match” award after the full-time whistle.The award comes with a trophy, which is a gorgeous D manifestation of the ournament’s iconic logo. You can hear the choir heralding “The Chaaaaaaampiooons” in your head just by looking at it.UEFA have previously handed out official Man of the Match awards as ordained by their technical observers, but only in the final — last year’s winner being Virgil van Dijk.The recipients of the new award will be chosen by a special advisory panel of technical observers, including Gareth Southgate, Roberto Martinez, Aitor Karanka, Phil Neville and Robbie Keane.According to UEFA, the beautiful trophy will be awarded to the player deemed to have excelled in decisive moments as well as tactical maturity, creativity and inspiration, exceptional skill, and fair play.

 

2/7/2020   US Women Olympic Qualifying Tonight on Fox Sport 1 10 pm, MLS avoids strike, US Men look good, German Derby 12 Sun Bayern vs RB Leipzig

The US Ladies continued to roll thru Olympic qualifying in front of alarmingly small crowds after they shutout Costa Rica 7-0, after destroying Panama and Haiti.  The US will face Mexico tonight at 10 pm on Fox Sports 1, right after Canada plays Costa Rica at 7 pm on FS1 with spots in the Olympics on the line for the winners.   Hopefully fans will show up tonight at the LA Galaxy Home Stadium in LA.  The US Ladies have looked amazing with Christen Press on the left wing and Williams on the right with Carli Lloyd in the middle forming a deadly attacking trio while Alex Morgan is out pregnant.  Midfielder Horan has scored 6 goals and has some assists to lead the way for the US Ladies.  The Defense has barely been tested at all – with Ertz holding down the #6 slot in front of the veteran 4 person backline from the World Cup.  This will be the toughest test tonight – as Mexico is probably the 3rd best team in the region behind the US and Canada.  Set the recorder if you can’t watch it live tonight and let’s see if the US can advance on to the Olympics this summer!

US Men Youth Wins 1-0

The US men – or boys if you will looked pretty good vs a solid first team Costa Rican side last Saturday.  The 1-0 victory probably should have been 2-0 US – but certainly the US dominated all phases of the game – including possession.   Youngster Ulyssess Llanez (just 18 years old) from Wolfsburg stole the show in his first cap with solid attacking midfield play and a great awareness in the box.  His PK goal just before the half was the only goal for the US team that probably deserved at least 1 or 2 goals from the run of play.  Most impressive was the US ability to maintain possession as they must have had at least 70 to 30 possession throughout – including solid play moving the ball from the back to the front without turnovers.  A veteran backline of Long and Zimmermann along with Cannon on the right and new comer Sam Vines on the left looked good and barely took a misstep most of the game.  Newly mented 18 year old forward Jesus Ferreira started in the 9 jersey and had some good hold up front – before giving way to Zardez who almost scored in his 25 minutes on late.  All in al l thought it was a fine showing by the young US squad with plenty of U23’s playing in anticipation of Olympic Qualifying in March.  I can honestly say our U-23 group is looking pretty strong – I hope enough of them will be released from club play in March to allow us to qualify for the Olympics – so Pulisic, McKinney, Reyna, and Adams can join this summer.

Games on TV

As for Big games this weekend the biggest is of course the German Derby Sunday at  between league leaders Red Bull Leipzig and US mid Tyler Adams and Bayern Munich at 12 pm on Fox Sports 2.  Plenty of stories on the https://theoleballcoach.com/ for this one.  Its winter break time in the EPL with just 4 games this weekend Everton host Crystal Palace Sat at 7:30 am on NBCSN while  Brighton vs Watford is on NBC at 12:30 (don’t ask me why they have shit games like this on NBC – just the screw up the ratings I guess – seriously why???  Also at 12:30 on FS2 Leverkusen hosts Dortmund and US mid Gio Reyna- coming off bench).  Sunday at 2:45 pm we also get the Milan Derby – Inter vs Milan on ESPN+.

USA
USWNT guarding against letdown with Olympic berth on line

USMNT Betting on Veterans not young Stars to Capture Olympic Gold – Leadner Schaerlaneckens – Yahoo

Boehm: US win again in a rout, but two players face Olympic cut

Doyle: The big winners from the USMNT’s January camp

Olympic boost? Youngsters provide “snapshot” of USMNT future

The kids are alright: Ferreira, Llanez lead the way for youthful US

Three things we learned from USA-Costa Rica

Player Ratings: Llanez, Berhalter get highest marks in win vs. Ticos

Man of Match – S&S

Jay Berhalter steps away from U.S. Soccer

Saucedo denied USMNT call-up by Pumas, eyes Olympic qualifying

The former Real Salt Lake winger instead played 71 minutes in his fourth Liga MX appearance for the club during the Clausura.

Watch: Gio Reyna scores stunner for Borussia Dortmund

Bradley echoes Arena with bold USMNT prediction

Three reasons to believe in Bruce Arena’s bold USMNT prediction

USMNT: Dest’s rise continues; named Man of the Match in Ajax win

MLS’s 25th anniversary won’t be marred by strike

MLS, MLSPA agree to new CBA

Ranking the new 2020 MLS jerseys
High-profile influx of Latin American talent is altering Major League Soccer for the best

Chicharito positioned to deliver a David Beckham-level impact with the Galaxy

Reports: NYCFC to play CONCACAF CL game at Red Bull Arena

FC Cincy continue adding to attack with Regattin

 

WORLD, Champions League

US Players Weekend Viewing Guide

Guardiola admits City can’t be sure Sterling will be fit to face Real Madrid

Liverpool most difficult team in UCL says Atletico Boss
Real Madrid & Barca in 65-year first after Copa del Rey elimination

GAMES ON TV 

Fri

10 pm   FS1                         USA Ladies vs Mexico (Olympic Qual Finals)

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: NBCSN         Everton v. Crystal Palace

9:30 am Fox Sport2           Schalke vs Paderborn

12:30 pm FS2                     Leverkusen vs Dortmund (Gio Reyna)
12:30 p.m. ET: NBC            Brighton v. Watford

Sunday
9 a.m. ET: NBCSN               Sheffield United v. Bournemouth

9 am ESPN2                        Napoli vs Lecce
11:30 a.m. ET: NBCSN       Man City v. West Ham United

12 noon FS2                       Bayern Munich vs RB Leipzig  (Adams)

2:45 pm ESPN+                  Inter vs Milan

3 pm beIN Sport                Real Betis vs Barcelona

Wed

2:45 pm ESPN+                  Inter vs Napoli (Coppa Italia)

12:30 beIN Sport               Dijon vs PSG (Coup de France)

3 pm beIN Sport                 Lyonnaise vs Marseille

Thurs

2:45 pm ESPN+                  Milan vs Juve (Coppa Italia)

fri

2:30 pm FS2                       Dortmund vs Frankfurt

3 pm NBCSN                       Wolverhampton vs Leicester

Sun

9 am NBCSN                       Aston Villa vs Tottenham

1130 am NBCSN                 Arsenal vs Newcastle United (Yedlin)

USWNT seems to be betting on veterans — not its plentiful young stars — to capture Olympic gold

Leander SchaerlaeckensYahoo Sports•February 6, 2020

Carli Lloyd (10) has been a focal point of the USWNT’s attack in Olympic qualifying, and that appears to be the plan for this summer too. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Meet the United States women’s 2020 Olympic soccer team, same as the United States 2019 Women’s World Cup team. Or largely, anyway.If all goes as it should, the American women will qualify for the 2020 Summer Games on Friday with a win over Mexico in the semifinals of the 2020 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship. Which, by the way, begs the question why there will be a title game on Sunday, since it isn’t an actual championship but a qualifying event and there is no prize other than an Olympic berth for the winning semifinalists. While the team has a new coach in the Macedonian-American Vlatko Andonovski, it looks remarkably similar to that of Jill Ellis, who left the job late last year after a second straight World Cup title.

In December, Andonovski held an identification camp in Florida, inviting 24 players who hadn’t made the 2019 World Cup roster to do his due diligence, to get a better sense of the player pool. Yet when it came time for the new head coach to submit his roster for this qualifying tournament, 18 of the 20 names on it had also been to the World Cup. And of the two who didn’t go to France – Andi Sullivan and Lynn Williams – neither had been part of the identification camp and both were well into double-digits in caps prior to the tournament.Which is to say that the national team has stayed much the same. Even Alex Morgan, the star striker seven months pregnant with her first child, has actually been practicing with the team in Southern California, in a feat more impressive than anything her peers have done in actual competition.That also means that, absent the 30-year-old Morgan, the national team is anchored by veterans very much in the last flush of their careers. Carli Lloyd, now leading the line, will be 38 by the time the Olympics begin, although her conditioning remains irreproachable. The defense is still anchored by Becky Sauerbrunn and the revived Ali Krieger, who are 34 and 35, respectively. Megan Rapinoe, who provides much of the creative impetus, will be 35 in Tokyo. Even the sparkplugs Tobin Heath, Christen Press and Kelley O’Hara all turn 32 this year. A young team this is not.ertainly, there isn’t time to rebuild a team between the Women’s World Cup and the Olympics. Such is the nature of the women’s international cycle that the two major tournaments fall in back-to-back summers, followed by almost three years of nothing other than friendly tournaments and a single and typically unchallenging World Cup qualifying event.

Ellis ran into much the same quandary. She was appointed a year out from the World Cup and had no time to shape her team until after the Rio Olympics, almost a year and a half later. Only then could she begin cutting players who were aging or didn’t fit her vision, and integrate new ones and introduce her ideas. But what rankles about this roster is that not so long ago, the impression of this team was of a young, talented bunch with a future every bit as rosy as the recent past. Yet the attacking prodigy Mallory Pugh and upstart defender Tierna Davidson, both 21 years old, were left off the qualifying roster, as was 26-year-old midfielder Morgan Brian. The latter decision was understandable, considering the logjam in central midfield and the similar age of her competitors. Pugh, however, was supposed to be the future of this team. And her omission meant there is no player on the team younger than 24. Fully half of it is 31 or older. Only the midfield is young, with Sullivan, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis and Lindsey Horan all between 24 and 27 years of age. The trouble with that is the Olympics force the two finalists to play six games in just 17 days. And the roster is much smaller than at the World Cup – 18, instead of 23. The tournament will scatter its games all over Japan, but it’ll be warm in all of them in July and August. The Olympics weren’t pretty for the Americans in 2016, in the aftermath of a first World Cup title in 16 years. In Brazil, the group stage was a slog. And then they were eliminated by a well-organized Swedish team – the “cowards” in Hope Solo’s famous putdown – in the quarterfinals. It was the first time the Americans hadn’t reached the final at the Olympics, after four gold medals and a silver.There still isn’t a country that has won Olympic gold the year after winning the World Cup. Judging from this qualifying tournament, the Americans seem to be betting on veteran experience, at the expense of youth, to become the first. Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist and a sports

Match preview and schedule: USA vs Mexico, Olympic qualifying

Win and the USWNT are in the Olympics.  By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Feb 6, 2020, 6:00am PST

The United States Women’s National Team have completed the group stage of the 2020 CONCACF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, and the scene shifts to Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California for Friday’s semifinal against Mexico. The winner of that match will punch their ticket to Tokyo, Japan and the 2020 Olympics. The loser will not be in Tokyo, falling short of the goal.The USWNT have not allowed a goal so far in Olympic qualifying, scoring 18 goals in Group A play. After struggling a bit in their opening match against Haiti, the USWNT has settled in and dominated Panama and Costa Rica on their way to the semifinals. For Mexico, they’re here after beating St. Kitts and Nevis as well as Jamaica, but their loss Tuesday to Canada meant they finished 2nd in Group B and will have to go through the Americans to get to Tokyo.

Predicted USWNT lineup

USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski will likely go back to a similar lineup that he had to open the group stage against Haiti:

Predicted Lineup vs. Mexico

Andonovski clearly has several options at every position. Lindsay Horan could very well get the start in the midfield alongside Julie Ertz and Rose Lavelle, but Andi Sullivan could also factor as well. Up front, Tobin Heath could get a shot, but Lynn WilliamsCarli Lloyd, and Christen Press have thoroughly destroyed every team they’ve faced. It’s likely they will get another chance to do just that.

Time, TV, and streaming options

USA vs. Mexico

Friday, February 7, 2020

10:00 PM ET / 7:00 PM PT

FS1, TUDN

US women beat Costa Rica 6-0, win Olympic qualifying group

Costa Rica midfielder Gloriana Villalobos (9) goes over the back of United States midfielder Samantha Mewis (3) during the first half of a CONCACAF women’s Olympic qualifying soccer match Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

HOUSTON (AP) — Christen Press and Samantha Mewis each scored a pair of goals and the United States beat Costa Rica 6-0 on Monday night to finish atop its group in the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament.The World Cup-winning U.S. team extended its unbeaten streak to 26 games. The Americans wrapped up the group stage with three shutouts and 18 goals.Both teams had already earned a spot in the semifinals of the tournament later this week in Carson, California. Eight teams are playing in the tournament, which will determine the region’s two berths to the Tokyo Olympics this summer.The semifinal matchups will be determined on Tuesday when Canada plays Mexico on Tuesday in Edinburg, Texas. The winner of that match will avoid the top-ranked Americans.Press extended her scoring streak to four straight games with a goal in the fourth minute. Lindsey Horan, who had a hat trick in the U.S. team’s 8-0 victory over Panama on Friday, scored some six minutes later.Press, who plays for Utah of the National Women’s Soccer League, added her second goal in the 36th minute.Mewis scored on a free kick by Press in the 63rd minute and Jessica McDonald added a goal in the 77th before Mewis’ second goal, which appeared to just barely hit the line after deflecting down off the crossbar.The crowd at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium was announced at 7,082. Already eliminated, Haiti beat Panama 6-0 in the other group game earlier in the day.Costa Rica rested top players Shirley Cruz and Raquel Rodriguez in anticipation of the semifinals on Friday.The U.S. has qualified for every Olympics since women’s soccer was introduced in 1996, and has won the gold medal four times. The team has five consecutive titles in the qualifying tourname.  Six teams have already made the field for Tokyo: Japan, Brazil, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand.

Three reasons to believe Bruce Arena is right about USMNT reaching World Cup 2022

February 2, 20209:12AM ESTGreg SeltzerContributor

This week, former US boss Bruce Arena went out on a limb we didn’t think existed a few years ago to declare he holds “no doubt” the US men’s national team will escape a dark cloud period by making their way through the forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign to see the sunny other side once again.It was the type of reassurance we’d want in the lingering wake of a stunning Concacaf hexagonal failure that left the US men’s national team on the big dance sidelines for the first time since 1986. Since that fateful, sobering night in Couva, so many of us have spent two years and counting reaching for hope that missing out on Russia 2018 was a mere blip. But is Arena right? Was that qualifying calamity just a perfect storm of letdown circumstances not to be repeated? Can the US pick themselves up off the mat to start a new World Cup attendance streak in Qatar 2022.Of course, you can’t notarize an official blip explanation by rebounding to qualify for just one or two World Cups. No no, this program wants to get back to being a regular invitee routinely found at the top of hex tables. While the last couple of years have involved a lot of soul-searching and fretting about the USMNT’s place in the Concacaf hierarchy, there are reasons to believe Arena’s declaration is sound and the ship will then remain righted for qualifying campaigns to come. Here are three.

Outside factors

There’s a lot that goes into a World Cup cycle, good or bad. A lot had to go wrong for the US to court disaster enough that a phantom goal could help knock them out. The good news is, in my estimation at least, the variables that led to the downfall don’t seem repeatable. Take Concacaf’s competitive level of play. Helped in part by an improving MLS, several of the so-called “second-tier” Concacaf teams have closed the gap on the US and Mexico a bit. Countries like Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica and Panama got a little stronger and a little deeper. They then proved an ability to up their game for stretches to hit historic program-high notes and, umm, end our streak of playing in World Cups at seven. Each of these countries had many good recent times authored by national team icons who now have and/or will soon leave their international playing days behind. A lot of guile and skill in key positions will need to be adequately replaced, a task harder and slower to do for these smaller nations. The US is in a rebuilding period, but those teams appear headed for their own bumpy phases. As the entire USMNT bubble knows, growing new linchpins is a time-consuming task. It feels like the Nats have a head start on that and can soon re-open that gap for a while. They should also bounce back stronger once better fitness luck returns. These injury bug sprees come and go, but it can’t be missed that injuries have consistently taken major bites out of Gregg Berhalter’s selections. So far we’ve seen Tyler Adams, Jozy Altidore and Christian Pulisic together in red, white and blue on the same field a grand total of zero times. Guys like John Brooks, Weston McKennie, Jordan Morris and Timothy Weah have often missed time. It’s always harder to regain team swagger when it’s not complete, let alone missing multiple key cogs and hot prospects. Once depth is no longer stretched thin and the team can go about more ideal business, USMNT bubble confidence will repair much faster.

Growing pain relief

There’s no denying it. Some missed growth opportunities at the Under-20 level some years back combined with the cruelly bunched retirement of numerous national team stars set us back big. The roster needed a restock, plain and simple. Of course, the star men that came before had to fight through a development process before racking up international accomplishments. Happily, we have a squadron of notable young talent now doing the same.They’re all over the map. We have guys who are already important to big clubs in their respective leagues like Chelsea, RB Leipzig and MLS Cup champs Seattle. Several are at talent farms like Ajax, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Even behind greener full internationals such as Miles Robinson and Josh Sargent, there’s a loaded Under-17 pool. Heck, the FC Dallas youth set-up could probably cobble together a full lineup of future promise.Systems can be drilled all you like, but what usually matters in the end is a capable crew on the pitch. Blooming standouts like Adams, Pulisic, McKennie, Morris, Zack Steffen and Sergino Dest are gaining experience and confidence that should pay off big. I could go on all day dropping names like Chris Richards and Paxton Pomykal and Gio Reyna and Julian Araujo and Gianluca Busio and Joe Scally and Ulysses Llanez (you get the point). We could stack a hefty depth chart with exciting talent on a collision course with the senior team. Even if half our strong stable of youngsters fulfills expected potential, USMNT happy days would come back to us, possibly hit new heights and probably stick around.

It’s all about balance

Real quick, scroll back up to gander at all the players mentioned thus far. You may notice a pleasant even distribution around the field. Go ahead, draw up an actual working formation from the names. You’ll see a lineup and bench pieces that could cause trouble now. There’s no barren spot on the field and it’s fun just to imagine them combining into a unit.I often say balance is the key to everything. That goes double for soccer. Winning teams need solid pieces that fit together, they need flexibility and depth, they need to stop wishing for a left back (and yes, there are even a handful of good prospects aiming to fix that). I’m not sure if a more evened-out field cover in the squad will cancel all those fiery “he’s out of position!” debates or light more off, but settling them both on and off the field will be much more fun either way. It’s not just a straight depth chart thing, either. Tilt our squad outlook on another axis, and you’ll find the names mentioned above also strike a good balance across age levels. Chart everyone in the pipeline and it starts to look like a wave pool. The young risers won’t arrive all at once (which would be one of those annoying “good problems”), but they should consistently arrive in groups over the coming years.Frankly, I’m ready to move on from feeling down about the last few years. Even a conservative estimate of the double dose of USMNT roster balance we’re set for is the best reason for World Cup optimism going. Now we just need to start that new qualification streak, prove Arena right and take it from there.

Three things we learned from the US national team’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica | Charles Boehm

February 1, 20206:36PM ESTCharles BoehmNational Writer

The US men’s national team kicked off a busy year with a deserved, if somewhat incomplete 1-0 friendly win over Costa Rica on Saturday. Here are a few thoughts on the outing.

Give Gregg his due

Look, if you’re reading this you probably know all about the overarching negativity that’s lingered around the USMNT since the woes of 2017. While you could argue that Gregg Berhalter and his players might have done more to vanquish that with a couple more big wins last year, they deserve the chance to keep their heads down and do their work, and be evaluated fairly on days like this.And Berhalter deserves some praise for giving new faces a chance, both in Saturday’s lineup and the January camp roster in general. The starting XI was 23 years, 216 days on average, the youngest in “Camp Cupcake” history and marked by four debutants, all 20 or younger. Another three came off the bench to mark their first caps. And I’d contend that all over them looked like they belonged, at the very least.The coaching staff looked to offer some stability with the familiar Aaron LongWalker Zimmerman center back duo, Sebastian Lletget and Paul Arriola in the attacking band of three, and Reggie Cannon and Jackson Yueill look increasingly like nailed-on regulars. The core ideas they’ve worked on over the past year were recognizable and often pleasing to the eye. As for the top newcomers…

Jesus and Uly

For many of us one of the long-running asks of the national team is the desire for greater Latino representation, not only in personnel but also style. And there were genuinely exciting signs of progress here as Jesus Ferreira and Ulysses Llanez shined on their first exposure to this level.Confident on the ball, full of ideas and already showing promising chemistry, they linked play and drifted into dangerous spaces around the attacking third. Given their modest top-flight experience, this really should encourage supporters. Though it would’ve been a tremendous boost to see one of them score in the run of play, Llanez will savor his game-winning goal from the penalty spot in front of a big hometown crowd of family and friends. Maybe some US fans can even watch his Kobe Bryant-tribute celebration and dream of a someday where “Uly”, too, can become a first-word household name across the nation.As for Ferreira, the intelligence and variety of movement he showed in the No. 9 role belied his tender years, and troubled the Tico defense. As new USMNT GM Brian McBride said at halftime:“I thought Jesus Ferreira was excellent in dropping into that hole and really making the game, connecting, opening things up. [Costa Rica] realized it, they condensed the space, and then we started going wide.”

Time for transitions?

Nothing’s perfect, of course, especially in January. Amid plenty of positive buildup play, the finishing nous wasn’t quite there for the home side. And if I were to nitpick further, I’d wonder why the USMNT continue to look uninterested in quick, aggressive counterattack bids for long periods under Berhalter.Given that some of Costa Rica’s most dangerous moments came off transitions and set pieces in their direction, it might’ve behooved the Yanks to respond in kind where and when balls turned over in promising areas going the other way. When such situations arose, it didn’t appear that there were practiced collective movements at front of mind for those in positions to stretch the opposition.It was a recurring theme in 2019 and at this point I’m not sure whether Berhalter has pushed it down the to-do list, or just doesn’t see it as a priority at all in his system. Time is short in most international windows, so January is a period in which you’d expect to see more signs of automation in this regard.

 

 

1/31/2020   US Women Olympic Qualifying Tonight on Fox Soccer, US Men Sat 4 pm ESPN News vs Costa Rica, US ladies in Superbowl Commerical, Madrid Derby Sat 10 am beIN Sport

Ok soccer fans – so the US Men play this Saturday at 4 pm on ESPN News vs Costa Rica in LA.  And yes its just MLS US players vs not a complete roster for Costa Rica- no reason to watch right?  Well actually if you are interested in seeing the US Under 23s qualify and play in the Olympics this Summer – many of the players playing on Saturday will be the players trying to get the US Qualified in March vs Mexico, Costa Rica and Domican Republic.  The US needs to finish top 2 to advance – something they haven’t done since 2008 when Michael Bradley, Altidore, Edu, Adu, Holden, Davies, Feilhaber, Parkhurst, and Guzan. This roster has a bunch of U23s that would hopefully help us qualify  – including Reggie Cannon, Walker Zimmerman, Sam Vines in the back, Jackson Yueill at Dmid, Justen Glad, Christian Cappis, Julian Araujo in the middle and Jonathan Lewis and newcomer Jesus Ferreira up top.  And hopefully Matt Turner in the 2nd half between the pipes.  These guys along with perhaps Carter-Vickers will be responsible for getting the US in the Olympics so hopefully Pulisic, Adams, McKennie, Gio Reyna and more can join from Europe this summer.  Speaking of Gio Reyna – son of Claudio Reyna – Captain America Man City mid back in the day is now coming off the bench for Dortmund – he became the youngest US Player to play in Germany 2 weeks ago beating Pulisic’s record by about 5 months.  Certainly worth watching on Saturday !!   Plenty of stories on the https://theoleballcoach.com/ for this one.

National Team Roster Ready to Face Costa Rica on Saturday on ESPN News  DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals):

GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 8/0), Bill Hamid (D.C. United; 6/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; 0/0), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 10/0), Chase Gasper (Minnesota United FC; 0/0), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 16/3), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 11/2)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Christian Cappis (Hobro/DEN; 0/0), Bryang Kayo (Unattached; 0/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 13/2), Brandon Servania (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 6/0)

FORWARDS (5): Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 32/5), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; 5/0), Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg/GER; 0/0), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 55/12)

 US LADIES – Tonight 8:30 pm – Fox Soccer +  Can Watch online if you have Fox Sports 1 Access

The US Ladies took a while to get going – but finally put 4 goals in vs Haiti Tuesday night on FS2.  Sad to see such a small crowd on hand in the 20K arena in Houston but CONCACAF doesn’t know how to market in the US to actual US fans.  Hopefully we will have more there tonight and of course Monday night on Fox Sports 1 when we face leader Costa Rica in the game that really matters.  I thought the US ladies looked like they hadn’t played since the World Cup – which for the most part is true.  The team will need to play better up front if it wants to outscore Costa Rica Mon night for sure.  Of course the Defense was solid as normal with hardly a shot on goal (except for the corner kick goal that I thought should have counted).  Anyway it will be good to see the ladies clean some things up as some new players have stepped including Williams on the left wing good for an assist and a goal on the night.  (Again thank you Fox Sports for stepping up to cover these games at all – tough to fit them in when the contract was finalized Monday – Bravo and well done!!)   Cool story on Krieger and Harris Power Couple Role Models for the Future and their Superbowl Commercial –    Ali and Ashlyn  US Ladies in Bud Commercial

US Ladies Olympic Qualifying

Fri Jan. 31 Panama* 8:30 p.m. ET Fox Soccer + TUDN BBVA Stadium; Houston, Texas
Mon Feb. 3 Costa Rica* 8:30 p.m. ET Fox Sports 1 BBVA Stadium; Houston, Texas

2020 Oly Q Standings

TEAM GP W D L GD P
Costa Rica 1 1 0 0 +5 3
United States 1 1 0 0 +4 3
Haiti 1 0 0 1 -4 0
Panama 1 0 0 1 -5 0

GAMES THIS WEEK 

As for Big games this weekend the biggest is of course the Madrid Derby Saturday at 10 am on beIN Sport and Fubo TV with Real Madrid hosting Atletico Madrid. Everyone thought Atletico would be challenging for the top but its Real on top again as Zidane continues to work his magic for the Madridistas.  Plenty of stories on the https://theoleballcoach.com/ for this one.  Before the Derby in Spain the EPL kicks off with Chelsea (minus Pulisic) traveling to 3rd place Leicester City.  I will be rooting for the Blues – for a 1-0 win – I don’t like to see them score without Pulisic on the pitch (sorry).  Liverpool hosts Southhampton at 10 am and Man United will host Wolverhampton at 12:30 pm on either NBC or NBCSN.  RB Liepzig and US mid/Defender Tyler Adams will try to defend their slender lead at the top of the Bundesliga vs Borussia M’gladbach and US defender Johnson at 12:30 Sat on Fox Sports 2.  Sunday has a battle for top 4 as Tottenham hosts Man City at 11:30 am on NBCSN in the EPL,  Inter will travel to Udinese on ESPN News & desportes at 2:45 pm, while Barcelona will host Levante on beIN Sports.

US Ladies

US Ladies in Bud Commercial

USWNT’s far-flung Olympic qualifier vs. Haiti is yet another indictment of CONCACAF Leander Schaerlaeckens Yahoo Sports

Sock it to me! USWNT’s Williams assists goal after her boot comes off

Carli Lloyd talks about those field goals, and her career

Sinclair tops Wambach’s international goals mark

USWMNT Kreiger and Ashlyn Harris  – hit the Superbowl as Trailblazing Role Models ready for the future

US Ladies story about Bud Commercial

US MEN

Lineup I wold like to See vs Costa Rica – Matt Doyle Armchair Analyst MLS.com

Aaron Long ready to take USMNT leadership role – ePSNFC

US vs Costa Rica Preview – S&S

US 19 year old Ferreira of Dallas flips to US and will Start Saturday

Who has Most to Gain on Saturday vs Costa Rica – Matt Doyle

US Players Abroad this wEekend

Where should the US Play its Hex Games?

AC Milan does not Complete Transfer for US Left Back Antonee Robinson after all

U.S. defender Miazga out for ‘significant’ spell

Exclusive: Why Sergino Dest chose USMNT and what’s next for young Ajax star

U.S. confirms March friendly vs. Wales in Cardiff

Josh Gatt isn’t giving up on soccer, even if soccer seems to be giving up on him

US Can Be a World Power Some Day –FIFA Prez Says

Bedoya questions US Naïve Style of Play

US Plans for Qualifying for 2020 Olympics with Jason Kreis – Doug McIntyre Yahoo sports

WORLD

Atletico vs Real Madrid Derby Preview
Zidane leaves Bale out of squad for Atletico but dismisses departure 

Relentless Real Madrid a reminder of what might have been for Atletico

Klopp plays down record-breaking Reds as title looms near

Preview: Leicester City v. Chelsea

Report: Cavani to stay at PSG after Atletico Madrid transfer falls through


Sinclair’s all-time goals record a unique moment for the game

The 36-year-old scored her 185th goal for Canada on Thursday, passing USWNT legend Abby 

MLS

Key Games and Dates for the 2020 Season

Fire Hire’s New Coaching Staff

Report: Toronto FC re-sign Michael Bradley

LA Galaxy add former MLS assist king Kljestan

ATLUTD complete permanent transfer for Hyndman

Meg Whitman explains Cincinnati investment : “The right sport, right town”

Charlotte officially granted Major League Soccer expansion franchise

Indy 11

Indy 11 Sign 3 Local IFJ players to USL Academy Contracts

US U19 Player Signs on Loan from Atlanta United

Indy 11 Schedule Released

Season and Half Season Plans on Sale

Armchair Analyst: The US men’s national team lineup(s) I want to see vs. Costa Rica

January 31, 20209:45AM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

First off, let’s take US men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter at his word:The roster he’s called for Saturday’s friendly against a similarly young and short-handed Costa Rica has 13 Olympic-eligible players out of the 22 total. I don’t think all of them will see playing time, but I do hope that Berhalter goes with the idea of creating useful combinations – seeing how two or even three players at crucial spots work together in concert as a way of building chemistry ahead of Olympic qualifying, which takes place in March down in Guadalajara.At the same time, reliable veterans like Aaron LongSebastian LletgetPaul Arriola and Gyasi Zardes aren’t here to just get tossed into the trash. Forget Olympic qualifying – World Cup qualifying itself starts in nine months, and chances are all four of those guys (and a few other of the non-Olympic eligibles on this roster) will play major roles.So Berhalter’s got to use this game for two different purposes. To that end, here are the two different lineups I’d like to play each half:

Doyle’s First Half

Zardes

Lewis/Arriola

Lletget/Serviana

Yueill

Gaspers //Zimmerman//Long //Cannon

Johnson

Some bullet points:

  • Lletget and Zardes deserve to start. They earned it with their 2019 performances – right up to and including that big, dominant win over Canada to end the year. As of now Lletget’s the No. 10 and Zardes is the 9, and it’s up to guys like Paxton Pomykal, Richie Ledezma, Josh Sargent and others to beat them out.I want to see the Long/Walker Zimmerman Given the way Matt Miazga has backslid over the past eight months and given John Brooks’ propensity for injury, Long and Zimmerman can expect to play a lot of minutes together.Chase Gasperis “young” in that last year he was a rookie, but is actually too old to be eligible for Olympic qualifying. I still want to see him for 45 minutes, though.You could talk me into Bill Hamid or Matt Turner starting over Sean Johnson. I’m sanguine about all of that.
  • And here’s what I’d like to see for the second half:

Ferriera

Lewis/Arriola

Leggit/Cappis

Yuele

Vines  Glad McKensie    Cannon

  • I’ve kept the starting wingers and No. 10 out there because I want to make sure Jesus Ferreiragets a fair shot at proving he can do the No. 9 job at this level. Let’s see him with what I think would be considered this camp’s version of the starters.Reggie Cannon and Jackson Yueill are the two U-23 eligibles at this camp who are the closest to being full-time members of the USMNT (I’d argue Cannon is already there). They need to show veteran leadership and poise, and to stand out the way, for example, Lletget did at this time last year. So they’re going 90.Christian Cappis and Brandon Servania are both long-term No. 6s who have spent most of their careers thus far playing as No. 8s. I’m fine with giving one half to each/either, and if Yueill struggles I wouldn’t hate seeing each/either given a shot to play his regista role.I need to see Justen Glad & Mark McKenzie together for a half. Almost every other U23 eligible CB – Cameron Carter-Vickers, Auston TrustyMiles Robinson, etc. – is a question mark for the qualifying tournament for one reason or another.Getting to see Jonathan Lewis and Sam Vines work together on both sides of the ball is potentially illuminating.These are five of the six subs that are usually allowed in friendlies. I’m happy going in whatever direction – Brenden Aaronson at the No. 10, Uly Llanez on one of the wings, some sort of switch in goal – that Berhalter decides for the final sub.And so here we are. The nightmarish 2010s are over and hopefully a better decade has begun. It’ll start for real with Olympic qualifying in March, but we can get a big taste of how that’s going to go from what we see on Saturday.

Aaron Long seeks consistency to lead by example for USMNT and New York Red Bulls

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9:18 AM ET  Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

 

CARSON, Calif. — Aaron Long has experienced no shortage of life-altering events this offseason.He got engaged in Maui to his fiancée, Elise, and also took a trip to Japan, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto and Mount Fuji, while sampling the local cuisine and some kimonos. As for getting around, that was made easier by the fact that one of his traveling companions spoke some Japanese. “‘Three beers,’ was a common phrase for sure,” Long said. “But it was probably my favorite vacation I’ve taken thus far.”But the itch to get back on the field needed to be scratched, as the memory of New York Red Bulls’ playoff defeat to the Philadelphia Union lingered.”It’s good to clear your head. You want to let your body heal,” Long said. “But you want to start training again. You start getting fit, then you want to start touching the ball. It’s just a gradual process that makes you hungry and just want to get back into things.”Long has been doing just that for the last several weeks, taking part in the U.S. men’s national team’s annual January camp. Meanwhile, transfer speculation from overseas has resurfaced, with ESPN sources confirming a Sky Sports report that the Red Bulls rejected an offer from West Ham United to take the defender on loan.Long, 27, declined to address his club situation and, while there is a sense the 2018 MLS Defender of the Year has progressed as much as he could in New York, he also seems at peace with the possibility of remaining with the MLS side.”There’s plenty more for me to achieve at the level I’m at now, for sure,” he said. “While I’m here, I have to set my goals as high as I can set them.”Staying at Red Bull arena will see demands increase on the Oak Hills, California, native, especially in the leadership department. The Red Bulls have lost club icons Bradley Wright-Phillips and Luis Robles, and ESPN sources confirmed a report from The Athletic that defender Kemar Lawrence is set to join Belgian side Anderlecht.Such departures seem like an annual occurrence with the Red Bulls. Three years ago, Dax McCarty was traded; the following season Sacha Kljestan got dealt. That does not mean the challenge facing Long should be minimized, though.”I know that I’m one of those guys that’s definitely gonna have to fill some big shoes and take even more of a leadership role on the team,” he said at the U.S. team hotel. “I guess when I get there, I’ll see how big those shoes are and what I need to do and kind of assess that situation. But I know what’s coming and I know that big things are going to be asked of me for sure.”That is already the case with the national team. Manager Gregg Berhalter has assembled a side with 13 Olympic-eligible players and said on Thursday that the lineup for Saturday’s friendly against Costa Rica (LIVE on ESPNEWS, 3:55 p.m. ET) will be “a mix” of youngsters and more veteran types.Long, as a member of Berhalter’s leadership council, is among those asked to help bring the young charges along. The fact that this is his second camp has made things easier.”You’re problem-solving as a group now instead of seeing everything for the first time, and everyone having their own opinions,” he said. “It’s a little bit easier this camp. And I think that the returning guys from last January to this January have done a good job [of] coming together and having a clear picture for the younger guys.”Taking on a leadership role is not something that has come naturally to Long. During his first season with the Red Bulls, then-manager Jesse Marsch almost made him wear a microphone in a bid to get the player to be more vocal and a better organizer on the field.”Marsch didn’t [do that], thankfully,” Long said. “I probably was not talking as much as I needed to at the time, but that example just shows that there’s this learning curve for sure, and I wasn’t always an outspoken guy.”Long prefers to lead by example — maybe with a quiet word here and there — and that means his play needs to be among the best in the side. He admits he was not consistent with the Red Bulls last season and that the trait is as elusive as it is desirable.”I think just your mindset going into games is: What does success for you look like on the day? Is it winning on the day? Is it stopping Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] on the day? Every game there’s a different task and different things are asked of you, and I think how you’re able to change your game, to help your team win, is going to determine how good you were on the day,” Long said.That quest for consistency will resume with the U.S. on Saturday. Unlike last year, there is only the one friendly to cap off the January camp and that has added a sense of urgency when it comes to playing time.”Everyone’s been fighting for a spot,” Long said. “There’s no next week.”It sounds like the approach that will carry him through the season.

Armchair Analyst: Who has the most to gain for USMNT vs. Costa Rica

January 28, 20202:45PM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

 

If  you have followed the US men’s national team even casually for the past five, 10 or 15 years — or even longer — then you probably know the drill with January camp, colloquially nicknamed “Camp Cupcake” amongst the fans because it always ends with a friendly or two against usually overwhelmed, less-than-full-strength opponents.The reason those teams were/are less than full strength is the same reason the US themselves always are: the entire month of January is not an international date. In fact there are no international dates at all from mid-November until the end of February, which means that clubs are under no obligation to release players (and thus don’t). That means January camp has traditionally been the domain of preseason MLS players and a select few based in Scandinavia, with the occasional dash of out-of-contract players (hello, Bryang Kayo!) or European-based youth players (greetings, Uly Llanez!) sprinkled in.This is all by way of saying that Saturday’s friendly against a similarly short-handed Costa Rica is, uh, not exactly a live-or-die affair.That is not the same thing as saying that Saturday’s game has no stakes. Costa Rica are rivals, and by definition every game against a rival has stakes. Beyond that, Concacaf Olympic qualifiers will be held in March, and just as with this camp, teams are not required to release their players for the duration of Olympic qualifiers. That means guys like Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Josh Sargent, Sergino Dest and Tim Weah, who are all Olympic-eligible, are all massive question marks (to be honest I’d be surprised if we saw a single one of them released for the tournament). That in turn means there are spots up for grabs.I’m not going to say that the US “absolutely have to qualify for the Olympics.” What I’ll say is that it’d be a massive failure — the first of Gregg Berhalter’s tenure, to be honest — if the US didn’t. And while Jason Kreis is the head coach of the U-23s, he’s Berhalter’s guy and it’d be under Berhalter’s watch that it’s happening.To that end, this is not the standard January USMNT roster. Instead this roster skews young, and in fact more than half of the rostered players this weekend (13 of the 22) are age-eligible for Olympic qualifying. Three of them (Kayo, Llanez and LA Galaxy right back Julian Araujo) are actually age-eligible for 2024 Olympic qualifying, which should give you an idea of how deeply Berhalter is looking into the potential depth chart.

So yeah, it’s Camp Cupcake. But at the same time this is all very, very big.

Let’s take a look at who’s got the most at stake:

Jackson Yueill

It’s probably too much to say that Jackson Yueill was the breakout USMNT performer of 2019, but simply saying that he overdelivered on expectations undersells it. Yueill looked the part of a proper, international-caliber regista against Uruguay in a friendly played in third gear back in September, then was a central part of the US team that absolutely dusted Canada in November’s Concacaf Nations League game — one that was played at something close to World Cup Qualifier-level intensity. He was very, very good:the exception of right back Reggie Cannon, Yueill is the U-23 in this camp who’s closest to being a significant part of the full USMNT. He’s also someone who might stay in a starting role even if/when Adams and McKennie are available, since you could very easily play those two guys as pressing 8s and Yueill as a regista behind them in a three-man midfield.Which, taken as a whole, means that Yueill has the most to lose as a bad showing means that guys like Christian Cappis and Brandon Servania, both of whom are in this camp, could close the gap on him. Yueill also arguably has the most to gain, as a commanding performance could cement him as a leader for the Olympic qualifying group no matter who else is/isn’t available.

Jonathan Lewis

Pulisic and Weah. Nick Taitague mostly healthy for the first time in forever, and said to be close to the Schalke first team after spending the month with them. Gio Reyna, having debuted for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, and Indy Vassilev, having debuted for Aston Villa in the EPL.Richie Ledezma, Paxton Pomykal and Brenden Aaronson — guys who I think are central midfielders, but who are often played out wide. Llanez ripping it up with Wolfsburg’s kids. Bofo Saucedo starting for UNAM Pumas in Liga MX.That’s the competition for Jonathan Lewis, who has always produced when given a chance but has reached the “put up or shut up” phase of his career when it comes to winning a starting job. He has the ability to do it:He’s also saying all the right things — talking specifically this winter about how he needs to improve upon the defensive side of the ball (he does) and be a two-way impact player.He certainly has the tools to make it a reality. He could do himself a big favor if he brought that to bear this weekend.

Justen Glad

For each of the past two years RSL have been significantly better with Justen Glad on the field than off of it. He has the size and speed, and as of 2019 seemed finally to add a bunch of the strength necessary to play CB against even the best center forwards in the league (though Zlatan owned him, to be fair).But for each of the past two years RSL’s head coaches – first Mike Petke and then Freddy Juarez – benched Glad in the playoffs.He’s still just 22. For context: He will be younger at this point in the 2026 World Cup cycle than Aaron Long is right now, so there is still plenty of time for Glad to mature into a USMNT starter.This is his shot to prove he should be an Olympic qualifying starter, though. Cameron Carter-Vickers’ career going into a tailspin, Chris Richards failing to break through into anything higher than the German third tier and up-and-down seasons from most of his age-group competition in MLS (including the guy who’s next on the list) have this door wide open for Glad.

Mark McKenzie

That door is wide open for the Union‘s Mark McKenzie as well. He’s two full years younger than Glad, and thus much less experienced — Glad has over 10,000 career minutes across all competitions while McKenzie is shy of 3,000. He’s also not, I don’t think, as athletic as Glad or Miles Robinson (who’s not in this camp — more on that in a second), and his defensive instinct still need polishing.The difference is that McKenzie’s often asked to be a line-breaking passer of the ball for Philly, and he often delivers. He was asked the same by Tab Ramos with the U-20s, and he usually delivered there as well. He is able to see and hit passes that cause real stress on the opposition’s shape, and that’s the kind of distribution from the back Berhalter seems to want to weaponize.For what it’s worth I would expect Robinson to have one of the starting CB jobs on lock. Though even that’s not guaranteed, especially since Atlanta United are under no obligation to release him and probably won’t be eager to if they’re in the midst of a CCL run.

Sam Vines

Sam Vines snuck under the radar and into Colorado’s lineup by the middle of spring last year, and stayed there right through the end of the season by playing no-frills, mistake-free soccer. He is one of two young left backs on this roster, though the other – Minnesota United‘s Chase Gasper – is too old to be eligible for Olympic qualifying. So in this game, if Vines gets onto the field, he’ll be competing against himself and trying to show that he can add value in Berhalter’s system.I have few concerns he’ll manage that on the defensive side of the ball. The big questions come in possession, where Berhalter justifiably asks his fullbacks to be more than just “mistake free.” In the modern back four the fullbacks have to be, at the very least, competent at meaningful ball progression. If they turn out to be less than that, opponents will see it as an exploitable weakness they can target to starve the midfield and frontline of any sort of service (if you want an example of this, go re-watch Canada’s 2-0 home win over the US in the Nations League, and how often and effectively they targeted Daniel Lovitz).Vines is never going to be a Dest-level possession hub, but it would be a major boost for both the U-23s and potentially for the full USMNT if he could go out there and show that, at the very least, he can work nearly as well on the left as Cannon and Nick Lima did on the right in 2019.

Other things to keep an eye on:

  • Sebastian Lletget: He’s literally never played a bad game for the USMNT, and usually plays very, very well. He’s also going to have to fight for his life to lock down and hold onto a starting spot given the young midfield talent coming up.
  • Jesus Ferreira: The latest dual-national to commit to the US, Ferreira’s maybe a No. 9, maybe a winger, maybe a No. 10, and probably a second forward. Too bad the US don’t use a two-man front line. I’m curious to see where and how he plays.
  • Walker Zimmerman: Can he match consistency to his physical gifts? If so he has a chance to solidify his place on the CB depth chart.
  • Matt Turner: His shot-stopping has been otherworldly the past two years in MLS, and there’s a good chance this weekend will see him debut. If and when that happens, he will be asked to play with his feet. I am intrigued.

Gregg Berhalter: Jackson Yueill, Reggie Cannon & other USMNT mainstays likely for Olympic qualifying

January 25, 20201:02PM EST  Ian QuillenContributor

With the US national team facing two high-profile European friendlies in the March international while the U-23 squad aims at qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokoyo, manager Gregg Berhalter and his staff have a difficult balance to juggleSpeaking with Tony Meola of SiriusXM FC this week, Berhalter revealed that the USMNT’s priority over that stretch will be reaching the Olympics for the first time since 2008, at least in terms of players who are likely to be released for the Concacaf qualifying tournament.Making the 2020 Olympics is vital for @ussoccer! “I think it’s going to be very challenging to get players like Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie released for qualifying because it falls outside the current FIFA window,” Berhalter said. “But players who have been mainstays for the US national team like Jackson Yueill and Reggie Cannon, we’re going to want them to go through that qualifying process and help the team qualify.It’s an important event to participate in, and we want to qualify.”The US have a difficult road if they are to return to the tournament where they last finished ninth at the 2008 games. They begin the Concacaf qualifying tournament in a group with Mexico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, with the top two finishers reaching the semifinals.Only winners of those subsequent semifinal matches — Scheduled for March 30 — will represent Concacaf in the 16-team Olympic tournament in July and August.Group play of Concacaf’s Olympic tournament begins before the March window opens. The senior US team will play friendlies at the Netherlands on March 26 and at Wales on March 30.

AC Milan, USMNT’s Antonee Robinson can’t complete Deadline Day transfer

Doug McIntyre

January 31, 2020, 3:23 PM EST

United States men’s national team defender Antonee Robinson won’t be joining seven-time European champion AC Milan after all.

A day after the rather surprising news broke that the Italian titans had agreed to purchase the speedy left back from English second-tier struggler Wigan Athletic, the deal fell apart at the final hurdle, Wigan announced on Deadline Day.

Robinson had traveled to on Milan Friday morning in anticipation of the move. He had taken his physical. However, “further medical tests with the Italian authorities were required, which were subject to a 72-hour deadline,” Wigan’s statement read. With Italy’s transfer window closing at 8 p.m. local time [2 p.m. ET], there wasn’t enough time to get the deal across the line.

The last-minute collapse has to be hugely disappointing for the Liverpool-born Robinson, who has American citizenship through his father. Milan’s haul of European titles is second only to Real Madrid’s. But the club has fallen on relatively tough times in recent years, and is currently eighth in Serie A. Wigan, meantime, sits 22nd in the 24-team Championship and is in danger of being relegated to the country’s third division.

Robinson has earned six caps with the USMNT, all of them in 2018. He has spent most of the last two years with the U.S. under-23 squad that in March will attempt to break the country’s 12-year Olympic drought by qualifying for this summer’s Games in Tokyo.

2020 Olympics: Inside Jason Kreis’ plan to qualify the U.S. men for the first time in 12 years

Doug McIntyre

January 30, 2020, 10:36 AM EST

United States under-23 national team coach Jason Kreis is hoping to qualify the Americans for an Olympics for the first time since 2008. (Jose Breton/Getty)

Jason Kreis is well aware of the challenge he faces in getting his United States under-23 mean’s national team to this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.

After all, the U.S. has not taken part in the Summer Games since way back in 2008, where a team led by future World Cup players such as Michael Bradley and Stuart Holden failed to make it past the group stage in Beijing.

“The way I view it is that it makes my job easier,” Kreis told Yahoo Sports in a phone interview, amid three-plus weeks of working with many of his players during the senior team’s annual January training camp. “We know that this isn’t easy. We know that there’s been failure before. So we should have a little extra energy, a little extra something to prove. I like that situation for us.”

Kreis will get a preview of March’s all-important CONCACAF qualifying tournament opener against Costa Rica on Saturday in Carson, California, where a senior team heavy on U-23 players will meet a similarly young Ticos side in a friendly. No fewer than 13 of the 22 players remaining on USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter’s January camp roster are eligible for the March squad.

To hear Kreis tell it, the experience of working alongside established senior internationals such as Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget and Aaron Long this month has been vital preparation for the games that count.

Still, the path to Tokyo 2020 promises to be anything but smooth. The qualifying tournament was held on American soil the last two Olympic cycles, and the 2012 and 2016 teams still failed. This year’s event is in Guadalajara, Mexico.

In addition to the first match against Costa Rica, the U.S. also plays the hosts and Dominican Republic in Group A. Only the top two nations will advance to the do-or-die semifinals, meaning one of CONCACAF’s three traditional powers will miss out.

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Looked at another way, however, the draw isn’t that bad. Should the U.S. survive the first round, they’d avoid the big boys in the semis, with a win over Canada, El Salvador, Haiti or Honduras enough to send them to Japan.

“Going into the draw I was thinking that it would be nice to be in Mexico’s group,” said Kreis, who pointed out that the U.S. would get an extra day of rest if they reach the decisive match.

The bigger question concerns the makeup of his roster. Some of the most prominent American players — Christian Pulisic, Westin McKennie, Tyler Adams, Josh Sargent and Sergino Dest — almost certainly won’t be released by their European clubs, which are only required to let players join senior national teams. Complicating matters is the fact that the first game of the tournament falls three days before FIFA’s March fixture window opens.

Still, U.S. Soccer will attempt to convince the employers of Euro-based youngsters who have yet to break into their clubs’ first teams — think Bayern Munich’s Chris Richards, Ajax’s Alex Mendez and PSV Eindhoven’s Richie Ledezma — to let them go.

Kreis expects the majority of the MLS players currently in camp to be involved in March. But he also confirmed that domestic teams have been less cooperative than in the past.

“I think that’s fair to say for sure,” Kreis said. “We’re hopeful that the MLS teams understand that we’re still growing our sport. And part of growing our sport is having our national teams do well.”

If they do manage to end 12 years of Olympic futility come March, then Kreis, Berhalter and new USMNT general manager Brian McBride will try to sell the likes of Pulisic’s Chelsea and Adams’ RB Leipzig on the value having their Americans on a global stage, in an event watched by tens of millions of Americans and many more about the world.

“I believe that the guys we’re talking about are going to want to represent their country in the Olympics,” Kreis said. “First, we have to get there. But if the players want to play in it, and can exert some influence on their clubs, then hopefully we can all work together to make that happen. Because I think we can have a really, really exciting team.”

USWNT’s Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris hit the Super Bowl as trailblazing role models ready for the future

Caitlin MurrayYahoo SportsJan 30, 2020, 11:19 AM

Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris are living their best lives – together.Fresh off winning the 2019 World Cup in France together as members of the U.S. women’s national team, the couple married in a picturesque wedding that was splashed across the pages of Vogue magazine.They haven’t enjoyed a honeymoon yet – they had to go straight into a USWNT camp and are now with the team vying for a berth into the 2020 Olympics – but it’s been something of a whirlwind fairytale since the pair went public about their relationship back in March.Now, as a married couple and as individuals, Harris and Krieger are blazing a trail as role models and voices that in the past were often ignored. They’ve been vocal advocates for equal pay for women and they’ve quickly become one of the country’s most high-profile same-sex couples, particularly in the world of sports. And it’s all made them more popular than ever.“Ali and I talk about this all the time in terms of visibility and what culture means to us,” Harris tells Yahoo Sports in an exclusive interview. “When I think back to my childhood, we didn’t have people who looked like us when we opened magazines or watched advertisements.“We’re super proud of what we stand for and that companies and brands are getting behind that and are willing to be part of that cultural change. For such a long time, we didn’t have a place, but now we do and we’re being celebrated and it’s really rewarding.”

Harris and Krieger: USWNT power couple

The brands lining up to work with Harris and Krieger include Budweiser, which prominently features the couple toward the end of a new ad slated to run during Sunday’s Super Bowl, the most visible platform in American sports. A teaser video designed to gin up anticipation for the ad also featured them.Yet when the pair first met at a USWNT camp in 2010 and fell in love, they didn’t share their relationship beyond close friends and family for fear it would impact their status on their teams, both club and country, or alienate potential sponsors. “That was the mindset – it wasn’t, ‘Let’s keep this away from the public,’” Krieger says. “It was more, ‘Let’s make sure we aren’t losing our jobs because we don’t know how people are going to react.’ It wasn’t as if we were hiding.”Over the years, however, things changed. There were the changes that happened outside of the bubble Harris and Krieger created for themselves. More and more prominent figures were coming out, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to mke gay marriage legal, and public sentiment increasingly became more accepting.But then there were the changing attitudes of Krieger and Harris themselves. “We are private people and we want to keep something at the end of the day just for ourselves, but also we want to create this change,” Krieger says. “We want to have families and young kids and adults understand that this is also normal life – two women can be together, two men can be together. You’re two humans who love each other and are living this beautiful life together and are successful, so there’s nothing wrong with that.”Over the years, they sought advice from close friends, like past and present USWNT players Abby Wambach, Lori Lindsey and Megan Rapinoe. They spoke to their agents at Wasserman. Ultimately, they revealed their relationship when the timing felt right for them. “When I think back, I’m a little disappointed in myself that I waited this long,” Harris says, “because I have kids come up to me and they have families who look like me and Ali. Or older people say, ‘Hey, you saved our lives and we’re finally able to start living an authentic life.’ I know what it feels like to only give a part of me to someone.“I wish I had felt I was in a safe space to do this a long time ago.”The timing has seemingly worked out for the pair, even if it’s much later than they would’ve liked.After they won a World Cup together as a newly out couple, brands eager to attach themselves to strong, powerful women especially took notice of Krieger and Harris.After years of having to try to advocate for better investment in female athletes and women’s soccer on their own, the assist from brands like Budweiser, which has become the flagship backer of the National Women’s Soccer League, is a game-changer.“We can only do so much, but we need companies to invest in what we’re trying to create,” Harris says. “We can only take it so far. We show up, we do our job and we’re the best version of ourselves.”

The USWNT testing their relationship

But before they became the winningest power couple in sports and clinked beers in a Super Bowl ad, Krieger was going through perhaps the most difficult moment of her professional career – and it wasn’t easy on her relationship with Harris either.Not long after the 2016 Olympics, where the USWNT bombed out of the quarterfinal stage, coach Jill Ellis sought regenerate the team by eliminating veterans in favor of grooming up-and-comers. Krieger, a center back and right back, was one of those cuts.

“I really went through it. I got fired,” Krieger tells Yahoo Sports. “And that was difficult to go through because I knew my worth and I knew I deserved to be there but I didn’t really have a reason of why.”

w photos

Ashlyn Harris and Ali Kriger won the World Cup together for a second time last summer in France. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

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“I’m thinking to myself, I’m still good enough to be there. What did I do wrong?” she adds. “I had to go through it without closure. It’s like leaving a relationship and not understanding why you broke up.”For two years, Krieger didn’t even get a call-up to a USWNT camp to try to prove she belonged. For all she knew, her time representing the United States was over.But as hard as it was, Harris was still part of the USWNT as a backup goalkeeper and Krieger needed to compartmentalize her feelings to be a supportive girlfriend.“I detached the emotion and I was committed to supporting her,” Krieger says. “She’d drag my ass out of bed, no matter how tired and upset I was, and said, ‘You’re gonna be kicking balls with me’ or whatever it was.“Ash was my rock through that whole experience, and it was really s—ty for us. Our relationship took a hit because of how upset and sad I was, but we pushed each other, we pulled each other up, and we supported each other.”Together, they made sure Krieger would be prepared if her second chance ever arrived with the USWNT – and it did, unexpectedly in the USWNT’s final camp before Ellis had to pick her World Cup roster. Krieger admits the call-up was as out of the blue as it seemed for fans and journalists – but she was ready for it, thanks in part to her then-fiancée, Harris.Everyone knows how the story ends by now: Krieger ultimately did make the World Cup roster, and together Krieger and Harris lifted their second World Cup trophy together after winning in 2015.But Krieger’s experience being cut from the team wasn’t entirely negative. It helped her and Harris envision their lives after soccer. After all, the USWNT players know their soccer careers are temporary and they still have the rest of their lives together.Krieger began doing work as a studio analyst for BeIN Sports and Major League Soccer, she launched her own youth soccer camp program called AKFC, and she completed coach license courses.

“It was an opportunity for her to figure out a little more of herself and what life was going to be like outside the national team,” Harris says. “Was it hard for her? Yeah, but she was still fine. She was doing all these things and she was thriving because people like her, with her mental strength, she’s going to be OK.”For now, the couple is focused on getting through CONCACAF qualifying for the Olympics, where the USWNT beat Haiti to open the campaign Tuesday and faces Panama on Friday. After that, they will try to make the Olympic roster and then attempt to do what no team has ever done by winning a gold medal after winning a World Cup. A honeymoon for the couple will come sometime after that, when it can truly be stress-free, Krieger says. Where the pair ends up longer-term after they hang up their cleats is still up in the air, but everything they’ve been up to – playing soccer, being spokeswomen, and so on – will help them get there.“Everything we do is building a future,” Harris says. “To me, the possibilities are endless.”

US Ladies in Bud Commercial

Caitlin Murray is a contributor to Yahoo Sports and her book about the U.S. women’s national team, The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer, is out now. Follow her on Twitter @caitlinmurr.

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1/27/20 US Ladies on FS2 Tues 8:30, US Men on ESPN News Sat – Top Teams, Players, Goals of the Decade, US Women’s Team Earns Time, SI & other accolades, Kobe loved soccer

So I will start with a wish of a very Happy New Year to everyone!  Yes I have been swamped at work and haven’t had time to do my weekly updates.  However with the US ladies and men about to start qualifying and now that Fox has stepped in late (thank you Fox Soccer – a lot of folks put down the coverage but they actually show the games on TV- unlike TNT and Champs League and ESPN+)  So I will continue to give them cudos for stepping in and buying the rights to US games when no one else (READ ESPN???) will.  Anyway  Fox Sports 2 will carry the USA vs Haiti Olympics Qualifying game this Tues night at 8:30 pm from Houston, and again Fri.   The US Men will host Costa Rica Sat Feb 1 at 4 pm on ESPN News.

2020 USWNT OLYMPIC QUALIFYING SCHEDULE:

Date Opponent Time TV/Result Venue
Tues Jan. 28 Haiti* 8:30 p.m. ET Fox sports 2 BBVA Stadium; Houston, Texas
Fri Jan. 31 Panama* 8:30 p.m. ET Fox Soccer + TUDN BBVA Stadium; Houston, Texas
Mon Feb. 3 Costa Rica* 8:30 p.m. ET Fox Sports 1 BBVA Stadium; Houston, Texas

Nice to see the US ladies receive tons of recognition as Time’s Athletes of the Year, Rapino as SI’s Sportsperson of the Year, Ertz as US Athlete of the Year, and Carli Llyods Hat Trick in the 2015 World Cup as women’s Goal of the decade.  Hugely sad to see Kobe Bryant’s tragic passing this past weekend.  Kobe was a huge supporter of soccer and specifically US Soccer – especially the the ladies team as his daughter’s love the sport.  Kobe’s influence on supporting Soccer in the states, he was loved in Europe especially since he is so well versed in the game, will be hugely missed.  RIP Kobe – great NBA player and great friend of Soccer.

This week we get on top of the US Games above – we get Man City vs Man United in league cup play on ESPN+ at 2:45 pm on Wed at the same time West Ham hosts league leader Liverpool on NBCSN.   Saturday gives us the Madrid Derby – league leading Real hosting Atletico on beIN Sports & FUBOTV at 10 am.   Leicester City hosts Chelsea at 7:30 am on NBCSN.  Liverpool hosts Southhampton at 10 am and Man United will host Wolverhampton at 12:30 pm on either NBC or NBCSN.  RB Liepzig and US mid/Defender Tyler Adams will try to defend their slender lead at the top of the Bundesliga vs Borussia M’gladbach and US defender Johnson at 12:30 Sat on Fox Sports 2.  Sunday has a battle for top 4 as Tottenham hosts Man City at 11:30 am on NBCSN in the EPL,  Inter will travel to Udinese on ESPN News & desportes at 2:45 pm, while Barcelona will host Levante on beIN Sports.

USA Qualifying 

US Ladies Match Preview with Haiti

US Ladies Olympic Qualifying

Schedule and TV, stream info for Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament

US Men Face Costa Rica without Europe Stars including Pulisic – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Pulisic out of Chelsea lineup until mid-Feb.
Fox to televise 2021 and 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cups

Berhalter: USMNT “in a good spot” after eventful first year

Beckham on Kobe Bryant: “He inspired me to try to be better”

Berhalter: Expect USMNT mainstays at Olympic qualifying

WORLD

FIFA floats Women’s World Cup every two years

Top 10 Goals of the Decade

Top EPL Goals of the Decade

Top 50 Champions League Goals of the Decade

Top EPL Goals of 2019

The Biggest USMNT Goals of the Decade

GoalKeeping

Top 20 Saves of the Decade

Top 10 Saves of the Decade

Top 10 Saves of the Decade in Germany

Top 20 Impossible Goalkeeper Saves Of The Year – YouTube

USA

Which Players Were the Best of this Decade for USMNT

US Carli Llyod’s Hat Trick in 2015 World Cup

Ertz beats Rapinoe to U.S. Athlete of the Year

U.S. Women’s Soccer team named TIME’s 2019 athlete of the year

USWNT dubbed Time Magazine’s 2019 Athletes of the Year

Rapinoe picks up SI’s Sportsperson of the Year

Pulisic named best U.S. male athlete of 2019

Sergiño Dest wins U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year

The Ertz’s – Zach and Julie – ESPN60

Analyzing Berhalters’s Picks for US Men January Camp –Doyle

USMNT to open 2020 vs. Costa Rica after January camp in Qatar

Schalke rule U.S. midfielder McKennie out until February

Yedlin’s Hand is Broken in New Castle Game

McConaughey: Soccer in America can take over baseball, hockey
McIntyre’s USMNT Stock Watch: John Brooks and Sergino Dest looking to end 2019 on a high note

Pulisic Watch: Chelsea’s American star shines in Champions League (video)

US Men to play at Netherlands 3.26

2019 in review: Did our bold USMNT predictions come true?

FIFA has brilliant idea to ruin the Women’s World Cup

EPL

Pulisic Review of the Brighton Game

Pulisic I can do Better

EPL Review

Football resolutions for 2020: Don’t mess this up, Liverpool

Arsenal see off Man United, but both sides have far to go

4/10 Maguire just one of Man United’s many under-performers

Arteta gets 9/10 overseeing first win as Arsenal manager

Kane limps off as Spurs lose at Southampton

Draw vs. Brighton illustrates why Chelsea need a big January window

Champions League

Who can Premier League clubs draw in the Champions League knockout rounds?

Pulisic Watch: Chelsea’s American star shines in Champions League (video)
 US Coach Jesse Marsch: ‘We will be proud eventually’ after loss to Liverpool

Azpilicueta: ‘Champions League is where Chelsea belong’

 Chelsea controls Lille to clinch UCL knockout round berth
Lampard strives for more as Chelsea edge into Champions League last 16
Liverpool, Chelsea through to Champions League last 16 as Ajax go out

Neymar makes impression as PSG crush Galatasaray

Mourinho: No one will want to draw Spurs in Champions League

Ronaldo scores as Juventus beats Leverkusen in Champs League

Bayern brush aside Mourinho’s Spurs to claim perfect six

Kylian Mbappé scores Champions League goal while fireworks go off on the field (video)

Atletico, Atalanta reach last 16 as Bayern cruise past Spurs
Madrid concludes CL group phase with 3-1 win at Brugge

Bayern Munich tops Spurs 3-1 behind Davies, Coutinho

Jesus ‘cannot stop scoring’ as hat-trick lifts Man City’s mood in Zagreb

Sessegnon beats Neuer to score first Spurs, Champions League goal

Champions League debutants Atalanta reach last 16

Jesus hat-trick downs Dinamo Zagreb, Atalanta qualifies for knockouts

Napoli hires former Milan coach Gattuso to replace Ancelotti
Napoli sack Ancelotti despite 4-0 Champions League victory

Dortmund’s Favre delighted with Champions League progression

Fati makes history as Barca send Inter crashing out of Champions League

Napoli beats Genk 4-0 to reach Champions League last 16

Lyon players, fans clash after Depay secures last 16 spot

Zenit eliminated in Champions League after losing to Benfica

Dortmund hold off Slavia to reach Champions League last 16

Napoli fires coach Carlo Ancelotti despite advancing in CL

Ajax crash out of Champions League after defeat by Valencia

Ancelotti sacked despite guiding Napoli to Champions League last 16

Ancelotti’s reign ends amid feuding as Napoli turn to Gattuso

Inter out of Champions League after 2-1 loss to Barcelona

UCL wrap: Barca’s mints record young goal scorer in eliminating Inter

MLS

Boehm: Seven shifts that transformed MLS in the 2010s

An MLS Best XI for the last decade

Key Games and Dates for the 2020 Season

Fire Hire’s New Coaching Staff

Report: Toronto FC re-sign Michael Bradley

LA Galaxy add former MLS assist king Kljestan

ATLUTD complete permanent transfer for Hyndman

Meg Whitman explains Cincinnati investment : “The right sport, right town”

Charlotte officially granted Major League Soccer expansion franchise

Yes, you can watch US Ladies Olympic qualifying on TV – Fox Sports steps up!

Cutting it a bit close, guys.By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Jan 27, 2020, 7:55am PST

With the same energy of a student hitting submit on their paper at 11:59 PM, Concacaf has pulled it together and negotiated a deal to broadcast Olympic qualifying (mostly) on TV. Concacaf struck a deal with FOX Sports, they announced today, in a three-year English language deal.The deal doesn’t just cover women’s Olympic qualification; it also covers the men’s qualifying in March, 2021 and 2023 Gold Cup, and Concacaf Champions League.Given all the tournaments and competitions involved, perhaps it’s a little unfair to roast Concacaf too much for coming in late with this deal, but also it majorly sucks that the WNT will take the brunt of this bad timing since the tournament starting literally tomorrow allows zero time for proper promotion – something important to keep in mind when ratings come in. It seems likely that Concacaf was insisting on a bundle instead of trying to find a home for just the women’s tournament to ensure that it would get on TV, delaying things until now.Olympic qualifying coverage will include other countries, although some of the games will be streaming only. The full schedule is below.

Tuesday, January 28

Costa Rica vs Panama – 6 PM ET, FS2
USA vs Haiti – 8:30 PM ET, FS2

Wednesday, January 29

Canada vs St. Kitts & Nevis – 5:30 PM ET, FS2
Mexico vs Jamaica – 8 PM ET, FS2

Friday, January 31

Haiti vs Costa Rica – 6 PM ET, Fox Soccer Plus
Panama vs USA – 8:30 PM ET, Fox Soccer Plus

Saturday, February 1

St. Kitts & Nevis vs Mexico – 3:30 PM ET, FS2
Jamaica vs Canada – 6 PM ET, Fox Soccer Plus

Monday, February 3

Panama vs Haiti – 6 PM ET, FS2
USA vs Costa Rica – 8:30 PM ET, FS1

Tuesday, February 4

Canada vs Mexico – 6:30 PM ET, FS2
Jamaica vs St. Kitts & Nevis – 9 PM ET, FS2

Friday, February 7

SEMIFINAL 1 – 7 PM ET, Fox Soccer Plus
SEMIFINAL 2 – 10 PM ET, FS1

Sunday, February 9

FINAL – 6 PM ET, FS2

U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

NBC SportsJan 27, 2020, 11:51 AM

The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter ‘comfortable’ with Christian Pulisic recovery will rely on others this weekend

Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Pulisic has missed the Blues’ last five matches, including Saturday’s FA Cup win over Hull City, due to a thigh injury and is expected to return in mid-February following Chelsea’s brief break from the Premier League.

The U.S. international sustained several muscle injuries last season while with Borussia Dortmund, but Berhalter said while he’s concerned about injuries to any of his players, he’s not concerned about the Pulisic’s availability when World Cup qualifying starts up later this year.  Pulisic out of Chelsea lineup until mid-Feb.  “One thing about Christian is he’s adapting to the Premier League,” Berhalter said on a conference call with reporters. “He played a lot of games in a short period of time over Christmas. The injury didn’t appear to be that significant. He’s working through that rehab. He should be back training soon in full training.”This is part of it, a young player playing at an extremely competitive level, and it takes a physical toll on your body and him coming to terms of that is something that’s normal for the process of adapting.”So we’re we are comfortable with where he’s at. We’re working with our medical staff to make sure that you know, you can be strong and fit and compete in these [qualifying] games.”One player who is back on the field after a lengthy injury layoff is Tyler Adams. The RB Leipzig midfielder has been deployed on the right flank of late, and has played right-back for the U.S. in the past. But Berhalter said he sees Adams playing in the center of midfield for the U.S. going forward.”We played [Adams] at right back before and he’s a good fit there because of his speed, his dynamic [ability], his ability to process the ball and move forward with ball and attack with speed,” Berhalter said. “We see him primarily as a central midfielder. We always have seen him as a central midfielder.”But we know that when we need to be flexible, he can play that position as well. We think right now that the right back position is filled with depth, and he’ll be most suited in our system in central midfield.”Neither Pulisic nor Adams will be available for this Saturday’s friendly against Costa Rica (live at 3:55 ET on ESPN News), given that it falls outside the international window. The current U.S. roster, which has taken part in a training camp for most of January, has 13 Olympic eligible players. With Olympic qualifying set to take place in late March, Berhalter said he plans to give some young players a look this weekend.”I would expect there to be young players in the lineup, and that’s perfectly OK,” he said. “They’ve worked hard all month so far, and it’ll be nice to give them an opportunity to perform in front of a crowd in a real international game. This also gives us the opportunity to evaluate some players for the Olympic pool and see if they can if they can make it for qualifying.”The theme of the whole camp was guys staking their claim guys, you know, looking to improve their situation and get a firm grasp of where they fit in in the player pool. So I think the game is gonna give us the opportunity to evaluate that.”Berhalter declined to be drawn into a discussion about whether he would ask clubs to release players like Pulisic for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The U.S. hasn’t qualified since the 2008 games in Beijing, and faces a difficult path to qualification, with both Mexico and Costa Rica in its qualifying group.  “It’s going to be a difficult qualifying process,” he said. “The roster is 17 players plus three goalkeepers, There’s a lot of games in a short amount of time. A couple of the games are outside the FIFA window. We’re going to need a lot of cooperation from Major League Soccer, and I know that’s difficult given the early stage of their season.”But as far as we’re concerned, it’s a concerted effort to field a strong team for qualifying and to qualify for the Olympics. If and when we do that, it will be a different set of conversations.”The 21-year-old American attacker has not played since a 1-1 draw at Brighton on New Year’s Day.Chelsea play at Leicester City on Feb. 1 and their next league game after that is not until Feb. 17 when they host Manchester United.Manager Frank Lampard said Friday the break ”might fall at a nice time and give us a bit more to play with.” He added: ”Hopefully he will be back for the other end of that break. It’s in line with how we expected him to be.”Pulisic has six goals and six assists in all competitions this season, including a hat trick in a league match at Burnley on Oct. 26.

PULISIC OUT TILL MID FEB

hristian Pulisic‘s adductor injury appears likely to keep him out of Chelsea’s lineup until mid-February. The 21-year-old American attacker has not played since a 1-1 draw at Brighton on New Year’s Day.Chelsea play at Leicester City on Feb. 1 and their next league game after that is not until Feb. 17 when they host Manchester United.anager Frank Lampard said Friday the break ”might fall at a nice time and give us a bit more to play with.” He added: ”Hopefully he will be back for the other end of that break. It’s in line with how we expected him to be.”Pulisic has six goals and six assists in all competitions this season, including a hat trick in a league match at Burnley on Oct. 26.

Which players should be on the USMNT Best XI of the 2010s?

So many choices, but we ask you to break them down.

By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Dec 28, 2019, 7:00am PST  Stars and Stripes

We’re about to close the book on the 2010s, and many fans are thinking back to some of the good times (and bad) that occurred during the decade. When it comes to the players that came through the United States Men’s National Team, there can be a healthy debate about who dominated the 2010s for the team. Some people may discuss their preference, while others may break out stats and analytics. But, it’s still a debate that can carry us into the new year.Of all the players that featured for the USMNT from 2010-2019, who stood out? Who was the best of the best? We break down a list of players who form the starting XI of the USMNT All-2010s team.

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard

There really isn’t a better choice for the 2010s between the net than Tim Howard. He will go down as arguably the best goalkeeper the United States has ever produced. He helped set up the game-winning goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup and he became the Secretary of Defense with his performance in a loss against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup. He had dozens of other terrific performances throughout the 2010s, and he’s a no-brainer choice for the Best XI of the decade. (Honorable Mention: Brad Guzan)

Defenders: John Brooks, DaMarcus BeasleyMatt BeslerFabian Johnson

DaMarcus Beasley finally retired this year after a stellar career, but he bailed the USMNT out many times over the course of the decade with his performance at left back. John Brooks, Matt Besler, and Fabian Johnson were guys that were extremely important throughout the decade on the defense. At times, each of those players were the most reliable defenders on the roster, and they were called upon many times to keep the opposition out of the net.(Honorable Mention: DeAndre YedlinGeoff Cameron)

Midfielders: Christian PulisicJermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan is arguably the greatest male player the United States has ever produced. Christian Pulisic will likely take that title very soon (if he hasn’t already). Jermaine Jones was dominant in the middle for the USMNT, the fierce bull that the team needed. Michael Bradley was dominant in the middle for many years for the USMNT, and he has been a part of some of the program’s greatest goals ever. This is a strong midfield that were important throughout the decade. (Honorable Mention: Tyler AdamsGraham Zusi)

Forwards: Jozy AltidoreClint Dempsey

Clint Dempsey is the best American forward of all time and arguably the greatest male player of all time. Jozy Altidore, if he can be healthy the next few years, could still catch Deuce and Donovan atop the all-time goalscoring list. Both players throughout the decade hit a level that no other players could match, and they’re easy picks for the All-2010s team. (Honorable Mention: Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris)

Hit the comments and give us your best XI of the decade. There’s plenty of players that merit discussion, so let us know which players made your list and why you think they stood out as the best USMNT players of the 2010s.

Christian Pulisic at Chelsea: USMNT star’s performances assessed, game by game

Jan 1, 2020Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Christian Pulisic is in his first season at Chelsea, following a $73 million move from Borussia DortmundThe campaign’s first half saw the 21-year-old U.S. international make 22 appearances in all competitions, scoring six goals and claiming five assists.

ESPN will continue to assess Pulisic’s performances, with updates to this feature being added after every Chelsea match.Opponent: Brighton (1-1; Jan. 1, Premier League)   Chelsea Player Ratings

How he performed out of 10: 6. It was another lacklustre performance from Chelsea, and they were oftentimes downright dysfunctional. Pulisic didn’t stand out from that assessment, for better or worse. He enjoyed moments of quick interplay and clever close control that created opportunities, but his finishing was lacking and at times his decision-making was labourious.

Highlights: The U.S. international’s quick feet were a ray of hope throughout his 66-minute performance. His four take-ons were more than fellow attackers Tammy Abraham and Willian combined in his time on the pitch, creating a pair of chances in the first half and leading to three shots in the second. His passing wasn’t as sharp as it should’ve been, but he did dispatch a couple of clever balls that led to chances, one scooped effort to send Abraham into the area and another to Mason Mount that put the Blues in position to enjoy an extended spell of position in and around the Brighton box.

Lowlights: His decision-making in transition was at times poor, which manifested itself in a passing percentage of 77% — better than only Abraham and N’Golo Kante. He was impatient after beating two defenders in the first half, sending in a hopeful cross forward when he had no players forward with him. The shots he created for himself through clever footwork in the second half let him down; they were from positions and distances that should’ve yielded more than two missed targets and one simple save from Mat Ryan.While the lowlights paint a picture of nothing but doom and gloom from Pulisic, no one from the West London club looked particularly impressive. Pulisic was one of 11 Blues dressed in black whose performances were as dark as their kits.

Pulisic on Chelsea form: “I can do better”

Joe Prince-Wright,NBC Sports•January 2, 2020

Christian Pulisic has admitted he must improve his finishing as Chelsea dropped more points in the Premier League on New Year’s Day.The USMNT star, 21, returned to the Chelsea starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 14 in their 1-1 draw at Brighton and lasted 66 minutes after his slight hamstring issue.Pulisic had several shots on goal at Brighton but he and his Chelsea teammates couldn’t double their advantage after taking an early lead.“We said at half time that we had the chance to kill the game and we just weren’t able to,” Pulisic said. “We couldn’t get the goal and in the end they found an unbelievable goal. So now it is about doing a bit more to keep going, attack and create chances and just have that killer instinct. Just a little bit of that, we are missing that.“I can do better with that as well. Just being more clinical in the final third, finding the right pass or shot and scoring the goals. That’s both mental and technical. After we scored the first goal it was just about continuing and just not stopping there, making it two or three and putting the game to bed. We’ve had troubles with that this year and then in the end, they fought until the end, scored a great goal and that is how it goes.”[ MORE: Pulisic Watch – How did he perform? ]

Pulisic got into some great positions and caused Brighton lots of issues with his dribbling and clever runs in the final third, but his shooting was wayward. He snatched at a few shots and looked like he was hurrying a little and maybe that is because he’s now gone seven games with a goal or an assist for Chelsea.His purple patch in October and November proves he can score goals in the Premier League but Pulisic just needs that little bit of luck to get the ball rolling again. Everything else is going well but as he said himself, he needs to improve his finishing.Chelsea need to improve theirs overall too, as Frank Lampard‘s side continue to blow hot and cold in their battle to finish in the top four and cannot keep squandering big chances against teams in the bottom half of the table.Pulisic admitted that with Chelsea now able to buy players in the January window due to their transfer ban reduced upon appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) he is now relishing the chance to compete with new players for minutes.“It is normal that teams look to improve and and if players do come in there is competition, that is how it goes,” Pulisic said. “So we’ll be ready for that and hopefully we’ll have players that come in and want to help us.”

I have to be more clinical, says Chelsea star Pulisic

AFP•January 2, 2020London (AFP) – Christian Pulisic says he and his Chelsea team-mates have to develop a killer instinct in front of goal if they are to stop dropping points as they did against Brighton on Wednesday.The 21-year-old United States captain missed three gilt-edged chances in the 1-1 draw — though ultimately it was not too costly in terms of the race for Champions League places as both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur lost.Fourth-placed Chelsea have a five-point advantage over United while Spurs and Wolverhampton Wanderers are a further point adrift.However, Pulisic, who has scored five times in his first season with Chelsea since his £58 million transfer ($76 million) from Borussia Dortmund, says Chelsea must put right their lack of accuracy when chances pop up.”We said at half-time that we had the chance to kill the game and we just weren’t able to,” said Pulisic.”We couldn’t get the goal and in the end they found an unbelievable goal.”So now it is about doing a bit more to keep going, attack and create chances and just have that killer instinct. Just a little bit of that, we are missing that.”Pulisic, who earlier in the season became the youngest Chelsea player to score a hat-trick in the 4-2 win over Burnley, says he is as much to blame as the others.”I can do better with that as well,” said the forward.”Just being more clinical in the final third, finding the right pass or shot and scoring the goals. That’s both mental and technical.”

Armchair Analyst: First USMNT camp of the 2020s a sign of what’s to come

December 30, 20192:48PM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

The January US men’s national team camp, which is always an extended camp and never falls even partially during an international break, is a time for experimentation. In the past that experimentation has usually meant new faces at the fringe of the roster – guys on the verge of working themselves in for real, or out for good – or tactical tweaks, or the introduction of a new head coach. Last year’s camp, the first under Gregg Berhalter, was a time for all three.This year’s camp has an almost entirely different feel. First off, it’s not in Carson, California, the traditional winter palace for Camp Cupcake. Rather, the bulk of the camp (January 5 through 25th) will be in Doha, Qatar, theoretically in preparation for the 2022 World Cup.Second, this camp roster has much more of a youth national team(s) influence than past camps. There are 14 U-23s mixed into the 25-man roster, and three of those guys are actually U-20s. Two of those have never played a first-team minute.So it is a wildly experimental group, one that seems to say “we really are trying to integrate our programs from both the bottom up and the top down.” Let’s take a look at it through that lens:

The full-time USMNTers

Sean Johnson is either second or third on the goalkeeper depth chart. Reggie Cannon (U-23 eligible) is second or third on the right back depth chart. Aaron Long is a starter at center back and Walker Zimmerman is third or fourth on the CB depth chart.Sebastian Lletget is the starting No. 10 as of now, and Cristian Roldan is second or third on the No. 8 depth chart. Jackson Yueill (U-23 eligible) is second on the No. 6 depth chart.Jordan Morris is a starting winger, while Paul Arriola and Jonathan Lewis (U-23 eligible) are probably third and fourth on the winger depth chart. Gyasi Zardes is second or third on the center forward depth chart.

The fringe guys pushing in

Matt Turner and Bill Hamid are both there to challenge Johnson and try to leap ahead of Brad Guzan. Turner was called in back in November as well, while this is Hamid’s first US camp with Berhalter.The only field player on the roster that fits this mold is left back Chase Gasper, who’s in his second straight camp after a strong rookie season for Minnesota United. Gasper’s just about a year too old to be U-23 eligible, otherwise he’d be in this next group…

The U-23s

Cannon, Yueill and Lewis have already been mentioned. There’s also Quakes Homegrown ‘keeper J.T. Marcinkowski, who’s played a bunch in the USL Championship the past couple of years and seems to be the No. 1 choice at ‘keeper for the U-23s. I will admit surprise that Philly‘s Matt Freese isn’t on this list, but there are only so many places up for grabs.Center backs Justen Glad and Mark McKenzie have both been at US camps before, though neither has made an appearance. Know who’s not here? Fellow U-23 eligible CB Miles Robinson, who has made a full US appearance but was injured (hamstring) back in October while doing fitness training after a USMNT game in which he didn’t play. Atlanta weren’t happy about it publicly, and my guess is they were livid about it privately.Twelve weeks is usually plenty of time to recover from a hamstring strain, and they have their own January camp opening up on the 11th ahead of their CCL campaign. Plus it seems like they’re no longer wild about releasing players unless they absolutely have to.Left back Sam Vines had an understated and solid – and sometimes defensively outstanding – age 20 season for Colorado. He’s not a game-breaker out there, but he’s not a match-loser, either.Paxton Pomykal has been capped once, and is healthy after an October procedure to clean up a lingering muscle issue in his lower abdomen. Brenden Aaronson‘s been to a camp but hasn’t been capped, and Christian Cappis has performed well – sometimes as a No. 8, sometimes as a No. 6 – for both his club in Denmark and the US U-23s.I still don’t know what position Jesus Ferreira is best at. What I do know is that he had one of the most productive seasons by a teenager in MLS history, registering 8g/6a while playing some as a No. 9, some as a winger and some as a central midfield playmaker. This is his first camp after officially earning US citizenship.

The U-20s

Here’s where it gets kind of fun: The inclusion of LA Galaxy right back Julian Araujo, Wolfsburg U-19 winger Uly Llanez and unattached D.C. United academy product Bryang Kayo (there are rumors he’ll be signing with Wolfsburg) seems to be Gregg Berhalter’s way of saying “we want to integrate as large a part of the core of the next U-20 group into the full program as quickly as possible.”Araujo, who played 900 minutes for the Galaxy this year, was born in 2001, as was Llanez, who’s been tearing it up in the German youth ranks after developing in the Galaxy academy. Kayo’s a 2002. It’s a very, very good bet that all three of those guys will be part U-20 qualifying, which is in June. It’s close as hell, and so let’s get these kids bloody.

A few notes:

  • Contrast Wolfsburg letting Llanez gowith Borussia Dortmund presumably refusing to release Gio Reyna, who’s made the 18 for them in the past. That suggests Llanez isn’t quite ready to break through into the first team, which is obviously just fine – he’s still a kid.
  • Michael Bradleyand Wil Trapp were regulars for the US in 2019, but neither are here, nor is Jozy Altidore, nor is Guzan (who wasn’t released). I wouldn’t bet even a small amount that this means Berhalter has permanently moved beyond those guys (there’s a good chance Bradley is still rehabbing after the injury he picked up in MLS Cup), but I wouldn’t be entirely shocked, either.
  • Conspicuous in their absenceare a pair of MLS-based U-23 strikers, Jeremy Ebobisseand Mason Toye. Ebobisse just had surgery, so that explains that. Toye… it’s tougher to say. He had a scorching run this summer, but struggled mightily in his most recent U-23 camp.Olympic qualifying is in March, by the way. For all of these age-eligible guys, the time to start performing is right now. Anybody who comes out of the gates slow in 2020 is at risk of losing their spot.
  • Another U-23, Cappis’s Hobro teammateEmmanuel Sabbi, is also conspicuous in his absence. My guess is Hobro intend to sell him next month (there have been rumors for a year now), which is why he’s not there.
  • Remember, before you lose your minds in the comments section below, that the January camp is not held during an international date and therefore clubs are under no obligation to release players. That especially includes European clubs, almost all of whom have their seasons re-starting this month and are holding camps of their own.

Here’s the roster:

Pos. Player Club
GK Johnson, Sean New York City FC
GK Hamid, Bill D.C. United
GK Marcinkowski, JT San Jose Earthquakes
GK Turner, Matt New England Revolution
D Araujo, Julian LA Galaxy
D Cannon, Reggie FC Dallas
D Gasper, Chase Minnesota United
D Glad, Justen Real Salt Lake
D Long, Aaron NY Red Bulls
D McKenzie, Mark Philadelphia Union
D Vines, Sam Colorado Rapids
D Zimmerman, Walker LAFC
M Aaronson, Brenden Philadelphia Union
M Cappis, Christian Hobro
M Kayo, Bryang Unattached
M Lletget, Sebastian LA Galaxy
M Pomykal, Paxton FC Dallas
M Roldan, Cristian Seattle Sounders
M Yueill, Jackson San Jose Earthquakes
F Arriola, Paul D.C. United
F Ferreira, Jesus FC Dallas
F Lewis, Jonathan Colorado Rapids
F Llanez, Ulysses Wolfsburg
F Morris, Jordan Seattle Sounders
F Zardes, Gyasi Columbus Crew SC

My MLS best XI of the decade | Bobby Warshaw

December 26, 2019

Eveery player wants to pursue excellence. The ultimate goal is to achieve excellence that lasts, that leaves a legacy. It’s not just a singular act or year, but a mark that leaves an impression that gets remembered.That’s what we’re looking at today. The MLS Team of the Decade. The players who set the highest standards for their respective positions.This is far from a science. For me there are two main factors that go into consideration: Longevity and Peak. The maximum height of ability, significance and contribution achieved matters; and the full body of work over the 10 years matters. The final score is not a direct sum of the two, nor is there a precise weight for either category. It’s a subjective measurement of the players’ contributions as a player.Miguel Almiron, for example, might have been the most effective player the league has ever seen — high Peak. He only played in MLS for two years, though, so he has a low Longevity score. Put together, he doesn’t quite make the list.

 

Stefan Frei – Goalkeeper
2 MLS Cups, 1 Supporters’ Shield, 1 USOC, 3 Canadian Championships
It would be nice to ease into a column like this, but we start with one of the toughest decisions in the team. Nick Rimando has the most games played and the most wins; he’s been consistently excellent for 10 years (though hasn’t won a trophy this decade). Luis Robles won three Shields and a Goalkeeper of the Year award (and the Best XI nomination that comes with it). Both would be worthy picks. It’s tough to skip over a guy with seven trophies (!) in 10 years, though. Stefan Frei won a trophy in six different years this decade. His 2016 MLS Cup performance included one of the most iconic saves in league history. He’s been good for the 10 years, and great in the biggest moments.
Runners-up: Nick Rimando, Luis Robles

 

Justin Morrow – Left Back
1 MLS Cup, 2 Supporters’ Shields, 3 Canadian Championships, 1 Best XI, 16th in Games Won
It’s been easy to overlook how good Justin Morrow has been throughout his career. He entered MLS in 2010 as a second-round draft pick and took two years to become a starter. Since then, he has been one of the left backs almost every season. To put his 2017 Best XI selection into context: Only three outside backs have made the Best XI this decade (Todd Dunivant and Kemar Lawrence are the others). Morrow has been equally adept at both sides of the ball. He can lock down opposing wingers and then use his speed to fly into the attack. He’s also been able to adapt between styles and formations, from the bruising “Goonies” of the San Jose Earthquakes to the cerebral treble-winning Toronto FC sides.
Runner-up: Todd Dunivant

 

Steven Beitashour – Right Back
1 MLS Cup, 3 Supporters’ Shields, 3 Canadian Championships
It’s not a coincidence that two of the best teams of the decade — the 2012 Quakes and 2017 TFC — had Steven Beitashour and Morrow controlling the flanks (and we could add 2019 LAFC to Beitashour’s list). Beitashour was drafted two spots (No. 30 overall) after Morrow in the 2010 draft. Like Morrow, it’s been easy to miss Beitashour’s excellence. (Such is life as an outside back, I suppose.) It’s interesting to describe Beitashour as a player. He doesn’t have an A+ trait; he doesn’t stand out of the page in any way; he hasn’t had any specifically spectacular individual seasons. Rather, he’s simply an excellent soccer player who always plays to a certain level. He’s diligent defensively, solid on the ball and smart going forward. Beitashour might have been the best value-for-championship-potential player in MLS over the last decade.
Runner-up: Graham Zusi

 

Chad Marshall – Center Back
Omar Gonzalez – Center Back
Marshall: 1.5 MLS Cups, 1 Supporters’ Shield, 1 USOC, 1 Defender of the Year, 2x Best XI
Gonzalez: 3 MLS Cups, 2 Supporters’ Shields, 1 Defender of the Year, 4x Best XI
It’s often difficult to get excited about defenders. They stop the excitement rather than create it. Chad Marshall and Omar Gonzalez, though, were as fun to watch as any attacker in the league. They went about the position with equal measures of grace and dominance. They could hang with the most talented attackers, and you’d struggle to find a moment when they looked frazzled. They were each dominant in the air – count them in the top tier with Ike OparaKei Kamara and Alan Gordon – and deceivingly quick on the ground. While neither received enough credit for their passing, they both played in two of the best passing teams of the last 10 years. Most importantly, they were both winners. Eight of the 10 MLS Cups in the 2010s have featured either Marshall or Gonzalez.
Runner-up: Matt Besler

 

Diego Chara – Midfielder
Ozzie Alonso – Midfielder
Diego Valeri – Midfielder
Chara: 1 MLS Cup
Alonso: 1 MLS Cup, 1 Supporters’ Shield, 3 USOC, 1 Best XI, most games won
Valeri: 82 goals, 62 assists in 229 games, 3x Best XI, 1 MVP
Ozzie Alonso and Diego Valeri are locks. They both embody the combination of Peak + Longevity. You could build a base for Nico Lodeiro, who has had the single largest footprint on his team of the options here, or Kyle Beckerman or Dax McCarty, who have been steady forces in the engine room for almost every possible game, to take Diego Chara’s spot. It’s always been easy to overlook the Colombian. If we look at the full body of work over the 10 years, though, I feel safe giving Chara the spot. He’s been one of the best players on the field in just about every one of the 278 games he’s played this decade.
Runners-up: Nico Lodeiro, Kyle Beckerman, Dax McCarty, Federico Higuain, Brad Davis

 

Robbie Keane – Forward
92 goals, 51 assists in 146 games, 3 MLS Cups, 1 Supporters’ Shield, 4x Best XI, 1 MVP
Robbie Keane only played five full seasons in MLS, but he had one of the highest Peaks possible. He made the Best XI four (!) straight years and won three MLS Cups. He was virtually un-defendable from 2012 to 2015. He made the list over David Villa and Thierry Henry, who lived in similar “what’s a defender supposed to do?” territory. Ultimately, their MLS tenures are apples to oranges; Keane landed into a dynasty while Villa started a club from scratch and Henry’s New York Red Bulls had just missed the playoffs when he arrived. It’s unfair to keep Villa or Henry off the list just because they didn’t win trophies that nobody expected them to win, but we need a differentiator, and the game is about championships in the end.

 

Sebastian Giovinco – Forward
73 goals and 57 assists in 125 games, 1 MLS Cup, 1 Supporters’ Shield, 3x Best XI, 1 MVP
Sebastian Giovinco gets the last spot because he was the most spectacular individual of the decade. Villa, Keane, Josef Martinez et al could put together unreal performances; Giovinco’s were better. Nothing in the past 10 years compared to some of the individual performances that Giovinco provided. He had the highest Peak score of anyone in the league. He set a new bar for how an individual player could impact a game.

 

Chris Wondolowski – Forward
153 goals, 35 assists, in 312 games, 1 Supporters’ Shield, 3x Best XI, 1 MVP
Chris Wondolowski’s in. You can’t dispute that. He receives a max Longevity score — in the last 10 years, he went from Development Player to Designated Player and scored 152 of his record 159 goals. He also hit a high peak, with an MLS MVP award in 2012.
Runners-up: Kei Kamara, David Villa, Thierry Henry, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Landon Donovan, Josef Martinez
It hurts to leave Kamara and BWP off the list. They both pounded home goals for almost the entire 10 years — BWP finished with 117, Kamara 115 — and I would understand if someone would pick their steady Longevity over Giovinco’s ridiculous peak.

 

Bruce Arena – Manager
3 MLS Cups, 2 Supporters’ Shields
Bruce Arena won more trophies than anyone else during the decade. He also put together the last unquestioned dynasty, and perhaps the best team in league history. Peter Vermes turned Sporting Kansas City into one of the model clubs, winning four trophies along the way. He established the first “pressing” team in league history, only to pivot halfway through the decade and continue winning. The last spot goes to the Sigi Schmid/Brian Schmetzer combination. Sigi guided the Sounders through the first half of the decade, quickly pushing an expansion team into the top echelon of the league. Schmetzer took the club the last mile, winning two MLS Cups in four years. It’s hard to decouple their work and what they’ve each meant to the Club of the Decade.
Runners-up: Peter Vermes, Sigi Schmid/Brian Schmetzer

 

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12/13/19 US Ladies Time Athlete of year, Champ League Sweet 16, El Classico, Club World Cup Wed,

USA

U.S. Women’s Soccer team named TIME’s 2019 athlete of the year

USWNT dubbed Time Magazine’s 2019 Athletes of the Year

Rapinoe picks up SI’s Sportsperson of the Year

McConaughey: Soccer in America can take over baseball, hockey
McIntyre’s USMNT Stock Watch: John Brooks and Sergino Dest looking to end 2019 on a high note

Pulisic Watch: Chelsea’s American star shines in Champions League (video)

 

WORLD

What you need to know about the FIFA Club World Cup

FIFA Club World Cup: How to watch, stream, follow

 

EPL
PL Club Power Rankings: Week 16

 

Champions League

Who can Premier League clubs draw in the Champions League knockout rounds?

Pulisic Watch: Chelsea’s American star shines in Champions League (video)
 US Coach Jesse Marsch: ‘We will be proud eventually’ after loss to Liverpool

Azpilicueta: ‘Champions League is where Chelsea belong’

 Chelsea controls Lille to clinch UCL knockout round berth
Lampard strives for more as Chelsea edge into Champions League last 16
Liverpool, Chelsea through to Champions League last 16 as Ajax go out

Neymar makes impression as PSG crush Galatasaray

Mourinho: No one will want to draw Spurs in Champions League

Ronaldo scores as Juventus beats Leverkusen in Champs League

Bayern brush aside Mourinho’s Spurs to claim perfect six

Kylian Mbappé scores Champions League goal while fireworks go off on the field (video)

Atletico, Atalanta reach last 16 as Bayern cruise past Spurs
Madrid concludes CL group phase with 3-1 win at Brugge

Bayern Munich tops Spurs 3-1 behind Davies, Coutinho

Jesus ‘cannot stop scoring’ as hat-trick lifts Man City’s mood in Zagreb

Sessegnon beats Neuer to score first Spurs, Champions League goal

Champions League debutants Atalanta reach last 16

Jesus hat-trick downs Dinamo Zagreb, Atalanta qualifies for knockouts

Napoli hires former Milan coach Gattuso to replace Ancelotti
Napoli sack Ancelotti despite 4-0 Champions League victory

Dortmund’s Favre delighted with Champions League progression

Fati makes history as Barca send Inter crashing out of Champions League

Napoli beats Genk 4-0 to reach Champions League last 16

Lyon players, fans clash after Depay secures last 16 spot

Zenit eliminated in Champions League after losing to Benfica

Dortmund hold off Slavia to reach Champions League last 16

Napoli fires coach Carlo Ancelotti despite advancing in CL

Ajax crash out of Champions League after defeat by Valencia

Ancelotti sacked despite guiding Napoli to Champions League last 16

Ancelotti’s reign ends amid feuding as Napoli turn to Gattuso

Inter out of Champions League after 2-1 loss to Barcelona

UCL wrap: Barca’s mints record young goal scorer in eliminating Inter

 

MLS

Report: Toronto FC re-sign Michael Bradley

LA Galaxy add former MLS assist king Kljestan

ATLUTD complete permanent transfer for Hyndman

Meg Whitman explains Cincinnati investment : “The right sport, right town”

US Men’s College Cup Final 4

12/5 Megan Rapino, Messi Win Ballon D’Or, Manchester Derby Sat, Champions League Tues/Wed, Carmel FC Coaches Gather 12/12

Nice to see Megan Rapino take home the World’s Best Player award on Monday, she really has become more than just a soccer player after her performance in the World Cup – helping the US Ladies win their record 4th World Cup Title, I for one was rooting for Virgil Van Dyke to become the first defender in forever to win the Men’s Best Player Award but of course Messi wins it again. Hard to deny Messi again had a great year but I really wanted to see someone different win it this year – I guess it was the closest ever vote as Van Dyke lost by less than 1%.  Too bad.  Big Games this weekend on Saturday at noon on NBC we get Manchester City hosting Manchester United in the Manchester Darby, and Saturday morning on Fox Sports 2 at 9:30 am we have the top 2 teams in Germany as US midfielder Johnson and top seeded Borussia Mgladbach host Bayern Munich with their new coach looking to take themback to the top of the league.   

Champions League Final Group Games Next Tues/Wed

I have had a blast watching US Starlet Christian Pulisic at Chelsea not only start but also score important goals.  His Champions League goal 2 weeks back helped Chelsea garner the tie – which leaves them in prime position to qualify for the knockout rounds (Sweet 16).   The two U.S.  players who have been getting regular minutes in the UEFA Champions League, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Sergino Dest of Ajax, both head into next week’s final group stage matchday with a spot in the knockout stage on the line. It would be foolish to bet against Pulisic pulling the Blues, though. The Pennsylvania native’s otherworldly recent displays for Frank Lampard’s team have been flat-out unprecedented for an American at the highest level.  Games are Tuesday and Wed with 4 groups still open as to who will either win the group or who will qualify.  Chelsea faces Lille Tuesday at 3 pm on FuboTV and BR Live, while Ajax must win to hold onto 1st in the group vs Valencia at 3 pm on BR Live,  If Ajax and Chelsea win they are thru.  American Coach Jesse Marsh, the first American to ever coach in Champions League, will lead his Salzberg squad into a loser goes home match vs Champions League Holders Liverpool.  Salsberg has the GD lead – so they only need a win to advance while a tie or win on the road will put Liverpool thru to the round of 16.  If course this game will be on Tuesday at 1 pm on TNT, while at 3 pm Tuesday on TNT Inter hosting Barcelona will be needing a win to advance on assuming Dortmund win.  Barca is already thru as the group winner.  Wednesday we get Bayern vs Tottenham on TNT at 3 pm- a game that means nothing, while Athletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen battle for their Sweet 16 lives in games vs Lockomotiv and Juve (top team) respectively on BR Live and FuboTV.  Wow how I hate TNT and BR Live having Champions League (man I miss Fox’s old Soccer coverage)

IU loses in Elite 8

I got a chance to tune in and watch the Elite 8 Match where the Hoosiers Lose Heartbreaker at Home in OT of Elite 8.  Horrible conditions with snow blowing sideways found IU tied thru regulation before losing in the 100th minute on an unlucky slip and quick goal from Cal Santa Barbara.  Still a great season for Indiana who has a very young team with most of their starters coming back from this Big Ten Champion Team.

REMINDER TO ALL CARMEL FC COACHES — GATHERING AT WOLFIES THURSDAY EVE Dec 12 at 5:30 pm to say thank you for all your hard work this season.

When: Thursday, December 12th 2019 / 5:30 pm to late

Where: Wolfies Grill – 1162 Keystone Way, Carmel 46032

Why: Carmel FC Social, celebrating 2019/2020 season

What: Light appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided; additional      food & beverages can be purchased separately.

Who: All Carmel FC coaches

GAMES ON TV

Fri Dec 6

3 pm eSPN+                                   Inter vs Roma Berlin

3 pm FS2                                         Frankfurt vs Hertha

3 pm beIN Sport                           Villarreal vs Atletico Madrid

Sat, Dec 7   

7:30 am NBCSN                               Everton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

9:30 am Foxsoccer            Borussia Mgladbach (Johnson) vs Bayern Munich

9:30 am FS2                                      Dortmund vs Dusseldorf (Morales & Steffan)

10 am??                                             Bournmouth vs Liverpool

12:30 NBCSN                      Man City vs Man United

2:45 pm ESPN+                                 Lazio vs Juventus

3 pm beIN Sport                               Barcelona vs Mallarca

Sun, Dec 8

9 am NBCSN                                      Aston Villa vs Leciester City

11:30 am   NBCSN                            Brighton vs Wolverhampton

12 noon FS1                         Paderborn vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

2:45 pm ESPN News                        Bologna vs Milan

Mon, Dec 9 

3 pm NBCSN                                      West Ham vs Arsenal

Tues, Dec 10   – Champions League

1 pm TNT                                         Salzburg (US Coach Jesse Marsh) vs Liverpool

3 pmTNT                                          Inter vs Barcelona

3 pm fuboTV/BR Live                 Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Lille

3 pm Galavsion/BR Live             Ajax vs Valencia

3 pm                                                  Lyonais vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

3 pm                                                  Dortmund vs Slavia Praha

Weds, Dec  11 – Champions League

1 pm TNT                                         Dinamo Zagreb vs Man City

3 pm TNT                                         Bayern Munich vs Tottenham

3 pm TUDN/fubotv                     Club Brugge vs Real Madrid

3 pm futboTV/galavision          Bayer Levekusen vs Juventus

3 pm futboTV/                              Atletico Madrid vs Lokomotiv Moskov                     

Thur Nov 28

11 am BRLive/fuboTV/TUDN   Astana vs Man United

1 pm BRLive/fuboTV/Unimas Standard Legiege vs Arsenal

WORLD

Messi tops Ronaldo, wins sixth Ballon d’Or award

Messi’s Ballon d’Or form might not be enough for Barca 

Rapinoe wins Ballon d’Or but is so much more than a soccer star

Rapino wins Ballon d’Or

Euro 2020 Draw is Set

Marocotti’s Musings – Football Around the World ESPNFC

Griezmann is an outsider at Barca and an outcast at Atleti

Euro Championship on US network TV for 1st time since ‘08

USA

McIntyre’s USMNT Stock Watch: Christian Pulisic’s unprecedented rise continues

Tyler Adams returns to RB Leipzig training

DMid Yeul had great end to the Year for USMNT

https://sports.yahoo.com/looking-back-at-the-usmn-ts-upanddown-2019-170701640.html

Will MLS have a Work Stoppage ?  ESPNFC Jeff Carlisle

Does Playing Pro Soccer Increase the Risk of Degnerative Disease – Soc Takes

Champions League

Table

Christian Pulisic scores Champions League goal for Chelsea

Liverpool left with work after draw vs. Napoli

Salzburg beat Genk to set up group decider with Liverpool

Chelsea denied UCL knockout spot by Valencia

Kepa blows hot and cold in Chelsea draw with Valencia

Forsberg double sends Leipzig into UCL round of 16

Inter beat Slavia to keep knockout hopes alive

Messi breaks Ronaldo UCL record in 700th game

Mourinho has ball boy’s ‘assist’ to thank for UCL comeback

Zenit beat Lyon 2-0 to stay in contention for last-16 spot

Barcelona ratings: Messi 9/10, Suarez 8/10 in convincing win

Sancho benched vs. Barca for lacking focus – boss

Mourinho high-five ‘made my life’ – Spurs ball boy

Spurs Ballboy Joins Team Dinner

Jesse Marsch, who will be first American to coach in Champions League, already eyeing Liverpool test

EPL

Arsenal sack Emery after worst run in 27 years

Marcotti: Arsenal hung Emery out to dry, but he’s not blameless

·        Arsenal interim boss Ljungberg: From CK model to Prem manager

Chelsea are young, rich and among the world’s best — and will only get better

At Man United, Mourinho was right man at wrong time. At Tottenham, it just works

Goalkeeping

Some of Alisson’s Great Saves at Liverpool last year

Pretty Funny parity Alisson Becker Video accepting Best GK

Great Saves International Break

Best Saves Week 4 Nov
Liga MX goalkeeper scores from his own box

Cilicen was a god vs Chelsea in Champions League Wed

Navas Earns Cheer from Real Madrid Crowd after PSG Champions League Game

Megan Rapinoe takes home 2019 Ballon d’Or but is so much more than the best player in women’s soccer

Dec 2, 2019Simon KuperESPN.com writer

PARIS, France — Megan Rapinoe, the second-ever winner of the women’s Ballon d’Or given to the best player on earth, had better things to do than pick up her award in Paris on Monday. “Bonsoir everyone!” she called out cheerily to the theater packed with dinner jackets and ballgowns, in a video that looked as if it was recorded in the corner of her Seattle living room. She apologised for not making it over: “It’s a bummer.” Lionel MessiKylian Mbappe and Virgil van Dijk were among those who had shown up to applaud her, yet her snubbing of the ceremony seemed fair enough: judged by her off- as well as on-field impact, she may be soccer’s biggest icon today.

A really good icon arrives at just the right moment in history. We’re living in an era when women, sexual minorities and non-white people are saying we won’t be treated as second-class humans anymore. Certain men in the traditional ruling class reply we get to decide that. And into that battle walks Rapinoe. Her expressive face, uninhibited humor and sense of style make her an ideal spokeswoman for almost any cause, and as an activist she’s an update on past stars of her sport.The face of American soccer 20 years ago, Mia Hamm, “was sort of a gateway to the world becoming used to female soccer players,” says Gemma Clarke, author of Soccerwomen. “She was marketed as wholesome, as the girl next door.” By contrast, adds Clarke, Rapinoe wouldn’t have been accepted as an icon “even five years ago.”

Messi tops Ronaldo, wins sixth Ballon d’Or award

Ballon d’Or: Messi wins (again), Rapinoe honoured, but where’s Ronaldo?

Why Megan Rapinoe’s brother Brian is her greatest heartbreak, and hope

Messi, Rapinoe win Ballon d’Or prizes

Now 34, Rapinoe spent most of her career just short of front-rank status. Yet even without the protection of stardom, she never shied away from unpopular causes. She campaigned for prisoners’ rights on behalf of her brother, Brian, who has been in and out of prison with drug problems. A former white supremacist with swastika tattoos, he watched many of his sister’s triumphs from behind bars.In 2016, she became the first white American athlete to kneel during the national anthem in solidarity with the anti-racism campaigner and NFL player Colin Kaepernick. “It took guts. It could have ended her career,” says Clarke. The U.S. Soccer Federation responded by banning the act of kneeling. Meanwhile, Rapinoe and her girlfriend, WNBA star Sue Bird, were “normalizing a lesbian relationship” in American public life, notes Brenda Elsey, coauthor of Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America.But Rapinoe’s joint careers as athlete and activist reached their crescendo this summer. If the U.S.’s victory at the World Cup in France was expected, her domination of the tournament wasn’t. She hasn’t been the best female player of her era, but she peaked when it mattered. “She’s a big-time player,” says the USWNT’s coach Jill Ellis. Rapinoe’s confidence — exemplified by her trademark arms-outstretched celebration, known as “the Rapinoe” — was a rejection of old-style submissive femininity, and particularly stunning coming from a working-class woman.Rapinoe dared take on Trump, the candidate who had swept most voters in her rural northern Californian hometown — including her own father. She promised she wouldn’t be visiting the “[expletive] White House” if the U.S. became world champions. “Megan should win first before she talks!” tweeted Trump. A few days later she’d not only won her second World Cup, but also the Golden Ball for best player and Golden Boot for highest scorer. playRapinoe has called herself “a walking protest” and her advocacy of the U.S. team’s lawsuit for equal pay was another feet-first leap into one of the social issues of 2019. Her own career had almost been cut short by gender inequality: four years ago, she tore her ACL while practicing with the USWNT on a grass field in Hawaii so bad that it was lined with plastic-covered sewer plates. “Equal pay!” the crowd in Lyon chanted after the Americans defeated the Dutch in the World Cup final, a chant that’s resounded through stadiums across the National Women’s Soccer League this year. But the USWNT’s lawsuit shines a light for women beyond sport, and beyond the U.S. too.In modern sports, activism is usually treated as a potential distraction. Speaking in platitudes or sponsor-fed slogans is considered the professional thing to do. Even some of Rapinoe’s teammates on the national team seem to take that view. They talked about wanting to “stay in their bubble” during the tournament, says Caitlin Murray, author of The National Team, about the USWNT. Rapinoe’s spat with Trump threatened to pull them out of it, but the furor didn’t distract them; equally, it seemed to energize her.

Rapinoe is more than a professional: she is a performer. On the pitch she’ll joke with the referee, banter with opponents, or acknowledge a fan, says Murray. “She always looks like she’s having fun.” Her irreverence seems to help her stay loose on the field, and lets her relax a potentially overstressed locker room.Wowing the world has left her little time for her Seattle club, Reign FC: her stats for this season are no goals and no assists in just 333 minutes of play. But then, she’s made for greater things, like further investment in women’s soccer. In a video celebrating her Ballon d’Or, her father mused: “I don’t know where you go from here: the best player of the universe?” In fact, her international playing career may culminate with next year’s Tokyo Olympics, but that would surely just unleash her onto a new path, or maybe various paths. “At this point she’s so popular that she could do almost anything,” says Elsey. It’s easy to picture her running for political office, but that feels perhaps too tritely obvious for her.”That’s the thing about the greatest icons,” says Clarke. “There’s really nobody to compare them to.”

Euro Championship on US network TV for 1st time since ‘08

The Associated Press•December 3, 2019

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — The European Championship is returning to U.S. network television for the first time since 2008.ESPN said Tuesday that five of the 51 matches will be televised on ABC. In 2008, ABC carried two of 31 games: a quarterfinal and Spain’s victory over Germany in the final.All of ABC’s telecasts will be on weekends: Belgium-Russia on June 13, Spain-Poland on June 20, round of 16 matches on June 27 and June 28 and a quarterfinal on July 4.Ian Darke will be ESPN’s lead commentator and will broadcast the opener between Italy and Turkey at Rome on June 12 and the final in London on July 12, paired with analyst Taylor Twellman.Thirty-nine games will be on ESPN, including the opener and the final, and seven on ESPN2.Univision has U.S. Spanish-language rights.

McIntyre’s USMNT Stock Watch: Christian Pulisic’s unprecedented rise continues

Doug McIntyreYahoo Sports•December 3, 2019

It’s early December and the year is already over for the United States men’s national team and all of its MLS-based players. For those members toiling away in Europe, though, things are as busy as ever. The Bundesliga is hurtling toward its month-long winter break, with German Cup games also on tap this week.

There’s a full slate of midweek English Premier League fixtures, the Prem schedule now ramping up ahead of the jam-packed festive period at the end of the month. Meantime, the two U.S. reps who have been getting regular minutes in the UEFA Champions League, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Sergino Dest of Ajax, both head into next week’s final group stage matchday with a spot in the knockout stage on the line.

It would be foolish to bet against Pulisic pulling the Blues, though. The Pennsylvania native’s otherworldly recent displays for Frank Lampard’s team have been flat-out unprecedented for an American at the highest level. The news isn’t as rosy for others, but that’s as good a place as any to kick off our latest USMNT Stock Watch.

USMNT players trending up

M/F Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (England)

Pulisic wasn’t able to prevent Chelsea from losing at home to West Ham over the weekend, but he’s been Lampard’s best player for the last six weeks, scoring seven goals across all competitions — including in last week’s thrilling 2-2 tie at Valencia in the Champions League — in his last eight outings.

Takeaway: Mexican striker Raul Jimenez took home PFA Fans’ Player of the Month honors for November, but it could’ve just as easily gone to Pulisic. After a rough start to life in London, the 21-year-old is now in the form of his young career and hitting heights never before seen from a U.S player. After a quiet outing on Saturday, expect a strong response from Pulisic in Wednesday’s contest vs. Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge.

M Weston McKennie, Schalke (Germany)

After entering as a substitute against Werder Bremen on Nov. 23 following international duty, McKennie reclaimed his starting job for last Friday’s 2-1 win over Union Berlin.

Takeaway: The Texan might not have a goal or an assist yet, but the versatile 21-year-old —who has even played a little center back this year — is quietly having an excellent season under new coach (and former USMNT midfielder) David Wagner, helping Schalke rebound from an awful 2018-19 and into third place in the Bundesliga.

G Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany)

After a rough outing against Bayern Munich two weekends ago, the U.S. No. 1’s five stops stole a point for Fortuna away to Hoffenheim.

Takeaway: The best news of all regarding Steffen is that the 24-year-old only has to play four more Bundesliga matches before the break provides some badly needed rest for his sore left knee.

M Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany)

The Berlin-born central midfielder, 29, has started four consecutive games for Fortuna, going the distance in each of the last three.

Takeaway: No player in the U.S. pool forced his way into U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter’s plans though club performances more than Morales — who hadn’t been capped since 2016 — did this year. He’s clearly established himself as a regular, if not a starter, heading into 2020.

D Antonee Robinson, Wigan (England)

Robinson has played almost every minute of second-tier Wigan’s 19 league games this season and has also been a mainstay with the U.S. U-23s.

Takeaway: The Latics have struggled mightily this season and while Robinson, 22, has struggled at times he continues to pick up valuable experience. In March, he’ll be key part of the U-23s effort to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. And given the U.S.’s ongoing depth issues at left back, don’t be surprised if he gets the opportunity to add to his seven caps later in the new year.

USMNT players trending down

M/F Tyler Boyd, Besiktas (Turkey)

Boyd was pulled at halftime of last week’s 2-1 Europa League win over Slovan Bratislava, and the New Zealand-reared attacker has played just 14 minutes over Besiktas’ last seven Super Lig matches, including Monday’s 4-1 win over Kayserispor.

Takeaway: The third-place Black Eagles have won six times and drawn once in seven games over that span, making it unlikely that the 24-year-old will see a ton of action over the club’s final four league matches before Turkey’s winter break. Whether Boyd retains his starting Europa League role next week at Premier League Wolves remains to be seen.

D/M DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle (England)

A hip injury rendered Yedlin unavailable for Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City.

Takeaway: The timing stinks for the veteran right back, as Newcastle is back in action Wednesday against Sheffield United. Yedlin had started the Magpies’ previous six Prem matches. But if he can’t go midweek, and if Javier Manquillo produces another strong showing in his stead, the 26-year-old Seattle native could be forced to win back his spot when healthy.

M/F Julian Green, Greuther Furth (Germany)

An MCL injury has forced Green out of the second-tier club’s last two matches.

Takeaway: Although he’s been ignored by Berhalter so far, Green — who is still just 24 — was quietly having a strong season for Greuther Furth, with four goals in 13 total 2. Bundesliga games, when he went down. Green will probably have to pick up where he left off, at the least, in early 2020 to earn a USMNT look in March.

F Bobby Wood, Hamburg (Germany)

After going all of October without seeing the field in the 2. Bundesliga, Wood played in each of Hamburg’s last three games. But he was yanked at halftime of Die Rothosen’s most recent match, a 2-1 loss to Osnabruck, and still hasn’t scored this campaign

Takeaway: It’s been a miserable year for the 27-year-old, who went without a cap in 2019 for the first time since breaking in with the U.S. in 2012. Even with the USMNT’s lack of depth up top, Wood figures to remain on the outside unless and until he reverses his fortunes at club level.

USMNT Stock Watch: Surprise November standout Jackson Yueill trending up

Doug McIntyreYahoo Sports•November 25, 2019

For the U.S. men’s national team, recent wins against Canada and Cuba did more than qualify the Americans for June’s CONCACAF Nations League semifinals. The two matches also provided some valuable insight into where a number of players fit within the positional pecking order under coach Gregg Berhalter.That matters, because the twin victories also guaranteed that Berhalter will remain at the helm of the USMNT through at least next summer. Berhalter’s first year had some low lows, with shocking losses against the Canadians and fellow border rival Mexico sticking out. The fanbase remains cynical, quite understandably after missing last year’s World Cup.But if Berhalter is to lead the USMNT to a more convincing 2020, he’ll likely lean on many of the names listed in the section immediately below. As for those Americans whose national team sock is trending the other direction at the moment, they should be heartened by the knowledge that fortunes can change quickly at the sport’s highest level.With the program’s 2019 slate finished, here’s a snapshot of where some of the national team’s most interesting players stand right now.

USMNT players trending up

M Jackson Yueill, San Jose Earthquakes (MLS)

The crafty central midfielder started both U.S. games in November, turning in two fine performances despite having not logged a minute of action since the Quakes’ season ended in early October.

Takeaway: No player helped himself more this month than the 22-year-old Yueill, who will head into 2022 as a presumed starter even when veteran Michael Bradley returns from the ankle injury he suffered during MLS Cup. “I really liked his intensity,” Berhalter said after naming Yueill his man of the match against Cuba. “He didn’t let up for 90 minutes, and to turn around from a very physical Canada match to now play again in these conditions, I thought he did a great job.”

D Sergino Dest, Ajax (Netherlands)

The USMNT officially cap-tied the Dutch-born fullback against Canada, and Dest looked like a man with a weight lifted off his shoulders in the 4-1 win.

Takeaway: With Dest’s decision to represent the U.S. now made, the 19-year-old figures to quickly establish himself as a key player on both sides of the ball. “It feels great if you can do both,” Dest said after the Canada match. “I also want to make an impact on the team defensive-wise and attacking-wise.”

M Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy (MLS)

With Christian Pulisic nursing a hip injury, Lletget stepped into a playmaking role against Canada and provided some of the attacking swagger that was missing in October’s 2-0 loss north of the border.

Takeaway: “Sebastian is a guy that gives you a little bit more of the game-changing quality that that Christian possesses,” Berhalter said after his side exacted revenge on Les Rouges in Orlando. Lletget probably returns to the bench when Pulisic’s healthy, but he definitely didn’t hurt his case for more minutes in 2020.

M/F Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders (MLS)

Morris scored five goals in the final five U.S. matches of 2019, including two in last week’s 4-0 rout of Cuba.

Takeaway: The all-action 25-year-old is coming off a career season for club and country; Morris was the USMNT’s best player during the second half of 2019. Don’t be surprised if European suitors come calling. “I’d never rule anything out,” Morris told Yahoo Sports after helping his hometown Sounders to a second MLS Cup in four years earlier this month. “If an offer or something came along that I really enjoyed and thought was right for me, I would have no quarrels with making a jump.”

D John Brooks, Wolfsburg (Germany)

Brooks made just his second appearance under Berhalter in Orlando, and his experience and pedigree made a huge difference defensively. “He’s got that quality about him that’s very calming,” center back partner Aaron Long said. “He’s very smooth on the ball, definitely a guy that calms the game down for us.”

Takeaway: While Brooks’ ability has rarely been in doubt, questions about his commitment and ability to stay heathy remain. Only time will tell if the 26-year-old answers them in 2020.

F Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew (MLS)

U.S. fans’ favorite whipping boy at least temporarily silenced his haters with two well-taken strikes in Orlando.

Takeaway: Goals aside, Zardes still had an excellent match, making smart decisions on and away from the ball. He might not be Berhalter’s first choice up top when everyone is available, but in a paper-thin forward pool he proved that he should remain in the conversation for minutes.

F Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen (Germany)

Sargent didn’t let the disappointment of not playing against Canada linger versus Cuba, against whom the 19-year-old scored twice.

Takeaway: It was a fitting way to end the year for Sargent, who wasn’t even in the coach’s plans as recently as June’s Gold Cup. “Overall I think you can tell he was hungry to score goals and that’s what I liked,” Berhalter said. “He had a very good mentality in this match.”

D Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls (MLS)

The 27 year-old scored the backbreaking third goal against Canada and went the distance in the 2019 finale, too.

Takeaway: It was a strong way to finish the year for Long, who suffered late summer swoon with both his club and national team after the Red Bulls turned down an offer from English Premier League strugglers West Ham.

USMNT players trending down

G Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany)

With tendonitis in is his left knee, Steffen was allowed to skip both games and rest. But he struggled in his return, gifting Bayern Munich its second goal in Saturday’s 4-0 loss.

Takeaway: Steffen remains the U.S. No. 1. But his position is perhaps less secure than it was a few weeks go. The 24-year-old continues to struggle playing out of the back, and veteran Brad Guzan acquitted himself well in Steffen’s absence.

D Matt Miazga, Reading (England)

Four months after Miazga started both the Gold Cup semifinal and final, the 24-year-old central defender was left off the U.S. roster entirely this month.

Takeaway: The snub is especially head-scratching considering that the New Jersey native has been ever-present for Reading in the English second tier when healthy. He even scored a game-winning goal against Preston North End shortly before Berhalter’s latest squad was announced.

F Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC (MLS)

Although he was able to recover from a quad injury enough to come off the bench (and score) in the Nov. 10 MLS Cup, Altidore did not join up with the USMNT afterward.

Takeaway: Given the circumstances, no huge surprise there. Still, the fact is that Altidore, who just turned 30, wasn’t around much during Berhalter’s first year in charge. When he was during last summer’s Gold Cup, the coach used him sparingly. It’s fair to wonder how much he fits into the plan going forward.

M Duane Holmes, Derby County (England)

After October’s embarrassment, it stood to reason that Berhalter would call in a fresh face or two. Holmes had been called in earlier in the year, and the hard-running and versatile 25-year-old seemed like an obvious candidate after starting eight of the Rams’ 10 matches before the break.

Takeaway: Holmes’ next chance to play for the U.S. comes in March. Perhaps a few goals between now and then might compel Berhalter to reconsider.

MLS CBA: Will there be a work stoppage? And what do the league and players want?

Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

During the MLS offseason, there will be countless discussions about player signings and trades. There will be various drafts and other roster maneuverings as teams try to retool for next season.Yet the biggest talks of all will involve every player from every team in the league. On Jan. 31, the existing collective bargaining agreement between MLS and the MLS Players Association will expire. The hope is that a new deal will be hashed out, and the two sides have actually been engaged in negotiations for the better part of the past year, but if an agreement can’t be found before the start of the season, the league faces the prospect of a work stoppage.

What’s at stake?

MLS has experienced considerable growth since the last CBA was hashed out in 2015. Heading into that campaign, the league had 20 teams. MLS will begin next season with 26, with another three set to join in the following two years. There has also been sizable investment made by owners, and not just in stadiums. Training facilities, once considered a luxury item, are now becoming ubiquitous. There has been greater investment in salaries as well, with the implementation of targeted allocation money (TAM) having the effect of increasing the salary budget for each team by $4 million a year. As such, according to Forbes, the average valuation of MLS teams has increased by 30% from 2017 to an average of $313 million.Complicating the negotiations is the fact that the current media rights deal is set to expire at the end of 2022, meaning a new media deal will be approved in the middle of the term of the new CBA. It is expected that the next media rights deal will be multiples higher than the existing deal, which pays MLS $90 million a year. That figures to be a complicated topic to tackle, although that hasn’t stopped the union from trying.”We have made detailed proposals to the league on how to deal with that [media rights] issue,” said MLSPA executive director Bob Foose.For these reasons, a work stoppage of any kind would blunt this momentum, although to what degree obviously depends on its length.

What are the odds that there will be a work stoppage?

Historically, the union and the league have been able to avoid a work stoppage, although there have been close calls in the past, including the 2015 deal that was struck just days before the start of the regular season. Mediators were also needed to help the two sides hash out an agreement.”The league isn’t seeking to have a work stoppage, and based on the discussions we’ve been having with the union, we don’t think they are either,” said Mark Abbott, MLS president and deputy commissioner. “I think both we and the union are working in good faith to reach an agreement to extend the CBA. That being said, we certainly recognize that you can’t eliminate entirely the possibility of work stoppage and we’ve been working with our teams over the course of the last year to ensure that they’re prepared and that we’re prepared in case that happened. Again, it’s not something that we’re seeking.”The MLSPA leadership has certainly made more noises about its willingness to go on strike, and has spoken of contingency plans players are making in case there is a work stoppage.”We’ve been talking about and preparing for work stoppage for two and a half years now,” Foose said. “At this point, talking about the details of what that would look like and how we would proceed, and how we would all work together, the players are very serious when they say they’re ready to do what’s best for the full player pool and the future of the [players’ association] and the league.”A strike would see the MLSPA flying in the face of some serious headwinds, however. The fact remains that MLS’ billionaire owners can withstand losing revenue to a much greater degree than the players can cope with missing paychecks. The latest annual filing from 2018 shows that the MLSPA has total assets of $10.5 million, a reflection of not only how relatively young the union is but also how low its salaries are compared with those of players in other North American sports.By comparison, the National Basketball Players Association has total assets of more than $200 million. For the MLSPA, that $10.5 million would disappear pretty quickly in the face of an extended work stoppage. Foose stressed that union funds are not the only resource players can dip into should there be a work stoppage. The players have been preparing on their own as well.”We obviously don’t have the luxury that some of the other [players’ associations] have with an extra zero in [their] resources,” Foose told ESPN. “But we certainly have plenty of money to do what needs to be done on the [players’ association] side of things.”All of that said, it behooves all involved to reach an agreement.”We understand exactly where the business is, and I think we have a very good feel for where it’s going,” Foose said. “And we have no incentive to damage that.””I think we were able to get a bit of a foundation [in late 2018], so going into 2019 we were further along on many issues than we ever had been,” said executive board member Ethan Finlay. “But the process, it’s still early.”So what are the chances that the two sides won’t be able to come to an agreement and a work stoppage will interrupt MLS’ 25th season? There is a 20% chance of that happening; both the league and the players have too much at stake to go down that road.

What’s the timeline?

The CBA might expire on Jan. 31, but the real deadline will take place weeks later. The CONCACAF Champions League round of 16 begins in mid-February, and as long as there isn’t a work stoppage, those games could go forward. The real deadline for a new CBA is the start of the MLS season, which will take place on the weekend of Feb. 29.To hear the union tell it, the league has tended to take a long time to respond to proposals, so while there’s a little more than two months to go until the CBA expires, time can get short in a hurry.”If things don’t move more quickly and [the league] takes the same approach that was taken the last time through, the odds of a stoppage skyrocket, so hopefully that won’t be the case,” Foose said. “A strategy to run out the clock is not going to be looked upon favorably by the player pool or the [players’ association].”

What the MLSPA wants

The growth and investment of MLS has been noticed by the MLSPA, and it understandably is keen to carve out a bigger chunk for its members. But the union’s core issues are centered less on total salary numbers and more on systemic changes such as freedom of movement and allowing the players a greater ability to compete for the league’s dollars.A greater degree of free agency is one of the union’s goals. Although the union faced criticism in 2015 for not extracting more concessions from owners, one goal it did achieve was a limited form of free agency. As it stands, players who are at least 28 years old and who have played in the league at least eight years can be free agents when their contracts expire. They can also receive raises of only between 15% and 25%, depending on their salary level. The union wants the age and time of service threshold to be reduced and wants the cap on salary increases removed or at least raised considerably.The MLSPA would also like to see the salary budget rules simplified. Although the union was pleased to see the league pump more money into player salaries during the existing CBA, the implementation of TAM grated in that it was money that was available only to players making a salary of between $530,000 and $1.5 million. That excludes a large chunk of the rank and file, who are shoehorned into senior, supplemental and reserve roster categories that limit what those players can make.The union would also like to see the league allow its teams greater autonomy in terms of how they build their rosters, rather than have rules dictated by league headquarters.”In the simplest terms, TAM is silly,” Foose said. “It’s not necessary to try and tell our front offices how to sign players; they’re perfectly capable of doing that themselves. And frankly, if they’re not, then they should suffer the consequences, and that’s the kind of accountability that we want to see happen.”The union’s stance is that simplifying the rules would lead to more of a meritocracy. Players’ earnings would be a reflection of how they have performed on the field. It’s worth noting that, according to salary data provided by the MLSPA, 37.4% of the players make annual salaries under $100,000.The union also wants increased spending on charter flights. At present, the vast majority of teams fly commercially, which can lead to long travel days, especially when teams are flying through multiple time zones. This can hamper a player’s physical recovery. Teams are allowed four discretionary charter flights a year, but there is no mandate that they have to use them. Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya recalled how his team didn’t use a single charter flight during the regular season. Foose added that, at the end of 2018, only about half of the available charter flights were used.”It’s unfortunate that this is discussed in a CBA context, because this isn’t a CBA ssue,” Foose said. “It isn’t in other sports and shouldn’t be in ours. It is an infrastructure issue and is tied to player performance.”t’s difficult to imagine this being a “hill to die on” issue for the MLSPA, but Atlanta United midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said, “This is one piece of the pie for us, a very important piece, a commonsense piece, but one that we’re taking very seriously.”

What MLS wants

Broadly — beyond avoiding a work stoppage — MLS wants the same thing it always wants: a level of cost certainty as it pertains to player expenses. Its single-entity structure, whereby the player contracts are with the league rather than with individual teams, has helped achieve this to a large degree. This is especially true to the extent that in most instances teams retain the MLS rights of players even after that player has been transferred or his contract has expired.But MLS also wants control over where that money goes. The introduction of TAM is proof of this, whereby it wanted its teams spending more on players within a specific salary range. The league feels that a program such as TAM has been successful, and MLS will want to retain that kind of discretion as to where investments are made. Could the league have gotten to where it is without TAM? Who knows, but MLS doesn’t sound as if it wants to find out.”There are a variety of different areas that will be the subject of discussion as to where we should be making investments, whether it’s the senior team, whether it’s player development, whether it’s on other benefits,” Abbott told ESPN. “And in the CBA what we’re seeking to do is within the limits of what we’re able to spend that we ensure that we’re allocating those expenditures in the areas that are most likely to have the most impact.”

What happens now?

There were rumblings that an agreement was almost reached in 2018, although that ultimately didn’t take place. At present, the respective positions have been laid out and the two sides have exchanged proposals, but it’s also still early. The talks likely won’t get into serious mode until early January.”We have a ways to go to reach an agreement,” Foose said.Foose had stated previously that the league has been fully transparent in terms of its financials at the league, team and SUM [Soccer United Marketing] level. He has no doubt that MLS is leveling with the union on this topic. He added, “We also have a common understanding with them on the cost of various proposals, so we’re clear on what the changes that we’re seeking are going to cost.”

Euro 2020 draw: Will Germany, France or Portugal be the odd ones out? England, Croatia meet again

Nov 30, 2019James HorncastleItaly writer

Now the Euro 2020 draw has been made, the previews and predictions can begin! The tournament can be viewed LIVE in the U.S. on ESPN networks, from June 12 to July 12.

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Jump to: Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D | Group E | Group F

Group A

Prediction: 1. Italy 2. Wales 3. Turkey 4. Switzerland

Overview: Italy were one of two teams (Belgium) to finish qualifying with a perfect record, but avoiding France and Portugal must come as a relief. Turkey took four points from six against France and go to the Euros with the best defensive record on the continent: an almost impregnable wall comprising Merih DemiralOzan Kabak and Caglar Soyuncu. Wales went the furthest of any of these teams at Euro 2016, and we all know where Gareth Bale‘s priorities lie. Switzerland have a wily coach in Vladimir Petkovic and keep games close.

X factor: The atmosphere at the Stadio Olimpico, starting with the tournament opener on June 12 against Turkey. Italy manager Roberto Mancini has talked up replicating the fervour he experienced at Italia `90, and doing so could give an intrepid and fresh-faced side an edge, providing an emotional charge their opponents will find tough to play against.

Must-watch game: Italy vs. Wales (June 21) If Italy knock their heads against Turkey’s brick wall and find it hard to play through a stodgy Switzerland side, the Wales game at the end of this group could light some fireworks. For all his troubles in Madrid, Bale is the arguably the one attacking player in this group who can win a game on his own, while Aaron Ramsey will know all about that Italy backline, having spent a year either training or playing against it.

Group B

Prediction: 1. Belgium 2. Denmark 3. Russia 4. Finland

Overview: No.1 in the FIFA rankings, Belgium had the best attack and defence in qualification and should not be worried by Russia, having beaten them 7-2 on aggregate during their journey to the finals. The Danes are an altogether different proposition and will fancy their chances. Finland, meanwhile, have nothing to lose after reaching a major tournament for the first time in their history. Teemu Pukki scored 10 goals in qualifying.

X factor: Looking beyond Belgium’s array of stars, Christian Eriksen ended qualifying as Denmark’s top scorer and the qualifying rounds’ second-best chance creator behind Antoine Griezmann. Out of contract in the summer, unless he extends with Tottenham, the playmaker could be playing to attract the calibre of interest he was unable to arouse [Real Madrid] at the end of last season.

Must-watch game: Finland vs. Russia (June 17) Saint Petersburg is a ferry ride away from Helsinki so expect the boats to be full. Routinely biffed by bigger neighbours, the Finns impressed in qualifying, and Pukki’s battle with Artem Dzyuba, the towering Zenit striker with the best xG numbers of any forward in qualifying [inflated by games against San Marino, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and Scotland], should be fun.

Group C

Prediction: 1. Netherlands 2. Ukraine 3. Kosovo (assuming qualification) 4. Austria

Overview: After missing the past two major tournaments, Netherlands’ run to the Nations League final, combined with Ajax making the final four of last season’s Champions League, is undoubtedly to the benefit of the Euros. Ukraine were so good in qualifying that they forced their way into the top seeds, dumping France into pot two. Austria are reliant on maverick striker Marko Arnautovic, but have talent elsewhere in Marcel Sabitzer, Valentin Lazaro and David Alaba. Of the playoff teams competing to complete the group, Kosovo were such a joy to watch in qualifying that it’s hard not to root for them to reach their first major tournament.

X factor: The Dutch have arguably the best centre-back partnership at the Euros. No centre-back has gone closer to becoming the first defender to win the Ballon d’Or since Fabio Cannavaro than Virgil van Dijk, while his partner Matthijs de Ligt emerged as perhaps the brightest talent of his generation in that position. Moreover, the pair also present a real threat from attacking set pieces.

Must-watch game: Netherlands vs. Ukraine (June 14) Andriy Shevchenko’s side are a tough cookie, having kept five clean sheets in eight unbeaten qualifiers. Draws in Portugal and Serbia indicate Ukraine won’t be fazed in Amsterdam, meaning it is a trap game for the Dutch. Atalanta playmaker Ruslan Malinovskyi looks like he came through Ajax’s finishing school, such is the refinement of his technique, while Gent striker Roman Yaremchuk — four goals in seven qualifiers — could not wish for a better mentor than Sheva himself.

Group D

Prediction: 1. England 2. Croatia 3. Norway (assuming qualification) 4. Czech Republic

Overview: If England go one better than at the past World Cup when Gareth Southgate’s team reached the semifinals, five of their seven games will be at Wembley. World Cup runners-up Croatia should push them for top spot, although the Czechs beat England in qualifying. When it comes to the playoff teams, a home nations game between England and Scotland appeals, but what about Norway and the talent emerging in their ranks? Don’t you want to see Erling Haaland, Martin Odegaard and Sander Berge putting on a show?

Euro 2020 begins on June 12, with the final in London on July 12. Getty

X factor: Haaland firing Norway to the Euros would be a fantastic story, particularly in the same year he became the first teenager to score in his first five Champions League games. Not guaranteed to see that, we can at least count on the presence of Harry Kane, who finished top scorer in qualifying with 12 goals in eight games.

Must-watch game: England vs. Croatia (June 14) Group D’s opener is a repeat of the 2016 World Cup semifinal and a Nations League tie, in which England came from behind to win late, even if much has changed in recent times. After winning the Ballon d’Or on the back of inspiring his country to the final in Russia, Luka Modric has had one of the worst years of his career, while Ivan Rakitic is on the margins at Barcelona. England, meanwhile, have more talent with Jadon Sancho having burst onto the scene, but have not necessarily pushed on in the past two years.

Group E

Prediction: 1. Spain 2. Poland 3. Sweden 4. Bosnia and Herzegovina (assuming qualification)

Overview: Tensions are high in the Spain camp following Luis Enrique’s return and subsequent war of words with former assistant Robert Moreno; whether the ripple effects are still felt by June remain to be seen. Poland have the best striker in the world in Robert Lewandowski, skilful midfielders like Piotr Zielinski and Wojciech Szczesny, who is overlooked whenever there is a conversation about the best goalkeepers on the planet. Sweden made the quarterfinals of the last World Cup — without Zlatan Ibrahimovic — and look to have found an exciting talent in Dejan Kulusevski. Joining this trio through the playoffs could be Bosnia and Herzegovina. Edin Dzeko would be the third-most prolific international goal scorer at the tournament behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lewandowski, while watching Miralem Pjanic against Spain’s midfield would be quite something.

X factor: Look no further than Lewandowski. Just when you thought he could not get any better, particularly in an unsophisticated and poorly-coached Bayern team — that is, until Hansi Flick replaced Nico Kovac — the 31-year-old is hitting new heights and has scored 31 goals already this season, including four in 14 minutes against Red Star in the Champions League. There is not a more complete No. 9 on the planet.

Must-watch game: Spain vs. Poland (June 20) The question is whether talented Poland can fulfil their potential has been an issue for them since the 1982 World Cup (hosted by Spain). Watching Lewandowski against Sergio Ramos will be one of the matchups of the group stages, and while Spain have a ridiculous amount of skill and can fold in the winners of last summer’s Under-21 Euros, it is also true that they no longer inspire the same fear as a decade ago.

Group F

Prediction: 1. France 2. Germany 3. Portugal 4. Romania (assuming qualification)

Overview: Didier Deschamps (France) laughed, Joachim Low (Germany) looked ashen-faced and Fernando Santos (Portugal) stared into the distance. Group F, with its six European Championship titles, features holders Portugal and the most recent two world champions in France and Germany, all three of whom reached the semifinals in 2016. Whichever team makes up the numbers via the playoffs, it will be hard to avoid the thought they have simply won the right to finish bottom.

X factor: This could be Cristiano Ronaldo’s final international tournament, and, recently his best form has been reserved for Portugal, with 10 goals in qualifying. The 34-year-old is 11 goals away from passing Ali Daei’s mark of 109 as the most prolific international goal scorer of all-time. Ronaldo tends to turn it on against elite nations; remember that hat trick against Spain in the last World Cup?

Must-watch game: France vs. Germany (June 16) Since the end of Spain’s dominance, France and Germany have become Europe’s preeminent nations, with one knocking the other out of two of the past three major tournaments. Recent results suggest France have the edge; Antoine Griezmann, for example, inspired a comeback win in the Nations League. This game will set the tone for the rest of the group, and eyes will be on Low. Can he go again after disappointing at the past World Cup and in the Nations League, where Germany only avoided relegation because the competition got restructured and expanded.

For more on the Euro 2020 finals, click here; details of the playoffs for the final four places can be found here.

Does playing pro soccer increase risk for neurodegenerative disease?

October 23, 2019by Nipun Chopra   www.soctakes.com

Zlatan Ibrahimovic rises for a header over Victor Ulloa in the LA Galaxy’s 2-0 win over FC Cincinnati on June 22. Photo credit: Jamie Smed/Soc Takes

A new article in the New England Journal of Medicine by Daniel F. Mackay et al. raises the question of whether soccer follows the trend of “contact” sports in terms of increased risk of neurodegenerative disease for athletes. My article attempts to (1) summarize the key findings of the article with limited use of scientific jargon, and (2) place it in the larger context of where the beautiful game currently stands in its understanding of head injuries.

What did the study show?

The study showed that a subset (more on this later) of professional soccer players exhibited an increased risk of dying due to neurodegenerative disease than non-soccer players did. It also showed that professional soccer players — aside from the neurodegenerative disease part — seemed to be less likely to die from traditional killers such as heart disease and cancers such as lung cancer.

Which neurodegenerative diseases did they look at?

  1. Alzheimer’s disease – The most common form of dementia. Risk factors include age and a history of brain injuries.
  2. Parkinson’s disease – A primarily motor disease affecting a specific part of your brain.
  3. Motor neuron disease – This is a type of neurodegeneration that affects the nerves controlling your movement. A common example is Lou Gehrig’s disease (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
  4. Non-Alzheimer’s dementias – Dementia is a catch-all term for change in cognitive function. Non-Alzheimer’s dementias are diseases that have some overlapping symptoms as Alzheimer’s, but involve different symptoms as well. These differences are due to brain regions affected, particularly during early stages of the disease. An example is frontotemporal dementia.
  5. Dementia NOS – All dementias (Thank you Dr. Stewart for this correction).

It is important to note that this study did not measure rates of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) directly. This was due to limitations in how the authors were able to procure the data (not their fault, by the way).

The sampling question

Something that is being missed in the analysis is that it was a study of male professional soccer players. This unavoidable bias is due to the fact that pro soccer players in Scotland are men. Therefore, the controls were required to be age and sex-matched, and hence all of this data comes from male soccer players and male controls. Whether this is applicable to women soccer players is an unanswered question. This is an important consideration as some data suggests that the rates of head injury in women’s soccer exceed those in the male version of the game.

Additionally, is this a Scotland-only effect? I ask this because there was a study that showed increased Lou Gehrig’s disease in a sample of Italian soccer players. To the best of my knowledge, this result had not been shown in soccer players from a different geographic region. This would suggest a synergistic effect of genetics (Italian for ALS or Scottish for soccer) and sport. To put it simply, this data may not be applicable to the soccer population at large. (It should be noted that this article shows an increased rate of motoneuron disease generally, but not ALS specifically.)

A particular strength of this study is that it mitigates a prevalent problem in the field of brain injury research — the self-selection bias of “bad brains.” The idea is that when someone is experiencing symptoms of neurodegeneration, they are more likely to donate their brain to science. Therefore, the percentages we get are skewed. In this study, the authors examined data to basically ascertain how it was that a person died. Therefore, they eliminate the “bad brains” bias, and their data can be interpreted as representative of — at the very least — the male soccer-playing population of Scotland.

Other takeaways

  1. No soccer position-specific effect on neurodegeneration, but existing one on prescription for dementia.
  2. Increased rate of dementia-related prescription in soccer players versus controls (reason unknown and the authors don’t speculate, but it could be due to increased awareness or socioeconomic status.)

Where is the sport with head injuries?

The sport is dragging its feet. FIFA needs to mandate harsher penalties on high-impact contact to the head, regardless of intention/getting the ball. Recently, the USL explored temporary substitutions for head injury diagnoses, which deserves applause. MLS, on the other hand, has failed to update its concussion protocol in spite of telling Four Four Two and the Associated Press that it would. It’s been over three years.

The overarching question about the risk of heading resulting in CTE remains unanswered in the literature. Previous work suggests that technically proficient headers of the ball are unlikely to be concussed due to ball to head impact. However, the hand-wavy question of subconcussive injuries (due to an impact on the brain that causes minor, externally unnoticeable changes in the brain) remains under-explored. Given that we have a case report of CTE in a soccer player who had no history of concussion, the subconcussive question is an interesting one. (The TL;DR version is that it’s just too early to say anything about heading the ball and CTE. I previously explored the question of heading in youth soccer.)

Overall thoughts

This is a well-powered and important study — the first of its kind for soccer — that shows that professional soccer players are likely to have an increased risk for neurodegeneration later in life. This is in agreement with data from other more traditional “contact” sports such as MMA and American football. Future work will need to expand this data set to include women soccer players, amateur soccer players and soccer players from different geographic/genetic backgrounds.

Follow Nipun on Twitter: @NipunChopra7.

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11/26 Champions League this week Tues/Wed games

American Christian Pulisic becomes youngest American to score in Champions League as he scores for Chelsea vs Valencia Wed.

Pulisic’s Goal

Some huge games this week in Champions League !

GAMES ON TV

Tues Nov  26

1 pm TNT                                         Galatasaray vs Club Brugge

3 pm fuboTV                                  Juventus vs  Atletico Madrid

3 pm                                                  Man City vs Shaktar

3 pm TNT                                         Real Madrid vs PSG

Wed, Nov 27

1 pm TNT                                         Valencia vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3 pm TNT                                         Liverpool vs Napoli  

3 pm fuboTV/BRLive                   Barcelona vs Borussian Dortmund

3 pm                                                  RB Leipzig vs Benefica

3 pm                                         Genk vs Salzburg (US Coach)

·       
UCL Tuesday preview: Man City, Spurs, Real Madrid can all clinch knockout place

Klopp ‘not worried’ over Salah fitness ahead of Napoli clash

Who needs what to qualify for Champions League last 16?
Ancelotti’s future in spotlight as troubled Napoli visit Liverpool

Champions League: Who will qualify from the group stage?

Dale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC

The Champions League group stage is drawing to a close, but who is best placed to make it through to the knockout rounds?We look at each group, with the top two going through and third dropping into the Europa League.

– Champions League group stage: All you need to know
– ESPN Champions League fantasy: Sign up now!
– Champions League tables | Fixtures Statistics

WHO HAS QUALIFIED: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain

GROUP A

Nov. 26: Galatasaray vs. Brugge, Real Madrid vs. PSG
Dec. 11: Brugge vs. Real Madrid, PSG vs. Galatasaray

Paris Saint-Germain have qualified and will secure top spot if they avoid defeat at Real Madrid on Nov. 26.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, would need to beat PSG to seal their place on Matchday 5, though they would also be through if Club Brugge fail to beat Galatasaray.

If third-placed Club Brugge win at Galatasaray and Real Madrid do not beat PSG, the Belgian club will definitely qualify with a home win over Madrid on Dec. 11.

The only hope for Galatasaray is now the Europa League, but even that dream will die if they lose at home to Brugge.

GROUP B

Nov. 26: Red Star Belgrade vs. Bayern Munich, Tottenham vs. Olympiakos
Dec. 11: Bayern Munich vs. Tottenham, Olympiakos vs. Red Star Belgrade

Bayern Munich have qualified with two games to spare and will be confirmed as group winners if they win at Red Star, or Tottenham fail to beat Olympiakos, on Nov. 26.

Tottenham Hotspur look to be almost there too, through with a win at home to Olympiakos, or if Red Star to not beat Bayern.

For Red Star Belgrade to go through they must win at home to Bayern and at Olympiakos, and hope Spurs pick up no more than one point.

Realistically it now looks to be a battle for the Europa League spot, which is likely to be decided when Red Star go to Olympiakos on Dec 11.

GROUP C

Nov. 26: Atalanta vs. Dinamo Zagreb, Manchester City vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Dec. 11: Dinamo Zagreb vs. Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Atalanta

Manchester City are five points clear at the top and will qualify with a point at home to Shakhtar Donetsk on Nov. 26, or if Dinamo Zagreb fail to beat Atalanta. Victory against Shakhtar would secure top spot, as would a draw if Dinamo do not win.

Shakhtar Donetsk were in deep trouble until they scored twice in injury time to draw at Dinamo Zagreb. They sit second on the head-to-head rule which means their fate in is their own hands. They can qualify on Matchday 5 with a win at Manchester City should Dinamo lose at Atalanta. They know two victories guarantees progress regardless of Dinamo’s results.

Third-placed Dinamo Zagreb now must pick up more points than Shakhtar in the remaining two games to qualify, and cannot secure anything on Matchday 5.

At the foot of the table, Atalanta finally have a point, but need to win both remaining games and hope neither Shakhtar or Dinamo win against Man City. Despite not winning a single game yet, they certainly are not out of it.

GROUP D

Nov. 26: Juventus vs. Atletico Madrid, Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Dec. 11: Atletico Madrid vs. Lokomotiv Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen vs. Juventus

Juventus are through after winning at Lokomotiv Moscow and can top the group if they win or draw 0-0 or 1-1 at home to Atletico on Nov. 26.

Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid need to win in Turin to guarantee their passage on Matchday 5, though a draw would also send them through if Lokomotiv-Bayer Leverkusen is a draw too.

Lokomotiv Moscow will still be in contention if they avoid defeat against Leverkusen, but they will need help from Juve to give them a shot at qualifying when they host Atleti on Dec. 11.

Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen have to beat Lokomotiv and win at home to Juve, and hope Atleti pick up no more than one point.

It is more likely to be a battle for a Europa League place, which Lokomotiv would definitely seal and Leverkusen could seal by winning the head to head in Moscow on Nov. 26.

GROUP E

Nov. 27: Genk vs. Salzburg, Liverpool vs. Napoli
Dec. 10: Napoli vs. Genk, Salzburg vs. Liverpool

Liverpool top the group ahead of Napoli, and the winners of the head-to-head meeting at Anfield on Nov. 27 will be through. Both would go through if Salzburg do not win at Genk that night.

That means FC Salzburg must secure victory against Genk and win at home to Liverpool on Dec. 10. They are guaranteed qualification with six points as long as Liverpool do not beat Napoli.

Bottom club Genk have been eliminated and must win at home to Salzburg to stay in Europa League contention.

GROUP F

Nov. 27: Barcelona vs. Borussia Dortmund, Slavia Prague vs. Inter Milan
Dec. 10: Borussia Dortmund vs. Slavia Prague, Inter Milan vs. Barcelona

Barcelona are almost there and victory at home to Dortmund on Nov. 27 would secure their safe passage. A draw will also be enough if Inter Milan do not win at Slavia Prague. If Barca lose to BVB, the group is thrown wide open.

Borussia Dortmund are second, three points ahead of Inter Milan — but it is the Serie A side who hold the head-to-head advantage. Dortmund can only qualify on Matchday 5 if they better Inter Milan’s result, while four points from their last two matches would also secure qualification.

While Inter Milan are third, they can go into the final day in second if they win in Prague and Dortmund lose at the Camp Nou. But with Barcelona to visit the San Siro on Dec. 10, they may face a tough task to win that final match to guarantee progress.

Slavia Prague sit on two points and must win at home to Inter to stay in contention.

GROUP G

Nov. 27: RB Leipzig vs. Benfica, Zenit vs. Lyon
Dec. 10: Benfica vs. Zenit, Lyon vs. RB Leipzig

RB Leipzig will be through with a point at home to Benfica on Nov. 27.

In second sit Lyon, who will guarantee their place in the round of 16 with victory at Zenit. A draw of 2-2 or higher-scoring would also do the job as long as Benfica do not win in Leipzig.

Zenit St Petersburg most likely need to win at home to Lyon, which would move them second on the head to head and leave them requiring a win at Benfica on Dec. 12 to be sure of progressing.

The outsiders are now Benfica, but if they win both of their remaining games and Lyon pick up no more than one point they would be through.

GROUP H

Nov. 27: Lille vs. Ajax, Valencia vs. Chelsea
Dec. 10: Ajax vs. Valencia, Chelsea vs. Lille

Ajax, Chelsea and Valencia share top spot on seven points in a group that could go any way, but both Valencia and Chelsea know they are guaranteed to be in the knockout rounds if they win their meeting in Spain on Nov. 27. Valencia know that a draw would leave them needed a win at Ajax to definitely go through, while Chelsea would definitely be through by then winning at home to Lille.

If Ajax, who cannot qualify if Chelsea beat Valencia and then all three teams finish on 10 points, win in Lille next time that would leave them needing a draw at home to Valencia on Dec. 10.

Lille have been eliminated and have only a slim chance of qualifying for the Europa League.

UCL Tuesday preview: Man City, Spurs, Real Madrid can all clinch knockout place

A number of teams have an opportunity to snag a spot in the Champions League knockout phase as the group stage begins the home stretch on Tuesday.

Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid highlight the list of teams that would see their way into the next round with victory tomorrow.

Gabriel Jesus gets the opportunity of his Man City career as the club begins a three-week stretch without injured striker Sergio Aguero. Jesus has often spoken about his lack of playing time at the Etihad and now his time comes to prove he can lead the lines. As City welcomes Shakhtar Donetsk to Manchester, the hosts can seal qualification to the knockout stage with a win, while a draw and a Dinamo Zagreb loss or draw would also do the trick with their magic number at just two. Shakhtar is a familiar opponent for City, drawn with the Ukranian club into each of the last three Champions League groups, with a comprehensive result in four of the five matches in that span, earning a clean sheet in all four wins.

Jose Mourinho gets his first taste of European football inside the beautiful Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which he dubbed the best ground in the world upon his hire. Spurs host Greek side Olympiakos, and while outside results could see them through despite dropped points at home, a win would do the trick on its own. Spurs will be up for the match knowing that with the Premier League outlook still questionable with regards to their initial goals, the European journey is still very much a theater of opportunity.

Real Madrid can secure passage to the knockout stage with victory against group leaders Paris Saint-Germain at the Bernabeu. Angel Di Maria was Real Madrid’s worst nightmare when these two teams met in the French capital back in mid-September, but the Spanish side is in much better form of late. While all the focus seems to be on Gareth Bale, Madrid has quietly gone unbeaten across its last six matches in all competitions, outscoring opponents 19-1. Madrid could still go through with a less successful result, so long as Club Brugge does not beat Galatasaray in Turkey.

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A slumping Atletico Madrid side has the tough task of a trip to Turin to face Serie A leaders Juventus, but will be boosted by the knowledge that a win could see them through. Any less, however, and things become quite dicey, especially should either Bayer Leverkusen or Lokomotiv Moscow win in Russia. A draw for Atleti would see them through to the knockout stage if Bayer and Lokomotiv draw, but otherwise the final place in Group D remains up for grabs. Diego Simeone’s side has won just three of its last nine matches across all competitions, with just three clean sheets across that span. Cristiano Ronaldo was rested by Maurizio Sarri over the weekend as he looks to manage a knee problem, but is likely available for the match at home.

Bayern Munich has already secured passage to the knockout round, but could again put Robert Lewandowski on display as they travel to Serbia to take on Red Star Belgrade. The Ballon d’Or candidate failed to score for the first time in 12 Bundesliga matches this season over the weekend, but still remains in white-hot form. He has also found the back of the net in each of Bayern’s four Champions League games to date, but could potentially be rested with the German side already confirmed through and the top of the Bundesliga table clogged with challengers to the throne. They could do Spurs a favor by winning and confirming Tottenham’s place in the later stages no matter their result against Olympiakos.

Atalanta’s Champions League journey has not gone to plan, but the surprise Serie A contenders last season still have a chance to save face as they host Dinamo Zagreb before finishing out the European campaign with a visit to Shakhtar later on. The Italians have just one point through four group stage matches thus far, and they have not won any of their last five matches across all competitions, falling 3-1 to Juventus over the weekend in league play. However, a 1-1 draw with 10-man Manchester City last time out in Europe will give them hope that a challenge can be mounted. They are not eliminated yet, given they are just four points behind both Shakhtar and Dinamo in the group, but the opportunity is a longshot that would require victory in both their final matches.

Finally, both Galatasaray and Club Brugge look to mount a last-gasp challenge to a Group A that seems destined to see PSG and Real Madrid through to the knockout stage. The Belgian club sits on just two points while Galatasaray welcomes them to Istanbul with just one of their own. Two victories down the stretch are required by either side to stay alive, and even then Real Madrid could end the battle with a win over PSG who has already clinched a spot. The road gets even tougher for the home side who will see Radamel FalcaoFlorin Andone, and Ryan Babel all out with injuries, leaving the Turkish side aching for attacking players.