Ok after bitching a month back about having to shell out $5 a month for Champions League to get CBS All Access to see the Final 8 games – that nasty Streaming only delima comes up again with NBC. Yes NBC has been great about showing us a lot of EPL games over the past couple of years most on a new Network called NBCSN which is now included on most cable networks (thanks in part to their EPL Coverage). They have featured the best pregame and post game set-up in the US for soccer and thrilled us by showing almost all of the games and all of the big games on either NBC, NBCSN or sometimes USA or CNBC. Their gold package was there to see all the other games from smaller EPL clubs that were playing what were essentially the 8 or 9th most popular game of the weekend – no big deal. Now with the New Peacock Streaming Service however – NBC wants us all to poney up again another $5 a month to watch now BIG Games like Tottenham vs Everton last Sunday. (yes I missed James debut)☹. Of course getting the streaming service is impossible however on TV unless you have Comcast cable because Roku and Amazon Firesticks don’t even recognize the new Peacock App. So poney up and watch the game on your phone with massive delays and no replays I hear?? I don’t even know what to say. Oh and buying Peacock doesn’t mean you get all the games? No you still need NBCSN for their games and NBC for their games. So this is not just spend $5 and get all the games like ESPN+. This is buy our app and still have to pay to get NBCSN. I tried to find a stream online with the Chelsea game Monday with no luck? Man being a fan of soccer in the US is honestly as difficult as like 4 to 5 years ago. Now the EPL (Peacock), Champions League, Europa League (CBS) , FA Cup, Serie A, German Bundelisga, European Nations League, MLS and USL (ESPN+) are all behind firewalls with monthly subs needed while Spain’s La Liga and France’s Legue 1 are on beIN Sports – a cable station few get. Univision and telemundo have some games as well – heck I don’t even know anymore as I don’t get those stations either. Heck even Serius Radio FC 157 – seems to have lost some games this year as well – they have always been the one constant place you could find the big game if nothing else. These are trying times my fellow soccer fans. I guess we’ll all have to share our logins and try to defeat the money grabbing stations trying to take our soccer away here in the US!!
Indy 11 fall to 2nd with 3 straight defeat to Louisville
Frustrating night for our Indy 11 – first they shut down sales the day before reducing capacity to 2500 instead of the normal 5000 – then we started a front line that had no chance of scoring – and of course we didn’t score. I assume Tyler Pasher – our leading scorer was injured as he didn’t enter until the 60th minute after we ere already down 1-0 to dreaded Louisville. City won 2-0 on the night. They really have our # – and now are all but assured 1st place in the East with mark of (8W-3L-2D, 26 pts.) The Indy 11 (7W-5L-1D, 22 pts.) still have a 4 point lead for 2nd place and should secure a playoff if they can knock off St. Louis (5W-4L-3D, 18 pts., 3rd in Group E) next week. The 11 host St. Louis Wed, Sept 23 at 7:00 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium, tickets are available at www.indyeleven.com/tickets. This is game 4 of a 5 game homestand.
Germany & Italy Start this Weekend on ESPN+
Germany kicks off its first season on ESPN with Friday’s opener wih fans of UCL Champion Bayern Munich hosting Schalke at 2:30 pm on ESPN. Saturday Werder Bremen and Stuart host Hertha Berlin at 9:30 am on ESPN+, and Gio Reyna and Dortmund will host B Mgladbach at 12:30 on ESPN+ (I miss free FS1 coverage already). Sunday at 9:30 Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig host Mainz on ESPN+. Italy and Juventus kickoff Sunday with newly minted midfielder Weston McKinney hosting Sampdoria at 2:45 pm on ESPN+.
Games to Watch
CBS has NWSL on Saturday at 1 pm with the North Carolina Courage hosting the Orlando Pride – the game last week 350K in viewership. Eight EPL games this weekend but only 2 of them on TV –Arsenal facing West Ham at 3 pm on Sat on NBCSN and Liecester City vs Burnley on NBCSN Sun at 2 pm. Real Madrid opens its campaign at Real Sociedad at 3 pm on beIN Sport Sunday, while early morning gives us Nice vs PSG at 7 am on beIN Sport. Of course the biggest game of the weekend in Chelsea – (WITHOUT CHRSTIAN PULISIC-who is injured still) hosting Liverpool on Peacock on Sunday at 11:30 am – too bad we can’t see it!!
Former Carmel FC GK Erin Baker and other Seniors at 2nd Ranked Carmel honored on Senior Night
It’s not every day you find out your mom played in a World Cup.Not everyone is Erin Baker.It wasn’t until seventh grade that Baker, now a senior goalkeeper for Carmel, got the news. “I’m not even completely sure if I understood how much of a big achievement that was and how unique it was,” Baker said. “I always thought it was pretty cool. I remember going and telling my friends and being like, ‘My mom played for the Canadian national team. Like, isn’t that cool, guys?’”
Carla Baker certainly didn’t have to wait that long to tell her daughter about a 12-year international career in Canada, one that reached its peak in 1995 when she played in the World Cup in Sweden. It was also the same year she won a national title as an assistant coach for Notre Dame’s women’s soccer team.“1995 was a very good year for me,” Carla said.
But that’s about as far as she will go in touting her own accomplishments. Even in her time as an assistant coach at the high school level, first for Carmel and now for Park Tudor, some players come and go without knowing her achievements.So even when it came to her own daughter, Carla wasn’t in a hurry to mention her own legacy. If anything, she was hesitant to do so — especially when Erin developed her own passion for soccer.“There’s no reason for me to brag about that. I didn’t want it to influence anything that she did,” Carla said of her daughter’s career. “I wanted her to play soccer because she loves playing soccer. I didn’t want her to play just because her mom was a national team player. I wanted her to be able to decide what journey she wanted to be on.”It wasn’t a coincidence that Erin a two-time All-State selection for Carmel, chose to be a goalkeeper.“Most people look up to their mom,” the senior said. “I’d always wanted to play goalkeeper because it was something that my mom did and I thought it was really cool.”While the younger Baker might not play for the national team, she has certainly made her mark. After sitting on the bench as a junior varsity player during her freshman year, she took advantage of roster turnover and was the varsity starting goalkeeper as a sophomore. That team won a state title, losing just once all season. Baker allowed just four goals all season with 45 saves.“I had the best defensive backline in the state that year,” she said. “It was an incredible first-year experience and I was able to learn, communication-wise, how to set up my defense.”
Carmel returned to the state finals last season, again losing just once, but this time in the championship match against Noblesville. Baker had 59 saves and allowed just five goals on the season. This season, Carmel is off to a 6-0 start. Baker has 21 saves and hasn’t allowed a goal.Baker’s persona has changed over the past few years as her role on the team has increased. Her leadership on and off the field has become a bigger priority, thanks in large part to her mom’s influence.“From a young age, I would watch her coach,” Baker said of her mom. “Observing how she talked to people, which was always super kind, she never made them feel bad about if they’re making a mistake, she would positively improve what they’re capable of. That was a big thing for me, learning how to show people respect as you lead them.”Baker isn’t sure what her college plans are yet. Of course, her mom isn’t afraid to vouch for her potential.“I think Erin can go on and play at a very high level if she chooses to do so,” she said. “And I’ll support whatever journey she ends up going on post-secondary.But Erin doesn’t feel pressure to follow in her mom’s footsteps.“I try not to connect her legacy with mine too much. She doesn’t put pressure on me,” Baker said. “If I didn’t want to end up playing soccer in college, that’s totally fine. I can do whatever I want. If I want to just focus on my academics, that’s totally fine. She just lets me make my own decisions.”Follow IndyStar high school sports insider Matthew VanTryon on Twitter @MVanTryon and email him story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Soccer on TV: Bundesliga kicks off on ESPN, Weston McKennie’s Juventus debut, NWSL on CBS, Chelsea-Liverpool
A decade ago, among the 23 players on the U.S. team that would win a World Cup group for the first time in 80 years, there were eight who spent the 2009-10 club campaign in England. Seven were on Premier League teams. On the 2015 squad that faced Mexico in a climactic playoff for a Confederations Cup place, there were seven men based in England. Four were from the Premier League, which was the most well-represented foreign circuit on the squad. For a while, it appeared the England’s top tier was either the most welcoming or most preferred (or both) destination for American players abroad. But if there were a World Cup next summer, following the 2020-21 English season, how many Premier League players would U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter likely call on?
Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic is the country’s best player and is a certainty to start—if he’s healthy. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen appears to have the national team’s No. 1 shirt sewn up, but he may find minutes at Manchester City hard to come by. Defender Tim Ream is a veteran who has Berhalter’s trust, and Antonee Robinson is in position to make the left back role his own. But both play for Fulham, which is favored by many to face relegation after one season in the top flight. And DeAndre Yedlin has slipped behind right backs Sergiño Dest and Reggie Cannon on the USA depth chart, and appears to be on his way out at Newcastle United. There are additional Americans in England, either coming through at Premier League clubs, on loan from Premier League clubs, or in the Championship and League One. But at first glance, it does seem like the number of U.S. players in the top tier has declined. There are a few potential explanations: the increased buying power of MLS clubs, the Bundesliga, a dip in generational quality, the stringent U.K. work permit criteria or coincidence. Perhaps it’s some of each. Whatever the reason, as the Premier League season kicks off this weekend—less than two months after the 2019–20 campaign concluded—there are fewer Americans expected to play prominent roles. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s less reason for intrigue.It begins with Pulisic, who enters 2020-21 facing more pressure and under a brighter spotlight than any American in Premier League history. And also, fittingly, with concerns about his fitness. Last season, following a groin injury and the pandemic shutdown, Pulisic lit up London and helped carry Chelsea to a fourth-place finish and the FA Cup final with five goals and four assists in 11 appearances. His adaptation to the Premier League was quick and appeared complete, and his ability to put defenders on their heels and change games was remarkable. He emerged as a legitimate star.But this season presents several challenges, both new and wearisome. The first is Pulisic’s health. When he’s fit, he’s borderline unstoppable. But on a worrying number of occasions in his young career, Pulisic, who turns 22 next week, has been sidelined with muscle injuries. He’ll always be the first name on Berhalter’s team sheet when healthy, but the unpredictability of Pulisic’s fitness isn’t ideal. And the Premier League is relentless.After scoring a sensational goal in the FA Cup final against Arsenal, Pulisic limped off with a hamstring injury. He’s been fighting to be ready for Chelsea’s Premier League opener on Monday at Brighton & Hove Albion, the last of eight games scheduled this weekend.“He’s doing well. The leg is doing really well. It’s recovering, it’s healing and he’s in good spirits and the club is focused on getting him back ASAP. We have a lot of confidence in Chelsea and a lot of confidence in their medical staff, and a lot of confidence in Christian,” Berhalter said two weeks ago.The U.S. manager said Pulisic’s “explosion on the scene” is “all down to his work ethic and him being focused on playing well. It was great to see, and we’re excited to see how he comes back and starts his second season in England.”Berhalter isn’t in denial, however. He knows Pulisic has struggled to stay healthy for extended periods.“This is something we have to look at, but it’s certainly not uncommon,” the coach said. “A lot of players go through this, particularly early on in their careers. But as his body strengthens and he gets used to these congested fixtures, I think he’s going to be fine.”Chelsea manager Frank Lampard certainly will want to see Pulisic healthy, but he’ll be better equipped to handle his absence than Berhalter. That’s because Chelsea is deep, and this summer the Premier League’s third-most productive attack got even deeper thanks to a spending spree by owner Roman Abramovich. The Blues spent around $200 million to acquire in-demand attackers Timo Werner (from RB Leipzig), Kai Havertz (from Bayer Leverkusen) and Hakim Ziyech (from Ajax).With that spend comes expectation, and in Lampard’s second season in charge, Abramovich probably will want to see his club push title favorites Liverpool and Manchester City at the top of the table and do well in the Champions League. The pressure for points, and maybe even for playing time, will be like nothing Pulisic has experienced in his career. It’ll be fascinating to watch. The second sure-fire USA starter in the Premier League is Steffen, who was U.S. Soccer’s men’s player of the year in 2018 and spent last season on loan at Fortuna Düsseldorf. Man City has recalled the 25-year-old netminder, however, which leaves him sitting behind Ederson on Pep Guardiola’s depth chart. If City doesn’t make a move over the next few weeks, how many games can Steffen realistically expect to play this season? And would sufficient rust accumulate to give Berhalter pause when selecting his teams?Berhalter chose to focus on the positive when addressing the issue last month.“Man City is a super high level … To gain that experience for a year, to be in that training environment and have the opportunity to potentially break into that team is exciting, and I think it’d be worth it,” the manager said. “You always have to weigh if you’re going to be sitting on the bench and not playing enough games, but to me that opportunity alone is something special. Not too many players in the world get a chance to play for one club like that.“Hopefully they continue to play goalies in cups and other competitions and you can get some games there,” Berhalter continued. “Hopefully the national team can feature heavily in his development in that case.”Manchester City launches its quest to reclaim the title on Sept. 21 at Wolverhampton Wanderers (which features another American on the rise, 19-year-old midfielder Owen Otasowie).At the other end of the spectrum sit Ream and Robinson, who may get national team development every day while playing next to each other for the Cottagers. The USA’s left back spot is open, and Robinson has said he’s committed to seizing it. And Ream remains an experienced option for Berhalter at center back. It’s likely the pair will get plenty of work this season as Fulham adjusts to Premier League opposition. The club’s fight for survival will make for a tense campaign for the two Americans and for Berhalter, who will want as many players as possible competing at the highest level as qualifying for the 2022 World Cup begins next September. Fulham’s last stay in the Premier League lasted one season. It was relegated in 2019 after finishing 19th.Among other Americans on Premier League rosters, both Yedlin and Tottenham Hotspur defender Cameron Carter-Vickers likely will be on the move. Yedlin, 27, has been at Newcastle for four seasons and his contract expires next summer. Both player and club have been considering their options, and reports have emerged recently tying the former Seattle Sounder to a potential return to MLS or to a league elsewhere in Europe. Carter-Vickers, 22, hasn’t been able to break through for Spurs and spent the spring of 2020 on loan at Championship club Luton Town. He was ever-present for the Hatters as they finished 19th and avoided relegation by three points. But that consistency was short-lived. The defender’s 2020–21 destination is uncertain. In recent days, AFC Bournemouth, which was relegated from the Premier League to the Championship, reportedly expressed interest in a permanent transfer.Matt Miazga is another American Premier Leaguer on perpetual loan. The 25-year-old center back has been on the books at Chelsea but spent the past four seasons at Vitesse Arnhem, Nantes and Reading. His contract expires in 2022, but a future at Stamford Bridge seems unlikely.Meanwhile, nobody would blink if Aston Villa loaned out American attacker Indiana Vassilev. He’s just 19. But the U.S. U-17 World Cup veteran, who signed with Villa out of the IMG Academy in 2018, already has earned his first taste of Premier League football. He made his debut on Jan. 18, entering as a substitute against Brighton, and then made three more cameo appearances as Villa staved off relegation by a point. So even if the number of Americans in the Premier League drops, there may be a new one to watch.The marathon Championship schedule begins Friday as Middlesbrough visits Watford, and a few familiar American faces will be starting their seasons this weekend. Duane Holmes, a crafty midfielder who played in two U.S. friendlies last year, was a regular starter for Derby County in 2019–20 before having injury issues toward the end of the season. The Rams host Reading on Saturday. Geoff Cameron remains at Queens Park Rangers (where he was named club captain), although he’s out of the national team picture. And New York Red Bulls academy product Matthew Olosunde, a defender who initially signed with Manchester United, now is at Rotherham United and was a regular as the club earned promotion from League One. The Millers begin their Championship campaign Saturday at Wycombe Wanderers. Remaining in League One but perhaps still on Berhalter’s radar is Lynden Gooch, who’s 24 and scored 10 goals in 33 matches for Sunderland last season.
McKennie, Pulisic, Reyna and more: Breaking down a big season for USMNT stars across Europe
The 2020-21 soccer season is kicking off all over Europe, with the English Premier League and Spanish Primera Divisions beginning this past weekend, and the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A (both leagues available LIVE all season long on ESPN+ in the United States) starting on Sept. 18 and Sept. 19 respectively. In addition to the usual talking points and discussions over title favorites and relegation threats, it’s indirectly a big season for the U.S. national team, who boast several of their stars in top European leagues along with several prospects beyond the 2022 World Cup cycle.
With so many USMNT stars dotted around Europe and gearing up for a long campaign, ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and Tom Hamilton broke down where they all are, and what their prospects are for the new season.
Overall, Pulisic’s first year in the Premier League was a success, as he tallied nine goals and four assists in 34 league and cup appearances. In the process he put to rest any doubts about whether he could hack it skill-wise in the EPL, as he often dazzled on the left wing while also drifting inside.
This season, Pulisic will be hoping to build on what he achieved in 2019-20, but with an added challenge: staying healthy. The U.S. international suffered two muscle injuries — a hip ailment at the start of the year and a hamstring issue in the FA Cup final — and that continued a trend from his time at Borussia Dortmund. The competition for places is still there with the likes of Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech arriving to replace William and Pedro, along with Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to contend with. But there seems to be a bit more faith in Pulisic heading into the season, as witnessed by him being given the No. 10 shirt. — Carlisle
As has been a recurring theme throughout his career, Brooks endured an inconsistent season for the Wolves. He made 31 appearances in all competitions in helping Wolfsburg to a seventh-place finish and qualification for the Europa League. But he also endured a hamstring injury that sidelined him for a month, and he was even benched for a time by manager Oliver Glasner in February. To his credit he reclaimed his spot shortly thereafter, but then faded a bit after the return from the COVID-19 shutdown.
Brooks is likely to continue to be a mainstay for Wolfsburg this season, even if his start — he was red-carded in a Europa League defeat to Shaktar Donetsk — was auspicious. That only highlights the need for more consistency. Can he achieve it? At age 27, Brooks is basically fully formed as a player, but one can still hope that his accumulated experience will see him raise his level during the current campaign. — Carlisle
All summer, as McKennie trained at Schalke waiting for his move, it looked like the USMNT star centre midfielder would be off to the Premier League. McKennie, 22, was being chased hard by Southampton and Leicester; then, as Andrea Pirlo settled into the hottest of seats at Juventus, in came the Serie A giants and in the blink of an eye McKennie was on a private jet to Turin.
McKennie is a brilliant box-to-box midfielder. Throughout Schalke’s tough campaign, in which they finished 12th in the Bundesliga, McKennie’s energy was infectious and he was a rare ray of light in a dismal campaign in Gelsenkirchen. He led from the front and was also one of the early voices in football’s messages of anti-racism and support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
This season, McKennie will not have it easy at Juventus. At Schalke he was one of the first names on the team sheet, but this term he has the likes of Arthur (arriving from Barcelona for £66m), Sami Khedira, Adrien Rabiot, Rodrigo Bentancur and Aaron Ramsey to contend with for a spot in the starting XI. Still, expect him to thrive. He has signed for Juventus on a loan deal with the option to make this a permanent stay, and we predict this will become a formality as he slots right into life at the Serie A champions. — Hamilton
The versatile 21-year-old scored the winning goal for RB Leipzig in their Champions League quarterfinal win over Atletico Madrid in the 2019-20 campaign and has established himself as a key cog in the Julian Nagelsmann machine. Having signed for the Bundesliga high-flyers from New York Red Bulls in January 2019 for a bargain £2.37m, Adams’ versatility means he can cover any position across the back four and happily slot in along the midfield. For a manager who doesn’t believe in formations and values pressing, Adams is a dream of a player.
Having played 18 times for Leipzig last campaign, Adams’ goals for this term will be to start more matches for the Bundesliga side. With a relentless campaign facing Nagelsmann’s squad as they battle on three fronts, with the Champions League also on their radar, his versatility and work rate will be key. The goal for Leipzig is a top-four finish in the German league, and Adams will be doing everything to ensure they reach and, ideally, surpass expectations like they did last season. — Hamilton
Having signed for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City from Columbus Crew in July 2019 for £6.14m, the goalkeeper is still waiting for his first-team debut as he spent last term out on loan at Bundesliga side Fortuna Dusseldorf. He made 18 appearances in Germany until injury cut short his season in December. Having suffered from a problem with his knee, he battled back to full fitness only to sustain MCL damage in April that saw him play no further part in the 2019-20 campaign.
Now back at Manchester City, Steffen is seen by Guardiola as a key part of their squad. With Claudio Bravo having left City at the end of last term on a free transfer and now between the pots at Real Betis, Steffen will vie with the world-class Ederson for a spot in City’s first team. He will likely clock up a number of starts in cup competitions and will add to his 17 caps for the USMNT. – Hamilton
The young right back enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2019-20 and went from the fringes of the senior squad to being one of the most sought-after fullbacks in Europe. Dest, 19, signed his first professional contract with Ajax in December 2018 and made his first-team debut in August 2019. His impressive form for Ajax started turning heads at the Netherlands and then-boss Ronald Koeman was keen for Dest to declare for the Oranje. But Dest, who played youth-level football for the U.S., took his time to shore up his decision and opted for the USMNT.
His trajectory has been rapid, like his darts down the right flank, and he was crowned U.S. Soccer’s Young Male Player of the Year for 2019. But there’s still a chance he has a new club by the end of the transfer window on Oct. 5 as he’s getting plenty of interest. Ajax have a practise of eking out one final season from their ridiculous list of prodigious young talents before they secure a move to one of Europe’s bigger fish. Bayern Munich are still being heavily linked with Dest, and if he moves there he’ll have Benjamin Pavard and Joshua Kimmich as rivals for a spot. But if he does stay put he’ll still be front and centre of Ajax’s Eredivisie and Champions League campaigns. He will look to another season of starting week-in-week-out for the Dutch giants and continuing to develop his game. — Hamilton
The sky’s the limit for the 17-year-old forward. Having joined Borussia Dortmund from MLS side NYCFC in July 2019, Reyna made his debut for the Bundesliga giants in January 2020 and scored a memorable first goal in their DFB-Pokal defeat to Werder Bremen in February. But it was enough to make people sit up and take notice, while those who had followed his promising career — including father Claudio, who won 112 caps for the USMNT, and mother Danielle Egan, who won six caps for the USWNT — knew it was a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ Reyna would start making his mark for Europe’s elite.
It is easy to forget he has played just 18 first-team matches for Dortmund. But in a team that boasts all-world young talent like Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland, Reyna has the perfect role models around him to take his game to the next level. He is still waiting to make his USMNT debut — his first chance was delayed in the spring due to the coronavirus outbreak — but expect that to come sooner rather than later. He has all the ability and application to be a USMNT mainstay for the next 15 years, but his goals this season will be to get as much first-team football as possible for Dortmund and continue to develop. — Hamilton
Robinson’s 2019-20 campaign was a veritable roller-coaster. He was one of the few standouts on a Wigan team that ended up being relegated from the English Championship, with his runs forward offering a threat in attack. He nearly parlayed that into a dream move to AC Milan, only to have it scuttled by a heart condition that showed up during his medical. He eventually made a move to Fulham, freshly promoted back to the English top flight.
Robinson’s goal this season will be to force his way into the first team, no easy task at a Premier League club, especially with playoff final hero Joe Bryan ensconced at left-back. Robinson didn’t make the subs bench in the Cottagers’ 3-0 opening-day defeat to Arsenal, but given the investment Fulham have made in him, he’ll be given time to acclimate. — Carlisle
Injuries — in particular a recurring hamstring ailment — have so curtailed Weah’s playing time that he’s almost the forgotten man of the U.S. player pool. In his first season with Lille, Weah made just three appearances totaling 84 minutes. Given the time lost, this is very much a critical season for the New York City-born attacker. The early returns on the 2020-21 campaign are that Weah is still in the thoughts of Lille management, making two substitute appearances. Given the difficulty Weah has had staying healthy, it amounts to a promising start that he hopefully can parlay into additional minutes. — Carlisle
Patience paid off for Cannon, who, after two years in FC Dallas‘ academy, a brief stop in college soccer at UCLA and then three-plus seasons with FCD, made the move to Europe with Portuguese side Boavista in September. Since the start of the 2018 season, Cannon was a consistent presence at right back and while his numbers didn’t necessarily catch the eye — he had three goals and five assists in 68 league and playoff appearances — his attacking instincts impressed U.S. national team manager Gregg Berhalter.
At Boavista, Cannon will be making his initial foray into European soccer and he’s already made a positive impression, scoring the opening goal in the club’s 4-1 friendly win over CD Tondela last weekend. The right-back spot for the U.S. is there for the taking, so he’ll need to adapt quickly if he is to grab that position at the international level. — Carlisle
The big question for Yedlin is simple: Will he even be in Newcastle much longer? Yedlin was a peripheral figure last season, making 20 league and cup appearances, but just 10 starts in league play. (The majority of those came in the front half of the season, too.) Hip and hand injuries also made it difficult for Yedlin to remain in the lineup and he ultimately lost his starting spot to Javier Manquillo.
A change of scenery might do Yedlin good. One would expect that at age 27, and given his Premier League experience, Yedlin would be a shoe-in to be the right back for the U.S. men’s national team, but he seems far from first-choice there. If he can establish himself at a new club — Turkish side Besiktas is among the sides interested in Yedlin — then that might revitalize his career and allow him to reclaim his spot with the U.S. national team. — Carlisle
The center-back has been a mainstay with Cottagers for the last five seasons, making his 200th appearance for the club in the season-opening 3-0 defeat at Arsenal. In last season’s promotion push, Ream made a staggering 47 league and playoff appearances, testament to his consistency and durability. His passing ability out of the back remains a strength, though as U.S. fans can attest he is guilty of the occasional gaffe.
This season will mark Ream’s third foray into the Premier League, having had previous campaigns with Bolton Wanderers in 2011-12 as well as Fulham’s previous season in the top flight in 2018-19. If Fulham are to avoid relegation this time around, Ream will certainly need to be at his best on both sides of the ball. Fulham can only hope that Ream’s consistency comes to the fore over the course of the campaign. — Carlisle
The 25-year-old centre-back signed for Chelsea in 2016, but has made two Premier League appearances in four years having spent much of that span out on loan. It’s long been Chelsea’s policy to buy promising talent and develop them by sending them out to trusted teams to aid their development. Miazga spent two seasons with Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie and six months at Nantes before arriving at Reading in the Championship. He has played there for the past 18 months.
Miazga made 24 appearances for Reading last term, in a campaign disrupted by a hamstring injury at the start of the season and an ankle injury in January. He picked up a red card in their defeat at Derby in June, following an altercation with Tom Lawrence after the final whistle, and would play one further match for the Royals. This term Miazga will likely spend another season out on loan and is not short of suitors, though his destination is at yet unknown. — Hamilton
Mark 2019-20 as a season that tested the hugely promising 20-year-old, though one that would have taught him a huge amount. Having been left out of the USMNT Gold Cup squad in the 2019-20 preseason, he had to battle with oscillating between starting for Werder Bremen and finding his role reduced to that of an impact substitute. He picked up an untimely hamstring muscle tear in December that kept him out for six weeks, but as Werder Bremen battled to avoid the drop in the latter part of the Bundesliga campaign, Sargent was instrumental in the German side keeping their spot in the top flight as they won their relegation playoff against Heidenheim.
The signs in 2020-21 are promising for Sargent, who played across the front line last term. He carried his impressive preseason form into Bremen’s opening match of the 2020-21 season proper, starting and scoring in Bremen’s 2-0 win at FC Carl Zeiss in the first round of the DFB-Pokal. — Hamilton
Morales shook off an early hamstring injury to be a steady presence for Dusseldorf last season in the center of midfield, making 31 league and cup appearances. But despite his ball-winning and prowess in the air, it wasn’t enough to prevent the Rhinelanders from avoiding the drop.
Now Morales will play in the 2. Bundesliga. It’s a league with which he is familiar, having spent a total of five seasons in Germany’s second tier with the likes of Hertha Berlin and Ingolstadt. The challenge this time around will be to return Dusseldorf immediately back to the top flight, and Morales appears to be very much in his team’s plans. He logged 78 minutes in a two-way midfield role in Dusseldorf’s 1-0 German Cup road win over Ingolstadt, the kind of result that Morales and Dusseldorf will need more of as the season progresses. — Carlisle
Boyd spent the 2019-20 campaign adjusting to the pressure and expectations of playing for Besiktas, one of Turkey‘s biggest clubs, and it proved to be an up-and-down campaign. The good news is that Boyd made 28 league and cup appearances, but he scored just three goals along with one assist. That level of offensive production was far below what he achieved during a loan stint the previous season with Ankaragucu, when he tallied six goals and four assists in 14 matches.
This season, matters are already looking up for Boyd, with Besiktas showing continued faith in the winger. That was repaid in part when he scored the opener in Beşiktaş’ 3-1 win over Trabzonspor to start the Turkish Super Lig campaign, cutting in from the left wing to fire inside the far post with the help of a slight deflection. Boyd and Besiktas will no doubt be hoping that this is a sign of things to come. — Carlisle
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH
Christian Cappis: The midfielder established himself at Danish Superliga side Hobro last season, making 30 league appearances and scoring one goal while filling a variety of central midfield roles. Cappis even secured an invite to the annual January camp for the U.S. men’s national team, though he was an unused substitute in a 1-0 friendly win over Costa Rica. Those performances were such that there was talk of Cappis moving on, but now he finds himself in an unusual situation. Cappis has two years left on his contract, but his work permit to play in Denmark wasn’t renewed and he had to leave the country. Reports out of Denmark say that Hobro’s owner, Lars Kühnel, believes that Cappis will be back some time in the autumn, assuming the player isn’t transferred. In the meantime, all Cappis can do is wait to see how the situation plays out. — Carlisle
Chris Richards: The 20-year-old centre-back is yet to make his USMNT debut, but is on Berhalter’s radar. He is at Europe’s reigning Champions League holders, Bayern Munich, and made his debut in June. This season he will either be in the first-team mix or leave on loan. — Hamilton
Matthew Hoppe: The Schalke forward has his sights set on breaking into the Bundesliga side’s first team this season and following in the footsteps of the departed McKennie. He is performing well for Schalke’s Under 19s and will look to put forward his case for senior recognition this term. — Hamilton
Ulysses Llanez: The 19-year-old signed for Wolfsburg from LA Galaxy in April 2019 and was promoted to the Bundesliga side’s first team a year later. He scored on his full USMNT debut in February, too, but he’ll spend the season on loan in the Dutch Eredivisie with SC Heerenveen after signing his first professional contract with Wolfsburg this week, a deal that connects him to the club through 2024. — Hamilton
INDY ELEVEN FALLS 0-2 IN LAST Game 2020 WITH LOUISVILLE CITY FC
By Indy Eleven Communications, 09/16/20, 10:15PM EDT
Indiana’s Team Still Controls Postseason Destiny with Three Games Remaining in Regular Season
In the final of four regular-season matchups between Indy Eleven and Louisville City, the surging Kentucky side posted a 2-0 win over Indiana’s Team at Lucas Oil Stadium. Following a late first-half score from Cameron Lancaster, a goal by Corben Bone in the 76th minute provided the final margin for the visitors.With only one point separating the rivals in the Group E standings coming into Wednesday’s affair, this latest chapter of the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest (LIPAFC) series had plenty riding on it. While the result pulled Louisville (8W-3L-2D, 26 pts.) four points clear of Indy (7W-5L-1D, 22 pts.) atop the group, Indiana’s Team is still in control of its playoff destiny, itself sitting four points ahead of Saint Louis FC for the second available playoff spot from the group.“It was a disappointing score-line and a disappointing result for us. I was really proud of the players tonight and felt that we were unfortunate to certainly be down a goal at half time. In the first half, we were on top most of the time and they got a goal out of nothing, really,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “For the majority of the game, maybe my mind will change when I look back on it, I felt at this time we deserve much better than we got tonight. I don’t usually say that, and if I think we didn’t deserve to win, I would say that, but I definitely don’t think that we deserve to be on the losing side tonight.”If there was any doubt as to whether the last installment of the LIPAFC rivalry for 2020 would be a physical affair, Louisville’s Pat McMahon put that to rest early with a flying knee into the back of Ayoze just 60 seconds after the opening whistle. The energetic start was not entirely adversarial, however, with both sides circling together at midfield across the seventh and eighth minutes to pause the match and honor the ongoing movement around social injustice and the need for positive change in our sport and in our society.
Indy captain Paddy Barrett’s 13th minute shot from 50 yards out in an effort to catch LCFC goalkeeper Bun Lundt off his line began a series of half-chances for both sides that dominated the middle of the first half. Following a 37th minute yellow card issued to Eleven defender Karl Ouimette, Louisville took their possession and played all the way down the field, concluding with a corner attempt. Louisville defender Oscar Jimenez’s kick was headed out of the box, but it bounced to a waiting Antoine Hoppenot, whose right-footed strike was redirected by Lancaster past Indy goalkeeper Evan Newton and into the upper-right corner for his seventh goal of the season.Hoppenot was awarded with a shot-turned assist for his efforts, and two minutes later he nearly had one for himself, but his near-angle effort flashed just past the far-left post. Indy striker Nick Moon nearly equalized in first half stoppage time, but his header off a corner kick flashed just over the bar, leaving LouCity in front 1-0 heading into the break.
Not even two minutes into the second half, Indy Eleven’s energetic play almost tied the game, but midfielder Cam Lindley’s cutback pass from the endline that made its way past the keeper and into the center of the box was cleared before it could reach an Eleven teammate. The home side kept knocking on the door with two crosses providing plenty of danger at the top of the six-yard box around the hour mark, but a volley by midfielder Carl Haworth and a header by Ouimette two minutes apart both just missed Lundt’s frame.In the 76th minute, a counter-attack opportunity allowed Louisville to double its advantage. Midfielder Napo Matsoso crossed a ball into the middle of the field, where an unlucky deflection by Tyler Gibson fell directly to a cutting Brian Ownby, whose touch pass set up Bone behind the Indy defense. Bone successfully converted low and left in his 1-v-1 with Newton to get his fourth goal of the season and extend the Louisville lead.Indy kept the pressure on in an attempt to salvage a result, with substitute Conner Antley’s flick-on of Ouimette’s centering ball in the 79th minute that forced a save by Lundt at his left post providing the most drama of the Eleven’s late chances. Gibson’s last-ditch effort to get on the scoreboard from outside the box was high-and-wide in the 93rd minute, ending the action and keeping Indy winless against its rival in 2020.Indy Eleven continues its five-match September homestand next Wednesday, September 23, with the first of two pivotal meetings down the stretch of the 2020 regular season against Saint Louis FC. (5W-4L-3D, 18 pts., 3rd in Group E). The 7:00 p.m. kickoff on Indy Eleven’s annual Hispanic Heritage Night, presented by Financial Center First Credit Union, can be followed live on MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com, and the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers.
USL Championship Regular Season – #INDvSKC Indy Eleven 0 : 2 Louisville City FC
Louisville City FC (8W-3L-2D, 26 pts., 1st in Group E)
LOU– Cameron Lancaster (Antoine Hoppenot) 39’
LOU – Corben Bone (Brian Ownby) 76’
IND – Karl Ouimette (yellow card) 37’
LOU – Paolo DelPiccolo (yellow card) 66’
LOU – Corben Bone (yellow card) 66’
LOU – Antoine Hoppenot (yellow card) 73’
LOU – Sean Totsch (yellow card) 79’
Indy Eleven lineup (3-4-3, L–>R): Evan Newton; Neveal Hackshaw, Paddy Barrett (captain), Karl Ouimette; Ayoze (Conner Antley 72’), Drew Connor (Matt Watson 72’), Tyler Gibson, Carl Haworth; Jeremy Rafanello (Tyler Pasher 59’), Cam Lindley, Nick Moon
IND Substitutes: Jordan Farr (GK), Mitch Osmond, Ilija Ilic, Andrew Carleton
Louisville City FC (4-3-3, L–>R): Ben Lundt; Oscar Jimenez, Alexis Souahy, Sean Totsch, Pat McMahon (Wes Charpie 90’); Antoine Hoppenot (Brian Ownby 74’), Corben Bone, Speedy Williams, Paolo DelPiccolo (captain) (Jimmy Ockford 85’), Napo Matsoso (Akil Watts 90’); Cameron Lancaster (Jason Johnson 85’)
With the new season set to kick off Saturday excitement bounds as US Star Christian Pulisic was awarded the #10 shirt at Chelsea. Not 100% sure if he will be healthy enough to start on Monday vs Brighton at 3:15 pm but the #10 shirt certainly signifies how important the American is to Chelsea’s squad this season. Arguably the best player after the break – Pulisic will look to improve on his stats with a host of new potential scorers on hand like Timo Werner from Leipzig and Hakim Ziyeck from Ajax up front. Liverpool returns almost its entire squad from the title winning group of last year, while Man City added a player or 2 looking to overtake the champions. Of course my favorite – Fulham America – is back in the EPL with US players Tim Ream and the newly added US left back Antonee Robinson looking to hold down the defense – they kick off Saturday morning at 7:30 am on NBCSN. Liverpool vs newly promoted Leeds United follows at 12:30 on NBC. I think it will be a 4 way race between Liverpool, Man City, Man United and Chelsea (I hope with Pulisic starring) this season, with Liverpool and Man City the favorites for sure. Tons of previews and predictions below in the OBC.
US Weston McKinney to Juve is Huge
So huge news that US midfielder Weston McKinny has signed with Juventus – my favorite Italian club! If McKinny can actually get playing time at this Giant of World football – along the likes of Renaldo and Dybala. Man the sky is the limit! This is arguably the biggest club any American player has ever signed with and should pay huge dividends in the future assuming he can break into the starting line-up and play. I do think this hard working, ball winning midfielder will find a place for new Juve coach Pirlo. He opened his first press conference by speaking some Italian – which was a big hit with the Italian media. Huge news for McKinney and all of US Soccer you can watch the Italian Serie A on ESPN+ with the occasional game on ESPN 2 or ESPN News starting next weekend.
Indy 11 home vs Louisville Wed Sept 16
The Indy 11 took an important 2-1 win at home over Sporting KC II with goals from Nick Moon and Jimmy Rafanello in the first half and a late stand in a flury of action from KC late in the 2nd half to hold on for the win. With the victory, Indy Eleven (7W-4L-1D, 22 pts.) repossessed the top spot in the four-team group, overtaking Louisville City FC (20 pts.) and setting up another fight for first between the two rivals on Wednesday night, Sept 10 at 7 pm in the Circle City and on MyIndyTV 23. The result also put some more distance between Indy and Saint Louis FC (18 pts.), the group’s other contender for one of its two playoff berths. Hopefully leading scorer Tyler Pasher will return from injury for this key showdown – a virtual must win for the Indy 11. Tickets for the next installment of the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest rivalry series, set for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium, are available at www.indyeleven.com/tickets. This is game 3 of a 5 game homestand.
NWSL Games on Sat 3:30 CBS
With the NWSL kicking off its regular season – games will be featured on CBS over the next 2 weeks on Sat at 3:30 pm with the North Carolina Courage hosing the Houston Dash this Sat. See other games on CBS All Access and Twitch.
Carmel FCers on Carmel High Teams
I can’t believe I missed 2 of our Carmel FC GKs who made the CHS Boys team- I had a chance to slip out and see them play this week. Varsity Starter Henry Geisel is a former Carmel FCer, along with current Carmel FC’ers Charlie Featherson for JV, and Jacob Havice, Ryan Bartley and Kevin Russo for 9th grade! Congrats all!
GAMES ON TV
Fri, Sept 11
3 pm beIN Sport France- Bordeaux vs Lyonnais
4 pm beIN Sport Valencia vs Levante
Sat, Sept 12
7:30 am NBCSN Fulham (Ream, Robinson) vs Arsenal
10 am NBCSN Crystal Palace vs Southhampton
11 am bein Sport Montpellier vs Nice
12:30 pm NBC Liverpool vs Leeds United
3 pm bein Sport Cadiz vs Osasuna – Spain
3:30 pm CBS NC Courage vs Houston Dash NWSL
3:30 pm Univsion Chicago Fire vs Columbus Crew
Sun, Sept 13
7:30 am NBCSN West Brom vs Leicester City
10 am NBCSN Crystal Palace vs Southhampton
11 am bein Sport Montpellier vs Nice
11:30 am NBCSN, Peacock Tottenham vs Everton
3 pm bein Sport PSG vs Marseille –France
8:30 pm ESPN+ Sporting KC vs Minn United
11 pm ESPN+ LAFC vs Portland Timbers
Mon, Sept 14
1 pm NBCSN Sheffield United s Wolverhampton
3:15 pm Peacock Brighton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)
Wed, Sept 16
7 pm My Indy TV 23, ESPN+ Indy 11 vs Louisville FC at Lucus Oil
riFFri, Sept 18
2:30 pm ESPN Bayern Munich vs Schalke
Sat, Sept 19
7:30 am Peacock Eveton vs West Brom
9:20 am ESPN+ Werder Bremen (Stuart) vs Hertha BSC
10 am NBCSN Leads United vs Fulham (Ream, Robinson)
11 am bein Sport Lens vs Bourdaauex
12:30 pm NBCSN Man United vs Crystal Palace
1 pm CBS NC Courage vs Orlando Pride NWSL
3 pm bein Sport Celta Da Vigo vs Valencia – Spain
3 pm Peacock? Arsenal vs West Ham United
Sun, Sept 20
9:30 am ESPN+ RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Mainz
11:30 am USA Network Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Liverpool
12 noon ESPN+ Wolfsburg vs Bayer Leverkusen
1 pm CBS All Access Chicago Red Stars vs Sky Blue NWSL
2:45 pm ESPN+ Juventus (McKinney) vs Sampdoria
3 pm beIN Sport Real Sociedad vs Real Madirid
Mon, Sept 21
1 pm Peacock Aston Villa vs Sheffield United
3:15 pm Man City Wolverhampton vs Man City
7 pm My Indy TV 23, ESPN+ Indy 11 vs St Louis at Lucus Oil
Christian Pulisic Chelsea No 10 sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?According to a report from The Athletic’s Simon Johnson, Pulisic will be given the No. 10 shirt at Chelsea for the 2020-21 season and beyond. That sound you can hear is USMNT fans rushing to their laptops to order their new Pulisic jersey.Pulisic, 21, had previously been wearing the No. 22 which he wore at Borussia Dortmund too but the Pennsylvanian winger is now being handed an iconic jersey.The No. 10 was previously worn by Willian, who wore it for just one season before leaving Chelsea for Arsenal on a free transfer earlier this summer. And of course we all know that before Willian, the No. 10 shirt at Chelsea was worn by Eden Hazard.Let the Christian Pulisic-Eden Hazard comparisons continue.Pulisic being handed this jersey number makes sense for so many reasons. Firstly, he is pretty much one of the first names on the teamsheet following his simply sensational form during ‘Project Restart’ in the Premier League. Secondly, imagine how many ‘Pulisic 10’ jerseys Chelsea are going to sell?Imagine how many young soccer fans in the USA will now be asking for a Christian Pulisic Chelsea No 10 jersey for their upcoming birthdays?Heck, every USMNT fan will be yelling ‘shut up and take my money’ as this is a big moment. Yes, it’s a shirt number. We get it. But this is a big deal for U.S. fans. Pulisic being handed an iconic jersey number at such a huge club rubber stamps his status as one of Chelsea’s top players and means he is viewed as a mainstay by Frank Lampard.The Pulisic hype is very real. From a USMNT perspective, we’ve all known that for some time now. The rest of the world is now fully on board the Pulisic hype train.Other Chelsea jersey news is coming up too, with Kai Havertz expected to be handed No. 29, while Thiago Silva will take No. 2.
Christian Pulisic news has calmed down at the moment, but with the start to the 2020-21 Premier League season just a few days away, the USMNT star will soon be front and center once again.Pulisic, 21, is currently recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered during the FA Cup final but he should be fit to play for Chelsea by the end of September.
As we saw from his incredible form during ‘Project Restart’ in the Premier League, the Pulisic hype is now very real. From a USMNT perspective, we’ve all known that for some time now. The rest of the world is now fully on board the Pulisic hype train after his 10 goals and five assists led to a Premier League Young Player of the Year nomination.What lies ahead for Pulisic at Chelsea in 2020-21?
A key cog in a new-look Chelsea attack
Pulisic will now have Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech joining him in the attacking lineup and these are exciting times for Chelsea. With veterans Willian and Pedro moving on, Chelsea have spent big to bolster their attack this summer and Pulisic’s performances at the end of last season have put him at the heart of tat new-look attack. Pulisic provides something a little different to the fluid movement and passing of Havertz, the trickery of Ziyech and the clinical finishing of Werner. As a quartet, they will be Chelsea’s future for the next five to six years.
Some of the latest Christian Pulisic news states that he will be handed the No. 10 jersey at Chelsea and it makes sense for so many reasons and it is a signal of how important he is to this team. Firstly, he is pretty much one of the first names on the teamsheet. Secondly, imagine how many ‘Pulisic 10’ jerseys Chelsea are going to sell worldwide, and in the USA? Pulisic has been compared to Eden Hazard so many times in his first season in England and the American winger will now be given the chance to be Chelsea’s go-to guy. This is only a shirt number but it means a lot and shows the faith Frank Lampard has in him. Pulisic is trusted by the Chelsea players and coaching staff and all of a sudden he’s taken on a leadership role in this young side. It will be intriguing to see if he can keep putting the team on his back in big moments like he did against Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City during ‘Project Restart’ this summer.
More competition than last season
Okay, so Pulisic struggled for minutes early in the season as Callum Hudson-Odoi, Willian, Mason Mount and Pedro were all favored ahead of him but this season will be no joke. As we mentioned above, he is likely to be a key cog in this attack but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a cog which can be placed to one side and isn’t at risk of getting rusty. If Pulisic’s levels drop there are so many key attacking players ready to step up. Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham are set to battle for a place on the bench and that shows you the new depth. Werner can play out wide, so too can Havertz and Mount, so Pulisic will have plenty of competition for his place on the left flank. That helped his levels rise last season but this season is probably even tougher as new talent is arriving and instead of youngsters and veterans to battle past, Pulisic now has to start over some of the best attackers in Europe such as Werner and Havertz.
Second-season syndrome: No longer an unknown
He was marked closely in the closing stages of the 2019-20 season after he kept ripping opposition defenses to pieces. Expect that to keep happening as teams started to double up on Pulisic because he was finding those half spaces between full backs and center halves far too often. Close attention from holding midfielders will be plentiful and Pulisic has to deal with the fact that teams will now be planning to shut him down, whereas for most of the 2019-20 season he wasn’t seen as a huge threat. Some of the most obvious Christian Pulisic news is that he is now a marked man.
Injuries could play their part
Pulisic suffered a big adductor injury in the middle of the season which kept him out for many months but the break due to the coronavirus pandemic allowed him to recover. Pulisic then suffered a bad hamstring in the FA Cup final and that was the last thing he needed. It also followed a trend. He’s had plenty of hamstring injuries during his young career already and his searing pace and lightweight frame means he will probably pick up these kind of injuries throughout his career. Chelsea have bulked him up and he will develop further, and needs to physically, if he’s going to be a sustained success in the Premier League. Expect Pulisic to develop hefty glutes like Eden Hazard in the coming months.
MCKENNIE to JUVENTUS -TAKES ANOTHER STEP FOR AMERICAN SOCCER PLAYERS
SEPTEMBER 9, 2020 BY JASON DAVIS
By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Sep 9, 2020) US Soccer Players – As is always the case with these things, it’s best to wait until it’s official. There’s no point in jumping ahead and getting excited until everything is official. These things have a history of falling apart at the minute.The world of big-time soccer transfers is a cauldron of intrigue. It’s often hard to separate fact from fiction. It’s best to wait until the old club issues a “goodbye and good luck” message while the new one gets excited on social media.Ask Manchester City fans how it feels to have everyone talking about your club as the new home of one of the best players in the history of the game, only to see it not happen. Before you know it, the player is sitting in shorts and slides talking about why he’s now not leaving the only club he’s ever known for a new adventure somewhere else.
Then there are the moments where the odd rumor picks up. All of a sudden, a player is making that ridiculous move. To put that another way, it’s now official. Weston McKennie is a member of Juventus Football Club. An American now plays for the biggest club in Italy and one of Europe’s elites.In July, Juventus won Serie A for the ninth time running and 36th title overall. The idea of anyone catching Juventus is almost laughable at this point. That’s because the club maintains its talent advantage via big spending while the rest of Serie A maintains a decidedly different financial existence.McKennie’s arrival in Turin came with the requisite social media hits, including a video in which the American midfielder got a first look at Juventus’s trophy room. Yes, that’s “room”, as in a large space filled with trophies. Most clubs barely need a trophy case. Juventus’s space would fetch $3000 a month on the New York apartment market, and it probably has better views.This is why McKennie’s surprise move to Turin is such a massive thing for the player and his home country. McKennie is taking a dramatic step up in level. He joins a club that expects nothing less than to win multiple domestic trophies and compete for the most celebrated silverware in the sport, the Champions League.McKennie’s growth as a young player in Germany happened in one of the best leagues in the world. Still, he never faced the kind of week-to-week scrutiny that comes with playing for a club as predominant as the Italian giants. McKennie’s transfer to Juventus cuts two ways for the 22-year-old. It’s both a daunting push into the unknown and a validation of his ability.Juventus is not in the business of counting pennies. It doesn’t sign on players it doesn’t think can do the job. Simply by acquiring McKennie, Juventus is vouching for him.With apologies to Christian Pulisic, who remains the most expensive American player in history following his transfer to Chelsea, McKennie joining Juventus is a new high watermark for players from the United States in Europe. Chelsea is ambitious but doesn’t have the pedigree of Juventus. Manchester United does and certainly did when Tim Howard jumped from Major League Soccer to the Premier League. American goalkeepers were well established in Europe at that point. In our bizarre section of the sport, it’s the field players who are different.There are plenty of unknowns about McKennie’s fit at Juventus and plenty of reasons to worry. That puts him in the same situation as many of his talented peers from soccer-rich cultures on the Continent and in South America.
American soccer’s ceiling exists in many forms. Coaching remains a difficult area for Americans, though Jesse Marsch is forging a path that could lead to greater respect. Sometimes it takes just one example to open the minds of the soccer elite. We might be looking at a future with much more American influence at the highest levels.It’s fair to think, however, that American players have to achieve at the game’s top tier before the rest will follow. The last two decades saw Americans make inroads into Europe’s top leagues. Several standout performers emerged as the standard-bearers for the first truly professional generation of players developed in the United States.Few of those players did their work at Champions League level clubs in the top five leagues, however. We’re talking about exceptions. Tyler Adams this season with Leipzig. DaMarcus Beasley with PSV back in the 2000s. Jovan Kirovski ‘s winning run with Borussia Dortmund in 1997. All of those were surprises.To put it more simply, Juventus is part of an ultra-elite group of clubs that have the resources and history to claim to be among the top 15 or 20 on the planet. Like Pulisic before him, McKennie is now in rarified air. If he succeeds, the impact will be immense.Serie A might not be the most popular foreign league in America, but everyone knows about Juventus. That was true before Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid to join the Italian giants, but the club’s visibility is even higher now. For that reason, it’s hard to imagine Juventus signed McKennie because of some desire to “grow” the club’s reach in the United States. McKennie isn’t a big enough name yet to have that sort of effect.Joining Juventus will raise his profile, however. Though McKennie isn’t the Sportscenter-ready attacking star that Pulisic is, his appearances on the field for his new club will garner attention from otherwise soccer-agnostic corners. There’s nothing more Americans like to do than wave the flag, and McKennie allows sports fans whether they care about soccer or not to do that.Juventus’s move for McKennie likely came down to a host of factors: availability, price, age, skillset, etc. Some of those could be spun to undermine the American’s talent and explain away his signing as a budget-minded move by a big club trying to maneuver its way around UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations. Even if there’s something to that theory, it hardly matters. McKennie is still at Juventus, and Juventus will still expect to lift trophies in 2021. It’s official, and it’s a really, really big deal.Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/davisjsn.
Dortmund’s Gio Reyna, the son of Captain America, is U.S. soccer’s next superhero
Sep 4, 2020Sam BordenESPN Senior Writer
Gio Reyna is terrified. It is June 13. His team, Borussia Dortmund, beat Dusseldorf earlier in the day. On the bus after the game, everyone is ecstatic. But Gio didn’t feel right. His throat is raw and he is tired.Only now, he can’t sleep. It is late, near midnight in Germany. Gio is cold, even under his blankets. His parents live halfway around the world in New York and he is alone in his apartment in a country where he doesn’t speak the language.Gio is 17. His fever spikes. His mind runs wild.What if it is the coronavirus? What if he has to quarantine for a week? Or a month? What if he can’t go home when the other players leave? What if Dortmund has to forfeit all of its games?Gio is a rising star in the Bundesliga. He is one of the American sensations who is supposed to help transform the U.S. national team over the next two World Cup cycles. His parents are soccer royalty and yet, even at his young age, there are plenty who believe he might end up being better than both of them.But at this moment, Gio isn’t any of those things. He is just a sick kid, far from home, who has sandpaper in his throat and a runaway train in his head. He tosses and turns, and then, finally, bolts upright, gripped suddenly by the thought that truly frightens him:What if I have the coronavirus and it leads to the whole league getting shut down? He groans. What if I ruin everything?
A MONTH LATER, sitting in the living room of his family’s house about an hour outside New York City, Gio can laugh, at least a little, about his hysteria that night. “My mind was going so many places,” he says through a shy grin. He had strep throat, it turned out, not COVID-19. He missed only one game.The experience still mattered, though. The sheer panic he felt that night in June was real, and the wringer he went through in the days that followed — as he dealt with doctors, his own worries and a series of internet rumors speculating that he had the coronavirus — left a mark. In many ways, it crystalized for him the biggest challenge that comes with being a prodigy at an age when you are supposed to be going to prom.”I’ve heard some athletes speak about mental health issues,” he says at one point, his eyes widening, “and I can understand why.”He explains that it isn’t about Dortmund. Not even a little. In truth, the soccer part of his life is perhaps the most straightforward for him. Gio’s game is a marriage of the best parts of his parents: his father, former national team captain Claudio Reyna, had legendary ball control and vision, and his mother, Danielle Egan, made her name at North Carolina, and on the women’s national team, with electric speed and a loping stride. Dortmund recruited Gio as he showed off both skill sets playing for New York City FC’s youth teams.He arrived at Dortmund’s academy last summer. Within months, he’d shown he could play at a higher level and spent the second half of the season with the first team, playing mostly as an attacking midfielder off the bench. His touch on the ball was unhurried. His confidence was high. He has quickly connected with two of Dortmund’s other young stars, Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho, and the trio play video games and bond over their shared love for television shows such as “Outer Banks” on Netflix.Haaland, who is quickly becoming one of the sport’s biggest names, has been “like a big brother,” Gio says, which “almost makes me feel like I’m at home a little bit.” The chemistry between the two of them, as well as Sancho, moves easily from on the field to off it, and after making his Bundesliga debut on Jan. 18 — moving past Christian Pulisic as the youngest American to appear in the league — Gio’s first goal was an absolute stunner.In that game, against Werder Bremen on Feb. 4, Gio made a sharp dribble near the top of the box and unleashed a wicked, curving shot that ripped into the top corner of the net as the stadium exploded. “It was just the perfect opportunity,” he says, breaking into a small smile as he runs through the memory again. “It couldn’t have been placed any better.”That part — the pure sport and competition — is what makes sense to Gio. It is straightforward. But there is another part to all this, he says. The part where he leaves school and moves into an apartment and tries to learn a language and gets strep throat and lives through a pandemic and tries to comprehend a worldwide reckoning on race all alone. That part? At 17, it is harder.Some of it is the little things. Lately, Gio has started ordering sweatshirts in larger sizes because he can’t seem to do laundry without shrinking everything, and any time he wants to go to the grocery store, he has to enlist someone — often, it’s Haaland — to drive him. Gio is still a few months from getting a license.Other issues weigh heavier. As news coverage of the U.S. government’s harsh response to protests in support of Black Lives Matter spread around the world, several Dortmund teammates asked Gio — the resident American now that Pulisic has moved on to Chelsea — what was going on. Why were these protesters being treated like this?Gio knew they were just talking to him as a peer, a status affirmation he craved, and he knew exactly how he felt about what he was seeing. But he also was sure that, like most 17-year-olds (and perhaps even most 77-year-olds), he wasn’t quite prepared to speak authoritatively on why, exactly, the United States hasn’t yet solved systemic racism. He didn’t have answers.”I support this movement like no other,” he tells me, “But in those situations, I just didn’t really know what to say.”Danielle and Claudio are certain that someday he will. Over the past year, they have felt so much pride about what they’ve seen from Gio. His play on the field, sure: That incredible assist against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League or the first goal are memories that won’t be forgotten. But impressive as they were, those sorts of accomplishment aren’t what his parents see as critical: They are more grateful that as Gio’s life has morphed from American teenager to European soccer star, his focus on what is important hasn’t shifted.Most days, Gio and Claudio talk after training is over, which is early morning in the U.S. There will be a few quick check-ins through lunch, and then, in the late afternoons, Danielle will FaceTime with Gio for an hour, setting him on the counter as she cooks dinner. They don’t have to chat the entire time; Danielle just likes hearing her son bang around his apartment because it’s the closest she gets to feeling as if he is at home. Gio enjoys it because it gives him a tether; it is what keeps him feeling safe.”He’s still so little in some ways, but he’s doing this man’s job and he’s still never exhibited that anything other than family is his main priority,” Danielle says. She nods. “I think that’s really important.” t is. Particularly when you consider what the Reyna family has already endured.
WHEN GIO WAS LITTLE, other parents in the local kids’ league were always more impressed by how far he could kick the ball, as opposed to how easily he could dribble it. This perpetually amused Claudio, whose father is Argentine and mother is Portuguese-American. It doesn’t take much to get him started on the misplaced priorities of many American soccer novices.”Everyone liked seeing him take goal kicks — like, goal kicks! — which, OK, I guess,” Claudio says, rolling his eyes. Even so, it wasn’t long before everyone, including the most casual observer, could see that Gio’s talent was remarkable.No one was shocked. Claudio played in three World Cups and Danielle won four college championships at North Carolina. But even as it became obvious he was a wunderkind, Gio wasn’t much interested in what his parents had done. He only wanted to be like his big brother, Jack.Jack was four years older than Gio, sturdy and strong and fast. The boys often played one-on-one soccer in the hallway upstairs, and most of the time the games ended with flailing punches, someone crying and “definitely some punishments,” Danielle says. As competitive as they were, though, Jack never hesitated to highlight his brother’s growing skills. At Gio’s games, Jack would often listen to the spectators on the other sideline, remarking about the tiny 6-year-old who was playing in the 8-year-old division, then sprint over to Claudio, cackling and shouting, “They don’t know what they’re in for!” as Gio would score again and again. Jack was plenty good at sports, too. He played everything he could, was a natural athlete and, in 2010, his soccer team won the New York State Cup. Everyone in the family was thrilled.But a few weeks later, Jack began complaining of crippling headaches. Doctors first suggested it might be a bad sinus infection, maybe, or meningitis. Then a CT scan showed a mass on Jack’s brain. There was a surgery and, finally, a diagnosis: Jack, who was 11, had brain cancer — specifically stage IV glioblastoma, a disease that typically affects people who are in their 70s.”We were just blindsided,” Claudio says. “It was literally, from one day to the next, our whole life changed.” His voice catches and he puts his hand to his face. “Everything you think is going to happen just … didn’t.”There were treatments. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Blood draws. Long days, waiting rooms and tests. Jack played with Legos over and over; he was often too tired to do anything more.
After about nine months, it seemed as though Jack’s cancer had responded to the treatments. Everyone felt a sliver of hope. But the disease returned a few months later, and the Reynas tried to squeeze in as many bucket-list items as they could, attending a big game or taking a family trip to Mexico or eating at a famous restaurant or going to a show. Jack’s speech began to decline. He couldn’t walk.On July 19, 2012, Jack died. He was 13. His baby sister, Carolina, was 2. Another brother, Joah-Mikel, was 5. Gio was 9.How can you measure what something like that does to a person? To a family? It is impossible. Gio never erupted; he never did any of the things the therapists told Danielle and Claudio to look out for. He never raged or lashed out. He went on, as best as he could, the way they all did. He stayed close to Jack’s friends. He became the big brother he lost. Now, when Gio comes home from Germany, he and Carolina and Joah have sleepovers together. They stay up late. They snuggle close.Gio doesn’t like talking about Jack publicly. So much of his life is on display — remember, the result of a nasal swab he took was literally international news — but he isn’t yet sure how much of his grief he wants to expose. Much of that is, as Danielle says, probably because he doesn’t want to be vulnerable on stage, and part of it is almost surely how deeply Jack still underpins all that Gio does.Gio still plays for Jack, still driven by the support he knows he would be getting from his brother. Within the family, Jack is a constant presence: His pictures are all over the house. When Claudio and Danielle and the kids sit in their Dortmund sweatsuits and watch Gio play on television, they sometimes talk about how Jack might have moved over to Germany to live with Gio during all of this, and how joyfully insufferable Jack might have been to his friends about what his little brother is doing.Claudio tears up when we talk about Jack, but he explains that it’s not just because of the tragedy of it all. Rather, it has to do with the incredible joy a parent feels when one of their children is proud of a brother or sister. That sort of admiration from one to another is almost ethereal, and the bond between siblings is the fiercest a family can know. For Claudio, thinking about how Jack can’t do that for Gio — even now, eight years later — remains devastating.”That is what’s so hard for Danielle and I,” Claudio says, and then he stops. His eyes water and he croaks, “That … you know … that Jack would be the happiest.”
ON JULY 28, Claudio loads Gio’s bags into the car and the entire family drives an hour to JFK Airport. The terminal is quiet. Normally, Claudio or Danielle would reassure Gio that one of them will be over to Germany in a few weeks to see him, but in these pandemic times, no one knows when that can happen. “See you … soon,” Claudio says. Gio walks into the security line.Sending one child to live on another continent after losing another child years earlier seems borderline impossible to me as a parent. But when I mention this to Claudio and Danielle, they are adamant it is not that difficult a decision. They lived abroad for years when Claudio played overseas (Gio was actually born in England during Claudio’s spell with Manchester City), so more than most parents, they have experienced a fair bit of their son’s life already.”We know there is so much in front of him,” Danielle says, “so how could we do anything but let him follow that path?”Danielle is pragmatic. She makes it sound simple. But was it? How easy could it have been? The Reynas call Danielle “Doctor D” because she always knows what medicine to take or what drink to sip when someone is feeling sick. She always makes things better. But that night when Gio thought he had the coronavirus — all Doctor D wanted was to be able to sit by his bed and help him — she was on another continent. As a parent, is there a more helpless feeling?But then, this is the journey. Dortmund is only a portion of it, too. The pandemic also delayed Gio’s first appearance with the U.S. national team, but that call-up is inevitable. Becoming a professional soccer player is part of Gio’s DNA, and representing the U.S. on its biggest stage is something Gio has been looking forward to for years. It comes with the name.”It’s basically in our blood,” Gio says.So, Danielle and Claudio let him go. To Germany. To national team games. To an Olympics, if it happens. To a World Cup, if the U.S. reboot is what everyone hopes.
They know the pressure will only grow hotter. Claudio’s nickname was “Captain America” and by going to Dortmund just as Pulisic did, Gio has made it even easier to put himself alongside the player many see as the most important player in the U.S. men’s revival. There are other players at big clubs who will make a difference, too — Weston McKennie has gone from struggling Schalk to Italian giants Juventus, and Tyler Adams is a key player at Leipzig — but Reyna’s potential is unmatched.Gio, at least for the moment though, seems unbothered. “My dad did a lot of things, I know that, but he’s my dad — to me, he’s my dad,” Gio says. “My mom is my mom. And I’m going to be me.” Some days, he says, that means putting together a sharp move with Haaland or Sancho in front of goal, while on others it means playing FIFA past midnight with Joah, who always likes to play as Dortmund so he can start his big brother on the bench.All of it is important. And all of it — soccer and family — is what Gio sees as the existence he is chasing. A few weeks after returning to Europe, he scores the first goal of Dortmund’s exhibition schedule by coolly slipping the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs after taking a pass from Haaland. In the second preseason match, he does it again and adds another.Claudio and Danielle and the kids watch the stream of the second game back home, howling. That night, they talk with Gio on FaceTime about the match, and how Gio got to play through the middle more and what it feels like to start off the season as part of the team’s plans. There are so many matches — league games and cup games and the Champions League — that Gio is certain he will have more chances than ever to prove he belongs.”There is so much happening, in his world and around the world and everything,” Claudio says on the phone when we connect last week. “But when we talk to him, it’s like he sounds …” Claudio pauses and thinks for a second. Then he says, “It’s like he sounds ready.”Danielle and Claudio have lived what Gio is living, but not as he will live it. Not in this time. Not in this moment. In the end, Danielle says, “He’ll be himself.” And that will be enough.
Bocanegra joins National Soccer Hall of Fame; Cherundolo, Solo snubbed
The National Soccer Hall of Fame will induct one human this summer.That player is a no-doubter in Carlos Bocanegra, who deserves plenty of praise for his incredible USMNT tenure and a solid club career with Fulham, Rennes, Saint-Etienne, and Rangers in addition to multiple stops in MLS.But instead we’re (again) left wondering who voted against other no-brainers like Steve Cherundolo and Hope Solo, a year after the Hall somehow saw fit to put in Sunil Gulati last season over Cherundolo. That’s not meant as a knock on the career of Gulati but measuring him as clearly above Cherundolo is… a challenge. Solo has 202 caps for the USWNT and only nine players have more than the three-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup Golden Glove winner. Perhaps the controversial nature of her off-field and anti-establishment life has hurt her in the eyes of voters, and Abby Wambach wasn’t even close to unanimous last season.Cherundolo played from 1999-2014 for Bundesliga mainstays Hannover 96 and was even captain of the German club. He’s won 87 USMNT caps and been hired on the staffs at Stuttgart, Hannover, and the USMNT before joining the Germany youth set-up.Tell me what Hall of Fame voter should be shutting down either!There are now 40 members in the National Soccer Hall of Fame including five executives. Five are former or current U.S. Soccer presidents and MLS commissioners, which is good news for… current and future U.S. Soccer presidents and MLS commissioners (This omits a sixth in Cindy Parlow Cone, who was elected as a player far before she was elected USSF prez).Each has a great story to tell, sure, but a number of those stories would collect less ears than Cherundolo’s and Solo’s (Jaime Moreno’s and Lauren Holiday’s, maybe too).If you want people to respect your process and selections, have a respect-worthy process.
Chelsea’s attack, Man United’s goalkeepers, Real Madrid midfield: Biggest dilemmas for 2020-21
Sep 3, 2020Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer
It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks in the European soccer universe, with teams attempting to cram a full offseason’s worth of both transfers and transfer rumors into the shortest offseason ever. But as moves have become official, they have created a few particularly interesting position battles among the top teams on the continent. Here are a few of the most interesting, and most important battles on the docket, the outcomes of which could decide title races in Europe’s biggest leagues.
(Note: the list below is not intended to be a comprehensive list of contenders, but a focus on teams with new-ish players and particularly interesting decisions to make. So the absence of Liverpool, for instance, isn’t a suggestion that Liverpool won’t contend in the Premier League this year.)
We’ll start with one of last year’s most definitive storylines. Manchester City allowed the most high-quality shots in the Premier League in 2019-20. Opponents averaged 0.144 XG per shot, the highest in the league, and while it’s pretty common for a high-possession team to give up good looks because said looks are often coming in rare counter-attacking chances, City was still average at worst in this department when winning the title the year before.
There were a couple of reasons for this. First, the aging Fernandinho moved from defensive midfield to central defense, with new acquisition Rodri taking his place in the DM role. Rodri is brilliant from a pressure standpoint — his 228 ball recoveries easily led the team — but he was less effective than Fernandinho in terms of tactical fouls and emergency tackles. That gave opponents a few more fast-break opportunities.
Then, their opponents made the most of those chances by charging in on a disheveled set of defenders. Star CB Aymeric Laporte was hurt for much of the season and never really reached fifth gear, which meant that Fernandinho went from backup to minutes-leader. Voila: quality shots.
With Fernandinho now 35, and with John Stones and Benjamin Mendy struggling to fully retain Pep Guardiola’s trust, a remodel has begun. A healthy Laporte could solve one problem, but City have acquired 25-year-old Nathan Ake from relegated AFC Bournemouth and might not be done. How this duo shakes out will determine a massive portion of the Premier League race, perhaps even more than if City were to acquire Lionel Messi up front.
Jan Joost Van Gangelen believes Solskjaer will play Donny van de Beek alongside both Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba.
We don’t completely know what United have in store for the remainder of this transfer window, but theoretically they don’t have to make any major move. The Red Devils were the Premier League’s points leaders after acquiring Bruno Fernandes in late-January, and while both attack and defense have room for upgrades, there were no definitive weaknesses.
Adding 23-year-old midfielder Donny van de Beek from Ajax gives United an upgrade in creativity in the middle, but as things currently stand, the most interesting position battle might come at the back.
With 23-year-old Dean Henderson returning from loan after two productive years with Sheffield United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now must decide between one of the most proven long-term entities in the league (29-year-old David de Gea) and a battle-tested, but not Europe-tested, Henderson.
Goalkeeper stats are obviously context-dependent, but here are some per-90 averages from all competitions in 2019-20:
– de Gea: 10.5 shots against, 1.02 XG conceded from shots on target, 1.02 goals against, 70.1% save percentage – Henderson: 11.2 shots against, 1.17 XG conceded from shots on target, 0.94 goals against, 74.5% save percentage
Keeper stats can be unreliable. De Gea was unsustainably brilliant in 2017-18, unsustainably bad in 2018-19 and directly in between last year. Henderson, meanwhile, posted better averages last year in the Premier League than the year before in the Championship. That’s not quite how that’s supposed to work. Do you rely on last year’s small-sample success as a sign of years of brilliance to come and cast de Gea aside? Do you stick with the veteran a bit longer?
Chelsea will, upon the addition of Havertz, boast seven or eight Premier League-quality attackers for what might amount to either three or four spots in the lineup. How in the hell will this all fit together?Here’s what we broadly know about each player:- Werner, Abraham and Giroud are all primarily centre forwards. Over the last three years in league play, from the center, Werner has averaged a combined 0.84 XG+XA (expected goals plus expected assists, per Opta), Giroud 0.79 and Abraham 0.70. We’ll see how Werner’s numbers are impacted by the move to the Premier League.- Ziyech split time between central midfield and right winger at Ajax; predictably, he was more productive at the latter (1.07 XG+XA, last three years) than the former (0.95), but if clutter becomes an issue, he could move around.- Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi are primarily wingers. Hudson-Odoi has been used almost completely on the right, while Pulisic has logged lots of minutes on the left and right through the years.- Havertz could be the wild card, assuming he indeed ends up in the blue shirt. Over the last three years in the Bundesliga, he logged 37% of his minutes from a central attacking midfielder role (0.45 XG+XA), 32% at right winger or right attacking midfield (0.54), 16% in central midfield (0.44) and 8% as a centre forward (0.74). He could be the anchor for lots of different looks.Lampard has a wealth of options, but we’ll see what choices he makes.
Real Madrid’s midfield
Gab Marcotti says “it’s not a good look” for Gareth Bale to be complaining about Real Madrid not letting him go.
You know the coronavirus stoppage has thrown the sports world for a loop when Real Madrid decides it needs to watch its spending for a bit. Los Blancos haven’t really brought anyone new into the fold this offseason, and they might not, but they do have one pool to choose from: loanees. But while players like midfielder Alberto Soro (back from Zaragoza), fullbacks Alvaro Odriozola (Bayern Munich) and Sergio Reguilon (Sevilla), winger Hugo Vallejo (Deportivo) and striker Borja Mayoral (Levante) might all eventually figure into manager Zinedine Zidane‘s plans to some degree, one particular loanee will officially see his time come at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu: midfielder Martin Odegaard.
The 21-year old from Norway made his Real Madrid debut at the age of 16, but made just three appearances before getting sent away to soccer boarding school: the Eredivisie’s SC Heerenveen for two years and Vitesse for one, followed by a year of finishing school at Real Sociedad, where he logged 40 appearances in all competitions, with seven goals and 10 assists. He joins an already crowded midfield that includes veterans Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro, plus 22-year-old up-and-comer Federico Valverde. All four of them logged over 1,900 minutes in league play last year.
His passing stats are more like Casemiro’s than anyone’s, but with Sociedad he averaged 0.37 XA+XG per 90 minutes, better than anything the Madrid quartet has produced over these last few seasons.
Does Modric give way to the youngster? Does Zidane end up fancying Odegaard more as a winger, as he was used for quite a few of his Eredivisie minutes? His usage could determine whether we have a La Liga race this year, or whether Real runs away with the title.
Talking about Barcelona at the moment is the ultimate in known-knowns vs. known-unknowns. The latter — that whole “Leo Messi very much wants out, but the transfer fee is mammoth, even by European soccer standards” thing — muddies up the waters for talking about anything else. But here’s what we do know: Barca did trade Arthur to Juventus for Miralem Pjanic, brought in winger Francisco Trincao from Braga and brought back attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho from Bayern Munich.
We’ll have to wait to figure out Coutinho’s and Trincao’s roles, because we have to see what happens with Messi first. But let’s talk about the Barca midfield.
Last year it was led by 23-year-old Frenkie de Jong, Arthur (24) and three veterans in Sergio Busquets, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic. Rakitic is gone, Vidal could be soon and, as mentioned, Arthur was replaced by the 30-year-old Pjanic, who was second on Juve in assists last year.
A starting point of de Jong and Pjanic, with Busquets still playing a large role, is pretty good, but I continue to hold out hope that new manager Ronald Koeman will determine that de Jong could play more of an interesting role moving back to centre-back, where he played for Ajax for much of 2017-18. He has still averaged 0.18 assists per 90 from that position — by comparison, he averaged 0.08 from central midfield for Barca last year — and playing there allowed some of his nature-made defensive abilities (ball recoveries, aerials, dispossession) to shine.
If Koeman thinks Pjanic and Busquets can hold down the fort in a 4-2-3-1 (or perhaps youngsters like Carles Alena and Riqui Puig can play larger roles), then he has an opportunity to move de Jong and improve his attack while improving his defense. Either way, Koeman has some decisions to make here.
Bayern Munich’s wings
Jan Joost Van Gangelen says Sergino Dest needs to be more consistent to regain his starting role at Ajax.
There could still be a bit of a domino effect of moves regarding the Champions League winners during this transfer window — if midfielder Thiago ends up leaving for Liverpool, as seems to be his desire, then that might prompt a new acquisition and position battle. But right now, all we know for sure is that Coutinho is heading back to Barcelona and former Manchester City winger Leroy Sane has moved back to Germany.
Sane joins an astounding crew of wingers at the Allianz Arena. Serge Gnabry scored 23 goals in all competitions last year, primarily from the left wing. Kingsley Coman scored eight, including the Champions League clincher. Veteran Ivan Perisic came into his own after Hansi Flick’s midseason hire, and the Inter Milan loanee could still end up in Munich this coming year. Thomas Muller can play out wide when he needs to, and Alphonso Davies might have become a world-class winger if he hadn’t instead become a world-class fullback last season.
Sane’s 2019 injury might have led us to forgetting just how good he is, but during Manchester City’s two Premier League title runs in 2017-18 and 2018-19, he posted a combined 20 goals and 25 assists. He’s outstanding. If he’s in the lineup, some other outstanding winger won’t be.
Borussia Dortmund’s attacking midfield
TormeisterErling Haaland will be lining up at the top of whatever formation manager Lucien Favre favors. That much we know. The 20-year-old scored a combined 44 goals for Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund last season and returns for a full season at the Signal Iduna.
The row of attackers behind Haaland, however, has minutes up for grabs. You could say that the youth-friendly BVB have made three primary young-talent acquisitions during this window: they signed 17-year-old Jude Bellingham from Birmingham, they brought Real Madrid’s 18-year-old Reinier in via a two-year loan, and they evidently managed to keep the marvelous Jadon Sancho for another season as Manchester United have seemingly elected not to meet the asking price.
Bellingham could play just about anywhere, but might mostly roam the midfield for BVB. Sancho does most of his work from the right wing, Thorgan Hazard dished 13 assists in league play from the left wing, veteran and central attacking midfielder Marco Reus is still good for double-digit goals when healthy, 17-year-old American Giovanni Reyna has potential from all of these positions (and has expressed a preference for that CAM spot), and Reinier posted six goals and two assists in 14 matches for Flamengo last year, also from the CAM position.
That’s five high-level players — without even counting Bellingham (who has looked good further up the field) — for two to three spots on the pitch.
Favre has to figure out a nice way to balance playing time for the club’s future stars while giving Bayern another fight, as BVB have done the last two years.
Julien Laurens believes Weston McKennie is the ideal player for Andrea Pirlo to bring in for Juve’s rebuild.
Back in July, as Juventus were wrapping up their ninth consecutive Serie A title, I wrote about how this was maybe the club’s least convincing win in the title streak and how the Bianconeri were a little bit lucky to both win as many close matches as they did and watch all their primary challengers falter at just the right time. I also noted something that club higher-ups most certainly already new: the roster needed a makeover. Juve was getting old and creaky and needed new energy, especially in the midfield.
The makeover has begun. Blaise Matuidi left for Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami, and forward Gonzalo Higuain is likely to follow. Miralem Pjanic left for Barcelona, while the younger Arthur was sent back in return. American Weston McKennie was brought in from Schalke, while a host of players returned from loans, including 20-year-old midfielder Dejan Kulusevski (10 goals and eight assists for Parma, albeit more from a winger role).
Their moves might not be over — we’ll see what happens with 33-year-old Sami Khedira and 29-year-old Aaron Ramsey — but that’s already a solid refresh. Arthur is a solid passer and could thrive in a pivot-type role, McKennie is developing a solid pressure-and-physicality presence, and Kulusevski is already a proven creator. Add them to a stable that still includes 23-year-old Rodrigo Bentancur, 25-year-old Adrien Rabiot and potentially Khedira and Ramsey, and you’ve got a lot of potential combinations for new manager Andrea Pirlo. But it might take him a bit to figure out the best combo of the bunch.
While Inter Milan has added wingback Achraf Hakimi, Atalanta has added attacking midfielder Aleksey Miranchuk and both AC Milan and Roma have made some interesting smaller moves (Lazio, not so much), by far the most interesting move among Juve’s main challengers came when Napoli added 21-year-old striker Victor Osimhen.
After scoring 20 goals on loan for Belgian side Charleroi in 2018-19, Osimhen landed at Lille and scored 18 for Lille, including two in the Champions League. Napoli were utterly desperate for firepower up front: Gli Azzurri averaged just 0.101 XG per shot in Serie A last year, second-worst in the league and by far the worst among contenders. Even an average performance in this regard could have resulted in five to 15 more goals, far fewer tight losses and a sustained title contention. So they spent a club-record $70 million for Osimhen, who averaged 0.19 XG per shot in Ligue 1 last year.
Manager Gennaro Gattuso prefers a 4-3-3 structure, which could lead to a couple of players logging lots of minutes outside of their best positions; will the addition of Osimhen provide the balance that last year’s attack lacked, or will it just create a logjam?
Premier League 2020-21 season preview: Big questions, new players to watch, team-by-team projections
Sep 8, 2020 ESPN
It seems like only yesterday that the 2019-20 season was wrapping up (well, maybe a month?) across Europe but after a quick breather and some UEFA Nations League fixtures as a sporting aperitif, it’s time for the 2020-21 Premier League season to begin.
There’s a lot to preview, too, with some clubs investing big this summer (we see you, Chelsea) and creating the tantalizing prospect of a three- or four-way title fight. (Expect Liverpool and Manchester City to set the pace, however.) Meanwhile, three familiar clubs (West Bromwich Albion, Fulham, Leeds United) return to the top-flight, we’ve got a glut of top strikers and a slew of intriguing new signings to look forward to.Who will win the league? Who will fall short? What is each team setting as their goals and expectations for the campaign? We’ve got all that and more in our bumper Premier League preview to get you ready for the season.
It seems like only yesterday that the 2019-20 season was wrapping up (well, maybe a month?) across Europe but after a quick breather and some UEFA Nations League fixtures as a sporting aperitif, it’s time for the 2020-21 Premier League season to begin.
There’s a lot to preview, too, with some clubs investing big this summer (we see you, Chelsea) and creating the tantalizing prospect of a three- or four-way title fight. (Expect Liverpool and Manchester City to set the pace, however.) Meanwhile, three familiar clubs (West Bromwich Albion, Fulham, Leeds United) return to the top-flight, we’ve got a glut of top strikers and a slew of intriguing new signings to look forward to.Who will win the league? Who will fall short? What is each team setting as their goals and expectations for the campaign? We’ve got all that and more in our bumper Premier League preview to get you ready for the season.
Christian Pulisic has plenty of objectives for this season for Chelsea. There are more goals, more assists and more trophies to secure. But perhaps most of all, there is one that can be taken for granted: health. The American sustained a hip injury just before the new year, and he had yet to return to the field before the coronavirus pandemic hit in March. Upon the season’s resumption in June, Pulisic hit top gear, only to sustain a hamstring injury in the FA Cup final.That injury could shelve him for the start of the season, though sources close to the situation say he’ll be back training this week. One can only hope that when he returns, he can reprise the form he showed at the end of the season, when he was among the best players in the Premier League.Granted, at a club like Chelsea, the competition for places is always fierce, and nothing has changed on that front. If anything, it’ll be tougher in 2020. Pedro and Willian are gone, but Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech arrived from Bayer Leverkusen and Ajax, respectively, for combined fees of over $130m. There are also holdovers Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to contend with on the flanks. Maintaining fitness will allow Pulisic to see off those challenges and build upon his debut season with the Blues.
Yet the arrivals of Havertz and Ziyech, as well as world-class forward Timo Werner, also present an opportunity. Their success will create more spaces for Pulisic to exploit. Havertz, who operated mostly as a central playmaker with Leverkusen, seems a complimentary piece to Pulisic, with Ziyech capable of operating on the opposite wing. Assuming Pulisic stays fit this season — and there are never any guarantees there, as we’ve seen — he could and should thrive alongside such quality. — Jeff Carlisle
Will we see the same four teams in the top four?
Liverpool and Manchester City were by far the best two teams in the Premier League last season, and they are likely to set the standard again. The levels of consistency they’ve shown over the past two years suggest they will again compete for the top two positions. Beyond that, Chelsea’s business in the summer transfer window has been eye-catching and if the majority of their new players can settle quickly, they look best equipped to challenge the top two.
Manchester United were a different team during the second half of last season after the arrival of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon and if they can replicate that consistency over a full campaign, a top four finish shouldn’t be a problem.Arsenal, Tottenham and Leicester will all challenge for the Champions League places, particularly Arsenal and Tottenham, who should be over the upheaval of both changing managers in midseason last year. Arsenal have shown they can beat the best teams under Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho will have his Tottenham side organised and well-drilled.Last season’s top four will fancy their chances of repeating it but there should be a more sustained challenge from the chasing pack. — Rob Dawson
Can Man United do better than fourth?
The challenge for Manchester United this season is to back up the talk with actions. Three semifinals and a third-place finish in the Premier League last season represented progress for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but the task now is to take another step forward. The message from Solskjaer since his arrival in December 2018 has been about his rebuild taking time, but there comes a point when it needs to turn into trophies and a Premier League title challenge.Since Bruno Fernandes’ arrival in January, United have shown they are capable of long runs of good form, but that has to be replicated over an entire campaign if they are going to get back to where they were under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek is a positive addition to the squad in midfield, but there are other gaps to fill, and United’s prospects of bridging the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City will depend on how well they perform in the transfer market before the deadline on Oct. 5. Chelsea have already made their statement with a number of high-quality signings.United’s start will be crucial. Start well and they won’t have to answer questions about whether they can qualify for the Champions League — and the attention will turn to putting pressure on Liverpool and Manchester City at the top end of the table. Start poorly and Solskjaer could be facing questions about his future by Christmas. — Rob Dawson
Which side of North London will reign supreme?
Arsenal vs. Spurs is always a battle, and consistency will again be key to seeing who “wins” North London as Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho embark on their first full seasons in charge.A few big victories put a gloss on what was Arsenal’s worst finish in 25 years. The signing of an experienced Premier League player in Willian will go a long way to reinforcing Arsenal’s defence, while the choice between two first-rate keepers in Bernd Leno and Emiliano Martinez gives Arsenal a solidity they’ve been missing. Bukayo Saka‘s breakout season hints at promise, but it’s hard to look past securing the services of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — the latest is that he’s “close” to signing a new deal — as key to any Arsenal success.Despite Mourinho’s abrasive approach to management, he did oversee an upturn in Spurs’ fortunes last season. While the expectation might have been for some headline summer signings, Mourinho has opted for solidity instead with Premier League-proven additions in Southampton midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Wolves defender Matt Doherty and veteran goalkeeper Joe Hart. Popular or not, Mourinho was brought in to win trophies, and being in the Europa League might lead Spurs to focus on other, attainable competitions.It’s hard to look past the excitement that Arteta has brought to Arsenal, an injection of energy that was sorely needed after a tired few years. Mourinho’s colourful management history (and tendency to self-destruct) has prevented a similar bump at Spurs, putting the Gunners in good stead to paint North London red this season. — Kathleen McNamee
After last season’s surprise-packed Sheffield United finished ninth in the Premier League, they have set the benchmark for the latest crop of promotion hopefuls. West Brom and Fulham have the most recent top flight experience — WBA finished last in the Premier League in 2018, and Fulham copied them 2019 — but it’s Leeds who we expect to enjoy their return to the elite for the first time since 2004.Under the maverick Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds have a manager who has forged a side that trusts in the system and fears nobody. The summer signing of Spanish striker Rodrigo from Valencia for £30m — he should contribute at least 15 goals — and defender Robin Koch from Freiberg are bits of smart business, while they also have managed to bring back in the impressive Jack Harrison from Manchester City on loan. Kalvin Phillips is getting international recognition in the UEFA Nations League with England, while Pablo Hernandez is ageless, so expect this Leeds team to run and run with El Loco, ensuring they leave nothing on the field.
West Brom have recruited well, and Fulham still have several of the players who experienced their last Premier League adventure, but neither side boast the same strength in depth as Leeds, nor the Bielsa factor. — Tom Hamilton
Who will contend for the Golden Boot?
When it comes to goal scorers in the Premier League, the question once again this season is: Can someone new break into the Golden Boot Club? After all, it’s always the same stars topping the charts. Leicester’s Jamie Vardy won last season with 23 goals, one ahead of Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who shared the award the season before with Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. Salah lifted the Golden Boot alone in 2018 after his incredible campaign (32), ahead of Harry Kane, who finished first for the previous two seasons with 29 and 25 goals, respectively. Then there’s always Man City’s ageless Sergio Aguero, who’s never far from the top.
So can someone break the hegemony of the “top six” players, or will it be one of them again?
Southampton’s Danny Ings got very close last season, with 22 of his own. Can he go one better? Can Chelsea’s new signing, Timo Werner, be the man? Or how about Man City’s Raheem Sterling? Can Man United’s Anthony Martial or Wolves’ Raul Jimenez improve on their 17 league goals from last season? Or are we in for a big surprise “à la Kevin Phillips” — he notched 30 for Sunderland in 1999-2000 — from the likes of Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham), Rodrigo (Leeds United) or Callum Wilson (Newcastle)?
Whoever wins it will be hoping to set a new mark. Salah’s 32 goals in 2018-19 was the highest tally since Alan Shearer and Andy Cole hit 34 in 1994 and 1995. Can someone do better this season? Only Phillips (2000), Thierry Henry (2003), Cristiano Ronaldo (2008), Robin Van Persie (2012), Luis Suarez (2014) and Salah achieved 30+ goals in a single season in the past 20 years. Whatever happens, it promises to be another close and exciting race… — Julien Laurens
What can we expect from Marcelo Bielsa?
The only thing we can truly expect from Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa this season is the unexpected. After a 16-year absence from the top flight, Leeds are finally back where many believe they belong, but it needed the unpredictable genius of Bielsa to crack the code of promotion from the Championship.
Leeds won the Championship title by playing classic Bielsa football — a game of fast-moving possession with players capable of moving around the pitch at high energy. When they faced Arsenal in the FA Cup third round at the Emirates last season, Bielsa’s Leeds gave an hour-long masterclass that belied their lower-league status before losing the game due to a lack of cutting edge.
If Leeds and Bielsa are to succeed in staying up this season, they have to find a way to score goals in games that they dominate, and the move for Rodrigo suggests that they have found a solution to that problem. That said, it’s best not to make assumptions where Bielsa is concerned. He will certainly bring a different flavour to the Premier League with his brand of football, but will it be too open and adventurous for the top division? And will Bielsa last the pace? Will he want to?
His track record has been patchy — he walked out on Lazio after two days in the job, quit Marseille one game into his second season and lasted less than six months at Lille — so time will tell whether he will stay for the ride with the Leeds or find the Premier League too challenging. — Mark Ogden
New arrivals to get excited about
The Premier League has seemed slower in the transfer market this summer given the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but so far deals worth an estimated £850 million have been completed up and down the table.
Tor-Kristian Karlsen is a Norwegian football scout and executive, and is the former chief executive and sporting director at AS Monaco. Here, he assesses the six incoming players worth paying attention to as the new campaign kicks off.play
Rodrigo, FW, Valencia to Leeds United, €30m: It may seem like a steep price for someone who’s just six months from turning 30, but in the Brazil-born Spanish international, Bielsa gets a quality player with plenty of pedigree. The left-footed forward, who had a rather unremarkable loan stint with Bolton 10 years ago, can play in practically any attacking position and is full of the energy, movement and determination that Bielsa requires from an attacker.
Quick, sharp and unpredictable, Rodrigo is an excellent counter-attack player.Kai Havertz, MF, Bayer Leverkusen to Chelsea, €80m: Out of a spectacular bunch of summer signings by the West London club, the German is the cream of the crop. Despite being just 21, Havertz is already a seasoned Bundesliga player and already has useful experience in both the Champions League and the German national side. The superbly talented footballer with a lovely touch on the ball is capable of playing as an attacking midfielder through the middle, out wide to the right or as a deep-dropping forward.
On the one hand he’s an intelligent playmaker with the skill and creativity to set up goals and on the other he’s an excellent finisher who finds great positions in and around the penalty area.
Eberechi Eze, MF, Queens Park Rangers to Crystal Palace, €17.8m: The nimble, creative attacking midfielder moves from west to south London after an impressive season in the Championship. Most commonly deployed as an inverted wide midfielder on the left, Eze loves running at opponents and his outstanding balance makes him able to withstand challenges despite his relatively small build.
Now 22, Eze, who has plenty of clever ball skills and loves backheel passes, made his debut for the England U21 side last year and was closely monitored by several other Premier League sides before joining the London rivals. All in all, he’s a good finisher who’s able to hit the target from well outside the penalty area.Donny van de Beek, MF, Ajax to Manchester United, €39m: Despite spending heavily over the past few years, it’s only January 2020 signing Bruno Fernandes who has emerged as an instant hit for the Red Devils thus far, though it looks as though the 23-year-old Dutchman could follow in the same vein.
Judging from his profile, van de Beek has all it takes to succeed in the Premier League; he’s sharp, industrious, neat on the ball and has the priceless ability of converting well-timed attacking runs into chances and goals. Though he faces tough competition in midfield, one wouldn’t be surprised if van de Beek ends up as one of the first names on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team sheet once he gets settled.Ferran Torres, FW, Valencia to Manchester City, €23m: For a club accustomed to paying over the odds, the Spanish winger — who was about to enter the last year of his contract — represents something as rare as a bargain signing. Manchester City may not have ended up with Lionel Messi (yet?), but the 20-year-old Spaniard certainly possesses some of the technical abilities that are required for an attacking player to function within Pep Guardiola’s framework of fluid football.
Torres has usually been fielded as an out-and-out right winger, but expect him to take up more central positions in the blue shirt. An exciting, tricky flair player who is a delight to watch when at his best.
James Rodriguez, MF, Real Madrid to Everton, €25m: There’s no denying that the career of the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner has gone somewhat downhill in the past couple of seasons, with just 18 league starts during the past two campaigns. However, the presence of Carlo Ancelotti speaks in favour of Rodriguez becoming a success at Merseyside, with the Colombian joining up with the Italian manager for the third time in his career.
While there might be some doubt about his mobility and determination to push himself for another challenge, the amazing left foot — with which he can finish from anywhere — is still evident. Coupled with his highly impressive vision and (hopefully) his playmaking abilities, this makes him potentially a major reinforcement for Everton. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen
The 2020-21 Premier League season in a sentence
You’ve read the big questions and you’ve got the new names to keep an eye on from week to week. Now it’s time to examine what each of the 20 teams might be expecting from the 2020-21 campaign and how they might (or might not) accomplish their goals. Tom Hamilton has you covered.
The goal will be a top-four finish and while Arsenal fans will be waiting to see if Mikel Arteta is further backed in the transfer window to achieve these lofty aims, they’ll take heart from Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s new contract and the signing of Gabriel Magalhaes to shore up their unpredictable defence.
After signing half of Europe’s stars, Chelsea fans will hope for a title challenge this season with new recruits Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech spearheading their charge; after a valiant battle, expect them to finish third.
After a dismal end to last season, Crystal Palace fans will be keeping everything crossed they manage to get a striker in who can score double figures this season; if they manage that, they should escape the drop, but it’ll be another nail-biting campaign from start to finish.
Their new-look midfield of Allan, James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucoure will give Everton fans confidence they are going to finish in the Europe places, but they will need to start the season well and hope Richarlison is firing on all cylinders.
FULHAM: (Promoted via Championship playoff, 81 pts)
This season will be about survival and learning from their last disappointing venture in the Premier League; however, they will fall short, but not for want of effort or application.
It’s a welcome return for Leeds this season and the Premier League will have to brace itself for Bielsa and their new big-money signing, Rodrigo, which should be enough to secure a mid-table finish and plenty of drama along with it.
Having lost Ben Chilwell this summer, Leicester will fail to emulate last season’s fifth-place finish with the Europa League, giving Brendan Rodgers a selection headache and a battle to keep his squad fresh.
Topping last season’s remarkable title charge will be hard, and Liverpool’s fans will hope for a repeat this term, but with Manchester City strengthening, they will end up finishing second by a hair’s breadth.
With Pep Guardiola probably still fuming at last season, Manchester City will be a wounded animal this term, and even without Leo Messi, they have recruited well over the summer (Ferran Torres, Nathan Ake) and should end up Premier League champions for the third time in the past four seasons.
The summer was dominated by Jadon Sancho talk and if they manage to get him over the line, United fans will be dreaming of a title challenge; fall short of that, and it’ll be another top-four fandango, but they should be good for a spot in the Champions League places.
Newcastle fans still aren’t rid of their controversial owner Mike Ashley, but with some smart recruitment over the summer — including Callum Wilson — Steve Bruce’s side will hope for a mid-table finish but will likely finish a little lower down.
It’s going to be hard to top last season, but teams will no longer underestimate Chris Wilder’s side; a mid-table finish is likely, yet they’ll still hand out defeats to some of the league’s bigger fish.
With arguably England’s most prolific striker in their ranks, Southampton fans will hope Danny Ings and some smart summer signings will be enough to see them break into the top half, but a finish of 10th or so is projected.
Flip a coin for this season: On the face of it, Tottenham should finish in the top six, but they could go higher if Jose Mourinho works his magic following a prudent summer’s transfers and they manage to keep their star players fit.
WEST BROM: (Promoted as 2nd in Championship, 83 pts)
They have recruited well over the summer, with Grady Diangana arriving and the wondrous Matheus Pereira signing permanently, and they have a smart manager in Slaven Bilic, but although West Brom fans will hope the team avoids relegation, it’s going to be a struggle.
Goals by the young forward duo of Nick Moon and Jeremy Rafanello were enough for Indy Eleven to fend off a late surge by Sporting Kansas City II, lifting Indiana’s Team to a pivotal 2-1 win at Lucas Oil Stadium that pushed it back into first place in the Group E standings.“I think we played well especially really up until the last 10 minutes in which we dropped a bit and they scored a great goal,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “Before that, I thought we were well on top – we created good chances and had a lot of shots, especially in the first half. It’s exciting to see two young players both playing up front together, both scoring goals.”With the victory, Indy Eleven (7W-4L-1D, 22 pts.) repossessed the top spot in the four-team group, overtaking Louisville City FC (20 pts.) and setting up another fight for first between the two rivals one week from tonight in the Circle City. The result also put some more distance between Indy and Saint Louis FC (18 pts.), the group’s other contender for one of its two playoff berths. With the loss, Sporting Kansas City II (4W-7L-1D, 13 pts.) saw a dent put in its hopes for postseason qualification, now seven points away from being above the red line with just four matches remaining.The opening of the contest proved to be an emotional rollercoaster for Indiana’s Team, starting with the dip of seeing defender and captain Paddy Barrett receive the first of the game’s eventual seven yellow cards just three minutes in. However, the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd would be on a high soon after, courtesy of Moon’s second goal of the season in the sixth minute. The play began with a long service over the backline by midfielder Ayoze, who made his return felt instantly after missing the squad’s last two contests. From there it was all Moon, who maneuvered his way through a pair of SKC II defenders and saw his left-footed strike go between the legs of goalkeeper Brooks Thompson to give Indy the early 1-0 advantage.Ayoze seemed to be at the heart of Indy’s most dangerous chances – and Sporting’s mounting frustrations – in the first 45 minutes, suffering fouls to set up numerous free kicks in the final third, one of which he nearly converted on in the 36th minute. Three minutes later, his short layoff set up Rafanello to cut inside and unleash a 30-yard blast that just missed wide left. Meanwhile, the Indy backline – minus stalwart left-back Neveal Hackshaw – proved formidable against the young SKC attack, limiting the visitors to just one shot and a late corner kick in the opening stanza. The second half began with the visitors’ aggression boiling over, with SKCII shown three cautions in a span of six minutes just prior to the hour mark. That feistiness also had positive gains, the urgency to set the tone for the rest of the half resulting in captain Dillon Serna’s first true test of Eleven goalkeeper Evan Newton on a hard left-footed strike from outside the box. A few minutes later, a cross from Camden Riley set up a solid header opportunity for Dominik Resetar, which was pushed high and wide.Indiana’s Team kept its foot on the gas, too, driven by forward Andrew Carleton. The 20-year-old playmaker had a couple dangerous looks a minute apart, including one in the 57th minute set up by his dummy and a well-weighted through ball by Rafanello that forced Thompson into a tough save off his line.It would be Rafanello that would give the match a deserved second goal in the 63rd minute, set up by defender Carl Haworth’s cross from the right flank that bounced inside the Sporting six-yard box, making its way past a sliding Moon and three SKCII defenders. Waiting on the other end was Rafanello, whose tough first-time finish gave Indy a 2-0 lead and opened the account of the New Jersey native, making him the ninth Indy player to tally in 2020. Now down two goals, the visitors continued to attack in hopes of keeping their playoff aspirations alive in earnest. A moment of hope came in the 88th minute, when substitute Tyler Freeman’s right-footed free kick drove into the upper-left corner of Newton’s goal, setting up an energetic finish. In the second of three minutes of stoppage time, Sporting KC II thought it had its equalizer off another set piece opportunity, but while Daniel Barbir successfully put his header into the Indy Eleven goal, the finish was waived off after he was whistled for shoving Barrett to gain space at the left post.Indy Eleven will reach the middle of its five-match September homestand next Wednesday, September 16, when Indiana’s Team closes out its regular season series against Louisville City FC (6W-3L-2D, 20 pts., 1st in Group E). Tickets for the next installment of the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest rivalry series, set for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium, are available at www.indyeleven.com/tickets, and those who cannot be there in person can follow the action live on MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com, and the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers.
USL Championship Regular Season – #INDvSKC Indy Eleven 2 : 1 Sporting Kansas City II Wednesday, September 9, 2020 – 7:00 p.m. ET Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind.Attndance: 5,066
2020 USL Championship records
Indy Eleven (7W-4L-1D, 22 pts., 1st in Group E)
Sporting Kansas City II (4W-7L-1D, 13 pts., 4th in Group E)
IND – Nick Moon (Ayoze) 6’
IND – Jeremy Rafanello (Carl Haworth) 63’
SKC – Tyler Freeman (unassisted) 88’
IND – Paddy Barrett (yellow card) 3’
SKC – Dominik Resetar (yellow card) 23’
SKC – Dillon Serna (yellow card) 53’
SKC – Camden Riley (yellow card) 58’
SKC – Jacob Davis (yellow card) 59’
SKC – Petar Cuic (yellow card) 73’
IND – Drew Conner (yellow card) 86’
Indy Eleven lineup (3-4-3, L–>R): Evan Newton; Mitch Osmond, Paddy Barrett (captain), Karl Ouimette; Ayoze (Conner Antley 82’), Drew Connor, Tyler Gibson, Carl Haworth; Jeremy Rafanello (Matt Watson 82’), Andrew Carleton, Nick Moon (Ilija Ilic 89’)
IND Substitutes: Jordan Farr (GK), Felicien Dumas, Matthew Senanou, Cam Lindley
Yes you read the headline right – The world’s best player-Lionel Messi has told Barcelona, the club he has been at since he was a kid, he want’s to leave. The penultimate “home grown” player who has carried Barcelona to such great hights as THE BEST PLAYER in the World today has officially given up on the ineptitude and screwups of the Catalan giant’s board of directors and he’s ready to give it a go elsewhere. Where is the best place for him to land is debatable. Man City with Pep in charge has the edge for now, but PGS, Inter Milan and perhaps even Man United or Chelsea could enter the picture. I still wonder if Barcelona won’t do whatever needs to be done to convince him to stay – but wow! My favorite rumour so far is Messi to Man City for 3 years followed by a 2 year stint at NYCFC in MLS.
Indy 11 home vs Louisville Sat Sept 5
Our Indy 11 return home next weekend Sat Sept 5 against Louisville FC in a must win game at 7 pm at the Luke and on Wish TV + ESPN+. The 11 lost 1-0 at Louisville Wed despite some great saves by GK Evan Newton. Despite the setback, Indy Eleven (6W-3L-1D, 19 pts.) maintains a three-point lead over Louisville (5W-3L-1D, 16 pts.) in the tightly packed Group E standings that also includes Saint Louis FC sitting on 14 points.
Champions League & Europa League Champions Crowned
The longest ever Champions League season came to a roaring end Sunday as Bayern took the 1-0 win over PSG to claim their 6th UCL Title as over 2.6 million watched in Spanish and estimated over 1 million more in English. Bayern became the first team to not lose 1 single match in the Champions League on route to their first final and win since 2016. In reality though it was Bayern Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer who saved the day with 2 incredible kicksaves 1 in each half to save the day for Bayern. The first half was up and down as each team would attack and the other would counter attack – forcing both world class keepers into multiple saves. But in a game that was expected to be high scoring with 2 of the highest scoring teams in the world, misfires were the theme of the day. Bayern would wrestle more control in the 2nd half in way to a lovely header goal by former PSG man and Parisian Kingsley Coman to score the winning goal. Bayern Canadian Leftback Alpohonso Davies formerly of MLS Vancouver was strong and helped keep forward Mbappe at bay. Gotta give credit to new Bayern Coach Hansi Flick as he took a squad that was floundering in 3rd place in the German Bundesliga back in the fall and turned it into a jugernaught and Champions League winner winning 29 of their last 30 matches overall including a perfect 11-11 in Champions League – A feat that had never been done (albeit under different circumstances).
As exciting as the UCL Final was the Europa League final between Sevilla and Inter Milan was even better as Sevilla and head man Lopetigue pulled off the late winner in the last minutes of a thrilling 3-2 victory over the favored Italians. Both teams played well and the action was up and down the field but in the end Sevilla claimed their 5th? ??Europa league title to become again kings of Europa play.
Nations League Coming to ABC/ESPN Sept 3-8
With the European Championships cancelled this summer due to Covid – the EUFA Nations League will take center stage with a bevy of broadcasts Sept 3-8 including a rare double header on ABC TV Sept 5th with England and Portugal games featured.
Thurs Sept 3
2:45 pm ESPN2 Germany vs Spain
2:$5 pm ESPN3 Ukraine vs Switzerland
Fri, Sept 4
2:45 pm ESPNnews Italy vs Bosnia
2:45 pm ESPN+ Netherlands vs Poland
Sat, Sept 5
12 noon pm ABC Iceland vs England
2:45 pm ABC Portugal vs Croatia
Sun, Sept 6
2:45 pm ESPN News Germany vs Switzerland
Mon Sept 7
2:45 pm ESPN News Czech Republic vs Scotland
Tues, Sept 8
2:45 pm ESPN 2 Denmark vs England
US WC Qualifying Games Announced + Weston McKinney to Juventus
Wow Weston Mckinney has signed on loan at my favorite Italian Club Juventus with an option to buy! Huge news for the just turned 22 year old American midfielder. If he can break the starting line-up at Juve that will be huge and impressive. I sure hope Mckinney can wrangle some playing time but a huge chance to prove his worth at a superclub is worth it in my mind!
CONCACAF announced the 8 team knockout stages last week and the US looks fairly well positioned to make the WC 2022. Qualifying will begin next year and of course US coach Greg Berhalter will have a new younger generation of players many starting overseas to help. Our under 23 group right now looks mighty strong – sure hope we qualify for the Olympics next summer so we can see many of these players competing! In the meantime the discussion turns to where we should play our big games – notably Mexico. I have heard the calls for Kansas City or Orlando and the popular one now in Minnesota’s new digs. But honestly how can anyone think any place other than Columbus – and the new downtown stadium with Grass – should be the spot. The original home of 2-0 Dos a Cero is still the place where the US has dominated Mexico – (without letting many of their fans in). Just because Klinnsman was stupid enough to play a back 3 for the first time ever – in a game we barely lost 2-1 despite the horrible personel and lineup decisions made by Klinns.
Carmel FC Players Galore Make High School Teams /
So excited to have so many players from our Carmel FC Club make their respective high school teams this fall. Carmel FC is excited to share the list of current players that have made their respective High School teams this fall. Based on the unique relationship with the Carmel Clay School system, through Carmel Dads’ Club, one of our goals is to continually develop our players to play for Carmel High School. Due to the policies of travel soccer and high school athletics some of our players do come from other communities. We also see players leave our program for other clubs due to these policies. In the end, our goal is to place as many current (and past) players in their respective High School programs. Congratulations to these current Carmel FC Players:
Men’s Program Cade Turton – 03 Gold – Carmel High School Varsity Richard Monsey – 03 Gold – Carmel High School Varsity William Latham – 05 Gold – Carmel High School Varsity Carson Benton – 05 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity GK Charles Featherson – 05 Gold – Carmel High School Junio Varsity Evan Wirth – 05 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Aaron Young – 05 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Max Ledingham – 05 Gold – Carmel High School Freshman Kal Rohrbach – 05 Gold – Carmel High School Freshman Robert Hammond – 05 Gold – Carmel High School Freshman GK Ryan Bartley – 06 Blue – Carmel High School Freshman Kevin Russo – 06 Gold – Carmel High School Freshman Nathan Struve – 06 Blue – Carmel High School Freshman Andrew Thomson – 06 Gold – Carmel High School Freshman
Jude Shattuck – 04 Gold – Guerin Catholic Junior Varsity Gold Alex Sosa – 04 Gold – Guerin Catholic Junior Varsity Gold William Hagel – 05 Gold- Guerin Catholic Junior Varsity Purple Armen Chapman – 06 Gold – Guerin Catholic Junior Varsity Gold Landon Huber – 05 Gold – Noblesville High School Varsity Beck Hunter – 05 Gold – Westfield High School Junior Varsity Oliver Smith – 05 Gold – Westfield High School Junior Varsity
An additional 16 Carmel High School players are past Carmel FC players. Congrats to those men too!
Women’s Program Cana Duckworth – 06 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Blue Lucy Floyd – 06 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Blue GK Chloe Fouts – 06 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Blue Olivia Gardner – 06 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Blue GK Claire Bartley – 06 Blue – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Gold Elyse Foutty – 05 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Gold Audrey Jackson – 06 Blue – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Gold Elizabeth Kenney – 06 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Gold Maya Mason – 06 Blue – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Gold Riann O’Leary – 05 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Gold Lilie Pelletier – 06 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Gold Sophia Rosenthall – 05 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Gold Gabrielle Siegel – 06 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Gold Phoebe Wheeler – 06 Gold – Carmel High School Junior Varsity Gold
Emma Broach – 06 Blue – Brebeuf Jesuit Junior Varsity Lilly Franciosi – 06 Gold – Guerin Catholic Junior Varsity
An additional 28 Carmel High School players are past Carmel FC players. Congrats to those women too! Especially proud of our former and current Carmel FC Goalkeepers (bolded above) – In fact the starting Girl’s Varsity Erin Baker and Back-up Goalie Bethany Ducat, along with JV Chloe Fouts and 9th grade Claire Bartley. On the CHS Boys side Varsity Starter Henry Geisel is a former Carmel FCer, along with current Carmel FC’ers Charlie Featherson for JV, and Ryan Bartley for 9th grade! Congrats all!
CHS Girls Soccer Invitational
The 2nd ranked Carmel Greyhoud ladies with plenty of former Carmel FC players including all-state Goalkeeper Erin Baker host 2 of the top ranked teams in the state the following Sat, Aug 29 as they host 13th ranked Avon at 9 am and 12th ranked Fishers at 7 pm at home.
Games to Watch this Week
Hard to believe the EPL is back already with the Nations Shield match between Arsenal and Liverpool this Sat at 11:30 am on ESPN+ (not sure why not on ESPN??). Of course the French Ligue 1 fresh off having 2 teams in the final 4 of Champions League is the first Euro league back with games Fri/Sat/Sun of this week on beIN Sport see Preview on the OBC. European Nations League gets underway Sept 3 thru 8 on ESPN with can’t miss games like Germany vs Spain Sept 3 2:45 pm on ESPN2, England vs Iceland Sat 12 noon on ABC and more. MLS gives us New England vs NY Red Bulls Sat 8 pm on FS1, and Seattle vs LAFC at 10 pm on Sunday on FS1 along with Atlanta vs Miami Wed at 7 pm on FS1 and Portland vs LA Galaxy at 10:30 pm ESPN+.
Bayern Munich became kings of Europe for the sixth time on Sunday as Kingsley Coman’s goal gave them a 1-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League final in Lisbon, completing a fantastic season for the German giants and leaving their opponents still searching for the trophy they covet more than anything.
Kingsley Coman spent a decade at Paris Saint-Germain, coming up through the club’s academy and making four senior appearances, but it was his goal which condemned the French giants to defeat in Sunday’s Champions League final.
Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel defended his 400 million euro strike force of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe after they were unable to find a way past Bayern Munich in their 1-0 Champions League final loss on Sunday.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin will hold talks about retaining the single-game eliminator format that has been used to complete the pandemic-disrupted Champions League and Europa League seasons, although it could only be used for semifinals. “I have to say that this system of one match seems more interesting to me than the other system with two legged matches,” Ceferin told the AP ahead of Paris Saint-Germain playing Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. Champions League is Odriozola’s FIFTH trophy of 2019-20 in TEN games
Messi told Barcelona he wants to leave, and this is why they should let him go
5:32 PM ETGraham HunterSpain writer
It’s incredible to think about, but there’s precedent for Barcelona and Lionel Messi to end up in court over their latest battle, which escalated Tuesday when Messi informed the club that he wants to leave after nearly 20 years of service. That the positions adopted by both parties — the wounded genius vs. the modern version of the Keystone Kops — mean that unless someone blinks, they’ll end up back there again is astounding.From Josep Bartomeu through departed football “brain” and sporting director Pep Segura, plus the hapless Quique Setien, his assistant coach Edu Sarabia and now the surviving “technical secretary,” Ramon Planes, I can’t quite imagine how they have the gall to look themselves in the mirror tonight, tomorrow or in the coming months. They have, cumulatively, taken Leo Messi’s love and devotion for the club that he has made great and pretty much soiled it.However, here we are. The fact is that my argument, given that it involves accurate historical precedent, good guidance, maturity and vision, will probably be ignored by Bartomeu and his acolytes, but here goes nothing.The unhappiness and discord between the two sides, plus the club’s continuing ineptitude, mean that it is time for Messi to leave Barcelona.
When Joan Laporta’s board decided in 2008 that Messi was “too important” to the velvet revolution that was taking place at Barcelona, now that they’d promoted a B-team coach named Pep Guardiola to the first team, for him to be allowed to tilt at the Olympic football gold medal for Argentina in Beijing, the conflict was drawn-out, ill-judged and ill-tempered, and it ended with a ruling in the club’s favour by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the definitive legal jurisdiction.
Back then the club’s president, who has always been an arch-critic of this board and their leader, Bartomeu, was in a situation that felt, to him, as “rock and hard place” as the current one does to those in power at Camp Nou. With a couple of trophy-less years, an atrophied squad and the risk, which in 2008 felt like a huge risk even to Guardiola, of promoting an untested boy wonder at the expense of a proven winner such as Jose Mourinho, Laporta desperately wanted the new season, which included having to qualify for the Champions League, to begin with Messi in the first team — not at risk of injury in China.Guardiola took one of the all-time great risks of modern football and, just in the door as the big boss, defied his employers, told Messi he must go to China, argued Laporta into unhappy acceptance and then reaped the benefits when the proud Argentinian dazzled at the Olympics, won the gold medal and returned to explode like football’s version of a mighty atom for the following 12 years.Admittedly, if Barcelona now abandon their right to point at Messi’s contract, which lasts until the end of next June, and avoid a legal battle to enforce their contractual superiority, it isn’t as if Messi is going to go away for a few weeks, only to surge back full of gratitude. This, if he leaves, is the end — in playing terms at least. But Messi’s “burofax” to the club Tuesday asks not simply that he be allowed to leave, i.e. via a club purchasing him at a reasonable rate, it suggests that he still has access to a “get out of jail free” clause in his contract that actually expired in May.
Should “Team Messi” choose to argue that idea in court, Barcelona are currently committed to fighting back. As such, I think my comparison to the acrimonious summer of 2008 holds.What Pep Guardiola witnessed in 2008, even when Messi was just 21, was a guy who was broken, vastly down in the dumps and likely to carry a grudge. Guardiola saw it, understood it and made a massive wager that whatever happened in the Olympics that year, it could barely be worse than depriving Messi of something he not only deserved but also knew he deserved.What’s the scenario for Barcelona’s power brokers in 2020 if they force Messi to stay against his will or, worse, go to court to enforce their right not to grant him liberty or liberty at a fair price?The pragmatists who say “No one is bigger than the club, even if it’s Messi” can be discarded as knowing absolutely zero about this situation or its protagonists. Messi, unhappy, at half-effort, negotiating midseason with a host of clubs, perhaps stripped of the captaincy and locking antlers with a new, hard-nosed, lacking-in-subtlety coach such as Ronald Koeman, is a disastrous prospect.Not that he should be allowed to go simply because he’ll sulk, of course; I’m not advocating that. He should be allowed to go because he deserves to be maximising his last couple of magnificent years in a competitive, demanding atmosphere in which daily excellence is demanded of every single employee. More than that: He should be allowed to go, either for free or for a token price because Messi is so massively above your common or garden superstar that the footballing public — by which I mean fans, fellow players, coaches, media, sponsors and any single constituency that loves our sport — deserve to see him thriving, happy, devastating, committed, successful and tested for the next three or four years.The next 12 months, especially if this board remains in post until the mandatory elections next summer, promises to be, for Messi, a waste of golden time.What makes all of this so much more disastrous for Barcelona and anyone who cares a jot for the club is that the board has been staring into oncoming headlights, like a particularly dopey and stubborn rabbit, for many months. To lose one superstar, Neymar, because of a complete inability to either interpret a situation or do anything about it, can be regarded as careless, but to repeat the pattern with the greatest player ever is simply ineptitude on a gargantuan scale. By that I mean that when, in October 2016, Neymar rejected a contract improvement, which would have meant a vastly increased buyout clause (up from the €222m that was written in his contract), Barcelona’s board seemed completely unaware of the fact that this was a clear message: “I INTEND TO LEAVE IN THE NEXT SUMMER TRANSFER MARKET.” Capital letters intended.
Right up until PSG deposited the €222m at La Liga offices in Madrid and whisked Barcelona’s playing genius off to the French capital, the Camp Nou hierarchy continued to behave like the Emperor with “new clothes.” Everyone else knew they had been denuded, but they were boasting of wearing peacock-feathered suits. That this scenario is repeating, just three years later, and with an all-time powerhouse talent (and asset) such as Messi defies belief. In fact, if there were football justice in the world, it should be a criminal offence, even if it resulted only in probation or tidying up roadside litter.hen Messi’s people negotiated his contract renewal in 2017, they bargained hard enough that they achieved a clause stating that every summer, from May 2018 onward, he’d be allowed to leave for free if he simply told the club before the end of May that he wanted to quit.Again, how much clearer did the Camp Nou executives need it to be that it was already in Messi’s mind that a time, like this week, might come when the club’s ineptitude and the self-interest of certain office holders would force him to say, “I’m too good for you. I’m leaving.” From the moment Messi’s entourage left Bartomeu’s office in 2017, Bartomeu and his acolytes should have been using just about every working hour to put in place players, strategies, habits, decisions and attitudes that guaranteed Messi was happy and would remain at the club until he retired. Instead, they’ve performed so badly that they’ve sickened the guy. They’ve made him discard both his love and loyalty of FC Barcelona — things he has declared repeatedly and pugnaciously.It’s akin to the pope declaring himself an atheist or Manchester United fans voting Leeds their second-favourite team.
There will be a tumult of angry opinions to follow. Everything from “Messi is disloyal” and “he can’t dictate terms to the club” to “President Bartomeu must resign” and “immediate elections are vital!” But let’s not lose sight of the fact that this man, irrespective of which club you love, has lit up our lives over the past 15 years.Messi is up there, at least, with Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer — name your sport, name your legend. Messi matches them. In fact, I defy you to argue that your life hasn’t been better, brighter, jauntier, more fun after watching Messi during his time at Barcelona. Don’t let that be obscured.Two of the few things that the skeptics have thrown at Messi have been his preference, until now, for being a one-club man, an argument against him that I’ve always found spurious. Only the greats excel when they pass their entire careers in one place, doing the same things but remaining utterly imperious.Then there’s the World Cup thing. No, he hasn’t won it, but yes, the Champions League is now a far more important, far more prestigious tournament, and the nonsensical idea that Maradona won his World Cup single-handedly has been a boring trope.However, no one will deny that Messi yearns for that trophy — as much to prove his love and dedication for Argentina, I believe, as to satisfy any personal lust for glory. Right now, I’d bet anything that the way in which Barcelona, on Monday, discarded Messi’s best friend in football, Luis Suarez, had an influence in his making this move so rapidly. But I’d also bet that what lies at the heart of his disgust with standards at the Camp Nou is his desire to train and play at an ultra-competitive football club every week between now and when Argentina, hopefully, compete for the 2022 World Cup — his last, I’d guess, as a competitive international footballer.Where to next: Manchester City? PSG? Inter Milan? Inter Miami? I don’t know what his preference is, but this move hasn’t happened without him, mentally at least, choosing where he’d like to be when the season starts again.Man City? Well, it’s a safe haven and in a league he’d love, albeit that I’m sure Guardiola, given his wish for City to press teams high, would actually be the author of a City move for Messi. That would be down to the owners, and who could argue with their intentions?PSG: If they could unite Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria in the same team, then by god anyone not transfixed by that prospect needs help.Inter Milan: Not the right league, not the right club, but that’s an outfit that has tried so, so hard over the years to get Messi.Inter Miami: No, just no. The city and the project might interest him, but the standard, of teammate and of opposition, doesn’t fit what he needs right now.Anyway, he has a big match to win first, one in which, if they have any decency, Barcelona’s board will save themselves tens of millions of euros by gracefully conceding and saying, “We screwed up, Leo. We accept it’s time for you to leave. Thank you, good luck and god bless.”Sadly, though, the Camp Nou Keystone Kops are more likely to run around crashing into one another and letting the situation get worse, not better.
There’s something undeniably (and quantifiably) different about this USMNT ‘golden generation’Doug McIntyreYahoo SportsAug 18, 2020, 12:25 PM
Back in late February, just before the coronavirus pandemic hit, former United States men’s national team and current New England Revolution coach Bruce Arena was sitting in a hotel lobby, discussing the USMNT player pool, when it was suggested to him that the current crop of American youngsters beginning to break through at the highest levels of the sport marked an unprecedented development in the country’s soccer history.“You’re completely wrong,” Arena said. “You don’t think we ever had young players playing in clubs in Europe? We’ve had good players before. Players from other countries are getting sold to big clubs, they’re not having parades over it.“You idiots hype up every kid that steps on the field as the next star,” he added, speaking of the media. “It’s ridiculous.”Arena, of course, is the wise-cracking Brooklyn-born coach who took the USMNT within a whisker of a World Cup semifinal in 2002 — the USMNT’s best showing in the event in the last 90 years — and also the man who was at the helm in 2017 when an aging American squad failed to qualify for the planet’s greatest sporting party for the first time in more than three decades. In other words, he’s seen it all, including countless prodigies who in some cases failed to become even journeymen pros, let alone world beaters.Yet in the almost-three years since the catastrophe in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago, where an unthinkable loss to the hosts ushered in the lowest moment in program history, a number of blue-chip talents have emerged as regular contributors in some the best leagues in the world, an obvious sign of hope for the future.Christian Pulisic, 21, was nominated for the Premier League’s best young player award following his often spectacular first season with English titan Chelsea. Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna, the 17-year-old son of two-time U.S. World Cup captain Claudio Reyna and former U.S. women’s national teamer Danielle Egan, became the youngest American ever to appear in the UEFA Champions League a few days before Arena spoke to Yahoo Sports.
And last week, 21-year-old Tyler Adams scored the most significant goal ever by an American at club level, one that gave RB Leipzig a last-gasp 2-1 win over Atletico Madrid and sent it to Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal against Paris Saint-Germain. If he plays in that match, as expected, Adams will become just the second Yank to appear in the final four of Europe’s top club competition, after DaMarcus Beasley with PSV Eindhoven in 2005.Three players does not equal a golden generation, to be sure. But there are other promising signs. Another 21-year-old, Schalke’s Weston McKennie, has been a starter in the German Bundesliga for three seasons and has played in the knockout stage of the Champions League. Striker Josh Sargent, just 20, already has almost 40 Bundesliga appearances under his belt. And last September, 19-year-old Ajax fullback Sergino Dest became one of just two American teenagers to start a Champions League match, joining Pulisic, who did it with Dortmund at 17.This? This is entirely new. With all due respect to Arena, the U.S. has never had this many players, this young, playing regularly with top-flight European clubs as relevant as some of the ones mentioned above. The country has had good players before, but it’s never had six of them between the ages of 17 and 21 who are key players for teams competing in the Prem, Bundesliga or Champions League.Arena is right to preach caution with young players. Even diehard USMNT fans might not remember or know that Manchester United, during its height in the 1990s and 2000s, was home to young Americans Kenny Cooper, Jovan Kirovski, John Thorrington, Jonathan Spector and Tim Howard. Only Howard ended up playing more than a handful of games for the club. Cooper, Kirovski and Thorrington never cracked the first team or made a U.S. World Cup roster.More recently, prospects such as Joe Gyau, Julian Green and Matt Miazga saw minutes with Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Chelsea, respectivekly, before eventually finding their level in lower leagues.“What people don’t realize is the big clubs in the world invest millions and millions of dollars into these players hoping that one out of 10 make it, or one out of 20,” Arena said. “It’s a crapshoot.”It’s true. Perhaps the biggest reason the U.S. failed to qualify for Russia 2018 was because of the so-called lost generation of U.S. players born in the early- to mid-’90s who failed to pan out as many hoped, as difference-makers in their prime able to bridge the gap between a then-teenage Pulisic and aged veterans like Howard and Clint Dempsey.But with Pulisic, Adams and Reyna leading the way as regular contributors with three of Europe’s most prominent teams, this new cohort of U.S. players has already hit some uncharted data points. That’s all it is for now; what happens day-in, day-out over the next decade — not least their ability to stay healthy — will ultimately determine their legacies.But hey, every golden generations has to start somewhere.
MLS is pulling fans into stadiums, but TV audiences remain underwhelming
The ties between the MLS Is Back Tournament and TV were undeniable. The mid-season tournament, designed to keep the league rolling during the Covid-19 pandemic, was by its very nature a TV product right down to its hosting at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida. No fans in the stands didn’t mean no fans watching.
In fact, with almost every other major sports league in the United States put on ice over the early part of the summer this was a chance for MLS to dominate the airwaves. The NBA would eventually join MLS in gathering in Florida, but there was nearly a month between the start of the MLS Is Back Tournament and the resumption of the basketball season. Soccer had Walt Disney World to itself for weeks.
Despite all this, MLS’s viewing figures over July and August left some underwhelmed. The final between Orlando City and the Portland Timbers drew an audience of 394,000 on ESPN platforms (as per Steven Goff of the Washington Post), making it the third most-watched game of the MLS Is Back Tournament after the opener between Inter Miami and Orlando City (503,000) and the group stage match between the San Jose Earthquakes and the Seattle Sounders (408,000).
The average TV audience for the tournament charted at 226,000 per game (not counting streaming and Spanish-language viewership), a figure lower than the league’s average TV audience for the 2019 season as a whole (260,000). If this was MLS’s big chance to make a mainstream impression, it did not pan out.
MLS claims the Orlando tournament was successful in attracting younger and Latino viewers to the league, with a large proportion of the audience classed as new viewers. “The tournament also afforded us the opportunity to try many new things and experiment with programming windows we had never tried before – including matches at 9am on weekdays,” Angela Alfano, senior director of corporate communications at MLS, told the Guardian.
The league also says gross viewership was up 70% for July 2020 compared to July 2019 and that primetime figures were up. These figures, however, can’t mask how MLS has long struggled to get a grip on TV. For all that the league has enjoyed undeniable growth over the last decade or so, television remains something of a final frontier. A significant barrier stopping MLS from becoming a truly major sports league in North America.
The current TV rights package with ESPN, Fox and Univision is valued at a combined $720m over eight years with the deal up for renegotiation in 2022. This works out at $90m a season, meaning MLS isn’t even the most lucrative soccer league in the United States – NBC pays $166m annually to broadcast the Premier League. In commissioner Don Garber’s own words, MLS’s package is “upside down compared to all the other leagues,” with local markets stronger for the league than its national audience.
Until now, MLS has relied on its expansion into new markets to grow its TV audience, but progress has stagnated. Austin, Charlotte, Sacramento and St Louis will all welcome MLS fans as expansion locations over the next three years, but recent trends suggest the league shouldn’t expect any significant uptick in its TV audience. While MLS’s average attendance ranks as the third highest in North American sports leagues, behind only the NFL and MLB, its broadcast revenue pales in comparison (even the NHL’s current national TV deal is worth $200m a season).
One of MLS’s greatest strengths as a central organisation has been its ability to stay nimble in its pursuit of a younger, more diverse demographic. The league’s drive into downtown areas in recent years has been the purest manifestation of this and now teams are following broadcast trends by handing live rights to streaming services. “With the youngest audience in professional sports, we are uniquely positioned to deliver content in an ‘always on’ or ‘anywhere, anytime’ environment,” Alfano said. Just this week Amazon Prime Video became the Seattle Sounders’ streaming partner, with Los Angeles FC’s home games broadcast live on YouTube TV.
But at a time when such streaming services have still to truly work out how to package and sell live rights, MLS has been left in a difficult position. There is not a sports league on the planet right now pondering what its broadcast future holds, with declining ratings across the board for live sports. It’s up to MLS to figure out where it can thrive in that landscape.
“I do believe in the new world, the new streaming over-the-top world, media companies are going to need Major League Soccer as sports content, more in the future than they even have in the past,” Garber told CNBC earlier this year, but what’s to stop MLS being squeezed out in the “new world” the commissioner speaks of just as they have in the old world?
It may take something truly drastic for MLS to reach the next level in terms of its TV reach. A merger with Liga MX has been mooted recently, with Garber even calling a league including American, Canadian and Mexican clubs the “ultimate dream.” Having said that, LigaMX is already popular in Mexico, and the US, and may not feel it needs to link up with US and Canadian teams.
Promotion and relegation, the creation of a true soccer pyramid, could also move MLS into a new era, but those franchise owners who have paid hundreds of millions for a seat at the top table might not take too kindly to being shunted down to the kids table. They have invested in a closed circuit. It seems implausible that MLS could make such a fundamental change to its structure, at least in the short to medium term.
MLS can take comfort from the fact that they are not the only major sports league to have struggled for a TV audience this summer. Nielsen numbers show the NBA’s viewership since its restart in ‘The Bubble’ is down 13% compared to before lockdown. Many assumed fans would flock back to live sports having gone so long without them, but the encounter between the LA Clippers and the LA Lakers on opening night of the NBA’s return drew the lowest audience (3.4 million) of any Clippers-Lakers game so far this season.
Increasingly, it appears MLS is approaching a crossroads and nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the shaping of the league as a TV product. 2022 and the new TV deal negotiated to start then will reveal a lot about where MLS stands. If there is no real progress by then, either in the growth of TV audiences or in the money pulled in through rights, MLS may have to consider taking a different route.
Premier League schedule: Chelsea, Christian Pulisic meet champions Liverpool in first home match
Upon Thursday’s unveiling of the 2020-21 Premier League schedule, the Blues and their American talisman learned that just five days after opening the new season at Brighton and Hove Albion on Sept. 14, they would welcome title-holding Liverpool to Stamford Bridge.Chelsea will take on at least one high-profile foe in each subsequent month for the rest of the calendar year, culminating with a Boxing Day match against Arsenal Dec. 26. Chelsea will travel to Manchester United Oct. 24 before hosting north London rival Tottenham Nov. 28.Pulisic is still working his way back from the hamstring injury he suffered after scoring Chelsea’s only goal in a FA Cup final loss to Arsenal earlier this month. He was a revelation for Frank Lampard’s squad last campaign — the 21-year-old’s first in the EPL after four years with Borussia Dortmund — especially during the season’s stretch run in June and July following an unplanned three-month shutdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic.- ADVERTISEMENT –
It’s not clear if Pulisic will be ready to go by the time the Reds come to town; Lampard said Aug. 8 that the winger could miss “the first one or two games” of the new season. Pulisic had perhaps his best game for Chelsea in last month’s loss to Liverpool, scoring and adding an all-planet assist after slaloming through defenders in just 31 minutes off the bench at Anfield.On a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter said that was recovering well by all accounts.“I talked to Christian,” Berhalter said. “The leg is doing really well, it’s recovering, it’s healing and he’s in good spirits. The club is focused on getting him back as soon as possible.“We have a lot of confidence in Chelsea, a lot of confidence in their medical staff and a lot of confidence in Christian. He’s a guy that has exploded on the scene in this last year in the Premier League and it has been great to watch.”Pulisic scored nine goals and set up seven more in 25 league appearances despite dealing with several nagging ailments last term, helping Chelsea to a fourth-place finish and the coveted Champions League berth that comes with it. Afterward, he was nominated for the Premier League’s Young Player of the Season award that was ultimately won by Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold.Despite establishing himself in Lampard’s first-choice lineup by the end of last season, Pulisic will have to continue to excel to keep his place with the summer arrival of former Ajax attacker Hakim Ziyech.Chelsea’s full 2020-21 Premier League slate is as follows:
Neymar, PSG left to rue missed opportunities as Champions League glory slips through their fingers
It is 12.40 a.m. and Thiago Silva is the first Paris Saint-Germain player to get off the bus at the Myriad hotel in Lisbon city centre, for the last time. Unlike in his dreams, though, the captain is not holding the Champions League trophy. Instead, he heads to the entrance of the hotel, mask on his face, AirPods in his ears, white plastic bag with his match shirt in his hand… and he seems to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. After eight years, Silva has played his last game for the club. He will leave with great memories, but without the Holy Grail.
The rest of the squad and the technical staff follow him, like a funeral march. Thomas Tuchel is there, in the middle of the pack, still on his crutches. Outside, the fans who turned up to welcome their beaten heroes are singing “thank you, Paris, thank you.” It is little comfort for the Parisians after they lost a cruel final. Hardly any of them acknowledge the supporters. Neymar does. He is the last player to get off the coach and he offers a wave.
Inside the Myriad, a late dinner is ready but most players go straight to their rooms. They won’t be able to sleep. How could you? Ever since referee Daniele Orsato blew the final whistle, signalling a 1-0 win for Bayern Munich, the key moments have been replayed in their heads over and over. Had they taken their chances? Could they have defended better for Kingsley Coman‘s winning goal? What if Marco Verratti been fit to start? So many questions, so few answers.
There are also a lot of regrets, of course. In the changing room after the final whistle, the comforting words of coach Tuchel, sporting director Leonardo or president Nasser al-Khelaifi, who told the players after the game that they were proud of them, were scant consolation. Neymar had tears in his eyes. The Brazilian was sat next to Kylian Mbappe on one side, with Silva on the other. Both tried to comfort an inconsolable player. So far in Neymar’s career, big finals had been his forte, particularly in winning the Copa Libertadores (2011), Champions League (2015) and Olympic Games (2016). This time he came up short, and his display was disappointing. He looked lost when trying to rescue the game alone as the clock counted down.
PSG had big chances to make this final their own. They had to be super clinical. Instead, they were left to rue missed opportunities. What maybe hurts most is that it was their two superstars, their two princes, who misfired. First Neymar and then Mbappe, one early and the other one late in the first half. They could have become kings of Europe right there, but Manuel Neuer was a colossus in the Bayern goal.
On the opposite side of the room, Mauro Icardi is also quiet. The Argentine didn’t even get off the bench, just like in the semifinal against RB Leipzig, and just like in both legs of the round-of-16 tie against Borussia Dortmund. A €60 million player sat on the bench. The big difference was that in this game, PSG really needed him.Instead, Tuchel chose Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, the saviour in the quarterfinal against Atalanta. It was a decision that seemed to defy reason. If the coach’s tactical approach was effective for the first hour, his decisions after Bayern scored were questionable. Angel Di Maria should not have been substituted. Icardi should have come on.
Rumours soon resurfaced — though they have never been far away — that Tuchel would be sacked. Officially, the line is that he will be on the PSG bench next season (or should we say this season, considering the 2020-21 Ligue 1 campaign kicked off on Friday night?). It would be harsh, considering he has just taken PSG to a first Champions League final in the club’s history and after winning the domestic treble. He should get the chance to build on this.There are plenty of positives to take from this extraordinary 2019-20 season, even if they seem so far away right now. This team finally is a team. PSG took a Bayern side that thrashed Barcelona 8-2 in the quarterfinals right to the wire. They have showed great togetherness and with some additions to the team, they can come back stronger. When the best player for the opposition is their goalkeeper, the performance of your own team has to come with great credit.But there are things to fix. When Thomas Meunier agreed to join Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer, he also opted out of the Champions League mini-tournament. That proved to be a huge blow because Thilo Kehrer, who had to fill in, was simply a centre-back playing as a right-back. With Silva now departed, PSG need a op-class centre-back to replace him. Even if Marquinhos drops back into defence, that leaves a gaping hole in defensive midfield.Leonardo will have to be clever and shrewd. It won’t be about signing a big name, it will be about signing the right name.More important is that Mbappe and Neymar remain at the club. The club is hoping to open talks over extending their contracts, which both expire in June 2022. But rumours of big-money moves to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively won’t go away. That PSG are on the right path might help persuade the two forwards to sign.The disappointment and the frustration for the whole squad right now will be huge, but they will return home with their heads high. They made their club, their fans and their community proud. They have little time to reflect, however, as on Saturday they are due to face Lens away as their Ligue 1 title defence begins. Tuchel and his players will have to overcome their Lisbon hangover quickly and switch their focus to the league. Champions League finalist or not, no one will give them a pass domestically.For now, this will be seen a huge missed opportunity, but PSG must hope that it is the first of many and not just an isolated moment.
RECAP | INDY ELEVEN FALLS 0-1 AT LOUISVILLE CITY FC
By Indy Eleven Communications, 08/27/20, 12:00AM EDT Despite Four Saves from GK Evan Newton, Indy Sees Group E Lead Over Archrival Shrink to Three Points
Indy Eleven fought stifling heat and a surging Louisville City FC squad tonight at Lynn Family Stadium, ultimately dropping a hard-fought 0-1 result in the latest installment of the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest rivalry. Indy Eleven goalkeeper Evan Newton made four big stops on the night, but Louisville City captain Paolo DelPiccolo’s second half tally was enough to push the home side to a third straight victory.Despite the setback, Indy Eleven (6W-3L-1D, 19 pts.) maintains a three-point lead over Louisville (5W-3L-1D, 16 pts.) in the tightly packed Group E standings that also includes Saint Louis FC sitting on 14 points. While the Kentucky side holds a game in hand on Indy Eleven, Indiana’s Team has the advantage of hosting five of its final six games at home – including two against LCFC – while Lou City has to close with four of seven on the road after restarting the 2020 campaign with an eight-game homestand at its new home ground.“I think we played pretty decent in spells, even in the one where we lost the goal. We were disappointed by the chances we didn’t take as well as we could have, not hitting the target or not making their goalkeeper make a save,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “With where we are at now in the season, we have set ourselves up in a good spot with a lead in the group and almost all of our games at home to finish out. Sometimes when you have a disappointing result like tonight it’s good to see that team again the next time out, so we’ll recharge our focus and our energy and look forward to seeing them at our place next weekend.”Coming off his USL Championship-record 50th career shutout 11 days ago against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Newton picked up where he left off, guarding his left post three minutes in to turn aside a near post effort by Corben Bone. Lou City striker Napo Matsoso put Newton on notice nine minutes in with a floated effort from the corner of the area that drifted just wide left of frame.Eleven forward Andrew Carleton was buzzing around the field to start the match, and a 19th minute sequence that began with his clean sliding tackle from behind on Bone in Indy’s defensive third led to him leading a dangerous chance at the other end. While LCFC ‘keeper Ben Lundt pounced on Carleton’s dangerous cross deep inside the six yard box, the effort seemed to awaken the Eleven attack, as chances by forward Nick Moon and defender Carl Haworth, making his return from an injury that saw him miss the last five contests, came in quick succession just a minute later.While Lou City held much of the possession in the middle of the half, a 24th minute free kick service by Oscar Jimenez that was punched clear by Newton on his line marked the only real danger. A nifty build-up through Carleton and midfielder Tyler Gibson’s back-heel in the 33rd minute set up an onrushing Tyler Pasher, who dragged his effort from 25 yards just wide of the right post, leaving the Eastern Conference’s leading scorer wanting. The first half hydration break followed, as did mostly chances from distance by Louisville that didn’t threaten goal in the final 10 minutes of the stanza, sending the rivals to the halftime break scoreless.While the second half struggled to come to life, Moon provided a spark in the 55th minute with a low effort from 20 yards that trailed just wide of the right post. Just after the hour mark it was Cam Lindley creating danger on the endline for Indy, his service finding Carleton near the penalty spot for a first-time shot that LCFC center back Alexis Souahy slid over to block inside the six.It was a similar play to that one for Louisville City FC that finally moved the scoreboard in the 61st minute. Forward Antoine Hoppenot’s cutback through traffic found a streaking DelPiccolo 10 yards out for a redirect into the left-side netting that Newton could do nothing about, putting the home side up 1-0. Indy looked to counter quickly just two minutes later, but Haworth’s header off a Carleton free kick was gathered by Lundt. Newton showed up big a minute later by using both hands to bat away a strong shot by Bone, and he did the same on Hoppenot’s near-angle blast in the 70th minute.The 80th minute looked to bring the chance Indy Eleven had been hoping for when Moon’s through ball split two Louisville defenders and put Pasher behind the backline, but Lundt’s charge off his line cut down the angle, forcing the Canadian attacker to send his chance just wide right.As the match passed the stated five minutes of stoppage time, Indy Eleven had one last desperate attempt at an equalizer, and controversy ensued after Lundt rose to snag a long free kick into the area, only to bring the ball down on the head of Indy substitute forward Jeremy Rafanello. Fellow sub Ilija Ilic deposited the loose ball into the back of the net, but the play was whistled dead before the finish for a foul the visitors didn’t think was warranted, launching heated disapprovals by the Eleven both on the bench and the field. The match itself would be whistled dead 90 seconds later, resulting in a Louisville win – and even more anticipation for a rematch in 10 days’ time.Said reunion will happen on Saturday, September 5, when the LIPAFC rivalry heads north up I-65 to Lucas Oil Stadium for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff. Tickets for the match are going fast but still available at www.indyeleven.com/tickets, and those who cannot be there in person can follow the action live on WISH-TV, ESPN+, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com, and the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers.
USL Championship Regular Season – #LOUvIND
Louisville City FC 1 : 0 Indy Eleven
Wednesday, August 26, 2020 – 8:00 p.m. ET
Lynn Family Stadium – Louisville, Ken.
2020 USL Championship records
Indy Eleven (6W-3L-1D, 19 pts., 1st in Group E)
Louisville City FC (5W-3L-1D, 16 pts., 2nd in Group E)
LOU – Paolo DelPiccolo (Antoine Hoppenot) 61’
IND – Tyler Gibson (yellow card) 37’
IND – Karl Ouimette (yellow card) 74’
IND – Neveal Hackshaw (yellow card) 90+7’
Indy Eleven lineup (3-4-3, L–>R): Evan Newton; Neveal Hackshaw (captain), Mitch Osmond, Karl Ouimette; Cam Lindley (Jeremy Rafanello 87’), Drew Connor (Kenney Walker 78’), Tyler Gibson, Carl Haworth (Conner Antley 78’); Tyler Pasher, Andrew Carleton (Ilija Ilic 78’), Nick Moon
Louisville City FC (4-3-3, L–>R): Ben Lundt; Oscar Jimenez, Alexis Souahy, Sean Totsch, Pat McMahon; Paolo DelPiccolo (captain) (Wes Charpie 78’), Speedy Williams, Corben Bone (Jonathan Gomez 88’); Antoine Hoppenot (Cameron Lancaster 88’), Luke Spencer (Brian Ownby 56’), Napo Matsoso
LOU Substitutes: Chris Hubbard (GK), Jason Johnson, Jimmy Ockford
Ligue 1 preview: Can PSG avoid Champions League hangover? Do Monaco have the right formula?
Aug 26, 2020Julien LaurensCorrespondent
French football doesn’t do things like everyone else. When the other big leagues restart their season, Ligue 1 doesn’t. When others don’t allow fans, Ligue 1 does. The French top flight started its 2020-21 season last weekend despite one of its teams (Lyon) reaching the semifinals of the Champions League and another (Paris Saint-Germain) falling to Bayern Munich in the final.Despite another inevitable exodus of players — Houssem Aouar, Mbaye Niang, Memphis Depay, Mike Maignan, Gabriel, Moussa Dembele, Victor Osimhen to name only a few who could leave or have already left — Ligue 1 and its new fortune from TV rights money is gearing up for another exciting campaign. Here’s what to look for as the new campaign kicks in.
Teams to watch
Can Paris Saint-Germain avoid a Champions League hangover? Who can catch them? After seven titles in the past eight years, Paris are once more the massive favourites to be crowned champions. However, it also looks like this season could be far more dangerous than any before. PSG are still full of regrets after their Champions League final defeat against Bayern Munich last weekend. How will they get over it? Will they get over it?
In a campaign congested with fixtures, they will have to get straight into their rhythm while also dealing with the extra pressure now on them in Europe.
Do AS Monaco finally have the right formula? After years of shambles and disarray, along with many managers and sporting directors, Monaco have changed everything again this summer. Out went Robert Moreno, in came Niko Kovac. Paul Mitchell has also arrived to run the recruitment, and hopes are high.
The 2017 champions drew their first game of the campaign against Reims 2-2, but they showed some promise. They have great young players like Youssouf Fofana and Aurelien Tchouameni, as well as experience with the likes of Wissam Ben Yedder, Stevan Jovetic and even Aleksandr Golovin. They should certainly do better than the ninth-place finish they achieved last season.
Same story, new hope in Lyon? This summer should be like the last one, when Nabil Fekir, Tanguy Ndombele and Ferland Mendy all left the club. This time, it should be Aouar, Depay and Dembele’s turn. Lyon sell and rebuild; it’s what they do, and already there is another wunderkind in the pipeline in 20-year-old midfielder Maxence Caqueret. They have fresh hope and belief born from their run to the Champions League semifinals.
Rudi Garcia is more popular among fans than ever, and the club will invest in his squad so they can erase from their memory the
Do Lille have another good cycle in them? For the second summer in a row, Lille have lost their best player. Nicolas Pepe went to Arsenal in August 2019 for €72 million and Victor Osimhen joined Napoli in August 2020 for €81m. Year after year, Lille produce good teams and good results. They finished fourth last year while navigating a Champions League campaign as well.
Sporting director Luis Campos has worked his magic again this summer, with the arrival of Jonathan David, Isaac Lihadji, Eugenio Pizzuto and Sven Botman all so promising.
Players to watch
Will the fourth time be the charm for Neymar? His numbers in Ligue 1 since he arrived three years ago are incredible, really. At 28, he is the best player French football has ever seen, and it’s a privilege to have him in the league for a fourth year. His objective, like PSG’s, will be the Champions League, but let’s hope that he lights up Ligue 1 with his talent, too.
Is this Mbappe’s final season in Paris? Like Neymar, his contract with Paris expires in June 2022 and until he extends it (which the club is hoping for), there will be a question of whether this could be his last season in Ligue 1. The 21-year-old could win a fifth title in a row and will try to improve on his ratio of a goal every 87 minutes in the league last season.
Will Ben Yedder carry Monaco? He did everything he could last season, finishing as top scorer with 18 goals and seven assists, but the team’s ninth-place finish was disappointing. Ben Yedder, 30, will have to carry them again this year. He is their primary finisher and with the Euros rescheduled for next summer, this is a big season for him if he hopes to get a France call-up.
Thauvin, Marseille’s old-new signing: Before the really bad ankle injury that kept him out all of last season, Florian Thauvin had been Marseille’s best player. Now the 27-year-old is back and will feel like a new signing for l’OM. Without him, they had a great season last year and if he can get back to his best, the 2018 World Cup winner will make them so much stronger.
Young players to watch
Eduardo Camavinga, MF, Rennes: At 18, he is arguably the best in the world in his age group and position. His vision, technique, skills, maturity, pace and strength make him a phenomenon in central midfield. Rarely will you see a talent like him, and he will take Ligue 1 by storm again this year.
Adil Aouchiche, MF, Saint-Etienne: He left PSG on a free to join Saint-Etienne, where he was promised far more game time. Already the star of France’s youth teams, the 18-year-old playmaker showed great things in preseason and his wonderful technical ability should shine through this season.
Amine Gouiri, FW, OGC Nice: Lyon let him go to Nice for only €8m this summer, which raised eyebrows, and then he scored twice on his debut against Lens last weekend. The 20-year-old striker has incredible potential and Lyon might regret selling him so early.Axel Disasi, DF, AS Monaco: The 22-year-old centre-back had a great season with Reims last year and was highly coveted this summer. He chose Monaco and scored on his club debut… against Reims. He is impressive defensively and has amazing determination.
New signings to watch
Seko Fofana, MF, Lens: He was one of the revelations in Serie A last season with Udinese, scoring in their win against Juventus for example. The 25-year-old will be the boss of this newly promoted Lens team with his power in midfield.
Morgan Schneiderlin, MF, OGC Nice: After 12 years in England with Southampton, Manchester United and Everton, the France international, 30, is back home. He was seduced by the Nice project and brings his experience, intensity and physicality to an upwardly mobile team.
Jonathan David, FW, LOSC Lille: He and Alphonso Davies make up the crown jewels of Canadian football. After a great season with Gent, many clubs were after him but Lille beat them to the punch. His pace, skills and finishing make the 20-year-old a superb prospect.Pape Gueye, MF, Marseille: He was one of the best midfielders in Ligue 2 last season with Le Havre, who made him captain despite only being 20 at the time. He really impressed with his left foot and his workrate on the pitch. Marseille pulled off a great coup in convincing him to make the step up.
Managers to watch
Patrick Vieira, Nice: Last season’s sixth-place finish didn’t tell the whole story about the job Vieira did on the French Riviera. He struggled at times and it was hard to make out his philosophy, but he kept going and the season was ultimately a positive one in the end. He has to do better in terms of performances and quality of football this year.
Andre Villas-Boas, Marseille: In his first season at the club, he overachieved and brought Marseille back into the Champions League after a six-year absence. He almost left in the summer because of many disagreements with ownership, but the players convinced him to stay.
Julien Stephan, Rennes: The youngest manager in Ligue 1 at 39, he just completed two almost-perfect seasons with Rennes: the team qualified for the Champions League last season and won the French Cup the previous year. He has the talent to do it again, and maybe go one better this time around.
Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and a host of other guests every day as football plots a path through the coronavirus crisis. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only).Claude Puel, Saint-Etienne: The former Leicester City manager has changed everything at Saint-Etienne. He got rid of most of the older, more experienced players to start a new cycle with young and exciting talents like Fofana, Aouchiche and Yvan Neyou. His gamble has to pay off, though.
The race for the title
https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html It will be very hard to compete with PSG and their superior squad throughout a long and congested campaign. Marseille will want to confirm their excellent 2019-20 season was no fluke, Lyon and Monaco want their revenge while Lille, Nice and Rennes will want to keep being the troublemakers. Saint-Etienne under Puel and Bordeaux under Jean-Louis Gasset will hope they can do better than last year
Top three predictions: PSG, Marseille, Monaco.
The fight against relegation
It will be another fascinating battle at the bottom of the Ligue 1 table this season. The two promoted teams, Lens and Lorient, have strengthened their squad really well and look promising. Metz managed to stay up last year, but they could struggle more this time like Brest and Dijon.
Champions League Bayern Munich vs PSG 3 pm Sunday TUDN, CBSSN
I have heard a bunch of people say these Champions League Quarterfinal games have been among the best and most exciting ever with the one game knockout style of play. We got great upsets as Lyon bested Man City and RB Leipzig knocked out Atletico and Atalanta was minutes away from deposing of PSG. But honestly back to back 3-0 yawners is what we got for the Semi-Finals as both PSG and then Bayern Munich – absolutely dominated play and each won 3-0 in games that had little excitement – and were blowouts. Its why I think NCAA hoops is great – but rarely does the best team really win. The thing about Champions League with a game in each team’s home stadium – is normally the better team wins. If they somehow tie or lose on the road they come home for what is normally a stirring win to close things out. Not always – but normally the Champions League Final 4 are very competitive games. Either way we do have a competitive final as Bayern Munich will face a PSG that has spent millions trying to get past the Quarterfinals and finally has a chance to lift the trophy. Two powerhouse teams with world class strikers in Mbappe and Neymar for PSG and Lewandowski, Mueller and Gnabry for Bayern. Both have great keepers in Nuerer, and Navas (if he’s healthy to return) – it should be one heck of a game Sunday at 3 pm on CBS Sports Network (why not CBS? Who knows – Andy Griffin shows to air I am sure). PSG has won nine of the last 10 French league titles, but the European Cup is the trophy it really wants. Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, Mauro Icardi and all the team’s other stars were signed to bring the prize to Paris — and the club’s Qatari owners — for the first time ever. While PSG is the nouveau riche, Bayern is European royalty. The eight-time reigning German champions have won the European Cup five times, most recently in 2013. And as Alphonso Davies, Thomas Müller and prolific scorer Robert Lewandowski have shown, they don’t mind steamrolling every team in their path. Bayern have scored 15 goals over their last three games, highlighted by the historic 8-2 demolition of Barcelona. Great Preview Stories below on the Ole Ballcoach ! I like Bayern 3-2.
Europa League Sevilla vs Inter 3 pm Friday TUDN, CBS All Access
Sevilla will look for their 6th Europa league trophy vs a resurging Inter Milan on Friday at 3 pm on TUDN and CBS Sports Network and of course (streamed on CBS all-access). Sevilla slipped by Man United 2-1 to slide into their first final since winning 3 straight times from 2014-2016. For Inter Milan its their first final since 1998. Sevilla is aiming for its sixth Europa League title, and it would be the third with the club for captain Jesús Navas. Inter hasn’t won a trophy of any kind since the 2011 Club World Cup despite its status as an Italian heavyweight. This squad has the firepower to do it in playmaker Lautaro Martínez and striker Romelu Lukaku, who has four goals in his last three games. Also huge news that CBS All Access will be showing the Women’s Champions League Finals starting this Saturday – see details on the Ole Ballcoach.
UCL round of 16 hits U.S. viewer high
Saturday’s FC Barcelona-Napoli UEFA Champions League round of 16 match averaged 1.1 million viewers on Univision and TUDN, the largest audience on record for the round of 16 on U.S. television. Meanwhile, Manchester City-Real Madrid averaged 571,000 on UniMas and TUDN Friday, ranking sixth all-time for the round.English-language coverage aired on CBS Sports Network, which is not Nielsen-rated.
MLS on Fox Sat 6 pm El Traffico
Rivaly Weekend starts – and there won’t be any fans in the stands to watch, but there will be a big TV stage on Saturday at 6 pm on FOX for Carlos Vela’s return to LAFC after he skipped the MLS tournament to be with his pregnant wife. The stage will be big for Diego Rossi, too, after he was the MLS summer tournament’s top scorer. Unfortunately, Galaxy star forward Javier Hernández is out injured (right calf), but fellow Mexican headliner Jonathan dos Santos (groin) will play. Sunday night 10 pm we get the Cascadia Cup with Portland hosting Seattle on Fox Sport 1. It’s one thing to watch sports in empty stadiums, but a Cascadia Cup game at an empty Providence Park will be truly surreal. No game in MLS is more defined by its raucous atmosphere. So the players will have to create their own fireworks, especially Portland playmakers Diego Valeri and Sebastián Blanco, and Seattle forwards Jordan Morris and Raúl Ruidíaz.
Indy 11 at Louisville Wed
Our Indy 11 get a much needed break this weekend after disposing of Pittsburgh last weekend 1-0 at the Luke. The Eleven travel to Louisville for a 7 pm match on Wish TV+ ESPN+ Wednesday before returning home Sat Sept 5 for a repeat again them at 7 pm at the Luke.
CHS Girls Invitational
The 2nd ranked Carmel Greyhoud ladies with plenty of former Carmel FC players including all-state Goalkeeper Erin Baker are off to a good start after posting 2 victories this week – they travel to 17th ranked Guerin Catholic in Westfield on Sat night before hosting 2 of the top ranked teams in the state the following Sat, Aug 29 as they host 13th ranked Avon at 9 am and 12th ranked Fishers at 7 pm at home.
Story Behind the Legendary Champions League Anthem
Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui on facing Inter: “Inter will force us to play an extraordinary game. They are a team of a magnificent level, a team made to play in the Champions League who finished one point behind Juve in Serie A and has magnificent players and an experienced coach.”
Inter boss Antonio Conte on the task at hand: “We have to play with the desire to win and bring the trophy back to Italy and to bring a trophy back to Inter. Sevilla will have the same idea, so we have to show that we’re the better team. For me, it’s always important to be able to say to the lads, at the end of the game, that we don’t have any regrets. If we’re the better side, we’ll lift the trophy. If not, we’ll have given our all, and we’ll applaud our opponents.”
Sevilla is +235 to win the match, with Inter Milan a bit ahead at +125.
Sevilla has a lot of weapons but Inter Milan has the star power at striker and hunger to end a relatively-long trophy drought for a club of its ilk. Look for Christian Eriksen and Romelu Lukaku to be celebrating silverware after a 3-1 win sends silverware to Milan.
Inter Milan vs. Sevilla Europa League final: Players to watch and tale of the tape ahead of Friday’s matchup Here’s what to know about each team entering the final in Cologne, Germany
Two teams remain in the UEFA Europa League, and they’ll meet in the final on Friday as Inter Milan take on Sevilla. Inter were one of the favorites to win the competition after entering in the round of 32 following their elimination from the UEFA Champions League. Don’t discount Sevilla, who are five-time champions and not afraid of playing the big dogs, proving so in their semifinal win over Manchester United.But how did each team get here, how do they line up, who should you keep an eye on, and who has the edge? Let’s have a look.
How they got here
With Europa League play picking back up in August, Sevilla beat Roma (3-0), Wolverhampton (1-0) and Manchester United (2-1) to make the final. Meanwhile, Inter Milan beat Getafe (2-0), Bayer Leverkusen (2-1) and Shakhtar Donetsk (5-0).
Inter like to line up in a 3-5-2 with wing backs, meaning their back line can shift from three to five at any moment. That wing back formation gives them a ton of width, and they love playing crosses into the box. The stars of the team are strikers Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, who combined for over 50 goals this season. They both scored twice in the semifinal win over Shakhtar. Sevilla are a side that typically use a 4-3-3 formation and are more compact in the middle. They do get wide in attack with fullbacks in Jesus Navas and Sergio Reguilon who love to get forward, allowing their attackers to stay more centrally. They use quick passes and their speed to create havoc in attack, while also possessing creativity in the middle in Ever Banega.
Player to watch
For Sevilla, it’s probably Banega. This will be his last match for the club, and he’s the engine in the middle. He not the player he once was, but his ability to shield off defenders buys him time to ping clever balls forward. Inter’s is Lukaku because of his scoring threat. His first touch may be questionable at times, but he can score in a variety of ways and matches up well with the physical backline of Sevilla.
Who has the edge?
Goalkeeper: Sevilla’s goalkeeper, Bono, is a fantastic, underrated shot-stopper. He saved some many golden chances against Manchester United, but Samir Handanovic of Inter is a star. He’s experienced as he approaches 300 matches with the Italian side and will be as motivated as ever to win his first major trophy. He’s just so sturdy in goal. Edge: Inter Milan
Defense: Both clubs have strong defenses, and while Sevilla are quicker and younger, Inter are more experienced. In a major final, give me experience with Diego Godin leading the way. Edge: Inter Milan
Midfield: They’re so different, but both have some ballers who can take over a game. Don’t discount the lesser known names in the middle of the park for Sevilla. Joan Jordan is a fantastic player who is only getting better, while Inter have Christian Eriksen off the bench. Edge: Tie
Forwards: This is the easiest one. One of these teams has Lautaro and Lukaku, and the other doesn’t. Lucas Ocampos is a fine player who has made a name for himself, but the combo of speed and size of Inter’s attack is just so superb. Edge: Inter Milan
Manager: Antonio Conte is the more experienced and successful manager, but Julen Lopetegui has fit in so well at Sevilla. While Conte has a loaded team, Lopetegui has done more with less, making this quite even. Edge: Tie.
PSG – Bayern Munich: How to watch UCL final, start time, team news, odds
Bayern Munich – PSG looks set to be a thrilling UEFA Champions League final matchup on Sunday (start time, 3pm ET), featuring the “been there, done that” five-time European champions from Germany and the big-spending have-nots with all the French glory they could ever want but nothing from Europe’s biggest stage.Bayern were most recently crowned champions of Europe in 2013, when they topped fellow Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium. Perhaps no side has been as dominant, or made it look so easy, as Bayern have done since the knockout rounds resumed two weeks ago. Whether they were embarrassing Barcelona 8-2 in the quarterfinals, or hammering Chelsea and Lyon, no side has finished a game or a two-leg tie fewer than three goals down.Not only have PSG never won the Champions League or the old European Cup, but they had never even been to the semifinal final round of Europe’s preeminent competition prior to knocking off RB Leipzig on Tuesday. Sunday’s showdown in Lisbon is set to be the culmination, in victory or defeat, of eight years of obscene investment by owners Qatar Sports Investment for the express purpose of winning the Champions League.Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Bayern Munich – PSG, including how to watch on TV in the USA and how to follow all of the action live.
How to watch, stream Champions League: Leipzig – PSG
Bayern manager Hansi Flick on needing to improve defensively: “Lyon fought hard and made things hard for us, we know PSG have quick players and we will have to organize our defense differently. Paris are a great team, they fought their way into the semi-final and then reached the final. We know they have quick players, but we know our biggest strength is putting our opponents under pressure.”
PSG winger Angel di Maria on the historic occasion: “We’re very happy. It’s a first for the club. We worked hard and played a great game. We want to make history for the club. We succeeded tonight and we’re in the final, that’s very important. We have to continue like tonight to make our dream come true.”
Unsurprisingly, Bayern are favorites for the final (+105), but it’s hardly expected to be a landslide with PSG checking in at +230. The draw (+285) is the greatest outlier amongst the odds, with the expectation that someone will be crowned champions of Europe after 90 minutes.
If ever we are to be treated to an exciting final with the potential for goals galore, Bayern Munich – PSG must be the one. Bayern have scored 15 goals in three games since the UCL resumed play, and PSG are as attack-happy as any side in the world. As the kids are saying these days, the sides have no chill. This feels like Bayern 3-2 PSG. Massive, massive advantage to Bayern.
A Superclub Champions League Final With All the Fixins–Even the Ugly Ones
Bayern Munich and PSG are two rich and powerful star-laden clubs that have dominated their domestic competitions and have similar vulnerabilities. The connection, particularly PSG’s, to Qatar’s sportswashing cannot be forgotten amid the fanfare, though.JONATHAN WILSONAUG 20, 2020 SI
The Champions League final will be a meeting of two superclubs, both of which have a very superclub way of playing. Both are used to dominating: Bayern Munich has won a domestic double, winning the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal titles. Paris Saint-Germain has won a domestic treble, claiming the Ligue 1 title and Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue trophies. Both are superb on the ball. Both attack with abandon. And both, unused to being properly and regularly tested, are defensively vulnerable. In that sense, this is the perfect modern final.But Bayern and PSG are not the same. Bayern has won five European Cup/Champions League titles before. It has won eight Bundesliga titles in a row. It has won more Bundesliga titles than every other German club put together. It is a club that represents pure capitalism, ruthlessly exploiting its dominant market position to the extent that when it pillages its rivals for their best players, the reaction tends to be little more than weary resignation at the natural order of things.PSG, though, represents something far more sinister. Founded in 1970 to try to give the French capital a team to compete with the might of Saint-Etienne, Marseille and Reims, it was taken over in 2011 by Qatari Sports Investments. It’s a subsidiary of the Qatari Investment Agency, the body established by the Qatari state in 2005 to manage the emirate’s sovereign wealth fund. No less than Manchester City, PSG is nakedly an agent of soft power, part of a broader attempt to popularize and enhance the image of the state through sport–of which hosting the 2022 World Cup is the centerpiece. https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Sevilla vs. Inter Milan
Friday, 3 p.m. (CBS Sports Network, UniMás, TUDN)
The spotlight shifts to the men Friday afternoon for the Europa League final in Köln, Germany. Sevilla is aiming for its sixth Europa League title, and it would be the third with the club for captain Jesús Navas.
Inter hasn’t won a trophy of any kind since the 2011 Club World Cup despite its status as an Italian heavyweight. This squad has the firepower to do it in playmaker Lautaro Martínez and striker Romelu Lukaku, who has four goals in his last three games.
Saturday, 2 p.m. (CBS All Access)
This is the most intriguing of the four women’s Champions League quarterfinals.
Arsenal has an outstanding attack with prolific Dutch striker Vivianne Miedema, Dutch playmaker Daniëlle van de Donk and English striker Beth Mead. Miedema — who has 60 goals over the last two years for Arsenal — and van de Donk also starred on the Netherlands squad that played the U.S. in last year’s World Cup final.
PSG forward Marie-Antoinette Katoto is one of France’s most underrated players, despite having scored 68 goals over the last three seasons for the club. She’s flanked by compatriot Kadidiatou Diani and two promising young Canadians, Ashley Lawrence and Jordyn Huitema. The midfield is anchored by Brazilian legend Formiga, who’s still great at age 42.
Lyon vs. Bayern Munich
Saturday, 2 p.m. (CBS All Access)
Lyon, the biggest team in women’s club soccer, is the overwhelming favorite to win a historic fifth straight Champions League title. No team in the world has more stars on its roster, from towering French centerback Wendie Renard to German playmaker Dzsenifer Marozsán to Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg. Then there’s England’s Lucy Bronze, Japan’s Saki Kumagai, France’s Amandine Henry … and the list keeps going.
So of course Lyon is favored to win this game. But keep an eye on Bayern’s 21-year-old German midfielder Giulia Gwinn. She’s a rising star who’s already a major national team player.
USMNT weekend viewing guide: rivalries and returns
Ligue 1 returns along with a full slate of MLS action.
MLS returns in earnest with a rivalry weekend, which should lead to some entertaining matchups. Ligue 1 kicks off their 2020-21 season as well this weekend, which could lead to the long awaited return of Timothy Weah to the field with Lille. Here’s what you can catch this weekend:
Given the amount of MLS teams with at least one potential USMNT connection following all the games behind the paywall (literally every MLS game that’s not on network TV) is a bit more than we can bite off, so we won’t be regularly running down all these games. However, since all of Friday’s action is on ESPN+ (free trial here if you need it), here’s a quick look (all times Eastern):
Looking through the paywall:
FC Cincinnati v D.C. United at 7:30p on ESPN+. Bill Hamid is the most likely USMNT candidate in the short term playing for either team, but D.C. United’s Ben Olson has indicated that he may rely a bit more on young players such as Moses Neyman and Griffin Yow this season.
Minnesota United v Sporting Kansas City at 7:30p on ESPN+. Gianluca Busio saw some minutes in the MLS is Back tournament for Sporting Kansas City, while Chase Gasper was a surprise at LB for Minnesota and Mason Toye also saw some time.
Houston Dynamo v FC Dallas at 8p on ESPN+. FC Dallas have quite the group of potential USMNT players to watch, including Reggie Cannon, Paxton Pomykal, Jesus Ferreira, Ricardo Pepi, Tanner Tessman, and Edwin Cerrillo, but the team is off to a slow start with a loss and a scoreless draw against Nashville in their opening two matches.
Timothy Weah, who had a nightmare start to his time with Lille, is reportedly nearing his long-awaited return, though there are still questions about what role, if any, he will play this weekend. Weah suffered an injury just two matches into the 2019-2020 season and attempted a return in February, only to again be taken down by a hamstring injury just ten minutes into his time on the field. It’s been a hard year for Weah, but he appears to have maintained a positive attitude and a hunger to get back out on the field.
Lille will be facing a Rennes side that finished the abbreviated season in fourth place. Theoson Jordan Siebatcheu, who remains eligible to play for the United States (though there have been no real signs of bringing him in), played just 65 minutes for Rennes in their last 13 matches of the season.
Ajax play a friendly against Red Bull Salzburg at 10a on ESPN Deportes. Sergiño Dest remains with the club and will likely see roughly 45 minutes.
PSV Eindhoven and Eintracht Frankfurt also have a friendly scheduled at noon on ESPN Deportes. Timothy Chandler may see the field for Frankfurt, while Richie Ledezma and Chris Gloster have yet to break through for PSV.
Los Angeles Football Club and the LA Galaxy meet in the latest edition of El Tráfico at 6p on Fox. The Galaxy will be looking to avoid a repeat of their embarrassing 6-2 loss to LAFC in the MLS is Back tournament. 19-year-old Julian Araujo is the most interesting player to keep an eye on, though Sebastian Lletget is probably closer to a USMNT call-up.
Sebastian Saucedo and Pumas UNAM face Tigres UANL at 8p on ESPN Deportes. Saucedo started Pumas UNAM’s most recent match, a scoreless draw with Mazatlan.
MLS is Back champions Portland Timbers face the Sounders late on Sunday in what should be an entertaining match. Jeremy Ebobisse and Eryk Williamson were key players for Portland throughout the tournament, with Ebobisse scoring four goals to pair with an assist and Williamson seemingly popping up all over the place. The Sounders were easily handled by LAFC in the first round of elimination games, but Jordan Morris did pickup a goal and two assists in the group stages.
PSG scored 2 goals in the last 10 minutes to beat Atalanta and Man City was then handled by Lyon on Saturday 3-1 in another stunner. Of course Bayern Munich’s dismantling of Barcelona 7-2 has lead to the firing of the Barca head coach and Sporting Director with more turmoil to come I am sure. Will Messi stay or win he go?? Either way it leaves us with a battle of huge money fed teams in PSG and RB Leipzig facing off today at 3 pm on FUBO TV, TUDN and (streamed on CBS all-access). Tomorrow we get Bayern Munich vs upstart Lyon same time, same channels. Again I got the Free month trial so I could watch these games on CBS All Access in English. I will admit the 1 hour pregame and 1 hour + post game shows are fantastic with Kate Abdo leading the panel of former stars. It’s the best pre and post game I have ever seen – much like we handle the NFL normally. Great to see – I just wish it was on CBS Sports Network so everyone could see it on TV. By the way the games are being re-played each night on CBSSN if you would like to wait and watch at 9 pm each night. Great Preview Stories below on the Ole Ballcoach ! I like Bayern 3-1 and PSG in a tight one 3-2 over RB Leipzig – though wouldn’t it be fun to see an American Tyler Adams in the Champions League Finals.
UCL round of 16 hits U.S. viewer high
Saturday’s FC Barcelona-Napoli UEFA Champions League round of 16 match averaged 1.1 million viewers on Univision and TUDN, the largest audience on record for the round of 16 on U.S. television. Meanwhile, Manchester City-Real Madrid averaged 571,000 on UniMas and TUDN Friday, ranking sixth all-time for the round.English-language coverage aired on CBS Sports Network, which is not Nielsen-rated.
Champions League semifinal preview: PSG, Neymar too good for Leipzig? Can Lyon stop mighty Bayern?
4:40 PM ETESPN
fter a dizzying, dramatic slate of quarterfinals in Lisbon, Portugal, that saw last-second drama (PSG vs. Atalanta), historic scores (Bayern Munich 8, Barcelona 2) and a pair of serious updates (RB Leipzig over Atletico Madrid, Lyon knocking Man City out), we’re down to the final four in the UEFA Champions League. Two games pitting Ligue 1 sides against Bundesliga opposition are up next, as Lyon face Bayern and RB Leipzig look to end PSG’s date with destiny.Which teams are likely to move on to the final? Which players could be decisive in either contest?
Here’s your preview for the semifinals.
RB LEIPZIG vs. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN (Tues., 3 p.m. ET)
When Julian Nagelsmann was forced into premature retirement as a young central defender at Augsburg in 2008, it was his then-coach, Thomas Tuchel, who nudged him down the coaching path. Under Tuchel, Nagelsmann (still on the Augsburg payroll) started scouting and then took his first steps into coaching as an assistant with 1860 Munich U-
Naglesmann’s approach is all about transitions and the speed of turning defence into attack. Dayot Upamecano, their towering centre-back, was magnificent against Atletico Madrid and neutralized the threat of Diego Costa with ease. Upamecano will have his hands full trying to stop Neymar and Mauro Icardi.
With Werner at Chelsea, the pressure is on Leipzig’s forwards to deliver. Yussuf Poulsen will be their go-to striker, but Marcel Sabitzer is integral. The Austrian attacking midfielder has 16 goals and 11 assists to his name, and Leipzig will need him to be at his most creative vs. PSG.
Why they will win
Leipzig have a fearless mentality. In short, the bigger the opponent, the greater the opportunity. They are defensively solid, and through the brilliance of Naglesmann’s tactical approach, they can switch from a 3-4-3, to a 3-4-1-2 or a 4-2-3-1 in the blink of an eye. The players have an inherent understanding of their roles and are equally confident in moving out of position to plug gaps. They are so hard to break down, with Kevin Kampl integral to their system as he hovers in front of the back three snaffling out any potential attacking threats.
Why they will not win
They have one thing going against them, and it’s a big one: the absence of Werner. He scored 34 goals for them this season and was the heartbeat of their rapid attack. While they’ve already moved to sort that for next season with the signing of Hwang Hee-Chan from Salzburg, on Tuesday night they will need players to once again step out of the Werner shadows and embrace the spotlight. — Tom Hamilton
Mbappe & Neymar will have to be ‘special’ to make UCL final
Frank Leboeuf says PSG have “many question marks” heading into their Champions League semifinal vs. RB Leipzig.
This is Neymar’s time to shine
When you think of the PSG version of Neymar in the Champions League, you think of inconsistency and an inability to deliver, having missed their last two exits from the competition because of injury. In the round of 16 against Dortmund, Neymar was equal parts brash and brilliant. Against Atalanta, he was wasteful in front of goal but never stopped trying to crack the Serie A side’s defenses. Apart from Lionel Messi, no one else can dribble past people like him and can own a game like he did against the Italians. He was the only creative touch against them. He was PSG’s attacking system alone.
The French champions relied on him against Dortmund in the past 16 and he delivered with two goals. They relied on him against Atalanta and he carried them, assisting the first goal and with a second assist on the second. They will rely on him again on Tuesday against RB Leipzig. Will he take them to the final? That’s why they signed him. That’s why he left Barcelona. He has two more games to get to the top of Europe, like in 2015 with Barca, but this time, he would be the main man doing it like he wanted it.Key players
Neymar will of course be the leader, but Kylian Mbappé will be his faithful lieutenant, the duo resembling a footballing version of Batman and Robin. The French prodigy is back in the semifinal of the Champions League three years after reaching it with Monaco in 2017. At the time, he was 18 and had taken Europe both by storm and by surprise. This is a different, better KMB, and he is where we expect him to be. Like against Atalanta, his pace and his partnership with Neymar will cause havoc in the Leipzig defence.
Then there is Marquinhos, the best hybrid centre-back/holding midfielder in the world. No other player can do both jobs as well as him. He will be key for PSG once more, as he will have to protect his back four from the waves of Leipzig attacks as well as providing the right balance in transition for his team. At 26, he is also a real leader even if he doesn’t wear the armband; he told his teammates not to panic against Atalanta when they were 1-0 down and to not give up when the clock was ticking down.
Why PSG will win
The Parisians are giants both in terms of their star power and their financial might. They’re the haves against Leipzig’s have-nots, and they’re on a mission. Before the coronavirus pandemic lockdown and before they faced Dortmund in the last 16 second leg, with a 2-1 deficit to overturn, they made a pact as a group to go all the way. They believed this was their season, and they’re proving it so far.
Better yet, their individuals are in top form, unlike in previous seasons. Neymar, Mbappé, Marquinhos and Thiago Silva form a winning spine capable of carrying this team to the final. They have too much brilliance for Leipzig to combat, especially given Neymar’s form. That brilliance extends to the coaching battle: Tuchel knows Nagelsmann better than anyone else and he will be ready to win the tactical battle against him, especially to beat Leipzig’s press.
Why PSG will not win
The expectations are massive. Having waited 25 years for this opportunity, not reaching the final four of the Champions League/European Cup since 1995, the pressure could be crippling. PSG don’t usually cope well with this kind of stress, having crashed out of this competition in the quarterfinals or earlier in each of the past seven attempts. Despite boasting the likes of Mbappe, Neymar, Edinson Cavani and even Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Champions League has been truly beyond their grasp.
The French champions are not used to facing a team like Leipzig that plays with so much energy, intensity and movement. It will be tough for them to keep up with all the runs from the wing-backs, the forwards and the midfielders.
Based on the latest training sessions, it looks like Tuchel will revert to his favourite 4-4-2 formation for this game, which would be a mistake, as it would play into Leipzig’s hands, especially in midfield where PSG risk to be totally outplayed. The other risk is that if things start going wrong and if Leipzig take the lead, Neymar or Mbappe will try to do their thing on their own and it will be counterproductive for the team. — Julien Laurens
If Leipzig can keep PSG’s attacking riches at bay, they will book their place in the Champions League final with a 2-1 victory. — Tom Hamilton
PSG is stronger individually but Leipzig is better collectively. However, in a game like this, I think individual talent will prevail. PSG will win 2-1. — Julien Laurens
The secret to Lyon’s success: This was never on the cards. Never, at any point this season, did something about Lyon’s game make you think they would be on the verge of something so special in the Champions League. Yet, here they are. They managed to defy adversity and negativity all season, even weathering the premature end to the Ligue 1 season caused by the coronavirus outbreak across the globe.
Coach Rudi Garcia and his players created a fantastic team spirit, a sense of togetherness and a mental strength that has taken them 90 minutes from the Champions League final. They also found the perfect tactical system for them — a 3-5-2 that suits most of their top players. In this formation, they’re hard to break down and hard to beat. They are solid in midfield, crowding out opponents, they’re disciplined in the tackle and they can play on the counterattack.
The FC crew debate if the better team won the Champions League tie between Man City and Lyon.
The other secret is the emergence of a remarkable midfield three. In Houssem Aouar, Lyon already had a gem on their hands. This could be his last game for the club if a bigger team comes for him this summer, but Aouar has been a wonderful technical leader. He is the total package: can create scoring chances, retain possession under pressure and advance with the ball through tackles even in his own half.
Next to him, Lyon have unearthed a real star in the making in Bruno Guimaraes. The Brazilian was already praised in his country but quite unknown in Europe. Not anymore, as the holding midfielder was superb against Juventus and Manchester City. The third and last musketeer in the Lyon midfield is the youngest and the new kid on the block, Maxence Caqueret, 20, who plays with the maturity of a 30-year-old. Everything is clean with him, and he puts so much pressure on the opposition too.
In addition to the aforementioned Houssem Aouar, Bayern must heed the threat created by Memphis Depay, who arguably shouldn’t even be playing. When he injured a knee before Christmas, he and club officials thought that his season was over. On Wednesday, he will lead his team as the captain into one of the biggest games in Lyon’s history. He wants to make his second chance count.
Equally, this is a great opportunity for Depay to show how far he’s come since his disappointing spell at Manchester United. He was young then, and probably not ready after leaving PSV. At Lyon, he’s found himself again. Whether he plays at a false nine or a second striker, his influence on the team’s game is huge. He is the boss of this team — its guide and its soul. For Lyon to beat Bayern, they will need a great night from him and a great partnership with Karl Toko Ekambi, who complements him well up front with his runs.Why Lyon will win
No one expected them to get this far, and they will keep doing what has worked so far against Juventus and City: defend deep with a back five and play on the counter. It should be effective if Bayern stick with their high line, giving Lyon opportunities and room to run in behind. There will be lots of space there for Depay, Toko Ekambi and the wing-backs to exploit. In midfield, the three young Lyonnais should cope with the pressure from Bayern’s midfield.
Why Lyon won’t win
Did you see what Bayern did to Barcelona? Make no mistake, Lyon are facing the favorites to win it all. There will be no shame in losing against a better side, one that has the experience in midfield to block Lyon’s trio. Stopping Alfonso Davies and Robert Lewandowski could also be very difficult and could cost them the game with an early goal. — Julien Laurens
Where do you go after you’ve already scored eight against Lionel Messi & Co.? That’s the challenge facing Bayern Munich: how to keep it going. Having secured a spot in Champions League immortality with that once-in-a-lifetime result, they know it’ll count for nothing unless they back it up with two more wins and the trophy.
Oliver Kahn, the great Bayern Munich goalkeeper, is now on their board and said recently that the club needs to win the Champions League “more often.” (Their last title: 2012-13, when they beat Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund 2-1.)
“I look at the future and it is not enough to win the Champions League title one time every 10 years,” he continued. Well, there’s the challenge to Hansi Flick’s side and a sign of their ambition. The Bundesliga title — as others like Maurizio Sarri at Juventus found after clinching Serie A — is no longer enough to satisfy the hunger of ambitious boardrooms. But this is now Bayern Munich’s Champions League to lose.
They have been magnificent all season, dominated the Bundesliga and far away lead the Champions League standings for expected goals, or xG (31.38), have averaged 4.3 goals per game and are second behind Manchester City for expected assists, or xA (19.67). They have incredible depth — just look at their bench against Barcelona, as they were able to bring on Kingsley Coman and Philippe Coutinho to strengthen their grip on the match — and the world’s best striker in Robert Lewandowski. Then they have unsung heroes such as Joshua Kimmich, the box-office talent of Davies and the ever-calm Manuel Neuer between the posts.
You can pick anyone from Bayern’s remarkable squad, but it’s hard to look past their brilliant raumdeuter (or, literally, “space interpreter”) Thomas Muller. The attacking midfielder was out of the picture under previous manager Nico Kovac, but Flick’s introduction saw Muller return to centre stage and he has been outstanding for Bayern this season. He is their glue: always the link man in attack (he has registered 21 assists this term) and also chips in with his fair share of goals. He has a wonderfully unique style and the deftest touch on the ball; with freedom in attack, he’s so difficult to mark.
Alongside Müller, Bayern will also need David Alaba to be on form in the heart of their defence. The 28-year-old has formed an impressive partnership with Jerome Boateng, but he will need to be on song to halt the likes of Depay and Moussa Dembele. He was vulnerable against Barcelona, and though it didn’t cost Bayern in the end, he’ll need to rebound quickly for the challenge of Lyon.Why Bayern will win
When you have Lewandowski in the team, you fancy your chances, but Bayern are far bigger than just one man. Their motto “Mia san Mia” roughly translates to “we are who we are” and is the lifeblood of their identity — everything flows through this, and they put so much emphasis on team harmony and a collective will. Flick manages the club through encouragement, rather than an authoritarian approach, and the players have responded.
Boateng, their impressive veteran centre-back, has previously spoken of how Flick has brought the fun back to Bayern and the players are clearly thriving. They dominated the Bundesliga, winning their eighth straight title by 13 points, and have Champions League winners in the squad in Müller, Neuer, Alaba and Boateng. In short, they know how to win.
Why Bayern won’t win
Lyon won’t be overawed by Bayern, after the French side polished off Man City, and will target the German champions’ centre-backs, looking to push and pull Boateng and Alaba out of position. Both defenders are vulnerable to pace given Bayern’s propensity to play a high line; if the likes of Davies and Kimmich are isolated upfield, there could be room for Depay & Co. to exploit. — Tom Hamilton
I think that Bayern will be too good for Lyon. I can see the Germans winning 3-1. — Julien Laurens
Bayern Munich will come through with a 4-2 victory, Lewandowski will score and Müller will have an outstanding game. — Tom Hamilton
PSG vs. RB Leipzig: Which team do you want to lose in the Champions League semifinal more?
In a European campaign defined by the coronavirus pandemic pause and a single-elimination denouement in Lisbon, we have arrived at the most diverse range of semifinalists in decades. None of the finalists in the last six years of the competition are still in the competition, and it’s the first time since the 1992 Champions League rebrand that the semifinals have not featured a team from England, Spain or Italy.Tournament favorites Bayern Munich — who didn’t even appear to be playing at their best during their 8-2 humiliation of Barcelona — are the only “heritage” team who may be expected to attend the final stages of Europe’s premier domestic competition. Lyon, who finished seventh in Ligue 1 this season, were able to get the better of moneyed powerhouse Manchester City to secure their second-ever semifinal berth. Paris Saint-Germain, meanwhile, are in the semifinals for the first time since 1995, when star striker George Weah led them deep in the competition. The current President of Liberia earned the Ballon d’Or for his efforts in that campaign. At the time, Neymar was 3 years old.And the final four is rounded out by RB Leipzig, who are making their debut at this stage in the competition, having being established as a club with taurine-fueled propulsion in 2009.With such a broad and unexpected range of teams, competing in an urgent format, this season’s Champions League group stage is a treat for neutral fans. But those without a dog in the fight have a difficult decision to make when it comes to Tuesday’s semifinal between Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig.The reason? It’s hard to know who to hate more.Has there ever been a Champions League knockout game between two teams who are so thoroughly maligned by the soccer community?Let’s start with the case against RB Leipzig. On the surface, the East German side may hold appeal for the American fan: They are funded by Red Bull, which is familiar to MLS supporters for rebranding the New York/New Jersey MetroStars team in 2006. They play an exciting brand of soccer that isn’t built around megastars, and are guided by 33-year-old coach Julian Nagelsmann. They’re also a touchstone club for USMNT fans thanks to midfielder Tyler Adams, who scored the winning goal in the quarterfinal.
RB Leipzig are, however, by far the most hated team in Germany. For many, they represent the antithesis of what a club should be, and a damning encapsulation of corporate “modern soccer.”
Not only were they started by a multinational company — which is looked down upon in the European game, as teams are traditionally built by local communities — but they purchased the rights from fifth-tier side SSV Markranstadt to obtain their league license. Yes, they bought a place in the German league while putting another club out of existence.
RB Leipzig’s name technically stands for “RassenBallsport Leipzig,” but it is clear that they exist, at least in part, to market an energy drink.
A Borussia Dortmund fan who participated in a mass boycott of an RB Leipzig match in 2016 explained why many are irked by Leipzig’s origin story. “Dortmund makes money, but we do it in order to play football,” the fan said. “Leipzig plays football in order to sell a product and a lifestyle. That’s the difference.”
The East Germans are also heavily criticized for the manner in which they have flouted German soccer rules that are intended to keep clubs democratically controlled by their members. The “50+1 rule” ensures that fans own a majority of the stakes in teams, with very few exceptions. RB Leipzig have bent the rules to restrict their membership to less than 20 people, most of whom are Red Bull executives.
German fans make no secret of their hatred for the side that’s ascended from the fifth tier to the semifinals of the Champions League in a little over a decade. In addition to boycotts, Leipzig are regularly treated to unwelcoming banners on away trips, and their fans are referred to as “customers.” Union Berlin held a silent 15-minute protest in their first-ever Bundesliga match in August 2019, as Leipzig were their visitors. In 2016, Dynamo Dresden fans threw a severed bull’s head onto the field to greet their energy drink-funded guests.
The open disdain for Leipzig is clear on a domestic level, but it is probably eclipsed by PSG on an international level. Like Leipzig, the Parisians are a young club, having only started in 1970. The Ligue 1 side enjoyed success in the 1990s, but were elevated to the very top tier of the game when they were purchased by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund in 2011.PSG have spent over a billion Euros since their takeover, and have become virtually unassailable in their domestic league, winning seven of the last eight Ligue 1 titles. The malice directed at them, however, isn’t due to the amount of money they spend. It’s the source of the money, and what it represents.
The club is fully backed by a Gulf state that is frequently criticized for denouncing basic human rights. PSG stands accused of being a tool of political “soft power,” whereby Qatar aims to increase its appeal and standing in the western world via its megastar-laden soccer team.
Of course, the Parisians are not the only team to benefit from state backing: Manchester City enjoy a similar arrangement with Abu Dhabi. And they are far from the only team in the world to have risen to power thanks to finances obtained from potentially dubious and allegedly unethical sources. Isn’t that right, Chelsea fans?
For many, however, PSG’s combination of problematic funding, a lack of history and a healthy dose of hubris form a particularly unedifying combination.
Thus, Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal is the Battle of the Maligned Monoliths.
It is not Paris against Leipzig; it is Political Influence against Rampant Commercialism.
It may be possible for the neutral fan to appreciate the quality of the product on the field, but it will be more challenging to pick a side to back.
But whether we like it or not, the game and its machinations are changing before our eyes. And one of these teams is heading to the Champions League final.
Robert Lewandowski, FCB at LYN (€30): Lewandowski continues to put up video-game like numbers, bagging a goal and an assist in Bayern’s 8-2 thrashing of Barcelona and registering 25 points. He’s three goals away from equaling Cristiano Ronaldo‘s single-season record, and with Bayern heavily favored to advance, it would not be surprising to see him make a run at the record in the semifinal versus Lyon.
Neymar, PSG at RBL (€28): Neymar had his way, for the most part, in PSG’s 2-1 win over Atalanta in the quarterfinals, yet he only came away with an assist despite firing off seven shots. He drew a ridiculous nine fouls and created four chances, highlighting his ability to rack up fantasy points regardless of whether he gets on the score-sheet. Expect the Brazilian superstar to play an integral role in seeing PSG through to the final.
Thomas Muller, FCB at LYN (€21): Muller was in fine form in Bayern’s quarterfinal win over Barcelona, scoring two goals and adding an assist for 27 points. It feels a bit like chasing points here, but on a short slate and with Bayern overwhelming favorites to advance, Muller’s salary is within reason to plug him in as part of a Bayern Munich stack.
Angel Di Maria, PSG at RBL (€25): Di Maria is set to return from suspension for Tuesday’s UCL semifinal against RB Leipzig. The versatile attacker will be a welcome spark after the French side were shut out for 90 minutes before scoring two goals in the dying minutes to advance. He stands over a share of set pieces and his 10 goals and 18 assists on the season show just how involved he is in the PSG attack.
Joshua Kimmich, FCB at LYN (€22): Kimmich got in on the fun with a goal and an assist in Bayern’s 8-2 shellacking of Barcelona. He topped 22 points in that one, and as Bayern’s primary set-piece taker, he comes with a reliable floor and big attacking upside.
Christopher Nkunku, RBL vs. PSG (€10): Nkunku has scored more than three fantasy points just once in this season’s UCL, but we’re going back to the well with him here thanks to his bare minimum price. He typically splits set pieces with defender Angelino (€18), and he turned in 13 assists during the Bundesliga campaign, so it’s not a complete dart throw. More than anything, he opens up funds to fit in the big names.
Alphonso Davies, FCB at LYN (€18): Davies showed why he’s considered one of the best young prospects in the world with a dazzling display in the quarterfinal win over Barcelona. He tallied an assist and seven points, and frankly, that point haul just doesn’t do his performance justice. The Canadian sensation is constantly getting forward and making things happen on the left wing, and there’s no reason to think we don’t see more of the same in the semifinal versus Lyon.
Jerome Boateng, FCB at LYN (€12): Boateng doesn’t offer much from an attacking perspective, but I’m okay with using him here as a cheap inlet to the Bayern Munich defense, one that has by far the best clean sheet odds on the slate.
Thilo Kehrer, PSG at RBL (€12): Kehrer is another value defender play to help make way for the big dogs. He doesn’t get involved on the attacking end very often, but with PSG favored to get the job done, there’s a chance he collects enough points on the defensive end to make value.
Anthony Lopes, LYN vs. FCB (€10) : We took a shot with Lopes on the last slate, and he paid big dividends with six saves and 11 points in staving off Premier League powerhouse Manchester City. There’s no doubt this is a risky play after watching Bayern Munich score eight goals on Barcelona, but the opportunity for bulk save points will surely be there. If he can parry enough opportunities away to offset any goals allowed, Lopes could come up with another serviceable score at minimum price.
Man Wednesday’s game was out of this world – and shows once again why Champions League football is so very fun to watch. In these 1 game neutral location scenarios the chance for upsets is ripe – and little Italian wanna-be Atalanta was thinking just that up 1-0 vs giant French bohemouth PSG. Honestly Neymar makes more than the entire salary of Atalanta – but here they were about to knock out the favorites – a PSG side that has not gone past the Quarterfinals in forever. Again and again Neymar shot wide, low, to soft or just over the frame. A recovering Mmbape was inserted in the 2nd half –and again the shots came but Atalanta and their valiant keeper ____- stood tall. Finally in the 88th minute – PSG broke thru- a Neymar missed shot bouncing to teammate who finished to tie it at 1. Just 5 minutes later in stoppage time Neymar found Mmbape who found forward Choupa-Moting for the tap in and PSG miraculously survived – making the Semi-Finals for the first time. They’ll await the winner of RB Leipzig and my Atletico Madrid who faceoff today at 3 pm on FUBO TV, TUDN and (streamed on CBS all-access). Friday we get the showcase game of Barcelona vs Bayern Munich at 3 pm, while Saturday features Man City vs Lyon and Memphis Dupay at 3 pm. CBS all-access does have Free Month option – so its time to pony-up and at least try the Free Trial option for this month to see how CBS is going to handle Champions League and Europa League. All the games are available on the all access. I like Atletico Madrid along with Bayern Munich. I will admit the pre and post game UCL coverage is well done on CBS All Access–much more like NBCSN and the EPL than TNT and that joke set they had last year. Who will win? Also Sunday Man U fans they face Sevilla at 3 pm with a trip to the Europa League finals on the line.
Indy 11 – Home Sat 7 pm vs Pittsburgh
Indy Eleven’s Tyler Pasher scored late to secure a 1-1 tie at Louisville over the weekend. Their first draw of 2020 allowed Indy Eleven (5W-2L-1D, 16 pts.) to extend its Group E lead to six points over second-place Saint Louis FC (3W-3L-1D, 10 pts.). Indy Eleven remains the top points earner in the 35-club USL Championship, now sitting two points clear of fellow Eastern Conference side Tampa Bay Rowdies. Head coach Martin Rennie was named USL Coach of the Month for August, after leading his team to 5 victories in its opening 6 games. The 11 return home this Sat Aug 15 vs the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Tickets are available for the7:00 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or calling 317-685-1100.
Christian Pulisic Named to EPL Young Player of the Year List
Really cool that American youngster Pulisic has been named to the Young Player of the Year Award in the EPL this season the inaugural presentation of the award presented to the Premier League’s best player aged 23 or younger. If it was only for since the return I would say Pulisic would be a shu-in but obviously over the entire season chances are Trent Alexander Arnold of Liverpool or Anthony Martial at Man United will finish ahead. The list of nominees is a who’s who of some of the world’s most exciting young talents, including Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jack Grealish, Dean Henderson, Anthony Martial, Mason Mount, and Marcus Rashford. Still after a slow start that included injury – for Pulisic to finish with 11 goals/10 assists in just 34 games played is pretty impressive. More impressive is Chelsea’s offense was literally stuck in reverse without him on the field. Hopefully he recovers soon and is back on track at Chelsea within a few games of the start in September.
MLS Returns to In Market Games with fans after Portland Win vs Orlando
The MLS is Back month long tourney wrapped up with an exciting Final as Portland outlasted upstart Orlando City FC 2-1 on Tuesday night on ESPN. There was some exciting soccer over this month including some morning games and lots of national TV time on both ESPN and Fox Sport 1 coupled with some high scoring and exciting games overall. While certainly not with the hoopla of the NBA still I think MLS made some inroads on the casual sports fan. MLS now plans to return to in market games with limited fans in the stands – which will make them the 2nd US sports league to do so (behind the USL of course with teams like the Indy 11).
3 pm FuboTV, CBSAA RB Leipzig vs Atletico Madrid (Champs League)
Fri, Aug 14
3 pm FuboTV, TUDN, CBSAA Bayern Munich vs Barcelona (Champs League)
Sat, Aug 15
3 pm FuboTV, TUDN, CBSAA Man City vs Lyon (Champs League)
7 pm ESPN+MyindyTV INDY 11 vs Pittsburg – Lucas Oil
Sun, Aug 16
3 pm FuboTV, TUDN,CBSAA Man United vs Sevilla (Europa League)
Mon, Aug 17
3 pm FuboTV, TUDN, CBSAA Inter vs Shakhtar Donetsk (Europa League)
Tues, Aug 18
3 pm FuboTV, Champs League Semis
Weds, Aug 19
3 pm FuboTV, Champs League Semis
Fri, Aug 21
3 pm FuboTV, TUDN, CBSSN Europa League Finals
Sun, Aug 23
3 pm FuboTV, CBSSN Champions League Finals
10 pm ESPN? Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders MLS
Champions League quarterfinal preview, predictions and the sleeper team to watch (hint: Atalanta)
5:00 AM ETESPN
After the last 16 wrapped up over the weekend and several big teams bowed out early — Juventus even changed managers after losing to Lyon — we are down to the final eight, competing in Lisbon, for the 2019-20 Champions League.The format has been altered in light of the coronavirus pandemic, with the traditional “two-legged” home-and-away structure for the quarterfinals and semifinals replaced by a simple one-and-done knockout through to the coronation of a winne. There are no more away goals or aggregate scores; instead, we get 90 minutes for a winner to emerge (or, if that doesn’t happen, another 30 minutes of extra time followed by a penalty shootout).Which teams have the best shot of advancing to the semifinals? Which players could be key in settling the quarters? Will Bayern cruise to the trophy, or will a brand-new team win it in 2020?Consider this your guide to the quarterfinals.
It’s a numbers game, isn’t it? You have eight teams left. Only two, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, have won it before, and as luck would have it, they play each other on Friday night, which means three of the four semifinalists, come what may, will be sides who have never lifted the European Cup.
Beyond that, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest we’ll get a new winner, starting with the fact that the format and circumstances are entirely unprecedented. These are single-leg, straight knockout games, and they tend to be less predictable than the standard home-and-away affairs. Everything, of course, is behind closed doors, and everyone will be in a bubble in Portugal. Most of these teams are accustomed to the former, but not the latter, as during their domestic seasons post-lockdown they were still living at home. We’re in uncharted waters here.But does that mean an underdog will triumph? Not necessarily. Whoever emerges from the heavyweight Bayern vs. Barcelona quarterfinal will still be a favorite. And while neither Paris Saint-Germain nor Manchester City have won it before, given their spending over the past decade and the fact that they’ve been Champions League knockout-stage regulars, you wouldn’t describe either as an underdog.Those four clubs are all in the global top six when it comes to spending on salaries, so it’s not particularly romantic, but it’s fair to say that while the others aren’t exactly “superclubs,” they aren’t all minnows either. Atletico Madrid have reached the final twice in the past decade, but they revel in the ugly, street-fighting underdog status, partly thanks to Diego Simeone, partly because they share a hometown with the game’s ultimate blue loods, Real Madrid.
Leipzig have been in the German top flight only since 2016 and this is only their second Champions League participation, but theirs isn’t quite the romantic upstart tale, which is why so many traditional fans dislike them. Or, more accurately, they might admire their state-of-the-art scouting, entertaining football and high-energy style, but lament their heavy reliance on corporate sponsorship. They’re underdogs of a different sort, more like outcasts.Never fear, though — Atalanta and Olympique Lyonnais fit the underdog tag to a tee. The former’s wage bill is less than a tenth that of PSG, whom they face on Wednesday. But they’ve punched way above their weight the past few seasons, playing an all-out attacking style that has seen them outscore almost everybody in Europe’s top five leagues.As for Lyon, because the French league was abandoned in March, they’ve played only two competitive games in the past five months. They also had a rough domestic campaign, changing managers in the fall and finishing seventh. Nevertheless, they managed to knock out a heavyweight, Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Juventus, in the round of 16. If you want to root for the (relatively) little guy, go for one of those two. — Gab Marcotti
Depay finds redemption as Lyon’s leader
When Memphis Depay left Manchester United for Lyon in January 2017, it was as much to do with the Dutch forward’s commitment and attitude as his performances on the pitch which, for a £25m signing, were consistent only in terms of their mediocrity. Louis van Gaal, United’s manager at the time, believed he could mould Depay into a team player, having worked with him during his spell as Netherlands coach, but when the then-21-year-old reacted to being dropped to the reserves by turning up for the game in a Rolls Royce while wearing a cowboy hat, it was clear that he had some growing up to do.
United proved to be the wrong club at the wrong time for Depay, but moving to Lyon has been his salvation and the 26-year-old will lead the French team’s Champions League assault in Lisbon having come of age with Les Gones.Depay was handed the captaincy by coach Rudi Garcia earlier this season — a remarkable turn of events to those who knew him at Old Trafford — but a cruciate ligament injury suffered in December halted his progress at Lyon, threatening to both end his season and force him out of Euro 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic, which led to both Ligue 1 and Euro 2020 being canceled, has inadvertently led to Depay being able to return to action, however, and his penalty in the round of 16 second-leg tie against Juventus in Turin proved to be the decisive goal that sent Lyon through to the quarterfinals on the away goals rule.Lyon will now face Manchester City in Estadio Jose Alvalade on Saturday and Depay will go into the game knowing he already has haunted his former club’s neighbours in the Champions League. Back in September 2018, Depay created the goal for Nabil Fekir for Lyon’s shock 2-1 group-stage win at the Etihad before providing the assists for both of Maxwel Cornet‘s goals in the 2-2 draw in the return game in France two months later.City were probably expecting to face another former United No. 7 (Juve’s Ronaldo) in the quarterfinals, but they should not feel a sense of relief that it will be Depay instead.
Unusually for United, they insisted on a buy-back clause in the deal that took Depay to Lyon three years ago. They knew what he was capable of in the right circumstances and he has clearly found himself in Lyon. — Mark Ogden
If footballing aesthetics are your thing, then Atalanta are playing arguably the most beautiful football in Europe at this point in time. But speak to those who have followed the club for years and they’re pinching themselves that their beloved Atalanta, so often the outsiders in every competition, are considered genuine Champions League contenders.
Having lost their Champions League opener 4-0 away at Dinamo Zagreb, they somehow edged through the group before dispatching Valencia 8-4 on aggregate in the second round, a pair of games that gained added notoriety in light of the coronavirus pandemic. This is all very new for the Nerazzurri faithful. Though they finished third in each of the past two seasons, they were traditionally a more midtable Serie A side, operating on a low budget and the equivalent of easy prey for other bigger footballing vultures. Their last major trophy was in 1961 when they won the Coppa Italia, but they’re now the envy of much of Europe, perhaps this season’s “neutrals’ favorite” as Ajax were in 2018-19.
Atalanta’s 3-4-1-2 formation is focused on overloading their opponents, with the midfielders there to dictate exactly which areas of the pitch they need to be playing in. It creates both space and opportunity — their speed in transition involves shifting the point of attack from left to right, and vice versa, creating space in the middle of the pitch for the brilliant roaming Alejandro “Papu” Gomez, Josip Ilicic, Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata. This tactical trickery is to manager Gian Piero Gasperini’s immense credit; he has moulded this team so the players can interchange positions in the blink of an eye, while making them structurally elusive to stop consistently.
This season, Atalanta scored the most goals in Serie A (98, third most in Europe’s top five leagues), had the most shots on target and third-most chances (535 — behind Manchester City and Napoli). In short, they will give PSG a real run for their money with a squad that cost £94m, less than half what their opponents paid for Neymar.
But equally, this is unknown territory for them. They’ve never been in the Champions League before this season, and they’re only a couple of injuries away from trouble — they are already potentially without Ilicic for the PSG game due to personal reason. While many pundits expected them to bow out gracefully, Atalanta are quietly adamant they will be a force come the final throes of this competition. The scariest thing for PSG? Atalanta have nothing to lose.
“We can beat anyone over a single leg,” said Atalanta midfielder Remo Freuler. “We believe in our chances, of course, otherwise we wouldn’t even bother going to Lisbon.” — Tom Hamilton
Steve Nicol is surprised Bayern Munich dominated Chelsea despite time off after their Bundesliga season ended.
Bayern Munich are second-favourites to lift the trophy, and when you talk to those who were part of the 2013 class that won the Champions League, you’ll learn about two key factors that must swing in your favour if you are to conquer Europe.
Firstly, according to Bayern Munich centre back Jerome Boateng, you need “a little bit of luck.” Then you need to have a “strong mentality,” with everyone pulling in one direction. He thinks of Liverpool last year: “They were a little family sticking together.” But while Bayern are now in unison, earlier in the season they were a disconnected bunch.
Boateng was one of the club’s more experienced players, like Thomas Muller, who, back when the 2019-20 season was still in its infancy, found himself on the periphery of the squad under previous manager Niko Kovac. They were contemplating life away from Bayern, but now, under Hansi Flick, as Boateng reflects on winning his eighth straight Bundesliga and their Champions League aspirations, he smiles as he talks about his coach.
“He [Flick] brought back the joy for us as a team to play football, to have fun,” Boateng says. And they play like they’re having fun, too: lightning-quick fullbacks, ridiculously talented midfielders, wingers sprinting infield to attack the middle and then Robert Lewandowski, arguably the most prolific striker in world football, leading the attack.
But do not underestimate the importance of Boateng and that partnership with Manuel Neuer. The experienced centre-back has seen it all in a rich and varied career, and he possesses a level-headed personality that gives the impression he is internally evaluating all potential influencing factors in the remaining rounds of the Champions League. He personally feels fitness will be king, with Bayern ideally playing four games in 15 days through to the final.
“At the end, whoever wins will say, we won the Champions League with this kind of little tournament, it was different but we made it,” Boateng says. “I think every season of course has its own story and to win this Champions League … it’s really hard work and it’s special.” — Tom Hamilton
Frank Leboeuf says Kylian Mbappe will make the final call on playing in PSG’s Champions League match.
Thomas Tuchel has been at PSG for only two years, but on Wednesday night, he neatly explained the dynamic between the club and the Champions League.”Every time we get close to a Champions League game, something negative happens. I don’t know why,” the German said. Through the years, even going back to the pre-QSI era, PSG’s European campaigns have often been jinxed by injuries, suspensions, mistakes, pressure and the stress of sky-high expectations. This season is no different.If you look at the season as a whole and where the team is now, with the progress made in the past 12 months, how Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have been playing, how they finally have a top goalkeeper in Keylor Navas, there’s a lot of optimism that this could finally be the year. The draw was kind to them. The one-legged games will take away all the ghosts of the humiliating remontadas they suffered last season against Manchester United at home in the last 16, and in 2017 away at Barcelona at the same stage. Over 90 minutes, the French champions are certainly capable of beating anyone. We saw it when they destroyed Barça 4-0, Bayern 3-0 and Real Madrid 3-0 in the past three years.With their Brazilian superstar and their French prodigy, they have two of the best players in the world, each capable of winning a game on their own. Neymar has never been happier in Paris; he finally feels at home, and the club is hoping that they could renew his deal, just like they did Mbappe’s. The atmosphere inside the dressing room is also the best it’s ever been. That’s why, collectively, they have become better on the pitch too.They still naturally rely a lot on the individual brilliance of Neymar and Mbappe, but the impact that Angel Di Maria had this season, the output of Pablo Sarabia and the creative talent of Marco Verratti have made the team stronger as a unit. And in Mauro Icardi, they have one of the best finishers in the game if he gets the service he needs.Strong defensively, balanced in midfield, exceptional offensively and with a manager who hopefully would have learned from his mistakes of last season, with great momentum after winning a domestic treble and a favourable draw: all the lights should be green for PSG. And yet, it’s the worst time for them to finally win this Champions League.The decision taken by the French league to stop Ligue 1 while the rest of Europe’s top leagues eventually concluded safely means that the Parisians have played only two competitive games in five months.Equally, PSG will struggle even more because they won’t have their strongest side out. First, Mbappe was the victim of a mistimed but horrible tackle from Loic Perrin against Saint-Etienne. He is a huge doubt for Wednesday’s game. After losing Neymar from January and February onward in the past two seasons, PSG really wanted to avoid losing another of their stars. Without the Frenchman, this is a totally different team given the added pressure on Neymar. Then defender Thilo Kehrer hurt his back and broke a bone in his ear, Layvin Kurzawa is out (hamstring) and to top it all, Verratti injured his calf at training last week and should miss the quarterfinal. Even if Mbappe and Verratti can play, they won’t be 100 percent for the game and it will be a much weaker PSG side as a result.On top of that, the club was hoping that the out-of-contract trio, Thiago Silva, Edinson Cavani and Thomas Meunier, would stay to finish the season; PSG were also hoping to keep the very promising Tanguy Kouassi at the club. Only Silva will be there to face Atalanta. Kouassi left on a free transfer to Bayern Munich, while Cavani and Meunier declined the offer of a two-month extension. If you add that Di Maria is suspended, it means that PSG have gone from high hopes and ambition to gloom and pessimism.All the recent setbacks and bad news will certainly make their life harder. But considering PSG are a club that’s never ceased to amaze, both in good and bad ways, you can never say never. — Julien Laurens
Players who should make a difference in the quarterfinals
Alejandro “Papu” Gomez, FW, Atalanta: Although highly respected in Italy, the creative Argentine attacking midfielder still hasn’t quite achieved the worldwide recognition he deserves. Gomez is a technically brilliant player, full of lovely little touches and layoffs, with the ability take on opponents in wide and central areas, set up teammates or finish with a thunderous shot. Perhaps somewhat underappreciated due to never having played for one of the established Italian giants, Gomez has earned only four caps for his country.Now, at 32, Gomez is playing the football of his life, and Atalanta’s chances of causing an upset against PSG rest heavily on their inspirational captain.
Emil Forsberg, MF/FW, RB Leipzig: Once regarded as one of the most exciting, up-and-coming players in the German Bundesliga, the Swedish winger/attacking midfielder hasn’t quite managed to push on from his excellent 2016-17 season when he topped the assist charts with an impressive 22. Even so, Forsberg is still an outstanding footballer, and while Timo Werner has grabbed the headlines (and since gone to join new team Chelsea), the 28-year-old does have the technical ability and touch of class to make a valuable contribution — be it a brilliant cross or a well-executed direct free kick — when it matters the most.
He scored Leipzig’s first-ever Champions League goal (vs. Monaco in 2017-18) and will need to have a big game as a possible fulcrum in Leipzig’s attack.
Renan Lodi, DF, Atletico Madrid: The left-back had the most traumatic of La Liga debuts when he was sent off before half-time against Getafe in August last year. Then followed a period of inconsistency and frequent displays of defensive frailty, but Diego Simeone stuck with the young Brazilian. Renan Lodi is no longer a weak spot and has since established himself as a regular in the Atletico Madrid side. The 21-year-old masters both phases of the game; he loves defending (and an old-fashioned tackle), is able to deliver crosses from advanced positions and is smart and technically gifted enough to engage in combinational play. He was man of the match in the Champions League home leg against Liverpool. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen
Does it heighten your suspicion that Atletico might be the “shock” winners of this redesigned tournament if you know that under Simeone, they’ve never lost a knockout Champions League tie or match unless Ronaldo’s been in the other team? If nothing else, it should certainly heighten your appreciation of the Argentinian coach.Of course, Atleti lost two finals to Ronaldo-inspired Real Madrid teams, plus a semifinal and a quarterfinal. Then, last season, it was Ronaldo’s hat trick for Juve that dumped Los Rojiblancos out at the first knockout stage.So is the fact that Ronaldo and Juve flopped last week and aren’t in Lisbon a hint that nothing can stand in Atleti’s way now?
That has to be too big a conclusion given Simeone still has a fitness concern over a key player, Thomas Partey, and ongoing calibration required to get the best out of his decent array of attacking players. The likelihood, you’d say, is that he doesn’t double down on his post-lockdown idea that Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa don’t work well enough as a starting pair. Meaning, in all likelihood, that Costa is preferred up front, potentially with Marcos Llorente as his partner. In fact, there’s a good chance that this is his starting XI against RB Leipzig: Jan Oblak; Santiago Arias, Stefan Savic, Jose Giménez, Renan Lodi; Angel Correa, Koke, Saúl, Yannick Carrasco; Costa, Llorente.
Realistically, Atleti are one of those sides who lose something with the absence of a home crowd. The brand-new Wanda Metropolitano might not be quite as rabidly passionate as the Calderon was, but those fans are special, and they help. The huge plus for Atleti in one-off matches is that they’re awfully hard to beat, starting with a keeper in Oblak who often plays like he’s the best in the world in that position. There have been three Champions League/European Cup finals for Atleti and three terrible “sob” stories thanks to two extra-time equalisers from opponents to deny victory, and a heartbreaking penalty shootout loss. This might just be the panacea year. — Graham Hunter
Picking the winners
Last, but not least, we have predictions! Which teams will be left standing in Lisbon? Here are our best guesses.
PSG vs. Atalanta (Wednesday): Before the coronavirus stoppage, PSG had been one of the three most dominant teams in the Champions League field thus far, generating 19 points from eight matches (third best) with an average goal differential of +2.0 per match (second best). EloFootball.com ranks them third in Europe, too. But March was a long time ago, and Atalanta played a lot of matches, at a solid level, this summer. If the layoff, and Mbappe’s absence, don’t matter, PSG is a solid favorite.
RB Leipzig vs. Atletico Madrid (Thursday): This is a stylistically fascinating matchup, and it might be the most statistically tight, too. FiveThirtyEight gives RBL a 52% chance of advancing, while Atletico has a slight edge per EloFootball. Atleti’s form was better after the summer restart, though, and while Leipzig should be formidable again next season, they haven’t yet had an opportunity to replace new Chelsea addition Timo Werner. That alone probably tips the scales in favor of the 2014 and 2016 finalists.
Bayern Munich vs. Barcelona (Friday): Despite the seemingly nonstop existential crisis around Messi and co, there’s nothing inherently wrong with Barcelona. But Bayern has played like one of the top two teams in Europe for much of the past nine months, while Barca has been merely very good. Bayern had the best post-restart goal differential among the top leagues, and they have yet to suffer a single blemish in the Champions League. They would be favored against anyone except maybe Manchester City, and it’s no different here.
Manchester City vs. Lyon (Saturday): Here’s your David vs. Goliath matchup. FiveThirtyEight ranks Manchester City and Lyon as the No. 1 and No. 40 teams in Europe, respectively. For context, Lyon ranks between Everton and Sheffield United, two teams that were outscored by Man City by a combined 8-2 in four Premier League matchups this season. City have had an attention span problem this year, suffering about one baffling loss per month during the Premier League season, but that’s really the only thing you can reference to think Lyon’s got a chance. — Bill Connelly
The UEFA Champions League quarterfinals take center stage this week and we’re going to select one key battle which should determine the outcome of all four games.With Manchester City the favorites against Lyon, a massive clash between Barcelona and Bayern Munich, plus intriguing ties between Atalanta and PSG, plus RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid, the final few games in the 2019-20 Champions League campaign will be so tight to call.In the next few days the Champions League quarterfinals will excite as the mini tournament in Portugal begins.Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate to reach the last eight and Pep Guardiola’s boys will be confident but wary after Lyon dumped out Juventus in the Round of 16. Bayern v. Barcelona should be all-out attack, while Atletico v. Leipzig will be full of grit and Atalanta and PSG could end up 6-5 to either team as two free-flowing attacks collide.Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, and there will be one heck of a show over the next few days.Below is a look at the key battles, as well as how to watch and follow all of the Champions League quarterfinal fixtures in the USA.
Atalanta – PSG: Marten de Roon v. Ander Herrera
Yes, that Marten de Roon from Middlesbrough. The Dutch midfielder has been a sensation at Atalanta and does most of the dirty work for Gomez, Zapata et al. to score boat loads of goals. His battle in the engine room against Ander Herrera will be crucial. Marco Verratti is out injured and that is a big blow, especially with Kylian Mbappe and Angel di Maria out too for PSG. Neymar and Icardi will be looking for the midfield to give them the ball as much as possible and if that happens, PSG could run riot. That said, if De Roon can win that battle with Herrera, Atalanta’s attackers can cause PSG’s defense big problems. Whoever wins the midfield battle will win this game. It should be tight and full of goals. Enjoy.
RB Leipzig – Atletico Madrid: Dayot Upamecano v.Diego Costa
This should be an epic head-to-head. Costa loves the one-on-one scraps and Upamecano is among the finest center backs in Europe right now. The young Frenchman doesn’t get bullied often but Costa will have a good go. Costa has hardly been prolific in his second spell at Atletico but he so often sets the tone for their scrappy displays under Diego Simeone. Leipzig like to play a back three at times and that could leave space for Costa to run at Upamecano. This will be intriguing. Watch out for Costa to put down his marker early on with elbows and everything else flying at Upamecano.
Barcelona – Bayern Munich: Lionel Messi v. David Alaba
Okay, so, we know how Jerome Boateng v. Lionel Messi went before. Somewhere, somebody is still using that gif of Boateng tangling his own legs like spaghetti as Messi bamboozled him to score at the Nou Camp. So it’s probably best if versatile Austrian star David Alaba goes up against Messi. It’s likely that Alaba will play at the back but he should basically mark Messi, and when (or if, because this is Messi) he gets the ball back he has the quality to start attacks. Bayern and Barcelona both score plenty of goals but defensively they have to improve if they’re going to win the Champions League this season.
Manchester City – Lyon: Aymeric Laporte v. Memphis Depay
Everyone is tipping Man City to beat Lyon easily, but that’s what everyone said about Lyon against Juventus. Memphis Depay is a real threat up top and Lyon usually do very well against Man City. Pep Guardiola needs Aymeric Laporte to be at his very best and it is likely he and Fernandinho will again line up together at center back. Laporte will line up on the left and Memphis will start on the right side of Lyon’s central strikers, so this will be a battle to look out for. Laporte has class but his pace is sometimes questioned and if City leave him exposed on the break, Memphis can take advantage of those situations.
Juventus Takes a Romantic Gamble in Hiring Andrea Pirlo as Manager
Andrea Pirlo’s managerial experience is limited to nine days as Juventus U-23 coach. So why was he installed as senior team manager within hours of Maurizio Sarri’s ouster?
That Maurizio Sarri would be sacked if Juventus failed to progress past Lyon to reach the Champions League quarterfinals was widely expected, but when his dismissal came on Saturday, it didn’t change the sense of profound weariness at what football has become. He had, after all, won the league this season, but that for Juventus is no longer enough. This is the joyless truth for the modern elite: league titles have become so familiar that they mean almost nothing in themselves.Far less anticipated was that Andrea Pirlo would be announced as his replacement within hours of Sarri’s ouster, with Juventus seemingly not considering any of the alternatives who may be available. It is, frankly, an extraordinary decision, one that smacks of a romantic punt on a club legend made more through hope than any carefully considered plan. “Today begins a new chapter of his career in the world of football,” said a club statement. “As it was said about a week ago: from Maestro to Mister. From today he will be the coach for the Juventus people, as the club has decided to entrust him with the technical leadership of the first team, after having already selected him for Juventus Under-23. Today’s choice is based on the belief Pirlo has what it takes to lead, from his debut on the bench, an expert and talented squad to pursue new successes.”It feels at the moment as though every club wants their own Pep Guardiola. They want their own former player, somebody steeped in the traditions of the club, who can do what Guardiola did in 2008 at Barcelona, taking over the club in a first senior coaching role and leading it to new heights. It’s one of the major reasons Manchester United appointed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Chelsea appointed Frank Lampard.But Guardiola was appointed after an exceptional year in charge of the reserve side. It was a gamble, but one based on serious evidence. Solskjaer was appointed after winning championships in Norway. Even Lampard had a moderate level of success in his season in charge of Derby County in England’s second tier (before he, too, replaced Sarri). Pirlo has had nine days in charge of the Under-23s. Those first training sessions must have been sensational.All of that raises its own questions. When Pirlo was appointed Under-23 coach, was he already being considered for the senior job? Were Juve directors already thinking they could shuffle him into the role if Juve was embarrassed by Lyon? Or is this a decision made on a whim in the past week, by directors whose actions have been increasingly erratic over the past couple of seasons?It’s only been a year, of course, since Max Allegri was deposed after winning five league titles in a row, supposedly because his football was deemed less likely than Sarri’s to bring the Champions League title that Juve craves more than anything. And perhaps it was. But the decision would have been more convincing if Sarri hadn’t been expected to produce the free-flowing football of his Napoli side with Cristiano Ronaldo’s static individualism up front. Ronaldo remains a phenomenon, but to include him in the team is to accept that everything has to go through him, and that is not the Sarri way.Pirlo was a cerebral player. The assumption is that the understanding of the angles of the game he demonstrated on the pitch will translate to tactical acuity from the bench, although that doesn’t always follow. His air of calm composure, similarly, leads to the assumption he will not have any problems with the more political aspects of the job. But all of that is unproven.And whoever is in charge has to deal with the Ronaldo issue. He was the first of the board’s gambles to try to bring a first Champions League title to Turin since 1996, brought in at immense cost despite his being 33 at the time, under the assumption his goals and his capacity to perform at key moments were what Juve was missing. He has not disappointed, but his presence restricts how his side can play. To use late-period Ronaldo effectively, a club has to do what Zinedine Zidane did at Madrid and effectively build a team to service him, taking few risks and sitting deep in midfield.Yet at the same time, the board seems to hanker after something more modern and progressive. Ronaldo is 35. He’s not getting any more mobile. He has no place in an expansive team. Nobody has any idea what sort of football Pirlo may favor–there is quite literally no evidence from which to draw–but it may be that the twin demands of Juventus’s board are irreconcilable.
Christian Pulisic nominated for Premier League Young Player of the Season
He’s up for an individual award. By Brendan Joseph Aug 7, 2020, 12:23pm PDT Stars and Stripes
Christian Pulisic has the opportunity to take home an award to commemorate his fantastic debut season in England. The Chelsea superstar was nominated for TAG Heuer Young Player of the Season. The award is decided by a fan vote, which can be performed here. Voting ends on Monday, August 10th.This is the inaugural presentation of the award presented to the Premier League’s best player aged 23 or younger. The list of nominees is a who’s who of some of the world’s most exciting young talents, including Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jack Grealish, Dean Henderson, Anthony Martial, Mason Mount, and Marcus Rashford.After a slightly underwhelming start to his time at Stamford Bridge, Pulisic received praise for adjusting to the league and taking over matches. “He’s got that confidence now, that arrogance,” said broadcaster and former player Don Hutchison. “There’s not many people in the Premier League that can take the ball at their feet and take players on and dribble past people with ease like Christian Pulisic does. It’s difficult to compare him [to Eden Hazard], because they’re both their own characters, but they’re quite similar. I don’t think Hazard in his first season at Chelsea was as good as maybe Pulisic was this season. He’s certainly on the right path to being close to Eden Hazard’s level.”The Hershey, Pennsylvania native contributed 11 goals and 10 assists in 34 appearances across all competitions despite missing several months due to injury. He began his career with Borussia Dortmund, where he rose to fame as one of the Bundesliga’s top young prospects. He moved to England in a record $73.1 million transfer deal.Unfortunately, his fantastic year ended on a down note. The 21-year-old attacker suffered a hamstring injury after scoring a goal in Chelsea’s 2-1 loss to Arsenal in the recent 2020 FA Cup Final. According to manager Frank Lampard, it’s serious enough that he will likely miss the beginning of next season.“It’s going to be touch and go for the start of the season,” Lampard told the media. “Six weeks probably gets into the start of the season, but we have to treat the injury right. In the big scheme of things, when Christian reflects on his first season, he should be very happy with his improvement levels. He’s had the most goals and assists in his career, and that’s in his first season in the Premier League. We’ll get him fit and get him ready. If he misses the first one or two games, we’ll have a firing Christian and hopefully as hungry as he looked after restart.”Despite the setback, 2019-2020 was an incredible Premier League debut for Pulisic. Based on Lampard’s praise, it should be the first of many prolific seasons as he continues to break records and fulfill his potential to become one of the greatest American players. Winning this award, while not essential, would be a unique achievement signaling that he’s well on his way.
Pulisic’s first year at Chelsea: The U.S. star’s highs and lows since dream move to Premier League
Aug 7, 2020Tom HamiltonSenior Writer
When Christian Pulisic looks back on his first season in the Premier League, there will be a mental circle around one date: Oct. 26, 2019. That was the night he may finally have felt he belonged in a Chelsea shirt, finally showing the promise and talent he knew he had to give for his new club, as he scored a breathtaking hat trick against Burnley. First Chelsea goal, first hat trick all ticked off in three wonderfully worked strikes.While that night served to quiet the doubters and alleviate some of the pressure a $73 million price tag can place on young shoulders, Pulisic also used it as a springboard. From arriving at his new club without a meaningful break, carrying the pressure of personifying a watershed moment for American soccer and moving to another new country, the trio of goals in his perfect hat trick (left foot, right foot, header) gave him the chance to push on.But in this never-ending campaign in which weeks and months have merged into one exhausting year of football, Pulisic will have to forensically analyse the past year to make any sense of it. It was a spell of injuries, stunning goals, unforeseen postponements and dazzling dribbling — the Burnley game was where he stuck his stars and stripes flag into the ground.Prior to that night at Turf Moor, there were whispers at the stop-start beginning to his Chelsea career; now, a year on, those doubts have been replaced by overtures of praise. Pulisic might hate the wonderkid monikers, and probably quietly bristles at the “Captain America” nickname, but he has certainly made the Premier League sit up and take notice, finishing his debut season making the shortlist for Young Player of the Year.The challenge now is doing it consistently. This is the story of Pulisic’s first season in the Premier League.
The arrival at Chelsea
When Pulisic’s move to Chelsea was announced back in January 2019, the $73m (£58m) fee smashed the previous record for a U.S. player, when Wolfsburg paid Hertha Berlin $19.4m for defender John Brooks in 2017. ESPN’s Taylor Twellman heralded it as a “watershed moment for the American soccer player,” but there were others who wondered if this move might have come a season or two early.
The agreement saw Pulisic, then 20 years old, spend the rest of the 2018-19 campaign on loan at Borussia Dortmund before moving to London. Former U.S. international Landon Donovan was concerned that Pulisic would find game time limited at Stamford Bridge. “If you are not playing games, you are getting worse,” he told ESPN. His fears were hardly alleviated by then-Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri’s original take on Pulisic’s signing; when asked about his future winger, Sarri responded by saying he “didn’t know anything about [the] Pulisic [transfer]” until the day before it was announced.
At that time, Chelsea were then still trying to keep hold of superstar Eden Hazard, who was already into the “meet the parents” stage of his long courtship with Real Madrid, and Pulisic was playing out his final hits for Dortmund. It was a tough final five months for the American at Dortmund: injuries didn’t help his cause while Jadon Sancho was starting on the wing. The German press was merciless, too: Bild said Chelsea’s decision was “madness” and that they’d bought a player who was “positionally limited” and had “stagnated.”
– Connelly: The numbers that show Pulisic’s impact Pulisic arrived at Chelsea in late May 2019, talking up how excited he was to be training alongside Hazard. “Any player would be dumb not to want to be in the same team as him [Hazard],” Pulisic told the BBC in May. But by June 7, Hazard had joined Real Madrid for €100m (£88.5m), Chelsea had been hit with a one-season transfer ban, Sarri had departed for Juventus and Frank Lampard had taken over as manager.And then, as soon as Pulisic arrived at Chelsea’s training ground in Cobham, he was off to the Gold Cup with the USMNT. There, he ended up being named Young Player of the Gold Cup, helping his team to the final. Rather than taking a proper break, he was back on the plane to Japan after a week off to link up with Chelsea on their preseason tour — an attitude that pleased his new manager.”It’s how I would have been [coming back from holiday early],” Lampard said. “It is a huge move for him to a big club and he is a top young player who will only go one way. It was important we start the season as well as we can. I know we have injuries but we will need him. I have not met him, I have spoken to him, but it was a good impression.” Privately, sources have told ESPN, Lampard was wary of overloading the new signing and conscious of managing Pulisic’s fatigue upon his arrival with his new team.Pulisic remembers boarding the team coach for the first time and how nervous he was, pinching himself at what he was achieving. “I remember thinking ‘I’m at Chelsea … this is insane,'” he said — his emotions quickly overtaken by the quiet bus that welcomed him as his jet-lagged teammates caught up on sleep.”I go and sit on the bus and nobody even noticed me. Nobody said anything. There were maybe one or two guys who said ‘hey hello’ and I was like what’s going on here?” Pulisic told his former U.S. teammate Jermaine Jones on the 13&Me podcast. “Those first couple of days of training, I was nervous. You know how it’s like when you move to a new team. They’re nice guys off the field, but to earn that respect, you have to show on the field you have that ability — that’s just how it works.”By Day 3 of their preseason camp, Pulisic had started to show some of his lethal finishing in training and was striking up friendships with his new teammates.
Getting settled at Stamford Bridge
Lampard’s first Chelsea side was to be, out of circumstance, built on youth. The transfer ban meant he would look to the club’s emerging talent and Pulisic, 21, was part of a burgeoning group of bright prospects that included playmaker Mason Mount, midfielder Callum Hudson-Odoi, striker Tammy Abraham and defender Fikayo Tomori.
As the new season started, though, Pulisic found himself largely named on the bench.”Maybe my confidence wasn’t fully there, I wasn’t fully ready for the whole thing,” Pulisic said in June to Sky Sports, looking back at his start. His debut came in Chelsea’s 4-0 loss at Manchester United. He made his first start three days later in Chelsea’s European Super Cup clash with Liverpool — Chelsea would lose 7-6 on penalties — and grabbed his first assist in the process, teeing up Olivier Giroud‘s opening goal.”There’s more to come from Pulisic. We must remember his age, he’s only 20,” Lampard said after the match. “It took him a bit to get into the game, but when he got into it we saw what a player he is and that’s a good sign for the club.”It would be a frustrating couple of months. Pulisic was adjusting to the physicality of the league, and also battling the knock-on effects of an intense summer for club and country. His first Premier League start came against Leicester on Aug. 18, and his first topflight assist came vs. Norwich on Aug. 24. But in September he was an unused substitute in three straight league matches and once in the Champions League — only an appearance in the 7-1 thrashing of Grimsby in the Carabao Cup would break the run of bench duty, where he’d managed just one assist on a day when even the kit manager would have fancied scoring.Pulisic said at the time he was “frustrated” and had to “grind” this time out; Lampard wanted Pulisic to prove himself in training in order to get a chance on the field. It was a slow process: against Valencia on Sept.17, 2019, Mount picked up an early injury and Lampard went for Pedro instead as replacement. But as he remained patient, Pulisic took his opportunities when they were given to him, notching an assist against Southampton on Oct. 6 when he set up his former Dortmund teammate, Michy Batshuayi.All the while, as he kept a lid on his own frustration, others started to talk on his behalf, speculating about how he was feeling about the move and whether it was a bad call.Looking back now with hindsight, Pulisic’s former USMNT manager, Jurgen Klinsmann, got it spot on amid the speculation: he said at the time Pulisic would need to bring his “elbows out” and be “patient.” Pulisic remembers trying to second-guess Lampard, wondering why he wasn’t getting the starts he wanted, but had to frequently remind himself of the importance of moderating his own expectations. “I wasn’t going to go in and score a hat trick immediately,” he later said. “I didn’t start [as many games as I wanted] so I was thinking, OK new team, so it’s about staying strong in your head and realising everything wasn’t going to come instantly,” he told the 13&Me podcast.
Then Burnley happened.
“It’s about patience and timing, man, and once you get that feeling and confidence, then everything changes — then next game, goal, next game, goal, next game, assist — you have to stay level-headed and be ready for your time,” Pulisic said.It was the perfect hat trick and showed exactly why Chelsea bought Pulisic. “It was meant to be, it was my day,” he’d later tell NBC when looking back on the hat trick. His critics were silenced.”I know what a good player he is — I see that first-hand,” Lampard said of Pulisic after that hat trick. “There are things he has to learn and improve because he’s just turned 21. It’s the same with all young players. There are things that he’s going to work on, and I think he knows it. He knows that I’m driving that daily in training. The way he’s trained in the past few weeks, and the impact he’s had when playing, he’s said to everyone, ‘Here I am’ and what talent he does have. I’m really pleased for him.”It’s what we need from all our attacking players; to be a threat, to play like that, have a ruthless edge about how they finish and he showed the full package.”
Building — and rebuilding — momentum
Christian Pulisic addresses his role at Chelsea next season after Timo Werner and Kai Havertz joined the club.
Pulisic’s November was impressive. He made it five goals in three league games with a close-range finish against Watford and he nodded in another vs. Crystal Palace, the anchor of Chelsea’s youngest-ever starting XI in their Premier League history. A hip injury saw him miss out on USMNT duty, but he scored against Valencia at the end of the month and was starting to show his lethal, evasive running, drifting in off the wing, turning defenders on their heels and creating space.
December was more a stop-start month, and then on Jan. 4, 2020, Pulisic picked up a thigh injury that was meant to keep him out of action for at most four weeks. It would rule him out for far longer. Chelsea tried to get Pulisic back at the end of January and then again in mid-February, when he was back training with the under-23s, but the thigh injury took longer than expected to heal.”Of course you miss him,” Lampard said in mid-February. “He’s a quality player and he was having a really good patch pre-Christmas. Others have to stand up too, but we’ll be happy when he’s back.” And then the world was stopped by COVID-19.
Pulisic used the break as an opportunity to return home to Hershey, Pennsylvania, and recharge surrounded by friends and family. But rather than staying sat on the sofa, he’d wake early for the Chelsea Zoom training sessions and then spend the afternoons delivering food packages for feedingamerica.org or helping the local hospital. The time, as he later told Sky Sports, gave him an opportunity to make sure he was “100 percent fit and ready to go.” When he checked back in at Cobham ahead of the restart, Lampard described him as “hungry” and was impressed by the “real desire about him” and “sharpness in his game.”Captain America was ready for liftoff.
On June 21 in Chelsea’s first Premier League match since the restart of the season, Pulisic came off the bench to score an equaliser at Aston Villa, drifting in at the far post to knock home Cesar Azpilicueta‘s cross. Four days later he scored the opener against Manchester City, running through the City defence from his own half and calmly slotting the ball past Ederson. (The goal, and ensuing Chelsea win, cemented the Premier League title for Liverpool.)
Pulisic was named man of the match against Leicester in the FA Cup three days later, and won a penalty and a free kick with nifty footwork in Chelsea’s defeat to West Ham at the start of July. The Hazard comparisons were becoming more frequent, and as he twisted and turned Watford on July 4 and won a penalty, he cemented his spot in Chelsea’s starting lineup. He grabbed his eighth Chelsea goal against Crystal Palace on July 7, and after a dismal team performance against Sheffield United, he teed up Giroud’s winner at home against Norwich on July 14.
Sat in the stands watching Pulisic that night, you saw a calmness about him. As he warmed up prematch, largely on his own, he looked assured, joking occasionally with teammates but resembling an Olympic sprinter loosening up before exploding out of the starting blocks. He looked at home, no longer the nervous newcomer. Norwich manager Daniel Farke, who coached Pulisic at Borussia Dortmund II from 2015 to 2017, described him as “top class” and “worth each and every pound” Chelsea spent on him.”Christian will have a bright future and will be a world-class player one day and this is the best way to develop in this direction,” Farke said.Later that week, Lampard was asked by ESPN about Pulisic’s form, and he revealed they had done work on the training pitch to improve the winger’s physicality. “I’ve seen real improvement in his all-round game,” Lampard said. “Coming to the Premier League is very difficult because of the physical nature of the league. We have to remember how young Christian is and also the summer that he had.
“I think he found those physical demands pretty strong in the beginning and now you’re seeing him deal with those better. A lot of that is a credit to himself and how he’s approached it — he’s worked with our strength and conditioning coach Adam Burrows, who’s fantastic, but they’ve worked together — so it’s Christian who has to take on that responsibility, and he has.”Physically that’s helped him, but it’s also just his talent is coming through. Looking forward, I want to see more of what he’s shown in recent times, which is goals and assists, because that’s what the best in the world do in that position. I feel he has the capability to do that as he improves and that can be the edge as his game moves on levels.”Pulisic’s form also made good viewing for USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter.”You see now that he’s picking the ball up in space, in pockets and just being really aggressive going at defenders, dribbling defenders,” Berhalter said on July 24. “It’s not just only on the sidelines, now he’s getting it towards the middle of the field and he’s had some really positive effects taking players on.”And then getting used to his teammates and his teammates gaining trust in him. If you watch the games, you can see the dramatic shift and how his teammates relate to him, that they actually look to him. Whereas times in the beginning, you’re thinking, ‘Wait, why don’t they pass him this ball?’ Now, they get the ball and their first glance is to him. And you know he’s really grown to be an important part of that team, and it’s been fun to watch.”When Pulisic arrived at Chelsea, winning the respect of his teammates and Chelsea’s supporters was all he wanted.
The turning point vs. Liverpool
The game that made even casual fans sit up and take notice came at Anfield against the recently crowned champions, Liverpool. Pulisic didn’t start, but he changed the game after coming on as a 59th-minute substitute. In the space of 14 minutes, he helped Chelsea battle back from 4-1 down to 4-3. To set up Abraham for an easy finish, he danced past Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho and Joe Gomez before squaring for Abraham, and then grabbed a superb goal for himself. The U.S. star drifted into the penalty box off the right flank, collected a beautifully weighted cross from Hudson-Odoi, cushioned the ball on his chest, took two tiny touches to dodge past Alexander-Arnold and then rifled a shot past Alisson.It gave a sign of his immediate talent, but equally showed what he could offer next season and beyond for Chelsea and the USMNT.Though Pulisic said he was uneasy about any comparisons with Hazard, aware of the incredible legacy he’d left at Stamford Bridge over seven sparkling seasons (including two league titles and two Europa Leagues), Lampard was seeing similarities between the two.”I was here for Eden’s first year and it is not easy coming to the Premier League, and for Eden in that first year it was [all about] adapting to the Premier League,” Lampard said after the Liverpool game. “Christian has had his moments of that, but in midseason he had a really good patch and then since the restart, he has been in incredible form. Only the injury he picked up in the Norwich game has kept him out of the semifinal when he’s flying.
“He is so young and he has such natural talent and he creates goals and scores goals. He is a big player for us so I’m delighted to see him come through fit. Clearly he will be a big player in these next few games for us and going forward as well.”
And then came the FA Cup final, where Pulisic started brilliantly, scoring a lovely worked goal and then as he attacked again in the second half, his hamstring went. He was helped off the field, distraught and watched on as Arsenal went on to lift the trophy.
But once he recovers, it’ll be back into training and continuing that process of nailing down a first-team spot. He’s already training with new teammates Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner; with rumours continuing around Chelsea’s pursuit of Germany‘s next big thing, Kai Havertz, it won’t get any easier for Pulisic. But Lampard’s preseason challenge to Pulisic will be to improve his number of goals and assists — that’s what eventually set Hazard apart, and Pulisic has the capability to achieve similar numbers.
Pulisic is a reluctant trend-setter and wary of the weight on his shoulders as the record-breaking American in the Premier League, but he’s comfortable in his own shoes and showing the world why Chelsea paid $73m for him. The pundits who questioned the purchase at the start of the season are now putting him in the world-class bracket, but above all, Pulisic’s biggest achievement, on a personal level, is that he now feels at home at Chelsea and has earned the respect of his teammates.The next Hazard? No, Pulisic is making a name for himself in his own right.
Juventus hope Pirlo can be a ‘Ronaldo Whisperer’ after Sarri mess
Aug 10, 2020Gabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC
Ciro Ferrara was appointed with two games left in Juve’s 2008-09 campaign, and he stuck around the following season. Barcelona had promoted a young youth-team coach named Pep Guardiola the previous summer, and things had turned out rather well: it was very much en vogue at the time. Ferrara never turned into an Italian Pep and lasted until his sacking in January 2010.If you want to draw parallels between his appointment and Pirlo’s, there are plenty. Each became a legend at another club (Napoli in Ferrara’s case, AC Milan in Pirlo’s) before joining Juve in mid-career. Both worked for Sky Italia. Ferrara was an assistant with the Italian national team, Pirlo agreed to be part of Roberto Mancini’s staff only to then pull out due to prior sponsor commitments. Both were 41 years of age when they were appointed to the Juventus job. ADVERTISEMENTThis is not to say Pirlo’s tenure will end up like Ferrara’s. That was a different Juve, with different men in charge and different circumstances; this one has won nine straight titles, that one was fresh off promotion to Serie A and emerging from the Calciopoli scandal. Rather, it’s to note that while Pirlo’s appointment may have taken many off guard, we’ve been here before — and in Gianluigi Buffon‘s lifetime, no less.The vibe coming from Juve, however, obviously isn’t about Pirlo emulating Ferrara. It’s about him following in the footsteps of another great who was elevated without significant prior experience: Zinedine Zidane. Zidane’s name comes up repeatedly in conversations with people familiar with Juventus’ thinking. It’s not a perfect parallel — Zidane had been retired for 10 years when he replaced Rafa Benitez in January 2016, but he had held various assistant and youth-team gigs at the club — but Zidane and Pirlo share qualities that Juventus value.
Both are generally quiet, thoughtful men, the sort who lead by example on the pitch but also the sort who, when they do speak, people tend to listen to. Both reek charisma, a sort of understated cool that goes beyond their (however immense) achievements on the pitch. Both have worked under and absorbed the teachings of top coaches, both pragmatists and dogmatics, and both, it is thought, lean towards the former while entirely understanding the latter.And both are seen as Ronaldo whisperers.Just as Zidane’s appointment in 2016 hinged on his relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo and the belief that he could best harness the Real Madrid No. 7’s talents (after some decidedly stormy moments under Benitez), so too is this choice about the Portuguese superstar. It couldn’t be otherwise. He has two years left on a contract, which — when you factor in wages and amortization — will cost Juve some $185 million. He held up his end of the bargain this season, scoring 37 goals in all competitions, including two against Lyon when they were knocked out of the Champions League on Friday.For better or worse, Juve are committed to him. They’ve put all their chips on CR7 and there’s no turning back, so they had might as well give him the best possible platform to succeed — incidentally, one of the reasons, though by no means the only one, Maurizio Sarri is gone. The coach who built his entire team play and reputation on “the collective” tried to reinvent himself as something else to accommodate Ronaldo — and failed. Juventus were neither fish, nor fowl — just a group of individuals. With this version of Ronaldo on the pitch, “Sarriball” was impossible and the milquetoast, watered-down football Sarri produced himself was ineffective.Can Pirlo do better? What Juve are hoping for is that he channels the credo of the coaches who shaped his career. Starting with Carlo Ancelotti, who made the journey from dogmatist to pragmatist and, starting in his Milan days, always believed that you fit your formation and style of play to the personnel available and not the other way around. This is also pretty much what Zidane did after taking over from Benitez.In some ways, it’s really Juve’s only option. This is not a team that can be rebuilt, let alone revolutionized, right now, nor should it be. They are stretched financially and their eggs are in the Cristiano basket. But there’s more than enough for Pirlo to work with.
However, major surgery is required in midfield, where it’s not clear who got the better of the Arthur–Miralem Pjanic swap and the Panini-sticker collection of high-priced free agents (Sami Khedira, Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot) have been a disappointment in the past few years. That will be his biggest challenge.
But Pirlo has something else on his side, and it’s another reason why he was chosen over more-accredited alternatives like Mauricio Pochettino or Simone Inzaghi: time and goodwill. Juve fans greeted Sarri with all the enthusiasm you might muster for a trip to the dentist. His mystique was all about the football on the pitch, and considering it was atrocious at Juve, all he had left to muster the troops was his charisma, which ranks somewhere between that of a tax accountant and a can opener.Juventus have always seem themselves as a “results-first” club, but given the emptiness of this last Scudetto — their ninth in a row — there is reason to believe that many are willing to trade a season of growth and perhaps a run in the Champions League for yet another grind to the top of Serie A, especially if it’s as joyless and soulless as this year’s. Pirlo will get that benefit.The other reason Pirlo was appointed is rather more cynical. A Pochettino (or even an Inzaghi) would have demanded investment, and maybe even some flexing of muscle towards the senior stars, most of whom are too old or too well paid to shift — you’ll recall even Sarri tried to offload Dybala. Pirlo, in his very first job, is unlikely to do that. He will have been told what’s realistic and what’s not and accepted it.(If you really want to get even more cynical, there’s a Plan B some Juve fans have long dreamed about. Zidane’s contract in Madrid expires in 2021. He may extend it, he may have zero interest in returning to Turin, but at least there’s an option to pursue down the road that you wouldn’t have if you were tied down to a massive multiyear deal for a Pochettino or even the return of Massimiliano Allegri.)Pirlo may or may not become a great manager. What’s pretty evident is that either way, we likely won’t find out in his first year at the club. There are too many hurdles, too many handicaps, too much inherited baggage to judge him fairly, no matter what he does.From Juve’s perspective, that’s not a bad thing. Best-case scenario: he turns into a bearded version of Zidane, quietly but firmly getting his superstars to punch their weight and putting the players first. Worst-case scenario: Juve downshift for a season or two, without taking a major hit financially, the high-priced underachievers finally leave and they lay the foundations for a rebuild with a different manager.
MARTIN RENNIE VOTED CHAMPIONSHIP’S COACH OF THE MONTH
By Indy Eleven Communications, 08/12/20, 1:00PM EDT
Led Indiana’s Team to Five Victories in First Six Games of 2020 Campaign
Indy Eleven’s Martin Rennie has been voted the USL Championship’s Coach of the Month for July, earning the award after leading his side to five victories in its opening six games of the 2020 Championship season across March and July.Now in his third season at the helm for Indy, Rennie has built one of the leading contenders to reach the 2020 Championship Final. After a comeback victory against Memphis 901 FC in March, Indy won four consecutive games to start the season, including a thrilling late road victory against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on July 22. Indiana’s Team capped the month with a 4-1 victory against Hartford Athletic to finish with the most points of any side through the end of July. “I’m very happy to receive this award on behalf of the players and staff at Indy Eleven,” said Rennie. “The players did an amazing job of keeping fit and focused during the months of lockdown, and as a result were able to start the season well on their return. I think everyone in the league is happy to be playing, so let’s keep it going and make the most of 2020.”“On behalf of the organization, I want to congratulate Martin on this well-deserved recognition,” said Indy Eleven President & CEO, Greg Stremlaw. “To lead our squad to the top of the table under such unique and challenging circumstances is a testament to his approach and professionalism and our players’ commitment to excellence. We look forward to seeing where he and our entire technical staff can take the squad during the rest of the season.”Rennie received 68 percent of the vote to take the first monthly award of the season. Hartford Athletic’s Radhi Jaïdi and Saint Louis FC’s Steve Trittschuh finished tied for second on 13 percent, with Trittschuh having led his side to victory in three of its opening four games, including STLFC’s first road victory against Louisville City FC in its history, and Jaïdi recording victories in three of the club’s first four games in its second season.The USL Championship’s Coach of the Month award is voted upon by the USL Championship National Media Panel and the USL Championship Technical Committee, with each group responsible for 50 percent of the overall vote.
Champions League next Friday and Saturday, Aug 7 + 8. Two Games on CBS Sports Network with the others on FUBO TV, TDUN, (streamed on CBS all-access). I know they will be on fuboTV as Man City hosts Real Madrid up 2-1 on CBSSN along with Juve hosting Lyon tied at 1 on Friday at 3 pm, while Chelsea (sans Pulisic) will travel to Bayern Munich down 3-0, and Barcelona hosts Napoli tied at 1-1 on Sat at 3 pm on CBSSN to wrap up Round of 16 play. The Round 0f 8 – will be held in Lisbon, Portugal with single elimination Playoff games played starting next Wed – Sat. on Fubo TV and CBS All Access. CBS all assess does have Free Month option – so I guess its time to pony-up and at least try the Free Trial option for this month to see how CBS is going to handle Champions League and Europa League. All the games will be available on the all access. Many predict Man City as the favorite this year. I like Atletico Madrid along with Bayern Munich –(though we’ll have to see how the 1 month layoff treats them in this win or go home format).
GK Casillas Retires
Real Madrid’s legendary Goalkeeper Iker Casillas hung up the gloves this week. The former Real Madrid captain Casillas won every major honour possible with Madrid – including five LaLiga titles and the Champions League on three occasions, while he also became a two-time European Champion and a World Cup winner with Spain. Casillas played 725 matches with Madrid’s first team over 16 seasons, winning 19 titles. He joined the club at age 9.The Best Spanish Goalkeeper of all-time and one of the best in the world! Casillas had a heart attack last May while training with Porto and never actually returned to game play this season. Sure would be nice to see them honor him during the UCL game on Saturday.
MLS is Back Finals Are Set – Tues 8:30 ESPN
It will be the upstart Orlando City vs the Western Power Portland Timbers for the MLS is Back Championship on Tuesday night ESPN at 8:30 pm. Orlando continued its impressive run under new coach Oscar Pareja Nani scored 2 first half goals to help them defeat Minn United 2-1. Portland will look to maintain the west’s dominance over the east after their 2-0 win over Philly. Again if you haven’t tuned in – this has been exciting and somewhat high scoring soccer from the Orlando Wide World of Sports. The MLS went into the buble in early July and came thru with no Covid reports after the games got underway. Now it sounds like the plan is to return to normal in season games as home starting in a couple of weeks. It will be interesting to see how that works, as they look to return at least some fans for the home matches.
Indy Eleven tasted defeat at home for the first time in over two years, suffering a shocking 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City II at the Luke Sat night. Despite the loss, Indy Eleven (5W-2L-0D, 15 pts.) remains solidly in first place in the Group E standings with a six-point cushion over Saint Louis FC, while Sporting KC II (2W-3L-0D, 6 pts.) drew even with Louisville City FC in third place courtesy of a fruitful road trip that saw it take wins in Kentucky and Indiana three days apart. The result snapped a pair of remarkable regular season home streaks for Indy’s Team that ranked second in USL Championship annals, a 28-match home unbeaten streak (dating back to July 7, 2018) and an 11-game winning streak (dating back to July 20, 2019).. It was their 5th game in 14 days and the Indy 11 honestly looked tired. The 11 head to Louisville Saturday night for a 7 pm game on MyindyTV and ESPN+. The 11 return home next Sat Aug 15 vs the Pittsburg Riverhounds. Tickets are available for the7:00 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or calling 317-685-1100.
Pulisic youngest US Goal Scorer in FA Cup History before Injury ends his Season
For about 20 minutes Saturday in the FA Cup Final at Wembley – all of England and much of the World could see what we American’s have come to know – Christian Pulisic is for real = and might have well be the best player on the field early on. His constant running at defenders left Arsenal backpeddling early as Chelsea scored early off a beautiful combination pass and leave from Girould to Pulisic who slotted it in the left corner past the keeper for an early lead. Chelsea’s chances at victory ended as Pulisic pulled up lame on a pulled hamstring as he made another dart towards goal just after halftime. He managed somehow to get off a half shot despite the injury in what would be Chelsea’s best second half chance at scoring. Without the elusive Pulisic the Chelsea attack just didn’t look the same. Word is Pulisic will of course miss Champions League this week vs Bayern Munich – but will hopefully be recovered by the time the next EPL season starts up in Sept. Congrats to Fulham and US player Tim Ream as they won the Championship playoff to advance to the EPL next season after a season away. Of course who can forget those old Fulham-America teams with Capt Brian McBride?
Passing of Shooting Camp Legend – IU’s Ken Snow
I forgot to include this earlier in the month – but here is a great story on legendary Indiana Hoosier scorer Ken Snow from local online pub www.soctakes.com. Snow passed away in late June at the young age of 50 after a battle with COVID-19 like symptoms. Snow had run shooting camps around Indy including at Carmel Dad’s Club and Carmel FC for years. He even allowed my Goalkeepers from GK camp to jump in goal a few times for training purposes. Our soccer community will miss him!
Lots of Carmel FC Players make High School Squads
Huge Congrats to All those making high school teams this past week at CHS and other schools across the area! Remember if you didn’t make the team – please don’t give up on soccer – Carmel Dad’s allows late registration for Rec Co-Ed High School or of course if you are playing Carmel FC – we have fall season options available.
Reflecting on a legend: The life of Ken Snow – Katheryn Knapp SocTakes.com
Every generation has one: a player who stands above all others; a player who people come to see; a player who is more than just a player. In the late 1980s, Ken Snow was that player for Indiana men’s soccer.Kenny, as those who knew him called him, was one of a kind. He could visualize the game. He was crafty and creative. He dodged defenders easily. And he scored goals. He scored goals with ease. He was small and sneaky. He was technical and precise. He made it look simple.“He was the best without question,” former IU head coach Jerry Yeagley said. “He had a gift where the game slowed down in front of the goal. He became calm. Most of his finishes were passes, toe pokes, a bender. They were off-speed goals.”Opponents wanted to shut him down. His teammates fed off his energy and work ethic. And the young kids in the stands or at IU Soccer Camp idolized him. Ken Snow was the reason the stands would fill up on game day. Snow ended his tenure at IU as the all-time leading scorer with 84 goals and 28 assists (196 points). To this day, no one has topped that feat.“I would sit up high and just watch him play,” current IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “His movement and sophistication — you had a deep appreciation for him. I was old enough to understand that.”Snow passed away June 21 at the young age of 50 after a battle with COVID-19-like symptoms. His family and friends are mourning the loss of a legend gone too soon. And a whole new generation will miss out on learning from one of the best.“Todd and I watched all those games,” Yeagley family friend Omar Alani said. “It was adults versus kids. Kenny, he wasn’t big. He didn’t have ripping muscles. He wasn’t a great athlete. He could score from anywhere. He could chip at any angle. He would put a corner flag right next to the goal. He would practice his free kicks. He got it in every time. It was amazing. If my son was playing soccer, I couldn’t think of anyone better to teach him to score than Kenny Snow.”Snow grew up playing the game and learning all its secrets. He practiced non-stop with his younger brother, Steve. They focused on the little things. They perfected finishing. And it showed.“He and Steve from what I understood, they had a goal in the backyard,” Todd Yeagley said. “They played and finished all the time. That’s where he honed his craft. His vision and composure in and around the goal was just different. You’re never going to make an average goalscorer great. It’s something you learn from a young age. The daily battle with his brother definitely helped his game.”And it didn’t end there. Snow was often the first one at practice and the last one to leave, spending time perfecting the little things.“He was a soccer junkie,” Jerry Yeagley said. “He hung out after practice to work with the intricacies of the game. He was the last one to leave.”Originally from the Chicago suburbs, Snow made a name for himself starring for Hoffman Estates High School from 1983-86. He scored 128 goals in 74 matches, ranked no. 17 all time for most goals scored in Illinois High School Association history. Steve and Ken rank No. 1 and No. 2 in IHSA history for the most consecutive matches scored in. Steve scored in 49 straight matches, while Ken scored in 47.Snow lit up the nets for the Hoosiers from 1987-90. The first four-time All-American kicked off his career with a bang, scoring 28 goals in his freshman campaign, topping the record of 27 goals in a season previously held by Robert Meschbach (1980) and Armando Betancourt (1981).“Any inch a defender gave him, he would take and make them pay,” Alani said. “We would be invited to play in pick-up games. It was like shooting hoops with Steve Alford or playing catch with Peyton Manning.”Snow turned up the heat again in 1988. He kicked off the season by tallying four goals in IU’s annual Adidas Classic, topping North Carolina 2-0 and UCLA 2-1. Midway through the season, Snow tallied a hat trick in IU’s 3-0 win over St. Louis. Snow tallied 22 goals in 1988, leading the Hoosiers to the Final Four. IU hosted the tournament and earned its third national championship, topping Portland and Howard by 1-0 scores.“He was a great friend and a great person,” former teammate Ken Godat said. “He was always known as a fun guy. He was as smart as can be. He was a brain. On the field he was creative, crafty and all finesse — no power about it. He was always chipping, bending, dinking it in, doing something creative. He was a marked man. The year we won it he had 22 goals as a marked man. That’s impressive. He was an amazing player.”Ken and Steve played one year together at Indiana in 1989. In that year, their teammates witnessed magic. The Snow brothers sparked a 7-2 win over Harvard on Sept. 24. Ken recorded a hat trick in the first half, adding a fourth goal in the second half. Steve scored once and assisted on two of Ken’s goals. The duo combined for 12 points in the win.“When his brother was there, they could always find each other,” Godat said. “They always had a sense of where the other one was. Steve was strong, the opposite of Ken.”Snow ended the 1989 campaign with 20 goals and 1990 with 14. He won both the MAC Player of the Year Award and Hermann Trophy in 1988 and 1990. Players around the country knew who he was and idolized him.“I was excited when I found out Ken was my coach,” former Hoosier J.T. Cerroni said, reflecting on his IU soccer camp experience. “He is so much more than awards, records and accolades. He taught me how to get that half step and turn the defender. He taught me how to get that perfect angle. He was very analytical. He was always thinking. He knew exactly how to get away from his defender. He knew how to get the ball into the back of the net. I learned so much from him.”In 1988, Snow added two U.S. men’s national team caps to his resume. He played professionally from 1991-99, spending most of his indoor career with the Chicago Power. He played in 140 games for the Power, netting 151 goals. Snow played his best indoor soccer during the 1994-95 season, where he scored 56 goals in 40 games. Snow had a couple of trials with Major League Soccer teams, the Kansas City Wizards and Chicago Fire, but failed to make the cut. He hung up his cleats in 1999.“He was a natural goalscorer,” former Power general manager and Fire president and GM Peter Wilt said. “That’s what made him special. In the first preseason for the Fire we were desperate for another forward. I pushed Bob Bradley to bring him in. He was trying so hard, but he just couldn’t score. It was down to him and Ante Razov. By the time he finally did score, it was too late. Ante had pretty much made the team. If Kenny would have gotten on a hot streak, he might have had a great MLS career.”Snow remained active in the soccer community, with youth soccer camps in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. Snow’s camps focused on shooting and goal scoring. His camp website, com, emphasized that “players at every position need to be able to shoot the soccer ball.” His summer 2020 camps were postponed due to COVID-19.“He worked with young kids on finishing,” Jerry Yeagley said. “He was very smart, very intelligent. He was a hero, a role model. Basketball kids looked up to Steve Alford. Kenny was the one that people wanted to be like. People loved Kenny and loved watching him. People came to our games to watch Kenny.”It’s simple and tragic. Snow is a legend. He is a legend that left his mark on the game of soccer, and all who knew him. And sadly, he is a legend that was taken too soon.Follow Kathryn on Twitter: @Katknapp99.
IU soccer all-time great, goal-scorer extraordinaire Ken Snow dies at 50
BLOOMINGTON – Ken Snow, the most-prolific goal scorer in IU history and a throwback to an era when college and indoor soccer dominated the sport domestically, died last weekend of Covid 19. He was 50. Originally from suburban Chicago, Snow’s name is littered across Illinois prep and IU record books. In a college program decorated with legends across six decades, he sits on the short list for best all time. “You get one or two players in your career that were as special as he was,” said hall-of-fame coach Jerry Yeagley. “We were very fortunate to have Kenny Snow.” Ken Snow was the Hoosiers’ first four-time All-American, playing for Yeagley. Snow still holds IU career records for points (196) and goals (84), and his 28 goals in the 1987 campaign are a single-season best as well. He is the only Hoosier to have won the MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded annually to college soccer’s most-outstanding player, twice. Speaking to IndyStar on Monday, Yeagley said simply: “He was the finest attacking player, the best attacking player that I coached in my 41 years.” “He had that unusual ability or gift that when the play got in the final third, in front of goal, things slowed down for him,” Yeagley said. “There are certain athletes every sport where you hear that. That was Kenny. He’s not rushed like most people are in that situation.“He could toe poke, he could chip, he could bend the ball. He did whatever it took to beat the keeper. In today’s world, he would’ve been one and done.”When he first arrived for that freshman season, in 1987, IU’s coaching staff believed Snow might make the travel squad — that he might prove good enough as a freshman to warrant a reserve role and a spot on the bus for away games. By the end of it, he’d set the program’s single-season goals record.
“When Kenny arrived, I remember the first week, I said, ‘Well, he might make the traveling squad, as a freshman,’ because a lot of them didn’t,” Jerry Yeagley said. “The second week, ‘Yea, he’s going to be a traveling squad member.’ It took him about three weeks for me to think, ‘This guy is going to be our top attacker.’”Todd Yeagley was in high school in Bloomington throughout Snow’s college career. As he got older, Yeagley — himself an eentual Hermann Trophy winner — began joining open training sessions and pickup games with his father’s teams. They gave him an up-close understanding of what made IU’s all-time leading goal scorer so special. “His decision-making and his technique in and around the final third was different from most American players,” said Todd Yeagley, IU’s current coach. “He’s not that fast, not that big, not that strong, but he just had a soccer sense. He had another gear when he needed it.”Snow never matched the goal return of that freshman season, but he also never finished a season with fewer assists than the five he clocked in 1987. A credit, his teammates say now, to a savviness that extended beyond simply putting the ball in the net. Indeed, Snow finished his IU career with 28 assists, still good for joint-15th all-time.“He just was one of those very few guys that when the ball came to him in the attacking third, you didn’t see it again until it left his foot and was passing the goalkeeper,” Big Ten Network and Columbus Crew analyst Chris Doran said. “He was magical in that sense.”In another era, that one season would have opened a door to Major League Soccer, or even to Europe. Snow likely wouldn’t have made it to his sophomore year. But the sport was different in American then. The old North American Soccer League had folded and the MLS was yet to be born. Indoor soccer was the primary professional option domestically. “We would’ve had him for a year, or two at the most, in today’s world,” Jerry Yeagley said. “Unfortunately, there wasn’t the attraction and the money in the professional leagues then that there is now.”Snow relied on guile and what Todd Yeagley described as “an edge.” While his brother, Steve, who played at IU in 1989 before heading overseas, could be a more physical forward, Ken Snow’s determination saw him through. That, and a great striker’s innate knowledge of where the goal was.
“He was a killer on the field,” former IU goalkeeper Juergen Sommer said. “One of the best finishers I’ve ever seen in and around the 18-yard box, around the goal. The guy just knew how to score goals.”Ken Snow never needed to see much of the ball.Once, facing Sigi Schmid’s UCLA on the road, IU heard Schmid had given his team one order above all others: Don’t let Ken Snow score. “I think Kenny had maybe five touches and he scored two goals,” Jerry Yeagley said.Years later, when former teammate John Trask and Ken Snow both found their way to coaching, they talked about transferring their on-pitch experiences to the bench. Snow would walk his teammate through his approach to forward play, Trask realizing he’d only appreciated the physical side of Snow’s gifts.“You can literally say he was a genius at understanding the physics of goal scoring,” Trask, now head coach at Wisconsin, said. “When he started talking about why he did certain things, it made so much sense, but no one else knew it. How did he?”
Todd Yeagley, who played four years at Indiana before a seven-year career in the MLS, never saw a striker chip the goalkeeper more often. Good in the air and with both feet, Ken Snow rarely needed to rely on power. He was capped twice by the U.S. men’s national team. In 2000, Soccer America named him to its All-Century team.“A lot of those goals he scored were unique,” said former teammate Kenny Godat. “Everything was a chipper or something cheeky. Off-speed shots, benders and stuff. Rarely did he hit just a total cannon.”Off the pitch, Snow could be reserved, but opened up around friends. He had a head for mathematics and an analytical side that never shut down, and he enjoyed a good time. “He was a blast to be around, always looking for fun, always having fun,” Godat said.Indiana reached the College Cup twice in Snow’s career, winning a national championship in 1988 before falling out to Santa Clara in the national semifinal in 1989. His goal return waned through his college career, opposing teams paying him increasing attention, but his impact never did.“Everyone knew of Ken Snow,” Todd Yeagley said. “That’s when his passing and his movement opened up other guys to get key goals and assists. Ken loved scoring, but he loved winning more. No doubt, without Ken Snow on that ’88 team, that team does not find their way to a national championship.”After college, Snow began an indoor soccer career that included stops in six different cities. He was most prolific playing in his hometown of Chicago.Snow flirted briefly with the MLS in its infancy but never stuck, spending the majority of his professional career playing indoors. In retirement he remained active in the sport, running the Ken Snow Goal Scoring Camp, which offered camps in Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. “Ken was a lot like a pitching coach. He was a finishing coach. He could teach the game within the game, both mentally and technically,” said Sommer, who played all four years with Snow, roomed with him for two and traveled with him to national team events. “All the little attention-to-detail items and tricks of the trade, Kenny, he was a specialist. He was one of the best in the country at it.”The camp’s website claims more than 100 alumni in college and at least 25 playing professionally.And Snow’s site biography outlines a career the likes of which his former coach and teammates believe, with increased parity in college and a route to the professional game more readily available now, American soccer may never see again. Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.
Injured Pulisic vows to be ‘back in no time’ after hobbling out of Chelsea’s FA Cup final defeat
Christian Pulisic has vowed to be “back in no time” after suffering a hamstring injury in Chelsea’s FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.The United States international opened the scoring at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, with another impressive finish added to his ever-growing collection. He looked to be in again early in the second half, but pulled a muscle as he raced into the box and poked an effort wide of the post as he crumpled to the turf.Pulisic was clearly in pain before he got his shot away, with it immediately apparent that he was going to be in no position to continue.
With Cesar Azpilicueta and Pedro also picking up knocks on a testing afternoon for the Blues, Frank Lampard ultimately saw his side downed by a double from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.The 2-1 reversal represented a disappointing end to the domestic 2019-20 campaign for Chelsea and Pulisic, but there are plenty of positives for them to take from a season that delivered a top-four finish.They do not have to wait long either before returning to action, and Pulisic is hoping that he will soon be back in contention.He posted on Instagram when reflecting on the cup final and looking to the future: “Gave it everything we had. Wasn’t our day. Thank you guys for your support I’ll be back in no time”Lampard, whose side have the second leg of a Champions League last-16 clash with Bayern Munich to take in on August 8, told reporters of the ailments his players picked up against Arsenal.
He said: “I don’t know the full extent of the injuries, but I know the hamstrings with Azpi and Christian – they have to be scanned and assessed over the next few days. They clearly won’t be fit for next week [against Bayern].”Chelsea trail that contest 3-0 on aggregate and appear to be in a position to start planning for 2020-21, with the new Premier League season due to get underway on September 12.Lampard believes that may be too soon after what has been an elongated campaign this time around, with the Blues boss saying: “It’s not ideal if we carry on against Bayern and possibly go further.“The players need a break; they need to be given a break to play at the level of the quality product that the Premier League is. Worst case scenario, if we don’t go through against Bayern, the 12th seems too early to start playing again.“The players need a break. That is why we are pulling two hamstrings and having players pull out before this. I would like to think the Premier League will look seriously at that and look at the start for next season. I think we deserve it, as a Premier League club competing in the Champions League.”
Pulisic Watch: Goal, hamstring injury in FA Cup final
Pulisic, 21, scored a superb opener at Wembley as he dazzled for Chelsea early on but right at the start of the second half he raced clear of the Arsenal defense, again, but appeared to injure his right hamstring badly before he took a shot.
Frank Lampard gave a Pulisic injury update after the game and said that the USMNT star would not be fit to play in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg game at Bayern Munich next Saturday. Lampard also confirmed that Pulisic will have a scan on his injured hamstring to determine the severity of the damage.
Here’s a close look at a superb display for Pulisic which ended in injury.
2nd minute: Found on the ball and plays it back to Rudiger. Chelsea looking to play the ball direct early on.
7th minute: GOALLL! Finds Giroud centrally, then surges forward and finds Mount on the left. A cross from Mount is flicked to Pulisic by Giroud and he dinks home over Emiliano Martinez. Pulisic becomes the first USMNT player in history to score in an FA Cup final.
9th minute: Man, is he up for this. Pulisic puts Bellerin under pressure and wins the ball back for Chelsea.
11th minute: Lovely feet from Pulisic as he ran past two Arsenal defenders and at another two, before hitting a shot right at Emiliano Martinez.
14th minute: A nice flick to Giroud who didn’t quite read it. Lovely creativity.
20th minute: Picks up the ball on the left and is calm and composed on the ball. Always looking to drift inside.
31st minute: Cuts in from the right and flies past two players but Alonso fouls and the attack is over. Chelsea struggling after Arsenal’s equalizer.
38th minute: Found by Kovacic and plays it wide as Chelsea try and possess the ball after losing captain Azpilcueta to injury, who had given away the penalty kick Arsenal equalized from.
41st minute: Almost gets away but Arsenal stop him. A real nuisance.
45th minute: Tackled by Kieran Tierney, as Arsenal win a free kick right on the edge of the box but it is flashed wide.
47th minute: Right at the start of the second half he accelerates towards goal and is away from the Arsenal defense, but he pulls up in agony with a right hamstring injury before getting a shot away which is just wide. Somehow he still had a shot despite being in agony.
48th minute: Pulisic is in agony as he is helped off the pitch and Pedro replaces him. A dream start to the FA Cup final ends in agony for the American. Chelsea and USMNT fans everywhere will be waiting anxiously to hear the latest Pulisic injury update.
UPDATE: Pulisic went straight down the tunnel and was seen late in the second half as the other Chelsea players sat in the stand and watched their team.
Champions League power rankings: As the competition restarts this week, who has the best chance to win?
With Europe’s premier domestic competition restarting this weekend in a condensed, single-elimination format, FC Yahoo ranks the remaining contenders.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea has spent the entire season proving the doubters wrong. With a transfer ban, a hole where star player Eden Hazard used to be, a slew of untested youth products and a manager with no experience at top-flight level, the Blues finished in fourth place and reached the FA Cup final.However, they are an incredible long shot to reach the quarterfinal stage of this contest in Lisbon. Lampard’s side must visit Bayern Munich on Saturday, carrying a 3-0 deficit from an uninspired outing in the first leg at Stamford Bridge back in February. Not only is a comeback highly unlikely against a Bayern side that’s looked imperious since the restart, but the task is made more impossible by an injury list that includes Pedro, Willian, N’Golo Kante, Cesar Azpilicueta and Christian Pulisic, the American star who’s been terrific this summer.There’s a reason Chelsea is the rank outsider with the bookmakers (they’re a phenomenal +20000 to win it all with BetMGM).With apologies to Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s chances of winning the Champions League this season are pretty slim.
Lyon heads to Turin on Friday with the advantage over Juventus, thanks to a surprise 1-0 win at the end of February that represented the Ligue 1 side’s first Champions League knockout victory in over eight years.That win, however, was likely down to Juventus’ lack of chance creation, rather than their own domination (they had just 36% possession in that home game). Aside from a handful of friendlies, Lyon’s only competitive game since March was last weekend’s loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the Coupe de la Ligue final.Rudi Garcia’s team finished the shortened season seventh in the league, and they were inconsistent in the Champions League group stage. If Lyon somehow manages to fend off Juventus, they will certainly fall to either Barcelona or Napoli in the next round.
10. RB Leipzig
After leading the Bundesliga at the end of January, RB Leipzig fell off in the second half of the season. They failed to win a single home game after the restart, with the exception of a resounding 3-0 win over Tottenham that secured a quarterfinal berth against Atletico Madrid. This represents their deepest-ever run in Europe’s top domestic competition.Julian Nagelsmann’s side has looked less dynamic in recent months and will be hampered by the absence of their top goalscorer Timo Werner, who was sold to Chelsea. (The Blues will not be able to field him either.)The Germans are in the “weaker” side of the draw, and a date with either Atalanta or Paris Saint-Germain awaits in the quarterfinals. However, given their recent form and the sale of their star striker, a deep run seems unlikely.
uffice to say, this has not been Barcelona’s year. They ceded the league title to Real Madrid with a series of disappointing post-restart draws, they crashed out of the Copa del Rey in the quarterfinals, and they churned out a constant stream of chaos off the field.Anything is possible if Lionel Messi is having a good day, but it would be fitting for Barca to finish the season with nothing to show for it. They are fifth favorites to win the tournament outright (+900 at BetMGM), but that seems far too generous for a team that finished the season at a low point, who seem to have trouble with Quique Setien’s high press, and who have an inconsistent midfield that will be without Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal. A rumored switch to a 3-5-2 formation does not speak to their stability and confidence. A home win against Napoli this weekend may be possible, and even a 0-0 draw will see them through. However, it is likely that Bayern Munich will be waiting in the quarterfinals, where Barcelona’s European quest will almost certainly conclude.
Since the restart, Napoli has looked strong, finishing Serie A with a comprehensive win over Lazio last weekend. Manager Gennaro Gattuso’s side also claimed the Coppa Italia, with impressive post-lockdown wins over Inter Milan and Juventus.However, they must score at the Nou Camp on Saturday to stand a chance of progressing, and incisiveness in front of goal has not been a strength lately. An injury to striker Lorenzo Insigne certainly does not help matters. Napoli has also kept only two clean sheets in the league since the restart, which might present an issue when coming up against Messi and his Catalan friends.Gattuso’s team has the quality to upset Barcelona, and there has seldom been a better time to do so. But they do not have the quality to overcome likely quarterfinal opponents Bayern Munich.
Juve may have secured its ninth successive league title, but not in overly impressive fashion. Maurizio Sarri’s men won only two of their final eight league games.Relieving Max Allegri of his managerial duties after winning five straight league titles indicates the Italian giants’ ambition. They’ve reached the Champions League final twice in the past five years, but still haven’t won the competition since 1996.As majority owners, the Agnelli family has taken drastic measures to win Europe again, such as gambling on a blockbuster deal for Cristiano Ronaldo. All attacking play funnels through the Portuguese superstar, who will need to help overturn the first-leg deficit against Lyon before a taxing quarterfinal against either Manchester City or his former employer Real Madrid.Juventus is favored to advance past Lyon, but stands at a justifiably long +1600 with BetMGM to win the tournament.
6. Paris Saint-Germain
The perennial French champions are ranked in the top three of this tournament by most bookmakers. They may not have played a league game since March, but PSG has won two domestic cups in recent weeks and possesses one of the best squads in Europe.However, they fall down these rankings due to the lack of competitive games in recent months, injury concern for star striker Kylian Mbappe, and a recent tendency to falter when the going gets tough in the Champions League.In quarterfinal opponent Atalanta, PSG faces one of the most thrilling and entertaining teams in the world right now. If they manage to clear that hurdle, Champions League juggernaut Atletico Madrid will likely await at the semifinal stage.
5. Real Madrid
It may surprise some to see Real Madrid so high up these rankings. After all, they head to the Etihad Stadium on Friday trailing Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City by a 2-1 scoreline. The bookmakers place them as ninth favorites in a field of 12 (+2200 to win the tournament with BetMGM).Having watched Real Madrid in recent months, this is baffling. They have powered their way to the La Liga title, often with clinical and narrow wins. With Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane in the back, Casemiro in the middle and Karim Benzema up front, their team has one of the best spines in the game.And most crucially, this is a team designed to win European tournaments. Zinedine Zidane has done it three times as manager in the past five seasons.It’s odd to call Real Madrid a dark horse, but if they can turn around their tie with Manchester City, they can very easily win this tournament.
4. Atletico Madrid
Much like their more celebrated city counterparts, it is never wise to underestimate Atletico Madrid.Atleti has continually featured in the latter stages of this tournament and booked a quarterfinal with RB Leipzig by virtue of eliminating reigning champions Liverpool in their own backyard.Furthermore, Atleti hasn’t lost since February. Diego Simeone’s charges are heavy favorites to progress past RB Leipzig and will find themselves potentially in the final (once again) after 90 minutes against either PSG or Atalanta.They may not have the defensive fortitude of seasons past, but discount Los Rojiblancos at your peril.
Hang on, what on earth is Atalanta doing so high in the rankings of a competition that seldom allows a smaller team to creep into its latter stages? Atalanta’s home stadium is so modest that they play Champions League home games at the nearby San Siro. Their crest looks like a shampoo label. But in their first-ever Champions League campaign, Atalanta is the team the big boys secretly fear. They scored a staggering 98 goals in 2019-20, with seven players on the roster scoring 10 or more goals. They press high and furiously, they can unlock any defense, and their passing combinations can be dazzling. They are daunted by no one. Their matchup with Paris Saint-Germain is poised to be the highlight of the quarterfinals, such will be the firepower on display. Nobody could have possibly predicted the Italians would come this far, so who says they can’t go further? It’s 2020, and stranger things have happened.
2. Manchester City
Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are favorites to win the Champions League, just as they were for most of last season. They hold a 2-1 advantage over Real Madrid ahead of the tournament restart, they closed out the Premier League season in style with 21 goals in their final five matches, and they resoundingly defeated UEFA on the Away Lawyers Rule in the Court of Arbitration. Only an inexplicable FA Cup semifinal defeat to Arsenal blots their record in recent weeks.City is magnificent, they are in good form and Guardiola is long overdue an appearance in another Champions League final. There is, however, one team that is likely to stop that from happening.
1. Bayern Munich
Although they have very famously suffered at the hands of Chelsea in their home stadium in this competition, Bayern Munich will gently brush away the Blues when they conclude their Round of 16 tie on Saturday.After that, one must feel sorry for any other team that gets in their way. The Bavarians are on a 17-game winning streak, they are looking to complete their second treble in eight years, and they boast striker Robert Lewandowski, who is the Champions League’s top scorer with a mere 51 goals in all competitions this season.Bayern have been breathtaking under Hansi Flick and they are Europe’s most in-form team. A monthlong break in competitive action may work to their disadvantage, but a team that always seems to come back stronger after the German midseason break will likely take the time off in stride.This tournament is Bayern Munich’s to lose.
MLS is Back Tournament Final: Early preview of Portland Timbers vs Orlando City on August 11
Few will dispute that the MLS is Back Tournament has provided a final pitting the two best teams in the competition. The Portland Timbers were the first to reach the championship match after a 2-1 semifinal win over the Philadelphia Union and they’ve been good value throughout this tournament. Although they didn’t arrive in Orlando as a popular favorite to win it all, they’ve definitely looked the part and played like a team that deserves to be recognized among the league’s elite in 2020. At no point have they looked outmatched in a competition that has seen them go toe-to-toe with fancied sides like LAFC, LA Galaxy and NYCFC.In the final they will meet the surprise team of the tournament in Orlando City, who knocked off Minnesota United in the semis. The Lions’ turnaround under new head coach Oscar Pareja has come much sooner than expected and they have played the tournament on the front foot. Pareja was always hoping to use this event as a game-changer: a way to rid the team of the pressure and burden that came with five MLS seasons in which Orlando failed to make the postseason. Mission accomplished after this run to the final. There will be an injection of renewed belief in the organization and the fanbase no matter the result. The stakes on August 11 are clear: One team will walk away with a Concacaf Champions League place, a trophy and chunk of prize money to boot. Here’s an in-depth look at the matchup:
Portland Timbers vs. Orlando City SC
Tuesday, August 11 (8:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN, TVAS2 in Canada)
The MLS is Back Tournament will culminate in an intriguing final between two teams that are mirror images in many respects, managed by coaches who are uncompromising in their beliefs.
It’s a sixth tournament final in eight seasons as a pro head coach for Portland’s Giovanni Savarese, who has excelled in building yet another tightly-knit group that can successfully execute a game plan to slow down any opponent. Savarese, who earned his first MLS head coaching role with the Timbers in 2018, will match wits against one of the most successful managers in recent MLS history who is looking to lead his new club to its first silverware in MLS. Orlando City, an expansion side in 2015, have never made the MLS Cup Playoffs or advanced to a final during their five years in MLS.
The Timbers have been convincing from the very start of the tournament with strong group stage showings against both LA clubs and Houston to finish top in Group F. Their moment of adversity came in the Round of 16 when they were pushed to a penalty kick shootout by FC Cincinnati, and they haven’t looked back since with decisive victories against NYCFC and Philadelphia to reach the final. Their style has been ruthless and effective throughout their run. The Timbers’ compact tactical structure—starring trusty midfield failsafe Diego Chara—has made them difficult to break down, and their attacking talent has delivered on the other end. Jeremy Ebobisse (4 goals) and Sebastian Blanco (3 goals) have been the stars with club legend Diego Valeri and new star striker Jaroslaw Niezgoda providing world-class quality in support.
The Lions were just as convincing as the Timbers during their matches and were also rarely outplayed. That’s saying a lot for a team that had to go through the likes of NYCFC (No. 1 in the East in 2019), LAFC (Supporters’ Shield winners in 2019) and Philadelphia (semifinalists at MLS is Back) to reach the final. It’s been a remarkable shift in mentality for a team previously accustomed to expecting the second shoe to drop. It’s been very different under Pareja: Orlando have put matches on their own terms using a fairly consistent starting XI throughout the competition. That familiarity has allowed them to grow and build momentum as the tournament has progressed with multiple players coming up with the big play. Team captain Nani has owned several of those moments, setting the tone for a team that plays with purpose and conviction.
Orlando City have the all-time edge over the Portland Timbers. As inter-conference opponents, the Timbers have faced Orlando City once in each of the last five seasons since the Lions joined the league in 2015. Orlando (3W-1L-1D) have the advantage with a 10-7 edge in goals scored across the matchups:More pertinent to this matchup might be the head-to-head meetings between Savarese and Pareja, who formerly coached FC Dallas. There are just two of them and they both came in 2018: a 1-1 draw on March 24 in Dallas and a 0-0 result on September 29 in Portland.
Armchair Analyst: For Portland, the beauty (and the victory) is in the variety
It was easy to think of a typical pattern of play for last year’s Portland Timbers. They would get on the ball, try to transition. If it was on they were deadly; if it wasn’t, they were dead meat. They’d eventually get both fullbacks upfield and one of the other — but usually right back Jorge Moreira — would end up launching a cross toward the penalty spot.Those are low-percentage plays, and worse, they often turn into counterattacks going in the other direction. That’s how Minnesota United annihilated the Timbers way back at the end of February, at the start of this weirdest of MLS seasons.The Timbers left that version of themselves in February, it turns out. They bunkered their way to a home win in Week 2, then four months later as MLS is Back kicked off, they were an entirely new, entirely balanced team. One that — I’m not even kidding here — has been good at basically everything this tournament. This team that could only hurt you one way in 2019 has now discovered how to beat you on the break, via their occasional-but-often-deadly press, on set pieces and even via possession. They are getting numbers forward without taking unnecessary risks with their fullbacks, and that means they are scoring goals from patterns of play that did not exist for them in 2019:Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Union wasn’t about that, of course. Wednesday’s win was about being smarter and more opportunistic on set pieces, and getting a bit of luck when Sergio Santos went NASA with his first-half PK.But being lucky is good, and it’s especially good to be both good and lucky. Those are two boxes that it’s always nice to have checked in any kind of tournament. Beyond that, the Timbers are now also deep and multi-faceted, and while they weren’t quite clean enough on the ball through midfield to entirely take the Union out of the game, it says something about this Portland side that they didn’t have to be. Because they are so good at finding the cracks and controlling the game state — they have scored first in five of six games and have trailed for just 57 minutes over the past month — their margins have grown. They don’t actually have to control the game.And so because of that; because they can beat you so many ways, and with players like Diego Valeri or Jaroslaw Niezgoda (or both) off the bench; because they have the odds-on tournament MVP in Sebastian Blanco; because Jeremy Ebobisse and Eryk Williamson have come of age and come out of nowhere, respectively; because the defense and Steve Clark in goal have hung on just tight enough, and because Diego Chara is still Diego Chara, the Timbers are into the final.Truth be told, they deserve it.
Sebastian Soto’s move to Norwich City a chance to reignite his career
Aug 2, 2020Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent
A wild and disappointing season has ended on a positive note for Sebastian Soto.The United States youth international completed his transfer to Norwich City on Tuesday, allowing him to exit what had become a difficult situation with 2. Bundesliga side Hannover 96. Because Soto didn’t qualify for a work permit, a loan move is needed, and is still to be completely hashed out. But Soto is pleased to latch on with the Canaries.”I’m truly humbled and happy and excited that this is my next step,” Soto told ESPN via phone. “And the path that [Norwich] had spoken to me about and the plan that they have for me was just great. I was so attracted to it. Norwich has such a good history with young players.”Coming off of a 2018-19 campaign that saw Soto, 20, break into Hannover’s first team and score four goals for the U.S. at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the Carlsbad, Calif., native hoped to make even more progress in 2019-20.But a confluence of factors resulted in a lost season. Soto’s refusal to sign a new contract combined with the usual competition for places meant that first-team minutes were going to be hard to come by. So it proved, as he made just two early-season appearances that totaled 16 minutes. But even playing time with the reserve team was scarce, with Soto playing in just three matches in the fourth-tier Regionalliga.”I think all I can say about last season was it’s all an experience, man,” he said. “I guess that’s how football is. I just have to learn from what happened, and nothing against Hannover or anything, but I just have to look forward.”
On top of those disappointments, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the league season was shut down for a time, and the Olympics were delayed for a year. The Tokyo games were looked at as a way to salvage a disappointing season. With that opportunity delayed, it made maintaining something close to match fitness an immense challenge.”I think, especially people that are close to me, knew that I did a lot on my own because I knew the future was coming and I knew something new is gonna come, so I had to be ready,” he said.”[COVID-19] was just something unpredictable. It’s tough being an athlete and having a long pause like that. But luckily in Germany, it was not as long as maybe other nations and we got back into it, and we were able to finish the German season. At the same time, I took advantage, staying in shape, staying as sharp as I could heading into the new season, because it’s just it all came really fast to be honest.”The move to Norwich, at first glance, looks less than optimal. The Canaries finished in last place and were relegated from the Premier League this season, and Soto’s inability to secure a work permit means that he will need to immediately leave Carrow Road and join another European club on loan.But Norwich has had success developing young players and has made use of loans in order to give players experience, with Todd Cantwell (at Fortuna Sittard) and Ben Godfrey (at Shrewsbury Town) the most notable examples. Given the limited minutes Soto saw this season, playing time is of utmost importance at this stage of his career.”All the conversations were extremely positive, from the sporting director, to the coaches, to everyone at the club, the staff was all really positive,” he said. “And I think the biggest thing they told me was that I needed to get experience, which is what this loan is all about, ultimately.”Making the most of his loan spell carries with it even more weight than it might otherwise. With the U.K. leaving the European Union in January, the expectation is that the rules for obtaining a work permit will become less strict. At the least, players from the EU won’t automatically qualify for a work permit, making it more of a level playing field.Soto played on the wing during the early part of his youth career, only for then-Real Salt Lake academy director Martin Vasquez to convert him into a center-forward. He has played in that position ever since, and off the ball movement, his ability to link up with teammates as well as finish his chances — like he did against France at the U-20 World Cup — has kept him in that spot. That doesn’t look likely to change with Norwich.”I think they do see me as a striker, but they also want to take advantage of my having good feet and going into good spaces,” said Soto. “But ultimately, they see me as someone who’s going to score goals.”After a difficult season, Soto is eager to get that opportunity once again.
Goalie Iker Casillas officially announces end of his playing days
Tales Azzoni, Ap Sports Writer Updated 11:09 am CDT, Tuesday, August 4, 2020
MADRID (AP) — Former Spain and Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas officially announced the end of his playing days on Tuesday, more than a year after his last match.
The 39-year-old Casillas was with Portuguese club Porto but hadn’t played competitively since a heart attack in May last year.“What is important is the path you travel and the people who accompany you, not the destination to which it takes you,” Casillas said on Twitter. “With hard work, you will always arrive where you want. I can say, without a doubt, that it has been the path and the destination that I’ve always dreamed about.”In a long letter, Casillas said announcing his retirement was one of the “hardest” and “most difficult” days of his career.
His contract with Porto ended after the team defeated Benfica last weekend to win the Portuguese Cup. He didn’t play but celebrated with his teammats and lifted the trophy.
Casillas joined Porto in 2015 after helping Real Madrid win five Spanish league titles and three Champions League trophies. He also helped Spain win one World Cup and two European Championships.
Porto former goalkeeper Iker Casillas, center with hat, joins the players celebrating on the pitch at the end of the Portuguese League soccer match between FC Porto and Sporting CP at the Dragao stadium in … more
Real Madrid called Casillas “one of the biggest legends of our club and of world football” and “the best goalkeeper in the history of Real Madrid and Spanish football.”“Today one of the most important footballers in our 118 years of history calls it a day as a professional player, a player we love and admire, a goalkeeper who has made the Real Madrid legacy bigger with his work and exemplary behavior both on and off the pitch,” Real Madrid said in a statement. “He was formed here and defended our shirt for 25 years, becoming one of our most emblematic captains of all time.”Casillas played 725 matches with Madrid’s first team over 16 seasons, winning 19 titles. He joined the club at age 9.With Porto, Casillas won two Portuguese league titles, in addition to the Portuguese Cup and a Super Cup.He played 167 matches for Spain and won the Under-20 World Cup.“You’ve always been an example to be followed on and off the field,” Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué wrote on Twitter. “Thank you for everything.”Former Spain and Real Madrid teammate Sergio Ramos posted a photo of him receiving a kiss on the cheek from Casillas during a game.“Soccer thanks you, my friend,” Ramos said. “A legend forever.”Several clubs and players from other teams also sent messages honoring the former goalkeeper.“They say competition makes us better than others but not perfect faced with ourselves. Maybe this futile pursuit of perfection is what made us who we are,” former Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. “#Grac1as Iker, without you, everything would have been less meaningful.”Casillas this year contemplated running for the presidency of the Spanish soccer federation but withdrew his candidacy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Farewell Iker Casillas, the saint who brought us saves, tears and clashes
Goalkeeper with a treasure trove of trophies from Real Madrid, Porto and Spain has retired but it will not be the end of his story
Iker Casillas kisses the trophy after Spain’s 2010 World Cup final victory over the Netherlands. Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images
Put it down to the luck of the Irish. Specifically, the bad luck. Pitted against Spain in the second round of the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea, with their best player, Roy Keane, walking his dog on a Cheshire golf course thousands of miles away, nobody gave Mick McCarthy’s side a prayer. Despite this, God appeared to be smiling on the boys in green, the sides level at one goal apiece at full-time and an uncharacteristically out-of-sorts Spain reduced to 10 men for the additional half-hour through injury. Ireland pressed and probed, smelling blood, with Robbie Keane, Damien Duff and Niall Quinn wreaking havoc up front. They failed to score, a visibly exhausted Spanish rearguard somehow keeping them at bay.A thoroughbred surrounded by donkeys that day, Iker Casillas had kept his team in the game with a series of fine saves including a penalty from Ian Harte and one particularly eye-catching block at the feet of Robbie Keane. Spot-kicks from Kevin Kilbane and David Connolly in the shootout didn’t take much stopping but he repelled them anyway and at just 21 years of age his canonisation was complete: “Saint Iker” was among us. “He isn’t human,” wrote one excitable Spanish columnist in AS. “The day he came to earth, light shone down upon his house like it did at the gate of Bethlehem when Jesus Christ arrived in the world. He’s immune to pain, mistakes and bad luck.”
Real Madrid and Spain legend Iker Casillas announces his retirement
Immune? Not entirely. As a child he either forgot or didn’t bother to submit a quiniela coupon for Spain’s equivalent of the football pools, only for all 14 of his father’s predictions to come in. His mistake having cost somewhere in the region of £1m, it is not difficult to imagine that particularly large slice of bad luck resulting in some sort of physical or emotional pain.His fortune changed dramatically as a 16-year-old when he was summoned from the classroom to sit on the bench for Real Madrid, improved further when he replaced the injured César Sánchez during a Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen and began bordering on the outrageous when he earned his place in Spain’s 2002 World Cup side when the first-choice goalkeeper Santiago Cañizares severed a tendon while “trapping” a bottle of aftershave with a foot. “Luck?” Casillas mused in a 2004 interview with the Guardian. “Maybe. But if you let in three, what’s the point? You have to take advantage.”And how. After more than 1,000 senior appearances for Real Madrid, Porto and Spain, Casillas announced his retirement this week, his trophy cabinet a bulging treasure trove. One World Cup. Two European Championships. Three Champions Leagues. Five Spanish league titles. Two Copa del Reys. Two Uefa Super Cups. One Club World Cup. One Portuguese title.Of course not every day was a good one and like many saints, Casillas became a victim of persecution. Although renowned for his modesty, generally mild off-field manner and mantra of “never, ever forgetting where you came from”, he has a touchy, spiky side and his patience was tested to its limits by the pernicious dressing-room influence of José Mourinho. The pair clashed repeatedly and matters came to a head when Casillas was left out of the first team amid rumours of his involvement in dressing-room leaks, which he denied, and a particularly bitter player revolt.“There needs to be a little more respect to Iker, he’s well loved,” said his teammate Pepe, following a stinging public assessment of the goalkeeper by their manager. “What the coach said was not the most appropriate. Iker is a player who is part of Madrid. He’s an institution, both in this club and in Spain.” The Portuguese defender was dropped for his insubordination. “His intelligence and maturity have made us always respect each other and years later we have even been able to cultivate an honest friendship,” said the fabled authority on maturity that is Mourinho upon hearing of Casillas’s decision to hang up his gloves.Five years ago, sitting alone and visibly distressed in the media room at the Santiago Bernabéu, the player tearfully announced he was leaving Real for Porto after 25 years at the club. At a press conference so excruciating the Spanish club invited him back to do it again the next day in a futile attempt at damage limitation, he thanked the fans for “unconditional support” that had been anything but in a preceding season often soundtracked by jeers and whistles. Tellingly, he failed to thank the club president, Florentino Pérez, with whom his relationship had disintegrated.“He has suffered psychological pressure and they treated him differently to other players,” said his mother, Mari Carmen, who accused Pérez of drumming her pride and joy out of the club. “I have watched him suffer for many years. It is Florentino who is pushing him out because he wanted to end his career at Real Madrid.” Pérez denied that.Casillas has not played since a heart attack in 2019 and in February announced his intention to run for president of the Spanish Football Federation before withdrawing his candidacy because of the coronavirus. Apparently determined to swap his uniform of garish short-sleeved shirt for a blazer, in a comical and slightly sad development he is reported to be in advanced talks regarding a return to Madrid to work as a special adviser to the president widely considered responsible for his ignominious exit.“The important thing is the path you travel and the people who accompany you, not the destination to which it takes you,” he wrote in the statement announcing his retirement. One suspects that for Saint Iker, a much-loved icon who has had his fair share of good and bad luck, there will be plenty more twists and turns in the road.
RECAP | INDY ELEVEN SUFFERS RARE HOME DEFEAT VIA 0-1 LOSS TO SPORTING KANSAS CITY II
By Indy Eleven Communications, 08/01/20, 10:30PM EDT
Result Ends Two-Year Undefeated Streak at Home in Regular Season Play at 28 Games, One-year Home Winning Streak at 11 Games
Indy Eleven tasted defeat at home for the first time in over two years, suffering a shock 1-0 loss at the hands of Sporting Kansas City II at Lucas Oil Stadium.Despite the loss, Indy Eleven (5W-2L-0D, 15 pts.) remains solidly in first place in the Group E standings with a six-point cushion over Saint Louis FC, while Sporting KC II (2W-3L-0D, 6 pts.) drew even with Louisville City FC in third place courtesy of a fruitful road trip that saw it take wins in Kentucky and Indiana three days apart.The result snapped a pair of remarkable regular season home streaks for Indiana’s Team that ranked second in USL Championship annals, a 28-match home unbeaten streak (dating back to July 7, 2018) and an 11-game winning streak (dating back to July 20, 2019).“Obviously disappointed to lose our first game in Lucas Oil for over two years. It’s been a great run of mainly winning, a couple ties here and there. Tonight, I feel like we looked tired. We’ve played five games in 14 days. We created enough chances tonight to win the game, put in a great effort. All the guys put everything into the game, so it’s disappointing we couldn’t be a little more clinical in front of the goal.”
The opening of the match was quite an even one, both sides’ defenses allowing little across a first half hour that lacked rhythm. Making his first start of the 2020 season, Eleven goalkeeper Jordan Farr was forced into heavy work for the first time 31 minutes in, when he went low to smother Fredlin Mompremier’s hard effort from the left corner of the penalty area.Indy Eleven earned its best look of the stanza coming out of the hydration break in the 35th minute, when two more players earning their first 2020 starts – midfielders Kenney Walker and Felicien Dumas – linked up, the former chipping the latter into the left side of the area. Sporting KC II goalkeeper and Floyds Knobs native Brooks Thompson – making his second start in two weeks in his home state – did well to guard his right post on the 10-yard effort, looking big and deflecting out for a corner. The half ended without any more significant threats on frame, a statistically even first 45 minutes concluding as it started, 0-0.Rennie would go to his bench for a pair of halftime subs, bringing Ilija Ilic on in attack for Nick Moon and Drew Conner in for Walker in the middle of the park. The onset of the second half saw Pasher popping up in dangerous areas, his header to meet Dumas’ pinpoint diagonal ball near the penalty spot in the 49th minute a prime example. The chance ultimately missed wide of frame, but served as a harbinger of what the USL Championship’s Golden Boot leader could offer in attack.Rennie would bring on two more veterans to push for the full three points just before the hour mark with the introductions of wingers Matt Watson and Ayoze, the latter making his first appearance since suffering an injury against Sporting KCII two weeks prior.It was a Sporting Kansas City II substitute, Enoch Mushagalusa, that would set up the game’s first tally in the 70th minute, his cutback pass from the left endline finding the foot of Daniel Barbir, who placed his chance from the top of the area perfectly into the upper right corner past Farr at full stretch to give SKC the shock lead.While Indy would carry the possession from there on out, a true moment of danger would be delayed until the 84th minute when Ilic slipped Pasher into the right side of the area, only to see the Canadian fire his chance over the crossbar. The onslaught on SKC’s goal picked up in the 86th minute, but Thompson was on the spot – and on his line – when he stopped consecutive efforts by Andrew Carleton and Ilic near the six.Seven minutes of announced stoppage time was music to Indy’s ears, and Indiana’s Team continued to ramp up the pressure, beginning with defender Neveal Hackshaw’s header off an Ayoze corner than rang the crossbar in the opening minute of extra play. Carleton just missed from long distance one minute later, followed by defender Paddy Barrett steering another header towards goal, but the looping chance off Conner’s service hit the top netting. Thompson’s slide tackle of Watson in the 95th minute at the edge of the area drew calls for a point to the spot, but the center referee deemed the challenge clean, and that marked the final chance for the Eleven to equalize.“Now we need to get a little bit of rest and recover. The guys are on their knees basically. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, where guys were off for three months, they don’t get any preseason friendlies, hardly any training, and immediately we have to play five games in 14 days, including going to Saint Louis and Pittsburgh.” Said Rennie. “I think we’ve stood up to it really well. Overall, very pleased with the players and what they’ve done.”From here, Indy Eleven heads on the road for two of its next three contests, beginning with the first installment of a crowded Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest calendar over the next six weeks. The LIPAFC rivalry renews next Saturday, August 8, with Indy’s first visit to the new Lynn Family Stadium set for an 8:00 p.m. ET kickoff that can be followed live on MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+ and Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com.
Indy Eleven’s next home match follows on Saturday, August 15, when Indiana’s Team will welcome Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC to Lucas Oil Stadium (for a piece of league history). Tickets remain available for the 7:00 p.m. kickoff, and fans that can’t make it to the corner of Capitol & South can follow on WISH-TV, ESPN+ and Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com.
USL Championship Regular Season – #INDvSKC Indy Eleven 0 : 1 Sporting Kansas City II
Saturday, August 1, 2020 – 7:00 p.m. ET
Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind. Attendance: 5,409
2020 USL Championship records
Indy Eleven (5W-2L-0D, 15 pts., 1st place in Group E)
Sporting Kansas City II (2W-3L-0D, 6 pts., 3rd place in Group E)
SKC – Daniel Barbir (Enoch Mushagalusa) 70’
Our Indy 11 returned home and absolutely dominated Hartford Athletic – Wednesday night with an impressive 4-1 victory. The result extends Indy Eleven’s (5W-1L-0D, 15 pts., most in USL Championship) daunting home unbeaten streak in regular season play to 28 matches (21W-0L-7D), now tied for the second longest such run in USL Championship history. Embedded in that stretch is a 12-game home winning streak in regular season play dating back to last July 20 that is also second longest in Championship annals – but could reach the apex with another three points the next time out this weekend. The 11 Return home at the Luke with a 7 pm game on Saturday, Aug 1 vs Sporting KC II. Tickets are available for the7:00 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or calling 317-685-1100.
Pulisic Helps Chelsea Win again – next Up FA Cup Final Saturday 1 pm ESPN+
While US starlet Pulisic didn’t have one of his best games Sunday his breakaway up the middle and release to Mount just before being taken down around midfield led to a fantastic Giroud goal that sealed Chelsea’s fate with a huge 2-0 win vs Wolverhampton. Pulisic was hacked and fouled all day as he tried in vain at times to run at the Wolves defense. He had a couple of looks at goal but overall he was held at bay by the Wolves defense. Pulisic will now look now to a Saturday visit to Wembley where I assume he’ll start vs Arsenal in the FA Cup final at 12 pm on ESPN+ The FA Cup Preview show will be on ESPN2 at 11:30 am. Not sure why this game is not flowing over to a network ESPN station but currently its set for ESPN+ Saturday.
EPL Finishes Season with Excitement
The English Premier League showed why it’s the Best/most followed league in the world as everything came down to the last half on the final day of the season. The finale certainly had plenty of excitement as Top 4 Champions League/Top 6 Europa League and of course Bottom 4 Relegation Battles were all still in play with 45 minutes to play in the last round of games on closing day. I had 3 TVs going as I attempted to watch as much as I could. In the end of course Chelsea and Man United secured top 4 slots for Champions League Qualification. Man U had to win the final and the 2-0 win at Leicester did that for them. It wasn’t easy and had Leicester not hit the post twice – who knows. But a controversial awarded PK lead to Man U’s advancement. Good to see the Red Devils back in Champions League along with Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea. As for Europa League top 6 spots – somehow Tottenham is in as their rather lame tie at home – just edged Wolverhampton who loss to Chelsea on the road. Wolverhampton can still qualify if Chelsea, who knocked them out Sunday, can beat Arsenal in the FA Cup Final on Saturday. As for Relegation play – Aston Villa did just enough as their win kept them in the EPL for another season. Bournemouth and slide down. Of course the return of Leeds United from the Championship for the first time since 1993-94 headlines the teams moving up, along with West Brom and one other. The Championship playoff is still on for one of my favorites Fulham with US defender Tim Ream they will play Brentford at Wembley on Tuesday to see who goes up.
World – Champs & Europa Leagues are Back
Juventus secured their 9th straight Serie A Title with their win on Sunday as Christiano Renaldo scored his 50th goal in his 3rd league played in, he becomes the first player to score 50 goals in the EPL, La Liga, and Italy. The Serie A season wraps up this weekend on ESPN+. As league play wraps up we turn our eyes towards Champions League next Friday and Saturday, Aug 7 + 8. Two Games on CBS Sports Network with the others on FUBO TV, TDUN, (streamed on CBS all-access). I know they will be on fuboTV as Man City hosts Real Madrid up 2-1 on CBSSN along with Juve hosting Lyon tied at 1 on Friday at 3 pm, while Chelsea will travel to Bayern Munich down 3-0, and Barcelona hosts Napoli tied at 1-1 on Sat at 3 pm on CBSSN to wrap up Round of 16 play. Sure would be nice if they spread those games out. The Round 0f 8 – will be held in Lisbon, Portugal with single elimination Playoff games played over the following 20 days starting Aug 12-15.
The NWSL wrapped up their tourney on Saturday with solid #s on CBS – over 650K people watched the final on Sunday, the best ever rating for a NWSL Game. They actually outdrew the Sunday morning EPL and many baseball games over the weekend. Great news for the ladies still I am frustrated the final couldn’t draw 1 million viewers to the Champ game? The Houston Dash edged Chicago Red Stars 1-0. The Dash with literally zero US National team players was lead by England’s forward Rachel Daly who ended up winning the golden boot. Check some of these Saves from the Tourney.
GAMES ON TV
Sat, Aug 1
11:30 am ESPN2 ESPNFC FA Cup Preview show
12:10 ESPN+ Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Arsenal FA Cup Final
2:30 pm ESPN+ Juve vs AS Roma
2:45pm ESPN+ AC Milan vs Caglaiari
2:30 pm ESPN+ Napoli vs Lazio
7 pm ESPN+Wish INDY 11 vs Sporting KC – Lucas Oil
8 pm ESPN MLS Playoff QF3
10 pm FS1 MLS Playoff QF4
Wed, Aug 5
3 pm CBS All Access Man United vs LASK Europa League
3 pm CBS All Access Inter vs Getafe Europa League
8 pm ESPN2 MLS Semi-Final
Thurs, Aug 6
1 pm CBS All Access Leverkusen vs Rangers Europa League
3 pm CBS All Access Wolverhampton vs Olympiakos
8 pm ESPN2 MLS Semi-Final
10 pm FS1 Tijuana vs Tigres Liga MX
Fri Aug 7
3 pm FuboTV, CBSSN Man City vs Real Madrid (Champs League)
3 pm Fubo TV Juve vs Lyon (Champs League)
Sat Aug 8
3 pm Fubo TV Bayern Munich vs Chelsea (Pulisic) (Champs League)
3 pm Fubo TV, CBSSN Barcelona vs Napoli (Champs League)
7 pm ESPN+MyindyTV INDY 11 @ Louisville FC
Tues, Aug 11
8 pm ESPN MLS is Back Tourney Final
Wed, Aug 12
3 pm FuboTV, Atalanta vs PSG (Champs League)
Thur, Aug 13
3 pm FuboTV, RB Leipzig vs Atletico Madrid (Champs League)
Fri, Aug 14
3 pm FuboTV, Napoli vs Barcelona (Champs League)
Sat, Aug 15
3 pm FuboTV, Real Madrid vs Man City (Champs League)
Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard had said the 21-year-old was struggling with a minor unspecified problem in recent weeks, leading to his omission from the semifinal win over Manchester United.
Pulisic only featured as a substitute against Liverpool last week, and although he started Chelsea’s final Premier League game against Wolves on Sunday, which ended in a 2-0 win, the winger was replaced 12 minutes from time as a precaution.
However, in an exclusive interview with ESPN, Pulisic said, “I never had a real issue. I’m 100% fit.”The news will come as a boost to Lampard and Chelsea, who are seeking their ninth FA Cup success and second big final victory over Arsenal in a year after beating them 4-1 in Baku to lift last season’s Europa League trophy.Pulisic had not yet signed for the Blues at that stage, but he said he had exchanged messages with former Borussia Dortmund teammate and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, telling him “You can score one goal but you can’t win!”The pair remain close, with Aubameyang advising him on life in London prior to leaving Dortmund. But there has been no contact this time, as Pulisic singled out the Gabon international as a major threat after he amassed 27 goals in all competitions for the Gunners this term.”I know him quite well,” Pulisic added. “He is incredible, the way he gets in good areas. He’s always dangerous, so we are definitely going to have to be cautious of that, and they have some other good players. But he is definitely one guy that you have to look out for.”We’ll always be good friends. I played together with him for a long time. Right now, we are definitely focused and want to win. It is going to be a good battle; and not so much on the pitch, but we will always be friends off the pitch.”The final comes down to us against them, who is more ready to play on the day. Obviously, it gives us confidence that we’ve been in good form, we’ve been playing well, and we’re going to try and bring that into the game. In the end, it is one game, and in a final, anything can happen.”
Rating Pulisic’s first Premier League season
July 28, 2020, 10:08 AM
Now seems like a good time for a rating on Christian Pulisic based on his first Premier League season as the USMNT star is well and truly in the news for his displays.
With his debut PL campaign for Chelsea in the books and an FA Cup final and UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg left for the USMNT star in the 2019-20 season, it’s safe to say Pulisic’s first season in England has been a rollercoaster.
From a decent start to being left out, then a hot streak in the fall followed by an injury and an even hotter streak to finish the season, Pulisic, 21, has pretty much experienced all of the highs and lows the Premier League has to offer and has consistently been in the news.
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All season long we’ve followed the journey the USMNT star has been on during our weekly ‘Pulisic Watch’ analysis which looks at how he’s fared in each game and the latest injury news and updates, plus comments from Lampard and his teammates.
He’s an overall look at how he performed in the Premier League and a Pulisic rating out of 10.
Hat trick at Burnley– The moment the world stood up and took notice of Pulisic as he was truly big news to the rest of the planet. Up until that point he hadn’t scored in the PL, or for Chelsea, but his treble at Turf Moor ignited a purple patch which saw him put in fine displays and score against Palace and Watford soon after.
Goal v. Man City– After the restart he was majestic and this goal underlined his incredible form. Picking the ball up on the halfway line after a Man City mix up, he ran at goal with his searing pace, dropped his shoulder and finished across goal. This was pure Pulisic.
Sub performance v. Liverpool– With Chelsea losing 4-1 at Anfield, he jumped off the bench and had an amazing assist, missed a big chance and scored a beauty. All in the space of a few minutes. Jurgen Klopp, the man who bought him to Borussia Dortmund, had to stand there and laugh as Pulisic ran the show. Against Liverpool. At Anfield. On the night that hoisted the PL trophy.
Being benched for 5 out of 6 games straight in the fall– This was pretty much as low as it has been for Pulisic in recent years. I spoke with him in September after he was an unused sub for five games in a row following the home win v. Brighton. He said it was ‘very frustrating’ and that Lampard hadn’t really given him any feedback, as Pulisic was upset but determined to prove the doubters wrong. A few weeks later he was assisting off the bench and building his way back into the team.
“I knew it was going to be tough coming here. It is never going to be easy. I’ve got to grind it out,” Pulisic said. “I want to be back and be a part of the team and help the team win games. I want to play as many minutes as I can, that is really my goal, I want to be on the field… It is tough for me right now. I just have to continue to learn. Like I said, I want to be on the field really bad, I have to continue to work and prove myself to be there.”
Injury in January– Just when Pulisic was firing on all cylinders he suffered a nasty adductor injury in January which was then aggravated as Chelsea tried to rush him back. The injury kept Pulisic out from January 1 to March and then the pandemic arrived to shut down the league. In hindsight it forced Pulisic to have a long break as he’d been playing year-round for many years due to his USMNT commitments. The injury was very frustrating for Pulisic, and Chelsea, as their form dipped with him out of the team. Lampard and Chelsea’s players admitted they missed his creativity.
Champions League campaign– Not directly linked to his Premier League displays, but missing a big chunk of the Champions League games due to not being in the team in the fall, then injured for the first leg Round of 16 clash agains Bayern Munich was a bummer for Pulisic. He started three of Chelsea’s seven UCL games this season, so far.
Generally, this has been a very good first Premier League season for Pulisic who scored nine goals and added four assists in 19 Premier League starts. His form since the restart has left Chelsea fans salivating at what he can go on to achieve and he truly seems like he can have a similar impact to Eden Hazard, not just with his style of play but with the goals and assists.
Rating out of 10
I’m going to give Pulisic a 7.5 out of 10. If we base this rating purely on his form since the restart it would be 9.5 out of 10 but we have to take all of the ups and downs into account and there’s no doubt it took Pulisic a while, as expected, to adapt to the Premier League. Now that he’s physically at the top of his game we are seeing his skill and talent shine through. The USMNT star has a huge future ahead of him at Chelsea and although many believed Frank Lampard wouldn’t get the best out of him, the highest scoring midfielder in Premier League history is certainly teaching the American sensation how to time his runs into the box to perfection and helping him with his finishing.
Where does he already rank in USMNT stars in the Premier League
There’s a lot of talk in the news about Pulisic already being the best-ever American player in Premier League history. I hear you, I really do, but he’s played one season. He has a little way to overtake Clint Dempsey but he’s on the way and he’s having a huge impact at a huge club. Pulisic’s potential is greater than any other American goalkeeper or outfield player who has graced the Premier League before.
Here is where I would currently rank Pulisic in terms of the greatest USMNT players in Premier League history:
2. Tim Howard
3. Brad Friedel 4. Christian Pulisic
5. Brian McBride
Christian Pulisic exclusive: U.S. star ready to help lead Chelsea to FA Cup glory, excited for next season
11:05 AM ETJames Olley Senior Writer, ESPN FC
There is an image that Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic recalls when he wants to escape the pressure and scrutiny that comes with being an American soccer player in the Premier League.”Back home, especially, when I’m back on the farm with my sister, I watch her ride horses, kind of live a really simple life,” the Chelsea winger tells ESPN. “That’s just what I love to do.”Football is always around me, but there are times when you can’t let it stress you out too much.”Appropriately enough, Pulisic’s sister Devyn — or Dee Dee, to her friends — owns and runs a 13-acre farm called Tranquility Stables in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, a short 30-minute drive from the family’s hometown of Hershey. It is perhaps a result of growing up surrounded by this serenity that Pulisic is able to navigate the highs and lows of a tumultuous debut season in west London with such equanimity.Pulisic bought the property for his sister, 17 months his senior, in a reciprocal show of support that emanates from his father, Mark and mother, Kelley. Both parents played football at George Mason University, enabling them to some extent to prepare their son for a journey that took him to Borussia Dortmund at age 15, continued with a £57.6 million move to Chelsea last summer and now, this Saturday, puts him on the brink of marking his first season in England with a major trophy as the Blues face Arsenal in the FA Cup Final. (Stream LIVE/U.S. only: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+).
Life for Pulisic in England began with daunting comparisons to Eden Hazard before Pulisic was even able to kick a ball for the club. Hazard departed for Real Madrid after seven years as the club’s talisman, dragging his team almost single-handedly to Europa League glory in his final match. Chelsea were unable to sign any other players, aside from making Mateo Kovacic‘s loan deal from Real Madrid permanent, due to a FIFA transfer ban and so the pressure on Pulisic to perform was immediate.”It was definitely just noise,” he said of the Hazard link. “People love to make comparisons, they do it in all sports I think and that’s just how it is. I understand that, but never was I looking to compare myself to him or trying to bring what he had. I never really looked at it like that. I always just focused on myself, wanting to do my best because that’s what I’m here to do.”I’ve definitely learned a lot — coming to a new league, a brand new team, a lot of things changed for me. I think I had a lot of stuff to overcome as well with an injury in the middle of it. Obviously COVID-19 changed a lot of things as well. To be here in this position after my first season, I think I can say I’m happy. I think I’ve come a long way.”Although he made a promising full debut in August’s UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool in Istanbul, Pulisic only started three of their opening nine Premier League games, as Lampard harboured concerns about the 21-year-old’s fitness levels despite joining up with the club earlier than expected last July, a week after the U.S. lost the Gold Cup final to Mexico. Pulisic seized his opportunity, however, in October, with a hat-trick against Burnley that triggered a run of 12 consecutive starts across all competitions. By the turn of the year, a groin problem halted his season and when he was close to a full recovery in March, the coronavirus pandemic reached England and shut the sport down.”Having a big injury was definitely tough for me,” he said. “I thought I was playing well and in good form. Obviously, that put a big stop on things at the time. When lockdown started, it gave me that extra time to really make sure I’m 100 percent fit, ready to go, and it put me on a level playing field when everyone was back because everyone hadn’t played for a while. It gave me a quick refresh and a chance to go again.”Pulisic worked closely with Chelsea’s strength and conditioning coach Adam Burrows to improve his physicality for English football, while Lampard has spent time working with him on an individual basis, pinpointing specific runs from deep that would make him more effective. The impact of that work behind the scenes has been clear.
Since the restart, Pulisic has started eight of Chelsea’s 10 games — only missing the FA Cup semifinal against Manchester United and a starting role at Liverpool due to a minor injury — and played a pivotal role in the Blues securing Champions League qualification by finishing fourth in the Premier League. Preparations for next season have already begun, with Chelsea attempting to sign German playmaker Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen in addition to new arrivals Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, who are already training with the first-team group.
All three can operate in a variety of attacking positions. With Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Olivier Giroud among those vying for first-team minutes, it appeared at one stage that Pulisic faced a fight to form a key part of Lampard’s vision for the future, especially given Lampard regularly castigated his forwards for a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.
“There have been a lot of occasions this year when we want to finish off games and that’s really important,” said Pulisic. “We’ve done a pretty good job of that lately and we want to keep that up. Bringing in guys with a lot of attacking ability is only going to help us.”It is really exciting. I’m getting to train with those guys now, getting to know them. They are big players, they’ve proved that at their old clubs. It is going to be a really exciting year moving forward. Obviously we have a lot of options and a really strong team. We are looking forward to seeing what we can do next season.”Any real attacking position, we are all used to. We have played in different spots. It is really important and it gives us different looks at times. Playing in different positions at times, I think that could be really effectiveBefore that, however, there’s a Wembley date against Arsenal to consider. The Blues have won the world’s oldest club knockout competition eight times and this is their third final in four years, having beaten Manchester United in 2018 but lost to the Gunners a year earlier. Although fans are prevented from attending due to COVID-19, the showpiece occasion will pull in a worldwide television audience in the hundreds of millions, including a growing following in America on ESPN+, hoping to celebrate the USMNT star lifting silverware. Typically, however, that level of hysteria washes over Pulisic.”When I’m over here [in England], I don’t really feel like [a vanguard] at all,” he said. “Obviously I’m in a team with incredible players and in a league with huge names, huge players, so I don’t really think of that too much. I understand the standing I have in the U.S. and with the national team. That’s a different story, but it isn’t something I think about too much.”I’m sure its grown a bit. The Premier League is the biggest league in the world. A lot of Americans follow it much more, so you could say that. When I’m in America, I kind of go off the grid and be with my family and friends.”In normal times, Pulisic’s family would be among the 90,000 spectators at Wembley.”I’m sure my family will be watching back home,” he added. “It is tough times, obviously. You’d love to have them there and fill out Wembley, but we’re going to do the best we can under the circumstances and they’ll definitely be watching and supporting.”That’s the thing my family is the best at, never letting me get too low, never getting too high either. They are always there to talk to me and discuss things that aren’t about football as well. They are always there. They have been the best support system for me, coming up from when I first started in Dortmund and then being here so I am really thankful to have them.”Wembley is a beautiful stadium. We’ve just played there and obviously without fans, it is going to be a little different but the feeling will be the same if we can get that trophy.”We want to go out on a high.”
Yeah, the stakes are high for Saturday’s FA Cup Final, where the tournament’s winningest side meets its blue London rivals at 12:30 pm ET.
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FA Cup history
Arsenal has won the FA Cup a record 13 times, one more than Manchester United and five more times than its Saturday opponents. Chelsea last won in 2018 while Arsenal won the previous season.
Last chance for silverware
While Chelsea is still technically alive in Europe, down 3-0 to Bayern Munich and the home leg of a Champions League Round of 16 tie, the FA Cup Final is far and away both clubs’ best chance at silverware in their new managers’ first seasons in charge.
Arsenal is without Bernd Leno, Calum Chambers, Shkrodan Mustafi, and Gabriel Martinelli. It looks like Hector Bellerin will be a game time decision.
Billy Gilmour is out for Chelsea, who is waiting on the fitness of stars N’Golo Kante and Willian.
American star Christian Pulisic is not facing any injury problems and said he “never had a real issue” over the last few weeks of the season despite coming off the bench against Liverpool.
Pulisic also spoke about the final and challenging old pal and mentor Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for hardware. From ESPN:
“The final comes down to us against them, who is more ready to play on the day. Obviously, it gives us confidence that we’ve been in good form, we’ve been playing well, and we’re going to try and bring that into the game. In the end, it is one game, and in a final, anything can happen.”
Odds and ends
Arsenal is +235 to win while Chelsea comes in at +114 according to DraftKings with a +250 chance of it going to penalty kicks.
The Blues took four of six points off Arsenal in Premier League play this season, winning 2-1 at the Emirates on Dec. 29 and drawing 2-2 at Stamford Bridge three-and-a-half weeks later.
It could go in any direction, as Chelsea’s shown itself to be a chance producer but also a chance waster and capable of defensive errors. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Bukayo Saka are electric talents who can punish the Blues. Pulisic has a huge chance to make another great moment in his young career. Let’s call this one as a going to kicks.
NWSL’s unlikely Houston Dash give sport its first coronavirus-era champion
The Houston Dash are the first professional American sports team to celebrate a championship amid the coronavirus pandemic. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
The first professional sports league in the U.S. to resume competition amidst a pandemic, the National Women’s Soccer League proved that there was a way for the games to go on.In winning the monthlong NWSL Challenge Cup after never so much as reaching the playoffs in their first six seasons in the league, the Houston Dash showed those games could still matter.Why else would Houston midfielder Kristie Mewis struggle to contain the tears after a hamstring injury forced her out of the final in the first half? Why would defender Megan Oyster throw her head at a cross in the closing minutes, knowing she left her injured ribs open to the collision that inevitably knocked her to the ground when a similarly desperate opponent lunged at the ball?
Why would league MVP Rachel Daly, exhaustion showing in second-half stoppage time, find just enough energy to flick a pass to midfielder Shea Groom, who somehow still had the legs to run around Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and score the goal that sealed a 2-0 win?Why would forward Nichelle Prince even want to be in Utah, let alone creating chance after chance and chasing back on defense, barely a month after her father passed away — and mere weeks after she waited out quarantine alone in a Utah hotel room after returning to the bubble from her home in Canada?Why would anyone do any of that if their paycheck was guaranteed even if they opted out?In a year in which control over our world has never felt more fleeting, the ability to accomplish something is a powerful motivator. Even if only for 90 minutes on a field marked out in chalk.”We’re just winners today,” Daly said afterward. “And I think that’s what we want to be known as.”For the briefest of moments Sunday, it looked as if Houston would play the role often ascribed to championship newbies — the role that Chicago coach Rory Dames admitted his team filled a season ago in its first championship game when it came out flat against North Carolina in the opening minutes. On this occasion, with Houston at first hesitant at kickoff, Chicago’s Savannah McCaskill got loose down the flank in the opening minute and crossed the ball into dangerous space. The Dash eventually cleared the ball, but warning lights flashed brightly.Except Houston, which spent essentially the entire month in Utah ceding possession to its opponents and creating its own chances in short bursts with the ball or on the counter attack, continued to do just that. Mewis raced down the left side in the fourth minute, played in by Daly despite getting knocked to the ground in the process, and dribbled past defender Kayla Sharples, who tugged Mewis from behind for an obvious penalty.Daly, who said she was still reeling from the collision at midfield, ceded the penalty kick to midfielder Sophie Schmidt. The veteran Canadian international calmly converted the chance.”I don’t think it changes the game plan a bit because you’re in the fifth or sixth minute, so there’s a lot of game left,” Dames said. “But the worst thing to do, even if you’re in the regular season in a three-game week, the worst thing to do in that third game is to go down a goal early because now you’ve got to muster up energy to chase and be able to play higher and press.”The moment encapsulated much about the entire tournament. A promising but inexperienced second-year player, Sharples was in the starting lineup for the final because Casey Short, one of the best defenders in the league and a regular part of Vlatko Andonovski’s national team rosters, was out with a head injury. The Red Stars also played most of the tournament without standouts Tierna Davidson, Morgan Gautrat and Yuki Nagasoto because of injuries.Whether players were injured during the tournament or opted out of participating beforehand, there was a significant list of stars absent for some or all of the tournament. No team was going to win with its first-choice lineup. Everyone had to adjust — and that after a limited preseason.The only team without any members of the U.S. team that won the World Cup last summer, Houston wasn’t immune to the churn. Not long after she drew the penalty and appeared to grab her left hamstring in some discomfort — but long enough that she made at least one more all-out sprint down the left side — Mewis admitted to Dash coach James Clarkson the preexisting hamstring injury wouldn’t allow her to continue.Enter CeCe Kizer, who played just 32 minutes in her first five appearances in the tournament. The Dash barely missed a beat.”I think it’s really important to credit CeCe,” Daly said. “She’s been an integral part of our team. She stepped up today, she played phenomenal. And to fill somebody like Kristie’s boots is very difficult. For me, as a natural center forward with her behind me, I get communication, I get the ball fed to me. It’s difficult to lose a player like that, but credit where credit is due.”
And in stoppage time, it was up to Daly to offer one last example. So apparently exhausted on another blisteringly hot day at the end of a brutally long month that you could see her hands slip to her knees as the ball bounced around the midfield, Daly gathered herself long to pay Groom in for the final goal. The goal that guaranteed the Dash will never again be afterthoughts in the NWSL story.”I probably was running on E at that point, my tank is a little bit empty,” Daly acknowledged. “I just saw Shea go and I knew she was going to score. In the past, I might have tried to do that myself and try and dribble the whole field. But I think as a leader on this team, I’ve had to step up and be more for other people this year. Shea’s come in and done phenomenal. I mean, I just keep assisting her, but she doesn’t assist me.”She was, to be clear, just kidding about the last part — and according to Clarkson, the assist that earned Daly the Golden Boot via tiebreaker was even worth an extra $10,000.If the Dash played fewer games to earn their trophy than any other NWSL champion, they and the rest of the tournament field also passed a test unlike any sports has seen in our lifetimes.”This was a unique tournament for us,” Red Stars star Julie Ertz said afterward with a wry and weary chuckle. “But one of a lot of growth — a lot of growth on the field, a lot of growth off the field. For me, a lot of growth as a leader. This is definitely a tournament I’ll never forget, obviously playing soccer games and being able to come back and be with my team and grind every day. I think we’ve learned a lot about mental health for sure. Which is obviously important going through.”The first league to return, the NWSL now becomes the first to figure out what comes next. NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird this past week indicated, while stopping short of confirming or offering a timetable, that the league will explore ways to play more games this year.But pulling off the past month, which featured more than 2,000 minutes of soccer and, according to the league, more than 2,000 coronavirus tests without a positive result (excluding the positive tests that forced Orlando to withdraw before it traveled to the Utah bubble), was its own feat for all involved.”It’s interesting because each tournament or any team I’ve been a part of, it’s all about the journey to get somewhere,” Ertz said. “For us, this was really special for a lot of reasons that really only us 28 that are here plus the coaches really will ever understand.”The mood was slightly different for the Dash, Daly happily sipping a celebratory beer from a league sponsor as she answered questions. But that particular sentiment was shared.”We’ve faced so much adversity,” Daly said. “More than anybody in the world could understand — and they’ll probably never know.”The NWSL was the first league to get back on the field. The Dash were the first team to remind us how much that can mean.
Champions League draw: Ronaldo, Juve unlikely to win; how far can Man City go?
Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC
The Champions League is back, but not as we know it. With 12 teams, 11 games and a World Cup-style last eight, it will take seven straight knock-out ties in the space of 12 days at two venues in Lisbon, Portugal, to decide who will be crowned European champions.With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the 2019-20 Champions League to be suspended in March with half of the Round of 16 still to be completed, UEFA has condensed the competition into a new format in order to play this season’s tournament to a conclusion. And following Friday’s draw, we now have a route map to the final, at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz on Aug. 23.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2019-20
The quarterfinals, semifinals and the final will be played as a final eight straight knock-out tournament at the homes of Benfica and Sporting CP.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s team are a dangerous outsider in their first-ever Champions League campaign, and although they will go into their quarterfinal clash against Paris Saint-Germain as underdogs, the form book suggests they should actually be fancied to progress to the semis.Atalanta are on a six-game winning streak in Serie A and have already booked their place in next season’s Champions League. They have also shown incredible fighting spirit to make it this far, having lost their first three games in Group C — conceding 10 goals in the process. But with PSG out of action since March due to the cancellation of Ligue 1, Atalanta should have a major advantage in terms of match fitness. They can definitely eliminate the French champions and make it to the semifinals.
Is this finally the year that Atletico Madrid end their agonising wait for Champions League glory? Diego Simeone’s team certainly have a golden chance to make it to the final, having been paired with RB Leipzig in the quarters before a match-up with Atalanta or PSG in the semis.Having eliminated holders Liverpool in the Round of 16, Atletico will go into the mini-tournament as favourites to reach the final having embarked on an eight-game unbeaten run in La Liga since the restart last month. Atleti possess the experience and quality to make it past Leipzig and whomever they face in the semis, but with an array of heavyweights lining up in the other half of the draw, they could be facing another heartbreak in the final, six years after losing to Real Madrid in Lisbon in the 2014 final.
Barcelona must negotiate the second leg of their last-16 tie against Napoli before booking their trip to Lisbon, but with Quique Setien’s side earning a 1-1 draw in Italy in the first-leg, they will be favourites to make it to the last eight. They face a tough route to the final, though, with Bayern Munich — leading Chelsea 3-0 from their R16 first-leg tie — likely to be Barca’s opponents in Lisbon.Barcelona should be able to count on superior match fitness, having been in action throughout July, unlike Bayern, but while Lionel Messi will always be able to win any game on his own, it is doubtful that Barca will be able to keep it tight enough at the back to see off the German champions.
Bayern’s last-16, second-leg tie against Chelsea at the Allianz Arena will serve as a much-needed competitive work-out for Hansi Flick’s team, whose 3-0 first-leg win at Stamford Bridge makes the return game a formality.But once they get to Portugal, will Bayern be sharp enough to go all the way? Their last competitive game was against Bayer Leverkusen in the DFB-Pokal final on July 4, but their rivals in England, Spain and Italy have continued to play and will arguably have greater match fitness in mid-August.Robert Lewandowski, the leading scorer in this season’s competition, is the ace in the pack for Bayern, but they can also rely on the attacking quality of Serge Gnabry and Alphonso Davies. Bayern will travel to Lisbon as favourites to win the tournament.
The best that manager Frank Lampard can expect from the last-16, second-leg against Bayern Munich is a game that provides his young team with invaluable experience for the future.Chelsea were well beaten by Bayern at Stamford Bridge, suffering a 3-0 defeat that could have been much heavier. But with Lampard’s team on course to return to the Champions League next season, the trip to the Allianz Arena is the perfect opportunity to expose his emerging stars to playing against Europe’s elite.
Maurizio Sarri’s team must still overcome Lyon in the second-leg of their last-16 tie, but with the game being played in Turin, the Serie A leaders will expect to progress, especially against a side that has played just once since March. Once in Lisbon, though, Juventus will face a daunting route to the final, with Manchester City or Real Madrid waiting in the quarters before a potential clash with Bayern Munich in the semis.In a one-off game with Cristiano Ronaldo in the team — and don’t underestimate how much he will want to win the Champions League in Lisbon again — Juventus are a genuine contender, but it’s difficult to see them resisting City’s firepower if they face Pep Guardiola’s team in the last eight.
Rudi Garcia’s team emerged from Group G with just two victories in six games, but they remain alive in their last-16 tie with Juventus having earned a 1-0 win in the first-leg in France. They are capable of producing an upset if Juventus have an off-day in Turin next month, but Lyon realistically appear to have run their race in this season’s Champions League.
Lyon have already exceeded expectations this season, so the campaign has been a success, whatever happens against Juve.
Manchester City will probably never have a better chance of winning the Champions League … if they can finish the job against Real Madrid in the last-16 after winning 2-1 in the first-leg in Spain. City simply don’t lose one-off cup ties — their last defeat in any one-leg cup game was against Wigan in the FA Cup in February of 2018 — so the format in Lisbon will suit them and they will also be primed to peak just in time for the tournament by Pep Guardiola.From an attacking perspective, City will strike fear into every opponent, but their defensive weaknesses could be their downfall against teams as organised as Bayern or Juventus. Expect City to overcome Juve in the quarters, but if they meet Bayern in the semis, it could be the end of the road.
Napoli must get a result against Barcelona in the Nou Camp next month to progress to the quarterfinals, but Gennaro Gattuso’s have been inconsistent since the restart. They have won the Coppa Italia, but are out of the running for Champions League qualification, so they will travel to Barcelona needing to find their best form to pull off an upset.An empty Nou Camp may help them, but they still remain heavy underdogs against Lionel Messi & Co. over 90 minutes.
The decision by the French football authorities to cancel the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season in the wake of the coronavirus crisis has left Paris Saint-Germain with a mountain to climb if they are to end their desperate pursuit of Champions League glory.Thomas Tuchel’s team were impressive when eliminating Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16, but without competitive football since, they will prepare for Lisbon with friendly games against Le Havre, Shamrock Rovers and Celtic before domestic cup games against Saint-Etienne and Lyon. With all their opponents playing competitively since June, PSG must play catch-up — and fast.Atalanta may be the best draw they could have hoped for, but fitness may be PSG’s downfall.
The loss of Timo Werner, who will not play in the remainder of Leipzig’s Champions League games following confirmation of his move to Chelsea, has left the German side without their most potent attacking weapon. And with a quarterfinal tie against Atletico Madrid awaiting them in Lisbon, the absence of their top scorer will leave Leipzig as big outsiders to make it to the semis.They will be organised and still carry a threat, but Atletico will have too much quality and nous for Julien Nagelsmann’s team.
Real are on course for the La Liga title in Spain, meaning they will travel to the Etihad for their last-16, second-leg with the confidence to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit. But with captain Sergio Ramos suspended following a red card in the first game, Real will have to nullify City’s multi-pronged attack without their best defender.It’s dangerous to write off Real Madrid in any situation, especially a one-off game in which they need to fight back from 2-1 down, but City should be too strong for them on this occasion.
HOW FAR WILL THEY GET? Round of 16
– Man City vs. Bayern Munich
– Atalanta vs. Atletico Madrid
Bayern vs. Atletico
Tyler Pasher scores. Indy Eleven win. Put it on repeat.
Kevin Johnston Special for IndyStar
INDIANAPOLIS – After dropping their first result of the season Sunday, the Indy Eleven responded with a 4-1 victory over Hartford Athletion Wednesday evening at Lucas Oil Stadium, their fifth win in six matches.
What’s been the common denominator in all the wins? Tyler Pasher, Indy’s leading scorer and most dynamic offensive threat, was among the team’s starters. The Eleven are 5-0-0 this season when Pasher starts; they lost their only match when he didn’t.
Pasher came off the bench Sunday at Saint Louis FC as coach Martin Rennie rotated his squad to cope with a congested schedule. Pasher entered late, but only logged about 20 minutes and couldn’t find an equalizer as Indy fell 1-0.
“The Saint Louis game was tough,” said Indy forward Nick Moon. “It was like 90 degrees on turf, a match with a three-day recovery.”
Then again, Pasher hasn’t always needed ample time to make an impact. On the final possession of the match in stoppage time July 22 at Pittsburgh, Pasher chested the ball down on the other side of the hallway line before slaloming through the defense and hammering a shot from distance into the top shelf for a last-gasp 1-0 win.
And Pasher’s latest feat? He moved into second on the club’s all-time scoring list with another tally Wednesday, his 20th for the team, passed Justin Braun (19). He now trails only Eamon Zayed (27).
“Well, in the first part of the first half, I kind of was dropping in a little bit too much,” Pasher said. “I know that’s not what I’m meant to be doing in my space. So, what I had to do was kind of push forward a little bit more and kind of threaten the backline.”
The Eleven jumped out early on a link up between Macauley King and Moon in the fourth minute. King bended a ball toward the far post and Moon headed it by Hartford goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda. Pasher set King up with a square ball out wide to begin the sequence.
Hartford responded just after halftime, however, as Alex Dixon’s effort deflected through Indy defender Mitch Osmond’s legs and by goalkeeper Evan Newton.
But no Eleven match this season would be complete without a Pasher go-ahead goal. Once again, he obliged.
Ilija Ilic settled the ball on a broken play and tapped it to an accelerating Pasher, who found himself in on goal. His left-footed blast beat Mandanda to put Indy up 2-1.
Midfielders Drew Conner and Matt Watson ruined any hope Hartford had of a comeback by adding two more in the 81st and 87th minute, respectively. Karl Ouimette assisted on both strikes.
Conner put in a superb shift for Indy on both sides of the ball. Several timely slide tackles thwarted Hartford attacks, and he also started a few counters the other way with balls into space for Pasher and others.
“We know each other well,” Pasher said of the team’s success this season on passes in behind the defense. “We know what each player likes, and what each player dislikes. So, we can see the tendencies and what guys are doing. And that bond between all of us is getting stronger and stronger with every game.”
With the win, Indy has now defeated the current top-two teams in Group F, the other coming via the dramatic win over Pittsburgh.
The Eleven face another quick turnaround with Sporting KC II coming to town Saturday for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil.
RECAP | INDY ELEVEN REBOUNDS WITH DOMINANT 4-1 WIN OVER HARTFORD ATHLETIC
By Indy Eleven Communications, 07/29/20, 11:00PM EDT
Four Different Players Tally in 12th Straight Home Win at Lucas Oil Stadium; 28-game Regular Season Home Unbeaten Streak Now Tied for Second Longest Run in USL Championship History
Indy Eleven scored four goals in a match for only the fifth time in club history – but for the second time already in 2020 – using tallies by four different players to soundly defeat the previously undefeated Hartford Athletic 4-1 at Lucas Oil Stadium.The result extends Indy Eleven’s (5W-1L-0D, 15 pts., most in USL Championship) daunting home unbeaten streak in regular season play to 28 matches (21W-0L-7D), now tied for the second longest such run in USL Championship history. Embedded in that stretch is a 12-game home winning streak in regular season play dating back to last July 20 that is also second longest in Championship annals – but could reach the apex with another three points the next time out this weekend at the corner of Capitol & South.After a back-and-forth first few minutes, it was Indy who broke the deadlock early and in style, a bullet header from Nick Moon counting for his first Eleven goal. Indiana’s Team broke forward exquisitely through Ilija Ilic, who held off a defender before spraying wide to Tyler Pasher, who played even wider to Macauley King on the right-hand side. It was King’s first-time cross that Moon met in the air, a beautiful lofted ball to the back post moving the scoreboard early.The Hartford Athletic press forced a few early mix-ups at the back for Indy Eleven, but none that proved too harmful. Around the quarter-hour play was stopped after a collision between two Hartford defenders, with both Sam Strong and Alex Davey coming up quite bloodied from the knock of heads. After several minutes on the pitch, Strong would walk off but be removed from the match, while Davey had his head wrapped and bandaged and eventually made his way back into the match.Hartford had the first true look at goal after the restart in play, a looping ball over the top that almost found Ever Guzman behind the Indy backline. However, the ball took a hometown bounce and saved Eleven ‘keeper Evan Newton from a difficult decision to exit his penalty area. The visitors followed that up with two more quick shots, both blocked in front of the goal by Karl Ouimette. Hartford midfielder Arthur Rogers forced a fine stop out of Newton in the 34th minute, a stinging effort from a yard inside the box. Newton could only parry it out however, and it fell to Tyreke Johnson who sailed the rebound effort wide.
Pasher won Indy a dangerous free kick toward the end of the half that he tried to curl in, but sent over the crossbar. The USL Championship’s leading scorer found his effectiveness limited during the opening stanza by the man-marking of Matheus Silva, but he grew into the match during first-half stoppage time and had a good shot saved by Hartford goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda. Pasher again created a great opportunity late into seven minutes of stoppage time, but was scythed down harshly by Davey, who received a booking. The ensuing freekick was built up into a shot from Conner Antley that Mandanda could only parry wide.Hartford equalized almost immediately into the second half, as Alex Dixon’s shot deflected off Mitch Osmond and fooled Newton, who couldn’t see it coming toward his net and was wrong-footed by a slight deflection. Harry Swartz had plenty of space down the left and played the ball in, which the Indy defense failed to deal with.The 1-1 deadlock would not last long, however, as Indy’s in-form talisman Pasher buried a shot past a helpless Mandanda after a great through ball from Ilic, making his first start of 2020 just days after the birth of his daughter. It was Pasher’s 20th goal for the club and sixth goal in six matches so far in the 2020 USL Championship, continuing a torrid pace that has him three goals clear of his closest competitors in the Golden Boot chase. The goal also marked his eighth goal in seven starts, a record dating back to the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinal at Nashville SC on November 2.Indiana’s Team about grabbed their third through Ilic, who was looking to get on the scoresheet himself after assisting the go-ahead goal. Once again, King whipped in excellent service, but the Serbian forward couldn’t quite direct his flick on target. King created another fantastic chance in the 56th minute, finding Pasher over-the-top, but again Indy were denied their third goal of the match as Pasher’s chip landed nervously wide, having beaten Mandanda. Pasher then blazed over the bar three minutes later, agonizingly close to his second of the match that would have been set up by Antley’s square ball towards the penalty spot.Indy finally grabbed their long-awaited third goal in the 81st minute. Midfielder Drew Conner burst forward and latched on to a beautiful pass from the midfield stripe by Ouimette before tucking the ball coolly beyond Mandanda for 3-1.It was 4-1 six minutes later thanks to a copy-cat goal of Conner’s, this time slotted in by captain Matt Watson, who bolstered his squad with his insertion in to the match the 71st minute. Using every bit of pace, Watson outraced a Hartford defender to another Ouimette service before chipping the ‘keeper.Indy Eleven will end its busy stretch of five games in 15 days this Saturday, August 1, the same way it began – with a home contest against Sporting Kansas City II. Tickets for the 7:00 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium are available starting at $15 at indyeleven.com/tickets. Fans unable to attend the match on Saturday evening can follow the action live on WISH-TV, ESPN+, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com (Spanish), and the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers.
So our Indy 11 remain undefeated to start with the best record in our history as USL leading scorer Tyler Pasher scored a stunner in the last seconds of a 1-0 win at top of the table foe Pittsburgh Wed night as a national TV audience saw on ESPN2. A fairly even game was played throughout with some fine saves by Eleven GK Evan Newton. But it was the stunner from Pasher as time expired that won the game to take the 11 to a league best 4-0 mark for the first time in club history. The Indy 11 travel to St. Louis this Sunday for a 5 pm game showing on ESPN+ and ESPN Desportes. The 11 Return Wednesday for 7 pm game vs Hartford at the Luke. Buy Tickets online.
Pulisic Dominates in 30 minutes in EPL
So Pulisic gave Chelsea manager Frank Lampard the ultimate screw you as he finally entered the game in the 58th minute –dribbled 4 Liverpool defenders then nutmegged Van Dyke as he sets up a tap in goal. The United States international then grabbed one of his own 12 minutes later, bringing the ball down on his chest with his back to goal before turning and thumping it home. Love Klopp’s reaction! For 30 minutes Pulisic was the best player on the field – including the Champions Liverpool players. For 30 minutes Pulisic was the best player in the EPL – you could argue since the break his 4 goals, 4 assists, and 3 penalty draws leading to goals has been the most impactful in the EPL since the return from break. This despite the fact he missed 1 the FA Cup Semi and over half of 2 other games with a slight injury. Obviously Pulisic WAS NOT TOO INJURED to play this game. Who knows what happens if Lampard is smart enough to start him. Assuming he will be starting Sunday as the Blues must Win or Tie Wolverhampton at home to Finish in the top 4 Champions League slot. If Chelsea lose and Man United beats Leicester City at Leicester– the Blue will also advance. If Chelsea lose and Man United and Leicester City tie – then those 2 teams advance and Chelsea pushes down to a Europa League spot.
EPL Final Day Sunday 11 am on NBC Networks
The final day of the EPL has plenty of excitement as Top 4 Champions League/Top 6 Europa League and of course Bottom 4 Relegation Battles will be decided on the final day of play across 5 NBC channels and Peacock free streaming. Of course the games of the day are Chelsea and Wolverhampton on USA Network at 11 am – as Chelsea needs a win or draw to stay top 4. Wolverhampton needs to outdo Tottenham so win or tie and have the Spurs lose or tie. NBC will host the battle for 4th – Man United travels to Leicester City needing a tie or win make it. Leicester needs a tie or win.
As for the Relegation battles – and honestly these games become almost life and death for a club. Staying in the EPL means over $150 million dollars difference for the club. When Dempsey scored for Fulham to help them stay in the EPL a few years back – it saved probably 50 jobs at the club – from the cooks, to the bottle washers, to the parking lot attendants to the ticket people, the boot washers, the assistant coaches and the players – many who would be forced to move for cuts in wages- the impact of staying in the EPL vs falling to the Championship is unbelievable. Unlike anything in US Sports – so its these games that honestly might give us more entertainment. Here’s the breakdown
Relegation – How teams can stay up
Aston Villa: Better Watford’s result OR draw and Watford draw
Watford: Better Aston Villa’s result
Bournemouth: Win and both Aston Villa and Watford lose
The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Challenge Cup final kicks off on Sunday at 12:30 pm on CBS between the upstart Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars a month after the league returned from the COVID-19 hiatus. The games on CBS All Access and replayed on CBS Sports Network have been a success but having powerhouses Portland and Sky Blue knocked off in the semi-finals was interesting – Chicago was in the finals last year. It will be interesting to see how many fans tune in – for this CBS televised game. I don’t hear much talk about the game by the mainstream sports media since baseball has returned and the NBA is soon. Non the less – flipping over from the excitement of the EPLs final games at 11 am on Sunday to a Women’s Final on CBS at 12:30 should not be difficult for the true soccer fans. Ladies be sure to tune in – higher numbers will hopefully mean more CBS network time for women’s and eventually Champions League men’s soccer on CBS.
MLS is Back
I have to admit the MLS is Back Tourney has been mighty high scoring with lots of goals scored in extra time. The Columbus Crew or Orlando look like the teams to beat out of the East – and surprisingly Cincy made the tourney while Atlanta is heading home. The Round of 16 Kicksoff is this weekend here’s with games at 8 or 9 and 10 or 11 on either ESPN or Fox Sports 1. Here’s a Quick Preview
Carmel High Soccer
Good luck to those girls playing this weekend in the CHS Girl Tourney Saturday at River Roads Fields and good luck with tryouts the first week of August. Same for the Boys on Tryouts in August.
Dash take on Red Stars as NWSL caps first tournament back Sunday at 12:30 CBS
(Reuters) – The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Challenge Cup final kicks off on Sunday between the upstart Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars a month after the league returned from the COVID-19 hiatus, the first in North America to do so.A year since the U.S. national team won a fourth World Cup, Commissioner Lisa Baird said the goal was simple — to build on the momentum for the women’s sport on a tight timeline and show live sport can happen in the novel coronavirus era.”It was really hard to have this tournament be short,” Baird told reporters. “Four weeks is not a lot of time to win over not only avid soccer fans but casual fans. I think we accomplished that. We’re getting to that second level of casual fan — that’s what we need to do to be successful.”The announcement this week of a Los Angeles expansion team with owners including Academy Award-winner Natalie Portman, tennis champion Serena Williams and her husband, venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian, added to the lustre.Putting on a month-long tournament during a pandemic, however, was anything but glamorous, with players living inside a quarantined bubble, playing on a single-site without fans in suburban Salt Lake City, Utah.”No one had done this, going into this, not us, the NBA, the NHL and the MLS,” said Baird, who added that if the league has the chance to get players back on the field once the tournament is over “we will be doing so.”That is not to say everyone was intimidated. Dash midfielder Shea Groom, who has scored two goals in the tournament, told Reuters she quickly hit her stride in the “bubble” environment.”For me this year — whether it was going to be a regular league season or the Challenge Cup — (the key) was consistency,” said Groom.”I’m not sure exactly what changed – maybe it’s the environment and just being surrounded by different players — but there’s definitely been a freedom for me, feeling like myself again.”After powering past the Portland Thorns in the semi-finals, the underdog Dash are ready to face the Red Stars, who are out for redemption after a demoralising 4-0 thrashing in last year’s NWSL championship final to North Carolina Courage.The Chicago team comes equipped with top talent including U.S. national team goal keeper Alyssa Naeher, who has made 18 saves during the tournament, and 2019 U.S. Soccer female player of the year Julie Ertz.The Dash take on the Red Stars in the NWSL Challenge Cup final on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET (1630 GMT).
Pulisic reacts to his stunning display v. Liverpool
With Chelsea trailing 4-1 with 30 minutes to go, Pulisic jumped off the bench and had an amazing assist to set up fellow sub Tammy Abraham to make it 4-2, then missed a great chance as he dragged a shot wide and then scored a superb goal to make it 4-3.The USMNT star has been suffering with a small injury in recent days so was left out of the starting lineup but boy, did he have an impact when he came on.Here is what Pulisic had to say to our partners in the UK, Sky Sports.“We were very close, we got it within one goal and the momentum was really changing,” Pulisic said. “I thought we had them but obviously it is just that one counter attack and it changed real quick. We weren’t quite there. In the second half the subs coming in and making a difference and getting a quick goal, that changes things. You could see thy were on the back foot for a while but they withstood our pressure. We were very close. We needed the result today, unfortunately we couldn’t get it, but luckily it is still in our hands and we have one more game to go. We go next game and we win and we qualify for Champions League and that’s the goal.”The latest news on Pulisic is that he was simply sensational when he came on at Anfield and swung the game in Chelsea’s favor.This cameo underline how importance Pulisic is to Chelsea and heading into next season he may be one of the most dangerous players in the Premier League.
Frank Lampard is starting to run out of superlatives for Christian Pulisic is the Pulisic news today.The Chelsea boss sent on Pulisic for the final 35 minutes with his side trailing 4-1, as Pulisic jumped off the bench and had an amazing assist to set up fellow sub Tammy Abraham to make it 4-2, then missed a great chance as he dragged a shot wide, then scored a superb goal to make it 4-3.That wonderful cameo helped Chelsea come incredibly close to grabbing the point they needed to secure Champions League action as they lost 5-3 at Anfield on Wednesday. They now need a draw on the final day of the season at home against Wolves to seal a Champions League spot.The USMNT star has been suffering with a small injury in recent days so he didn’t feature in their FA Cup semifinal at the weekend, and was left out of their starting lineup at Liverpool but boy, did he have an impact when he came on.After the game Lampard was asked how important Pulisic will be to his plans for next season.“Hugely important. He has had that impact. I was here for Eden’s first year and it is not easy coming to the Premier League, and for Eden in that first year it was adapting to the Premier League,” Lampard said. “Christian has had his moments of that but mid-season he had a really good patch and then since restart he has been in incredible form. Only the injury he picked up in the Norwich game has kept him out of the semifinal when he’s flying.“Against Liverpool he came on and played 40 minutes which is great for feeling confident about the injury and the qualities he has been showing. He is so young and he has such natural talent and he creates goals and scores goals. He is a big player for us so I’m delighted to see him come through fit. Clearly he will be a big player in these next few games for us and going forward as well.”Pulisic, 21, has now scored 10 goals and added five assists in his debut season at Chelsea and will start in the final game against Wolves, the FA Cup final against Arsenal on Aug. 1 and will do his very best to help Chelsea overcome a 3-0 deficit from the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clash against Bayern Munich.Along with N’Golo Kante, the USMNT player is the first name on the teamsheet for Chelsea.
Christian Pulisic Scores, Assists Off the Bench for Chelsea vs. Liverpool
Christian Pulisic didn’t start in Chelsea’s vital match vs. Liverpool on Wednesday, but he certainly made an impact when given the chance.The U.S. international came off the bench and moments later delivered a highlight-reel assist to Tammy Abraham before scoring a sensational goal of his own, cutting into Chelsea’s deficit against the new Premier League champions in what was ultimately a 5-3 defeat.Chelsea trailed 4-1 before Pulisic came on, with Liverpool in fine form on the day it was due to receive the Premier League trophy. Pulisic, who used to play for Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp when both were at Dortmund, entered as part of a triple substitution in the 59th minute, and two minutes later, the deficit was two.Pulisic weaved through Fabinho and Trent Alexander-Arnold, nutmegged Joe Gomez to breeze by him and then curled his cross by Virgil van Dijk, finding Abraham for the simple close-range finish to make it 4-2.Pulisic missed a golden chance to make it 4-3 soon after, as he ran onto a long Reece James pass before scuffing his shot and pulling it wide, but he made good on his next chance. Receiving the ball in the box off his chest, Pulisic took three touches, setting up his shot, turning and firing by Alisson to bring Chelsea within one. With a win or a draw, Chelsea would have secured a place in the Champions League next season with a game to spare, but that wasn’t to be, as Liverpool scored on a clinical counterattack in the 84th minute through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to restore the two-goal edge.”I thought the momentum was really changing. I thought we had them,” Pulisic, who missed Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester United on Sunday with an apparent minor injury, told Sky Sports after the match.Instead, Chelsea enters Sunday’s season finale vs. Wolves in fourth place, tied on points with third-place Manchester United (significantly behind on goal differential) and a point ahead of fifth-place Leicester.For Pulisic, he now has four goals and four assists since the Premier League restart, proving himself to be one of Chelsea’s–and the league’s–top players over the last month. On the season, Pulisic has nine league goals.
Pulisic now has nine goals and four assists in under 1650 minutes of Premier League action. 4 Since the Restart with 3 Assists and 3 Penalties Drawn for PKs.
Christian Pulisic stats versus Liverpool (SofaScore)
It stands to reason that when Christian Pulisic burst onto the international scene, an attacking phenom good enough to start games for Bundesliga titan Borussia Dortmund at 17, soccer types back in Pulisic’s native United States — and even a few fans — preached caution.“Look, nobody is more excited about this kid than I am,” Michael Bradley, then the captain of the U.S. men’s national team, pulled me aside to say in the spring of 2016 after I’d written that Pulisic should challenge for serious minutes during that summer’s Copa America Centenario. “But how many games has he played? Let’s not get carried away just yet.”A little more than four years later, it’s time to say with certainty and conviction what has become increasingly obvious, as Pulisic’s spectacular first season with English Premier League power Chelsea draws to a close: Pulisic, at the ripe old age of 21, is already the best American male to ever play the world’s most popular sport.This is where you point out that Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan were still producing for their country and clubs into their 30s. That both men retired with 57 international goals and well over 100 caps for the USMNT. That both scored in multiple World Cups. It’s a fair and valid argument.It’s also true that it will be years before Pulisic gets the opportunity to equal those accomplishments. And of course, there’s no guarantee he ever does. Every athlete in every sport is one unlucky injury away from the end. Pulisic’s slight (but quickly filling out) frame and desire to torch foes off the dribble makes him a magnet for rough play. And if there’s been any knock on Pulisic during his young career so far, it’s his tendency to miss matches because of muscle ailments.
Longevity and consistency do matter when crowning the king. By those measures, one could make a case for American goalkeepers Brad Friedel or Tim Howard, in addition to Dempsey and Donovan, as the best U.S. male player ever. Both enjoyed long spells as starters in the Prem. Both spent time wearing the No. 1 shirt with brand-name clubs.Still, the hardest thing to do in soccer is to score and create goals. And the way Pulisic has utterly dominated the world’s best league since it returned from its three-month coronavirus hiatus in June with his blistering pace, balance, control in tight spaces and all-important end-product is flat-out unprecedented among his countrymen.Pulisic has four goals and five assists in eight Premier League games since June 21. He’s scored or created a goal every 63 minutes he’s been on the field since Project Restart began. Add in his production from earlier in the season, when he was in and out of Chelsea manager Frank Lampard’s lineup as he adjusted to a new country, new team, and a new bruising style of play, and it’s 103 minutes per goal or assist. That’s a better rate of production than Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, Southampton’s Danny Ings or Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — the three leading scorers in the Prem — have managed during the 2019-20 campaign.It’s not just one good season, either. When Pulisic arrived in London last summer at 20 on a whopping $73 million transfer fee, almost four times the next-highest price paid for an American, he was a proven commodity. He’d put up 13 goals and 18 assists in 90 Bundesliga games.He has three goals — including a knockout-stage game-winner — and five assists in 26 career Champions League matches. His 14 goals in 34 games at the international level gives him a better strike ratio for the U.S. than Dempsey, Donovan or Jozy Altidore.
Should Pulisic’s age and lack of World Cup experience be held against him in the GOAT conversation? (The latter is no fault of his own; as a teenager, he was easily the USMNT’s best player during the failed 2018 qualifying cycle.) Does the lack of fans in the stadiums over the last five weeks take away from performances that seem to be getting better with each passing game? Should we wait a few more years before anointing him the best?
Maybe. This is subjective exercise, after all. And given the way American soccer history is littered with cautionary tales of prospects destroyed by premature and/or unrealistic hype (Freddy Adu), or who saw their once-ascendent careers at the top level derailed when their bodies failed them (Stuart Holden, John O’Brien), the desire for patience and perspective is understandable.“We have the tendency, and myself as well, to get ahead of ourselves,” USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter admitted on a conference all with reporters Tuesday, a day before Pulisic became the first U.S. player to score against Liverpool at Anfield. (He also collected an assist in the Blues’ 5-3 loss to the champions.) “If we would’ve made final judgment on Christian in the fall, we would’ve said, ‘Well, he’s not performing well.’ And now, all of a sudden, seven months later, we’re saying it’s the best signing ever.”Berhalter’s point is well taken, as Bradley’s was all those years ago. But it’s becoming impossible to ignore the fact that Pulisic is blossoming into a bona fide superstar before our very eyes. No American attacker before him has established himself as a key cog with one of the world’s truly elite teams, let alone its most dangerous player. On those cutthroat European proving grounds is where global reputations are forged.Christian Pulisic is next level already, and he’s only going to get better from here. It’s OK to be excited about it. Stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Premier League scenarios: Relegation, Top 4, Europa League, tiebreaker rules
Here’s a look at what needs to happen for relegation, Europa League and top four spots to be confirmed, while a look at the tiebreaker rules already has us imagining the madness of Watford, Bournemouth and Aston Villa all being tied on points, goal difference and goals scored when the final whistle arrives.
PREMIER LEAGUE TOP 4 SCENARIOS
Chelsea would clinch top-4 with:
Win/draw v. Wolves
Loss v. Wolves AND Manchester United win at Leicester
Manchester United would clinch top-4 with:
Win/draw at Leicester
Chelsea loss v. Wolves*
*Scenario assumes MU maintain GD advantage over Chelsea (MU: +28 / CHE: +13)
Leicester would clinch top-4 with:
Win v. Manchester United
Draw v. Manchester United AND Chelsea loss v. Wolves
EUROPA LEAGUE SCENARIOS
Wolves would clinch top-6 finish if:
They better or equal Tottenham’s result
Tottenham would clinch top-6 finish if:
They better Wolves’ results
And 7th would qualify for Europa League if Chelsea win the FA Cup.
In terms of tiebreakers, here is the order and format in which league position will be sorted by if teams finish level on points:
Points won in head-to-head meetings
Away goals in head-to-head meetings
If the teams still can’t be separated after the above tiebreakers, a playoff will be arranged (at a neutral ground with the format, timing and venue determined by the Premier League Board).
By Indy Eleven Communications, 07/22/20, 9:45PM EDT
Tyler Pasher’s Last Gasp Strike Keeps Eleven Perfect via 1-0 Win at Pittsburgh
Red-hot Striker Tallies in Sixth Straight Game, Pushing Indy to Spotless 4-0-0 Record to Start 2020 Season
PITTSBURGH (Wednesday, July 22, 2020) – It appeared that Indy Eleven would settle for a share of points from its highly-anticipated contest at Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – until striker Tyler Pasher rewrote the script with a dramatic strike from distance at the death that gave Indiana’s Team a 1-0 triumph at Highmark Stadium.With the win, Indy Eleven (4W-0L-0D. 12 pts.), not only maintained its spotless record to start the 2020 USL Championship campaign, it snapped Pittsburgh’s (2W-1L-0D, 6 pts.) 25-game home undefeated streak in regular season play, the fourth-longest stretch in league history (behind Indy’s current 27-game streak that is third in USLC annals).
“I think it was a great performance for us tonight. Again, you got to see our fitness and resiliency, and I thought we controlled large parts of the game, especially considering we were away from home against a team that had not lost a game at home in at least two years,” said Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “It was a difficult game in the sense of it’s quite a tight field, there’s lots of contact and not a lot of opportunity just to relax and play. So given what we were faced with I thought our players executed perfectly.”
Pasher’s fifth goal of 2020 extended his lead atop the 35-team USL Championship’s Golden Boot scoring chart and improved his scoring streak to six consecutive games when accounting for Indy Eleven’s run in the 2019 postseason. With the tally, Pasher also became the first player in Eleven history to score in four straight regular season contests.“Those are the moments that are just really, really fun to be a part of,” Rennie continued. “When you are on a team or part of a staff and you see a goal that, in that minute, against obviously a very good team, it’s probably a highlight moment for Indy Eleven as a franchise. Tyler’s got the ability to do that, so it’s great to see him come through.”In what could be classified as a tight contest throughout, the first danger presented itself after 10 minutes when Pittsburgh forward Ropapa Mensah saw two crosses from the right flank go wanting, the first a foot too heavy for Kenardo Forbes’ far-post run and the second forcing a lunging stab by Ryan James that missed left of frame.
On the 15th minute, Pittsburgh defender Skylar Thomas continued the home team’s offensive flurry, his header from 10 yards out off a corner flashing just wide left as well. Looking to stem the tide, Indy center back Paddy Barrett tried to carry over his attacking flair from recent games with an audacious look from the opposite side of the midfield stripe, the attempt to catch Riverhounds goalkeeper Tomas Gomez off his line drifting just high.The 27th minute saw plenty of drama inside the Indy penalty area, starting when Eleven ‘keeper Evan Newton went low to come up big on Robbie Mertz’s blast set up by a give-and-go with Mark Forrest. Controversy reigned on the ensuing corner kick, which saw Kenardo Forbes’ redirect from the corner of the six ring off the underside of the crossbar, off the goaline and again off the crossbar before landing in the grateful arms of Newton. Despite pleas for a goal, center referee Eric Tattersall listened to his assistant who vigorously waved off any confirmation of a score, the two sides playing on from their scoreless stalemate as the half hour approached.The meaningful chances dried up as the half waned until deep into six minutes of stoppage time, when Indy Eleven defender Karl Ouimette had an open header at the six off of Tyler Pasher’s set piece service, only to see the chance sent right to Gomez on his line.The second half was a largely disjointed affair, spent mostly in the middle third and in search of a badly needed spark outside of five yellow cards – and even those were devoid of much venom, apart from Mensah’s unneeded challenge against Newton on an aerial ball in the 82nd minute.Neither team had a moment of true attacking danger in the half until the allotted six minutes of stoppage had expired. Indy’s last-gasp counter started with Neveal Hackshaw’s clearance from the Eleven penalty spot and continued when Drew Conner played a ball into midfield towards substitute striker Jeremy Rafanello, whose challenge led to Pasher collecting the ball. A 50-yard run, one cut centrally from the right flank and three dusted defenders later, Pasher set himself up on his preferred left foot for a 25-yard lash into the upper left corner that beat Gomez’s full extension, making Indy the first team to reach double-digit points in the 2020 USL Championship season.Indy Eleven will stay on the road for its next match this Sunday, July 26, when Indiana’s Team heads to the Gateway of the West to meet fellow Group E foe Saint Louis FC (2W-1L-0D, 6 pts.). Kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m. for the contest that will air locally on MyINDY-TV 23 and nationally on ESPN Deportes and ESPN+.Indy Eleven’s next two home contests come back to back next Wednesday, July 29, and Saturday, August 1, versus Hartford Athletic and Sporting Kansas City II, respectively. Tickets are available for both 7:00 p.m. kickoffs at Lucas Oil Stadium by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or calling 317-685-1100.
USL Championship Regular Season – #PITvIND Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 0 : 1 Indy Eleven Wednesday, July 22, 2020 – 6:00 p.m. ETHighmark Stadium – Pittsburgh, Pa. Attendance: N/A 2020 USL Championship records
Indy Eleven (4W-0L-0D, 12 pts., 1st in Group E)
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (2W-1L-0D, 6 pts., 1st in Group F)